Video: WH spokesman can’t explain why Obama would want Congress’s approval for Syria attack last year but maybe not now

posted at 8:41 pm on August 25, 2014 by Allahpundit

Noah flagged this issue earlier, before today’s White House briefing, but the clip’s worth watching regardless. The full exchange, in which Earnest promises that O will consult and coordinate with Congress but hasn’t decided yet about seeking approval, starts at 52:20 and runs for four minutes or so. But the part that had me snickering comes at 55:40, when Ed Henry asks why Obama would have sought Congress’s approval last year to bomb Assad but might not seek their approval now to bomb Assad’s enemies, ISIS. What’s the difference? Earnest palpably has no idea what to say. He just asserts that last year’s situation was different and then starts rambling about the fact that Assad had used chemical weapons, but there’s no reason why that should be a key factor on whether the president might want or need Congress’s approval for an attack. If anything, it’s an argument for why the president shouldn’t need approval: If WMD usage anywhere and at any time is inherently a dire threat to the United States then the president can arguably attack the perpetrator immediately, without legislative deliberation. Does anyone seriously believe that, though? Obama doesn’t, obviously, or else he wouldn’t have waited around for Congress last year.

But there is, potentially, a distinction the White House can draw. Here’s the key bit from Obama’s speech to the nation last September about why he sought Congress’s authorization to bomb Assad:

And that is why, after careful deliberation, I determined that it is in the national security interests of the United States to respond to the Assad regime’s use of chemical weapons through a targeted military strike. The purpose of this strike would be to deter Assad from using chemical weapons, to degrade his regime’s ability to use them, and to make clear to the world that we will not tolerate their use.

That’s my judgment as Commander-in-Chief. But I’m also the President of the world’s oldest constitutional democracy. So even though I possess the authority to order military strikes, I believed it was right, in the absence of a direct or imminent threat to our security, to take this debate to Congress. I believe our democracy is stronger when the President acts with the support of Congress. And I believe that America acts more effectively abroad when we stand together.

This is especially true after a decade that put more and more war-making power in the hands of the President, and more and more burdens on the shoulders of our troops, while sidelining the people’s representatives from the critical decisions about when we use force.

Arguing that Assad’s deployment of WMD was some imminent threat to the U.S. was always a heavy lift. How was it an imminent threat? Why? WMDs are scary but it’d be nutty to think that Assad would attack America or hand those weapons off to a proxy who might do so when he was desperate to have America intervene in Syria on his side. In fact, some people will tell you that Assad deliberately went easy on ISIS in the early days of the Syrian civil war knowing that the more they became the dominant force in the Syrian opposition, the more western countries would favor Assad’s side, a ruthless but brilliant calculation. There was never an imminent threat that Syria was going to gas Americans. There may, however, be an imminent threat of an attack against the U.S. by ISIS. No less than Mike Morell says he wouldn’t be surprised if a jihadi shot up an American mall tomorrow in ISIS’s name. If Obama’s worried about the group hatching terror plots then, yeah, arguably he’s got to hit them ASAP in Syria and can’t wait around for Congress to hem and haw over it. That’s going to be the rationale Earnest starts pushing, I’ll bet, once he regains his bearings and fields more questions about this tomorrow.

As Noah noted earlier, Chuck Todd thinks the White House is leery of seeking congressional approval right now because lawmakers can get fidgety about voting on new wars right before an election. I guess, but the polls show majority support for hitting ISIS; if Obama’s worried about Congress, it’s not “Republican obstructionism” that he’s nervous about, it’s Democrats alienating anti-war liberals by voting yes with the midterms less than three months away. If he ends up bypassing Congress here it’ll be because he’s afraid of his own base, not the GOP’s.


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The King is loose

faraway on August 25, 2014 at 8:47 PM

Much like the SitCom whose writers are getting tired.

TimBuk3 on August 25, 2014 at 8:51 PM

All of this is based on the belief that Obama has a clue.

RickinNH on August 25, 2014 at 8:51 PM

It says the video is private?

Walter L. Newton on August 25, 2014 at 8:53 PM

AP, don’t you know that holding Dear Liar to a coherent, logical and consistent policy is racist?

rbj on August 25, 2014 at 8:56 PM

Allah, did you check to see if the video would play before posting?

Barred on August 25, 2014 at 8:57 PM

Why would a video of the WH press briefing be private anyway?

Barred on August 25, 2014 at 8:58 PM

This is especially true after a decade that put more and more war-making power in the hands of the President, and more and more burdens on the shoulders of our troops, while sidelining the people’s representatives from the critical decisions about when we use force.

Yeah, that cowboy Bush never sought Congress’ approval about going to war.
////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////

Bitter Clinger on August 25, 2014 at 9:02 PM

Because McCain got caught taking selfie’s with ISIS?

wolly4321 on August 25, 2014 at 9:03 PM

I believe our democracy is stronger when the President acts with the support of Congress.

LMAOROTF!

‘And that’s why I’m working on a unilateral legalization of those in this country ILLEGALLY.’

GarandFan on August 25, 2014 at 9:11 PM

It says the video is private?

Walter L. Newton on August 25, 2014 at 8:53 PM

I think it somehow got thrown in with AP’s private porn video collection before he embedded it. Hence, it says it is private. ;-)

TXUS on August 25, 2014 at 9:14 PM

Stupid You-Tube,………This Video is Private?

August 25, 2014
White House Daily Briefing

Josh Earnest briefed reporters and responded to questions on a variety of issues.

http://www.c-span.org/video/?321142-1/white-house-briefing

canopfor on August 25, 2014 at 9:14 PM

Sorry, O and his admin clearly don’t know what they are doing and trying to figure out the most politically advantageous is so hard….esh

CoffeeLover on August 25, 2014 at 9:16 PM

That was then, this is now. Whatever. STFU.

It has been almost leftist-free around here lately except for a few rare appearances, and yet so much red meat for them to rally around.

Blowing people to hell from afar, starting wars, getting involved in foreign entanglements, boots on the ground, drone strikes, the mideast dissolving before our eyes.

Hello? Libs? Helllloooooo……

Bishop on August 25, 2014 at 9:19 PM

I believe our democracy is stronger when the President acts with the support of Congress.

LMAOROTF!

‘And that’s why I’m working on a unilateral legalization of those in this country ILLEGALLY.’

GarandFan on August 25, 2014 at 9:11 PM

Yeah, and I hate it when he (and others) try to call our system of government a democracy (he even call it a “constitutional democracy” a couple of sentences before).

We are a CONSTITUTIONAL REPUBLIC. We are not a democracy. Words mean things and too many idiots in this country think that we are a democracy and think that what the majority wants is what the country should get.

Bitter Clinger on August 25, 2014 at 9:21 PM

Obama’s the best friend Islamic radicalism has ever had. He’s given them carte blanc to do anything and everything they wish. He just couldn’t get our troops out of their way fast enough for his liking.

Now he just hems & haws on the sideline feigning concern but playing golf.

Seems “almost” intentional, doesn’t it?

Oxymoron on August 25, 2014 at 9:21 PM

MeanWhile:

https://twitter.com/WilliamsJon

Jon Williams @WilliamsJon · 4h

WATCH: Now #ISIS even has a drone. Used to plan attack on Raqqa airbase. Latest sign more like army than JV team! http://youtu.be/1xGX59HRBWY

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1xGX59HRBWY&feature=youtu.be

canopfor on August 25, 2014 at 9:25 PM

This whole Obama administration kabuki theatre approach to the world is so bizarre.

MTF on August 25, 2014 at 9:28 PM

Hello? Libs? Helllloooooo……

Bishop on August 25, 2014 at 9:19 PM

Bishop:

Hopey has caused this, by being tied up,
with Fund-Raisers and Golf!!

All the blood is on Hopey/Changeys hands!!:)

canopfor on August 25, 2014 at 9:28 PM

https://twitter.com/frankthorpNBC

Frank Thorp V @frankthorpNBC · 4h

Sen Time Kaine (D-VA): “Congress should vote up or down on” expanded US military operations against ISIL
============================================

Frank Thorp V @frankthorpNBC · 4h

Sen Kaine (D-VA): “I do not believe that our expanded military ops against ISIL are covered under existing authorizations from Congress”

canopfor on August 25, 2014 at 9:30 PM

It’s Amateur Hour.

Since January 2009.

profitsbeard on August 25, 2014 at 9:34 PM

canopfor on August 25, 2014 at 9:28 PM

I heard when I got in tonight that O is doing 2 fundraisers tomorrow….esh

CoffeeLover on August 25, 2014 at 9:35 PM

No-ee work-ee.

Love, your Chinese commenter.

WhatSlushfund on August 25, 2014 at 9:58 PM

canopfor on August 25, 2014 at 9:28 PM

I heard when I got in tonight that O is doing 2 fundraisers tomorrow….esh

CoffeeLover on August 25, 2014 at 9:35 PM

CoffeeLover: Evening CL,…good lord, it never ends:)

President’s Schedule – August 26, 2014

No public schedule.

http://www.whitehouse.gov/schedule/president/2014-08-26

canopfor on August 25, 2014 at 9:59 PM

https://twitter.com/ZekeJMiller

Zeke Miller @ZekeJMiller · 54m

Obama’s walk with Denis tonight comes almost a year to the day since walk yielded decision to seek congressional auth for Syria strikes

Replied to 0 times

Zeke Miller @ZekeJMiller · 1h

RT @petesouza: Instagram from this evening. Pres Obama w CoS Denis McDonough

https://twitter.com/petesouza/status/504069870821310464/photo/1

Zeke Miller @ZekeJMiller · 4h

W/ @JNSmall: White House: ISIS Not Planning To Attack U.S. Homeland—Yet http://time.com/3176754/isis-isil-syria-homeland-attack/
View summary

Replied to 0 times

Zeke Miller @ZekeJMiller · 4h

Kaine: I am calling for the mission and objectives for this current significant military action against ISIL to be made clear to Congress

Replied to 0 times

Zeke Miller @ZekeJMiller · 4h

.@timkaine: “I do not believe that our expanded military operations against ISIL are covered under existing authorizations from Congress.”

canopfor on August 25, 2014 at 10:00 PM

The premise is not whether obama will strike ISIS but whether he wants to actually solve the problem of ISIS. I submit he doesn’t want to do anything that he can’t punt to the next president. He doesn’t care that ISIS will be a problem down the line as long as he doesn’t have to deal with it now. That’s his mo. Not deal with it now, just do some meaningless gesture now and blame his successor as being ineffective in dealing with the problem. He’s all show. If he seriously strikes ISIS in a meaningful manner it blows his whole “smart diplomacy” schtick out of the water. he ain’t going to do cr- p , unless forced to not because he should do it for the good of the country.

warmairfan on August 25, 2014 at 10:14 PM

You get the feeling that not only do they not know American history, they don’t know what they did last Tuesday.

I submit he doesn’t want to do anything that he can’t punt to the next president.

warmairfan on August 25, 2014 at 10:14 PM

He may not have that kind of time.

I hope they have Joe in a “secure location”

formwiz on August 25, 2014 at 10:23 PM

Freaking clown college. Nothing these guys do or say makes any sense. Ever.

KateNE on August 25, 2014 at 11:27 PM

Who is this feckless dolt?

rplat on August 25, 2014 at 11:35 PM

This is especially true after a decade that put more and more war-making power in the hands of the President, and more and more burdens on the shoulders of our troops, while sidelining the people’s representatives from the critical decisions about when we use force.

Was that before or after Libya?

unclesmrgol on August 25, 2014 at 11:56 PM

Who has time for this giant distraction from golf?

Kenosha Kid on August 26, 2014 at 12:50 AM

ISIS had better not intimidate our CIC or he’ll whack the blazes out of them with his well worn nine iron.

Don L on August 26, 2014 at 7:09 AM

If you pick the political reason for dear leader doing anything other than golfing or partying then you’d be right 100% of the time.

Kissmygrits on August 26, 2014 at 8:43 AM