To be fair, Face the Nation host Bob Schieffer isn’t just unimpressed by Barack Obama’s response to the death of Kayla Jean Mueller, but also Congress’ as well. Heading off for a fundraiser and a round of golf may be par for the course for Obama, but what kind of message does that send to America’s enemies and allies? Should Congress have gone on “vacation” or stuck around to debate the demand for a new AUMF tailored to the fight against ISIS? The absence of leadership on both sides of Pennsylvania avenue “bothers” the CBS News host:
BOB SCHIEFFER: Here’s a part that bothers me. And I will preference this by saying I certainly do not want to see the President of the United States put on a military uniform. No President of the United States has ever put on a military uniform and there is a reason for that, and we all want to keep it that way, as far as I know. But after that Jordanian pilot was killed in that horrible way, here you saw the king put on his– his fatigues, he executes two prisoners that they were holding in Jordan and launched bombing raids. We have another American hostage killed and Congress and the President and the President goes off to California to do a fundraiser and some other stuff and the Congress goes on vacation and they say, yeah, we’ll– we will debate what to do about all of this. But we are going to do it as long as it fits into the schedule. There is no reason to do anything out of the ordinary.
Schieffer then laments how this colors perceptions about the US and its response, which Goldberg attempts to rebut in part:
JEFFREY GOLDBERG: Something we always forget because we are sitting here is that in the greater Middle East, people understand what Obama is doing. He is killing terrorists in eight or ten different locations right now as we speak. And– and we often– we often sort of lose sight of that fact, in part because of the way he– he is so hesitant to talk about it in grand terms, and because of these debates in Congress. But he has been killing terrorists for years now and– and he is doing it whether or not Congress lets him do it.
Actually, Congress “lets” him do it through the existing AUMFs regarding al-Qaeda and Iraq. Obama didn’t bother to consult Congress on Libya, which was a sustained military action against the recognized government of another nation, and it turned into an utter disaster. Obama may be killing terrorists a handful at a time through drone strikes, but he’s created failed states in Libya and now Yemen which will allow terrorist networks to flourish and expand. As we saw this weekend, ISIS has at least a toehold now in Libya.
Obama isn’t seeking a new AUMF in order to get Congress to “let” him attack ISIS, but to get a stamp of approval from Congress for a strategy that’s not working against the marauding army that our withdrawal from Iraq allowed to metastasize in the first place. Kimberly Strassel makes this point during the panel discussion, comparing it to the aborted unilateral strikes on Bashar al-Assad in the summer of 2013:
KIMBERLEY STRASSEL: This is political cover, though. I mean it reminds me of the Syria thing, a few years ago. The President said don’t cross my red line and then Bashar al-Assad did and then the President said okay, you, Congress, tell me if I can do anything about it, because he didn’t want to act on his own. He wanted them to have to take responsibility as well for what happened, and, you know, the Republicans, if they wanted to be smart here, what they ought to do is just call his bluff and not take this up at all. I mean he is already operating under an authorization that he claims gives him all the authority[.]
Strassel is wrong about one point. What Republicans should do is pass an AUMF that removes all the restrictions that Obama included in his proposal and replace them with a commitment to fight with all options on the table until ISIS is destroyed, and then let him veto it. That would make the point of Obama’s attempt even more clear.