White House reassures congressional aides: Er, we're not at war with Libya

If you say so, champ.

Aides in attendance said the administration didn’t shed much new light on the situation.

“You learn more by having read the paper,” one said…

When asked, White House officials told congressional aides that the United States is not at war with Libya, sources told POLITICO.

In addition, administration officials emphasized that the president plans to hand over control to the coalition and that the actions taken by the president are in compliance with the War Powers Act.

This is aimed, I assume, at blunting Lugar’s demand for a declaration of war, but you don’t even need to go that far to find Obama’s actions wanting. A choice bit from the War Powers Resolution with which he claims to be in compliance:

The constitutional powers of the President as Commander-in-Chief to introduce United States Armed Forces into hostilities, or into situations where imminent involvement in hostilities is clearly indicated by the circumstances, are exercised only pursuant to (1) a declaration of war, (2) specific statutory authorization, or (3) a national emergency created by attack upon the United States, its territories or possessions, or its armed forces.

The President in every possible instance shall consult with Congress before introducing United States Armed Forces into hostilities or into situation where imminent involvement in hostilities is clearly indicated by the circumstances, and after every such introduction shall consult regularly with the Congress until United States Armed Forces are no longer engaged in hostilities or have been removed from such situations.

The resolution goes on to say that he can send forces into battle for 60 days before requiring congressional authorization (which explains why he keeps hitting his talking point that this will all be over in days, not weeks), but if you take the prefatory language quoted above seriously, the only circumstance in which he’s allowed to act without Congress is when there’s some sort of national emergency that requires an instant response. He had plenty of time during his weeks of dithering about Libya to “consult with Congress” before ordering action here, but as Ace said earlier, the only debate The One seems to think he needs is a confab at the United Nations. Once they say okay, he’s got all the moral/legal authority he needs. Revealing.

He’s cutting short his Latin America trip to come home early, perhaps realizing that even though we’re “not at war,” the photos of him kicking around a soccer ball while Air Force pilots are flying bombing raids over Tripoli won’t play well next year. Meanwhile, here’s Hillary making a bit of news during an interview with ABC by hinting that Qaddafi’s inner circle might be headed for the lifeboats. Aside from partition, deposing this nut is the only way out for the coalition if the military stalemate on the ground holds. Just one question: Is she telling the truth, or is this a psy op on her part aimed at making Qaddafi and his advisors paranoid towards each other?

“We’ve heard about other people close to him reaching out to people that they know around the world — Africa, the Middle East, Europe, North America, beyond — saying what do we do? How do we get out of this? What happens next?” Clinton said in an exclusive interview. “I’m not aware that he personally has reached out, but I do know that people allegedly on his behalf have been reaching out.”

“Some of it is theater. Some of it is, you know, kind of, shall we say game playing, to try to do one message to one group, another message to somebody else,” she added. “A lot of it is just the way he behaves. It’s somewhat unpredictable. But some of it, we think, is exploring. You know, what are my options, where could I go, what could I do. And we would encourage that.”

She’s also “very relaxed” about the coming handover, you’ll be pleased to know, even though no one’s sure what we’re handing off to yet. Remember: This is the administration that branded itself as “smart power” when it took office.

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David Strom 5:21 PM on December 09, 2022