McCain: Maybe Obama should go ahead and bomb Assad without Congress's approval

A little taste of what might have been during a McCain presidency.

The senior Republican acknowledged the decision would be a difficult one, but he said he did not think members of his own party would try to remove President Obama from office if he acted in the vital national interest.

“They’re not going to impeach the president. They’re not that crazy,” he told reporters after the event…

“I think that, one, that the president of the United States should go back, if this fails, this Russian initiative, and convince the American people again,” McCain said. “Then I think the president has to decide what’s in our vital national interest.”

“If he launched an attack on Syria without the endorsement of Congress, it would be vastly more complicated if Congress had already acted. If he acted without the agreement of Congress, you could make the argument before the resolution was passed … that he is acting as other president have.”


Didn’t McCain himself disingenuously endorse impeachment if Obama decided to put boots on the ground in Syria? If he’s willing to impeach over using ground troops, which might be a logical strategic step if the U.S. launches an attack and then things escalate, why is it crazy to impeach him for defying the will of Congress and the public to launch the war in the first place?

I went to the Journal’s website to look for video of what he said but couldn’t find the bit quoted above. What I did find is Maverick saying that O either should have bombed Assad straightaway or sought approval from Congress without first stating that he’d decided as commander-in-chief that a strike was necessary. He’s quick to note, though, that presidents, among them Ronald Reagan, have been bombing first and seeking approval later for ages with little objection from Republicans. That’s his (obligatory) jab at Rand Paul, of course, which conveniently sidesteps the question of whether there should have been objection in previous cases. Presumably, by McCain’s logic, Republicans are bound to sign off on waterboarding if Obama brings it back because they’ve supported it before, after all. He also notes that the War Powers Act authorizes the president to bomb without permission for a short time before coming to Congress for authorization. That’s true — if there’s “a national emergency created by attack upon the United States.” Otherwise, per the Act, there needs to be a declaration of war or an AUMF. If McCain thinks the Act is unconstitutional because it steps on the president’s Article II prerogatives as commander-in-chief, that’s fine, but then I don’t know why he thinks it was okay for O to come to Congress before an attack. Effectively, he wants the president to decide when the country goes to war. You would think that institutional pride, if nothing else, would push a guy who’s been in the Senate for nearly 30 years to not want the chamber reduced to the level of a rubber stamp whose disapproval can be ignored if need be. But here we are.


Naturally, his sidekick Lindsey Graham is gung ho for this idea too:

LINDSEY GRAHAM: You know, there’s probably a reason 225 times presidents didn’t come to Congress. I don’t know if I’d come to talk with us. Quite frankly. The president has mismanaged this from day one about what we’re trying to do, the goals we’re trying to achieve. I think he made an unbelievably compelling case that we need to act here and compare that to the unbelievably small response we’re going to give.

So at the end of the day, if I were the president I would act after this speech if diplomacy fell apart and I wouldn’t come back to Congress.

JESSICA YELLIN: Do you think he —

GRAHAM: Because if he does his credibility as a world leader is completely shot. You can’t address the world and talk to your enemies and your friends in the tone he did and do nothing.

McCain also revealed that he’s having dinner tonight with Ted Cruz(!). Oh, and he dismissed Russia’s proposal on Syria, which has now been written up and is in U.S. hands, as a stalling tactic. Which, unfortunately, is true.

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