A nugget from the Q&A following his speech on the Middle East today. I can’t find a transcript or video, so The Hill’s account will have to do:
GOP presidential candidate Tim Pawlenty said Tuesday that the War Powers Act “does not apply” to the U.S. intervention in Libya, but that he would have consulted with Congress anyway if he had launched the mission as president.
During a question-and-answer session following a speech on foreign policy at the Council on Foreign Relations, Pawlenty said that he would confer with members of Congress “as a courtesy and gesture of respect,” but that he does not believe congressional authorization would be required for such a mission…
Even though the ex-governor distinguished himself from Congress on war powers, he sought to assuage concerns that he would not work in concert with lawmakers on similar issues.
He’ll consult with the legislature, just to be a stand-up guy, but he’s conspicuously silent about seeking their approval. In which case, is he saying that the War Powers Act is unconstitutional and therefore no war requires congressional authorization, or is he saying that it is constitutional but this war doesn’t require authorization? I can understand if it’s the former insofar as he’s a would-be executive seeking to maximize his warmaking prerogative and a would-be nominee seeking to define himself as the true hawk in an increasingly dovish field. But in that case, someone really needs to press him on what he thinks Article I means when it grants Congress the power to declare war. If instead he means merely that the WPA doesn’t apply to Libya, then I’m anxious to hear why he thinks this war merits some special exemption. He’s not going to make the White House’s lame “this doesn’t rise to the level of ‘hostilities'” argument, is he? Because The One’s legal lackeys tried that at a Senate hearing again today and it … didn’t go so well:
“You’ve said the United Nations has authorized this and there is no need for Congress to act,” Corker told State Department legal adviser Harold Koh at a Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing on Libya and the 1973 War Powers Resolution.
That’s a “cute argument,” Corker added. “You’ve undermined the credibility of this administration, undermined the integrity of the War Powers Act, and by taking this very narrow approach, you’ve done a great disservice to our country.”
Corker’s attack came during a hearing examining whether the Vietnam-era War Powers Resolution applies to the United States’s role in the three-month-old Libya conflict. Koh and Obama, a constitutional law professor, have argued that America’s limited operations in Libya – which include airstrikes, drone attacks, refueling and intelligence, but no troops on the ground – do not constitute “hostilities” contemplated under the resolution.
By that reasoning, Corker said, U.S. drones could drop a nuclear bomb on Tripoli and it would not amount to “hostilities.”
Watch the end of the clip below for a taste of the pure, well-justified disdain on display from Corker, especially when he notes how convenient it is that no lawyers from the DOJ or Pentagon were sent to testify. I wonder why. As for T-Paw, here’s the transcript of his speech laying out a four-tiered approach to the new Middle East. It’s not long and it’s packed with red meat about Obama’s antipathy to Israel and the new GOP’s antipathy to interventionism. (“America already has one political party devoted to decline, retrenchment, and withdrawal. It does not need a second one.”) The part that jumped out at me:
US-Saudi relations are at an all-time low—and not primarily because of the Arab Spring. They were going downhill fast, long before the uprisings began. The Saudis saw an American Administration yearning to engage Iran—just at the time they saw Iran, correctly, as a mortal enemy.
We need to tell the Saudis what we think, which will only be effective if we have a position of trust with them. We will develop that trust by demonstrating that we share their great concern about Iran and that we are committed to doing all that is necessary to defend the region from Iranian aggression.
At the same time, we need to be frank about what the Saudis must do to insure stability in their own country. Above all, they need to reform and open their society. Their treatment of Christians and other minorities, and their treatment of women, is indefensible and must change.
We know that reform will come to Saudi Arabia—sooner and more smoothly if the royal family accepts and designs it. It will come later and with turbulence and even violence if they resist. The vast wealth of their country should be used to support reforms that fit Saudi history and culture—but not to buy off the people as a substitute for lasting reform.
My understanding of recent U.S./Saudi relations must be screwy because I thought the big wedge came when Obama suddenly turned against their mutual ally, Hosni Mubarak, after 30 years of serving U.S. interests. T-Paw’s playing up O’s “yearning” to engage Iran to frame him as a weak leader with a broken moral compass, but U.S./Iran relations have been overwhelmingly hostile ever since the Green Revolution made dialogue impossible. Remember Stuxnet, for example? Remember the umpteenth round of sanctions that were applied? I don’t think the Saudis doubt that we’re “greatly concerned” about the mullahs. If they have a big complaint about The One, it’s that he thinks way more highly of political reform as a cure for the region’s ills than they do, a trait he apparently shares with, er, Tim Pawlenty. As for nudging the royals to “support reforms that fit Saudi history and culture,” I can’t begin to imagine what those “reforms” would look like given that the undercurrents of Saudi history and culture are precisely what the royals are afraid of. We tinkered with the Egyptian revolution and here’s where that’s at these days. As repulsive as many of the Kingdom’s policies are, what happens when we tinker there too?