Oh please. Obama violated the War Powers Act to attack Libya and then offered the flimsiest possible defense for doing so. How much table-pounding did you hear from Republicans over that? They passed a meaningless resolution scolding O for it and then quietly let the matter drop when he ignored them. Some Republican hawks even defended him on the theory that the War Powers Act is unconstitutional as a violation of separation of powers. Is there any reason to think this time would be different?
Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) said Wednesday that President Obama should consult Congress before launching military action against Syria, amid reports Damascus has used chemical weapons.
“I do think that the threat that Syria used chemical weapons is a serious one,” said Boehner in an interview with CNN. “I would hope that as the president is making his decision with what our reaction will be, that he will, in fact, consult with the bipartisan leaders in the Congress, something that didn’t happen before our involvement with Libya.
“This is an important part of the process and I would hope that he would reach out to the Congress so that we could be part of that process,” he added.
How angry is Congress really going to be if Obama spares them the responsibility of having to take a position on Syria’s rolling no-win clusterfark? That’s why the reaction to O’s War Powers gambit in Libya was muted even among Republicans who are normally eager to hammer The One for his transgressions. If they voted no on intervening in Libya and Qaddafi ended up slaughtering rebels by the thousands, Obama would destroy them for having enabled a massacre. If they voted yes and the U.S. somehow got sucked into Iraq redux in north Africa, suddenly the party has another “quagmire” on its record. In Syria, those same considerations apply ten times over. Tens of thousands have already been killed; rumors of WMD being used are floating around; the rebels who are trying to unseat the lunatic in Damascus have loads of jihadi lunatics in their own ranks. There’s no good outcome here for the U.S. and plenty of peril for American servicemen, especially if Special Ops is sent in on the ground to commandeer Assad’s chemical weapons. No matter which way you vote as a congressman, you’ll be held accountable for some horrific consequence of action or inaction. Obama has to make a decision because that’s his job as C-in-C but you’re kidding yourself if you think Congress will make a stink about not being allowed to share responsibility.
Or are you? The one X factor in this is the rise of Rand Paul and the popularity of his filibuster. If O sends U.S. jets into Syria, Paul will have no choice but to protest — probably not with another 13-hour marathon but with some sort of ostentatious objection, or else his lecture on the Senate floor and at CPAC about constitutional limits on the power of the executive will prove hollow. Will his colleagues in the caucus rally to him again? Will Rubio, who’ll likely support intervention on the merits, nonetheless back Paul in demanding presidential accountability to Congress, even if Paul is opposed to intervention? This would be a truer test of how isolationist the GOP has become than Paul’s drone filibuster was, since that was aimed at a narrow hypothetical, not an imminent real-world use of military force. Stay tuned.