Amazing. Not that The One would try an end-around Congress; that’s been his policy M.O. ever since the GOP took back the House. No, what’s amazing is that President Present took sole ownership of this very risky mission instead of forcing Congress to share the blame by demanding an authorization for the operation. If he had gone to Reid and Boehner and asked for an AUMF, he’d have stood a good chance of getting one. Progressives would have been nervous about another adventure and some tea partiers would have balked at the cost, but Democrats wouldn’t want to defy a president who’s up for reelection next year and Republicans wouldn’t want to undermine their hawkish credentials. It probably would have passed. (As I write this, the British House of Commons has approved the UK’s airstrikes by a vote of 557-13.) And if it didn’t, even better: Then Obama’s completely off the hook for whatever might unfold in Benghazi as Qaddafi’s troops roll in. If 100,000 people get put to the sword, hey — go complain to Congress. The White House wanted to act but that damned Article I tied his hands.
Instead, what we have now are a few sincere constitutionalists and war opponents complaining about Obama’s power grab alongside a bunch of others who are grandstanding even though many of them surely preferred not to be consulted beforehand. Most pols don’t like to take tough votes and this one would have been exceptionally tough: Vote yes and you’ll be blamed for whatever evils emerge from the post-Qaddafi Pandora’s box, vote no and you’ll be blamed for greenlighting a Qaddafi-led massacre of Libyan civilians. Obama, in full cowboy mode, spared them that difficulty — and gosh, are they angry about it. Whatever.
Below you’ll find video of Jim Webb, one of the few members of Congress whom I take at his word about this, expressing his displeasure on MSNBC earlier. In lieu of an exit question, here’s the key rationale offered by Obama in his letter to Congress for approving the mission:
Qadhafi’s continued attacks and threats against civilians and civilian populated areas are of grave concern to neighboring Arab nations and, as expressly stated in U.N. Security Council Resolution 1973, constitute a threat to the region and to international peace and security. His illegitimate use of force not only is causing the deaths of substantial numbers of civilians among his own people, but also is forcing many others to flee to neighboring countries, thereby destabilizing the peace and security of the region. Left unaddressed, the growing instability in Libya could ignite wider instability in the Middle East, with dangerous consequences to the national security interests of the United States.
Isn’t that 100 times as true for, say, instability in Bahrain, which sits right on the political fault line between the region’s Sunni power in Saudi Arabia and its Shiite power in Iran? Anyone think we’ll be sending jets to knock out the Khalifa family there if they decide to get even rougher with the Shiites protesting in the streets?