Actually, I’m a little surprised by this report from Byron York at the Washington Examiner. If anyone benefits from the casual, off-hand manner in which Barack Obama started a war with Libya, it’s the crew from the Bush administration. After having been beaten over the head by the accusation “rush to war” regarding Iraq after taking nine months to convince Congress and the nation, Obama’s reversal within days and neglect of Congress makes Bush seem almost akin to George McClellan.
Of course, that’s their point:
“I am completely mystified,” says former top Bush aide Karl Rove, who supports the Libya intervention, “that this administration, of all administrations, makes a decision on a Tuesday night and does not bother to call anybody in Congress until Friday morning, 90 minutes before the policy is going to be executed, to tell them what is going to happen. Can you imagine what would have happened if we had tried to do that? We’d have been barbecued!”
There’s also the question of why Obama did not explain his decision to the public in a forum that conveyed the gravity of the situation. After ordering troops into action, the president headed off to South America with his wife, daughters, mother-in-law, and mother-in-law’s friend in tow. There was no solemn, reasoned speech to explain why the U.S. was going to war.
“We would have marked that in a very significant way,” says Dan Bartlett, the former White House communications director. “We would have built a whole, for want of a better word, campaign to articulate what was happening.” The president would have given a speech, probably from the White House, and in following days would likely have visited a military base from which some of the forces were deployed. Other high-ranking administration officials would have been dispatched to defend the effort.
I’m pretty sure that they would have restrained Bush from going abroad as the war started, doing photo-ops of playing soccer in the street and samba chair-dances in Rio, too, although I’m also pretty sure that Bush wouldn’t have thought to do that in the first place.
Had Bush started a war in this fashion in 2007 or 2008, when Democrats controlled both chambers of Congress, Democrats wouldn’t have stopped at a barbecue. Nancy Pelosi would almost certainly have started impeachment proceedings, which would have failed as Republicans rallied to the President. The hearings alone would have been brutal, though, and it might have claimed a few heads in the administration before the House moved to other business. And given their public statements about Bush’s rush to war in Iraq, two of the leading voices in the upper chamber cheering that process on would have been Barack Obama and Joe Biden, the latter having pledged in 2007 to push impeachment under the exact same set of circumstances with Iran, a nation that actually does pose a threat to the US.
Speaking of the “rush to war,” you have to just love Obama’s response to John Boehner, too:
The White House fired back Thursday at criticism over the Libya military mission, saying lawmakers were briefed and consulted at length before air strikes began.
White House press secretary Jay Carney read off a list of dates when administration officials briefed members or testified on the Hill during an off-camera briefing held the day after President Obama returned from a trip to South and Central America.
The press secretary also said the U.S. had to act quickly when air strikes began Saturday because further delay would have “cost lives.”
Since it took the President more than four weeks to make up his mind, their argument can also be reflected back on the White House. The delay and vacillation cost lives as well. In fact, since they missed an opportunity to keep Moammar Gaddafi penned up in Tripoli, it cost even more lives and put the lives we’re saving now at risk from our own attacks on Gaddafi’s forces in Benghazi. Furthermore, it also provided plenty of time for Obama to consult with Congress while deciding to take the nation to war for whatever reason.
Let’s also not forget that Saddam Hussein was also slaughtering his own people in genocidal actions against the Marsh Arabs and Kurds, and attempting to do the same with the Shi’ites in the South. Yet Obama and his political party spent years screaming about the “rush to war” of the Bush administration. Small wonder jaws are agape among former Bush administration officials.