The American Interest
Analysis by Walter Russell Mead & Staff
Perhaps Not the Best Strategy for Winning Friends in Congress

Kerry

John Kerry has been making the rounds claiming that Obama can bomb Syria even if Congress votes against it. The legalities are disputed among constitutional lawyers, but telling the world that the Obama administration reserves the right to bomb Syria regardless of what Congress says is probably not the smartest way to lobby for votes.

Some fence sitters will be infuriated by what they will see as a display of arrogance into voting no. Others, reluctantly preparing to cast an unpopular yes vote out of loyalty to the president will have second thoughts if it looks as if the president is asking them to jump in front of a bus for him. After all, if he’s going to do it anyway, why should they risk their careers on the vote—and why is a man who can’t run for re-election trying to protect himself by throwing the burden on people who do have the future to think about? Even those who believe that the strikes are necessary may end up voting no or voting ‘present’ if they will believe that the president will do it anyway. Nobody on either side of this debate wants to take an unnecessary political hit.

It’s rare to watch an administration tumble into this kind of shambolic disarray, especially in a second term when the shakedown cruise is supposedly over. For the country’s sake, let’s hope the WH finds its political feet sooner rather than later. This kind of meltdown doesn’t help anybody.

[John Kerry image courtesy of Shutterstock]

Published on September 7, 2013 10:25 am
  • stanbrown

    Never
    trust a serial liar. Never give more power to one who is already
    abusing the power he has. Never give an incompetent command in life or
    death situations. Even if someone could come up with a rationale for
    war with Syria that made sense, untrustworthy leadership would make it a
    foolish move for this country.

  • gvanderleun

    Hard to know exactly who is creating and publishing these Via Media items these days but it does look like this item is trying to walk back the cat from the foolish VM endorsement of the Dent on September 5: “We hate to say it, but that is so dangerous that there’s a strong argument for Congress to back the Syria resolution simply to avoid trashing the credibility of the only President we’ve got.”

  • wigwag

    Of course this President, or any president can use force whether Congress likes it or not. A president can order any action he wants to as long as it doesn’t get him convicted at impeachment proceedings. Given the impossibility of removing Obama from office, he should feel perfectly free to ignore congressional sentiments about bombing Syria. It doesn’t make a damn bit of difference whether the ludicrous left or the ridiculous right likes it or not.

    Obama never should have wasted his time seeking congressional authorization. He doesn’t need it and truth be told, as dimwitted as Obama is, Congress is even dumber.

  • Jacksonian_Libertarian

    WORST PRESIDENT EVER!

  • Lyle7

    What about what Samantha Power said about convincing Iran to stop its pursuit of nuclear weapons by building a solid case of Assad’s use of chemical weapons? Hope she was’t serious about that.

  • http://metanoodle.blogspot.com Ken Moore
  • OldmanRick

    The right to declare war exists with congress, not the president. Even the war powers act which gives the president additional wiggle space does not give him the right to declare war without approval. And, BTW, bombing a sovereign nation without provocation is an act of war. The fact that gas is being used in Syria is not a direct threat to the US.

  • Hubbub

    “…the Obama administration reserves the right to bomb Syria regardless of
    what Congress says is probably not the smartest way to lobby for votes…”

    Smart, smarter, smartest way? You’re not dealing with an ace in this deck of cards. Just be thankful he wasn’t elected as president in 2004 – not that Bush was any thing to boast about. I find it amazing that these political drones can rise as high in government as they do – you would think that they would self-destruct, that they would explode from the accumulation of gases that roils between their ears.

    No, I do not have any kind words for these malefactors of great stupidity.

  • f1b0nacc1

    I suspect that even Obama is not foolish enough to first ask for authorization to use military force (very different than going to war), and then after being denied it, use it anyway. Even Obama’s loyal LIVs might start having second thoughts.
    The consequences won’t be impeachment, but it will become a LOT harder to pass any part of Obama’s agenda through Congress, since he will have demonstrated that he recognizes no real limits on his powers. Granted, an argument can be made that he has already done this, but this would be even more obvious, and it would seriously imperil (if it hasn’t already) his efforts towards the Amnesty bill and the rest of his initiatives.

  • Bob Gaumont

    I have to disagree with my Tea Party friends here although I love Constitutional arguments. The Constitution allows for a strong executive and gives the President quite a bit of discretion in initiating conflict abroad. One might argue that this is the whole point of the Presidency (article ii) which is the only article written with one person (general George Washington, not even term limited) in mind.
    By bringing this issue of bombing syria, President Obama is attempting, I believe, to weaken the Presidency where it is supposed to be strong (foreign policy and issues of war and peace)

    • Bob Gaumont

      Btw, I also think the War Powers Act is unconstitutional. I never thought I would see the day when conservatives are embracing a law passed in the 1970s that was designed to weaken the Presidency. Ugh.

    • stevewfromford

      article ii says nothing about the President having the power to initiate hostilities while article i specifically grants this power to the Congress.

      • Bob Gaumont

        “Declare war” was never been interpreted that narrowly, ever. It’s only been declared five times. Off the top of my head, hostilities with France, Cuba, Panama, Nicaragua, Philipines, Libya (both Reagan and Obama). Texas- lol. Truman fought the entire Korean War without seeking approval from Congress. This is a first. I have a soft spot for tea party types because they mean well mostly but a lot of them don’t understand the Constitution they’re reading and the originalist intent. If The President strikes Syria, it may not be wise, but it’s perfectly constitutional.

        • stevewfromford

          Bob, Congress has actually declared war, I believe, 11 times in our history as well as giving Bush his AUMF. Truman fought the Korean war as a police action which he was actually authorized to do under the treaty we entered into establishing the UN. This is also how Clinton justified Bosnia as it was a UN operation as well and thus did not require congressional action to be legal. Obama is actually one of the few Presidents that have gone to war without either UN or congressional authorization so I’m afraid your point that a President unilaterally engaging in military action, such as that contemplated in Syria, is constitutional is incorrect.

          • Bob Gaumont

            Thanks for the substantive reply but I stand by my comment. Going to the UN or NATO is not the same as Congress. And Reagan in Grenada and Libya were neither. Bush 1 in panama. Clinton sent cruise missiles into Iraq in 93 and 98 without anyone’s approval. Hey, I am not a fan of Syria intervention. But for what the President wanted to do, he didn’t need congress and it should have been done a week ago. It’s not a well known fact but the U.S. considered bombing a nuclear reactor in Syria in 2007 that was built by the North Koreans but declined. The Israelis took care of it instead.

          • stevewfromford

            Well I guess that’s what makes horse races popular, we all have our own opinion! While I agree that a President needs the authority to act unilaterally under quick duress I don’t agree he should be able to unilaterally act when there is time to get Congressional authorization, not even for small actions as these can sometimes become large wars unexpectedly as in Vietnam. No one man should have the power to drag the whole country into war and in this, I believe, the constitution is correctly interpreted not to allow such.

  • stevewfromford

    Shambolic Disarray seems to be Obama’s middle name when it comes to governance!

    It seems clear to me from my reading of the Federalist Papers that the founders intent was that the President NOT have authority to unilaterally initiate hostilities save under attack or imminent threat of attack. Nowhere do I see anything in the Constitution that allows 90 days of war at the Presidents sole discretion before Congress gives it’s assent.

  • Jim__L

    “Why is a man who can’t run for re-election trying to protect himself by throwing the burden on people who do have the future to think about?”

    Because all Obama cares about is his image. Not America, not suffering Syrians, not the Democrats, not even international law. It’s all about him.

    He’s gotten himself into a situation where most of his options will make him look bad. VM’s crack about Obama “folding like a cheap suit” in the face of Congressional disapproval must have hit home, leaving him thinking that the best option for his “cred” would be to ignore Congress. (This, despite the fact that it would be beyond even what GWB tried to pull.)

    “No blood for ego” indeed.

    VM clearly wants the American Presidency to have the capacity to be interventionist, I suspect mostly because of Iran. Unfortunately for VM, Obama seems to be botching non-Iranian use of force so badly (Libyan, Syrian, Afghan, etc, not to mention defense cuts) as to be counterproductive re: the mullahs.