Pro-war liberal hypocrites have short memories of war authorization
BY ANDREW STILES September 7, 2013 2:02AM
Updated: October 9, 2013 7:47PM
President Barack Obama surprised many with his decision to emulate his predecessor, George W. Bush, by seeking congressional authorization to attack a Baathist regime in the Middle East.
The media’s reaction, while predictable, has bordered on parody, lending weight to conservative suspicions about the press corps’ particular devotion to the current president.
“Quite extraordinary: after 30 years of presidents strengthening powers of exec branch, POTUS is giving some of that power back to Congress,” NBC’s Chuck Todd gushed on Twitter.
Numerous outlets echoed this theme of Obama as restorer of the Constitution. BuzzFeed wrote of Obama’s “big Syria power giveaway.” The Hill reported that the decision to seek congressional approval “breaks from precedent” and “represented a departure from the policies of several predecessors,” while somewhat awkwardly noting that President Bush sought (and won) authorization for the Iraq War and the invasion of Afghanistan — as Bush’s father did before the First Gulf War.
Given Bush’s willingness to seek authorization, it seems odd to credit Obama with breaking a precedent — and all the more so when Bush wasn’t exactly hailed as a history-defying leader for doing so. But the media do seem to have a short memory when it comes to comparisons between the Bush and Obama administrations.
Obama made clear in his Rose Garden announcement that he wasn’t seeking Congress’ approval out of constitutional necessity. “I believe I have the authority to carry out this military action without specific congressional authorization,” he said, arguing that the “country will be stronger” if Congress grants authorization.
That is precisely the argument the Bush administration made in the run-up to the Iraq War in 2002.
As liberal commentators — along with a host of previously “anti-war” Democrats — have lined up in support of Obama’s plan to attack Syria, there has been little discussion about the president’s blatant disavowal of the opinion he expressed as a candidate in 2007, when he said “the president does not have power under the Constitution to unilaterally authorize a military attack in a situation that does not involve stopping an actual or imminent threat to the nation.”
So why did Obama turn to Congress? According to the Wall Street Journal, the decision “reflected his growing frustration with lawmakers who appeared to want to have it both ways — criticizing the president for not seeking congressional authorization, and then criticizing the decisions he makes.”
That explanation doesn’t quite fit the narrative of a world leader humbly ceding authority to the people’s elected representatives. It sounds more like a politician trying to outmaneuver his critics. “Congress is now the dog that caught the car,” former Obama adviser David Axelrod wrote following the president’s announcement.
For many conservatives, it has been fascinating to watch the Left, including its factotums in the media, rally behind a Democratic president preparing to go to war. “This is not Iraq,” they insist. Opposition to Bush’s “interventionist” foreign policy was one of the defining characteristics of Obama’s historic rise to power. But Senator Dick Durbin (D., Ill.) explained Wednesday that, “This is different.”
“The president’s my friend,” he said. “I’m proud of him. And I respect his values because I know him as well, or better, than most any person in this town.”
And friends stick together.
Andrew Stiles is a political reporter for National Review Online, where this was posted.