This is something I’ve been thinking about the last few days, and I haven’t written about it because it’s complicated and I haven’t had time to do something pulling all the threads together. But when I saw this development, I decided I’d better go ahead and throw out the general idea and get the discussion started:
Obama Says War Powers Act Doesn’t Apply to Libya Mission
White House maintains that the president doesn’t need lawmakers’ permission for U.S. role in NATO-led effort.
The White House on Wednesday told skeptical lawmakers that President Obama doesn’t need their permission to continue the nation’s involvement in the NATO-led mission in Libya because U.S. forces are playing only a supporting role there.
Administration lawyers made their case as part of a larger report sent to Congress responding to complaints that the president had yet to provide a sufficient rationale for continuing the Libya campaign, the New York Times reports.
“We are not saying the president can take the country into war on his own,” State Department lawyer Harold Koh told the paper. “We are not saying the War Powers Resolution is unconstitutional or should be scrapped, or that we can refuse to consult Congress. We are saying the limited nature of this particular mission is not the kind of ‘hostilities’ envisioned by the War Powers Resolution.”…
- The fact that, in the GOP debate the other night, we heard some Republicans moving more toward the “get out of Afghanistan ASAP” line. Ron Paul, treated as an outcast for saying such things four years ago, got cheered by the Fox News crowd.
- The bold way Obama decided to go in and GET bin Laden, without any of that multilateral consult-the-allies (as in, tell the Pakistanis we’re attacking in the heart of their country) touchy-feely stuff. No fooling around.
- The way the administration is playing on having stunned the world with the bin Laden thing to get its way elsewhere. That prompted me to write that the difference between Bush and Obama is that Bush was Sonny, while Obama is the far-deadlier (that is, more effective) Michael.
- The way Obama is taking advantage of chaos in Yemen to just GO AFTER terrorists there, without asking Congress or the UN, or presenting arguments about the War Powers Act, or anything like that. Read this, and this.
This has been building ever since the election, with a lot of Obama’s antiwar base feeling pretty disoriented (wait — is this who we elected?), and people like me being reassured by his steady pragmatism.
But lately, the process has seemed to be accelerating. Obama still talks a good war-as-last-resort, multilateral, we-don’t-want-to-be-a-bully line for the base… but watch what happens. (And how about the way he threw everybody off-balance on Libya, letting the FRENCH of all people take the lead, while still managing to get in there and go after the bad guys? That enabled him to have it both ways. The allies couldn’t do it without us, but it came across looking like we were a reluctant junior partner, which bought Obama some support for the move among liberals.)
And I find myself wondering, is anyone else noticing? I mean, while the Republicans get more timid about the U.S. role abroad (in some ways) and obsess more and more about domestic issues (because that’s what the Tea Party cares about), Obama is out there going all JFK and LBJ. He’s going Old School. He’s defining Democratic presidential leadership back to where it was before Vietnam.
Are the parties moving toward switching places?
This is a fascinating development. I think it has the potential to completely realign the country politically, and on more than national security.
Anybody else noticing this?