Here’s another chapter in what I wrote about back here, in the post headlined “Are we starting to see a geologic shift between left and right on national security?”…
I’ll give you the two items backwards. Friday afternoon, I received this release from Joe Wilson:
(Washington, DC) – Congressman Joe Wilson (SC-02) released the following statement after the House of Representatives voted against authorizing the limited use of the United States Armed Forces in Libya:
“The President’s decision to ignore the Constitution along with the War Powers Resolution has led us to this point. Choosing not to consult with Congress on this conflict was complicated even further by this Administration’s failure to explain and outline a plan of action to the American public.
“NATO is one of America’s closest allies. I do not want to jeopardize the progress it has made in removing Muammar Gaddafi from power. However, the President’s failure to actively engage Congress forces me to vote against committing our Armed Forces on the ground in Libya.”
I hope y’all didn’t get whiplash in that last paragraph. Let’s see, would not want in any way to jeopardize NATO’s mission in Libya (which, last time I checked, was not officially removing Gaddafi, but we can wink and nod at that one), on account of NATO being our great friends and all. BUT… he wants to tie Obama’s hands in supporting that mission, on account of, you know. Obama being Obama.
There are just so many bizarre things going on here. Republicans (especially Republicans of the strong national defense wing, like Joe Wilson) caring about the flippin’ War Powers Resolution. I mean, normally you hear folks in that camp saying the War Powers Resolution is what violates the Constitution. Then… well, I’ll let y’all figure out all the bizarre things about it. Here’s a news story on what Joe’s talking about, by the way.
I wanted to share something else with you. That morning, before the vote, this piece by Kimberley A. Strassel (normal world view: Obama bad, Republicans good) appeared in The Wall Street Journal. It was headlined, “The GOP’s War Powers Opportunism: Republicans abandon principle in a rush to score political points on the president.” I’m going to take a chance here of getting into trouble with the Journal by quoting large chunks of the piece, because it just makes so many good points. Here goes:
But what fun is there in criticizing Democrats on national security when the GOP is offering up a much more embarrassing spectacle? In their rush to score points on the president, what congressional Republicans have actually managed to do is hurt themselves. They’ve highlighted their own divisions and given voters reason to question whether the party is throwing over principle in favor of political opportunism or, more worrisome, a new form of GOP isolationism.
In the space of a few months, Republicans have gone from coherently criticizing Mr. Obama’s timid approach to the Arab awakening, to a few weeks ago incoherently losing 87 members to antiwar Democrat Dennis Kucinich’s resolution to end military engagement in Libya. This caused an open rift in the party, compelling Sen. John McCain to stand up for U.S. victory and sponsor a resolution giving Mr. Obama freedom of action for another year.
House Republicans have very publicly let it be known that they intend to hold a vote on Mr. McCain’s resolution—solely so that they can very publicly vote him down. Not satisfied that this is an ample enough rebuke to those who would win a war, the GOP is now working to pass legislation to defund the president’s Libya mission. That’s right, House Republicans (not House Democrats) intend to kneecap a commander in chief….
… House leaders are of the view that failing to take action against the president is the equivalent of letting him “get away” with his snubs and bad policy and to “win” on this issue. The only real winner of a Libya withdrawal is, of course, a terrorist named Moammar Gadhafi. But try telling that to a GOP that has come full circle to congressional Democrats, circa 2006, who masked their ambitions to undermine President Bush behind lofty arguments of Iraq “oversight.”
Speaking of 2006, some of this is also the consequence of a party with no obvious leader. Mr. Bush kept his caucus (barely) on Iraq only by constantly reminding members of the stakes. Those GOP candidates who would follow Mr. Bush have been mostly craven on Libya and Afghanistan, with Mitt Romney and Michele Bachmann more worried about winning the next public-opinion poll than winning a war. House Speaker John Boehner remains reluctant to openly engage his excitable freshmen. Rather than lead on Libya, his default has been to try to make the best of a fractious GOP—for instance, by offering up a less-bad version of the Kucinich resolution.
To the extent there is political pressure, it comes from the tea party, which has no interest in foreign policy but is instead focused on spending and federal powers. This has helped to drive the growing group of self-described constitutionalists and war-deficit-hawks who are giving rise to a new brand of Republican isolationism.
The prevailing antigovernment feeling has allowed folks like Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul to spin the Libya mission as some sort of affront to the Constitution, since Mr. Obama failed to beg Congress’s approval for Libya, as required by the 1973 War Powers Act. Never mind that conservative scholars will point out that it is the War Powers Act itself that is unconstitutional. That used to be the general GOP view, but with “Obama violated the Constitution” making for such a delicious sound bite among base voters, Republicans are willing to forget the past.
Really, I wanted to quote the whole thing, but restrained myself slightly, giving you only the parts that best address what Joe Wilson and the majority did yesterday.
I urge you to go read it all — and browse the site, and give your custom to the Journal’s advertisers, so they will forgive me for quoting so extensively. It will be worth your while.
By the way, other “conservative” pundits are not getting on the House’s case here. George Will is attacking John McCain for, as Ms. Strassel wrote, daring “to stand up for U.S. victory and sponsor a resolution giving Mr. Obama freedom of action for another year.” Mr. Will’s column is headlined “John McCain’s never-ending war.” Mr. Will seems angry with Sen. McCain for daring to call the latest trend among Republicans “isolationism.” But that (coupled with Obama Derangement Syndrome) is precisely the right word. And it’s not entirely a new thing. We’ve been here before.