The president called a news conference yesterday. The consensus in the room was that the president was planning to expand US bombing raids to attack ISIS forces in Syria. After all the Secretary of Defense, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs and UN ambassador had all been out there in recent days making the case that ISIS posed a threat to national security that had to be eliminated. The only question yet to be answered was whether the president would seek congressional authorization before attacking ISIS forces in Syria.
“I don’t’ want to put the cart before the horse,” the president said. “We don’t have a strategy, yet.”
As one might expect the president’s political adversaries, who have been vacationing for the last several weeks, were more than eager to weigh in with their characterizations of a weak, feckless, clueless president and his leading from behind policies. I won’t bore you with the details.
Lost in the cacophony of congressional criticism was what the president said next.
“We don’t have a strategy, yet. We need to make sure that we’ve got clear plans, that we’re developing them. At that point I will consult with congress and make sure that their voices are heard. But there is no point in me asking for action on the part of congress before I know exactly what is going to be required for us to get the job done. He then made it clear that any plans to go after ISIS would be a “regional strategy” that involved “moderate Sunni’s who are able to govern and offer a real alternative. We won’t go it alone.”
Translation…once we get our ducks lined up with the other players in the regional I’ll go to congress and ask for their authorization to execute the plan.
That is exactly what congress does NOT want to hear. With the exception of McCain, Graham and a few other neo-cons, most of our congressional representatives want no part of going on the record as being for or against another war in the Middle East. Hillary Clinton might well be into her second term as president if not for her vote in favor of the war in Iraq. Lesson learned! Far better to sit back and let the president do the heavy lifting…then weigh in after the dust has cleared.
You may recall that about a year ago the world watched while the Assad regime slaughtered tens of thousands of its citizens who had committed the sin of rising up in protest. The president’s critics ripped him apart; saying that his unwillingness to arm the rebels had led to the slaughter of tens of thousands of innocents. The president for his part was unwilling to provide arms to rebel forces that included al Qaeda and other bad actors who threatened American interests.
You may NOT recall that on August 31, 2013, almost exactly one year ago, President Obama went to the Rose Garden to announce that after consulting with military leaders he was prepared to authorize air strikes in support of the rebel forces that were being slaughtered by the Assad regime. But cognizant of the country’s war weariness and fully aware of the tenants of the constitution he felt that it was important for the peoples’ elected representatives to have their voices heard on the subject. So instead of going it alone he asked congress to vote, yea or nay, on whether he should order the military to engage in bombing runs in Syria.
Over the ensuing months many members of congress railed against the president for “not doing more” to help the Syrian rebels. But they never went on the record to authorize another war in another Middle East country. One year later that vote has yet to be heard.
We are now seeing a rerun of that same movie. By all accounts any effort to defeat ISIS must go through Syria. All the weak, feckless, leading from behind noise that you are hearing from the fools on the Hill is nothing more than a politically motivated attempt to goad the president into acting so that they don’t have to take action themselves. A distraction campaign if you will, designed to hide their political cowardice.
Over the next several days you will hear members of congress ripping the president for saying “We don’t have a strategy, yet.” Behind closed doors they are praying that he does. Should the president decide to take military action without seeking their authorization they will rip him for “abuse of power.” Behind closed doors they are thrilled to be relieved of the burden.
There is an old saying that politics stops at the water’s edge. It should…but clearly it doesn’t.
I am pleased to have a president who, regardless of the political consequences, is thoughtful and deliberate when considering matters of war. Unfortunately our elected leaders in congress are not made of the same cloth.
It is time for Congress to go on the record.