As the President approached the podium in the Rose Garden of the White House this afternoon I fully expected him to make a strong statement supporting military action against Syria. This, despite the lack of formal Congressional or UN approval, stating action was necessary given the horrific chemical attacks against the Syrian civilian population. In fact, all Presidents since Reagan have taken such action without UN or Congressional approval when they deemed it necessary. However, after again making a strong and impassioned case for the need for military action, he acknowledged that the Congress had an important role to play in this decision.
There have been calls from many senators and representatives for the opportunity to participate in this decision. They are claiming their “constitutional authority” to approve military action. Of course, there are those who are now claiming that his decision to go to congress for approval will weaken the Presidency for decades to come. But that is a question for the political scientists and historians. His decision was that of a mature leader, willing to state his opinion with passion and strength, while allowing the “people’s representatives” to debate the issue and present its opinion. On the face of it, it seems like the right thing to do, yet in reality it is a very shrewd political move.
The President has called the congressional bluff. He is basically saying ” prove to us that you are in fact a mature and constructive deliberative and legislative body. Bring to the debate rational, fact-based and timely information. Show us that you can move above narrow partisan and political considerations and toward purely national interests. But if you can’t get it done in an effective and timely manner then you need to get out of my way. Because I have already made my decision”.
I personally believe that the congress is going to be unable to come to a clean and clear resolution. There are splits in both parties that will make a vote in the House a great challenge. I believe the senate will have greater success. However it goes, the President will have provided the time, the information and the impetus for an open debate. By doing this his hands will be freer for whatever action he ultimately deems necessary.
- Why Doesn’t President Obama Seek Congressional Approval for Syria? (lawfareblog.com)
- Congress To Obama: Striking Syria Is Not Your Call (personalliberty.com)
- How Obama Can Bypass Congress on Syria Strike (abcnews.go.com)
- FLASHBACK: Obama, Biden Remind That Military Action Requires Congressional Approval (huffingtonpost.com)