Wednesday, September 4, 2013
Barack Builds a Big Box
by Pa Rock
For the past several weeks President Obama has struggled over a decision on whether or not to interfere with the civil war in Syria. On the one hand he has had to deal with hawks in Congress and other backseat drivers who have been pushing for serious involvement in the conflict, and implying that his lack of haste was indicative of a lack of spine. On the other hand, he also had to factor in those pesky liberal Democrats who seldom get into a war mode – as well as a growing group of isolationist Republicans.
Many of the nay-sayers sought to slow down the rush to get involved by diverting the President into consulting with Congress, something was once common practice in gearing up for military conflicts. (And the Constitution gives Congress, and Congress alone, the power to declare war.) If the President took us into a conflict that morphed into a quagmire without consulting with Congress, sanctimonious politicians could then sit back and point out that if he had consulted with them, the results would have been different. They were able to demand a role in the decision, secure in the knowledge that all Presidents are cowboys who would never deign to share a decision that important with lowly congressmen.
The President was damned if he did – and damned if he didn’t.
But then last Saturday in a burst of deviousness that surprised almost everyone, President Obama announced that he would do what he critics had requested and take his case for intervention to Congress. The President had deftly built a box that was big enough to entrap his critics. Now his problem was their problem. Now their soaring rhetoric had weight and really mattered. Now they had to put up or shut up.
Isolationist Senator Rand Paul, no fan of the President’s, was beside himself with rage. The President, Senator Paul blurted forth, was abdicating his role as Commander in Chief by deferring to Congress. How dare he put some of the onus of war on that fine gaggle of statesmen.
John McCain, a senator with presidential delusions, and his parrot, Lindsey Graham, both started squawking that President Obama should have acted much sooner and more forcefully. President McCain would have never pussy-footed around and gone to Congress for permission to get involved in another country’s business.
A whole host of Congress creatures who have made careers off of marginalizing the President and questioning his right to hold that office were suddenly faced with a dilemma. Should they appear weak while also turning their backs on the military-industrial complex that keeps their wallet’s flush – or should they jump on the war wagon and thereby legitimize the President?
The members of Congress were damned if they did – and damned if they didn’t.