In fact, even the Speaker of the House doesn’t understand. That’s partly why he sponsored a resolution back in June requiring the President to give his rationale.
Admittedly, the War Powers Act, which stands at the center of this controversy, is a piece of American law that is both obscure and convoluted. Every American President seems to have been criticized for “violating” it. The interesting part of this saga is that the President, who heretofore has been anti-war, is ignoring it; while Republicans, mostly in favor of using force for international conflicts, are citing it.
So I’m a bit more than cynical. I’m seeing hypocrisy in action.
Jeh C. Johnson, the Pentagon general counsel, Attorney General Eric Holder, Jr. and Caroline D. Krass, the acting head of the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel, all advised the President that he would need to scale back operations in Libya. Not liking that counsel, the President found cover in the legal opinions of White House counsel, Robert Bauer, and the State Department’s legal adviser, Harold H. Koh. Both of them argued Congress could be snubbed and the War Powers Act ignored.
At a June 16 White House brief, President Obama’s press secretary, Jay Carney, brought the nation’s attention to an April 28, 1999 statement Representative Boehner’s office released. Then, the issue was President Clinton’s involvement in Kosovo. Boehner said then
“The President of the United States is, and should remain, the chief architect of America’s foreign policy and the Commander-in- Chief of our armed forces. As distressed as many of us are over the Clinton Administration’s ill-conceived strategies in the Balkans, Congress must resist the temptation to take any action that would do further damage to the institution of the presidency itself. Invoking the constitutionally-suspect War Powers Act may halt our nation’s snowballing involvement in the Kosovo quagmire. But it is also likely to tie the hands of future presidents who will need the authority to lead in crises with less ambiguous implications for our national security. A strong presidency is a key pillar of the American system of government - the same system of government our military men and women are prepared to give their lives to defend.”Boehner spokesman Brendan Buck countered by drawing attention to a statement made by Barak Obama at DePaul University in October 2007 while he was a senator.
“After Vietnam, Congress swore it would never again be duped into war, and even wrote a new law -- the War Powers Act -- to ensure it would not repeat its mistakes,” then-Sen. Obama said. “But no law can force a Congress to stand up to the president. No law can make senators read the intelligence that showed the president was overstating the case for war. No law can give Congress a backbone if it refuses to stand up as the co-equal branch the Constitution made it.”If Republicans truly believed the President’s authorization of drone-led bomb attacks and an expenditure of $10 million a day constituted ‘hostilities’ the War Powers Act addressed, they should have supported the resolution by Dennis Kucinich. It called for the withdrawal of our involvement and as a “privileged” resolution it would have gone to the Senate for a vote. But Republicans supported Speaker Boehner’s tepid measure instead, allowing them, it seems to me, to criticize Obama’s involvement in Libya without really enforcing the War Powers Act.
So, the liberal Democrats, led by Kucinich, are the heroes of this saga—staying true to their anti-war convictions. Sadly, Republicans, who we often look to for the moral high ground, played the part of hypocrites.
On June 16, the House passed a Boehner resolution by 268 to 145, including 45 Democrats and all but 10 Republicans, requesting a detailed outline of the cost and scope of the operation in Libya. A stronger resolution sponsored by Rep. Dennis Kucinich (D-OH), which would have required the U.S. to withdraw all its troops from Libya within 15 days, failed but was supported by 87 Republicans and 61 Democrats.