OK, Congress is mad at the President. I get it. They’re mad because he didn’t ask them for their permission to join two other permanent members of the UN Security Council in effecting a no-fly zone over Libya in order to dissuade a brutal dictator from committing what would, effectively, have been genocide. Or they’re angry because he didn’t consult them beforehand (although he really did, in a meeting at the White House immediately prior to leaving for his trade junket to South America, but I guess nobody was listening).
And that doesnt’ really surprise me either, because not many people bother listening to this President.
He can be forgiven for not consulting with them, however. Maybe he thought they were so busy trying to undo everything he’s taken the time and effort to effect in the past two years, like healthcare reform, or maybe he thought they were so conflicted in arguing about defunding Planned Parenthood or NPR, that stopping long enough to give cursory sanction to the United States participating in a UN-backed multilateral effort to enforce a no-fly zone over a country embroiled in a people’s struggle against a brutal dictator, intent on retaining power via genocide, would tax their collective integrity too much.
For the record, yes, the Constitution specifically gives Congress the power to declare war, but it also gives the President, as Commander-in-Chief, to make war; and the last declared war we fought, involving Congress’s declaration, was World War II. As hard as it is for some of us to fathom, myself included, this is a humanitarian effort, under the auspices of the United Nations, enacted in order to prevent what would, most indubitably, have resulted in genocide.
I’m as uncomfortable about this as anyone else, but I’m comforted by the fact that we’re not leading on this, as hard as some people in this country and elsewhere are trying to make us. I think it’s significant that two other countries, France and the United Kingdom, were chomping at the bit to have a go at this exercise, rather than us. That the President was aware of the situation, we have no doubt; and many of the ones, politicos and plebs, were wringing hands and wondering why the President wasn’t doing more weeks ago. The plebs were the ones wondering why he didn’t react similarly to Egypt’s plight or why he didn’t highass it up to Wisconsin to lead the people’s protest against an elected governor.
It seems as though everyone, from politicians to pudits to proletariat, want this President to do everything for them, but not without their permission; that way, if anything bad comes from whatever it is the President does, the blame can only lie with him. In starker terms, it’s an abnegation of responsibility.
I find the latest hissyfit, on Congress’s part, mystifying, because I can remember Ronald Reagan and Bill Clinton, effectively doing the same or similar things, and only telling Congress after the fact. Newt Gingrich groused, but no one waved a pocket copy of the Constitution or called for either Reagan’s or Clinton’s impeachment. Clinton was impeached for getting a blowjob in the Oval Office, but not for involving the United States in participating in a no-fly zone over Kosovo or for bombing Iraq. Nobody in the Democratic majoritied Congress castigated Reagan for invading Grenada.
Dennis Kucinich, jumping between MSNBC and Fox, this week, pushing and then trying to walk back his call for Obama’s impeachment, verged on being an embarassment for the Democratic party in that it handed the GOP its greatest campaign advertisement material aimed at independents for the 2012 election cycle. Expect to see soundbites and film clips of Dennis’s impeachment pronouncement in party political commercials approved by Tim Pawlenty or Sarah Palin or even Donald Trump, depending on the whim of Republican voters.
At one point, Kucinich risked sounding like a Tea Partier, invoking the Constitution as the highest law of the land, as opposed to the War Powers Act of 1973, within which the President acted and by which he made his decision. Quite simply, other laws and measures are enacted which can supersede the Constitution, until such a time as those laws are deemed unconstitutional by a court of law. That’s how separation of powers worked, in case Dennis just might like to check.
And let’s just clarify another couple of things. Yes, this is about oil. For Britain. And yes, this is political posturing. By France.
If you recall, back in 2007, Tony Blair’s swansong was to visit Libya, kiss Gaddafi and return to Britain, waxing lyrical about the fact that Gaddafi had forsworn state-sponsored terrorism and wanted to begin legitimate engagement with the West as a partner – and, oh, by the way, the Brits got this super deal for BP to begin drilling offshore in Libyan waters, all for the price of release of the dying Lockerbie bomber, who’s still alive, unless the recent kerfuffle has wrought otherwise. So, erring on the side of caution, David Cameron wades in, under the guise of humanitarian action, to ensure Britain’s, or BP’s, oil interests are protected.
Nicolas Sarkozy’s up for re-election in May of this year. His approval ratings are currently hovering around the 35 per cent mark. He is, for all intents and purposes, the French Bush. A successful foray to succour the Libyan rebels would mightily increase his street cred on the world stage and possibly win him a second term as President of France.
But there’s also a third factor for these two European statesmen, more subtle than either of the two obvious reasons for being there. Should Gaddafi prevail, Libya will bleed refugees, who will eventually end up in Cameron’s Britain by way of Sarko’s France. Europe’s not a great place to be, at the moment, if you’re Middle Eastern or African and Muslim. America isn’t the only place with dodgy people playing up immigration issues.
So let’s disabuse ourselves of the cynical notion that our President is pursuing this for oil or to prove himself another version of Bush II, or even that he dithered before making his mind up to enter into this enterprise and, in doing so, snubbed Congress. Or that he even needs to be impeached. In deciding to be a part of the multilateral no-fly zone mission, he executed an action, which is what the Executive Branch of our government does.
At the moment, I’m giving him the benefit of a doubt, that we’ll hand over command of this mission to someone else very soon, as specified by the President, himself. He’s usually pretty reliable in doing what he says he’ll do, and if ever he isn’t, you can usually find that his failure is down to Congress and not him.
And as for Congress, they’re angry. Good. Now maybe they can channel that anger into something productive, like legislation creating new jobs. Until then, as we say in Virginia, if they’re mad, they can kiss their collective ass and get glad.