During a White House press conference in the Rose Garden today, President Barack Obama announced that he as made two important decisions. One is that he will take military action against the Syrian government for the alleged use of chemical weapons against its own people. The second is that he will “seek authorization for the use of force from the American people’s representatives in Congress.” One cannot imagine a more condescending and supercilious address from a president given during such a tense political and military situation. The president’s demeanor and tone made it seem as though he is doing the American people a favor by consulting the Congress, more out of a respect for the traditions of the “world’s oldest constitutional democracy” than an obligation to seek congressional approval. The president should not defer to the Congress because he thinks the voices of its members should be heard, but instead because the Constitution of the United States mandates that he do so.
The president certainly has no respect for the separation of powers in our constitutional system of government. If he truly respected our Constitution, he would have allowed the Congress to debate military action before announcing what would have been an imminent attack on Syrian targets. Had the British Parliament not voted against aligning its military with the American forces, Obama would not have given one second’s consideration to the “American people’s representatives in Congress.” The awkward pause in what was a fast-moving process only resulted from Parliament’s vote which made President Obama look like a dictator-in-chief rather than a president of a constitutional republic. In the end, the president only invoked the Constitution when he had no other options than acting alone. How ironic that a man who lectures Republicans on the necessity of compromise and the concept of working together is so willing to make a decision risking the lives of others without bothering to check in with Congress.
Thank you, Mr. President, for allowing our Congress to debate military action against Syria. We are so fortunate to have a humble president like you who is so faithful to his country’s Constitution and political traditions. Of course, one wonders what you will do if the Congress votes against a military response? You have already made it crystal clear that you really don’t need Congress’ approval to attack Syria, so why go through the motions of opening up a potentially embarrassing debate on the floors of the House and Senate? The Wall Street Journal reports that, “legislative leaders have agreed to hold a debate and a vote on the issue as soon as Congress returns, which currently is scheduled to be Sept. 9. Leaders in the Senate, where Democrats hold the majority, considered calling the chamber back to session before then. The move places the president’s Syria policy on an unknown course, subjecting it to a certain showdown on Capitol Hill where lawmakers are deeply divided on the issue and even more so over Mr. Obama himself.”
Had the president properly sought approval from the Congress before “shooting from the hip” (a popular criticism of George W. Bush), then a negative vote could have been utilized as justification for not pursuing a military response. But now that the president has already made the commitment, he has to go forward with his plan regardless of how the vote comes out of the Congress. To back down would have a detrimental impact on what’s left of our credibility around the world. Sure, leaders of other nations might sarcastically laud Obama for re-thinking his options, but the president will have made America look confused and inept. One might think that a so-called “constitutional expert” like the president would have thought this through beforehand, but a man like Obama who holds about as much contempt for the separation of powers in his own government as did Julius Caesar for the Roman system cannot be expected to act like a statesman. In the end, the political fallout from Obama’s incompetence and arrogance will only further erode America’s reputation overseas and will have repercussions well into the next president’s administration.