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BERNARD GOLDBERG: May I Be a Conscientious Objector In the Culture -- and Political -- Wars?

“The President does not have power under the Constitution to unilaterally authorize a military attack in a situation that does not involve stopping an actual or imminent threat to the nation.” So said presidential candidate Barack Obama in an interview with the Boston Globe in 2007.

That was then.

But as vile and erratic as Muammar Qadaffi is, he poses no “actual or imminent threat to the nation” – not this nation, anyway. So, according to candidate Obama, President Obama had no right to “authorize a military attack” on Libyan anti-aircraft stations. A mere technicality, because President Obama won authorization – and justification -- from other authorities.

Here is Chuck Todd, NBC News White House correspondent on the matter:

“He’s [President Obama is] always going to want these multilateral coalitions; and not just a group of countries, but getting it legally, basically getting the legal justification from institutions like the United Nations and the Arab League, both of which we saw today.”

I feel much better knowing that the U.N. and the Arab League have given the United States the green light to fire over 100 Tomahawk cruise missiles into Libya (though I wonder why the nations that comprise the Arab League – nations must closer to the problem than we are here in the United States -- didn’t muster their own military forces to impose a no-fly zone over Libya).

Yes, politicians have been known to say one thing when they’re running for president and another when they actually become president. And if this is hypocrisy on the president’s part, he is hardly alone.

For a change, liberals are not marching in lock step in support of the president. Some on the left, like Ralph Nader, Michael Moore and Dennis Kucinich are against Mr. Obama’s decision to launch an attack on Qadaffi. Nader wants Obama impeached and Kucinich, quite reasonably, says the president had a constitutional obligation to consult Congress before taking military action.

But for a lot of liberals, this is the kind of military action they can support: the kind that is blessed not only by the U.N. but by France as well.

Jonathan Alter of Newsweek spoke for a lot of liberals who support the president when he said this on MSNBC: “He's a reluctant warrior. So it's not as if he's converted to being a cowboy. So I think people recognize the difference between him and former President Bush.”

And there’s another reason this is the kind of war, if that’s what it is, that liberals can get behind: it’s war that is waged for humanitarian reasons. At the outset of the uprising, Qadaffi said he would “cleanse Libya house by house” or “die here as a martyr” trying.

When you hear a madman say he is prepared to “cleanse” his enemies out of existence, you have every reason to believe he means it. And so, it is certainly reasonable to justify military action on humanitarian grounds. But this raises a question: Where were the humanitarian concerns for the Iraqi people who were at the mercy of their own madman, a madman with a history of gassing and torturing his own people?

I don’t recall a lot of liberal tears over the Kurds or the Iraqi Arabs whom Saddam murdered for speaking out against his regime. What saddens me most is that a lot of liberals hated George W. Bush more than they loved their own liberal principles regarding humanity. So they condemned President Bush for being a cowboy – even though he ousted a monsterous dictator -- but now praise Barack Obama for his noble concern for the oppressed people of Libya.

Really?

And remember when liberals said, if Bush goes into Iraq, then how can he justify not going into North Korea, which is also run by a tyrant. But when asked how President Obama can justify not going into Yemen, where 52 protesters were shot in the street in a single day, Jonathan Alter said, he’s a “pragmatist” who doesn’t need to follow “a consistent line.”

I think I’m getting sick.

But, sorry my conservative friends, you and I both know that the left doesn’t have a monopoly on hypocrisy. A lot of conservatives – especially the loud voices on radio and TV -- wonder what the end-game is in Libya? Good question. 

But it was also a good question when President Bush took us to war in Iraq. But since W. was one of them, conservatives --again, mainly the ones on cable and talk radio -- cheered him on. Whatever liberals were against, they had to be for.

There’s more.

In one breath, these same conservative commentators condemn the president for waiting two long weeks before taking military action against Colonel Qadaffi -- and in the very next breath condemn him for taking military action when we don’t know who would take over if Qadaffi goes. And they speak out of both sides of their mouth without the slightest hint of embarrassment.

And then there is the issue of those troublesome NCAA basketball brackets. When the president filled out his brackets on ESPN instead of concentrating all his attention on Libya, well that was one more piece of evidence for the pundits on the right that Mr. Obama is incompetent and not worthy of his office. But you just know that if George Bush filled out his brackets during the lead up to the war in Iraq, these same conservatives would have said, “What’s the big deal? Can’t he be president and take a few minutes out for fun?

And why would they say that? Because liberals, who saw no problem with Mr. Obama’s basketball moment, would have been all over that “frat boy” George Bush, if he had done the very same thing.

Somebody, please: Make it stop!

The problem is that there is a lot of rigid ideology masquerading as honest commentary these days. Everyone is a warrior trying to destroy the other side. These are the times I wish I were a conscientious objector in the culture (and political) wars.

As for Libya, let’s hope it turns out okay, that only Qadaffi and his most ardent supporters suffer. But one thing is for sure: Many of President Obama’s most ardent supporters will cover for him no matter what. If things go badly, they probably will figure out a way to blame George Bush for the mess. And Mr. Obama’s detractors? They won’t give him credit, even if Qadaffi is carried out in a box and a new Libyan leader takes over singing the “Star Spangled Banner” while wrapped in the American flag.

Did I mention that I’m sick of the whole thing.

Bernie Goldberg is a journalist, author and Fox News analyst. He is the winner of 10 Emmy Awards and has written five books on the media and American culture, including the No. 1 best-seller "Bias." His most recent book, "A Slobbering Love Affair," is about the mainstream media's fascination with Barack Obama.

Learn more about Bernie Goldberg at www.bernardgoldberg.com.