Published June 17, 2011
Dems Wince as Obama Takes Fight Over Libya War to the Brink
“… (A)ny president, if we are attacked, if our country is attacked, has even under the War Powers Act very strong powers to go after that country. But short of that, he must come to the Congress.”
-- Then-House Speaker Nancy Pelosi in an Oct. 14, 2007 interview with ABC News.
Relations between Congress and the White House are reaching new lows as the administration refuses to back down on President Obama’s three-month long military campaign against Libyan leader Col. Muammar al-Qaddafi.
Today is the last day for the Obama administration to make its case to Congress for authorization for the continued involvement of U.S. forces in the Libyan civil war. The growing consensus in Congress is that without approval the president will be in clear violation of the War Powers Resolution as of Sunday.
Speaker John Boehner bought more time for the war effort with a resolution of general disapproval for the president’s unilateral approach to the multi-national war. By bringing forward the measure, Boehner helped sap Republican support for a bipartisan measure that would have immediately stripped U.S. funding for the NATO air campaign against the Libyan strongman.
The administration has made no use of Boehner’s last-ditch effort to prevent a constitutional confrontation that could jeopardize the president’s nation-building surge in Afghanistan and perhaps even spell the end of the enfeebled NATO alliance. A letter to Congress this week simply reiterated the administration’s previous dismissals of legislative authority over the war.
So far, the administration has delivered what Sen. John McCain, perhaps the strongest booster of Obama’s military commitment to the Libyan rebels, has labeled as “confusion and obfuscation.” Even Sen. Richard Durbin, D-Ill., one of President Obama’s political mentors, has even said that the administration’s argument doesn’t hold water.
Past presidents have held that Congress simply doesn’t have the authority to prevent them for taking military action. Of course, those same presidents have always been careful to stay within the confines of the War Powers Resolution that gives chief executives 60 days to make war without authorization and then 30 days to withdraw troops if that authorization is not forthcoming. Presidents since 1973 have said the law was a nullity but mostly opted to obey it anyway.
Obama is doing the opposite. He maintains that the War Powers Resolution is legitimate (it would hard for him to do otherwise after invoking it as a senator against President George W. Bush) but not applicable. The argument is that the war is too small to require Congressional approval and that it has been authorized by the United Nations anyway.
This tortured argument is putting the president’s fellow Democrats in a very tight spot.
Republicans, including Boehner himself, have long called for the end of the law, saying that it is unconstitutional abridgement of the executive’s power. But Republicans can’t allow Obama to simply ignore the law because it is inconvenient.
Democrats, meanwhile, have long championed the law as a check on presidential authority and what they believed was a Republican penchant for militarism.
Of course, Democrats couldn’t have known that a president of their party would expand on the interventionalism they so disdained in George W. Bush. The U.S. is involved in conflicts in Afghanistan, Iraq, Pakistan, Yemen and Libya with more potential interventions looming.
Anxious Democrats know if they let Obama steamroll the War Powers Resolution the final check on presidential military adventuring will be gone. The Constitution gives Congress the sole power to declare war but leaves broad latitude for the president to act in the national defense as commander in chief.
By opting to not get Congressional authority, Obama now faces the likelihood that Congress will have to strip funding from the war.
Quaddafi remains in power and America’s foes, like Russia and China, are increasing international pressure for a ceasefire. The Europeans in NATO lack the resources to prosecute the war and are demanding that U.S. step up its bombardment amid growing desperation. If Congress defunds the war, it means NATO will have to walk away from Libya in a humiliating defeat.
The consequence of that would be for the Europeans to more swiftly abandon the decade-long U.S. war in Afghanistan. That’s serious trouble for the president because his strategy there relies on having the Euros continue to provide non-violent support for America’s fighting men.
In order to claim an Afghan drawdown of some kind before the 2012 election but to avoid a rapid collapse of the tottering government in Kabul, Obama will need to remove cooks and clerks at Bagram Air Base but leave Marines and Rangers out in the provinces killing the Taliban.
The golf match to be played this weekend between Obama and Boehner (with Vice President Joe Biden and Ohio Republican Gov. John Kasich acting as fiscal forecaddies) was supposed to be about finding a debt ceiling compromise.
But Obama’s refusal to accept Boehner’s help in preventing a crack-up over Libya will cast longer shadows over the game.
White House Desperate for Debt Deal
“Sometimes you can’t defend the indefensible.”
-- White House Chief of Staff William Daley speaking to a group of business executives angered by the administration’s regulatory intervention.
With 46 days until an impasse over the federal debt ceiling begins to force a government shutdown, Vice President Joe Biden is heralding progress in his effort to strike a deal.
The more pressing deadline for the group, which includes House Majority Leader Eric Cantor and Sen. Jon Kyl, R-Ariz., is just two weeks away. The negotiators want to have some kind of a deal in principle before Congress decamps for the Independence Day recess.
It will be harder to force a compromise when lawmakers are back in their home districts or after they return imbued with their constituents’ zeal for brinksmanship.
Republicans are liking the direction of things right now because Democrats are beginning to panic over the condition of the economy.
White House Chief of Staff William Daley looked like a lion tamer when he spoke to a group of manufacturing executives who were up in arms over the new regulatory burdens imposed by the administration and the massive uncertainty current looming over markets right now.
Having misjudged the trajectory of the economy and misunderstood how businesses would react to his agenda, President Obama is now facing intense pressure from the more moderate members of his administration to make a deal with Republicans and moderate Democrats for some major cuts. The capitalist consensus is for a debt-ceiling hike paired with some serious fiscal reform, but most important, for predictability until at least the next election.
Biden is talking up a $4 trillion cuts deal and promising fast action. The message to the business community: We’re listening.
As the deadlines loom, the questions remain: Will Obama bow to pressure from Republicans and the business community and can the White House sell the plan to liberals who resent the president’s previous accommodations?
But having seen how Republicans are spanking the president over the lousy economy, it may motivate the left to give the capitalists what they want.
Pawlenty Plaintive, GOPers Looking for Some Heat
"I think in response to that direct question I should have been much more clear during the debate, Sean. I don't think we can have a nominee that was involved in the development and construction of Obamacare and then continues to defend it and that was the question, I should have answered it directly and instead I stayed focused on Obama.”
Power Play offers the following political tip: Don’t apologize for apologizing.
That’s a media round robin any candidate should wish to avoid.
As Romney expands his lead, it looks increasingly unlikely that there is anyone in the current field of declared candidates who can stop him.
The rest of the field is auditioning for the part at the Republican Leadership Conference in New Orleans. Newt Gingrich, already practically disqualified by the evaporation of his staff, gave a rambling lecture to the assembled activists.
They will hear today from candidates Herman Cain, Ron Paul, Michele Bachmann and Rick Santorum as well as the man who would be kingmaker, South Carolina Sen. Jim DeMint. You can bet that lineup will have folks on their feet and declaring “no surrender.”
Pawlenty, Romney and former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman aren’t attending as sign of the split between the fire breathers and non fire-breathers. Romney knows that the GOP is in a fire-breathing mood, but as long as his opponents are all fighting with each over the mantle of who can be the meanest, his path to the nomination remains clear.
The only man with the prospect of uniting the conservatives in the GOP against Romney, Texas Gov. Rick Perry, will address the gathering Saturday.
Rough Landing for NLRB in Boeing Case
"The timing of the hearing, your insistence on (National Labor Relations Board Acting General Counsel Lafe Solomon’s) personal appearance, and the nature of your June 14 letter indicate a serious potential for improper interference with a pending case involving private parties and a disturbing disregard for what that interference could mean for the due process rights of those parties. ... you have demanded internal deliberative documents from Mr. Solomon that could include, among other things, documents revealing the prosecution's trial strategy."
-- Letter from Democrats on the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, obtained by FOX Business Network, blasting Chairman Darrell Issa for holding a hearing about the NLRB’s effort to stop Boeing from expanding a South Carolina plant.
An administrative law judge in Washington is hearing arguments on whether the Obama administration can prevent Boeing from opening an expanded facility because it is in South Carolina, a state that doesn’t mandate union membership for plant workers.
In response, Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Calif., the GOP’s chief inquisitor of Obama practices, is dragging the lead lawyer for the National Labor Relations Board down to South Carolina to answer for the agency’s effort to force the aircraft maker to walk away from a $1 billion investment.
The discussion will be lively, to say the least.
The agency argues that Boeing was punishing union workers in Washington for a 2009 by opening the new plant in a “right to work” state where workers can’t be forced to pay union dues just because a majority of their fellow workers have decided to organize.
Boeing wonders how it could be a punishment if it has expanded the operation in Washington since the strike and has no plans to ever close it.
But a third side may be heard from today: the workers in South Carolina.
The Boeing workers in South Carolina were represented by the same union as the Washington workers until two years ago when they voted to kick out the International Association of Machinists.
The workers hold that the union’s suit to block the expansion there is retaliation for them choosing to part company.
And Now, A Word From Charles
“I think there is a basic difference in the psychology of the Europeans and the Americans. If you're young and in Greece, you have been raised in a coddled entitlement state from the day you were born. When all of a sudden Greece has to get realistic, has to levy taxes and actually has to restrain the incredible give-away state, then all of a sudden it's a shock.
Americans historically are more individualistic, expect less out of the government, and thus it would take years before the psychology here became passive, relatively welcoming of the paternalistic psychology that you have in Europe.”