COMMENTARY | While riding the dips and swells in the middle of his own political ocean, Barack Obama seems to have lost direction. While his poll numbers on domestic issues continue to dip the President has chosen to repeatedly steer his raft toward the only swell he has seen for a long time; his Osama bump. Unfortunately, according to the latest Gallup poll , Obama’s approval rating has returned to 46 percent, the same number he had three days before the Bin Laden raid.
Adding to Obama’s approval difficulties are the two weighty foreign policy rocks he has recently chosen to carry on board. The most current was his decision to side with the Palestinians against our Middle East Ally of Israel. The first was his decision to engage in a war that is not a war with Libya without the approval of Congress. The rock of Israel has proved to be embarrassing and politically expensive . The Libya rock just may be heavy enough to tear a hole in the bottom of Obama’s re-election craft.
In an arrogant effort to silence those who dare to remind Obama that he needs congressional authorization to continue US military activity in Libya in accordance with the War Powers Resolution, President Obama wrote a letter to congressional leaders that America’s role is now so “limited” he does not need their approval.
“Since April 4,” Obama wrote, “U.S. participation has consisted of: (1) non-kinetic support to the NATO-led operation, including intelligence, logistical support, and search and rescue assistance; (2) aircraft that have assisted in the suppression and destruction of air defenses in support of the no-fly zone; and (3) since April 23, precision strikes by unmanned aerial vehicles against a limited set of clearly defined targets in support of the NATO-led coalition’s efforts.”
From the beginning of U.S. military participation in Libya the Obama administration has repeatedly cited the 1973 War Powers Act to legitimize its ability to conduct military activities for 60 days without first seeking a declaration of war from Congress. American military intervention in Libya began on March 19. Congress was notified on March 21. May 21 has arrived.
Mr. President, your time is up.
The United States formally has declared war against a foreign nation eleven separate times in our history. Each of those times the declaration was requested by the president, either in writing or in person, before a joint session of Congress. There have been five occasions where Congress has declared war at the request of the President. On at least two occasions, Congress refused to declare war despite a president’s seeking such a declaration.
From 1789 until 1950, presidents have always sought congressional authority to engage in military hostilities with foreign nations, even if only after the fact. One often-cited example of the practice of unilateral Presidential war declaration is President Lincoln’s inauguration of the Civil War. While Congress was in recess at the time of the initiation, ratification of his action was granted when Congress returned. Other than Obama’s lone choice to enter a war without informing Congress or receiving approval was in 1950 when President Truman entered the war between South and North Korea. Ironically, Obama is using Truman’s same excuse to absolve himself of the need to comply with Constitutional mandates applied to him regarding war. Rather than America’s involvement in Libya being a real war it is nothing more than “a narrow US effort” in support of an ongoing “NATO-led and UN-authorized” mission.
This past March, in response to repeated insistence from lawmakers from both parties that his administration had failed to define a clear case for military action , President Obama reached out to congressional leaders to seek their support. Today, while facing stern criticism by lawmakers that U.S. military action against Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi is about to become illegal, Obama insists that while his mission would benefit from congressional support he will continue without it if they refuse.
“I wish to express my support for the bipartisan resolution … which would confirm that the Congress supports the U.S. mission in Libya and that both branches are united in their commitment,” Obama wrote in his letter to congressional leaders.
Unfortunately, the “bipartisan resolution” of which Obama spoke, has yet to be passed. While the “bipartisan resolution” has been drafted, nearly two-thirds of American’s strongly oppose the non-war in Libya, which may explain why John Kerry, who chairs the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, describes the legislation as still being in a state of “limbo.” Perhaps Obama has forgotten how fickle his own party members can be when it comes to support of unpopular policies during election cycles.
Still, while remaining oblivious to the resistance of his increasingly disturbing foreign policy decisions by both American voters and members of congress, Obama thanked congressional leaders for the support that they have “demonstrated for this mission” even though they have yet to officially do so.
That aside, with the 60-day War Powers Resolution deadline having expired, the responsibility of yet another unwise and unpopular decision made by Obama rests on the shoulders of Congress to officially declare war or not. That the Democrat controlled congress must decide between siding with the majority of American voters while heading into another major election cycle or with their Democrat President on his persistence in furthering an unpopular, vague and expensive initiative in Libya during a domestic financial crisis is daunting. However, if Congress decides to stand with the American majority and the President proceeds with his non-war in Libya anyway it will then become their responsibility to take their Democrat President to task for ignoring the Constitution. It will not be easy for their party to survive this conundrum either way.
In the meantime, while riding the dips and swells in the middle of his own political ocean, Barack Obama seems to have lost direction. While consistently struggling with his domestic issues poll numbers he has foolishly assumed his Osama bump would protect his hull from the holes blown by his other foreign policy decisions. A President, by his first or his re-election effort, is generally judged on his competency in two areas; domestic and foreign policy. At this point, with the unpopularity of Obamacare, illegal immigration and runaway debt, Barack Obama is paddling in circles. With his recent indiscretion of publicly abandoning Israel and the subsequent embarrassment of being spanked by Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu on national television, the equally rejected decision to go to war with Libya has left Obama with little wind in his flimsy sail. Having already launched his re-election raft upon the re-election sea, perhaps it is not the best time for Obama to realize he has thrown both of his political oars overboard.
“Obama’s Approval Bump Hasn’t Transferred to 2012 Prospects” Gallup
Michael Muskal, “Gallup poll shows Obama’s post-Bin Laden numbers fading”, MSNBC
Patricia Campion, “Netanyahu Gives Obama a Backbone Lesson on National Television”, Associated Content
Laura Meckler, “Jewish Donors Warn Obama on Israel”, Wall Street Journal
“Declaration of war by the United States ‘” Definition”, Word IQ.com
John Dean, “FindLaw Forum: President needs congressional approval to declare war on Iraq”, CNN
Jake Tapper, “White House on War Powers Deadline: ‘Limited’ US Role in Libya Means No Need to Get Congressional Authorization”, ABC News/Political Punch
Michael A. Memoli, “Obama speaks to congressional leaders about Libya, plans speech to nation”, The Los Angeles Times
Alister Bull, “Obama, on Libya deadline, welcomes Congress support”, Reuters/Yahoo News