I am an enthusiastic supporter of President Obama. Yes, on some issues, health care, the size of the stimulus, I had hoped he would take a more progressive posture, but in general I realize that he has to function under the shadow of a know-nothing, obstructionist Republican assault.
However, on the War Powers Act/Libyan question, I think he has got it wrong and that his position is cowardly. First, the Democrats, and progressives generally, want to curb presidential power when it comes to foreign wars and adventures. Obama himself while in the Senate made the point repeatedly. Republicans can find any excuse ("weapons of mass destruction") for the exercise of macho American power. Democrats should support, not undermine, THE one act that limits presidential power when it comes to war.
But the position is also cowardly and politically mistaken. First, let Congress decide and if the debate is lost, so be it. Our allies can persist without us. More importantly, this is a good debate, one that will take place mostly within the Republican Party. Democrats will support the president, but Republicans are now divided.
That party looks ready to abandon its Neo-Con roots and ideology. It might make noise about the need to cut back on military adventures, and on military expenditures. It might lock itself in to positions largely accepted by progressives. Let the Michelle Bachmann's fight with the John McCain's. Let the cynical Republican efforts to attack the president -- because he is president -- commit to reduced American foreign adventures and get locked into that position. Let the Republicans take a stand against this adventure when it appears the United States' involvement is relatively limited and the American people recognize its value.
What's needed here is presidential and Democratic enthusiasm to engage in the debate on this issue before the American people. It is largely a no-lose proposition. Yes, the anti-Libyan argument might win, and we would have to disengage from Libya, although that might take months. But the principal of the War Powers Act would be reinforced, the president and the Democrats reaffirming the need for Congressional consent to war. And the Republican Party would be divided, and on record against wars of choice.
Mr. President, summon the courage to put the question to Congress and the American people. It would be a win-win, and a boost for democracy.