So today’s Sunday morning news shows were abuzz with frustrations about the political right’s criticism of Obama’s continued military aggression in Libya. Some people on the right claim that Obama is in violation of the War Powers Act, which requires the president to get approval from Congress for any “sustained hostilities” no more than 90 days after the bombs start falling.
The president’s defenders aren’t making the claim that he isn’t in violation — and that should tell you something. Instead, they voice the pissy argument that “The right’s criticism is unprincipled! They never cared about the legality of wars back when W. was in office! Why is this a big deal now??” Of course, Bush got approval for both of his wars before the deadline. But that misses the point. What’s good for the goose is good for the gander:
Why isn’t the left expressing boiling public outrage at the fact that we are now fighting 5 (yes!! 5!) wars: Iraq (which Obama claims has ended despite the 50,000 troops still actively engaged there), Afghanistan (which Obama deliberately expanded after taking office), Tribal Pakistan (which has been subjected to many more drone attacks since Obama took office), Yemen (the New York Times revealed last week that Obama has ordered a number of secret airstrikes there in recent weeks), and Libya (where NATO is supposedly in charge, despite the fact that 80% of the air attacks are executed by American forces with American artillery)?
The answer is obvious. The left’s hysterical opposition to the first two wars listed above was tactical, not principled. It was a way to score cheap points against GWB and claim the ethical high ground. Personally, the silence from the left regarding Obama’s use of military force is the most frightening thing I’ve observed in American politics. It unmasks the whole political enterprise as a party power game. Nauseating.
In truly postmodern fashion, Obama claims simply that Libya isn’t a war. The Office of Legal Counsel has advised him to the contrary, but he has dismissed their testimony — a presidential gambit that the New York Times calls “extraordinarily” rare. Yes, the New York Times. In order for a president to be required to get congressional approval, the military engagement needs to evidence “sustained hostilities.” 1) Does dropping bombs constitute “hostilities”? I think we have to answer “yes.” 2) Is dropping bombs for 90 days a “sustained” activity? I don’t see how we could answer “no.”
My point here is not that these wars are wrong. I’m not sure where I stand on that. My point is that Obama is a hawk, and that the left (which 800 days ago almost univocally advanced an antiwar position) now has not a word to say in protest. This over-commitment of military power is only one reason Obama needs to go in 2012.
In fact, there are really nothing but pragmatic reasons to work for an Obama defeat. In almost every way, he is not who he said he was. Recall the following:
His continuation of the Patriot Act despite his vocal opposition to it during the ’08 campaign.
Guantanamo Bay Detention Camp remains operational.
Afghanistan is a larger war now.
The war in Iraq is not over.
The stimulus failed (by Obama’s own admission last week, when he said that there are no such thing as “shovel-ready” jobs).
The current unemployment rate is higher than what the Obama administration said it would have been at its peak if the stimulus HAD NEVER BEEN PASSED.
A corrupt Department of Justice that refuses to enforce certain laws and most recently devotes most of its energy toward covering up its gun-running scheme to the cartels in Mexico.
Deportation of illegal immigrants have gone up, and no progress has been made on Obama’s promise to pass “comprehensive” immigration reform. (Sigh…must EVERY bill begin with the word “Comprehensive”?)
The health care debacle. In the year since the passage of the legislation, nearly every claim Obama used to (try to) sell the American people on the bill has been proven false. From waivers to rising costs, a total disaster. Even the high risk pools, which were supposed to have 400,000 Americans signed up by now sit at just under 20,000.
And the most disturbing failure of Obama’s has been his obstinate refusal to even TRY to change the culture in Washington — his main implicit campaign promise. He demonizes enemies as “carnival barkers” and “unserious.” He uses straw man arguments, leaves out crucial details, dichotomizes issues even as he regularly decries false dichotomies. He bears more similarities to Nixon in his demeanor than any other president: chilly, paranoid, angry and put out when he meets with even rational opposition.
In virtually every way, his presidency has been a failure: a tragedy given that the hopes of so many Americans were re-kindled through his candidacy. 2012 nears. I hope there is a better choice.