On Tuesday, in a primetime address to the nation on Syria, President Barack Obama implied that President George W. Bush sidelined Congress during his presidency from “critical decisions about when we use force.” However, Obama won his party’s nomination for president in 2008 largely because he was able to point to Hillary Clinton’s vote as a U.S. Senator to authorize military action in Iraq.
“I believe our democracy is stronger when the president acts with the support of Congress, and I believe that America acts more effectively abroad when we stand together,” Obama said on Tuesday. “This is especially true after a decade that put more and more war-making power in the hands of the president, and more and more burdens on the shoulders of our troops, while sidelining the people’s representatives from the critical decisions about when we use force.”
In 2001, days after the 9/11 terrorist attacks, Congress approved the Authorization for Use of Military Force Against Terrorists, which gave then-President Bush the authorization to strike those who were responsible for the attacks or nations that harbored terrorists like Afghanistan. In October of 2002, Congress passed a resolution authorizing the use of force in Iraq if Saddam Hussein failed to meet various conditions.
Then-Senator Hillary Clinton (D-NY) voted for that Iraq resolution and refused to apologize for her vote during the 2008 primary, allowing Obama to attract the liberal anti-war voters who were adamantly against the Iraq war and that had been in Howard Dean’s camp four years earlier. These anti-war voters formed a critical part of the coalition Obama put together to defeat Clinton in the Democrat primary. On many occasions, Obama drew clear distinctions between himself and Clinton on the Iraq war en route to his party’s nomination.
“I suppose that’s true if you leave out the fact that she authorized it, and supported it, and I said it was a bad idea,” Obama said in 2007 on MSNBC in response to former President Bill Clinton’s assertion that there was not that much difference between Obama and Hillary Clinton on Iraq. “That’s a fairly major difference.”