In his Oval Office speech Sunday, President Barack Obama blamed Congress for delaying authorization for war against Islamic State: “…[I]f Congress believes, as I do, that we are at war with ISIL, it should go ahead and vote to authorize the continued use of military force against these terrorists. For over a year, I have ordered our military to take thousands of airstrikes against ISIL targets. I think it’s time for Congress to vote to demonstrate that the American people are united, and committed, to this fight.”
On Tuesday, Politico helped Obama pass the buck to Congress, suggesting that Republicans are content to criticize the president without taking responsibility themselves. The truth, however, is that Obama has never been serious about congressional authority for war against ISIL (or ISIS). Nor has he ever made a concerted effort to convince Congress to authorize his other military plans.
In Libya in 2011, Obama famously flouted the War Powers Resolution of 1973, insisting that the U.S. was no longer engaged in “hostilities” because it had passed command authority to NATO. In 2013, Obama planned airstrikes against Syria–then changed his mind and sought congressional authority.
However, he made virtually no effort to convince Congress to pass the authorization he wanted, leaving the task to pro-Israel groups. One Republican congressman who supported Obama’s effort, Rep. Adam Kinzinger of Illinois, complained that he had not heard anything from the White House about how to coordinate legislative efforts.
Many Republican supporters of military action no longer trust Obama, and they are concerned that he has no overall strategy for defeating ISIS.
In May, then-Speaker John Boehner complained that Obama’s request for authorization was far too limited to make a difference: “The president’s request for Authorization of Use of Military Force calls for less authority than he has today,” he told The Hill.
Until Obama shows stronger leadership and vision, his call on Congress is just more buck-passing by the White House.