2008: Biden Favored Bypassing Congress on War Authorization in Case of ‘Imminent Attack’

Obama Biden (Stan Honda / AFP / Getty)
Stan Honda / AFP / Getty

Joe Biden argued during his failed 2008 White House run that the president had the authority to circumvent congress and go to war provided there was sufficient evidence of an “imminent attack.”

Biden, who at the time chaired the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, made the argument on a section of his then-presidential campaign website dedicated to America’s diplomatic relations with Iran. Particularly in a section of the site entitled “war powers,” Biden asserted only the legislative branch could declare war, unless there existed the need to “repel an imminent attack,” at which point the president had the authority to act in the nation’s best interest.

Biden’s 2008 campaign stated, as first reported by the Daily Caller:

It is precisely because the consequences of war–intended or otherwise–can be so profound and complicated that our Founding Fathers vested in Congress, not the President, the power to initiate war, except to repel an imminent attack on the United States or its citizens.

The position advocated by Biden at the time stands in stark contrast to the one the former vice president has taken in response the killing of Iranian General Qasem Soleimani. President Donald Trump has stated he ordered the drone strike that killed the general because U.S. intelligence confirmed Soleimani was planning “imminent attacks” against American military personnel overseas.

Senior foreign policy officials, including Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, have also tied the Iranian general to numerous terror attacks committed against U.S. troops in the Middle East since the early-2000s.

Biden, however, made no mention of that or his 2008 stance when initially responding to the news of Soleimani’s assassination, choosing instead to criticize Trump for taking a “hugely escalatory move in an already dangerous region.”

The former vice president said:

President Trump just tossed a stick of dynamite into a tinderbox, and he owes the American people an explanation of the strategy and plan to keep safe our troops and embassy personnel, our people and our interests, both here at home and abroad, and our partners through the region and beyond.

On Monday, Biden further contradicted his 2008 position by claiming that Trump did not have the authority to take America into a war with Iran without the approval of Congress.

The former vice president made a similar claim on Tuesday while delivering what was dubbed as a “major foreign policy” address in New York. In his speech, Biden claimed Trump’s decision to move against Solemani was a “strategic setback,” not only in military terms, but also in building a unified domestic front to confront the developing situation with Iran.

“You cannot pursue the war in Iran without consent and accountability from Congress,” Biden told the crowd.

Some noted the irony that Biden’s current position was in contradiction to his 2008 stance and the policy followed by the Obama administration in 2011 when choosing to wage war in Libya without seeking congressional approval.

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