Why Obama Doesn't Need to Ask Congress Before Attacking Libya

Reporting on Politics and Policy.
March 21 2011 8:06 AM

Why Obama Doesn't Need to Ask Congress Before Attacking Libya

It's simple: Most of Washington doesn't want him to. To coin a phrase: If they want the president to do it, that means it's legal.

Sen. Lindsey Graham, one of Congress's most prominent hawks, who must at this point have a small apartment inside the Fox News Sunday studio, was asked by Chris Wallace if action against Libya needed some sort of congressional approval.

Advertisement

I don't believe he needs to come to Congress. I'd gladly vote on what he did. I think it's inherent within the authority of the commander-in-chief to take such action. We have been overly cautious, unnervingly indecisive. This thing melted down. I wish we would have acted sooner. I don't feel a need to bless this action before he took it. I'd be glad to vote on it afterwards.

Sen. Jack Reed was there to give the Democratic perspective. What is it? It's the same as the Republican perspective.

The president should notify under War Powers Act, like all his predecessors who'd probably say it doesn't apply. But I think he will know the powers. That gives us the opportunity to review what he's done. Like Lindsey, if there's a proposal coming before the Congress, then I would have no difficulty in supporting the actions to date.

Tim Carney pointed out last week that Obama, as a presidential candidate, had opposed the declaration of war without congressional assent. This is fun to point out but it doesn't influence anything. In the statement John Boehner put out about the attacks, Byron York reported that some Republicans were annoyed with the White House's lack of communication -- but not unhappy with the lack of consultation. "Before any further military commitments are made," said Boehner, "the Administration must do a better job of briefing members of Congress and communicating to the American people about our mission in Libya and how it will be achieved." If he wanted to, Boehner could have put a line in there about a vote in Congress. He didn't. As long as this is a pricey multinational effort to destroy weapons and buildings as a way of aiding Libyan rebels -- as long as it is short -- there is no call from Congress for more oversight.

David Weigel is a Slate political reporter. 

TODAY IN SLATE

Politics

Meet the New Bosses

How the Republicans would run the Senate.

The Government Is Giving Millions of Dollars in Electric-Car Subsidies to the Wrong Drivers

Scotland Is Just the Beginning. Expect More Political Earthquakes in Europe.

Cheez-Its. Ritz. Triscuits.

Why all cracker names sound alike.

Friends Was the Last Purely Pleasurable Sitcom

The Eye

This Whimsical Driverless Car Imagines Transportation in 2059

Medical Examiner

Did America Get Fat by Drinking Diet Soda?  

A high-profile study points the finger at artificial sweeteners.

The Afghan Town With a Legitimately Good Tourism Pitch

A Futurama Writer on How the Vietnam War Shaped the Series

  News & Politics
Photography
Sept. 21 2014 11:34 PM People’s Climate March in Photos Hundreds of thousands of marchers took to the streets of NYC in the largest climate rally in history.
  Business
Business Insider
Sept. 20 2014 6:30 AM The Man Making Bill Gates Richer
  Life
Quora
Sept. 22 2014 8:07 AM Why Haven’t the Philadelphia Eagles Ever Won a Super Bowl?
  Double X
The XX Factor
Sept. 19 2014 4:58 PM Steubenville Gets the Lifetime Treatment (And a Cheerleader Erupts Into Flames)
  Slate Plus
Science
Sept. 22 2014 8:08 AM Slate Voice: “Why Is So Much Honey Clover Honey?” Mike Vuolo shares the story of your honey.
  Arts
Television
Sept. 21 2014 9:00 PM Attractive People Being Funny While Doing Amusing and Sometimes Romantic Things Don’t dismiss it. Friends was a truly great show.
  Technology
Future Tense
Sept. 22 2014 7:47 AM Predicting the Future for the U.S. Government The strange but satisfying work of creating the National Intelligence Council’s Global Trends report.
  Health & Science
Bad Astronomy
Sept. 22 2014 5:30 AM MAVEN Arrives at Mars
  Sports
Sports Nut
Sept. 18 2014 11:42 AM Grandmaster Clash One of the most amazing feats in chess history just happened, and no one noticed.