The Journal Register (Medina, NY)

September 6, 2013

LEFFLER: Obama's politics opened up can of worms.

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Medina Journal-Register

Medina Journal-Register — President Barack Obama pulled a bit of political genius out of his magic hat when he sought Congressional approval to use military action in Syria, putting the onus on Congress to decide whether we should go all “America” on their … posteriors.

In doing so, he climbed up on his stump and used the bully pulpit to tell Congressional leaders that if they didn’t go along with his plan to use force in the Middle Eastern country, we’d look weak. Congress never likes looking weak and as such will likely approve the measure overwhelmingly.

Right?

Well just hold on a minute there. There’s a large contingent of Congress that is opposed to military action in Syria, mostly for legitimate reason — but some for political purposes of their own.

As of the writing of this column, no less than 14 members of the House of Representatives have said that if Congress disapproves of military action and the president goes through with it anyway — which he has said he may — that they’d consider that to be an impeachable offense.

So would I.

At first I was impressed with the president’s decision to ask Congress for permission to use force. It is, after all, what he’s supposed to do according to the Constitution. I thought, “Wow. How refreshing to see a commander in chief who follows the law.”

Then the politics occurred to me and I realized that he wasn’t so interested strict Constitutionalism as he was in spreading the blame for a military action that we just plain shouldn’t be involved in in the first place. If Congress says yes, then no matter how poorly it goes, he can say, “But you told me to!” If he acted without asking then the blame is completely on the White House.

Congressman Brian Higgins, D-Buffalo, put out a press release Tuesday night stating “It is not the time for Americans to be subjected to the potential of yet another unwinnable overseas war.”

I agree, but would add that it is never the time for such an action. Especially if we’re not being threatened. And we’re not.

Some would say that if we allow Syria to get away with mistreating their own people, we could have another Hitler on our hands. It seems to me that that line of thinking has embroiled us in countless “wars” and “peacekeeping efforts” over the last seven decades, stretching our resources thin and diminishing our resolve.

If Higgins — a liberal Democrat in a very safe district — isn’t going to support intervention on behalf of his Democratic president, then who will? Maybe the GOP. Maybe no one. The vote is yet to come.

One other note on President Obama’s use of the bully pulpit: It kind of makes him look like a bully. If he succeeds in convincing Congress to go along with him, we’ll all look like bullies. And if that happens, our latest military intervention will do nothing more than create more enemies.

Scott Leffler is a peacenik. He lives in Lockport with his hedgehog, who also opposes war. Follow him on Twitter @scottleffler.