Nevertheless, as gauche as it might sound to those who make a living being inscrutable, sometimes in politics questions really do have simple answers. Yesterday, speaking to journalists at the G20 summit in Russia, Obama was asked again and again what he planned to do if Congress refused to authorize action in Syria. The president brushed away the question as if it were an irrelevance. “You’re not getting a direct response,” he told journalists. When they pushed him anyway, he termed the matter a “parlor game.”
If you’re thinking that it is little short of breathtaking that a man who is content to talk at length to the press about a gay basketball player could have the temerity to characterize a question about the constitutional order of the United States as an intrusion, you’re absolutely right. What the president should have said is: “This is straightforward. If Congress refuses to authorize me to order action, I will not order any action.” This would not only have comported admirably with his own on-the-record profession that it remains illegal for the executive branch to order “military action” sans the blessing of the legislative branch, but it would also have been the only possible answer that tallies with his having asked for permission in the first place.
It will no doubt prove easy for the keener apologists of the fast-waning Obamacult to convince themselves that their much-assailed hero is merely being magnanimous. Indeed, we have already heard such spin: The president is admitting to Congress an “unprecedented” “consulting” role; or he is “democratically” recruiting a skeptical public to take part in his difficult decision; or — most amusingly, perhaps — he is trying finally to reverse the long and checkered history of executive military usurpation . . . which includes his unilateral decision to bomb Libya in 2011.
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