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How an attack on Syria would be 'Obama's biggest flip-flop'

Published: Monday, Aug. 3 2015 12:40 a.m. MDT

In this Aug. 22, 2013 file photo, President Barack Obama pauses while speaking at Henninger High School in Syracuse, N.Y. The launch of a highly anticipated strike on Syria could make for awkward timing. Few doubt that Obama is preparing for a U.S.-led military action to retaliate for what the U.S. and its allies say was a deadly chemical weapons attack perpetrated by the Syrian government. But there are few good options for when to attack.  (Jacquelyn Martin, Associated Press) In this Aug. 22, 2013 file photo, President Barack Obama pauses while speaking at Henninger High School in Syracuse, N.Y. The launch of a highly anticipated strike on Syria could make for awkward timing. Few doubt that Obama is preparing for a U.S.-led military action to retaliate for what the U.S. and its allies say was a deadly chemical weapons attack perpetrated by the Syrian government. But there are few good options for when to attack. (Jacquelyn Martin, Associated Press)

As the likelihood of U.S. military action against Syria grows by the day, Congress remains on its August recess. And therein lies a problem for President Barack Obama, because back in 2007 when he was a freshman senator and fledgling presidential candidate, Obama spoke out strongly against the legality of then-President George W. Bush potentially initiating military action against Iran without congressional approval.

“The President does not have power under the Constitution to unilaterally authorize a military attack in a situation that does not involve stopping an actual or imminent threat,” Obama told the Boston Globe.

In a Wednesday article headlined “Syria Intervention Would Reaffirm Obama’s Biggest Flip-Flop,” Time magazine political reporters Alex Altman and Zeke Miller revisited Obama’s 2007 remarks: “The statement stands in stark opposition to Obama’s view now. The Obama Administration is on the cusp of intervening in a Syrian civil war that by all accounts does not pose an imminent domestic threat to the U.S. And Obama appears set to unilaterally authorize punitive strikes against Bashar Assad’s regime. … No one in (Obama’s) Administration has claimed the spiraling conflict in Syria threatens U.S. security at home.

White House press secretary Jay Carney answers questions about Syria and chemical weapons during his daily news briefing at the White House in Washington, Tuesday, Aug. 27, 2013. The U.S. was expected to make public a more formal determination of chemical weapons use on Tuesday, however Carney stated that the president did not have a decision made about the response to announce at this time.  (Jacquelyn Martin, Associated Press) White House press secretary Jay Carney answers questions about Syria and chemical weapons during his daily news briefing at the White House in Washington, Tuesday, Aug. 27, 2013. The U.S. was expected to make public a more formal determination of chemical weapons use on Tuesday, however Carney stated that the president did not have a decision made about the response to announce at this time. (Jacquelyn Martin, Associated Press)

“For that reason, lawmakers in both parties are urging Obama to confer with the legislative branch before acting.”

Biden also said something in 2007 that ostensibly condemns any significant U.S. military action without congressional approval. According to Business Insider, then-Senator Biden said, “I want to make clear and submit to the United States Senate pointing out the president has no authority to unilaterally attack Iran. And I want to make it clear, I want it on the record, and I want to make it clear, if he does, as chairman of the foreign relations committee and former chair of the judiciary committee, I will move to impeach him.”

The British newspaper Telegraph reported Wednesday that “a group of around 90 lawmakers are demanding that the president reconvene Congress for an emergency session and allow a vote to take place before any strike against the Assad regime.”

White House Press Secretary Jay Carney answers questions about Syria and chemical weapons during his daily news briefing at the White House in Washington, Tuesday, Aug. 27, 2013. The U.S. was expected to make public a more formal determination of chemical weapons use on Tuesday, however Carney stated that the president did not have a decision made about the response to announce at this time.  (Jacquelyn Martin, Associated Press) White House Press Secretary Jay Carney answers questions about Syria and chemical weapons during his daily news briefing at the White House in Washington, Tuesday, Aug. 27, 2013. The U.S. was expected to make public a more formal determination of chemical weapons use on Tuesday, however Carney stated that the president did not have a decision made about the response to announce at this time. (Jacquelyn Martin, Associated Press)

Telegraph political reporter Raf Sanchez further wrote, “The effort to force Mr. Obama to submit to Congressional approval is being led by Rep. Scott Rigell, a Virginia Republican, who said he expects more than 100 representatives to sign a letter he is sending to the White House. … The letter has been signed by 92 members so far and argues that Mr. Obama is obligated under a U.S. law known as the War Powers Resolution to get Congressional consent before engaging in military action.”

Email: jaskar@desnews.com

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