Recall how confused many of us were by the Obama candidacy? Remember how we laughed at “community organizing,” “hope,” and “change?” Do you recall the promise of “fundamental transformation,” and how few of us understood what it really meant?
If we learned anything from the Obama candidacy, it’s that we ought to be on our highest guard when this president is at his most perplexing. It is a mistake to dismiss what seems nonsensical and assume there is no method to the madness.
Since American military action began against Libya, confusion has reigned among policymakers and pundits. Some have pointed out the glaring inconsistency between President Obama’s past comments and his current actions, while others stretch the limits of credulity in an attempt to reconcile the disparity.
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton added to the cacophony on Sunday. She appeared alongside Secretary of Defense Robert Gates on ABC’s This Week. In response to questioning by Senior White House Correspondent Jake Tapper, Clinton provided some insight into the administration’s mindset. It suggests that, while the rest of us may be confused, this administration may not be.
During his campaign for the Presidency, in December, 2007, Barack Obama told The Boston Globe that “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 to the nation.”
Earlier in 2007, then-Senator Hillary Clinton said in a speech on the Senate floor that, “If the administration believes that any — any — use of force against Iran is necessary, the President must come to Congress to seek that authority.”
Tapper asked Clinton, “Why not [go] to Congress [to authorize action against Libya]?”
Buckle your seat belt.
“Well, we would welcome congressional support,” the Secretary said, “but I don’t think that this kind of internationally authorized intervention where we are one of a number of countries participating to enforce a humanitarian mission is the kind of unilateral action that either I or President Obama was speaking of several years ago.”
At face value, this comes across as utter nonsense. After all, Secretary Gates confirmed in the same interview that the situation in Libya poses no imminent threat to the nation, and Clinton was fairly adamant in 2007 regarding the need for Congress to authorize any use of force.
However, we must consider the possibility that Clinton’s answer makes sense to her and others within the administration. The implications of that are far more alarming than if she’s merely playing rhetorical word games.
Clinton appears to be saying that the processes of the United Nations are superior to those of the United States. If an action is “internationally authorized,” multilateral, and “humanitarian,” it does not require Congressional approval.
The gravity of such a position should not be overlooked. Rather than content ourselves to mock the apparent double-standard, we must consider through what lens it would seem consistent.
Looking back upon the presidential campaign, we recall that this president’s worldview was hidden in plain sight. It may be here as well. He may take as granted the supremacy of international processes over those of the United States. If he does, we have a sitting president who does not believe in national sovereignty. Such a president cannot possibly fulfill his oath of office, since he does not regard the Constitution as the supreme law of the land.