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To the Republicans upset about Obama's actions in the Middle East, maybe "we told you so" isn't what you want to hear when someone you despise is making decisions you don't like, but, well, we did try to tell you. We tried to tell you, when you expanded presidential power through a combination of broad authorizations and refusal to act against abuses, that one day there would again be a Democratic president, and he would have all the power you so readily gave a Republican president.

It isn't just the ungracious refusal to give Obama any credit of any sort for what goes right. You wouldn't be human if you didn't react to the success of someone you despise by wanting to believe it didn't really happen or wasn't all it was cracked up to be, or at least had nothing to do with the despised person. We all feel that way, and stopping such petty thoughts will require the stoppage of breathing. Though maybe you could do better controlling the expression of those thoughts in front of microphones? Anyway, that's not the problem.

Here's the problem: dispute policy or strategy or execution all you want, but you can't dispute legality. Sorry, no, stop. Obama acted legally. Which is your doing. That's what "we tried to tell you" is about.

A few Democrats tried to say that the war resolution after 911 was overly broad. It doesn't say anything about Afghanistan, or attacking countries or terrorists in such countries as Congress will direct. It says:

(a) IN GENERAL- That the President is authorized to use all necessary and appropriate force against those nations, organizations, or persons he determines planned, authorized, committed, or aided the terrorist attacks that occurred on September 11, 2001, or harbored such organizations or persons, in order to prevent any future acts of international terrorism against the United States by such nations, organizations or persons.
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That "he determines" bit --- was that really such a good idea? Anything the president, either Bush or Obama, or whoever comes next, can link to Al Qaida, he can go after. What about the War Powers Act? Funny about that:

(b) War Powers Resolution Requirements-

    (1) SPECIFIC STATUTORY AUTHORIZATION- Consistent with section 8(a)(1) of the War Powers Resolution, the Congress declares that this section is intended to constitute specific statutory authorization within the meaning of section 5(b) of the War Powers Resolution.

So, any time somebody somewhere says, "hey, I know, let's call ourselves 'Al Qaida in wherever we are'", the president gets to call them "the next target". No seeking congressional permission required. Because you gave it already.

"Wait," I assume is being asked, "What about getting involved in Libya? That had nothing to with Al Qaida." Correct, it didn't. Moreover, Obama's compliance with the War Powers Act was begrudging at the start, and by failing to request authorization from Congress by deadline, Obama violated it. What did Congress do? Authorized funding. Remember when Iran-Contra almost brought down Reagan? There were hearings, criminal trials, threats of impeachment --- Congress then didn't say, "This is terrible! This is illegal! We had expressly prohibited it! Here's your cash to keep doing it!"

But forget that. Assume Congress said get out, and Obama didn't. What were you going to do, impeach? There's this slight problem of precedent. Some of us called for impeachment of Bush over Iraq. Besides the specific case about Iraq, we had one other point: if Bush couldn't be impeached after such egregious actions as starting a war on false pretenses, committing the war crime of attacking someone who wasn't threatening us (that actually is a crime, "aggressive war"), detention without trial, and of course the use of torture, then what would it take to merit impeachment? Bush couldn't be impeached when caught in a lie to start a war that resulted in hundreds of thousands of innocent people dying. You think you could impeach over Libya?

Maybe that's more political precedent than legal. So be it. By letting Bush go, you made for an incredibly high bar to impeachment. I don't know what a president would have to do to get impeached, but I'm pretty sure helping the Libyan rebels isn't it.

You should have an obvious retort at this point: didn't Democrats also pass up the chance to impeach Bush? Yes, and now you know the first bit of discouragement the base felt toward congressional Democrats (with a few brave exceptions willing to call for impeachment). The same argument applied: if now that you have Congress you won't go after a war criminal, what's it going to take to impeach a future president? I hate to imagine. You probably see discussions we have on the left to the effect that if Obama gets away with x, the next Republican gets the same authority. With the admission it's possible I just didn't see it, I'm unaware such a discussion ever happened on the right. You preferred listening to John Yoo and the unitary executive apologists.

So, that's what we tried to tell you. Argue however you want about the policy, but you decided to give expansive authority and then do nothing when even that was violated, and now this power belongs to a Democrat. You may not like raids in Pakistan or drones in Yemen or rebels in Libya or the withdrawal from Iraq, but you let him do it. You'll get some of us on he left, sometimes most of us on the left, agreeing with you on some of these things, but it's hard to argue when what Obama is doing seems to be working.

Maybe you can go after Afghanistan. You will have to decide whether you're upset we're staying so long or leaving so fast. If you try to have it both ways, well, don't say we never told you.

Extended (Optional)

Originally posted to ericf on Tue Oct 25, 2011 at 08:33 PM PDT.

Also republished by DFH Local No 420 and Community Spotlight.

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