By Karen Finney - 06/20/11 09:55 PM EDT
Whether or not you agree with the White House’s legal argument regarding its authority to participate in the NATO-led, U.N.-authorized mission in Libya without congressional consent, it’s hard not to question House Speaker John Boehner’s (R-Ohio) political motives when you consider that he fairly eloquently took the exact opposite position in the 1990s.
Back then, questions about the War Powers Act and its constitutionality were raised regarding actions President Clinton took when committing U.S. resources to a NATO-led mission, authorized by the U.N., when another crazy leader was mercilessly murdering innocent people. At the time, Boehner sided with every president since Nixon (when the law was first signed), questioning the constitutionality of the act. He said, “A strong presidency is a key pillar of the American system of government — the same system of government our military men and women are prepared to give their lives to defend. Just as good intentions alone are not enough to justify sending American troops into harm’s way, good intentions alone are not enough to justify tampering with the underpinnings of American democracy.”
The Speaker also tried to suggest that Obama had flipped positions, citing comments made during a speech in October 2007 at DePaul University. In that speech, Obama questioned the legal authority of the president under the War Powers Act, in a specific reference to the Iraq war of choice, in which a president lied to Congress and the American people.
Boehner has yet to square the circle and explain why U.S. participation involving ground troops in a NATO operation against a vicious dictator killing innocent people in Bosnia is not a violation of the act, yet a NATO-led operation against a vicious dictator in Libya where ground troops are not involved is. Given that 87 Republicans decided they were willing to defend a vote in favor of a resolution introduced by Congress’s most liberal member in defiance of Boehner, he will likely reject the administration’s position and move to make good on his threat to cut off funding for the mission.
Perhaps before doing so, the Speaker should remember that — as he said last December — if the GOP is itching for a fight, the president is ready to rumble.
Finney is a political analyst for MSNBC and Democratic consultant.