In election years, candidates inevitably promise voters they will do more than their opponents. In practice that usually means increased debt-spending and expanding unconstitutional encroachments on liberty. Now one Republican presidential candidate has doubled-down on the most blatantly illegal action of this presidency, saying Barack Obama has not gone far enough in waging war-by-decree in Libya — and those who want to follow the Constitution are bead-wearing hippies bent on dragging America down in disgrace.
On Tuesday, former Minnesota governor Tim Pawlenty gave what he dubbed a “major” foreign policy speech to the Council on Foreign Relations. In it, Pawlenty pouted, “parts of the Republican Party now seem to be trying to out-bid the Democrats in appealing to isolationist sentiments.”
“America already has one political party devoted to decline, retrenchment, and withdrawal,” he said. “It does not need a second one.”
He fleshed out what he meant in the speech — calling on Obama to “commit America’s strength to removing Ghadafi” and recognize the rebels as Libya’s legitimate government. During a question-and-answer session afterward, TPaw agreed with President Obama that the War Powers Resolution “does not apply” to the war in Libya.
In March, Pawlenty told students at Vanderbilt University that getting Congressional authorization for a war, as required by the Constitution and the resolution, is “a very complex matter and it’s not something that lends itself to an easy answer.” He added, “we need to make sure we don’t tie the executive or the commander in chief’s hands so tightly that he or she can’t respond in an emergency quickly or in a situation that deserves and needs a quick response.” Pawlenty told the CFR on Tuesday he would consult with Congress “as a courtesy and gesture of respect.”
His speech and his attack on his fellow Republicans raises (at least) 15 questions this author would like to ask Gov. Pawlenty:
- You have stated the War Powers Resolution does not apply to the war in Libya. However, the administration’s best lawyers disagreed with your assessment. Attorney General Eric Holder reportedly sided with them. The highest legal scholar in the administration to hold to your view is Harold Koh, who advocates “transnationalist jurisprudence,” who once branded the United States a member of the “axis of disobedience,” and who often co-authors articles with members of the Center for Constitutional Rights — a pro-terrorist legal house founded by Marxists. How can a self-identified “conservative” find himself to the Left of Eric Holder? If elected, will you rely on the advice of Koh or others of his ideology?
- The Founding Fathers clearly placed the war-making power in the hands of Congress alone — in Article I, Section 8 of the Constitution as well as their deliberations before its passage and their practice following its adoption. Since the Constitution has not been amended, what legal precedent do you believe suspended and nullified the Founders’ intentions?
- Since you do not believe Congressional authorization is necessary to initiate hostilities, at what point, if any, would you consider Congressional authorization necessary to continue military interventions abroad in which American personnel or weapons were killing or attempting to kill foreign nationals (referred to as “hostilities” in the War Powers Resolution)?
- The president has argued, since American soldiers are not likely to be harmed, the war in Libya does not reach the definition of “hostilities.” You seem to agree with this thinking. At what level of severity, if any, would these “hostilities” require Congressional authorization? Could the president drop a bomb on a foreign head of state? If no U.S. soldiers would be threatened, could the president drop a nuclear bomb on a foreign country?
- You stated Congress should not tie the president’s hands under certain conditions. In your view, was Obama’s intervention in Libya an “emergency” that deserved a “quick response”? Since the rationale of an impending genocide has been disproved, what evidence leads you to this conclusion?
- You told the CFR, “Our enemies in the War on Terror, just like our opponents in the Cold War, respect and respond to strength. Sometimes strength means military intervention.” When, specifically?
- You stated the Saudi Arabian royals must “open their society.” What leads you to believe the people of Saudi Arabia are less radical than the royal family, or that granting the popular will in the peninsula will result in less violence and more stability?
- Your speech stated if America brings down Syrian leader Bashar al-Assad, “the mullahs of Iran will find themselves isolated and vulnerable.” How isolated is Iran in light of its alliances with Russia, China, North Korea, Venezuela, and even the regimes we secured or instituted in Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Iraq?
- Although the leadership in Syria and Iran is far from sympathetic, who will replace them?
- In recent uprisings in Iraq and Egypt — nations with historic Christian minorities — fundamentalist Muslims have intensified the persecution of the Middle East’s Christians. What intelligence convinced you this would be unlikely to occur after the overthrow of Syria or Iran? If there is no such information, is the liquidation of the region’s Christian population a price you are willing to pay? What greater good would their mass martyrdom serve?
- In front of the CFR, you told the president “to stop leading from behind and commit America’s strength to removing Ghadafi, recognizing the TNC [Transitional National Council] as the government of Libya, and unfreezing assets so the TNC can afford security and essential services as it marches toward Tripoli.” The TNC has undeniable links to al-Qaeda, and Ali Aujali told the American Enterprise Institute the Muslim Brotherhood should be able to shape Libya’s future. In what way is this an improvement over Qaddafi?
- Muammar Qaddafi was in a position of strength because of a deal he hammered out with George W. Bush in 2006, giving up support for terrorism and WMD ambitions. In return, Condoleeza Rice cited Qaddafi as “an important model” for rogue states everywhere and reopened Tripoli to the international community. When did you decide the Bush/Rice agreement was a bad idea? Do you believe it is a good idea for the United States to renege on its foreign policy commitments? What other Republican precedents would a President Pawlenty undo?
- If the overthrow of Qaddafi requires increased risk of casualties, would you press forward with it?
- The Wall Street Journal reported this week that your remarks at the CFR “suggested [you] supported the use of ground troops” as “necessary to topple Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi.” Do you? If so, would you commit these U.S. troops to foreign (NATO) command?
- If Congress refuses to authorize placing combat troops in Libya, would you press forward anyway? If so, please return to question 2.
Thank you, Governor Pawlenty. We wait in anticipation for your answers.
Note: Nothing in this article should be construed as an endorsement, positive or negative, of the Pawlenty candidacy.