Why did President Obama delay a strike in Syria and turn to Congress to approve military action? Seeking Congressional approval is … how shall we put it? … out of character for this president.
After all, Obama did not feel he needed Congress to delay implementation of the employer mandate in Obamacare, even though nothing in the Affordable Care Act permits him to do so.
Obama did not feel he needed Congress to continue aid to Egypt, even thought the law clearly states that he must suspend it following that country’s coup d’état.
Obama did not feel he needed Congress to create his own Dream Act by suspending the deportation an entire class of illegal immigrants.
Obama did not feel he needed Congress to impose new taxes on every American cell phone user in order to fund his multi-billion dollar plan to place high-speed internet connections into United States schools.
He did not feel he needed Congress to launch his regulatory “war on coal.”
And he did not feel he needed Congress to launch his war in Libya.
But in Syria — where he is contemplating strikes far more limited than the Libya operation — the president is suddenly asking Congress for its blessing to act.
Why the sudden deference to the legislative branch? Simple: The limited strikes he intends to carry out will likely fail, and he wants Congress on the hook, so that Republicans cannot criticize his Syria policy when it implodes.
Republicans should not take the bait.
Obama says he does not actually need Congressional approval to launch military action in Syria. He is right. He has the inherent authority as commander in chief to do so. But therein lies the irony. In so many areas where Obama does need authority from Congress, he rules by executive fiat. But in the one area where the Constitution gives him broad authority to act, he turns to Congress for cover.
If he lays out a coherent strategy to deal a real blow to Assad, isolate al Qaeda, and help the moderate, pro-Western opposition come to power, then Congress should back him.
But if his only plan is the weak-kneed response the administration has telegraphed so far, let him act on his own — and own the consequences.