Thursday, September 12, 2013

President Obama: On Syria, We Can Wait

    Since the 2010 elections, President Obama has often expressed impatience with Congress, and at times has said that he would not wait for Congress, did not need Congress, or has simply acted without Congress.  At one point, the White House developed an entire We Can't Wait campaign to emphasize the unilateral action President Obama would take in the face of an uncooperative legislature.

    Now, however, after building the case and presenting evidence via John Kerry that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad ordered a horrific chemical weapons attack against his own people on August 21, President Obama abruptly reversed course to We Can Wait for Congress, even going so far as to say that "our capacity to execute this mission [against Syria] is not time-sensitive; it will be effective tomorrow, or next week, or one month from now."
    First, President Obama put his plans to confront this murderous dictator on hold until Congress weighed in (the same Congress described by the president just a month ago as "those folks [who] think I usurp my authority by having the gall to win the presidency").  Now, he's asked Congress to wait on the use of force authorization while the plan put forth by the Russians has a chance to play out.  So it seems fair to look at what President Obama has said could not wait for Congressional action in the past three years or so:
  • February 2012: President Obama: Our Children Can’t Wait for Congress to Fix No Child Left Behind, Announces Flexibility in Exchange for Reform for Ten States
  • October 2011: President Obama says that we can’t wait for Congress to take action to grow the economy and create jobs and highlights actions he took to help families refinance their mortgages, put veterans to work, and lower the cost of student loans.
  • July 2013 - Remarks by the President on the Economy -- Warrensburg, Missouri - "So where I can act on my own, I’m going to.  I’m not going to wait for Congress."
  • November 2011 - Remarks by the President Urging Congress to Pass the Infrastructure Piece of the American Jobs Act - "We can’t wait for Congress to do its job.  If they won’t act, I will.  (Applause.)  And that’s why today, I’m announcing that we are actually going to expedite loans and competitive grants for new projects all across the country..."
  • January 2012 - We Can't Wait: The White House Announces Federal and Private Sector Commitments to Provide Employment Opportunities for Nearly 180,000 Youth - "America’s youth can’t wait for Congress to act.  This is an all-hands-on-deck moment."
  • December 2011 - We Can’t Wait: Obama Administration Announces $2 Billion in Resources to Support Job-Creating Startups - "Today’s announcement is the latest in a series of executive actions the Obama Administration is taking to strengthen the economy and move the country forward because we can’t wait for Congress to act."
  • April 2012 - We Can't Wait: President Signs Memorandum Establishing Policies for Addressing Domestic Violence in the Federal Workplace - "The Violence Against Women Act expired in 2011, and while we wait for Congress to reauthorize this critically needed legislation, the federal government is doing its part."
  • July 2012 - Fact Sheet: Creating Pathways to the Middle Class for All Americans - "In addition, recognizing that we can’t wait for Congress to act, President Obama has announced nearly 300,000 summer jobs and other employment opportunities for youth..."
  • January 2012 - Regional Roundup: Richard Cordray Will Protect American Consumers [Recess Appointment] - "Millions of Americans can’t afford to wait for Congress to act.   He’s the right man for the job."
  • June 2011 - Obama administration: Libya action does not require congressional approval
  • July 2013 - Delay of Employer Mandate for Affordable Care Act - "If Congress thinks that what I’ve done is inappropriate or wrong in some fashion, they’re free to make that case," Obama said. "But there’s not an action that I take that you don't have some folks in Congress who say that I'm usurping my authority. Some of those folks think I usurp my authority by having the gall to win the presidency. And I don't think that's a secret. But ultimately, I’m not concerned about their opinions -- very few of them, by the way, are lawyers, much less constitutional lawyers."
  • August 29, 2013 - FACT SHEET: New Executive Actions to Reduce Gun Violence - "Even as Congress fails to act... the President and Vice President remain committed to using all the tools in their power to make progress toward reducing gun violence."
    But suddenly, we can wait.  But how long?

Note: A version of this article first appeared at The Weekly Standard.

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