Obama, Congress, ISIL, Authority, and Rationality

It may not be the worst of times, the best of times, but it sure as heck must be the simplest of times. Have a problem? Well every politician and pundit has a simple solution if we’ll just listen.

No, don’t trust me but consider one example of the rationality of simplicity for solutions.  Without getting detailed, can we all agree that events of concern are happening in the Middle East?  Now inside the classrooms things can get testy because some want to say ISIS, others ISIL, some IS, and a few even Da’ish.  My teaching style with those arguments is to begin with the Socratic method for the most vocal and if silence occurs to offer sleep inducing backgrounds for these names and others. For a quick understanding, the BBC has a number of brief stories such as the one here.

Think Back: 

Not too long ago, President Obama relied upon what many called questionable applications of US Constitutional authority and international law as legal justifications for military action against ISIL (to me this term is the most descriptive).  Professor Mary Ellen O’Connell from Notre Dame wrote an interesting piece on the matter for Politico last year.

There were also debates about President Obama’s legal justifications for the usage of drones in attacks in other areas. Professor Eric Posner from the University of Chicago Law School discusses some of the issues in this short piece from Slate.

Even with that past, President Obama recently sent a war authorization legislative draft to Congress.

The Hill has a synopsis here.

Well that certainly clears up all disputes.

  • Barack Obama is not overreaching with his Presidential authority.
  • It does not matter if he called ISIL a JV team because–
  • Congress can use his draft as a blueprint to declare war or enact an authorization of force.

I would be remiss not to note that in order to become law, any declaration or authorization requires the President’s signature. Veto power exists.  More detailed information on the historical backgrounds and legal implications of declarations of war and authorizations of military force can be read in this CRS report.

Oddly all differences of opinion have not been resolved.

“The AUMF should not be public relations tool, and that’s what he’s using it for,” he said. “I can’t believe it. I can’t understand what this man does.”

So here’s the simple answer:

  • ISIL is barbaric and a threat abroad and here in the United States which must be dealt with quickly and effectively to squash the danger before it’s too late.
  • In doing so, however, the United States should not spend any money in this conflict due to our own budgetary problems at home.
  • We need, however, to do everything necessary including all out air strikes and boots on the ground for as long as necessary in the region.
  • President Obama should act and essentially set a full scale military operation into motion because the President has that authority unless Congress and critics decide he does not have the Constitutional authority.
  • In the meantime, Congress will hold hearings and debate the President’s proposal because ISIL is an immediate dangerous threat.
  • These hearing and debates will begin after Congress returns to session following the week long recess previously scheduled.
  • Meanwhile, Egypt, Jordan, and other countries have powerful leaders leading the charge against the enemy while our weak President who was criticized for usurping too much power earlier against ISIL waits for Congress to authorize more or is that less authority to act.


  • For peace of mind, we do have the Department of Homeland Security working to keep us safe here in the United States.
  • Oh wait a second; Congress is giving themselves 4 days to decide to fund the DHS.
  • It’s not the DHS specifically, but all the illegals coming into the United States which is the cause for debate. Now Congress could begin discussions on immigration, but that’s another story.
  • The easiest way to overturn an Executive Order which is law is to pass a law nullifying that order.
  • Executive Actions which are many branches on this tree of debate are not even laws but merely express the desires of the President who made the statement.  Hence they have no real authority that Congress cannot undo.

I reckon they don’t have the time. I mean the 114th Congress has been in session for about 1 month, so it’s time to start campaigning for those 2016 elections.  

  • They can do that because Obama will be playing golf and has a pen and a phone.
  • He has the authority to make all decisions by himself, but only when nobody else representing the people are willing of making decisions.
  • Critics will accuse Barack Obama of doing too much without consent of Congress but only up to the point when he seeks Congressional approval.
  • Everybody always agrees with and abides by court rulings.

Well at least the American people support the President when he calls out Congress for not doing their jobs, kicking problems further down the road, but still getting their paychecks and benefits.  {Sorry I was in fantasy land there}.

Actually it’s simple when you look at the big picture.

  • Obama makes a decision, and he is wrong.
  • Obama asks Congress to make a decision, and he is wrong.
  • Obama does something, and he is wrong.
  • Obama doesn’t do something, and he is wrong.
  • What Obama did was wrong, but it’s correct for someone else.
  • What Obama didn’t do was wrong, but it’s OK for someone else not to do it.
  • The most important thing is that people criticize Obama.
  • Since a lot of the stuff that he is doing and not doing isn’t sensational, just make things up because others will believe anything.

As a historian, I feel like it’s too early to judge the Obama presidency in terms of history.

As a citizen, I can name a number of what I consider to be his positives and a number of what I consider to be his negatives.

Since one of my primary fields is US political history, I’ve read quite a number of works, primary and secondary, about every President. Of course as an adult, I’ve only lived during 4 Presidents and can only offer informed firsthand opinions about 1 additional President.

What bothers me as a historian and more so as a citizen is that in my studies and my lifetime, the focus on Barack Obama appears to be based on false perceptions, fiction, and not reality. That’s true for both the positive and especially the negative. With previous Presidents, it seemed like differences of opinion were rooted in reality.  Few things happen within isolation chambers, but I think more and more people try to put the President into one regardless of situation, authenticity, or inaccuracy.

In respect to discussions about President Barack Obama, differences of opinion are discussed by straw man arguments and ad hominem attacks. 

Is that logical? Is that the rationale for the simplicity? Is that the reason for hypocrisy?