Home
In this issue
April 9, 2014

Jonathan Tobin: Why Did Kerry Lie About Israeli Blame?

Samuel G. Freedman: A resolution 70 years later for a father's unsettling legacy of ashes from Dachau

Jessica Ivins: A resolution 70 years later for a father's unsettling legacy of ashes from Dachau

Kim Giles: Asking for help is not weakness

Kathy Kristof and Barbara Hoch Marcus: 7 Great Growth Israeli Stocks

Matthew Mientka: How Beans, Peas, And Chickpeas Cleanse Bad Cholesterol and Lowers Risk of Heart Disease

Sabrina Bachai: 5 At-Home Treatments For Headaches

The Kosher Gourmet by Daniel Neman Have yourself a matzo ball: The secrets bubby never told you and recipes she could have never imagined

April 8, 2014

Lori Nawyn: At Your Wit's End and Back: Finding Peace

Susan B. Garland and Rachel L. Sheedy: Strategies Married Couples Can Use to Boost Benefits

David Muhlbaum: Smart Tax Deductions Non-Itemizers Can Claim

Jill Weisenberger, M.S., R.D.N., C.D.E : Before You Lose Your Mental Edge

Dana Dovey: Coffee Drinkers Rejoice! Your Cup Of Joe Can Prevent Death From Liver Disease

Chris Weller: Electric 'Thinking Cap' Puts Your Brain Power Into High Gear

The Kosher Gourmet by Marlene Parrish A gift of hazelnuts keeps giving --- for a variety of nutty recipes: Entree, side, soup, dessert

April 4, 2014

Rabbi David Gutterman: The Word for Nothing Means Everything

Charles Krauthammer: Kerry's folly, Chapter 3

Amy Peterson: A life of love: How to build lasting relationships with your children

John Ericson: Older Women: Save Your Heart, Prevent Stroke Don't Drink Diet

John Ericson: Why 50 million Americans will still have spring allergies after taking meds

Cameron Huddleston: Best and Worst Buys of April 2014

Stacy Rapacon: Great Mutual Funds for Young Investors

Sarah Boesveld: Teacher keeps promise to mail thousands of former students letters written by their past selves

The Kosher Gourmet by Sharon Thompson Anyone can make a salad, you say. But can they make a great salad? (SECRETS, TESTED TECHNIQUES + 4 RECIPES, INCLUDING DRESSINGS)

April 2, 2014

Paul Greenberg: Death and joy in the spring

Dan Barry: Should South Carolina Jews be forced to maintain this chimney built by Germans serving the Nazis?

Mayra Bitsko: Save me! An alien took over my child's personality

Frank Clayton: Get happy: 20 scientifically proven happiness activities

Susan Scutti: It's Genetic! Obesity and the 'Carb Breakdown' Gene

Lecia Bushak: Why Hand Sanitizer May Actually Harm Your Health

Stacy Rapacon: Great Funds You Can Own for $500 or Less

Cameron Huddleston: 7 Ways to Save on Home Decor

The Kosher Gourmet by Steve Petusevsky Exploring ingredients as edible-stuffed containers (TWO RECIPES + TIPS & TECHINQUES)

Jewish World Review Sep 9, 2013 /5 Tishrei, 5774

President Obama puts Syria to a vote in Congress, but must he respect the result?

By David Shribman




JewishWorldReview.com | In reflecting on another military adventure in the Middle East, Winston Churchill wrote of the ill-fated Battle of Gallipoli of 1915-1916, "The terrible ifs accumulate."

Barack Obama's appeal to Congress for support for his military initiative in Syria prompts a slightly different assertion: The stubborn questions accumulate.

These questions persist after a hard week of presidential lobbying -- from the Cabinet Room of the White House, where Mr. Obama invited congressional leaders at the beginning of this remarkable campaign, to hotel rooms in Sweden and Moscow, stops on the president's G-20 trip that became war rooms in the effort to win backing in Congress to attack Syria.

All the meetings and phone calls may provide a tentative answer to the president's quest but had the deeply unsettling effect of raising these questions:

• Having punted the Syria issue up Pennsylvania Avenue to the Capitol, could the president still move against Syria without congressional approval?

This question presents a political squeeze play. On the one hand, by asking for congressional approval before moving against Syria, the president is doing more than suggesting that support of a majority of lawmakers on Capitol Hill is preferable to unilateral presidential action. He is saying it is essential, at least politically.

At the same time, the administration is arguing that the executive branch retains constitutional authority to mount such an attack. See the answer Secretary of State John F. Kerry gave to a question posed Tuesday by Republican Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky, a Tea Party favorite and a likely 2016 presidential candidate. All of which raises the next question:

• Why did the president take this gamble anyway?

At first blush this may seem a question for historians, but it is not. Having taken this gamble in this instance -- unnecessary if you extend the administration's logic as expressed by Mr. Kerry -- Mr. Obama thus may be obliged to do so in the next instance.

That is more important than it may appear, for this precedent could undercut the president's ability to mount a surprise attack against Iran's nuclear facilities later this year or early next year. The president can no longer say, in negotiations with Teheran, that nothing is off the table. A clandestine attack almost surely would be.

As for the historical view, presidential specialists have long monitored the executive branch's grabs for power and Congress's counter-punches. The creation of what the historian Arthur Schlesinger described as the "imperial presidency" was met, for example, by the War Powers Act of 1973, which restricted presidential action and which has been opposed by every president since Richard Nixon, who was not bashful about unilateral presidential action in foreign affairs. That prompts the next question:

• What will be the state of presidential war-making power post-Obama, and has he redrawn the parameters of his successors' prerogatives?

The answer is simple: Maybe. It is true that there have been only 43 presidents (Grover Cleveland served non-consecutive terms and is counted twice, which is why Mr. Obama is referred to as the 44th president). It is also true that the presidency is cumulative. As in high school mathematics, you cannot take Algebra II without having mastered Algebra I.

And yet this is an ineluctable truth about American politics: Presidents reach back into history for power and authority only when it is in their interests to do so.

If Mr. Obama wanted to attack Syria without congressional authority, he could have cited Lyndon Johnson in the Dominican Republic or George H. W. Bush in Panama. Those presidents, one a Democrat and one a Republican but -- not unimportant in this regard -- both Texans, did not ask for congressional approval in operations that were more extended and certainly closer to home than Mr. Obama's operation in Syria.

Mr. Obama could also cite the actions of two politically incorrect precedents, and presidents, James K. Polk in Mexico and Richard M. Nixon in Cambodia. The former would make the Democrats no friends among Hispanic voters who have increasingly become an important part of the party's political calculus, and the latter is poison for a liberal Democrat who turned 13 only five days before Nixon resigned. A safer example: Woodrow Wilson in Mexico in 1913, though Wilson is toxic among the sippers of political tea.

Presidents with high approval ratings can sometimes split the difference. George H.W. Bush told -- that word is essential here -- congressional leaders about the Panama action after a Christmas party in 1989 and only hours before the operation began. Then again, before moving against Iraq in 1991, Mr. Bush sought and won congressional approval.

• Is there, as Mr. Obama and Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel suggested, a modern-day domino theory at work, or could there be the phenomenon of Appeasement Redux?

Mr. Hagel is a veteran of the Vietnam War, which was prosecuted in large measure out of fear that if Vietnam fell, then so might Laos, and then South Korea and then perhaps Japan as well.

There certainly is regional tumult in the area of the globe once known as the Levant. But just as that term has fallen out of favor -- it's mainly used today by archeologists -- so may have the metaphor of the domino, which in any case belongs more to the 17th century than to the 21st. Nearly two years after the beginning of the Arab Spring, we now know there are many Arab Springs; the one in Egypt was different from the one in Libya and elsewhere.

The war in Vietnam also was prosecuted on the basis of the lessons of Munich, which postulated that if aggression were unanswered in one place (Czechoslovakia) then there would be aggression again in other places (Poland). That certainly was true in 1938 but it may or may not be true three-quarters of a century later.

The lessons of history are more complex than simply grafting old notions onto new situations. History never repeats itself -- that's Lesson One of history -- and the lessons are valuable only if they are applied selectively. History is best utilized to understand the past and to explain the present. It's a rear-view mirror, not a telescope, and hardly ever much help in predicting the future.

Comment by clicking here.

David Shribman, a Pulitzer Prize winner in journalism, is executive editor of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.


Previously:



08/19/13 Pragmatic vs. ideological: What does the GOP want in a president?
08/12/13 A touch of greatness
08/05/13 Captured by the North Koreans, the Pueblo's crew members suffered terribly, and some are suffering still
07/29/13 Politicians, heal thyselves: The president's latest campaign for change has little hope of succeeding
07/22/13 Latest example of a one-term president whose reputation has flourished after leaving office
07/08/13 Watergate's lone unmastered lesson
07/01/13 Before and after Gettysburg
06/24/13 Your life in the age of Big Data
06/17/13 America slips its bonds: Project Mercury lifted off in a more innocent time, but inspires us still
06/13/13 As the World War II veterans depart
06/03/13 Capitol culture shock: The Old Guard of the Senate valued honor most of all, and see little of it today
05/27/13 Patience is a virtue --- and a political strategy
05/20/13 Crossing sacred lines in Washington
05/06/13 The limited power of presidents
04/29/13 Living history on display
04/22/13 Social Security, 21st-century style: Dems call Obama a traitor
04/15/13 49 years, four months, 25 days: Today's America is as far removed from JFK's era as his was from World War I
04/08/13 The Senate as it once was
04/01/13 Connections and coincidence: History is full of mysterious relationships, including clusters of greatness
03/25/13 Where portraits tell the story of America's greatest conflict
03/18/13 A former president's correspondence reveals the power of letters, and the powerlessness of aging
03/11/13 Outrageous spectacle lead to a rational resolution on the budget? A nation can dream, can't it?
02/25/13 The one big thing Democrats and Republicans can actually agree on
02/18/13 Obama is wrong to make young people think college is mainly about making a living
02/11/13 The war inside the GOP
02/04/13 Presidential politics, frozen in place
01/28/13 Speech invokes past for present and future
01/14/13 If Obama's inaugural address is to be remembered at all
01/21/13 Identity crisis in the GOP
01/07/13 History meets firearms
12/31/12 In search of our better angels
12/24/12 Wounded in war, Inouye just kept serving his country
12/10/12 President as change agent
12/10/12 Another overtime election
12/03/12 Defining the Obama presidency: Our re-elected chief executive has the whip hand now, but how will he use
11/19/12 New Hampshire 2016
11/12/12 Obama's second chance
11/05/12 America's first martyr to free speech
10/29/12 Making hay in Iowa
10/15/12 When two men confronted each other from afar as civilization hung in the balance
10/08/12 If you look at the election a certain way, things don't seem so terrible
10/01/12 Debating the debates
09/24/12 Pessimists R Us
08/20/12 Obama remains a puzzle even as he asks the American people for a second chance
08/13/12 With Ryan, Romney upends the conversation
08/06/12 The real Romney remains hidden behind other people's opinions
07/30/12 What summer is for: How August can matter, and how Romney might use it
07/23/12 The Independent son of independent Maine promises to shake up Washington
07/16/12 The Rambler American
07/09/12 The Telstar revolution: Fifty years ago, a 3-foot orb was sent aloft and spawned a new era in communications
07/02/12 It's got only four electoral votes, but Romney and Obama will be fighting for them
06/25/12 A little noted rebellion over a lonely stretch of land helps tell the American story
06/18/12 You're nothing special: Luck is what you make of it . . . and what it makes of you
06/11/12 Anybody can talk authoritatively about the presidential election. Here's how
06/04/12 Candidates love to ally themselves with admired presidents, in sometimes unexpected ways
05/29/12 Americans aren't in a new burst of patriotism but they are in a new burst of appreciation for the military
05/21/12 Inside out: Almost nothing about this year's presidential election conforms to conventional analysis
05/14/12 Lugar grew into an elder statesman, which is why he'll be leaving the Senate
05/07/12 50 years later, MacArthur's farewell to arms continues to inspire
04/30/12 The likability factor: We're going to find out how important it is in these troubled times
04/23/12 Romney's four battles: With the nomination essentially in hand, he must turn to new challenges
04/16/12 For GOPers, expect the frustration to build, not abate
04/09/12 The political battles you cannot see
04/02/12 Romney's roadmap: Doing better in Democratic states may complicate his fall campaign
03/26/12 Romney struggles with same GOP forces his father faced long ago
03/19/12 The writer and the president
03/12/12 Romney could learn from his rivals after Super Tuesday
03/05/12 The GOP race continues, and Republicans continue to grouse about their choices
02/27/12 The turnout threat: when voters vamoose
02/20/12 The Winter's Tale: Republicans are engaged in a 'problem play,' full of psychological, and real, drama
02/13/12 Which Ike to like?
02/08/12 A tale of two elections: Voters today are making their most profound choice since 1912
01/30/12 Whither the GOP establishment?
01/23/12 The Democratic coalition is breaking up
01/09/12 The verdict that wasn't
01/02/12 These are the keys to who will persist
12/19/11 Another Gingrich rebellion
12/12/11 A defining fight for the GOP
12/05/11 A distinct lack of enthusiasm
11/28/11 For GOPers, the winds are beginning to pick up, the horizon is darkening
11/21/11 Today's polarized politics . . . blame FDR and the political scientists
11/11/11The sporting life
11/07/11 Ron Paul, true believer
10/31/11 Why Cain isn't able
10/10/11 GOP starting over
10/03/11 The Forgotten War of 1812
09/26/11 The way we live now
09/19/11 The crisis this time
09/11/11 But what will it mean?
09/05/11 A horse race column: Who might win the GOP nomination and how it might unfold
08/29/11 The vacuum calls
08/22/11 Passion and politics: How Barack Obama and Mitt Romney got crowded into the same dangerous corner
08/15/11 Eleanor's little village
08/08/11 The agony of August
08/01/11 The politics of the impossible: What a country this might be if the political class served the broad interests of the majority
07/25/11 Pennant fever grips 'Burgh
07/18/11 Exemplar of an era
07/11/11 On summer
07/04/11 The soul of the party
06/27/11 What the Secretary said
06/20/11 Romney has big advantages over his rivals, but they will be coming after him
06/06/11 One question each
05/30/11 The 14-week challenge
05/23/11 Delay tactics
05/16/11 Republicans are waiting
05/09/11 Bin Laden is dead. What does it mean?
05/02/11 From nobodies to nominees
04/25/11 The founders left slavery for future generations to settle, and we still haven't fully come to terms with it
04/18/11 From audacious to cautious
04/11/11 Dreaming of space
12/12/10 The GOP takes control
12/06/10 DECEMBER 7
11/29/10 GOP presidential hopefuls already are lining up local supporters in what is now a red state
11/22/10 Burning down the House
11/15/10 Institutions of higher learning are finally beginning to teach important lifeskills
11/04/10 The war has just begun
11/01/10 Echoes of a speech 40 years ago this week still resonate today
10/25/10 50 years ago America chose between two men who were dramatically different --- and eerily similar





© 2011, The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Distributed by Universal Uclick, as agent for UFS.

Columnists

Toons

Lifestyles

Quantcast