John Kerry is Gutless

In the past few days, as President Obama prepared his primetime address on drawing down troops in Afghanistan, Senator John Kerry encouraged him to fight still more wars. That’s the only way to read Kerry’s and Senator John McCain’s new bill, which would retroactively justify Obama’s, and the country’s, involvement in Libya.

John Kerry

John Kerry's new bill would retroactively justify U.S. involvement in Libya. Photography by utbriancl.

This complicity is a big deal because, over in the House, representatives of both parties are demanding that Obama seek Congressional approval for the U.S.’s involvement in Libya. For them, “involvement” is too tame a word. War is more like what’s happening in Libya. And, the reps reason, only Congress can declare war.

Congressman Mike Capuano believes so strongly that Obama’s in the wrong here that he’s filed a lawsuit against him. Last week, I pointed out what an astute political move Capuano’s suit would be among progressives and Constitution-loving independents, especially as Capuano considers a run for Senate against Scott Brown. Of course, Capuano’s suit is more than that. It is also a politician placing his ideals above his party.

John Kerry wouldn’t deign to place himself in such a situation. He’s appeasing the president at the expense of the Constitution.

Marquee photograph by the Center for American Progress Action Fund

  • Stephen Roop

    If Paul Kix is against the U.S. actions in Libya, I agree. But he is off the mark both about Mike Capuano and John Kerry, I think.

    The case law suggests very strongly, for a variety of reasons, that the suit to which Capuano is a party will be dismissed. It is not unreasonable to infer that Capuano, a lawyer, perfectly well knows this, and thus equally reasonable for an ordinary citizen–or ast least one who knows about the case law–to infer his move is all sizzle and no steak. Maybe his progressive supporters will admire what Capuano has done, its showboat quality notwithstanding. Other voters might be more skeptical. It would have been cleaner just loudly and clearly to oppose what is happening in Libya and to seek to rally allies in Congress. It is rarely advantageous that one can be shown to be a hypocrite.

    Kerry’s move may simply be seen as a way to bring President Obama’s Libya action somehow within the safe harbor of some kind of Congressional approval. Kix may not like this because he does not like the Libya action, but this in no way obliges Kerry to oblige Kix. Kerry might support the Libya action and he might not, but to be concerned about the political exposure of a political ally, and to seek to remedy that exposure, seems like a perfectly understandable thing to want to do. Its retroactivity is irrelevant: any approval under the War Powers Act of a presidential initiative would be retroactive by the very nature of the Act’s structure, which gives the president up to ninety days free rein. Of course, President Obama has said he does not believe the War Powers Act applies in this case. Again, Kerry may agree or not, but his seeking to protect the president hardly makes him gutless. People do things all the time that might get them in trouble, and then take steps to offset or minimize the trouble. Kerry is throwing Obama a rope, and Obama may yet decide it makes sense to use it.