Senate Dems outraged that Kaine wants them to follow the Constitution, vote on War on Iraq/Syria


WASHINGTON, D.C., August 29, 2014 ( – Senator Tim Kaine, D-VA, is under fire from his own side of the aisle for proposing that the Constitution is still operative. Kaine, who succeeded Jim Webb in the Senate, has said President Obama should ask for Congressional authorization for any further war against ISIS/ISIL in Iraq and Syria.

“I am calling for the mission and objectives for this current significant military action against ISIL to be made clear to Congress, the American people, and our men and women in uniform. And Congress should vote up or down on it,” he said. “I just feel like you owe it to those who serve to do this the right way.”

That’s not to mention the people who served in all previous wars to uphold the Constitution, which requires precisely the course Kaine suggests.

Yet the very intimation of following constitutional protocol before potentially sending American troops to their deaths outraged his fellow Democrats, who believe it is bad politics to remind people that Barack Obama is commander-in-chief. The Hill reports:

“Asking anybody to take that vote within two months of an election is just stupid. Why would you put people in that position?” said a Senate Democratic aide.

A vote to authorize Obama to strike at Islamic militants in Iraq and Syria beyond the 60-day window set out by the War Powers Resolution would be a de facto referendum on the president, according to another aide.

“I think it’s dumb,” said a second Democratic aide. “The less the president is in the news with anything right now, the better.”

If put to a vote, Obama’s plans to widen the war stand slim chance of approval and would certainly elicit a backlash in the midterm elections. Only 12 percent of the American people support airstrikes on Syria, according to a Huffington Post/YouGov poll, while 61 percent oppose military intervention.

The picture is more complicated in Iraq, with the public evenly divided on airstrikes, although a 2-to-1 majority oppose putting boots on the ground.

Still, another 60-30 issue that runs against the president and his party is the last thing Senate Democrats need going into the 2014 midterms. Democratic pollster Celinda Lake told The Hill that talk of new wars “hurts turnout” among voters, who believe “we’re getting bogged down again” and feel “we can’t be the policemen of the world.”

This is not strictly a partisan matter; there are plenty of members of both parties who would like to abandon the Founders’ constitutional system of checks-and-balances, designed to constrict an overactive executive branch. The Hill notes that John McCain “has not argued as forcefully for congressional authorization of military strikes because such a debate would lessen the likelihood of military intervention.”

But the Democratic Senators’ reaction is largely inspired by the train wreck of foreign and domestic policy failures that is the Obama administration. Contrast the Democrats’ current (in)action with their position under the last presidency.

Democratic lawmakers’ response to George W. Bush’s foreign policy was to propose reinstating the draft, imposing new taxes on all Americans, and generally burdening his ability to wage war as much as possible.

Their policy under his successor is to try to make the American people forget that Barack Obama is a thing.

The American people deserve a full debate and a constitutional vote on whether to widen the present war in the Middle East. The bipartisan attempt to sidestep this referendum is part of a broader process to preempt an ever-larger number of issues from public input. The governing class has decided the parameters of public debate should be as narrow as the differences between the parties’ megadonors.

Hats off to Tim Kaine for demanding that Congress abide by the strictures of the Constitution. Apparently he has time to formulate his strategy to convince his colleagues to do their job. After all, when asked for his plan to combat ISIS/ISIL, President Obama said on Thursday, “We don’t have a strategy yet.”

If only ISIS had killed Michael Brown, they might have gotten the president’s undivided attention.

Ben Johnson is U.S. Bureau Chief of, the guest host of Nothing But Truth with Crane Durhamon AFR Talk Radio, and the author of three books. His personal website is Connect with him on Facebook and follow him on Twitter.