After spending much of the past four years decrying President Obama’s alleged overreach in circumventing Congress, neoconservatives are furious with the president for … deciding to consult Congress before attacking Syria.
Syrian President Bashar al-Assad is “euphoric” about Obama’s decision to seek an authorization vote, Sen. John McCain, one of Congress’ most outspoken hawks, told CBS’s Face the Nation Sunday. “[Obama] didn’t say, ‘It’s a red line — and by the way I’m going to have to seek the approval of Congress.’ He said it was a red line, and that the United States of America would act. And that’s a big difference, and that’s one of the reasons why this is so problematic,” McCain said.
Former senator Joe Lieberman echoed the sentiment on Fox News Sunday: “Our enemies are cheering now … and our allies are worried.” Lieberman added that it’d be “catastrophic” if the democratically elected members of Congress do what polls suggest most Americans want and vote down a strike.
Not to be outdone by the upper chamber, Rep. Peter King, the hawkish former chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee, who led controversial hearings looking into Muslim radicalization, said Obama was “abdicating his responsibility as commander-in-chief and undermining the authority of future presidents.”
Going to Congress is “how not to run a foreign policy,” neoconservative éminence grise and former Bush adviser Elliot Abrams wrote in Politico today. “This erratic conduct leaves U.S. foreign policy in a shambles,” he added.
“If you’re going to say something, you’ve got to back it up, and this president clearly has retreated from the position that he took,” Oklahoma Republican Sen. Jim Inhofe said on Fox News, while simultaneously saying he opposed the strikes.
Likewise, former Bushies are not pleased, Politico reports. “No decision is ever totally catastrophic, but this one comes close,” former U.N. ambassador and Fox News regular John Bolton said. “To say that you have made a decision to use force, that the matter is grave and the timing is urgent and then to say but I’m not going to do it is irresponsible.”
The ironic thing, of course, is that many of these same voices have repeatedly accused Obama of circumventing Congress and overstepping his executive authority on every other issue — only to turn around and attack him for now wanting to consult Congress.
McCain has slammed Obama for ignoring lawmakers on everything from domestic policy to Benghazi, using strident rhetoric about the importance of representative democracy that seems totally at odds with his current finger waving on Libya. “Your administration’s disdain towards congressional authority and its failure to disclose public records feeds into its adversarial relationship with Congress and fuels public distrust in government,” McCain wrote in a letter to the White House in June.
Bolton and fellow Bush aide John Yoo have written about how the Obama administration was making “an end-run around Congress” on treaties for gun control and again for nuclear weapons. King launched an investigation into Obama’s 2012 deferred action on immigration policy, saying “the Administration is overstepping its authority.”
Not all neocons are anti-congressional oversight. Weekly Standard editor Bill Kristol said on Meet the Press Sunday that “there was really not strong reason not to go to Congress and good reasons to go.”
But the hypocrisy of some neocons was entirely predictable. In fact, David Corn predicted it Saturday, when Obama first announced his decision to go to Congress. “Some folks — particularly hawks and neocons yearning for a strike — will, no doubt, blast the president for wimping out on executive privilege,” he wrote. It turns out it took less than 24 hours for that prediction to prove true.