One thing about being president is whatever actions you take – or don’t – can lay down a precedent for the future. Thus many of the actions taken by the Bush administration such as not releasing White House visitor guest logs were done to safeguard future freedoms of the Executive Branch.
There is a constant battle in Washington between lawmakers on Capitol Hill and the White House occupant. Congress wants to rein in power while the president seeks to act with freedom. One such example was after Richard Nixon resigned as president and his replacement, Gerald Ford, was called before Congress to testify. Many people – Dick Cheney for one – argued against it because the president would place himself below Congress.
President Ford decided to testify before Congress anyway but he did set a precedent which could be used in the future to limit the power of the Executive Branch and thus diminish the power of the presidency.
And thus , whichever party the president is a part, the head of the Executive Branch must do his or her best to preserve the freedoms that branch has because imagine what would happen to Government if Congress dominated the president?
President Obama’s biggest mistake in Syria was to draw a red line in the sand:
”[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.
So now what Obama has done is not only boxed himself – and the nation – into a corner by drawing a line in the sand but he has also now drawn a line in the sand and placed that in the hands of Congress, who could vote “no.”
Obama’s biggest mistake regarding Libya was saying “If they do X we will do Y.” He placed his and his naiton’s credibility on the line and let the deciding factor be a dictator’s whims. His second mistake was not making sure he had foreign support before saying something. Thus British Prime Minister David Cameron lost a vote in Parliament after Obama had already said he’d take action. That defeat is likely a key reason why Obama said he’d seek Congressional authorization in the first place.
But because the presidency is based upon precedent will the new litmus test for future conflicts now be that Congressional authorization will be required for any future military actions?
How much will Obama’s actions today limit the options of future presidents?
And it all could have been easily avoided had Obama been wise enough to act with more care.