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But Obama does set himself up to reap a lot of disadvantages. As a legal matter, if the military situation in Libya goes sour, then the president will be forced to abide by the War Powers Act the next time or face a big backlash.
As for the politics, Obama has put himself and his party at risk of being seen as insisting unilaterally on a policy that makes things worse or at least costs huge sums of money for no discernible positive result.
Politically speaking, Libya can’t be divorced from the Middle East, a volatile region now more politically dangerous than normal. It is far too risky for Democrats to be seen by the public as the sole owners of the outcome. The better strategy, both for the party and the country, was to invite Congress to be a full partner, assuming the risks and sharing in the rewards, as appropriate.
Instead, the White House seemed determined to risk its future over an uncertain outcome in a country with little record of providing positive results for America. With all due respect to the White House lawyers, they have badly served this president, who was obligated, in our view, to have sought Congressional authorization in February for the military action in Libya.
Paul Goldman is former chairman of the Democratic Party of Virginia. Mark J. Rozell is professor of public policy at George Mason University.