Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky, a leading GOP freshman and founder of the Tea Party Caucus, tells National Review Online that he will vocally oppose President Obama’s handling of the Libyan conflict once Congress returns next week.
Paul is alarmed at how Obama and his allies have rolled out their war plan. “For a week, this administration indicated that they were not going to do a no-fly zone. Then, when Congress is out of session, all of sudden the war begins,” he says. “We got a note saying, ‘Oh, by the way, we are at war now.’ Nobody really asked Congress to have any participation in the decision-making. That is not what our Founding Fathers intended.”
Legislation, Paul says, may be in the works. “There may be something that comes forward when we come back,” he hints. “There are various ways of addressing this. At the very least, we are going to have a discussion about the president’s own words [from December 2007], that show how he is diametrically going against what he promised as a candidate. We will repeat and recite those words, then let the American people decide.”
In coming days, if the president pushes for ground troops in Libya, Paul is ready to tangle with members of both parties. “The opposition will get much more vocal if [Obama] does that,” he predicts, even though “some in our caucus are big on promoting being involved in a third war-theater, and many of them are not opposed to ground troops.”
“Some people can debate and caterwaul and say that a no-fly zone is not war, but there will not be many people, in and around the country, who believe that putting U.S. troops on the ground is not war,” Paul says. “I can tell you, absolutely, that I will demand a declaration of war on the Senate floor before any troops set foot in Libya.”
Beyond his constitutional concerns, Paul argues that the Libyan conflict is being waged to support a mostly unknown rebel force. “The question is, who are these people?” he asks. “We know how bad the guy in power is, but do we know that these people are not in favor of radical sharia law? Do we know that they do not think that Israel should be wiped off the map? I am always concerned when we are in favor of people who we know nothing about.” George Will, Pat Buchanan, and Sen. Dick Lugar (R., Ind.), he says, have all raised this important point.
Looking ahead, Paul is confident that GOP lawmakers, and members of the Tea Party, will push for more congressional oversight and press Obama on his handling of the conflict. “Even on the Republican side, there are people who are saying, ‘Hey, wait a minute, wasn’t Congress supposed to have something to do with declaring war?’” he says.
While Paul acknowledges that the president can and should act during nuclear or terrorist emergencies, “many of us would like to see a process similar to when we declared war against Japan, where within 24 hours Congress was meeting to vote.”