During an appearance on Fox News Sunday, Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA) criticized Congress for leaving Washington on a lengthy recess without having a debate or vote on a new authorization for use of military force (AUMF) to be used in regards to the conflict with ISIS in Syria and Iraq. Conservative pundits will be quick to jump on Schiff’s remarks and claim that he is condemning the President and his administration regarding their claims that they can utilize the 2001 AUMF that has been used to combat Al Qaeda and its affiliates.
However, while Schiff did state he doesn’t agree with the Obama Administration’s interpretation of that AUMF, he defended the President on his strategy and pushed back against host Chris Wallace’s assertions that Obama and his military advisers are at odds. Schiff’s main condemnation was for Congress high-tailing it out of Dodge and forcing the President to act alone. In Schiff’s mind, since the president has said that this is a war with ISIS, Congress should have stuck around Washington until it could have decided on an appropriate AUMF for this particular military action.
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Wallace first tried to force Schiff into a corner with questions about so-called differences between Obama and military advisers and experts regarding the need for ‘boots on the ground.’ Schiff adroitly handled Wallace’s attempts to get the Congressman to agree that Obama is being disingenuous with his claims that America will not be sending in combat ground troops.
Below is from the show’s transcript:
WALLACE: Let me bring Congressman Schiff into this.
You oppose the use of ground forces in a combat role in Iraq. But the chairman of the Joint Chiefs, General Dempsey, the Army Chief of Staff Ray Odierno say that they may be need. And so, in fact, does Robert Gates the first Obama secretary of defense. Take a look.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ROBERT GATES, FORMER DEFENSE SECRETARY: There will be boots on the ground if there’s to be any hope of success in the strategy. I think by continuing to repeat that the president in effect traps himself.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WALLACE: Congressman, are Gates and Odierno and Dempsey, are they all wrong?
SCHIFF: No, I don’t think they’re all wrong. But I don’t think they’re at odds with the president. What Dempsey has said is if circumstances down the road pose a threat to the United States, he’ll make a different recommendation. That is what he should do. His role is different than the president’s.
But I think the president —
WALLACE: But the president isn’t saying, well, if circumstances change, he’s saying no. No U.S. combat forces.
SCHIFF: Yes, that’s what he’s saying. But Dempsey is also saying that he subscribes to the strategy of utilizing Iraqi and Peshmerga forces on the ground, not Americans in the combat mission. I think that’s the right call.
What the general is saying I’m in agreement with that strategy. If that strategy doesn’t work or at some point there’s a threat to the United States, I’m going to make a different recommendation to the president. And that’s exactly what we should want —
WALLACE: And you think the president will be open then to a different strategy?
SCHIFF: I think the president will be open.
But, Chris, I want a president who is not going to accept everything that the military says uncritically.
Look, we have tried massive occupations in Iraq earlier, and in Afghanistan. We’re in Afghanistan now 13 years later, we still haven’t solved the problem in Afghanistan. Do we really want to be in a position where 13 years from now, we are massively occupying Syria and Iraq? I don’t think that’s what we want.
And one other point, Chris, that is, the president’s role is obviously different than the military command’s role. If the military command’s job to tell the president what they want, it’s the president’s job to decide what they need, and the president has to bring our country along. That’s a tough job.
As you can see, Schiff didn’t take Wallace’s bait. He also pointed out that he wants a president who doesn’t just do every single thing the military tells him to. The California Congressman also made an excellent point by bringing up Afghanistan and how the United States is still there 13 years later. Do we really want to be occupying Syria and Iraq more than a decade from now?
Schiff then ripped into Congress for leaving town without acting. Wallace asked Schiff if Congress was abandoning its responsibilities by going on recess without voting on a new AUMF.
WALLACE: We have a couple of minutes left. I want to ask you each one more question.
Congressman Schiff, I’m going to ask you about Congress because this week as we pointed out, you did approve $500 million to arm and train the Syrian rebels. On the other hand, you’re going to go home, without a larger vote to authorize what in effect is a new war.
And the question I have is, is Congress forfeiting its constitutional responsibility?
SCHIFF: Absolutely. Absolutely. The president has said this is a war. This is going to last years. That is quintessentially something that is the power of Congress only to declare, and I think we are really [abdicating] our responsibility.
Congress should take up an authorization to use force — as you know, Chris, I’ve introduced one that would be very narrow but would I think bring this fight within a constitutional framework. I don’t accept the administration’s argument we can rely on the 2001 AUMF which applied to a different conflict against a different enemy at a different time.
So, I think it’s an abdication of constitutional dimension.
As I stated before, conservatives are going to use this statement from Schiff as a condemnation of President Obama. In reality, it is a total criticism of Congress. Real and legitimate issues need to be addressed. Instead of doing anything about it, they decide to get the hell out of town. Therefore, Congress is constantly forcing President Obama to deal with these issues unilaterally. Of course, this works to their benefit because they Republicans then claim that he is a tyrannical dictator who hates the Constitution. Instead of taking a vote and putting their names on the record regarding a tough issue just before the midterm elections, members of Congress decided to punt and leave it on Obama’s plate. (Mind you, there are quite a few Democrats who are extremely happy to do this.)
Rep. Schiff pointed that out clearly on Sunday.
Justin Baragona is the Managing Editor at Politicus Sports as well as Senior Editor at PoliticusUSA. He was a political writer for 411Mania.com before joining PoliticusUSA. Politically, Justin considers himself a liberal but also a realist and pragmatist. Currently, Justin lives in St. Louis, MO and is married. Besides writing, he also runs his own business after spending a number of years in the corporate world. You can follow Justin on Twitter either with his personal handle (@justinbaragona) or the Sports site’s (@PoliticusSports).