How President Obama Can Answer An Important Constitutional Question With Tonight's Speech On Syria

President Obama will make his case for what to do about Syria this evening. The President could put on hold plans for a military strike, after Russia proposed to secure Syria's stockpiles of chemical weapons. David Pitman talked with a local political expert who expects tonight's speech to answer the fundamental question of whether the President needs Congress to be on board with taking military action abroad.

Jeremy Bailey is an Associate Professor of Political Science at the Honors College at the University of Houston. He says since the Korean War, the nation has been in what he describes as a "murky area" on whether it's always absolutely necessary to get Congress to sign off on war, or war-like actions.

"In some sense, I think Obama has to be praised for, in a way, forcing Americans to reconsider this question -- and not just assuming that presidents have a blank check, under the constitution, to do whatever they want to do."

Bailey, however, says there was the bombing of Libya, when President Obama appeared to be acting like previous presidents who believed they didn't always have to go through Congress.

"Now he seems to be walking that back. And, in walking that back, I think this could be a big moment in our constitutional politics, and understanding who holds the war power. And, it may be, that Obama is saying 'look, I'm giving it back to Congress.'"

Bailey says the prospects of Congress giving the president the power to do whatever he wants with Syria appear to be dimming. But he says if the president can provide some clarity to his overall policy in the region, he might gain more public support.

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David Pitman

Local Host, Morning Edition

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