The Players: Indiana Senator Richard Lugar; Massachusetts Senator John Kerry
Opening Serve: Kerry, chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, fully endorsed a no-fly zone in Libya, telling CBS's Face the Nation that, "the last thing we want to think about is any kind of military intervention. And I don't consider the no-fly zone stepping over that line." He told the Carnegie Endowment for Peace that, "how we respond today--right now--will, in my judgement, shape our strategic position in the entire MIddle East, and how Muslims around the world see us going forward."
Return Volley: Lugar, Senate Foreign Relations Committee’s top Republican, wrote Kerry a letter requesting a hearing to address the rest of the committee's opinions on U.S. action in Libya. "I believe hearings not only would provide some important answers to Senators and to the American people, they would induce the Obama Administration to conduct in-depth contingency planning that does not seem to have occurred," he wrote. He encloses an article by New York Times columnist Tom Friedman which he says "poses many additional questions that should be explored in hearings on the Libya intervention."
What They Say the Fight's About: Lugar seems frustrated that Kerry, with whom he has previously agreed politically and collaborated, ignored his, and other committee members', dissenting opinions on Libya intervention. "I noted a newspaper story today that cited one of your spokesmen as saying there are no plans for a hearings on Libya," the letter reads. "I wanted to make clear that I believe prompt hearings on Libya in our Committee are essential." He adds: "I expressed serious doubts about a U.S. military intervention and urged the President to seek a declaration of war if he ordered an attack on Libya."
The Bigger Issue Here: Whether Obama should have gotten Congress's approval for the no-fly zone. "Lugar is fuming about how President Obama went into Libya without congressional approval, an intervention Kerry has championed," writes The Boston Globe's Farah Stockman. Lugar writes that "the Obama Administration did not consult meaningfully with Congress before initiating military operations," making "hearings on Libya especially vital." But, The Washington Post's David Rivkin and Lee Casey note that while, technically, only Congress has the power to start a war, "when the Constitution was adopted, the power to 'declare war' was not equivalent to permitting the use of military force," which is what Obama has just approved in Libya.
Who's Winning Now: As of this afternoon, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee chairman is planning to hold hearings on the Libyan intervention "in the near future," Bloomberg reports. So, though the Obama Administration cannot turn back time and consult Congress before joining coalition forces in Libya, we have to give this one to Lugar who, technically, got what he asked for.
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