As President Obama faces a hail of criticism for his Libya policy, liberal Democrats arguing that Obama repeated the mistake of his predecessor by acting without congressional authorization have found some unlikely allies in the tea party. But the movement is sharply divided on the military action.
“I am outraged,” Everett Wilkinson, chairman of the South Florida Tea Party and state coordinator for the Tea Party Patriots, wrote in a Monday night email on behalf of both groups. "First, Obama’s actions show a complete disregard for the Constitution and the American people. Second, the U.S. Congress has had more than enough time to formally convene and 'declare war.' "
Jamie Radtke, a former chair of the Virginia Tea Party Patriots who is running for the GOP Senate nomination in her state, decried Obama's “decision to commit America to a third concurrent war" without a vote by Congress and without an imminent security threat posed by Libya.
In contrast, national tea party organizations are observing strict neutrality on Libya: Tea Party Express and FreedomWorks, two of the best-known tea party umbrella organizations, declined to comment on the military action. That's because, outside of fiscal issues, there's no consensus in the tea party movement, said Levi Russell, a spokesman for the Tea Party Express. “Among the many tea party groups, there is a very broad spectrum of views about foreign policy,” Russell said. “Some folks are totally opposed to the Iraq war; others extremely supportive.”
Case in point: Sharron Angle, a tea party favorite who unsuccessfully challenged Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid in 2010, has announced her candidacy for the open seat held by Rep. Dean Heller, R-Nev., next year. In a conference with reporters over the weekend, Angle said she supported the president’s plan for Libya.
The tea partiers who are speaking out on Obama's moves in Libya sound remarkably like the president's critics at the opposite end of the ideological spectrum: Rep. Dennis Kucinich, D-Ohio, who has called Obama’s handling of Libya “an impeachable offense,” appealed for contributions as he denounced the military action in a video released on Monday. “Whether you like President Obama or not is not the question,” he said. “The question is if you like the Constitution more.”
The tea party can’t seem to agree strongly enough on that point. Rep. Ron Paul, R-Texas, a past and possibly future presidential candidate, has said any military action must be "declared by the proper Constitutional authority: the U.S. Congress." If it came to a roll call, Paul added, he'd vote "no."