Reprinted from The Nation
Congress has a constitutional duty to debate whether to authorize a new war with ISIS in the old trouble spots of Syria and Iraq.
President Obama made a number of powerful proposals in his address to the United States Sunday night -- for sensible gun-control measures, for respecting this country's restrictions against religious tests, for an understanding of the role that Muslims in the United States and abroad can play in combating terrorism. Speaking in a tense moment following the terrorist attacks in Paris and San Bernardino, Obama asked Americans to reject fear and bigotry and to embrace reason and the rule of law.
"We were founded upon a belief in human dignity that no matter who you are, or where you come from, or what you look like or what religion you practice, you are equal in the eyes of God and equal in the eyes of the law," the president told the nation, in a rare televised address. "Even in this political season, even as we properly debate what steps I and future presidents must take to keep our country safe. Let's make sure we never forget what makes us exceptional. Let's not forget that freedom is more powerful than fear. That we have always met challenges, whether war or depression, natural disasters or terrorist attacks, by coming together around our common ideals as one nation and one people."
Of course, "in this political season," Obama's appeal to reason drew predictable denunciations from the neocon fever swamp. Republican presidential candidates, drunk on outdated patent medicine from Dick Cheney's cabinet, were condemning the president for inaction even as Obama proposed action.
Despite what the conservatives critics claimed, the agenda Obama laid out was an ambitious one.
The proposals the president made merit debate. Some will be rejected. Others will be reworked before they are accepted.
But one proposal from the president should be beyond debate. He said the war in which the United States is currently engaged must be reviewed by Congress. On this, the president was both practically and constitutionally correct.
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John Nichols, a pioneering political blogger, has written the Online Beat since 1999. His posts have been circulated internationally, quoted in numerous books and mentioned in debates on the floor of Congress.
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