In a December 2007 survey of presidential candidates, Obama told The Boston Globe, "The President does not have power under the Constitution to unilaterally authorize a military attack in a situation that does not involve stopping an actual or imminent threat to the nation."Today, however, President Obama has nuanced his position:
The White House said the president's actions don't contradict his earlier views, noting that the president met with a bipartisan group of lawmakers regarding Libya before any action took place.During the Democratic Primaries Bill Clinton said that Obama's antiwar stance was a "fairytale." Many media outlets distorted that comment and suggested that Clinton described Obama's entire campaign as a fairytale. This distortion then sparked accusations that Clinton was a racist. The furor of Clinton's alleged racism deflected attention from the actual substance of the former president's observation -- that Obama is not as dovish as he portrayed himself.
A senior administration official said that the 2007 comment envisioned "an invasion like we saw in Iraq. A mission of this kind, which is time-limited, well-defined, and discrete, clearly falls within the President's constitutional authority."
Recently, the New York Times reported that several of Obama's senior staff, namely, Hillary Clinton, Samantha Power and Susan Rice, convinced him to use military force against Libya. When Bush pressed Congress to approve the use of military force against Iraq, 29 Senate Democrats voted to approve the measure. The list of Senators includes many close advisers to Obama, such as Hillary Clinton, Obama's Secretary of State; Joe Biden, Obama's Vice President; Tom Daschle, Obama's initial choice for Secretary of Health and Human Services; and John Kerry, an early Obama supporter and adviser. If three of President Obama's advisers could convince him to use military force against Libya in the absence of an imminent threat to the United States, it is also likely that influential Senate Democrats could have motivated him to support the use of force against Iraq. Obama has also escalated the war in Afghanistan -- a mission he has always admitted to supporting.
Obama made an astute political calculation to portray himself as an antiwar candidate during the Democratic Primaries. At the time, most of the country -- especially liberal Democrats -- opposed the invasion of Iraq. Because Obama and Clinton had virtually identical positions on most issues, he needed to distinguish himself from her in order to gain attention. His so-called opposition to the invasion of Iraq gave him the perfect narrative to win the nomination. In sum, Obama was a smart politician. Reverend Wright was absolutely correct when he described candidate Obama as a "politician." Nonetheless, Wright was vigorously condemned for this observation. Today, however, his words on this subject are unassailable.