Tonight, I received Hillary Clinton‘s formal statement explaining her vote on the Kyl-Lieberman Iran Resolution — and her assertion that this did not amount to Congressional authorization for actions against Iran.
“Earlier today, I voted for a non-binding resolution that designates the Iranian Revolution Guard as a terrorist organization. The Revolutionary Guards are deeply involved in Iran’s nuclear program and have substantial links with Hezbollah.
“I voted for this resolution in order to apply greater diplomatic pressure on Iran. This resolution in no way authorizes or sanctions military action against Iran and instead seeks to end the Bush Administration’s diplomatic inaction in the region.
“Iran has gained expanded influence in Iraq and the region as a result of the Bush Administration’s polices which have also rejected diplomacy as a tool for addressing Iranian ambitions. While the United States has spurned talks, Iran has enhanced its nuclear enrichment capabilities, armed Iraqi Shiite militias, funneled arms to Hezbollah and subsidized Hamas, even as the government continues to damage its own citizens by mismanaging the economy and increasing political and social repression.
“I continue to support and advocate for a policy of entering into talks with Iran, because robust diplomacy is a prerequisite to achieving our aims.
“This legislation reaffirms my policy of engagement and refers specifically to the statement of Defense Secretary Gates who said that “diplomatic and economic means” are “by far the preferable approach” for dealing with the threat posed by Iran.
“In February, after troubling reports about the possibility of military action against Iran, I took to the Senate Floor to warn that President Bush needs Congressional Authorization before attacking Iran. Specifically, I said it would be a mistake of historical proportion if the Administration thought that the 2002 resolution authorizing force against Iraq was a blank check for the use of force against Iran without further and explicit Congressional authorization. Nor should the President think that the 2001 resolution authorizing force after the terrorist attacks of 9/11, in any way, authorizes force against Iran. If the Administration believes that any use of force against Iran is necessary, the President must come to Congress to seek that authority.
“Nothing in this resolution changes that.”
If all parties were above board, this statement could calm some nerves, but the problem with the current administration is the duplicity and overreach of the Executive Branch. Bush’s team concocted the anti-democratic notion of the “unitary executive” and has been disdainful of Congress’ constitutionally specified authorities and responsibilities.
This administration has stretched the authorizations Congress has given it in the past — and assembled rationalizations for action, like abandoning the Geneva Conventions, while Cheney staffers like David Addington stated “[Congress] doesn’t have a vote” in what the administration was doing.
So, even if one takes Hillary Clinton’s assertion at her word that she was not giving permission for the Kyl-Lieberman Resolution to be twisted into Congressional authorization for an Iran War, it doesn’t mean that other Senators saw it that way — and certainly doesn’t mean that the administration won’t spin the Resolution in that direction.
What is needed from Senator Clinton now is leadership in passing an explicit Senate resolution forbidding Bush from taking action against Iran without clear advise and consent from Congress — a Resolution that would move the President’s actions into the light instead of the murkiness where the possibility of an Iran action now rests.
That kind of resolution is needed. Some have been kicking around the Congress — but if Hillary Clinton, right now the front runner to be the next President of the United States — adopted this effort as her own, many would come to have greater trust in the kinds of rationales she provided in her statement above.
— Steve Clemons