Rand Paul To John Kerry: Why Is Bombing Libya OK, But Not Cambodia?

In the early 70’s John Kerry came out as a prominent opponent of Nixon’s order to bomb Cambodia without congressional approval. He said it was unconstitutional. He was right. A president ordering military force in a foreign country without any declaration of war from Congress is a dictator. The founding fathers didn’t want a king for president who could order acts of war on a whim. They wanted the people to decide through their congressional representatives. Article I, Section 8 of the Constitution gives only Congress the power “To declare War, grant Letters of Marque and Reprisal, and make Rules concerning Captures on Land and Water.”

This is something John Kerry allegedly still believes except when a Democrat does it, and then it’s OK. At Kerry’s Senate confirmation hearing, Senator Rand Paul asked Kerry about Obama’s order to bomb Libya without congressional approval:


Senator Paul:  In the early 1970’s, after Vietnam, you were quite critical of the bombing in Cambodia, because I think you felt that it wasn’t authorized by Congress. Has your opinion changed about the bombing in Cambodia? How’s Cambodia different than Libya?

Senator Kerry:  Nor did my opinion change, or has it ever altered about the war in Vietnam itself. Where I don’t believe, and I argued then…

Paul:  Is Cambodia different than Libya?

Kerry:  Well, Cambodia, yeah it is. Because it was an extension of the war that was being prosecuted without the involvement of Congress after a number of years. That’s very different…

Paul:  Length of time but similar circumstances – a bombing campaign unauthorized by Congress. See, the Constitution doesn’t really give this kind of latitude to sometimes go to war and sometimes not go to war. I thought Barack Obama was very explicit, and it’s what I liked about him frankly. People think, ‘Oh, Rand Paul certainly didn’t like anything about Barack Obama.’ I did like his forthrightness when he ran for office and said, ‘No president should unilaterally go to war. The Constitution doesn’t allow it.’

Kerry:  Well, I respect that. Look, you can be absolutist and apply it to every circumstance. The problem is, it just doesn’t work in some instances. When 10,000 people are about to be wiped out by a brutal dictator, and you need to make a quick judgment about engagement, you certainly can’t rely on a Congress that is proven itself unwilling to move after weeks and months sometimes.


Kerry claimed that Obama had no time to wait for a congressional approval to bomb Libya because a brutal dictator was “about to” slaughter 10,000 people. But as Hot Air pointed out, “Obama had nearly an entire month in which he could have asked for congressional approval but Kerry wants you to believe that his decision was made under some sort of emergency conditions, a la an invasion or nuclear attack, where the president had no choice logistically but to act on his own.”

What it boils down to is, the Constitution is meaningless to politicians like Kerry. He’ll pretend to be the champion of the Constitution if the other party favors bombing another country. But when it’s his own team doing the same thing, it’s always sold to the people as an “imminent threat” or a “humanitarian mission.” And it’s not a war. It’s an “overseas contingency operation.”