The Obama administration has recently come under fire from several members of Congress for the manner in which the United States went to war in Libya. Dennis Kucinich, Ron Paul, and others filed a lawsuit alleging that the Obama administration failed to comply with the 1973 War Powers Resolution, which basically set timetables for informing Congress of hostilities and seeking authorization. It came about as a result of Congress's failure to protect its part in exercising serious oversight over war during Vietnam and the Nixon administration's incursion into Cambodia.
Virtually every administration since then has taken the line that the War Powers Resolution is unconstitutional because it infringes upon the president's power as commander-in-chief. The Obama administration asserts that, because the Libya operation doesn't involve "hostilities" and involves the U.S. in a limited role, congressional authorization is not required.
Putting aside the questions of constitutionality and legitimacy, is the Obama administration taking the right stance on Libya politically?
Because the Obama administration didn't ask members of the Senate and the House of Representatives to put their views on the record by voting while pro-intervention sentiment was at the highest point, it allowed Libya to become a potential campaign issue and brought the current debate over war powers upon itself. Remember when the Obama administration appeared reluctant to intervene in Libya, and Senator John Kerry (D-MA, Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee) and Senator John McCain (R-AZ, ranking member on the Senate Armed Services Committee) led the charge for a no-flight zone? Other Democrats and Republicans seemed afraid to put their views on the record for fear of pushing against the pro-intervention momentum. By asking for a vote early on, President Obama could have locked in this momentum, given the Libyan intervention an aura of bipartisan legitimacy, and made it difficult for members of Congress to attack either the practical or constitutional basis of the intervention later on.
Now, Republicans like House Majority Leader Eric Cantor can talk as if they always opposed intervention and re-define the narrative. Because the Obama administration failed to even acknowledge constitutional checks and balances and seek some form of authorization, it allowed the debate to become about the War Powers Resolution itself.
So, whether you think the United States was right to intervene or not, one thing is clear: when it came to securing the political basis for acting in Libya, the Obama administration made a huge blunder by not asking for authorization early on.