The Republican presidential candidates gathered yesterday in Dearborn, MI for the first debate including candidate Fred Thompson. While most of the discussion focused on economic issues, the candidates spent time on the question of whether a president would need authorization from Congress prior to launching military action against Iran, an issue that has received greater attention recently following the Senate vote on the Lieberman-Kyl Iran amendment.
Mitt Romney: Rather than giving an unequivocal answer, Romney stated, “You sit down with your attorneys and tell you what you have to do, but obviously the president of the United States has to do what’s in the best interest of the United States to protect us against a potential threat.” While he noted that “the key thing here is to make sure that we don’t have to use military action against Iran,” he advocated sanctions rather than diplomacy, adding that the US needs to “get serious about treating Ahmadinejad like the rogue and buffoon he is."
Rep. Duncan Hunter: Hunter stated that the decision is dependent upon whether the target is fleeting, in which case the president would not need authorization. He favors going to Congress if there is time, but also made clear that Iran is moving toward developing a nuclear device and that the US “may have to pre-empt that target.”
Rep. Ron Paul: Rep. Paul responded with “absolutely,” and declared the idea that Iran poses an imminent threat “preposterous” and was merely “war propaganda preparing this nation to go to war.”
Mike Huckabee: Huckabee stated that a president has to do whatever is necessary to protect the American people and “I would do it in a hearbeat.” He said he would do this without approval of Congress if necessary, though he acknowledged that it’s better to get the approval of Congress if you have the time and “the luxury.” When asked what he would do if Congress said no, he replied, “you do what’s best for the American people and you suffer the consequences.”
Sen. John McCain: Sen. McCain said that while it depends on the scenario, “I would at minimum consult with the leaders of Congress because there may become a time where you need the approval of Congress,” ominously adding, “and I believe that this is a possibility that is maybe closer to reality than we are discussing tonight.”
Fred Thompson: Thompson agreed with McCain, adding “in any close call, you should go to Congress, whether it’s legally required or not, because you’re going to need the American people, and Congress will help you.”
Rudy Giuliani: Giuliani also gave a qualified answer, saying “it really depends on the exigency of the circumstances and how legitimate it is that it really is an exigent circumstance.” He described it as “safer” to go to Congress, but the president has to act in the best interests of the country under exigent circumstances.
Sen. Hillary Clinton entered into the conversation once again, this time in reference to her recent cosponsorship of Sen. Jim Webb’s bill to prohibit military action against Iran without congressional authorization. She became the first cosponsor of the bill after taking heat in the last debate for her vote in favor of the belligerent Lieberman-Kyl amendment. You can help keep this momentum going by writing your representative and asking him or her to cosponsor the accompanying bill in the House.