There are two ways and ONLY (unless someone can come up with another way) two ways to consider Mr. Obama's request to Congress for authority to use force against the Islamic State. The USA has now been flying missions against the Islamic State for about 6 months for the purpose of "degrading and destroying" them. Our president has either now confessed to violating the law, specifically the War Powers Act, or our president is looking to find ways to share the blame for the apparent failure, so far, to stop the Islamic State.
The first is simple. The War Powers Act, an act I think is unconstitutional, requires the president to seek Congressional authority to commit America's military forces beyond a relatively short period of time. That short period expired a few months ago. By now claiming he needs Congressional approval to act Mr. Obama is saying that the War Powers Act governs his use of force. He could, if he wanted, simply ask for money to fund operations, but he decided not to go this way. He instead claims he needs "authority" to do the job. No matter how you slice it, by asking Congress for the authority to fight against the Islamic State Mr. Obama has admitted his violation of the law he is now asking to be used to support him. Is this, seriously, the action of someone who really gives a damn about enforcing the laws properly?
I would give him credit if he refused to ask Congress for authority and instead asserted his Article 2 powers, but he lacks the Constitutional understanding and fortitude needed to make a principled claim like this. The man is just awful.
The second is simple too, and frankly flows from the explanation of the first. Given that the president has exceeded his statutory authority in the commitment of US forces, and that the Islamic State continues to expand (despite losing small ground holdings in a few areas), Mr. Obama is seeking to find a way to share the blame for his pathetic policy in this matter. Congress should refuse to help him extricate himself this way, but Congress should do what it can to help Mr. Obama become more successful, as his success becomes our success too. The best way to do that is to pass a concurrent resolution where both Houses agree that the 2001 AUMF following 9/11 gives the president the authority to utilize American forces against this vile enemy. So far Boehner has the right idea and says Congress will give Mr. Obama whatever resources he needs in order to achieve the policy goals he claims to support.
The problem is that those policy goals aren't matched by a disposition of military assets to accomplish them. I don't think Mr. Obama actually wants to succeed, he just wants to sound like he wants to succeed. If Congress picks up Obama's facetious request and deals with it then Mr. Obama will have his out. If Congress failed to approve it, then he will use that to explain his policy failure. And if Congress does approve it, then it contains enough ambivalent language along with some very specific limiting language to allow Mr. Obama to later claim his hands were too tightly tied which led to failure. But if others--Egypt is now getting into the fight--end up doing what Mr. Obama seems to not want to do, then Mr. Obama can claim complete success. Does ANYONE really think he wouldn't, and that Democrats generally wouldn't support such a claim?
It is supremely tragic for this great nation that we have a president whose fantastic narcissism is equally matched by a dearth of Constitutional fidelity and statutory integrity. But we can survive him. The real question is whether we will learn from having him.