Steve Chapman: Every President is a War President ... Politics Protects the Garrison State

Roundup: Talking About History

Steve Chapman is a member of the Tribune's editorial board.

Ninety-six years ago, when President Woodrow Wilson ran for re-election, two notable things happened: 1) His campaign used the slogan "He kept us out of war," and 2) he won.
It has been a long time since any president could seek a second term while making that boast. Looking at recent history, you would conclude not that the Constitution allows the president to make war, but that it requires him to do so. Modern leaders don't brag about keeping us out of war but about getting us in.
Barack Obama reinforces that truth more than any president of our era. He owed his victory in the 2008 Democratic primaries partly to his record of opposing the invasion of Iraq — which Hillary Rodham Clinton and John Edwards supported.
"We've had enough of a misguided war in Iraq that never should have been fought — a war that needs to end," he said during the campaign. He proclaimed, "Now is the time to start bringing our troops out of Iraq — immediately." His opponents, Democratic and Republican, portrayed him as gullible and weak. But the voters were willing to elect someone who might be slightly averse to war.
Or, rather, someone they thought might be slightly averse...

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