John Feehery: Speaking Engagements


Boehner: The Adult in the Room

Posted on September 4, 2013

History doesn’t exactly repeat itself.


A dictator in the Middle East breaks international law in August.

A President asserts he has the authority to do what he wants to do, but seeks Congressional approval anyway.

The Arab League warns against American intervention.

Isolationists strongly condemn any efforts of the American President to get involved.

A Republican leader in the House takes a leadership position and helps to define the American value in being the one indispensable nation.

I had been on Capitol Hill for a year when Iraq invaded Kuwait in a clear violation of international law.

Bob Michel’s previous number 2 was running things at the Pentagon, and Newt Gingrich had a year as Whip under his belt.

George Bush said that this wouldn’t stand, but on that proposition, there was some serious doubt.

Pat Buchanan condemned Israel’s “Amen Corner,” and the official position of the Democratic Party was to oppose armed intervention.   I found Buchanan's arguments to be persuasive, until I talked to some of Michel's top people, like Bill Gavin, his former colleague in the Nixon White House, who convinced me that the world needed American leadership more than ever.

George Mitchell, Joe Biden, Tom Foley, Dick Gephardt and Nancy Pelosi were dead-set against the President using armed force to extricate Saddam Hussein.

Viet Nam was the war that everyone warned about. We don’t need another Viet Nam they said.

Colin Powell didn’t want another Viet Nam either, and that’s why he formulated the Powell Doctrine:  Use overwhelming force or don’t use it at all.

This was the last battle for the World War II generation.  They saw in Hussein a Hitler-like figure who needed to be confronted immediately.

Bob Michel drove the resolution in the House and Bob Dole drove in the Senate.  The Chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee and Sonny Montgomery, the Chairman of the Veteran’s Affairs Committee, sided with President Bush.

Prominent supporters of Israel, like Steve Solarz, also helped Michel push through the resolution.

Michel’s bipartisan coalition was wider than Dole’s in the Senate, but both were able to win approval for the President over liberal Democratic opposition.

Things, of course, change.

Instead of supporting President Bush, who was not only a skilled foreign policy expert widely respected on both sides of the aisle, but also a World War II veteran, Congressional leaders have to basically bail out a bumbling President Obama.


The bitter irony is that if Obama were in the Senate today, he would in all likelihood vote against giving whatever President that was in the White House the same authority that he asked for today.  That’s how he rolls.

And if the President were a Republican, it is highly unlikely that Nancy Pelosi would be supporting him.

To his credit, Harry Reid, the Senate Majority Leader, is consistent.  He supported Bush then and he supports Obama now.

John Boehner and Eric Cantor are doing the right thing.   They are acting like adults. America’s prestige is at stake and this is no time to play around with international stability.

Bashir Assad can’t get away with calling our President “weak.”  Neither can Vladimir Putin.


Barack Obama might be incompetent, but he is not weak, because he is President of the United States of America, and we are not weak.

I don’t think lobbing a few missiles into Damascus will necessarily change things in Syria, although, to be clear, when Ronald Reagan bombed Libya, Muammar Khaddafi certainly got the message, so I might wrong on that.

I think we all agree that getting ourselves deeply involved in Syria’s Civil War is not in our strategic interests.  But making certain that the rest of the world understands that using chemical weapons is not kosher with us, and backing that up with some well-placed explosive devices, probably makes sense in the long term.

John Boehner deserves credit.  He changed my mind on this.  He backs the President because he understands that America comes first.  Good for him.  Bad for Assad.