1. The president cannot go to war without Congress
In a 2007 questionnaire for the Boston Globe, then-Senator Barack Obama replied:
The President does not have power under the Constitution to unilaterally authorize a military attack in a situation that does not involve stopping an actual or imminent threat to the nation.
In 2007, Obama also supported the War Powers Act, passed in 1973 with the stipulations that Congress must be notified within 48 hours of committing armed forces and that a declaration of war must be made within 60 days:
We thought we had learned this lesson after Vietnam. After Vietnam, Congress swore it would never again be duped into war and even wrote a new law, the War Powers Act, to ensure it would not repeat its mistakes.
By 2011, President Obama committed air power to aid the rebels fighting Moammar Gaddafi. An administration report justified the action without congressional approval on the grounds that it was not a war, but “kinetic military action“:
US operations do not involve sustained fighting or active exchanges of fire with hostile forces, nor do they involve the presence of US ground troops, US casualties or a serious threat thereof, or any significant chance of escalation into a conflict characterized by those factors.
Despite no legal consultation on the administration’s actions and more than 60 days later, White House Press Secretary Jay Carney told the media, “I’m not aware of any special seeking of guidance…We believe we are acting consistent with the War Powers Resolution.”
2. Debt Ceiling
Running against the Bush record in 2008, Obama said:
The way Bush has done it over the last eight years is to take out a credit card from the bank of China in the name of our children, driving up our national debt from $5 trillion for the first forty-two presidents. Number Forty-Three added $4 trillion by his lonesome so that we now have over $9 trillion of debt that we are going to have to pay back. $30,000 for every man, woman, and child. That’s irresponsible. That’s unpatriotic.
In the summer of 2011, Carney said of Obama in 2008 vs 2012:
The president…regrets that vote [against raising the debt limit in 2006] and thinks it was a mistake. He realizes now that raising the debt ceiling is so important to the health of this economy and the global economy that it is not a vote that, even when you are protesting an administration’s policies, you can play around with and you need to take very seriously the need to raise the debt limit so that the full faith and credit of the United States government is maintained around the globe.