The return of national security as a campaign issue worries dovish Dems
Rep. Greg Walden of Oregon, the chair of the Republican Congressional Campaign Committee, says the terrorism issue is "popping" on the campaign trail.
And that means some uncomfortable moments for Democratic doves who oppose any action against ISIS, and who voted against arming the Syrian rebels.
In truth, few, if any of these Democrats are in political trouble. They hail from solid Democratic districts and represent like-minded constituents for the most part.
But no politician likes to go on the defensive, and these Democrats are bracing for tough questions at town hall meetings over the next couple of weeks.
Rep. Steve Israel of New York, chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, agreed that the terrorism was on voters' minds but accused Republicans of playing politics with the issue.
"I think most Americans, particularly in competitive districts, want a robust response to terrorists around the world," said Mr. Israel, New York Democrat. "You know, there was a time when politics ended at the water's edge. And this should not be political; this should be about protecting the American people."
Rep. Raul M. Grijalva, Arizona Democrat, said he was bracing for town hall meetings and other political events that would be dominated by questions about the Islamic State, which has seized a swath of territory in Iraq and Syria that is equal to the size of Maryland.
The terrorist group grabbed international attention by releasing videos of beheadings of two kidnapped U.S. journalists and a British aid worker.
But Mr. Grijalva compared Mr. Obama's plan to President George W. Bush's run-up to the Iraq War.
"I'm going to say that I voted 'no' because I was here and I've seen this movie before," Mr. Grijalva said.
Echoing scores of fellow Democrats, Mr. Grijalva called for a full debate and vote on an Authorization for Use of Military Force that encompasses all of Mr. Obama's war plan. He called it a "very important step, the Constitutional step."
"I didn't feel Congress should be left out of the loop," he said.
Rep. Jerrold Nadler, New York Democrat, said he would tell his constituents that Mr. Obama had overstepped his constitutional authority.
"I'll tell them, because I'm sure they'll ask, that the main reason I voted against [Mr. Obama's plan] is that I think it is beyond the constitutional power of the president to order offensive airstrikes without congressional authorization," he said. "We ought to be voting on an Authorization for Use of Military Force. We still ought to. I'm am very strong on that."
He said it was the same reason he opposed Mr. Obama's airstrikes in Libya, which helped rebels topple dictator Moammar Gadhafi.
Many of those Democrats wouldn't support a war resolution either, so it's hardly the point that they didn't vote for arming the Syrian rebels because of a lack of congressional authorization. It's a political smokescreen to make that argument, but it probably satisfies their dovish constituents.
The significance of this is that there are probably as many Republicans as Democrats who are opposed to the president bombing Syria without congressional approval. This sets up a constitutional showdown, probably after the election, that could see some very strange alliances formed to try and force the president to follow the constitution.