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Week In Politics: DHS Funding, ISIS, Same-Sex Marriage In Alabama


And here is the week in politics in 30 seconds - OK, more like 35.


PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: The resolution we submitted today does not call for the deployment of U.S. ground combat forces to Iraq or Syria. It is not the authorization of another ground war.


SENATOR LINDSEY GRAHAM: I think they are trying to legitimize a failed strategy. I'm not going to be part of it.


CONGRESSMAN JOHN BOEHNER: We won the fight to fund the Department of Homeland Security and to stop the president's unconstitutional actions. Now why don't you go ask the Senate Democrats when they're going to get off their ass and do something other than to vote no?


ROY MOORE: They can mandate same-sex marriage. But they can't force a constitutional officer to disobey his oath by performing one.

MARTIN: That's Alabama Chief Justice Roy Moore on why he told probate judges this week not to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples, defying a federal ruling. We also heard John Boehner talking about a $40 billion Homeland Security bill that is at a stalemate. And South Carolina Republican Lindsey Graham and President Obama about the White House request to Congress to formally authorize the use of military force in the war against ISIS.

And that is where we will begin with our Friday commentators, E J Dionne of The Washington Post and Brookings Institution and David Brooks of The New York Times. Nice to see both of you.

DAVID BROOKS, BYLINE: Good to see you.

E J DIONNE, BYLINE: Good to be with you.

MARTIN: So the president has now formally asked Congress for the green light against ISIS. But it is my understanding that this did not have to originate with him. Congress could have gotten this process started. David, why didn't they?

BROOKS: Well, that was the Constitution. We don't really pay much attention to that document anymore.


BROOKS: This is a presidential initiative. And I guess what bothers me is how ambivalent an initiative it is. I was talking to two financial people, and I asked them separately, what's the biggest problem around the world that you worry about for markets, for the economies? And they both separately said ISIS, which really surprised me. I thought they'd say the euro or whatever. But they said if ISIS spreads throughout the Middle East, then that will create an economic cataclysm. And I think that underlines the seriousness of the potential threat. And I'm glad the president's doing what he's doing and I'm glad he's being active. But he does it in a way - and we just heard it in that clip - I'm not doing this. I'm not doing this. He's sort of foreclosing. So he's got one foot in and one foot out, which has been symptomatic of his foreign policy in that region. And I would just - if he's going to ask for authorization, which he certainly should do, I would just say, well, let's get some authorized. Let's set our goals. Let's not set our means and let's do what we need to do to conquer this threat.

MARTIN: E J, the president says this won't mean a new ground war. Many Democrats don't buy it.

DIONNE: Right, well, I mean, what's really striking here is, first, Congress was very reluctant to take this on because they didn't want to cast hard votes. So it really - they were waiting on the president to come through and say, I want this. Secondly, what's striking is the president is being hit from his left and from his right. If - and that it's - why it's going to be very hard to write this resolution, because Democrats are primarily - or a lot of Democrats - are primarily worried about getting inveigled in a big and complicated ground war. And Republicans are primarily worried about whether the president's strategy can work. And I think, you know, either he is - has found the golden mean or he's found a position that satisfies no one. The problem is we don't want to send lots of ground troops there, and we won't. But in order to defeat them we may need more people on the ground than we have now. And the president is trying to keep his options open while still reassuring people we're not getting involved in another big war again.

MARTIN: OK, we're going to move to another tense issue on Capitol Hill. There's a standoff happening right now, and the future of the Department of Homeland Security hangs in the balance. The House is holding up funding for DHS because it wants to see the president's immigration policy changed. Senate Republicans say let's just approve it and move on. David, is this kind of awkward for Republicans right now?

BROOKS: Awkward, yeah. First, I want to pay tribute to E J's use of the worded inveigled.


BROOKS: Very impressive. It may be an NPR first.

MARTIN: I'm going to look that up right after this.

BROOKS: It's - you know, this was sort of a farce, and it's turned into a bit of a travesty. You know, you're Republican. You've taken over both Houses. You've got a chance to do some stuff. And so you'd think you could pick something you could actually pass. But there was no chance of them passing what they wanted to do. They wanted to protest the president's immigration order. And I guess they want to do that for principle, which I actually agree with. But maybe they wanted to do it to pump up the donors. But so they're lost, trapped in something they can't achieve and looking very uncoordinated between the House and Senate, looking sort of inept in the process. So, as a way to start your majority, I'm sort of baffled by all this.

MARTIN: You have thoughts on this, E J?

DIONNE: They are acting as if they're still in the opposition with no responsibility. You know how everybody said, well, now we have to govern? Well, you had John Boehner in the House pass a proposal that was way to the right of where a lot of Republicans are, because it not only went after the president's executive order on keeping families together, it also went after his executive order on the DREAMers, which is quite popular. And so it goes over the Senate where, now, the Democrats can filibuster Republican proposals. They're not going to vote for something like this. And you can only imagine - what if it were the Democrats holding up funding for the Department of Homeland Security? I can only imagine what you'd be hearing from the Republicans on how they are getting in the way of the safety of the United States. Republicans have got to extricate themselves from this. It's not going to help them in the long run with the immigration issue, and they've got to pass this funding somehow.

MARTIN: Who's going to blink? I mean, do you have any predictions on how this ends?

BROOKS: Oh, the Republicans are going to blink. There's no way they're not going to fund it because they can't win, so they'll blink.

MARTIN: We're going to move South because that is now the front line of the gay marriage debate in this country. That state's chief justice - we heard a tape from him earlier - he told probate judges not to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples. It defied a federal ruling by federal courts, which had made gay marriage legal. This comes months before the Supreme Court is set to take up the gay marriage question. E J, what is the significance of what's happening in Alabama?

DIONNE: Well, it's very confusing to get married in Alabama right now. If you look at a map, because you've got these two conflicting rulings, you have some counties going ahead with gay marriages. You have some counties going ahead with only marriages for straight people - for men and women. And then you've got some counties who threw up their hands and said, well, we won't marry anybody for a while. It's a very bizarre situation. I think the - this will settle down when the Supreme Court rules. Every indication is that they will rule in favor of gay marriage. It's striking. I heard from an opponent of gay marriage who really wanted the Supreme Court to get it out of the way and rule in favor of it.

MARTIN: David?

BROOKS: Yeah, I'm usually against courts deciding these things. I think Roe v. Wade - I'm of those who think Roe v. Wade really destroyed our abortion conversation. But, in this case, public opinion is flowing so quickly, I think the courts should just step in and act. And the defiance of the court order by the local judge clearly is the wrong thing to do. So courts will clear this up, and we'll be done with this issue pretty soon, I suspect.

MARTIN: E J Dionne of The Washington Post and Brookings Institution, David Brooks of The New York Times, thanks to you both.

DIONNE: Good to be with you.

BROOKS: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.