Barack Obama has suddenly discovered a new-found appreciation for Congress. For a man who has perverted the power of the executive branch in order to achieve his liberal goals, when things get tough he turns to Congress to spread the blame.
Yesterday and today, Obama has met with Congressional leaders over the crisis in Syria. His window of opportunity to convince them to support a strike on Syria is short, as he is supposed to head to the G20 summit. While the topic of Syria isn't officially on the table at the G20 summit, there is no doubt that the meeting's discussion (being held in Russia) will find its way to the issue of Syria.
Here's what's happened over the last few days:
On Friday, Secretary of State John Kerry came out with a statement calling Syrian leader Bashar al-Assad a “thug” and a “murderer.” I wonder if Kerry used the same sort of language when he dined privately with Assad just a few years ago. There's an image that you won't likely see circulating among the lapdog media. But Kerry's statement seemed to imply that Obama was on track for a limited strike in Syria. Doing nothing was “not an option,” according to Kerry. Kerry said that the question isn't what we know – that's been confirmed – but what we are going to do about it.
After sending Kerry out there to make the case for action, on Saturday Barack Obama came out with a statement on Syria: “I have decided that the United States should take military action against Syrian regime targets.” But even though he has apparently already made the decision, Obama threw us a curve ball: That he will seek Congressional approval before any action is taken in Syria. Oh really? Seems like he's doing things a little backwards, don't you think? Like I said above, Obama hasn't shown much appreciation for Congress and its authority until he finds himself backed into a corner. Obama and his advisors are not dumb. They recognize that there really isn't a win-able solution in Syria and the American people overwhelming do not support any action. So rather than bearing the brunt of that blame all on his own, Obama is now trying to spread the wealth. Involving Congress is not some great act of Constitutional appreciation, it is a selfish act of trying to save his presidency.
Yesterday Obama met with Lindsey Graham and John McCain … yes, Obama is actually meeting with the man who was once his opponent to now help bail him out. John McCain's opinion is that if Obama is going to strike, he needs to make it a worthwhile strike, meaning that lobbing a few cruise missiles is nothing but a symbolic gesture that lacks any real goal. If the goal is the depletion of Assad's ability to respond, then we need to act with enough force to do so. But that's the problem – Obama doesn't really seem to have a goal other than to save his own butt and retain what little credibility he has left. McCain is looking for “a resolution that addresses Assad’s weapons capability, gets weapons to the rebels and shifts momentum on the ground in favor of the Syrian Free Army.” Meanwhile, an official briefed on the options in Syria told the L.A. Times that Obama would “seek a level of intensity 'just muscular enough not to get mocked' but not so devastating that it would prompt a response from Syrian allies Iran and Russia.” Not to be mocked? Is this what our foreign policy has come to?
On the other side of the spectrum you have anti-war Democrats who want a more limited approach. In drafting a new resolution, Democrats want to make sure that the language is specific enough to prevent boots-on-the-ground action in Syria. Similarly, you have libertarian-minded Republicans who also do not want to be dragged into another war, especially by a president who they see as hypocritical considering his previous position on Iraq. And somewhere in the middle you have the Democrats who are reluctantly willing to back Obama because, well, he's Obama and therefore can do no wrong.
This morning Obama met with House and Senate leaders. After this meeting, John Boehner announced that he will support Obama's call for action. Also this morning, members of Congress had a classified briefing on the situation in Syria. Just as the show is getting underway, John Kerry, Chuck Hagel and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs Martin Demsey are testifying at the Senate foreign relations committee.
So we are at the point now where Obama has decided that action will be taken in Syria, but he wants Congress to validate his decision. John Kerry reasserted on the Sunday shows that Obama has the authority to do so without Congressional approval. So if that's the president's decision, then he can stand alone and he can go for it and then he can single-handedly bear the responsibility for whatever repercussions come as a result. After all, it's HIS failed foreign policy that has gotten us to this point. I'm not saying that this is the correct strategy, but Obama did have the option over a year ago from Hillary Clinton and David Petraeus to act in Syria while there was still a chance of supporting the pro-American, secular rebels. That chance is now gone, as the rebel opposition has been largely usurped by al Qaeda affiliates or sympathizers. This is just one of many examples of Obama failing to act, hoping that his lead-from-behind strategy will produce the utopian results he speaks of in his speeches. From Tehran to Egypt to Syria, Obama's actions have shown the world that the United States is unwilling to lead and we are not to be counted on. Some Americans are OK with this, as they wish for the United States to return to an isolationist mentality, particularly in regards to the Middle East where “victory” seems impossible. Others view this as a blow to our global credibility, which will ultimately cause instability around the world and therefore come back to bite us in the end anyway.
If Barack Obama believes that there is an important U.S. interest in Syria, he has failed to really explain it … especially to the American people. Instead, he is relying on the media, which is once again hypocritically willing to carry the water for why Obama is justified in taking action in Syria. Even the New York Times public editor has called out the paper's coverage of Syria as not “consistently skeptical.” Elliott Abrams writes in the Politico: “Surely this episode will be studied in schools of government for decades, as an example of how foreign policy should never be conducted: without apparent guiding principle, unpredictably, by fits and starts, and via statements and speeches that are misleading if they are not incoherent.”
Here are a few more articles related to Syria, for those of you trying to keep up with the situation: