September 3, 2013

* A must read from Paul Waldman on the liberal dilemma on Syria, and why there are no good options, other than distracting ourselves by talking about politics, of course. Also note Waldman on the punditry about “optics”:

Can we please stop caring whether Obama “looks weak”? You know who spent a lot of time worrying about whether he looked weak, and made sure he never did? George W. Bush. Everybody lauded his “moral clarity,” his ability to see things in black and white, good guys and bad guys, smoke ‘em out, dead or alive. And look where that got us.

* Ed Kilgore pivots off Waldman to add:

Yes, the president’s and the country’s credibility and predictability are tangible diplomatic assets that need to be protected. But when “strength” is invariably defined as a matter of using lethal force, the means to protecting America’s authority quickly overcome and sometimes obliterate the ends.

* Another poll, this one from WaPo/ABC, finds broad opposition to strikes on Syria, especially among independents. Opposition holds even in the hypothetical event of England and France joining the US campaign.

* Digby acknowledges the liberal desire to “do something” about Assad’s gas attacks, but while taking that into account, she makes the one-sentence case against intervention:

If it’s not obvious that violence is the only answer then it’s not the answer.

* Katrina Vanden Heuvel finds the flaws in the Obama administration’s case for intervening Syria, while acknowledging (as many liberals do) the difficulty with doing nothing.

* The Post has details on the alternative use-of-force resolution being drafted by House Dems that places much greater limits on Obama’s authority in Syria, and the question is whether that will be enough to corral Congressional liberals who seem prepared to accept the general case for strikes.

* By the way: Sources tell me that the White House is holding a conference call with House progressives tomorrow on Syria. The wooing is underway.

* Nancy Pelosi may not be “whipping” Dem votes on Syria, but she’s launched a public campaign that’s unequivocally about getting the Dem caucus to Yes, much to the chagrin of anti-war activists.

* Jennifer Rubin on how pro-Israel groups are riding to the Obama administration’s rescue by pressuring Congress to vote Yes on Syria strikes.

* Eli Lake has more on the backstory behind AIPAC lobbying and the Iran connection.

* Remember that Obama “red line” quote about Syria and chemical weapons Republicans are criticizing? Steve Benen reminds us that Paul Ryan has used exactly the same language about (yup) Syria and chemical weapons.

* Quinnipiac has Bill De Blasio surging way ahead in the New York mayoral race, and passing the 40-percent no-runoff mark. A De Blasio mayoralty would certainly be an interesting experiment on the future of progressive economics within the Democratic Party.

* And Tea Party Senator Rand Paul, at the Syria Senate hearing today, on Obama’s decision to go to Congress:

“It’s not often that I get to compliment the president…I was proud that he did this.”

One thing that’s been interesting has been how few commentators holding forth on the motives and “optics” of the decision to go to Congress will take a stand on whether it was substantively the right thing to do.

By the way, according to Twitter, Paul seemed confident Obama would win the vote.

Greg Sargent writes The Plum Line blog, a reported opinion blog with a liberal slant -- what you might call “opinionated reporting” from the left.
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