September 11, 2013
Obama addresses nation on Syria
President Obama addresses the nation about the situation in Syria from the East Room at the White House. (Evan Vucci/Reuters)

Knowingly or not, Russian President Vladimir Putin offered President Obama a fig leaf (not an olive branch) and Obama took it. With characteristic gall and synthetic sincerity, the White House is already suggesting that Obama himself was the father of the Russian plan. The apologencia will soon claim that the mighty Obama shook his fist and Syrian President Bashar al-Assad folded. Anyway, success in politics is often about having time and options. Even though the president had to grasp, Putin gave him both.

In the end, Obama’s address to the nation last night suited him. It was high-minded, eloquent, moralizing, and it won’t lead to anything. But to Obama and his adoring followers, these words are destined for granite someday on the Mall.

The same political phenomenon that accounts for the lack of public support for action in Syria is the one that will allow the president to recover politically from this humiliating episode: American voters don’t care much about foreign policy issues.

The next step will be the meeting between Secretary of State John F. Kerry and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov. We all know the outcome of that meeting.  Kerry has no choice but to exit the meeting and say something to the effect of, “Peace is at hand.” He’ll tell us that the talks are progressing and that we have much work to do, but that we are clearly on the right path. Is there anybody who really thinks anything different could or would happen?

The bombing is off. Move along, folks. Nothing to see here.

Foreign policy is supposed to be a safe harbor for a second term president, but Obama hopes the Syria episode will quickly fade from the headlines. Now Obama will need to pivot back to domestic issues. His problem is that the domestic issues he needs to deal with include the economy and Obamacare.

For the bottom line on Syria, I can’t say it better than Peggy Noonan did: “In any case it’s good for America that we’ve dodged either bad outcome: Congress votes no and the president moves anyway, or Congress votes no and he doesn’t. Both possibilities contained dangers for future presidents.”

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