September 6, 2013

A senior GOP advisor remarked on the White House’s handling of military action against Syria: “If I had a dollar for every logical question that could be asked about the way he’s handled this, I could fund the thing.” Well let’s count up:

President Obama (Jason Reed/Reuters)
President Obama (Jason Reed/Reuters)

Why did President Obama spend so long trying to engage Bashar al-Assad, giving the impression of U.S. desperation?

Why did his administration refer to him as “reformer” even as the uprising began?

Why did he call for Assad to go but did nothing to effectuate that for over two years?

Why did he not recognize the delay would allow jihadis to flood into the country?

Why did he not recognize that with Iranian and Hezbollah troops on the ground this had become a critical issue for the mullahs?

Why did he refuse to aid the Free Syrian Army for so long? And why when he did promise aid did nothing arrive?

Why is he only now seeking a coalition of countries in the region to aid in ousting Assad?

Why did he tell the country and world that “a decade of war” was ending when al-Qaeda was on the march and Iran and Hezbollah were strengthening Assad’s hand?

Why did he let the first use of chemical weapons take place without a response?

Why did he issue a red line if he didn’t mean it?

Why didn’t the U.S. long ago figure out where Assad’s chemical weapons were stored? And why didn’t he take seriously the Free Syrian Army’s warning about use of chemical weapons?

Why did he not consider the murder of 100,000 Syrians to be a crime against humanity?

Why did he signal he had made up his mind to use force and then flinch and drag in Congress?

Why after dragging in Congress did he not quickly give a speech and go to the public to make his case?

Why schedule a speech after so many lawmakers were already locked into a “no” vote?

Supporters of a “yes” vote characterize the situation as “a real challenge,” as one official of a pro-Israel group put it. He said that a “yes” vote was “only possible if there is a huge momentum change triggered by presidential intervention.” It’s not clear that one speech is going to do it. For House Democrats it will have to be seen as nothing short of a last-ditch effort to save the Obama presidency.

An aide to a senior Senate Republican willing to back the resolution summed it up: “There are a lot of members who believe he has the authority, so it’s hard to vote no — but are so irritated with the way he’s handling it.” He repeated, “It’s very hard.”

Right Turn has learned from Senate nose-counters that “there’s a good number on the fence not sure what to do. Also, there are about a dozen or so GOP senators will have dinner with [Vice President Joe] Biden on Sunday.” Apparently, that’s a better bet than dinner with Obama.

I suppose the problem with having a White House full of flunkies and yes-men driven purely by political concerns is that when a genuine crisis comes along there is no one to give the president hard truths and solid advice. But let’s not blame the current crop of aides, no matter how bad they may be. Obama selected them and, moreover, for  2 1/2 years — as set forth above — made one blunder after another. If he gets a historic rebuke from Congress (never before has it rejected a request for authorization of force), he has no one to blame but himself.

Republicans eager for an Obama debacle need not vote “no”; the president has done that all by himself. They can only at this point set forth what course they recommend.

Jennifer Rubin writes the Right Turn blog for The Post, offering reported opinion from a conservative perspective.