Last Wednesday I suggested the Syria resolution was heading for defeat. If it does go down ( a Senate vote could come as early as Wednesday), as seems quite likely, today will be the day that sealed defeat. Before today, the number of undecided lawmakers was sufficient to keep hope for a “yes” vote alive, and the promise of a presidential speech could be used to keep the dam from breaking. That shifted today, and not just because of the trickle of “no” votes dribbling out on the Senate and House side.
Rather, in what surely must be the most incompetent performance of an administration second to none when it comes to self-inflicted foreign policy disasters, the wheels pretty much came off the bus Monday. Between Secretary of State John Kerry’s “unbelievably small” characterization of the strike and his foolishness in opening the door to a Russian-mediated chemical weapons deal with Bashar al-Assad (you can’t make this stuff up), the administration confirmed the worst fears of lawmakers. The disarray in marshaling support for a vote, fairly or not, seemed to underscore the ineptness of the entire, belated Syria operation.
For Republican lawmakers who were willing to support a resolution, the overwhelming attitude I am hearing is one of disgust, if not pity. It’s one thing to go to bat for a president of the opposing party on an unpopular issue. It’s quite another to do so when that president and his staff are destroying their own credibility.
On Tuesday, Obama will meet with Senate Dems and Republicans separately at their respective weekly lunches. He might pull in some Democratic support by playing the “destroyed presidency” card, but his chances of success actually became more daunting after today.
Dems shouldn’t kid themselves about the impact of the blunder-filled Monday. It is not so much the rejection of a resolution of force agreement that would be so devastating to the remainder of the presidency, but the widespread impression that this crew is not credible or trustworthy to handle the machinery of government. Republicans will be emboldened to push him around as his poll numbers sink, while moderate deal-makers who backed him on Syria will not be inclined to do him any more favors. The consensus, right and left, given the buffoonery on Syria, is almost certain to be that he’s a lame duck (less than a year into his second term, no less).
I find this turn of events extremely disturbing. However much Obama deserves a rebuke, the country deserves better, or both the U.S. and our allies will suffer.
UPDATE: Perhaps realizing he’s about to face a devastating defeat in Congress, the president and his aides seem to be constructing an escape hatch, a deal for Assad to give up his chemical weapons. (Assad will pretend to give up his WMDs and we’ll pretend it’s a victory.) If we tried we could not appear less serious and credible on the world stage. For starters, how are we to verify this WMD surrender by Assad? Take Putin’s word for it, I guess.