September 11, 2013

It is hard for pols to stall very long in a 24/7 news environment, with Twitter driving the news at break-neck speed. President Obama is finding this out the hard way.

Russian President Vladimir Putin and President Obama during the G20 summit. (Guneev Sergey/Getty Images)
Russian President Vladimir Putin and President Obama during the G20 summit. (Guneev Sergey/Getty Images)

Obama lunged at the Russian offer yesterday, we can surmise, because he never wanted to attack Syria unilaterally and because he was going to suffer an excruciating loss in one or both houses of Congress. Russia would present something, we’d respond, Russia would stall and so on. The White House figured this could go on for weeks, after which everyone will have moved on to other topics. But the delay depended upon the perception, however thin, that the Russia offer was serious. And there is the rub.

Less than 24 hours after the president’s address, the chemical give-back plan has been debunked again and again and again. Informed liberal pundits and the New York Times concurred: Even in peacetime, verifiable and complete WMD disarmament is almost impossible to achieve. (Keep this in mind, by the way, for the Iran debate.)

The president surely knew all this. He simply and cynically thought it would take longer for everyone else to figure it out. But virtually everyone is proverbially declaring the emperor has no clothes. Obama supporters should pause for a moment to consider how irresponsible and craven their hero is to use a gimmick he and everyone else know is bunk to avoid doing what he said was essential to do (strike Syria).

Aside from recognizing this president consistently politicizes national security (I suppose that is barely news these days), we note that his prior and most critical advocate for a resolution for use of force is now telling him to go act unilaterally. The Hill reports on GOP Sen. John McCain’s remarks this morning:

McCain said that if Obama acts before any vote in Congress, he could argue that  he has acted in conformity with past administrations, including President  Reagan’s invasion of Grenada in the 1980s.  . . .

“I do believe there are times, particularly prior to World War II, we have  the example of Franklin Roosevelt taking actions that Congress would never have  approved … Abraham Lincoln acted unilaterally in the Civil War,” he added.

McCain said the world should know within as little as 48 hours whether a  Russian proposal to put Syrian chemical weapons under international control is merely a “rope-a-dope” stalling tactic.

The best way to test the Russian proposal, he said, is to bring it to the United Nations Security Council and see if the Russians veto a resolution that  is backed by the threat of force and which authorizes international weapons  inspections on the ground in Syria.

If the Russian proposal is a ruse, Obama will have a stronger argument in  favor of military action.

“I think that, one, that the president of the United States should go back,  if this fails, this Russian initiative, and convince the American people again,”  McCain said. “Then I think the president has to decide what’s in our vital  national interest.”

“If he launched an attack on Syria without the endorsement of Congress, it  would be vastly more complicated if Congress had already acted. If he acted  without the agreement of Congress, you could make the argument before the  resolution was passed … that he is acting as other presidents have.

Translation: “We’re not touching this mess.”

Well, that was quick. There are many downsides to a 24/7 news environment, but one upside is that it makes it very difficult to pull off a ruse, Russian or otherwise. The only question for Obama is what excuse he’ll come up with next.

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