This was not a good week for most pols. The president embarrassed himself by his fecklessness on Syria. Pols on the right and left showed their ignorance about foreign policy. Conservative isolationists left little doubt there is a serious split in the GOP. The shutdown squad is still running around trying to collect recruits for their political suicide mission.
But conservative hawks (including 74 who signed an open letter to the president), many who have bitterly criticized the president and have every right to resent his attacks on their judgment and, from their perspective, their patriotism during the Iraq War, did not join the anti-interventionists in opposing the president. Former officials and current experts who have denounced the president many times previously praised Secretary of State John F. Kerry, bemoaned the British rebuke and rose above partisanship. They maintained their intellectual consistency on presidential power (e.g., John Yoo) and on the critical importance of American leadership in the Middle East. Yes, they urged the president — pleaded with him — to do something meaningful, but they did not root for failure or welcome the prospect of American humiliation. They urged Congress to support the president. They took a beating from anti-isolationist conservatives in office and in the punditry. They stood firm. It was, to say the least, an impressive showing.
For all that we can say, well done, ladies and gentlemen.