If President Obama wants to win the Syria vote he should stop talking as he did today in Sweden — where he shouldn’t be at all, given the gravity of the Syria situation and the perilous state of the resolution vote (especially in the House). He declared today regarding the “red line”: “That wasn’t something I made up. I didn’t pluck it out of thin air. I didn’t set a red line. The world set a red line.”
This is maddening. Intentionally or not it will provoke Republicans, who know full well that the decision to invoke the red line in Syria was the president’s alone. He shies away from responsibility and demonstrates both political maladroitness and international irresoluteness when he denies this own role in the series of events Congress must now confront. It is a Clinton-like evasion to say he didn’t draw a red line in Syria. In fact, it is just plain false.
He should knock off this sort of talk, own his decision and get back to the United States to make his case to the American public in a proper address for a cogent Syria policy. If not, his loss in Congress will be the direct result of his craven behavior.
All of this said, Congress can’t “punish” him by voting no. The president also said today: “My credibility’s not on the line. The international community’s credibility is on the line, and America and Congress’s credibility is on the line because we give lip service to the notion that these international norms are important.” In fact, they are all on the line.
Republicans can speak to Obama’s embarrassing behavior, but unlike the president they need to think solely of their country’s long-term national security, not political standing or personal pride. Obama’s comments denying his own unique responsibility may be a disgrace, but a no vote would be a tragedy.