When I first heard that President Obama was asking Congress to vote on a resolution authorizing him to act against Syria, I thought he was doing the right thing, but then the more I considered the issue, the weaker I realized the move was. And the more political.
My gut sense is that Obama really doesn’t want to take action against the Syrian regime.
And perhaps he is hoping that this move will further divide Republicans. And a Republican Party at war with itself can’t do a good job taking the fight during in the 2014 election cycle.
And should a coalition of libertarian Republicans, partisans who put bucking Obama ahead of the national interest and dovish Democrats opposed to any flexing of American muscle manage to defeat the (unnecessary) legislative authorization, Obama will blame not his fellow Democratic, but the opposition Republicans for denying him the ability to act.
My advice to Speaker Boehner would be to ask all House Republicans to make statements similar to this one: “I don’t think the president needs our approval to act. (President Bill Clinton didn’t ask for congressional authorization before initiating airstrikes against Yugoslavia on behalf of Kosovo.) But, the president has asked for our permission. We are voting for the resolution to show we recognize his responsibility in the matter; we hope he will act in the best interest of the country.”
This at least would make it more challenging for Obama to blame Republicans. And the explanation would help prevent this from becoming a precedent, potentially hamstringing future presidents.
Obama could have delivered a speech similar to that Secretary Kerry gave. And with that, authorized our armed forces to attack Syrian airbases. Or he could have explained why it was not in our national interest to act. Instead, he has advertised his indecision on the matter. Never a good strategy for a leader.
ADDENDUM: A test of Obama’s sincerity on the matter will be how aggressively he lobbies Congress on behalf of this resolution. If he doesn’t actively lobby legislators to pass the bill, then he shouldn’t blame them for its failure. (Bear in mind my word choice; “shouldn’t” doesn’t mean “won’t.”)
RELATED: Shortly after posting this piece, I caught a related editorial in the Washington Times:
A loss [in Congress] would be a double win. First, because a “No” vote would allow the foreign policy neophyte to walk away from his blundering “red line” declaration on chemical weapons (“I wanted to go in, but Congress said no”). And second, should Republicans who voted for the Iraq and Afghanistan wars now oppose Syria, the president would be armed with clear “evidence” that their opposition is purely political.
Keep in mind: This president knows no way to campaign other than to blame others. He’ll batter Republicans for all of 2014 as obstructionists should they be the reason the effort fails.
ALSO RELATED: LATEST OBAMA TWIST FREAKS OUT ISRAEL
UPDATE: In the Wall Street Journal, Kimberly A. Strassel offers an analysis similar to my own, but much more fleshed out:
The most telling line in President Obama’s Saturday Syria address came near the end, when he (once again) lectured Congress about its duty to rise above “partisan differences or the politics of the moment.” Having put America’s global credibility at risk, Mr. Obama defaulted to the same political cynicism that has defined his presidency.
Read the whole thing.