Senator Bob Corker: “What is it you’re seeking?”[Note: Before you delve into today's update, please make sure you read the opening paragraphs from yesterday's post describing my view on the strategic question.]
General Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff: “I can’t answer that, what we’re seeking.”
— Senate hearing on the use of force in Syria, September 3
I wonder if CNN's Candy Crowley feels any remorse for covering Obama's behind in the presidential debate last fall. It was she who supported Obama in the misleading claim he understood the attack on our embassy in Benghazi a year ago to be a terrorist attack. Crowley's intervention essentially blunted Romney's attempt to raise the issue of leadership and a grasp of strategic issues that might have been possible had she not inserted herself into the debate.
Now, we are stuck with Obama and those key unanswered questions about leadership and strategic understanding are coming back to haunt us. Seeing the confusion and chaos surrounding Obama's foreign and national security policy the American people do not have confidence Obama is competent to lead on the important question of war in Syria.
Peggy Noonan put it this way:
What are the American people thinking? Probably some variation of: Wrong time, wrong place, wrong plan, wrong man.Charles Krauthammer, who cites the exchange between Sen. Corker and Gen. Dempsey above concludes:
Is Barack Obama a war president? On Syria he has done nothing to inspire confidence. Up to the moment of decision, and even past it, he has seemed ambivalent, confused, unaware of the implications of his words and stands. From the "red line" comment to the "shot across the bow," from the White House leaks about the nature and limits of a planned strike to the president's recent, desperate inclusion of Congress, he has seemed consistently over his head.
Assad has to go, says Obama, and then lifts not a finger for two years. Obama lays down a red line, and then ignores it. Shamed finally by a massive poison-gas attack, he sends Kerry to make an impassioned case for righteous and urgent retaliation — and the very next day, Obama undermines everything by declaring an indefinite timeout to seek congressional approval.Should Obama "listen to the generals?"
This stunning zigzag, following months of hesitation, ambivalence, contradiction, and studied delay, left our regional allies shocked and our enemies gleeful.
There’s no strategy, no purpose here other than helping Obama escape self-inflicted humiliation.
This is deeply unserious. Unless Obama can show the country that his don’t-mock-me airstrike is, in fact, part of a serious strategy for altering the trajectory of the Syrian war, Congress should vote no.
It was a Democrat mantra during the most difficult period of the Iraq war that President Bush should
"listen to the generals." Both Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) echoed the phrase at every available opportunity. Will Obama listen to the generals now or is this yet another example of wise words that only apply when Republicans are in the White House?
Writing in the Washington Post, retired Army Major General Scales writes an op-ed titled "A war the Pentagon doesn’t want:"
After personal exchanges with dozens of active and retired soldiers in recent days, I feel confident that what follows represents the overwhelming opinion of serving professionals who have been intimate witnesses to the unfolding events that will lead the United States into its next war.Obama's Answer to Critics: More Bombs, but Still No Strategy!
They are embarrassed to be associated with the amateurism of the Obama administration’s attempts to craft a plan that makes strategic sense. None of the White House staff has any experience in war or understands it. So far, at least, this path to war violates every principle of war, including the element of surprise, achieving mass and having a clearly defined and obtainable objective.
They are outraged by the fact that what may happen is an act of war and a willingness to risk American lives to make up for a slip of the tongue about “red lines.” These acts would be for retribution and to restore the reputation of a president. Our serving professionals make the point that killing more Syrians won’t deter Iranian resolve to confront us.
Apparently stung by the criticism that he's an incompetent, reckless fool Obama has ordered the Pentagon to expand the target list for bombing in Syria. Unless he's planning to target Hezbollah and Iranian forces in Syria I doubt it makes much difference to the strategic equation.
Revolt in Congress Mirrors Citizen Lack of Confidence in Obama Leadership
Stories are coming in of strong protest in town hall meetings with congressional leaders. Sen. John McCain (R-AZ), who joined with Obama in effort to attack Syria faced protests at a meeting in Arizona. Same with Rep. Gerry Connolly (D-Va.) and others across the country. Rep. Michael Grimm (R-NY) initially supported a U.S. strike on Syria. Now, "Grimms says he has 'lost faith' in President Obama to handle the crisis 'appropriately.'"
As votes loom in Congress, it doesn't look good for Obama. The Washington Post has the count. Visit the Post count page and wave your cursor over circles with black dot to see latest statement from individual Senator or Represenatative.
Will Speaker Boehner Save Obama from Himself?
As noted above, both Speaker Pelosi and Senate Leader Reid did everything they could to undermine President Bush at key moments during the Iraq war. Yet, now that it looks like Obama is in real trouble, Speaker Boeher (R-OH) has put aside partisan differences to support the President. But Boehner does have some serious questions for Obama and as yet, they have not been answered.
With Obama set to address the nation on Tuesday, it's an open question whether the President can turn opposition to his proposed actions around and avoid a vote of no confidence in Congress. If not, GOP leaders may help him avoid embarrassment by pulling the vote altogether. In my view, that would be unfortunate.
But do file this example under the heading "no, both sides don't do it." Despite immense protest GOP leaders in both the House and Senate have offered support to the President. Do you think Dem leaders will return the favor when the next Republican is in the White House?
Obama, the butt of jokes
From Jay Leno monologues [video]:
"If President Obama really wants to hurt the Syrian government, don’t send cruise missiles. He should end over some of his economic advisers." -Jay LenoThe Bottom Line: For me, less support for strike
"President Obama is asking Congress to support a military strike in Syria. If they approve, it will be the first time Congress has officially declared war since Obamacare." –Jay Leno
"All week president Obama has been saying he will seek congressional approval for the strike but he insists he doesn't really need it. When asked by the media if he was sending mixed messages, the president said: 'Yes and no.'" –Jay Leno
"President Obama says the lack of response to Syria so far does not threaten his credibility. And you know something, he's right. The economy, Benghazi, the spying scandal – that threatens his credibility, but this other stuff, no." –Jay Leno
Personally, I'm still on the fence about a strike on Syria. If I had the slightest confidence Obama understood the strategic questions and was prepared to lead the country to see this through I would back him. Unfortunately, as of now, that appears less likely, not more so.