Bad reviews all around for Obama's Syria speech on Tuesday. The first two are from sympathetic left of center columnists who might otherwise be regarded as on his side:
First, Dana Milbank, writing in the Washington Post noted the shifting stories and contradictions:
Kerry can be forgiven for being at odds with the president. The president, in the space of his 16-minute address, was often at odds with himself. He spent the first 12 minutes arguing for the merits of striking Syria — and then delivered the news that he was putting military action on hold.Next is Maureen Dowd in the New York Times:
He promised that it would be “a limited strike” without troops on the ground or a long air campaign, yet he argued that it was the sort of blow that “no other nation can deliver.” He argued that “we should not be the world’s policeman” while also saying that because of our “belief in freedom and dignity for all people,” we cannot “look the other way.” He asserted that what Bashar al-Assad did is “a danger to our security” while also saying that “the Assad regime does not have the ability to seriously threaten our military.”
The administration’s saber-rattling felt more like knees rattling. Oh, for the good old days when Obama was leading from behind. Now these guys are leading by slip-of-the-tongue.
Amateur hour started when Obama dithered on Syria and failed to explain the stakes there. It escalated last August with a slip by the methodical wordsmith about “a red line for us” — which the president and Kerry later tried to blur as the world’s red line, except the world was averting its eyes.
Obama’s flip-flopping, ambivalent leadership led him to the exact place he never wanted to be: unilateral instead of unified.
Then, there's the Associated Press "Fact Check" of Obama's speech:
OBAMA: "We know the Assad regime was responsible. ... The facts cannot be denied."
THE FACTS: The Obama administration has not laid out proof Assad was behind the attack.
This from Joel Klein at Time:
[Obama willingly jumped into a bear trap of his own creation. In the process, he has damaged his presidency and weakened the nation’s standing in the world. It has been one of the more stunning and inexplicable displays of presidential incompetence that I’ve ever witnessed. The failure cuts straight to the heart of a perpetual criticism of the Obama White House: that the President thinks he can do foreign policy all by his lonesome. This has been the most closely held American foreign-policy-making process since Nixon and Kissinger, only there’s no Kissinger. There is no éminence grise—think of someone like Brent Scowcroft—who can say to Obama with real power and credibility, Mr. President, you’re doing the wrong thing here. Let’s consider the consequences if you call the use of chemical weapons a “red line.” Or, Mr. President, how can you talk about this being “the world’s red line” if the world isn’t willing to take action? Perhaps those questions, and many others, fell through the cracks as his first-term national-security staff departed and a new team came in.Keep in mind the above came from Obama's media allies. But it's not so much different than what those in the middle and from the right have to say.
[Obama]he has done himself, and the nation, great and unnecessary harm. The road back to credibility and respect will be extremely difficult
Here's Ron Fournier from National Journal in a piece titled "Syria Tells You Everything You Need to Know About Barack Obama." In it he describes what he feels are the worst of the President's characteristics:
Naive about the levers of power: Where to start? Obama reversed course on congressional authorization at the last minute, after a private chat with his chief of staff, and to the surprise of his national security team--all in violation of presidential best practices. He then left the country on a quixotic trip to Russia, allowing misgivings to grow in Congress and the public before he could build a case for striking Syria. Boxed in, Obama seized upon a Russian proposal to put Syria's weapons in the hands of the international community. It's an impractical solution, a fig leaf. Either Obama trusts Russian President Vladimir Putin (a mistake) or he is a partner in deceit (an outrage). A Democratic strategist who works closely with the White House, and who requested anonymity to avoid political retribution, told me, "This has been one of the most humiliating episodes in presidential history."On the right, John Podhoretz, writing in the New York Post says that :
Too cute by half: Obama and his allies are masters of "spin," packaging partial truths and outright distortions to a malleable public. With Syria, their dark arts are on full display. There is no other way to explain the White House disowning Secretary of State John Kerry's call for Syria to turn over its stockpiles until the savvy Putin seized on the off-the-cuff remark as a way to protect ally Bashar al-Assad. Suddenly, the White House is touting the Putin plan as their brainchild, an outcome Obama had in mind when he travelled to Russia. Don't buy it. A broader problem is the Obama White House's inability to break through the clutter of 21st century media to educate and persuade Americans on policy, a communications conundrum that dates to the 2009 health care debate.
No friends: No student of the presidency would claim that Obama's problems with Congress could be solved simply by schmoozing them. There are structural and political problems that no amount of alcohol can solve. But as a matter of history and common sense, Obama could do better for himself and his causes if he got to know Congress better--if he listened and engaged in a way that pushes leaders toward solutions that help both sides. Instead, Obama has what one former top adviser called a "check-the-box" approach to Washington relations. He'll spend enough time to maintain appearances, nothing more, and lectures people who demand to be heard. And so, as he faced an international and constitutional crisis, Obama and his team were in a familiar state: isolated, insular, and alone.
a roundelay that began with the president announcing his decision to launch a military strike at a time of his choosing to punish Assad for having used chemical weapons suddenly turned into the president and his desperate acolytes thinking they could take a victory lap!From the foreign press, Nile Gardiner writing in the UK's Daily Telegraph didn't pull any punches:
“Thanks to Pres. Obama’s strength,” tweeted House Democratic honcho Nancy Pelosi, “we have a Russian proposal.” The Washington Post’s Ezra Klein tweeted, “Kind of amazed I’m saying this, but the White House may really be about to win on Syria.”
Ah, yes, winning. Which is to say, being humiliated, acting weak, behaving in vacillatory fashion, making a mockery of your office, destroying your country’s credibility, making your own words look desperately foolish, and ceding foreign policy to the Machiavellian machinations of a gangster regime in Moscow.
That’s what you call “winning” when what you mean by “winning” is “losing.”
Barack Obama’s Syria speech was an incoherent mess – he is outperforming Jimmy Carter as the most feeble US president of modern times.Obama Kool Aid Drinkers Don't Care!
This was a desperate speech from a president who has dug himself into a hole after carelessly drawing a red line in the sand, and then finding himself in the position of actually having to do something about it.
Barack Obama has no big picture strategy on Syria, or the wider Middle East, and is bereft of a clear game plan. His speech was also a sea of contradictions. He talked about deploying American military might but has no intention of delivering a decisive blow. He paid lip service to the ideal of American exceptionalism, but is happy to kowtow to Moscow. He urged Congress to support his approach, but wants them to wait before they vote. For these were the words of an exceptionally weak and indecisive president, one who seems to be making up policy on the hoof, as he stumbles and bumbles along on the world stage, with his hapless Secretary of State in tow.
How different to the halcyon days of Ronald Reagan, a man who led the world’s superpower with strength and conviction. The Gipper knew the meaning of American leadership, especially at times of crisis. Unfortunately President Obama can only dream of holding a candle to Reagan’s achievements, and at present is even outperforming Jimmy Carter as the most feeble US president of modern times.
I emailed a friend who proudly, even now, supports Obama. He isn't at all concerned about what the rest of us see. He might be right that so many Americans are just so dumbed down by the media and Hollywood they don't even know what's going on and the few Obama supporters who do don't care as long as Obama is in charge.
The following video, a comedy effort in the style of an Obama campaign commercial makes that point in a humorous way. You'll want to see it:
The bottom line for many Obama supporters remains: So what if he's an incompetent bungling fool whose failure to grasp even basic strategic concepts might start a war. He's Obama and that's OK!