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Let’s get a caveat out of the way: Basher Assad is a truly bad man, a murderous thug, has terrible allies, and should be hanging by the neck from a lightpole in Damascus. Nor am I some isolationist or hesitant about executive action in foreign affairs. This isn’t about whether we should act against Syria, but about the politics of Barack Obama’s utterly failed policy and his attempt to force the GOP to own the debacle he created.
Are you really taking this sucker bet?
You’re willing to bail out President Barack Obama after he’s managed to set the Middle East on fire?
You’re going to give Obama cover after two years of Syrian civil war, a growing threat to Israel, a nuclear Iran closer than ever, and Egypt and Libya in chaos…all of which has been met with a shrug and “at this point, what difference does it make” nonchalance?
As in practically everything but campaigning, Barack Obama’s zone of competence in foreign policy is so far in the rearview mirror it’s almost comical…and now he wants the GOP to save him from himself.
He’s being played by sand-trap dictators, Al Qaeda’s bankers, and Russian bad boys like some rube just fallen off the pumpkin truck…but please, go ahead and join him.
By all means, become a stakeholder in an ill-planned Administration policy with almost no possible good outcomes for the United States.
You’re going to get the stink of his failures and incompetence all over you? Fabulous. Apparently, they don’t call us the stupid party for nothing.
His usual media top-cover seems shaky, his polling is soft, and his own caucus is muttering in discontent. This time, the man with the premature Peace Prize based on sanctimonious, prissy speeches is faced with the brutal realities of his failed policies.
Only the House and Senate GOP can save him.
So by all means, throw the man who views you with contempt and has tirelessly sought your political destruction a life preserver.
What could go wrong? Sure, take ownership of his disastrous sorta-strategy and the coming debacle of non-time-sensitive limited-strike, regime-preserving, face-saving semi-kinetic actions. By going Full LBJ (and you never go Full LBJ) and micromanaging the time and extent of strikes, Obama has bounded his options with failure on one side and symbolic action on the other. This plan won’t deter bad guys. It won’t end Assad. A military friend once said, “If you can’t describe the mission in one sentence, it’s not a mission…it’s a clusterf*ck waiting to happen.”
Since Saturday, have you heard anything even close to a viable mission or a goal, much less a strategy? Today’s shambolic performance by John Kerry muddied the water further. Either we’re going to strike Assad, drive him from power, and send a message echoing down the corridors of history or send him a fruit basket and a sternly worded demarche. Hard to tell.
But the GOP Leadership is, apparently, going to push the caucus to play along with whatever vague crayon-on-napkin Syria plan the White House vomits out. Brilliant.
First though, allow me to acquaint you with my friend, the Nigerian prince, and then we’ll talk about your chance to get in on the ground floor of a bridge investment in New York City.
You think this is about Syria. It’s not. You think this is about Basher Assad gassing his own people. It’s not. Obama’s ego, image, power and legacy motivated this change. The GOP is acting like it didn’t. Obama and his team made this political. The GOP is acting like it’s not.
The transparent political calculation behind it all is so sickening and clumsy: Obama’s people gave away the game early, with his advocates immediately rushing to Twitter Saturday afternoon to spin credulous reporters by framing the Syria question as a political loser for the GOP. It was a warning of bad faith, promptly ignored.
The campaigns on which Barack Obama works the hardest are always about him: that’s the leverage the GOP has, and is blowing. Even if Members want a Syria attack, they should make Obama pay, and pay dearly.
My friends in Congress should realize this: the minute you vote for Obama’s Syrian adventure, you own it. Thomas Friedman’s famous dictum has been used against us for a decade. I’m sure you remember the Pottery Barn Rule: if you break it, you bought it.
They’ve already warned you. They’ve already said they’ll use it against you. No matter what goes wrong with the Syria plan, the media will blame you and let Obama slide. They’re really, really good at this game…and honestly…you’re not.
Even if you deeply believe immediate military action in Syria is necessary, you should make Obama pay for it. He needs this cover from you, and he needs it desperately. He’ll appeal to your egos and your patriotism, but he’s the one who needs you. You’ve never had more power. Use it.
Make him climb down off his very, very high horse and sell his Syria plan, direct from the Oval Office. Make him lay out the case with the intelligence informing his strategy. Make him use his considerable campaign skills to move the American people, even if it means burning through his remaining political capital. Make him lay out a plan that isn’t some symbolic wrist slap, and that addresses Iran, Al Qaeda, and Israel’s security. Make him explain how this time it’s different than the disasters he helped create in Libya and Egypt.
When it comes to responsibility for the mess in the Pottery Barn of Syria, he broke it…he bought it. Now it’s up to Congress to make him pay for it.
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