There’s an old story, supposedly originating in a legislative chamber in a mid-west state, of a legislator who said during debate on a contentious bill: “Some of my friends are for this bill, and some of my friends are against this bill, and I’m going to stick with my friends.”
That’s exactly where we find ourselves on the Syria matter. Paul has rather more confidence in Obama than I do. I’m quite unimpressed either by his drone use (easy for him to do) or his Afghanistan surge, which he did under utmost political duress. Ditto the Osama bin Laden raid; if he hadn’t done it and word got out, he’d have been toast. I wonder whether in fact he has been cornered on Syria by Biden, Kerry, Rice, and Powers, who, for all their defects, take their watery internationalism seriously, while Obama may have only Valerie Jarrett in his corner (Jarrett, who would probably like to use chemical weapons on American conservatives—or two Supreme Court justices—if she thought she could get away with it).*
If Obama were serious, he ought to have called Congress back into session immediately instead of saying, “Go ahead and finish your summer vacations.” If he is serious, he’d better communicate that he has a plan to deter Iran if John’s report is correct about threatened Iranian retaliation. The only thing that would cause me to raise my confidence in Obama is if he strikes Syria much harder than anyone is expecting. There are rumors this might be in the works. The other possibility: this whole thing is cover for a serious strike on Iran with Israel. Anyone making book on this?
There is one definite bonus here: the Syria mess makes it even less likely that the House will take up immigration reform.
* Always worth remembering Jarrett’s promise/threat:
“After we win this election, it’s our turn. Payback time. Everyone not with us is against us, and they better be ready, because we don’t forget. The ones who helped us will be rewarded; the ones who opposed us will get what they deserve. There is going to be hell to pay. Congress won’t be a problem for us this time. No election to worry about after this is over, and we have two judges ready to go.”
PAUL ADDS: Regarding Steve’s old story, I think I can say that in the case of the Syria resolution, most of my friends are against it.
Just to be clear, though, I didn’t cite the drone war, the Afghanistan resolution, the killing of bin Laden, and the Libya campaign for the proposition that President Obama makes good decisions in tough cases about when to use force. My point was a narrower one — there is no reason to believe that Obama, in concert with the military leadership, can’t execute effective military action once he decides to proceed.
STEVE adds: I can go along with that. Stay tuned. We might yet be surprised, even if not wholly satisfied or confident. Though your phrase “in concert with military leadership” reinforces my point that Obama requires being carried along by better people than him. That’s not good in a president.