Obama's hard sell on Syria

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After a policy of ignoring Syria, he has bungled his new "response" to the civil war by most objective standards. Two years ago Obama said Syrian President Bashar Assad must go. A year ago Obama said a chemical weapons attack would cross a "red line," but then nothing happened after Assad used chemical weapons months ago.

But after the Aug. 21 attack Obama and his staff leaked, telegraphed — practically announced — a coming strike. All seemed urgent until he suddenly retreated last weekend to allow Congress to decide. While asking lawmakers to authorize force, Obama insisted he had the authority to act without them and still could, as if the whole request was some rhetorical exercise.

He didn't even ask Congress to return from recess, giving opponents of force 10 days to build opposition while Obama has taken six of them so far to tweet about immigration. Whatever he is telling members privately, with the exception of Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), doesn't appear to be convincing.

Meanwhile administration officials have scrambled to explain that this delay in striking Assad's military targets is no problem. The strikes designed to "punish, deter and degrade" may be a little light on their degradation capability, if Assad ever sees strikes at all. He is of course moving all sorts of resources, munitions, troops around, working surely to create as many human shields as possible.

National Security Adviser Susan Rice's declaration on NBC that "we have not announced our intentions to the enemy," was laughable, but the response from the rest of the world about what has happened to the influence of the United States because of the way Obama has handled this has been outright painful.

Administration officials told James Rosen of Fox News last weekend that the president would use force with or without congressional authorization, but Deputy National Security Adviser Tony Blinken said in an interview with NPR Thursday that Obama would not.

It's actually hard to imagine what would be worse for the country: Obama losing the vote and acting alone or Obama losing the vote and standing down.

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