Trump must stop blaming Obama. Syria is his problem now.
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Late last month, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley made it clear that the Trump administration accepted Bashar Assad's continued rule in Syria.

Tillerson meekly said that Assad's future "will be decided by the Syrian people," while Haley said that "our priority is no longer to sit there and focus on getting Assad out."

This week, according to most analysts, Assad struck again, with his forces employing chemical weapons to mass murder even more innocent Syrian men, women and children.

It was another despicable act, another crime against humanity and another reason that decent people everywhere must unite to put an end to these crimes of carnage.

But what was President Trump's first reaction to these crimes by Assad?

He blamed President Obama.

Let's be clear about several things.


First, I long ago criticized Obama for not taking a strong enough position against Assad. And I have noted what is common knowledge, that his secretary of State, John KerryJohn KerryBiden's second-ranking climate diplomat stepping down A presidential candidate pledge can right the wrongs of an infamous day Equilibrium/Sustainability — Dam failures cap a year of disasters MORE, had privately argued for stronger action and, to his credit, had publicly accused both Assad and the Russians who support him of committing international war crimes.


Second, what was Trump tweeting and saying during the Obama presidency about Syria? Trump was not arguing that Obama should do more. He was arguing that Obama was doing too much!

Trump was calling for a weaker and more pro-Russian American policy while Obama was in office, and when he assumed office, Trump changed U.S. Syria policy to the weaker and more pro-Russian position he had long called for.

Some have argued that it was Trump's recent acceptance of Assad's continued rule that encouraged Assad and his ally Putin to test the limits and initiate this latest war crime.

While I publicly and privately disagreed with some aspects of Obama's Syria policy, it is the height of dishonesty and duplicity for Trump to blame Obama for the latest carnage in Syria.

This morning, though, Haley — who had previously said that "our priority is no longer to sit there and focus on getting Assad out" — reversed course and made an impassioned and effective speech at the U.N. Security Council condemning both Assad and his Russian allies.

And this afternoon, in his press conference with the king of Jordan, Trump remarked that the "attack on children yesterday had a big impact on me," and that his "attitude towards Syria and Assad has changed very much."

Hopefully, this presages a substantial change in U.S. policy. If so, it is good for Syrians, good for America and good for the world.

Trump must act like a president and understand that he is the president: The buck stops with him. It is both juvenile and dishonest to blame his predecessor for his mistaken policies and failure of leadership, especially since Obama's Syria policy, whatever its imperfections, was stronger than what Trump has called for.

Trump as president cannot dishonestly take credit for good things that were accomplished under previous presidents and then dishonestly blame previous presidents for failures that occurred on his watch.

Trump has been president long enough to stop blaming Obama, and former Secretaries of State Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonNo Hillary — the 'Third Way' is the wrong way The dangerous erosion of Democratic Party foundations The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - Democrats see victory in a voting rights defeat MORE and John Kerry, for what is now his responsibility.

He should spend less time writing angry, juvenile tweets and reading dubious alt-right media and should instead read a biography of Harry Truman, who knew that the buck stops at the president's desk.

And as I wrote in a column some time ago, let's unite decent people everywhere to save the people of Syria and condemn Bashar Assad and Vladimir Putin for committing, aiding and abetting crimes against humanity.

Brent Budowsky was an aide to former Sen. Lloyd Bentsen (D-Texas) and former Chief Deputy Majority Whip Bill Alexander (D-Ark.). He holds an LL.M. degree in international financial law from the London School of Economics. He is a longtime regular columnist for The Hill and can be contacted at

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