Michael Barone

Here's how the Obama folks have been starting to spin Syria. The president made a credible threat to use military force in Syria. At the same time, he worked behind the scenes to get Russia's Vladimir Putin to push Bashir al-Assad to give up chemical weapons.

These two seemingly discordant initiatives, brilliantly coordinated, combined to produce a process to eliminate Assad's chemical weapons without even a shot being fired across the bow.

Of course, every bit of this is false. Only the most credulous Obama fans are fooled.

Back on Aug. 20, 2012, in response to an intelligent question from NBC's Chuck Todd, the president said that the use of chemical weapons by Syria would be a "red line" that would "change my calculus."

That's a threat to go to war. As the Washington Post's Walter Pincus points out, once a president declares a red line, he should be prepared to back it up. He should order military contingency plans, consult with members of Congress and seek support from foreign governments.

There is no evidence that Obama did any of these things in a serious or sustained way in the 366 days between his red-line statement and the use of chemical weapons in the suburbs of Damascus -- not even after British and French intelligence reported the use of chemical weapons last spring.

Then during the week of Aug. 26-30, leaks poured out from the administration that Obama would order air strikes in Syria, but only little ones. Regime change was off the table.

On Friday night before the Labor Day weekend, Obama suddenly decided, during a walk in the White House grounds, to seek congressional approval.

Were any soundings taken of congressional opinion before that decision? It doesn't seem likely.

Even the slightest pulse-taking would have suggested that getting majority approval would be difficult in a House of Representatives where most Republicans mistrust the president and most Democrats are congenitally dovish.

Especially when public opinion strongly opposed any military intervention.

Attempts to propitiate Democrats by stressing that air strikes would be only a pinprick inevitably repelled Republicans willing to support only measures that would weaken or dislodge the Assad regime.

After Labor Day, as media vote counts started showing a majority of House members voting or leaning no, White House Chief of Staff Denis McDonough, who accompanied Obama on his Friday night walk, was still predicting that the administration would prevail. That was either insincere or delusional.


Michael Barone

Michael Barone, senior political analyst for The Washington Examiner (www.washingtonexaminer.com), is a resident fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, a Fox News Channel contributor and a co-author of The Almanac of American Politics. To find out more about Michael Barone, and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate Web page at www.creators.com. COPYRIGHT 2011 THE WASHINGTON EXAMINER. DISTRIBUTED BY CREATORS.COM