"In a world with many dangers, this menace must be confronted," the president said in his Rose Garden remarks, delivering Syria into the hands of Congress as though he were a mother explaining away a scary fairy tale to her frightened children. "Now, after careful deliberation ..." he continued, manipulating words to camouflage his own sluggish reaction to the crossing of the red line he had drawn.
For a long time, the commander in chief has acted as if he were merely moving pawns in an academic chess game against an unseen opponent. His call for bold and aggressive action against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad caught us all by surprise. (It seemed to catch him by surprise, too.) When he couldn't decide what to do next, he pleaded to share responsibility with the congressional kibitzers looking over his shoulder. Maybe they knew how to play the game.
He hardly enhanced the image of the leader of the free world when he headed for the golf course immediately asking Congress to authorize using force, a particularly frivolous follow-up to the gravity of his message. This is revealing body language writ large.
It's hard not to be cynical about the president's handling of the tangled Syrian knot, making it especially hard to focus on what's right to do now. Once so renowned for his persuasive rhetoric, he made an anemic case to Congress. The words he used seemed to be on blood thinners.
Secretary of State John Kerry, by contrast, was powerful in talking about the "moral obscenity" of killing women and children with hideous chemicals and tried to rally Congress to punish Assad for breaking a dark and deadly taboo. He sounded just the right note saying, "This is not the time for armchair isolationism. This is not the time to be spectators to slaughter."
That's what Iran wants. That will embolden Hezbollah. North Korea craves American ambivalence.
A secretary of state is there to carry out the president's policy, but Obama has never seemed to have his heart in what he's asking us to do. "The hyperpower is going to war because Obama wandered off prompter and accidentally made a threat," writes Mark Steyn in National Review Online. "So he has to make good on it, or America will lose its credibility."