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I, Virginia Bergman, pledge not to vote for a male presidential candidate in 2016 just because he's male.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

The best and the worst of Obama's leadership in the Syrian crisis

Some of the comments by the White House and the media regarding the latest developments following Obama's threat to attack Syria have been laughable, and I don't often laugh at desperate attempts to give a favorable spin to the hard truth.

Ron Fournier, a seasoned political reporter, cuts through the nonsense and reports the "best and the worst" of Obama's leadership in the current crisis with Syria:

The good news is we're not at war. The bad news is … almost everything else about President Obama's handling of Syria -- the fumbling and flip-flopping and marble-mouthing -- undercut his credibility, and possibly with it his ability to lead the nation and world.

As he addressed a global audience Tuesday night, liberal elites blindly accepted White House fiction that Russian intervention this week was somehow part of Obama's master plan. Their conservative counterparts practically rooted against a diplomatic breakthrough, preferring an Obama black eye over peace.

Obama won! Obama lost! The fact is it's too soon to keep score. In the long view of this past week, I suspect the Syria standoff will come to be an example of the best and worst of Obama's leadership. Granted, in the heat of the moment, it's far easier to catalogue the worst.

BEST:

Open-minded: The man elected in part as repudiation of President George W. Bush's narrow approach to decision-making never closed off his options. He is paying a price for waffling (more on that later), but the president deserves credit for rethinking his plan to wage war without congressional approval. For anybody unwilling to cut Obama some slack, ask yourself: What would Bush and Dick Cheney have done?

Unflappable: From all public appearances, this was the "no-drama Obama" his aides brag about. Certainly, he was affected by public criticism and even swayed by polling, but the president kept searching for a way out of a complicated situation. He may have stumbled into peace but that's better than rushing into war.

Principles: He deserves credit for trying to do something about the slaughter of innocents. The "red line" that looks laughably opaque today will look better in time if (and this is a big if) Syrian chemical attacks stop. In his address from the White House, Obama made a compelling moral argument to respond to last month's chemical attack in Syria. "The world saw in gruesome detail the terrible nature
of chemical weapons," the president said.

WORST:

Naive about the levers of power: Where to start? Obama reversed course on congressional authorization at the last minute, after a private chat with his chief of staff, and to the surprise of his national-security team -- all in violation of presidential best practices. He then left the country on a quixotic trip to Russia, allowing misgivings to grow in Congress and the public before he could build a case for striking Syria. Boxed in, Obama seized upon a Russian proposal to put Syria's weapons in the hands of the international community. It's an impractical solution, a fig leaf. Either Obama trusts Russian President Vladimir Putin (a mistake) or he is a partner in deceit (an outrage). A Democratic strategist who works closely with the White House, and who requested anonymity to avoid political retribution, told me, "This has been one of the most humiliating episodes in presidential history."

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