August 31, 2013

Nicely played, Mr. Obama.

Besieged on all sides, he made the right move. He's asking Congress, obviously because he wants to be told "no," but this way he'll be able to blame Congress for any bad consequences or accusations of such.
In a hastily organized appearance in the Rose Garden, Mr. Obama said he had decided that the United States should use force but would wait for a vote from lawmakers, who are not due to return to town for more than a week. Mr. Obama said he believed he has authority to act on his own but did not say whether he would if Congress rejects his plan.
Hastily organized... Congress out of town... Cameron just got out of having to participate by getting his "no" from the legislature... sending Kerry out yesterday to test the reaction was a total bomb. It's kind of a little obvious, and he didn't really have another good move, but I'm going to celebrate the occasion with a Nicely played, Mr. Obama.

ADDED: I would have put this post up a lot sooner, but Meade and I went downtown to see what kind of anti-war protests there might be here in Madison. I'll have some amusing video soon.

61 comments:

Tyrone Slothrop said...

It wasn't just the right move, it's really the only one he could make. If he had forged ahead unilaterally he would have been screwed no matter the outcome.

I, for one, have written my congressman to insist he vote against this dog-wagging adventure.

Dr.D said...

I think he has now admitted that he does not have the authority to act alone. If he had such, he would have gone ahead. He is well aware of the fact that congress is away, and when they will come back. This is pretty transparent, I think.

SteveR said...

As I said yesterday, General Jarrett comes through.

West Texas Intermediate Crude said...

"Present."

n.n said...

Obviously desperate, Mr. Obama, and NYT.

Whether the outcome in Syria is negative or positive, Obama's proposal for intervention would not provide humanitarian aid, nor would it confirm culpability.

Why doesn't he just poke, prod, and bomb the Syrians as he did the Libyans, notify Congress in a fashionably late manner, then blame a video for any fallout?

Rob said...

Question: Will bipartisan opposition to military action against Syria satisfy those who bemoan lack of bipartisanship in Congress?

somefeller said...

Over the years, have been a lot of people on the left and right who have argued that the President's power to authorize military action without Congressional support has gone too far and we need to return to more Congressional leadership on this issue. Maybe this will be a precedent on that score and will lead to a partial rollback of the bipartisan Imperial Presidency. Or maybe it's just a game of hot potato. Time will tell.

Kansas City said...

Remarkable moment. The media tends to make too much out of events that, often, do not wind up as very significant. This one is hard to tell.

I think Ann is correct that this is a political play. His babbling about a red line and enormous consequences put him in a box. This is his escape hatch. Soon, opponents will say he is voting PRESENT again. Demorats will largely line up behind him for political reasons.

I think Ann is wrong that he wants Congress to say no. I think he wants a yes, which domestically, the media will hail as a great "win" for Obama. Because Obama need a yes politically, his demoncratic partisans in Congress will give it to him.

I think the most likely scenario is that will get authorization and then lob a few cruise missles of little significance. And everyone will move on.

On the world stage, Obama is further diminished. He also may be, prehaps intentionally, diminishing the power of the presidency and the country.

To a certain extent, this is a sideshow to Iran. Unfortunately, Obamma is president for 3 more years. The moment will come for action regarding Iran's nuclear program. It will be the most impotant moment of the Obama presidency. He likely will falter and, unless Israel acts, the world will have Iran with a nuclear weapon.

Will Obama be required to answer the question of what he will do if the Congress says no? I think he will avoid an answer. Get his yes. And shoot his missiles.

Kansas City said...

Obama is incredible. He went out with Biden to play golf after his speech. It has to be the result of a career where no one held him accountable for anything. He knows he can do what he wants politically, and media will cover for him (or at least not allow it to become a big issue).

Although, if Obama would offer to delegate all decisions to Congress and play golf for the next three years, I think we would take it.

Bill Harshaw said...

I disagree that he wants to be told no. This is a man who believes the world should abolish nuclear weapons, and has spent some political capital to inch towards that goal. I'd take biological weapons as a logical corollary.

Vesparado said...

Thank God for Vladimir Putin and the British Parliament for saving us from the colossal blunder our President was about to make.

Hagar said...

"Nicely played, Mr. Obama"???

Being an immigrant (long ago, and of the legal variety, I hasten to add) there is still enough foreigner in me to be absolutely appalled. This is not a good development for world stability, whatever the local party partisans may try to make of it!

Michael said...

"Nicely played?"

It may not be the single worst thing he could have done at this juncture, but we are way beyond the point where any of this could be considered nicely played. We must be the laughing stock of the planet.

Jim Bullock said...

Well, yes.

So, weak people under proper scrutiny will sometimes calculatingly choose to do the right thing, for mean motives.

It's a shame we've lacked an effective, committed opposition in the US for quite a while, because this is what happens when you have one - things get aired out before they get done.

Unknown said...

So what would be the results of 535 "present" votes? BTW--agree with your analysis. Mr Obama boxed himself in and now hopes Congress can undo the damage.

Cedarford said...

Not sure if it was "well-played". It might get Black Messiah off the hook with his worshipers...but it will be judged globally and by high information people in power here as another failure to lead.

You know how it goes. He makes a big splendid speech talking about Trayvon or "red line" on chem weapons use - then walks away and makes no effort to lead on the subject of his last "soaring speech". Leaving it to his media whores to cover for him.

A week from now, Congress will be back and Obama will send this years version of Susan Rice to lecture them and fail in lobbtying. Questions of why no effort to assemble a global coalition IF Syria used such "red line weapons" will be ignored. Questions of why Obama and crew failed to consult with Congress about that pledge to initiate war with Syria over the last year will also be ignored.

Obama shills will also go on PR initiative spin talks with their fellow Obama shills in the media...and fail to budge the public opinion meter about bombing Syria.

Then, after another miserable failure to lead the nation becomes obvious to all but his media fans - Obama will excuse his failed leadership and blame Congress.

EDH said...

Unfortunately, we're the ones being "played".

Illuninati said...

Althouse said:

"Nicely played, Mr. Obama"

To me this whole episode lacks grace. Considering that Obama has very little world wide support and a great deal of opposition, I would agree that anything short of a total disaster has to be considered "nicely played" in Obama's world. The fact that he is walking back his commitment to war with Syria is good news!

Unknown said...

I do find the timing of this presser interesting--on a Saturday afternoon of a long weekend and the opening of the college football season--other than the press pool I would be curious to see how many people watched it.

Diogenes of Sinope said...

The difference between how the media judges Obama versus how they judged Bush is too much for words.

Seeing Red said...

As always The Belmont Club is a great read:

Obama has surrendered. NBC reports, “Obama will seek Congressional approval before any military action against Syria”. Strikes would be “effective tomorrow or next week or one month from now,” the President was quoted as saying.

As I wrote upon hearing that the British had pulled out of his ‘limited but decisive’ symbolic gesture: “it’s over. … Now, with Britain out of the operation, Obama faces the prospect of going into Syria almost literally alone, without the UN, NATO, Congress, or even the UK to back him up. Two courses are now open to him. He can climb down as best he can and pretend he’s changed his mind or he can go forward risking a wider war for nothing.”


It just took him that many more hours to realize that Steiner was not coming....



...But if he persists then this is merely the first and the smallest of an unending string of defeats. If he continues with the pretense no one now believes he will only succeed in making a fool of himself. But until a new Obama emerges or he heads for the links, the Oval Office is only half tenanted; there’s no one in the White House — and the enemies of America will scent this.

Nobody ever beat arithmetic. Nothing has ever beat reality. The Narrative 0, The Truth 1.

Big Mike said...

"Nicely played"? We were going to war, people were going to be bombed and slaughtered and you think it's an effing game, Althouse?

Democrats accused Dubya of being an "imperial president." Now we have an actual imperial president, he backed himself into a corner where unilateral action was not an option, he's finally going to consult with Congress (as Dubya did back in the day), and to Althouse it's pretty much the same as a guy who misses his pool shot but leave the cue ball where his opponent has no good shot.

You need to stop thinking about whether your dear leader has won or lost and start thinking about real people trying to live real lives.

campy said...

but this way he'll be able to blame Congress for any bad consequences or accusations of such.

We all remember how Bush went to Congress and thus no one ever blamed him.

Big Mike said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Kansas City said...

I think Ann said "nicely played" in a political sense, not in the sense of being a good president. Although I think Ann is wrong in thinking Obama obviously wants a no. I think he obviously wants a yes. A no would be a horrible rebuke to his ego and his power and the media (notwithstanding the extreme pro-Obama bias) would play it up as a defeat.

The Godfather said...

I believe that the very limited military actions that Obama's people say he has in mind could be taken by the president as commander in chief -- in contrast to the much more extensive actions taken by Clinton in the former Yugoslavia and by Obama in Libya. He doesn't need Congressional approval. (I don't believe that it's a good idea, but that's a different issue.)

We need to ask, Why is Obama submitting the question to Congress? So that Congress will say No, and get him off the hook? I don't think so. That would make Mr. Executive Decree look weak, and he doesn't want that.

So that Congress will say Yes, and share the blame with him? In particular, to neuter the Republicans who might otherwise gain political advantage in the next two elections out of a disaster in the Middle East? That seems more likely.

Or, perhaps, Obama is playing a longer game than that. When he was in the Senate he said that presidents couldn't use military force without congressional approval except in very narrow circumstances. Maybe he actually believes that and wants to sucker Republicans into supporting that position as a precedent for the next Republican president to have to deal with that problem.

If I were in Congress, I would take the position that the actions that Obama has described do not require Congressional approval, but because the President has, through his "red line" statement and subsequent statements, put America's credibility at stake, Congress should approve the limited actions Obama's people have described. I would further say that if Obama decides he wants to do more than that, he'll have to come back for authorization.

And by the way, the Congressional authorization of military action against the terrorists is reaffirmed.

Elise Ronan said...

Sorry but considering this President didn't need Congressional approval to go to war in Libya and consistently overrides Congress with signing statements and executive orders, by putting the Syria question into Congress' hands all he looks is weak, cowardly and duplicitous.

Gahrie said...

Institute the Ryan Doctrine. Anytime a regime uses WMD, kill the regime leadership, instead of a few thousand unwitting soldiers.

Hagar said...

I am not arguing for either bombing Syria or invading Syria. Under this leadership - not just the President, but his entire cabinet and appointed entourage - I would not want to go to war with the Dominican Republic.
He has worked for 4½ years to get himself into a position where there is no good way out. This was just the denouement, and there is no escaping it: This President just has no clothes on.

And that is not a good thing for either this country or the world.

averagejoe said...

I can't tell if the "nicely played" is sincere, sarcastic or troll-bait. From Obama's bellicose rhetoric and inept statesmanship, Russia sending warships to the region and arming Syria with anti-ship missiles, Great Britain's rejection of solidarity, I can't see anything to praise. So maybe the president has another political cudgel to bash his ideological adversaries with. Good for the President! Smart Power! Meanwhile, as other posters have stated, this is a very dangerous situation teetering on the catastrophic, and we've got Obama leading the way for three more years. Nicely played, U.S. voters...

Inga said...

Brilliant! I was wondering if that's what Obama would do and he did. Leave it up to Congress. They wanted a vote, now they will get one and the decision they make will be on their heads. The President stated what he would do.

I'm not sure how I would vote.

CWJ said...

AA, once you posted the Obama has made no decisions regarding Syria post, I saw this outcome as a done deal. I agree on both counts. It is a good move and he desperately needs a "no" vote from congress.

Domestically, with the help of a compliant spin-accepting press, this will save him. In fact, as you note, he now gets Congress as a bogeyman to blame through next year no matter what happens. Democrat "no" votes will be forgiven (and in fact trumpeted at the district level) while the "no" vote overal will be successfully blamed on Republican obstruction. Plus, he gets the added bonus of once again playing McCain for a fool.

Internationally, this is nothing short of disaster. But as we've seen there is also nothing too big, even US global interests, that cannot be thrown under the bus if Obama himself is at stake.

One quibble, I would have prefered "nice save" over "well played."

The Drill SGT said...

In the words of Zbigniew Brzezinski, the former US National Security Advisor, if Mr Obama has coherent policy on Syria, “it is a well-kept secret”.

wildswan said...

If the military saw that the Syrians were preparing for a chemical strike, then why didn't Obama phone Assad and tell him that he would bomb him if he used that kind of weapon? Isn't he complicit if he knew and did nothing? And did these weapons come from Iraq? transported out before the Army got there in the Iraq war. And what's the good of the NSA and its spying if it can't say who gave the orders in Syria? And if the NSA heard the orders, then, again, why didn't Obama issue warnings before the attack? These and other questions need to be asked.
This whole episode to me is a wag the dog.

Tom said...

We're caught in a double-bind loop in regard to the Middle East and Islamism. Islamic extremist are angry that the US has a military presence on the Arabian Peninsula and launch terrorist attacks. We respond by maintaining a military presence on the Arabian Peninsula. Further, nations like Russia and China benefit from our continual entanglement in these conflicts. And the more we try to outfight or outwork this loop, the more we're constrained by the conflicts and the uncertainty that comes from war. It's time to stop.

I think Congress will say no to the Syrian conflict -- at least I hope Congress will say no.

Lydia said...

I guess this fits in with the "nicely played":

From Kathryn Jean Lopez at NRO -- "If anyone in the White House was hoping that Congress might take the blame for the U.S.’s foreign-policy indecisions, the strategy is working with a key constituency":

@MiaFarrow -- "Actually it's flabbergasting and appalling that, at a precipice like this, Congress won't give up any of their vacation time. Sack them all."

Rusty said...

"Nicely played Mr. Obama."
No. Not really.
He bluffed himself into a corner and has been called.
Obama has folded.
Anybody with brains can see it.

Barry Dauphin said...

Rather than assume what Obama wants, watch the degree to which he lobbies his own party to vote with him. A lot of Dems will want to say "no". What is Obama willing to do for them to say yes? I think it is premature to conclude that this is a clever move by Obama. How does Cameron look right about now?

Humperdink said...

"Our enemies are killing our enemies (in Syria). Why stop them?" Ralph Peters.

I completely agree. I also hope OweBama gets Camerooned in congress.

Hagar said...

I do not think Obama intends to go before Congress to lay out a case for his policies in the Middle East and ask for Congressional approval. I do not think he has any coherent policy to present to start with, so it will be more a version of "Authorize me to do whatever I might do, or you all will be a bunch of racists," and the appropriate response from Congress should be a version of "Well, we agree to that you do not need our approval to launch a limited action, so why don't you just proceed, and we will let you know what we think of it later."

David said...

Pogo alert!

"We have met the enemy and he is us."

David said...

Obama called a bluff.

But he called it on Congress (and the Republicans) not on Assad.

For domestic politics, brilliant.

For international politics, bad.

For dying Syrians . . . .

By the way, where is Hillary?

Will anyone even ask her what her position is?

Now she can say she supports the President. A low risk answer when the President does not have a policy.

Hagar said...

I think the Constitution only assigns Congress the right to officially declare war and requires the Senate's "advise and consent" for ratifying treaties.
Otherwise the only control Congress has over foreign policy is "the power of the purse."

Congress is not Parliament, and for the President to go to Congress about this, and in this manner, is just B.S.

jr565 said...

He already attacked Libya without getting congressional approval (or UN approval). So why is there a question about whether he thinks he can do it without consulting congress?
He does and he did.
And there was a collective sound of silence from the anti war crowd when he did it. Whereas,if Bush did the same Joe Biden and Obama would be demanding impeachment.

Well the times they are a changin'.

jr565 said...

And he's going to wait until Congress reconvenes? Giving Syria time to protect its assests and move important targets?
Wow, how convenient... for Syria.

David said...

Bill Harshaw said...
"I disagree that he wants to be told no. This is a man who believes the world should abolish nuclear weapons, and has spent some political capital to inch towards that goal. I'd take biological weapons as a logical corollary."

Bill??? Oh, Bill. Just what has Obama done as President to more to abolish biological weapons? (You meant chemical, right, which is what Assad used.) What has he done that is remotely effective to abolish nuclear weapons?

Damn, Bill. What world are you living in?

GrandpaMark said...

Obama has backed down because of public opinion. He claims to be adamant about punishing Assad because using chemical weapons is the most evil behavior.

If someone disagrees, it is up to Obama to convince them otherwise.

If he can't convince the opposition and the American public, the opposition must make it clear to the public that there is not sufficient reason to "send a strong message".

Then, Obama must find (or create) a legitimate reason to have "evolved" on the subject.

If he believes as strongly as he claims about the horror and inhumanity of what has been done, he has no option other than to send the missiles, no matter what congress says.

It is still a no-win situation for him, unless he can actually get congress to say yes.


GrandpaMark said...

.......and the evolution may involve "rogue soldiers", accidental release, or faulty intelligence". Any way to say Assad did not order it and therefore punishment is not required.(But do not let it happen again, or else there will be heck to pay.

Paul said...

So that is his new out. Since no one wants to attack Syria then he will get Congress to vote 'NO' and then say... my hands are tied.

Just another 'present' vote. True he painted himself into a corner but still, once in the corner he votes present and passes it to Congress.

If ever there was a more stupid president of the US I sure can't find one in the history books.

He makes Jimmy Carter look good, both at domestic and foreign policy.

Ray Stickler said...

The lame stream media reported that the Prez left for the links 30 minutes after his speech. Well played indeed...

cokaygne said...

Yes, "nicely played" for short-term domestic political gain. One hopes that a bipartisan majority votes no because shooting a couple of cruise missiles into the Syrian desert is not going to stop Assad.

0 has already voted "present". The GOP, and only the GOP, better realize that they will be accused of genocide by obstruction in not letting 0 stop Assad's use of chemical weapons even though 0 is in fact not proposing anything that would stop Assad.

In the long-term we should fear the next 3 years. All the world's bad guys are emboldened by President "red line". Good grief! even our most consistent ally, the UK, has turned against him. Bring back Jimmy Carter.

Robert Cook said...

"Over the years, have been a lot of people on the left and right who have argued that the President's power to authorize military action without Congressional support has gone too far and we need to return to more Congressional leadership on this issue."

The President has no constitutional authority to authorize military action without Congressional approval. Any such power as has been exercised by various presidents goes too far as it is a usurpation of the Congress' rightful power.

Robert Cook said...

"The moment will come for action regarding Iran's nuclear program. It will be the most impotant moment of the Obama presidency. He likely will falter and, unless Israel acts, the world will have Iran with a nuclear weapon."

There is no indication that Iran has a nuclear weapons program. On the other hand, Israel not only has a nuclear program but a nuclear arsenal.

What do you think Iran intends? Even assuming for discussion they developed a nuclear weapons program and built a bomb, why does this make the world any more at risk for nuclear holocaust than it already is? Why assume Iran wants to build nukes to attack their neighbors? Aside from their history of non-aggression they are not crazy...they know full well they would be obliterated by American and/or Israeli nukes if they ever dared launch a first strike.

Robert Cook said...

"Sorry but considering this President didn't need Congressional approval to go to war in Libya and consistently overrides Congress with signing statements and executive orders, by putting the Syria question into Congress' hands all he looks is weak, cowardly and duplicitous."

Yes, constitutionally, he did. What you describe, perhaps sarcastically, as (by inference) the president acting bravely, forthrightly, and with strength is an example of his acting lawlessly.

Robert Cook said...

"Just another 'present' vote. True he painted himself into a corner but still, once in the corner he votes present and passes it to Congress."

As he is required to do by the constitution.

cubanbob said...

Well Obama is from Chicago so perhaps he thought a drive by missile attack would suffice. But that is at best a tactic, not a strategy. Congress should ask the president what is our strategy and what is the desired outcome? Apparently the Administration doesn't have a strategy or war plan so any too clever by half ideas of blaming Congress for whatever bad outcome there is in Syria-and there are no good outcomes there- will boomerang back on the Administration. If we do go ahead we will be alone on this. The British and the French are bailing out so it will be Obama The Rodeo Clown Cowboy all by his lonesome. Since he will be then compared to Bush and found lacking-Bush did get a forty nation coalition- Obama will as per usual blame others-Congress- yet secretly be glad Congress gave him a way out. Anyone notice that the dem front runner for 2016 has been MIA on Syria?

cubanbob said...

Well Obama is from Chicago so perhaps he thought a drive by missile attack would suffice. But that is at best a tactic, not a strategy. Congress should ask the president what is our strategy and what is the desired outcome? Apparently the Administration doesn't have a strategy or war plan so any too clever by half ideas of blaming Congress for whatever bad outcome there is in Syria-and there are no good outcomes there- will boomerang back on the Administration. If we do go ahead we will be alone on this. The British and the French are bailing out so it will be Obama The Rodeo Clown Cowboy all by his lonesome. Since he will be then compared to Bush and found lacking-Bush did get a forty nation coalition- Obama will as per usual blame others-Congress- yet secretly be glad Congress gave him a way out. Anyone notice that the dem front runner for 2016 has been MIA on Syria?

jr565 said...

How was this well played? He's in this situation for putting down a red line in the first place. then jumping out and saying he would initiate military action in the first place without consulting congress.
Mistake one and two.
Then he said how he was going to bomb Syria. He said no boots on the ground and a limited engagement letting Syria know that they don't have to fear too much about the response since it's only going to be limited. Then they even let it be known the targets to be bombed, and then allowed Syria plenty of time to move their equipment.
After finally saying he wil consult congress he doesn't even bother reconvening them or asking them to come back in to vote on this, since obviously it's a pressing matter. Anytime you threaten to bomb a country it's kind of important. But he kicks the can down the road till September 9th. And then he goes out and plays golf.
Maybe that's what you mean by "well played"? HIs golf game?
Because his presidential leadership was decidedly not well played.

Big Mike said...

If ever there was a more stupid president of the US I sure can't find one in the history books.

Go look up James Buchanan. But there's no one else close.

He makes Jimmy Carter look good, both at domestic and foreign policy

Yes. In fact, I've been told by a econometrician that if unemployment and inflation were calculated the way they were when Carter was in office, we'd be in double digits for both. And Carter never made the mistake of deliberately offending the UK in his first year of office, failing to consider that he might one day need their support.

PH said...

It was definitely nicely played by Obama. Now for Congress to officially vote no...

SukieTawdry said...

After due deliberation, Congress should put the ball back in the president's court by passing a resolution authorizing him to use his own best judgement.