A case can now be firmly made that Barack Obama is the most incompetent and dangerous chief executive our country has ever had. While historians of the future will undoubtedly rate him very high — because he is the first African-American president and they support Obama Care, which they will say is a major accomplishment for his administration — they will overlook his glaring faults. Moreover, they will understand that if they rate him anything other than the highest level, they will be accused of being racists.
Yet in the past few days this has become so apparent that I do not believe anyone, including those who partake in the game of presidential ratings, can ignore the truth. Obama has shown the world that no one can or should take him seriously. After saying since over a year ago that “Assad must go” and then saying that the use of chemical weapons is a red line that Assad cannot cross, he has undercut John Kerry’s speech on Friday by withholding any action until Congress reconvenes in a week.
In effect, President Obama has learned the wrong lessons from Prime Minister Cameron’s shocking defeat in Parliament. Cameron was publicly humiliated; Labor betrayed him by first assuring him of their support and then, at the last minute, deciding that the unpopularity of a strike on Syria would give them political clout. Hence at the last minute they changed their position and gave the orders for their backbenchers to vote against any UK involvement.
Secretary Kerry said in his impassioned speech on Friday that Assad was a “thug” and a monster, and that his action could not go unpunished. The president then not only embarrassed Kerry by postponing action before even conferring with him, but put on hold all in his administration who were getting ready to gather support for a strike, which, as the president said, did not require any vote by Congress. Yet he has now asked for a vote, one in which he has no assurance that he can win. He has opponents on both the Republican and Democratic side of the aisle, and they might very well have enough votes to go against his stated desire that a strike against Syria be taken.
The result, should he lose, will not only be further humiliation, but a damaging setback for the reputation and word of the United States. Our enemies throughout the world will be waiting in anticipation for such a failure. Already, the reports are arriving from the orchestrated celebrations in Syria, which has declared that the regime has already won. By delaying any action for what could be two weeks or more, Obama has given Assad even more time to assure that if a strike comes, it will not harm any of his troops, their weapons, or their strategic military capability.
President Obama, if he had read the Cameron defeat correctly, would have decided to act without consulting Congress, as John Yoo and others have argued is constitutional. Indeed, President Clinton ordered bombing strikes in Kosovo as Congress was deliberating and without waiting for the results of a vote. Eventually he got an endorsement, but he acted first. President Obama now says he is going to Congress even though he knows he does not have to. Do we really believe that if the vote in Congress goes against him, he will then act on his own? I doubt it. What he will do is precisely what Cameron did in Britain — throw in the towel and decide the U.S. really does not have to do anything.
Some would argue that President Obama favors a negative vote. That will give him the option to bow out by saying he is listening to the American people. We know that he has announced what in effect is the kind of strike that will be only symbolic; one that will not harm Assad in any meaningful manner. That is why ardent hawks like Lindsey Graham and John McCain are contemplating voting no; they think Obama’s planned strike will not accomplish anything. He could, of course — short of regime change, which he will not support — take out Assad’s air force and strategic capability, allowing the regime’s opposition to have a chance. Moreover, such a move would at least stop Assad from killing thousands of more civilians, which the dictator has shown he is capable of doing without using poison gas.
But one thing President Barack Obama is not is a leader. He has the title of commander-in-chief, but he continues to lead from behind and to command nothing. John Kerry, who I argued earlier should have resigned after being so humiliated, has buckled down for his president and had the task of going on all the Sunday talk shows to rationalize and support Obama’s decision to wait for Congress to return and go into session. Obama did not even decide to call Congress back into session on Labor Day or Tuesday, preferring to wait till the scheduled date of resumption.