Ed Driscoll

'Reductio ad Obama'

In his latest Best of the Web Today column, James Taranto writes, “It’s astonishing how much of the administration’s case for military intervention in Syria is tied up in nots:”

Here are some excerpts from Obama’s press conference today:

You know, over 1,400 people were gassed. Over 400 of them were children. This is not something we’ve fabricated. This is not something that we are looking–are using as an excuse for military action.

As I said last night, I was elected to end wars, not start them. . . .

And the question for the American people is, is that responsibility that we’re willing to bear. And I believe that when you have a limited, proportional strike like this, not Iraq, not putting boots on the ground, not some long, drawn-out affair, not without any risks, but with manageable risks, that we should be willing to bear that responsibility.

Here’s Secretary of State John Kerry in an interview yesterday with MSNBC’s Chris Hayes:

Now, most importantly, Chris, we’re not remotely talking about getting America involved directly in between any of those forces. The president is not talking about, uh, assuming responsibility for Syria’s civil war.  . . .

Let me just say that, very simply, the president is not asking Congress to authorize him militarily to engage in that transition [to a new regime in Syria]. . . .

I can guarantee you, I’m not imprisoned by my memories of or experience in Vietnam, I’m informed by it. And I’m not imprisoned by my memory of how that evidence [regarding Iraq] was used, I’m informed by it. And so is Chuck Hagel. And we are informed sufficiently that we are absolutely committed to not putting any evidence in front of the American people that isn’t properly vetted, properly chased to ground and verified. . . .

There will be no American boots on the ground. This is not Iraq. This is not Afghanistan. This is not even Libya. . . . I believe this is enforcing a very limited military action, not going to war.

And of course the classic example from the president’s Wednesday press conference: “I didn’t set a red line.” Which brings us back to his assertion in the same press conference that “I think it’s very important that Congress say that we mean what we say.”

Obama loves to speak in the first-person singular; he seems oblivious to the obnoxiousness of his habitual references (including one in today’s press conference) to “my military.” But suddenly it’s a matter of whether we mean what we say.

It’s the same dodge as “I didn’t set a red line.” In reality, as we noted Wednesday, Obama did introduce the idea of “a red line,” and his subordinates later affirmed that he had thereby set such a line. Obama is using the first-person plural to obscure what he’s really doing by asking lawmakers for approval: demanding that they say that they mean what he said. He blundered into a policy by speaking carelessly, waited months before thinking through its implications, then made a decision. He believes he has the authority to carry out that decision on his own, but apparently is unwilling to do so unless Congress affords him political cover.

Read the whole thing, which ends up with a New York Timesman longing — in his own smug, haughty, superior than thou way, of course — for the moral clarity and plainspoken tone of President Bush.

Or as Mark Steyn wrote in early 2009 when the president left office:

On Fox News the other night, I found myself talking to a nice lady from Code Pink who was trying to grapple with the fact that Henry Kissinger and Karl Rove are more enthusiastic about Obama’s national-security team than she is. Many other Obama policies now turn out to be inoperative, and we haven’t even had the coronation. I don’t know about my Code Pink friend, but I already miss Bush’s straightforwardness. He spoke a language all but extinct in the upper echelons of electoral politics. “Bush lied”? Here he is in Crawford, early in 2002, being interviewed by Trevor McDonald of Britain’s ITN:

“I made up my mind that Saddam needs to go,” said Bush.

“And, of course, if the logic of the War on Terror means anything,” Sir Trevor responded, relentlessly forensic in his determination not to let Bush get away with these shifty evasions, “then Saddam must go?”

“That’s what I just said,” said the president. “The policy of my government is that he goes.”

“So you’re going to go after him?” pressed Sir Trevor, reluctant to take yes for an answer.

“As I told you,” said the president, “the policy of my government is that Saddam Hussein not be in power.”

Etc. George W. Bush is who he is, and he never pretended to be anything but. Do you know how rare that is? If you don’t, you surely will after six months of Barack Obama’s enigmatic cool.

Amen. At Ricochet, Paul Rahe explores, “Justified Nostalgia for George W. Bush.”

Oh, and speaking of Mr. Obama’s “Red Line”

Update: From Jonah Goldberg’s latest G-File: “I’m not sure this is real, but as a metaphor for Obama’s foreign policy, I think it works:”

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