Opinion

David Rohde

For Obama, a contradiction too many

By David Rohde
September 6, 2013

President Barack Obama will have to deliver one of the finest speeches of his presidency next Tuesday if he hopes to win Congressional support for a strike against Syria. Out of nowhere, the Syria vote has emerged as one of the defining moments of Obama’s second term.

With three years remaining in office, the vote will either revive his presidency or leave Obama severely weakened at home and abroad.

There are legitimate criticisms of Obama’s initial response to the Syrian government’s barbaric August 21st gas attack outside Damascus. The president should have demanded that Congress be called back from recess immediately. He should also have immediately made a far more personal and passionate case for strikes.

But what may doom the president’s effort, in the end, is not his short-term tactics. It is years of contradictory policies and unfulfilled promises by Obama himself.

As Charles Blow noted in the New York Times this week, this is the “Era of Disbelief,” where Americans don’t trust their president or Congress. Blow rightly cited Iraq as the primary cause. But a litany of other government half-truths have pushed the public’s trust in its government to record lows.

“According to Gallup, only 10 percent of Americans now have a ‘great deal’ or ‘quite a lot’ of confidence in Congress, a record low since Gallup started tracking the measure in 1973,” Blow wrote. “Only 36 percent have the same level of confidence in the presidency.”

Obama’s primary sin has been contradiction. On many issues related to the war on terror, he has broken campaign promises or adopted inconsistent positions. Obama is now asking Americans to trust him on Syria. But they do not.

For the last six years, Obama has told Americans that the United States needs to extricate itself from the Middle East. He proclaimed a “pivot to Asia” — and declared that region far more important to America’s future than the Middle East.

Iraq and then Afghanistan were countries that the United States should get out of, Obama declared. And never look back. For two years, a similar message was conveyed about Syria: stay out at all cost.

Now, Obama is telling Americans that attacking Syria is vital. Voters respond with a simple question: Why now? The chemical weapons attack was horrific, skeptics argue, but they say the administration has not explained why Syria now represents  a national security threat to the United States.

In a development that must deeply worry the White House, support for a  strike from the Israeli government and the American Israeli Public Affairs Committee has so far failed to dramatically increase support in  Congress. Conservative Republicans who normally shower support on Israel say sweeping opposition from constituents compels them to vote no.

Distrust of Obama on the right, of course, is nothing new. Conservatives have reviled him for years. What threatens Obama is a lack of trust from his liberal base.

Since he won re-election, liberals have expressed growing frustration with Obama’s national security policies. Hopes that he might change some of his positions in his second term have been dashed.

Obama has made only a tepid effort to close Guantanamo Bay; insisted on cloaking drone strikes in secrecy, and strongly defended sweeping National Security Agency surveillance. The candidate that liberals thought would return the rule of law to the struggle against terror continues to embrace many of President George W. Bush’s practices.

Obama has also contradicted himself on executive power. After steadily expanding the power of the presidency for the last six years, he abruptly decided to seek Congressional support for an attack on Syria.

Again, Obama’s position is inconsistent. He is requesting congressional support for a Tomahawk missile strike in Syria but continues to argue he has the authority to maintain a “kill list” of people — Americans included — whom the president can target in drone missile strikes worldwide. There is no public review of the “kill list,” the legal rational behind it or standards of evidence used to determine who will die.

While Obama kept his promise to pull US troops out of Iraq,  he has disappointed his liberal base in Afghanistan. Instead of withdrawing American troops from the country in his first term, he carried out a surge of U.S. troops. In his second term, he continues to promise  a pullout but talk of maintaining as many as 15,000 soldiers in Afghanistan as a “residual force” continues to circulate.

Lastly, Obama’s response to the widespread NSA eavesdropping revealed by Edward J. Snowden has also disappointed many liberals. Obama said he “welcomed a debate” on surveillance — but then declined to reveal the extent of the programs or open them to public review.

A similar disappointment exists overseas. Europeans who expected sweeping reforms of American anti-terror efforts are disappointed. The Snowden leaks have been even more devastating abroad than they have been at home. From Germany to Mexico, the NSA has been secretly eavesdropping on foreign leaders while insisting it was doing nothing of the sort.

There is a chance that Obama will somehow win support from Congress. As I’ve written before, lawmakers should approve his request if it is part of a broader strategy to work toward a political settlement in Syria.

The draft Senate resolution bars American ground troops from deploying in Syria and places a ninety day limit on how long any attack can last. And Obama himself has repeatedly said that he will not allow the US to be drawn into a prolonged conflict.

In short, Obama is asking the American public to trust him. In a rare moment of unity, Americans on the right and left are saying they do not. The president has engaged in one contradiction too many.

This post was revised and updated at 12:30am EST on Saturday, September 7th.

PHOTO (Top): President Barack Obama pauses during a news conference at the G20 Summit in St. Petersburg, September 6, 2013. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque

PHOTO (Insert): President Barack Obama speaks about Syria during a joint news conference with Swedish Prime Minister Fredrik Reinfeldt at the prime minister’s office in Stockholm, Sweden, September 4, 2013. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque

Comments
30 comments so far | RSS Comments RSS

OK, I’ll provide an example of somebody who bought in to the high hopes of a President Obama, but has come to realize we mean nothing to him.

Obama gave his great conciliatory speech to ME countries at the beginning his first term, and since it has been downhill slide into the waiting arms of AIPAC et al. He even apologized for the CIA overthrow of Iran’s democratic government. We thought we Americans were going to get out of the world hegemony business, and instead he has dug us in deeper everywhere.

He even talked about a single payer medical system, potentially saving the US $1.3T per year.

Basically, we no longer buy his “Oh I tried, but the other side won’t let me be a good guy”. No, he looks like a total shill.

He knows what to say, he just can’t stick to it.

An appropriate Hollywood saw comes back to my mind every time I see Obama: To be successful, you need to be sincere. If you can ACT sincere, you have it made.

Now Obama expects us to believe the illogical lies about Assad inviting the US to bomb him back in to the stone age, saving Syrians by killing them, all the time supporting an Al Qaeda-led insurgency.

To this mind, Obama is a snake oil salesman for the 1000 or so people who run US/Israel. We’ve been cheated again.

The good thing is that Obama and his cronies have become so filled with hubris that they think the American people will believe anything they are told. Evidently not. Thank you President Obama for being so transparent. We’re seeing right through you.

Posted by xcanada2 | Report as abusive
 

This situation is not about Syria – it’s ALL about Obama and his ego.

Posted by GomerWumphf | Report as abusive
 

The media manufactures most of the opinions that voters have about politicians. Commentary about the effect of their commentary makes the media the biggest problem first world democracies have.

Do better.

Posted by Colmery | Report as abusive
 

German chancellor Merkel has a point: The Syrian gas attack was a war crime that must be settled by the International Court of Justice in The Hague. But it is no excuse for a foreign power to stage a military action. Obama merely lets himself be pushed by Israel and its lobbyists into a military attack on its old arch enemy, using the gas killings as a pretext.

Posted by pbgd | Report as abusive
 

The decision has already been made. McCain and Boehner would not have thrown their support behind the Syria resolution and sided with Obama without the understanding that the resolution will pass. (When has Boehner ever sided with the president?)

It is a foregone conclusion that we will bomb Syria. The one thing our government appears to be able to compromise on is War, the true American pastime.

The American public is against the bombing, but that hardly matters, as we won’t really do anything about it. Sure a few hundred thousand protesters may assemble, but the media will short this number by many thousands and present this as a few impressionable kids and progressives having their public say, all part of the fabric of our American “Democracy”.

Most of us in the west are too comfortable in our air conditioning with our huge flat screen televisions – besides the NFL season is just starting, and the World Series is just around the corner (with a decent prospect of featuring two non-Yankees teams).

It wouldn’t surprise me if the debt ceiling issue was not an issue the next time around. That, or some other sticking point will become a non-issue for Obama going forward.

Posted by CanyonLiveOak | Report as abusive
 

I think Barack is walking proof of that saying about absolute power…or was it about absolut vodka?

Posted by BidnisMan | Report as abusive
 

The one question I have is HOW ARE WE GOING TO PAY FOR THIS NEW ADVENTURE IN SYRIA? I mean, really. Evidently, and I’m not totally this is true, the Saudis and the Kuwaitis paid for the FIRST Gulf War. The second Iraq war was supposed to be paid by Middle East oil money, wasn’t it? We know what happened there. And of course Afghanistan has been an endless black hole in the budget, a war that has been running longer than World War II.

Posted by bluepanther | Report as abusive
 

Obama contradicts himself time and again. Which makes him just like the other presidents we’ve had for the last 49 years.

Posted by Jeff9207 | Report as abusive
 

Disagree entirely. He did exactly the correct thing by going to Congress to weigh in. Those who think not are the reasons we have so many wars abroad and get our country into so many horrible messes. Now, finally, the American people have a chance to weigh in via their representatives, and THEY ARE EXPRESSING ADAMANT OPPOSITION to involvement in Syria EXCEPT THROUGH UNITED NATIONS. Those who see this as weakening the President miss the more important point — it strengthens our democracy — and for the first in a very long time.

Posted by SanJoseCA | Report as abusive
 

Correct me if I’m wrong. Didn’t Obama request an extension of the Iraq occupation (set to end on a specific date per Bush agreement) but the Iraqi parliament refused it?

But yes, turns out he WAS able to claim it as a campaign promise altho the timetable was never his.

Posted by SaveRMiddle | Report as abusive
 

Everything you say about Obama and his presidency is correct.
The question is why someone who sounded so high principled and honest should fail so miserably.

The answer lies in his personlaity and his qualifications as a politiciian.

As a personality he is introspective, vain and highly conceited. Qualifications for academic acheivment by somone driven. His ambitions led him to excel academically and hi is highly intelligent. He is also Introverted and highly neurotic. He can really only rely on his own logic and thought. Once convinced of an idea he will go to great lengths trying to convince. His inherent conceit and his academic upbringing compel him to be condescending and he is only able to talk down to people. This may work with students or defendants but not political colleagues who could just as likely be sitting in his place.
His presidency is an accident ot the times and of circumstance in American History.
These are not the qualifications of a politicians.
He lacks some basic requirements that are necessary for success in politics and in particular for a leader especially for a country like the US.
He lacks Charisma, is unable to engage others and further loses his audience by talking at them or down to them, often as teachers do with their students.
Very importantly he lacks clarity of vison and purpose and that is why he expends so much time composing and justifying.
He is not sly enough-he would be a lousy poker player.
Above all he is inexperienced and naive.
Honesty, incorruptabilty, titubation and logic do not make for a good leader necessarily.
his worst attribute however is running off at the mouth. The man is simply verbose and shoots from the hip, or goes off half cocked.
Hence his frequent changes in his decision making which show him as a man who breaks his promises, changes his mind and indecisive which he is.
There is a certain amount of learning on the job foe any president but under it is necessary a degree of political savvy, unscrupulousness and a capacity to engage others.
All in all he fails as a president. He would have done well as a tenured professor or lawyer, not as a leader.

Posted by pharoah | Report as abusive
 

Watch world events over the next 2-3 months. A plan is in place. Assad didn’t chemically attack anyone. This was done by our good ole buddies in the middle east, lets call them FIM for friends in middle east. I will let you figure out who they are. Another attack is coming. Reasons for it are VERY complicated but suffice it to say the first attack didn’t sway public opinion the way they wanted. Alternate plans were in place from the beginning.

It couldn’t be terrorist with chemicals to start with. It had to be Assad. Look for more convincing **frame**work to start coming out. More Assad did it type stuff. Assad is so unimportant here as he is but a mere pawn whose significance can be aligned with say killing a mosquito in Louisiana around July. He is being kept busy for specific reasons. He is truly fighting for his life and to maintain the status quo his father started.

The plan is extremely complex in its structure and even more so in its execution. I will attempt to lay it out for you as minimalistic as I can.

1. Frame Assad, Expect outrage. Hopefully other countries who in the beginning ignorantly set a line in the sand for the usage of these weapons. A gift that keeps on giving. Boy did they love this.
2. Wait for support for an attack and hopefully someone else will do the major grunt work. If not, well we have 2 options at this time. Attack on our own, most will support this because its not their country and hey they guy used chem weapons on his people. OR more **frame** work has to be done.
3. Another attack is imminent. It will again be attached to Assad. KEEP IN MIND it must not be attached to terrorist at this point. The complexities in Syria are incredibly more diverse than say Libya. This framing work would create to many variables in Syria. They could be masterfully handled by our BHC people however simple is better. For all of the intricacies in a massive covert operation that can be manipulated it is best to KISS, even for the masters at work here.
4. Once the 2nd attack sets in on the collective minds of the worlds policemen and their constituents, FIM may or may not get what they want. If they do it will be LIMITED because people are fatigued from war.
5. So then FIM can go ahead with cutting the head off of the snake but before this happens THEY MUST have more support. Mainly america because in this case there will be an explosion of instability. Instability due to a very fragmented society in Syria. Convoluted in its function right now, way more than before this all started. You can thank the same people for the revolution in Syria.
6. Right now things are incredibly diverse and not at all what FIM intended when it started. They expected a much quicker dissolution of government and Assad was not expected to hang on this long. We are in deep in other words, deep into the overall plan of remaking the middle east. This has nothing to do with democratizing the middle east and everything to do with remaking it in FIM’s grand vision. They are masterful at pulling strings. (who else created a religion that identifies FIM as ‘chosen’ and everyone else has to be subservient to make it into the afterlife but they, well they get their choice even at death, what a beautiful setup) In other words America would NEVER abandon them, they are the chosen ones of christians sole god however I digress.
7. It will eventually lead to attacks happening somewhere else with these chemicals, although something you need to realize. These weapons are already in the hands of FIM. Have been for a good while.
8. Once again, eventually we will be dragged into another one of FIM’s vendettas. A vendetta that is but a mere bump on the road to global domination and control.

I am Pibs, and I like cats.

Hyperbole the lot of it. All or some of it. I retain the right to say what is and what isn’t. You be the judge, but watch TV and more importantly monitor Reuter’s feeds. You won’t be disappointed. Again will it all be hyperbole? After 3 months you can tell me.

Posted by politicsisbs | Report as abusive
 

I suspect Obama’s NSA appearance on Leno shook a few blindly loyal supporters out of the tree. Denial – an absolutely fascinating topic as it purposely dishes out small doses of regulated reality so our brains aren’t overloaded with too much too fast.

Posted by SaveRMiddle | Report as abusive
 

Obama is, and has always been, an empty suit.

His presidency is a historical accident. His ascent was made possible by a singular set of circumstances:

1). He followed an atrociously incompetent president, G.W.Bush.
2). There was (and is) a vacuum of sane leadership in the Republican party.
3). Democrats were tired of Clinton notoriety and shoddy spectacles.

Even in those who don’t downright detest him, Obama inspires ambivalence at best.

Obama fatigue is palpable even in his staunchest erstwhile supporters.

Posted by jrpardinas | Report as abusive
 

Obama was tellingly anointed “the first Jewish President” by the American media.

But while AIPAC is infinitely generous to American politicians, it is not infinitely patient.

Obama has not delivered on what he was undoubtedly elected to do, which was to start a war with Iran. And his time is running out.

Hence the mad scramble to intervene in Syria with the fervent hope it leads to a wider conflagration involving Iran.

Posted by jrpardinas | Report as abusive
 

@xcanada2

+1

As a Progressive I’m still waiting for the first “real” progressive President since Teddy Roosevelt.

The 1% Billionaires and the Jews (synonymous) need to be ended.

Posted by Foxdrake_360 | Report as abusive
 

Assad denies his government caused the CW attack. If Syria put restraints on the U.N. use of physical evidence collected at the site of the attack, thereby forbidding the U.N. from doing anything other than testing to determine that a CW attack had occurred, this tends to be a form of self-incrimination for Assad.

Before launching any attack on Syria, the U.S. should ask Assad to remove that restriction and authorize the U.N. to determine the constituents of the toxic materials collected through additional chemical tests or spectroscopic analysis. Or Assad should initiate removal of those U.N. restrictions if he feels the CW is not traceable to Syrian weaponry.

This physical evidence could be compared to materials previously collected in Turkey from some terrorists (headed for Syria?) who were found to be in possession of such CW material. Perhaps this physical evidence could substantiate Assad’s and Putin’s claims that the rebels or jihadists had released the CW (perhaps by accident, or perhaps deliberately to instigate the proposed U.S. strikes on Syrian forces).

If the U.S. Congress approves Obama’s red-line war, Assad would have nothing to lose by allowing such U.N. sponsored tests because this could delay the proposed strikes and perhaps even end the confrontation if the CW is traceable to the rebels or jihadists.

Posted by bobpaglee | Report as abusive
 

i disagree with the author on who was behind the 8/21 attacks but the rest is valid.

UN Charter, article 2(4) makes it ILLEGAL for any country to use force or threaten to use force against another country; and article 2(7) makes an intervention in an internal or domestic dispute in another country also ILLEGAL.

Now that Assad has agreed to put Syria’s weapons under UN control. Susan Rice is back to demanding regime change after weeks of denying that was what the Obama regime is after.

The Russian’s Chinese and Syrians have offered repeatedly peaceful options for resolution and the US and ‘friends of Syria’ supported terrorists/rebels refuse to meet.

the Obama regime is clearly in the wrong and we Americans refuse to support it.

Posted by prolibertate | Report as abusive
 

What will the president do if Syria shoots back?

Posted by Blackshirt | Report as abusive
 

Here is a question Obama will not answer: Why have we spent BILLIONS in military aid to Israel, Turkey and other countries in the region and we are still expected to take care of problems in their own back yard?

If they cannot or will not care for themselves after all our billions, than our tax dollars have been wasted. Obama said “Israel can defend itself….” so let it and let the other countries who have benefited from our military aid step up to the plate.

Posted by AZreb | Report as abusive
 

This administration including the Illuminati school boys are incompetent to do anything , especially foreign policy! From F.D.R. till now you deserve to bow for your greed, and power trips all over my planet. That’s what you get when you have people like Valerie Jarret advising the President while he snorts coke and plays poker while our elite get shot up from the rules of engagement that confines them.
Congratulations to Vladimir Putin for putting this administration in its place. Very well deserved as the U.S.A. is not to be the policeman or savior of the world forcing and imposing democracy on the planet and in doing so, leave them in worse shape than when we went in. The progressive liberal idiots deserve the mess they created. Barry Soetoro (Barack Obama) had to comply as he is no match as a leader like President Putin is and in foreign diplomacy and policy period. Putin just stole the Nobel peace prize from Barry.

Posted by Zzzoney64 | Report as abusive
 

> With three years remaining in office…

Someone needs help counting.

Posted by jennili970 | Report as abusive
 

> Obama merely lets himself be pushed by Israel and its lobbyists into a military
> attack on its old arch enemy, using the gas killings as a pretext.

100 percent accurate but you can’t say that in America, land of the “free press” (all owned by Jews). I’m amazed they haven’t deleted your comment yet.

Posted by jennili970 | Report as abusive
 

Who will be the winners in another “war”? The Military Industrial Complex and the Pentagon.

Posted by AZreb | Report as abusive
 

I TOLD YOU SO.

Posted by ajz | Report as abusive
 

You must introduce the concept of time. Things change. It shows intelligence and strong character. Don’t you change your direction as things change around you? It’s called navigating.

Posted by SeaWa | Report as abusive
 

So sick of this habitual jackal

Posted by Whuppin13 | Report as abusive
 

Most Americans I know feel disserved by our entire government because we see that special interest groups “wag the dog”- Congress is owned by either: Big Business who paid for their campaigns, or they bought their votes with promises of continued and/or increased benefits for the majority of Americans, now 53% who PAY NO INCOME TAX, or lastly, stole their votes by mongering racial hate and fear.

We have ZERO say in what our taxes are spent on- mostly corporate welfare to General Dynamics, Northrup, Raytheon etc etc and EIC etc.

Posted by Troot | Report as abusive
 

Question: Will we bomb Assad and help ISIS, or bomb ISIS and help Assad?

Posted by VanMan3210 | Report as abusive
 

Bombing Syria is a very serious matter.The game is going to be a bigger flame i involving Russia and Iran.
He is now telling military help to Sunnies Iraq when Sunnies are the part and parcel of Islamic state.
May be something serious is being cooked at the instance of Saudi Arabia and Israel.
The news are shocking indeed.
I can’t understand how many conflicts Obama wants to involve?!…..or is he taking his job so easy?

Posted by gentalman | Report as abusive
 

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