Now that President Obama has decided to consult Congress before firing rockets into Syria, we have the “Obama is weak and should have done something already” narrative rearing its ugly head. Secretary of State Kerry rightly pointed out to CNN’s Gloria Borger that had Obama not decided to deal with Congress, had he just fired the rockets, he’d be catching a wave of “What was the rush? Where’s your support?”
By deciding to treat Congress like responsible adults, something modern Presidents almost never do when it comes to war, Obama runs the risk Congress will say no. That he has still chosen to do so, knowing the risk, (especially after the Brits elected to not join us), strikes me as strength, not weakness. But it won’t come out that way: he’ll be punished as weak for asking, punished if he then proceeds to do something against Syria anyway (He’s ignoring us!), punished especially if Congress turns him down, he does nothing, and chemical weapons are used again. He’ll be elevated from merely weak to “dithering,” an old-fashioned word that gets rolled out to suggest the truly hapless are in charge.
I have lots of problems with President Obama. He has disappointed me on the economy, on foreign policy there has been a disturbing continuity between his administration and that of former President Bush, and on state secrets and national security, he has not done well at all. That said, he still can’t catch a break.