Congress Foreign Policy President Obama Syria

Just Like Bush

Or maybe not.

The president announced today that he will seek congressional approval for taking action against the Assad regime for using chemical weapons.

“This attack is an assault on human dignity. It also presents a serious danger to our national security,” Obama said in a statement from the White House Rose Garden.

“I have decided the U.S. should take action against Syrian military targets,” he added.

Obama said he believed he had constitutional authority to intervene militarily in Syria without congressional approval, but that the country “will be stronger” if he does so.

I’m deeply skeptical that Congress will approve.

Why? Because they approve of Assad’s actions? Because they believe we shouldn’t involve ourselves?

No. I believe they won’t because of Obama Derangement Syndrome. Because the primary hurdle such a vote will have to overcome is the number of people who will vote NO simply because President Obama is the one who’s asking.

For this reason, I disagree with the president seeking the approval of congress, but I also understand why he is.

I welcome being proven wrong.

Adding... my skepticism is not aimed squarely at the Right
  • Shawn Lane

    As with so many things these last few years, the president CAN’T win. When you have an entire cable news channel and 95% of talk radio aligned against you, it doesn’t matter what you do or don’t do. Send some cruise missiles up Assad’s butt and you’re a warmonger who needs to be impeached. Do nothing and you’re only taking care of your Muslim Brotherhood cronies (who right wingers believe are the only people you care about). Seek approval from Congress and you’re soft on terrorism. The only way to effectively lead the country is to completely ignore Republicans and the right wing media. Sure, you’ll hardly get anything done. But hardly anything is better than nothing.

  • Badgerite

    No matter how this plays out, Assad’s forces are reported to have killed 1000 people, indiscriminately, with one strike. One strike. There is a difference between this kind of weapon and conventional weapons. There is, for the rebels fighting Assad, no defense. Not only for them but for their families or the families of others. Assad might just be testing the waters to see if he can get away with using this kind of weaponry, since it provides a clear strategic advantage. This kind of weapon could tip the balance for him and rather quickly. Nobody uses chemical weapons accidentally. And if the left decides this is alright, then I don’t expect for them to complain about ‘drone strikes’.

  • ForsettiJustice

    Hate everything the President wants and suggests (even our own ideas) -v- Love engaging the military especially in the Middle East. I will pull up a big comfy chair, pop open a double IPA and watch this Wingnut Ideology Cage Match with glee.

  • D_C_Wilson

    I think going before Congress for authorizing it is the smart move. If they approve it, then the republicans also own it in the event there is blow back. If they deny it, he can crank the heat up on them in the event Assad uses chemical weapons again.

    That said, I’m not on board with military strikes. Maybe I would be if it weren’t for the events of the last decade, but I’m now of the opinion that we need to disengage ourselves from the Middle East, put our resources into alternative fuels, and let them sort their problems out themselves.

  • mrbrink

    I like the president’s appeal to the most insane congress ever assembled. Democracy at its finest. Garble garble yes! garble garble no! Garble garble kill em’ all! garble garble let them all burn!

    As usual, though, this blog is a champion of letting the actual facts guide the discourse.

    But I can’t tell who’s worse right now. People who compare the details of Syria to the shallow generalities of Iraq, or the people who are playing war president on fucking twitter.

    I understand the case for intervening, although I still disagree with it, for various reasons. But what this president is doing for the institution of democracy in America is unrivaled in my time. I’m a “no,” but that doesn’t mean I don’t recognize that the case to intervene is stronger than my reluctant “no.” But it makes it a lot easier to abide when we have a president willing to hold it to a vote, especially since he doesn’t have to.

    But what really draws my ire are the Strangelove comments coming from people like Cenk Uygur, of the deceptively faux-edgy ‘Young Turks’ name brand of WTF? Media that’s popular with all the wannabe subversives who wear designer combat boots to Starbucks nowadays.

    I can see deferring to our elected officials to make these tough decisions. I can see the reluctance to support those decisions, whatever they may be. However, what I don’t see is how anyone can talk of a bombing campaign that is nowhere near a measured and tempered discussion.


    If we did strikes, then I would do limited but massive and unannounced strikes against military installations. I do believe in deterrence.

    Yes. I believe in deterrence, too, But the arrogance and nonchalant game of war going on here in a goddamn twitter feed is the epitome of brute ignorance.

    Posting on that tweet to clarify his position on the president first consulting congress for a vote, Cenk wrote

    Yes, that is correct. I laid ourt preconditions for an attack in an earlier tweet.

    So glad General President Cenk has laid out his ridiculous preconditions to the world before he wins this attack for Syria.

    With a magical sniper’s scope that can see into the future, evidently, he’s stepping into areas of this debate that he should be well aware are way beyond his intellectual pay grade.


    If you pounded Syrian military, especially command & control & did it repeatedly, they would think twice about using WMD on civilians again.

    It’s like Patton had a lovechild with the lovechild of Doc Brown and Biff Tanner. ‘Pound the Syrian military’ and “they would think twice?” This reeks of intellectual violence. I expect more from a Varsity Letterman. This is bush league stuff. The internet is filled with crackpots who are very good at charging up the rhetorical hill and planting our flag.

    I know he’s Bob’s friend, but I’ve seen him talk a lot of shit and disparage good people with the same sense of reckless speculation. And I know people are looking for war support, but not like this.

    I can reconcile may things in this debate, but I honestly can’t think of anything more vulgar than a so-called progressive, or independent, or whatever, playing meat-headed war games from his twitter feed.

    • JMAshby

      My response to most of Twitter today:

    • JMAshby

      But seriously, I’ll probably be off Twitter until Tuesday. By then most people will have forgotten they cared anyway.

      And Cenk shit the bed years ago. By my count at least 3 years ago.

  • Mike_Norris

    Barack Obama–American president–absolute genius. I regret that every time I think the President is going to do something out of character for him, he demonstrates that he knows exactly what he is doing all the time. I was worried that he was going to go rogue and head down the path of cowboy diplomacy–something I believed he would not do–but was afraid he was going to do anyway. But it is clear that he is going to force the congress to make a decision. They will vote to not do anything–which will mean that they own that decision. As usual, there is no way the congress can look good in this decision. The Tea Baggers love war, but the regular Republicans don’t want to support the president–so this will just piss them all off. Barack Obama is a pure genius.

    • Zen Diesel

      Before the speech, I was so worried that he would take action without the backing of Congress. The impeachment hounds would have a feeding frenzy for the next three years. This move is absolute genius, because in one little speech, he made it clear that he is willing to strike, calling Congress to the carpet, and buying time to possibly come up with another solution. He is the master of three dimensional chess. Syria is a giant clusterfuck, thank goodness we have a thinking president in the White House.

  • ChrisAndersen

    I listened to his speech live and was *very* happy that he decided to call on Congress to approve his actions ahead of time. Obama had it precisely right when he said, as command in chief, he believes he has the authority to act on this matter, but that, as President, he has a duty to involve the people’s representatives in the process.

    I heard some idiot from some right-wing think tank afterward claiming that this proves that Obama is the avoider-in-chief. He suggested that it demonstrated cowardice on Obama’s part to not just go it alone. Yet I think the bravest thing Obama could do now would be to force those who want him to make a decision to join him in making that decision. He is forcing Congress to act like adults.

    Would that he had more leverage to get the rest of the world to act like adults as well.

  • closerange

    Congress will vote YES. The president will tell them that if Assad can’t be prevented from using chemical weapons then Iran can’t be prevented from acquiring nukes either. The credible threat of force is the only thing that keeps these dictators in line.

  • nathkatun7

    I strongly support the President’s move. Members of Congress, on both sides were clamoring for this. Now let’s see them put their money where their mouths are. Besides, the President is honoring the Constitution. If the majority of members Congress vote No because they hate President Obama, then it’s members of Congress who must be held responsible for letting a dictator off the hook for gassing his people. I also think that it’s the responsibility of all of us as citizens to urge members of Congress to support the President. I’ve already sen’t an e-mail to my Senators and my Rep. in the House, urging them to support the President.

  • trgahan

    I think he’s trying to buy time for the diplomats and wants to get the Rep’s on record about the issue so his opposition can’t get away (at least in reasonable, thinking circles) with Monday Morning QB’ing whatever President Obama decides to do.

  • blair houghton

    He has several days before they get their shit together, and can take the time to make the case that the public should watch for Obama Derangement Syndrome.

    He can use their tacit support of chemical warfare proliferation against them.

    And if Hillary is smart, she’ll get a little jiggy on this as well.

    • Victor_the_Crab

      Go Hill-a-ry… go Hill-a-ry…

  • Bob Rutledge

    For fuck’s sake, whatever you do don’t go to the comment thread on this topic over at Crooks&Liars. Not if you value your sanity (which, obviously, the majority over there no longer do).

    • JMAshby

      Better: don’t ever go there for any reason

      • Bob Rutledge

        I only go there out of institutional memory. ;)

      • KABoink_after_wingnut_hacker

        I second that!

    • Zen Diesel

      Or Mediaite, good lord, the trolls are fat and happy.

    • linusbern

      Right you are, because it is of course a no-brainer that the US should attack Syria. Never mind that there aren’t any decent targets, a la Libya, or the fact that the opposition most likely to fill the vacuum are even more hostile to the West, and never mind the destablizing influence it could have on the rest of the region. Assad is evil, and the US is the world’s cop.

      Sometimes there are simply no good solutions, and the idea that America can straighten every thing out with 50 cruise missiles is delusional. The only action that the US can take that is not likely to make things worse is to give aid to the millions of refugees that are now overwhelming the neighboring countries. Bombing things might make you feel better, but it is unlikely to fix Syria.

      And before you call me a troll, I come to this conclusion very reluctantly. Assad is an abomination, and I would love it if a few missiles would free the country and make everything better, but wishing doesn’t make it so.

      • Bob Rutledge

        Please point out where in my comment I advocated attacking Syria.

        I merely said that the commenters at C&L are, by and large, in full derangement mode.

        • linusbern

          In derangement mode because they generally oppose getting involved in another war? I don’t see one comment on this entire thread that even raises the possibility that military action might be a negative thing.

          • villemar

            You seem to be here to argue based upon a false narrative. If you want a false narrative, for example, that President Obama is a bloodthirsty warmongering monster who loves murdering brown babies for lulz and who is elevendy kajillion times worse than Bush; then there are plenty of websites that will serve that narrative up to you on a silver platter.

          • Treading_Water

            Derangement mode because they KNEW what President Obama was going to do before he did anything, and now that he’s announced the exact opposite and that he is going through Congress, they KNOW he really doesn’t mean it. It’s a strange mirror of the exact same derangement from the right, just over different issues.

      • villemar

        Honestly it doesn’t matter now, ball is in Congress’ court. Anti-strikes? Great! Lobby your Congressperson to vote NO when they come back from their well-deserved Summer vacation in two weeks.

  • Victor_the_Crab

    I can totally picture Republicans telling Obama “NO” for military action against Syria because “BENGHAZI!” Then, later on, they try to impeach Obama because he failed to take action on Syria, because Republicans ARE that demented.

  • LTanya Spearman

    IMO, what you say is true, except for one thing.. If Pres. Obama had made this decision w/o congress, emprogs., teabaggers, the cowardly congress would & are whining that this President is acting against his constitution authority.. Then you have your Cruz, Paul, Boehner, McConnell, Cantor & Cornyn & Coburn talking impeachment…
    My question is American media going to go after the congress like they did with this President? Are they going to hound the congress leaders to call them back to work & if not, why not? If congress voted against strikes are they ready for the consequences (Iran, N. Korea, China & Russia)?
    With this move he (President) put the ball in their (congress) court.. Either put up or shut up..

    • missliberties

      Exactly. Both D’s and R’s have been flinging poo from the sidelines. Now they will have to take a vote on the freaking record.

    • Victor_the_Crab

      My question is American media going to go after the congress like they did with this President? Are they going to hound the congress leaders to call them back to work & if not, why not?

      Considering the Sunday morning talk shows are dominated by Republicans, and are preened and fawned at by the talking head hosts, I think it’s safe to say: No, they’re not gonna.

  • JWheels

    I’m taking a wait and see position on this particular question. I know the right despises Obama but I just have a lot of trouble envisioning them voting against bombing something. They’ve practically been foaming at the mouth for the last 6 years at the idea of blowing up parts of Iran. Yes, Syria is a little different but I think as long as something is still blowing up they might be willing to vote for it.

    • Felonious Grammar

      I’m thinking that if Congress gave approval, the president carried it out, and it worked, the Republicans would take credit. All the above, but it wasn’t effective, then he did it wrong and ruined it for everybody. That’s what I’d put my money on.

      • JWheels

        I’m honestly not concerned with whether the Republicans try to take credit for anything. Some things go beyond politics and I think the Syrian government murdering 1429 people with a large number of them being children is definitely one of those things. I just hope they do the right thing and I believe the right thing is to do something to neutralize Syria’s ability to conduct any further chemical weapons attacks. The long-term domestic political consequences of this are almost moot since there isn’t a major election until next November.

        • Felonious Grammar

          I agree. However, should Obama not act for any reason, and such an attack occur again, all the POTUS has to do is confront our allies on the world stage. They want him to take all the risk, and for themselves to not have to deal with controversy? It seems that way to me. A moment of reflection should inform every Western leader, that they don’t know the half of being buried under controversy, outrage porn, and vilification.

          Who’s the man? I’m not saying that to mean— man = killer— but to mean an adult taking a very heavy responsibility to heart and being mature enough to know that this is a risk that no one can foretell.

          I don’t want to get all “freedom fries” but I think it’s fair to say that Europe is being a string of expletives and derogatory things.

          • muselet

            In fairness, European politicians are being responsive to their respective constituents. It could be argued that being a leader sometimes means, you know, leading, but that doesn’t always end well, either.


          • villemar

            I agree, especially WRT Germany’s passive-aggressive shtick. But I exempt France entirely. Not only are they 100% behind whatever we decide to do but they have shown how to succeed completely in limited military operations (see: Mali, Ivory Coast) in the 21st Century.

  • missliberties

    As someone who supports a targeted strike I am somewhat disappointed. My heart breaks for the Syrian people.

    The President is actually limiting his powers, which is what his ending the ‘war on terror’ speech was about.

    Also, Charles Krathammer is rattling on about we have no chance to defeat Iran now? What? Or how the neocons were pushing for a full blown Middle East War.

    Will Rand Paul praise the Presidents actions as abiding by the constitution, or will he find some weasely reason to attack the President, because. ODS.

    • formerlywhatithink

      Well, if you listen to the far left loonies, this will lead to China and Russia getting involved, soon turning into a global world war and then nukes will start being using everywhere. Oh, and Obama’s impeachment.

      It would be amusing, but these idiots think what they are predicting is completely feasible.

      • Felonious Grammar

        What would be left but total global annihilation? Bueller?

        • cheviteau

          Newt Gingrich. He ain’t never going away. He’s indestructible.

          • RepubAnon

            Him and the other cockroaches…

      • missliberties

        My feeling is that Obama didn’t really want to do this. If he had wanted to strike Syria he could have done it earlier.

        Politically this was a brilliant move, imho. It lays responsibility on the Congress who can’t ever stop bitching, to discuss, decide and go on the record with a vote.

        I can’t see how Obama could have gone to Russia for a summit this week, even not meeting with Putin, with the backdrop being looming strikes targeting Syria.

        • villemar

          Agree. Force the most useless Congress in 150 years to co-own this, regardless how it goes.

        • lm945

          There are reports that it wasn’t Assad who used chemical weapons, but the rebels.

          By demanding that Congress vote on whether or not to strike, Obama has given the intelligence community time to determine who did what and when. Did Assad do this, or did the rebels commit a false flag event to force Obama and the UN to do what they can’t?

          • missliberties

            The first few times…. no positive proof. This time yes.

            Meanwhile millions of child refugees in the muslim world are growing up to hate the US.

            What can we do. Give humanitarian aid. That were our money should go.

  • nicole

    >>>I believe they won’t because of Obama Derangement Syndrome. Because the
    primary hurdle such a vote will have to overcome is the number of people
    who will vote NO simply because President Obama is the one who’s

    I’m not so sure of that. The right has the big defense industry lobbies to consider. I’m pretty certain that those industries are clamoring for a new field to play in.

    • cleos_mom

      I hope you’re wrong. But I haven’t seen anyone answer the question “how are our troops in Iraq/Afghanistan/fill in the blank actually ‘defending our freedom’? ” yet.

      • nicole

        Just FTR………..I didn’t down-vote you.

  • missliberties

    Richard Engel is disappointed. He says the situation in Syria is in crises. Napalm hitting schools. No food. No medicine.

    The neocons are sad, because they wanted this to lead to a full on war.

    The liberals and tea party officials screaming about the Constitution should be satisfied.

    This shows the Syrian rebels and Putin what Democracy looks like.

    If you believe one way or the other Congresspeople, Take a Vote and Take a Stand. It’s your responsibility now.

  • KABoink_after_wingnut_hacker

    I totally agree with your assessment Ashby.
    Republicans will reject the President’s request and vote against military action. Then they will scream at the top of their lungs that he’s a weak leader or leading from behind or some other stupidity.
    Wash, rinse, repeat.

  • kscoyote

    I suspect he does not want to be involved, and this gives him a way of shutting up the Jackals while an opportunity to do something – Negotiate with Iran, or some other strategy emerges.