If Congress declines to support what even proponents of a Syria strike must agree is a massively screwed up policy, then the President will face another choice. He can do a “Clinton” (President Clinton bombed Serbia in the teeth of congressional disapproval), or he can fold like a cheap suit. If he chooses the latter course, Clint Eastwood’s “empty chair” stunt at the 2012 GOP convention will look eerily prophetic. For purposes of foreign policy, the United States will endure something like a presidential vacancy until Mr. Obama is replaced in 2017 or until he finds a way to restore his authority and prestige.Essentially, this is the same argument that Hugh Hewitt is making -- you have to support the office of the president, no matter how much you might think the officeholder is a moron, because the world is watching and what would be the equivalent of a no-confidence vote would be disastrous to the country's interests, especially with 3 1/2 years left to go in Obama's term.
Considered in the abstract, the planned attacks on Syria may or may not be smart. But thanks to this latest round of “smart diplomacy,” if bombs don’t fall on Syria, President Obama will have bombed his own credibility into oblivion.
Obama didn't help himself much yesterday when he tried to weasel out of the implications of his earlier pronouncements:
“I didn’t set a red line; the world set a red line,” Mr. Obama said at a news conference in Stockholm on the first day of a three-day visit to Sweden and Russia, where he will take part in a summit meeting that is likely to be dominated by the war in Syria.Unfortunately for the president, the internet is forever:
“My credibility’s not on the line,” he said, appealing to lawmakers and foreign leaders to back his plan to retaliate against President Bashar al-Assad. “The international community’s credibility is on the line. And America and Congress’s credibility is on the line.”
Use of chemical weapons would change his calculus, he told us a year ago. And he doubled down on this threat later on:
You can't just bottle up the bellicosity and pretend it didn't happen. Barack Obama made it clear, twice, that if chemical weapons were used in Syria, there would be consequences. After a while, it starts to play out like this:
The problem for the president, and for all of us, is that the other players on the world stage aren't cartoon characters. The president wrote a check with his mouth that he might not be able to cash. We*cosigned his loan by putting him back in office last November. The bill collectors are at the door now.
*Okay, maybe not you, and certainly not me. But you know what I mean.