The 1962 Mets or the 1927 Yankees? It depends on who you ask and what day you ask it.
If you ask me, right now, the morning after the President's speech to the country, I think Obama stopped the bleeding in the public perception of his leadership, and is more than halfway towards reclaiming the initiative on Syria. But that's me, and I'm more often than not inclined to support Obama.
If you asked Charles Krauthammer, right-wing columnist for the Washington Post, who has been hammering Obama since Inauguration Day 2009, the same question at the same time, his answer was, “Obama's most coherent statement so far. I'm glad he laid it out the way he did.” In other words, not bad, which is pretty good when it comes from the other side.
For Obama, getting to the September 10 speech was not pretty. If Obama ran either of his Presidential campaigns the way he handled the whole Syria episode, he'd still be either a US Senator or a practicing lawyer in Chicago. The message discipline of the campaigns was missing.
It started with the boss at a news conference on August 20, 2012. Responding to a question, Obama said, “We have been very clear to the Assad regime, but also to other players on the ground, that a red line for us is we start seeing a whole bunch of chemical weapons moving around or being utilized. That would change my calculus. That would change my equation.”
He did not say that the use of chemical weapons would result in a military response … but that's what the world heard. Red line means something happens when it's crossed. Bad choice of words, unless you have a plan on the shelf to put into action without Congressional approval if it's crossed. Immediately.
Obama wasn't done screwing up. When the issue heated up after the chemical attack by Assad on August 21, 2013, the President said, “I didn't set a red line, the world did.” Yeah. Sort of. However, by saying that, he took a bad situation and prolonged it, and allowed the late-night comics to go to work on him. Not good.
If strained and counterproductive use of the English language is what's happening, John Kerry will not allow himself to be left out. In an effort to pacify peace-oriented liberal Democrats in Congress, Kerry promised that any military strikes against Syria would be, “unbelievably small.” This prompted the always-helpful Bill O'Reilly to ask if, “they were going to bomb a bunch of midgets.”
Kerry, however, could end up being a bit of a hero of the whole drama if his throwaway line at a press conference about Assad putting his chemical weapons under international inspection and control saves the day.
It's sort of like Kerry showed a little leg, dropped a hankie, and the oh-so-gallant Vladimir Putin rushed over with flowers to pick it up.
Whether this couple has a future, who knows? Ask Dr. Phil.
I will post again on Wednesday, October 2, 2013 (or before, if the news flow dictates) and, for the time being, I will post on the first Wednesday of each month.
Comments are welcome at tomc[at]wednesdayswars[dot]com. Name and town if you wish to opine. Comments will be addressed in subsequent posts.