Who knew Groucho was a Republican? Whatever
it is Obama’s for, he’s against it. “Like Shakespeare said to Nathan Hale, I always get my man!” There, a knowledge of history to fit in well with today’s GOP!
This is about Syria of course. Republicans are upset that Obama is “appeasing”, even in the same column where fellow Republicans are criticized for having supported Obama’s plan to attack (h/t Brian Beutler at Salon) Yes, now that it looks like there’s a deal with Syria and Russia to remove Syria’s chemical weapons, Republicans are apoplectic. Give them some time to figure out what about. Something about giving in to Syria by taking its chemical weapons away, or being played by Putin who tricked Obama into accepting exactly what he wanted.
Not that it’s any great surprise that Republicans are now upset that there likely won’t be an attack, because there actually is a measure of consistency, which made me think of Groucho’s song. Whatever Obama is for, they’re against. Whatever he does must be criticized as completely wrong. Did I say “Not that it’s any great surprise…”? I meant utterly predictable, given how so many Republicans were insisting on some sort of intervention in Syria until Obama responded to the Aug. 21 attacks by saying some sort of response was required, and then, or at least once they would have to cast a politically perilous vote, attacking Syria was this horrible idea. And now they’re upset Obama apparently found a way to get rid of the weapons without having to actually fire missiles. Cripes, the way they keep changing their position, you half expect them to nominate Mitt Romney for president. Oh, right.
I get that Republicans are desperately confused. Let me see if I can explain. Unlike with Republican presidents, the goal wasn’t to go for a testosterone rush, prove some manliness, get to watch some stuff blow up. The goal was to prevent more use of chemical weapons. It looked like sanctions and negotiation had failed, and the choice was down to shooting missiles or doing nothing. Then there was an option that didn’t involve missiles, but did involve removing the chemical weapons which, just to stress this, was the whole point. Obama stepped back from an attack not because he’s weak or an appeaser, but because he got what he wanted. If Obama got punked by Putin, may we all get punked like that in our next negotiation. We’ll do great!
That’s for when Republicans say Obama got punked or tricked or owned. When Republicans say Obama just keeps getting lucky (possibly in the sentence after they say he bungled), I have to ask: when someone keeps getting lucky, is it possible he’s actually doing something right?
To engage in some speculation about what really happened, though Republicans I’m sure will insist it’s all a lie, I expect it will turn out the Obama administration is telling the truth about having discussed international supervision of Syria’s weapons with the Russians before they suddenly accepted. They’ve been seeking a diplomatic solution for two years, so it would be surprising if John Kerry’s “gaffe” was the first time the idea was suggested. I also expect it will turn out Kerry’s “gaffe” was just a frustrated man’s reaction to a question about whether anything else can be tried when a seemingly reasonable proposal was rejected for no apparent rational reason. As my use of the phrase “suddenly accepted” implies, I think the administration was surprised when Russia and Syria at last said yes. Obama had the sense to take the deal. Can anyone imagine either Bush taking a diplomatic way out? “Nope, sorry, too late, would love to make a deal, but the Navy is in place now, so no choice but to make things go boom.”
At this point, of course, we don’t know for sure what will happen in the negotiations over Syria’s chemical weapons. Probably Russia would rather they were destroyed or moved somewhere secure so the there’s no chance the rebels could get them, considering some of the foreigners among them are from restive parts of the Caucasus. Syria could be stalling for time or hoping to hide some, though they have to hide them from the Russians as well as us and presumably the UN. Don’t know if being in a war makes hiding harder or easier. The threat of a missile strike remains, so it’s not impossible a deal will fall through and an attack will still happen.
Did Obama bungle, get lucky, have a brilliant design, prove strategically smarter? Even if he just had the sense to grab a chance to get out of a bad situation, that shows sense Bush never showed. See, it helps to have someone smart in charge. Since Republicans can’t figure out that there’s more to foreign policy than bluster and bombs, they shouldn’t be allowed anywhere near foreign policy or national security. Sorry to get blatantly political, but this is a political blog, and issues that work for Democrats are of interest to most readers, so — Democratic politicians must get it through their heads that foreign policy and national security are Democratic issues. Too many still have it in their heads those are Republican issues, to which I should only have to say “Iraq”. You know how Vietnam took those issues from Democrats for a long time? Yes, it’s like that, and don’t hesitate to run on it.
At this point, Republicans can pretty much just hope that either the deal falls apart, which is always possible, or hope they can convince the public it fell apart. Maybe convince the public it worked but was appeasement (since Obama was going to launch missiles and now he’s not, isn’t he the one who was appeased?). They can’t interfere with the deal since this isn’t like crashing into the debt ceiling — congressional refusal to act won’t mean anything. Maybe they can convince the public it fell apart since they sometimes can bamboozle a majority. Most people still don’t know what Obamacare is, so won’t put that past Republican persuasiveness. Though honestly, without an actual war, by election day 2014, I’m guessing no one will have mentioned Syria for most of a year and it will go down the memory hole.
One last bit of fun. It’s not available for posting yet, so only a recommendation: On tonight’s program, Stephen Colbert had a blast with the many contradictory positions Of Sen. Rand Paul. Worth watching, though Rand isn’t as much fun as his father Ron Paul. Rand just makes up new positions as necessary for the moment (hey, that got Romney the nomination), whereas Ron went off into some new loopy conspiracy theory once in while.
UPDATE: Here’s Colbert’s bit on Rand Paul: