Barack the Hesitant
A wavering Obama is no leader to follow into war.


Deroy Murdock

Editors’ note: This article has been updated since its initial publication.

Can a possibly war-bound U.S.A. survive the unbearable lightness of being Obama? As Americans weigh potential military intervention in Syria, the true grit of our GIs is unquestioned. But their hesitant and erratic commander-in-chief renders worrisome the notion of attacking Damascus.

On Wednesday, for instance, Obama told journalists in Stockholm, “I didn’t set a red line. The world set a red line.”

This is the Bart Simpson defense. Regardless of responsibility, just say, “I didn’t do it!”

In fact, on August 20, 2012, Obama declared in the White House Press Room: “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.”

As NRO’s Charles C. W. Cooke brilliantly documents today, the White House on April 25 decided to “reaffirm that the president has set a clear red line as it relates to the United States that the use of chemical weapons or the transfer of chemical weapons to terrorist groups is a red line that is not acceptable to us.” On May 6, Jay Carney, Obama’s official spokesman, said: “The  president’s use of the term ‘red line’ was deliberate.” 

Obama installed the tripwire for war with Syria. Now, on the brink of combat, he disowns it.

On August 30, Obama had an uncharacteristically bellicose Secretary of State John Kerry virtually announce that “bombing begins in five minutes.” But one day later, Obama startled everyone — including many of his top appointees — when he virtually announced that “debating begins in five minutes.” Obama stated that he wanted Congress’s permission for a military strike. No rush! Rather than summon lawmakers to Washington, Obama let Congress’s summer vacation roar on.

Still, Obama could have finished his Rose Garden speech, returned to the Oval Office, rolled up his sleeves, and spent the rest of August 31 ringing the ranking members and chairmen of Congress’s committees. An official photo of Obama urging their support would have signaled his single-mindedness and steely resolve.

Instead, soon after his remarks, Obama and Vice President Joseph Biden headed straight to Fort Belvoir for a round of golf — the 141st of Obama’s reign.

Such unseriousness seems to be the Obama Doctrine’s active ingredient. Consider:

• After just 19 days on duty, United Nations ambassador Samantha Power was AWOL during an August 21 U.N. Security Council emergency meeting on Syria. State Department spinmeisters pirouetted like ballerinas rather than disclose her location.

• Obama last June 13 authorized the CIA to provide arms to the Free Syrian Army. “As of right now, they haven’t received one weapon from the United States,” Senator John McCain (R., Ariz.) lamented this week. “Reports are that the United States has constrained other countries from giving them the kinds of things they need.” (In a bipartisan display of immaturity, McCain got caught playing video poker on his iPhone during Tuesday’s Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing on Syria.)

• Last September, Obama met with precisely zero heads of state at the U.N. General Assembly, including Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who virtually begged to sit down with his American counterpart. However, Obama did find time to be “eye candy” (in Whoopi Goldberg’s words) on The View.

• Obama’s body language is the most interesting thing about the world-famous photo of him and his team in the Situation Room during the May 1, 2011, raid that liquidated Osama bin Laden. Obama is not surrounded by his advisers, nor does he preside over the action. Rather, he sits in the back corner, on the sidelines, seemingly in charge of nothing at all.

• But it got worse. As Obama’s former aide Reggie Love revealed at a UCLA forum: “Most people were like down in the Situation Room and [the president] was like, ‘I’m not going to be down there, I can’t watch this entire thing,’” Love said July 18. “So,” Love continued, referring to Obama, himself, and two other staffers, “we must have played 15 hands, 15 games of spades.”

That’s right. As Seal Team Six intrepidly descended on the man who unleashed the September 11, 2001, slaughter, their commander-in-chief played cards.


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