Obama takes lesson from Clinton on Syria
The US president likes to cite opinion polls to justify his action or inaction
After the whistle was blown on the National Security Agency’s No Call Left Behind programme, the president said he would welcome an ex post facto debate. But now that polls indicate that the overwhelming American attitude is “Spy on me”, Obama has dropped the subject.
Too bad. We’ll see what Americans have to say when someone in the mould of Dick Cheney or Bob Haldeman gets his hands on all that personal data; the West Wing has been known to drive its occupants nuts.
Too little, too late
On Syria, the administration now says it will begin supplying rebels with small arms and ammunition, a gesture that friends and foes alike say is too little, too late. The New York Times’s Peter Baker reported on Saturday that Obama himself said it wouldn’t change anything but would maybe buy time.
And as the White House announced this pittance of a policy on Thursday evening, the president was nowhere to be seen. He let his deputy national security adviser, Ben Rhodes, be the face of the Syria plan, while he spent time at an LGBT Pride Month celebration, a Father’s Day luncheon and a reception for the WNBA championship Indiana Fever basketball team.
On MSNBC’s Morning Joe on Friday, Zbigniew Brzezinski, who was Jimmy Carter’s national security adviser, dismissed the president’s response to Syria as “propaganda”, noting the ambiguous nature of the red line that President Bashar Assad had crossed, killing 150 people with chemical weapons after nearly 93,000 had died in the civil war.
“It all seems to me rather sporadic, chaotic, unstructured, undirected,” he said. “I think we need a serious policy review with the top people involved, not just an announcement by the deputy head of the NSC.”
Especially, he added, since Syria could slide into a larger regional war that would pit America against Syria’s ally, Iran, with a huge effect on the international economy and America’s budget.
While the president was avoiding talking about what he hadn’t wanted to do in the first place, the former president was ubiquitous and uxorious, chatting about Syria and myriad other issues on MSNBC and Bloomberg TV; smiling on the cover of Bloomberg Businessweek and offering his solutions for corporate America’s problems; presiding at his global initiative in Chicago; and promoting the woman he hopes will be the next president.
The less Obama leads, the more likely it is that history will see him as a pallid interregnum between two chaotic Clinton eras.
Nature abhors a vacuum. And so does Bill Clinton.