Viewpoint: Obama’s Irony is McCain’s Agony

Two political enemies now find themselves on the same side of history

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Haraz N. Ghanbari / AP

Senator John McCain watches as President Barack Obama meets with members of Congress to discuss immigration in the White House in Washington, D.C., in this June 25, 2009 file photo.

All presidential decisions are, in the end, difficult and complex. And under any circumstance, the decisions on issues of war (surgical strikes included) are agonizing. The decision to use force — the repercussions, the cost in blood and treasure, the geostrategic implications — is complicated and the implications obviously immense.

But as the Syria story unfolds, there is an almost Shakespearean drama beneath the surface — one of political careers made and broken, of past positions held and almost abandoned. Not to mention the political enemies now finding themselves — awkwardly — on the same side of history.

As the public debate plays out, the political past lingers, and haunts every moment.

First consider the irony of Barack Obama himself. It’s no surprise to anyone that this president is a reluctant warrior. His rise to national prominence was based, in part, on his antiwar sentiment on Iraq.

In the past, he’s been a forceful proponent of the need for congressional authorization for the use of force. He tells the American people, at every opportunity, that he is extracting us from two wars. That was at the top of his to-do list, and he’s doing it.

So now this, er, wrinkle in which Obama becomes the conscientious aggressor. He is the president who defends his National Security Agency surveillance strategy and his frequent use of drones to an unhappy Democratic base. He drew the red line on chemical weapons (which he now explains was also the world’s red line).

He’s certain we need to hit Bashar al-Assad but seeks support from a Congress he generally disdains. Like Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Through the Looking Glass, Obama could well be asking, “I know who I WAS when I got up this morning, but I think I must have been changed several times since then.”

Indeed.

As the president himself pointed out Wednesday in Sweden, “had I been in the Senate, I would have suggested Congress have the ability to weigh in.” It was hardly lost on him that it would seem, well, a tad hypocritical that someone who had spoken repeatedly about a congressional buy-in on the use of force was now willing to go it alone. So after the British said no, the president looked homeward for a coalition of the willing.

And so, another irony: The president’s legacy now is in the hands of a notoriously paralyzed and partisan Congress — a Congress that hasn’t exactly friended him.

And that brings us to the agony part of this drama — Sen. John McCain. Here’s the man who lost to Obama in 2008 and remains his foreign policy nemesis. McCain is the GOP’s major (and increasingly lonely) hawk-in-residence. He thinks Obama made a huge mistake in not arming the Syrian rebels and charges the president with dawdling for two years while this civil war intensified. Oh, and by the way, he believes Obama’s surgical strike is too little, too late.

And yet, here he is, on the verge of supporting Obama—and taking on the libertarians in his own party. And not because he likes him, and not because he likes the policy—but because he believes that a congressional no-vote could be “catastrophic” for the nation. In the end, he may still balk because the mission, as defined by Congress, is too narrow. But he clearly wants to find a way to stand with the president.

“Alice in Wonderland” would be right at home. “I can’t go back to yesterday,” she understood. “Because I was a different person then.”

13 comments
OliverIsonCatolos
OliverIsonCatolos

The relational impact promote differences that will take them

together at particular history in time.  By exploiting such duty

could make each personality on more provocative sentiments

than political restraints.

It maybe conceivable to create an innermost thought on

on relieving oneself from criticism. Or moving on through

critical relationship by showing at conclusive and reformative

approach.

Oliver Catolos

Tanay Rizal

Philippines

LarryMellette
LarryMellette

See I'm lost some where in the other universe. Just a couple questions. Why would a POW want war so bad? It isn't rational to want others to suffer as you have. Can you name the number of Americans killed by their own gov't. without a trial in the last 10 years? 4 By a drone attack. Have we gone completely nuts? I would go 20 years on killing Americans without a trial.Now Syria all to save face to the world. I'm just shaking my head in disbelief. When the IRS came out. Liberals tried to tell me it is OK. I asked will it be ok when it is done to you? This is all a pattern of over reach. We are a racist country when people will not stand up to a man because he is Black. As Ed Asner said. When I agree with a (D) Dennis Kucinich and Putin my world is in a paradox. I want to have the Culligan Man take me away or have Scotty beam me up. I'm not in Kansas anymore ToTo. They speak of Children dying a horrible death. As they want to do the same to unborn Children. None of this fits. If we love our country we must stay out of this fight. you want Iran now would be a good time if you want to do it that way.. If this Pres. has the cajones to attack Iran while they watch Syria I'm all for it. Little Syria. They are just a pawn. I think Russia would give a green light on Iran.Syria is their Alie. There are bases there. A sub base. Iran is not an Alie. .Name a country in the World that doesn't have a Muslim problem? Just one is all it takes and I will be quiet. Prove that they have had no Muslim crime committed in their country. Killing of a Non-Muslim by a Muslim.

ShamsAci
ShamsAci

Mr. Obama probably forgets Mr. McCain, Mrs. Hilary Clinton and their similar few personalities of whom he may consider as his benefactors were his (Obama's) competitors during US presidential election.

- A.R.Shams's Reflection

lazarus00000
lazarus00000

Why do journalist always seem to take the high road by simplifying every story? With all due respect to Senator McCain and his horrible experience in the Vietnam War, he is an old school republican. He is better qualified as a military advisor than a politician.

I sat, and wondered why he would go to Syria to promote suport for Syrian Rebels who are populated with radicals that would burn America to the ground and call it "God's Will". Honestly, I still do not understand the logic, because it is illogical.

On the other hand, Mr. Obama has generated or tried to garner support for Islam and even Radical Islam. 50 years ago a president could have done this without the knowledge of the general population, but in these times of Information being the free interprise as we know, there are not many secrets kept. That is why he has failed to be successful in all of political misdoings. and underhanded agendas.

Obama was very happy to get support from an old man from the right side of the issue. He used McCain in hopes that he could help influence the republicans to support the radical Islamic rebels who slice off the heads of people on the world wide internet.

Happy Trails Mr. Obama...happy, happy, happy

Lazarus

mcjazzbass
mcjazzbass

Reluctant warrior?  Conscientious aggressor?  Admit it, you're writing with your heart here and not your ears and eyes.

boffolicious
boffolicious

UN peacekeeping troops should be deployed and NOT cruise missiles!!


We also urgently need answers to the following:


allegations of a US security service plot


http://web.archive.org/web/20130129213824/http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2270219/U-S-planned-launch-chemical-weapon-attack-Syria-blame-Assad.html


evidence that Chechen terrorists sponsored by Saudi used chemical weapons:


http://www.telegraph.co.uk/finance/newsbysector/energy/oilandgas/10266957/Saudis-offer-Russia-secret-oil-deal-if-it-drops-Syria.html


and 


http://www.theguardian.com/world/2002/dec/05/chechnya.nickpatonwalsh


and


http://voiceofrussia.com/2013_08_31/Saudi-Prince-Bandar-delivered-Israeli-chemicals-to-Syrian-terrorists-Official-7578/


and


http://www.meforum.org/744/how-chechnya-became-a-breeding-ground-for-terror

AlanTraceyWootton
AlanTraceyWootton

I view this from a perspective created by the many novels I have read. Everything from John Le Carré to Tom Clancy.

In many stories there is 'back room intrigue'. This would be where there are players demanding a particular outcome who are powerful and are hard to deny. Those players are adept at not becoming 'news stories'. This would mean that surely there are interests at play here well beyond a simple humanitarian interest. 

I am faintly astonished that Obama is taking the stance that he is while it remains murky as to which factions will benefit eventually: Another part of 'the famous cold war novel' is the sheer duplicity of cold war russians. It should be assumed that one can never guess the depth of their planning. It might really look like we are taking a knight on a chessboard while we are really losing the game. I think that thinking, now, applies to the Arab World as well. We should acknowledge that we are playing on their turf and that they are willing to make sacrifices that we can scarcely imagine. 

War is the ultimate failure of diplomacy. Military action in the Middle East is a proven loser. The only way to win is to not play. The only explanation I can think of for why we would entertain that involves the phrase 'special interests'. 


EspadaGeorge
EspadaGeorge

Congratulations  to Ms. Bolger, one of her best journalist pieces during her stint with CNN..Well written, interesting, concise,

and an important political overview from these two leaders...

jctennant55
jctennant55

When I think of McCain I think of Bozo the Clown or is it when I think of Bozo the Clown I really mean John McCain?

eagle11772
eagle11772

This guy's a BUM.  He should simply admit that he has NO IDEA what he's doing and resign.

Openminded1
Openminded1

Obama is doing what he does best and what many politicians do passing the buck. calling in McCain is proof he wants to have blame if it comes to that to be on the shoulders of congress and people like mcCain. Obama is torn also because as a Muslim attacking syria will make is MB brothers happy but it also may get a few killed. Rock and a hard place for Barry.

Openminded1
Openminded1

@AlanTraceyWootton good reading alan, but the bottom line his Obamas agenda reference to syria. Obama will attack and the only reason is he is a muslim who comes  from a muslim family, with a brother working for the MB in Kenya as I type. The brotherhood is looking to Obama for help and he will give it  to them, all the rest of his bs rhetoric about innocent people getting killed is the MB getting killed that bothers him and this nut Assad in Syria hates the MB that tried to kill his dad years ago. obama going to congress and Mccain is a show and a way to pass the buck. In the end the liberals that put this racist muslim liar in the oval office twice will feel pretty stupid he duped most Americans. he got the white vote he needed to get in to office now he no longer needs that vote, he only needs black approval now.

Openminded1
Openminded1

@jctennant55 that other bs bozo Obama went to him to pass the buck to him and congress , Obama moron is a muslim as is his whole family he will go after syria to appease the MB, of which is brother works for in kenya. THink liberals , do not always go the party line both sides bs,