That did not take long. Less than a year ago, the Washington press corps looked likely to divorce Barack Obama. He had rocked their relationship with the Department of Justice probing Fox News’ James Rosen, the Associated Press, and others. But like Gollum and the precious, the Washington press corps has found separation too hard.
Syria has reconciled the President and Court. With his decision to ask Congress to debate action in Syrian, the press corps is back to defending their precious.
“Quite extraordinary: after 30 years of presidents strengthening powers of exec branch, POTUS is giving some of that power back to Congress,” tweeted Chuck Todd of NBC. Left-wing reporter Laura Rozen tweeted, “My jaw has been more or less hanging open for an hour.” She followed that up with “My neighbor just came out to discuss her shock but I am too shocked to discuss it.” Marc Ambinder of GQ tweeted, “Wow. Obama just pulled the loose string from that Gordian knot of the imperial presidency.”
Shortly after Republican media consultant Rick Wilson accurately tweeted, “A few seconds after his speech, I predicted a liberal and media squee-fest over this shenanigan. And I’m right,” Marc Ambinder shot back, “but Rick — maybe once — just this once — it’s deserved”.
Perhaps the most high brow and hagiographic tweet of all came from the New York Times’ and CNBC’s John Harwood, who tweeted, “Obama just changed historic trajectory of executive-legislative relations on war powers” and followed it up with “Obama said at March on Washington commemoration that arc of history doesn’t bend on its own. He has bent it on WH war power”.
You should really read this full thread called “All the King’s Bootlickers” to get a sense of the rekindled romance.
The press is in full “Defend the Precious” mode now. The divorce is off. The love affair rekindled by the President’s scapegoating Congress via procedural machinations. He changed his mind on a forty-five minute walk with his Chief of Staff, USA Today would have you know. The President surprised his national security team. John Kerry, having just Thursday lifted his face to the camera to suggest action was imminent, got thrown under the bus except, the Washington press corps will have you know, he fully supports the decision.
Thus the press corps, bored from a rather mundane August where they have done their best to ignore Senators Mike Lee and Ted Cruz except to bash them, returns to Washington in September all atwitter, literally, for their man Barry. George W. Bush, getting congressional approval for military operations seven days after the September 11th attack was not bending the arc of history, but John Harwood will probably spend the next week of reporting telling us all exactly how arc bending Barack Obama is.
What’s really going on is Barack Obama needs Congress to save him from himself. The British were supposed to join us in our Syrian adventure. British and American warships moved into position. All David Cameron needed to do was get his Parliament on board. That did not turn out the way everyone expected.
Barack Obama was perfectly happy to go it alone. John Kerry made it clear. Senior White House aides made it clear. But after talking with his Chief of Staff — the Washington press corps has failed to even consider political calculations in all of this — Barack Obama decided to punt it all to Congress. Considering how rapidly the Washington press corps gravitated to “historic” and “arc bending” rhetoric, it is likely the President’s forty-five minute walk included a lot of talking points created to rekindle the romance with the press.
The original strategy laid out by Barack Obama had been questioned by some of the people who originally designed the plan. Pro-war Senators like John McCain were questioning the wisdom of sending in a few cruise missiles without much else. Most of Washington buzzed that the planning thus far has been erratic and amateurish. The President’s plan seemed, at best, a strategy of being only a little bit pregnant in Syria. No one really knew what the President wanted to do other than fire some missiles.
Frederic Hof, a fellow at the Atlantic Council and the former Syria point person for the Obama State Department, told BuzzFeed over the weekend, “The results of this mystifying lack of preparedness have been abysmal.”
Without Britain on board, the United States would go it alone without any idea what exactly it would accomplish. The public, sensing the keystone cop approach toward Syria, moved decisively against bombing. The President, having pounded his chest in the name of executive power, now without Britain, needed to extricate himself from the situation. Passing the buck to Congress was the solution. Again, in its rush to defend the precious, it is staggering how so much of the press has ignored the political calculus of using Congress as a scapegoat.
This is not a bold move. This is not an arc bending move. This is not a move that should leave no one’s jaw dropped except by how quickly the Washington press corps has rallied to President Obama’s side. The President is asking Congress to debate whether or not to bomb Syria on behalf of Al Qaeda aligned rebels and telling anyone who will listen he might just ignore Congress should it reject the bombing.
The only sad part of this whole affair is that Barack Obama’s new found skills at extricating himself from bad situations in the Middle East came too late to deploy for others in Benghazi.