Hello everyone, and let me once again welcome you to another edition of your Sunday Morning Liveblog, starring John Kerry, Full Ginsburging about Syria, which is today's central topic of gum flapping.
My name is Jason. Should you have been living your lives yesterday, as normal human Americans, you might have missed the recent twist in our "Who's Up For Doing Something That Will Not Materially Contribute Anything But Will Look Cool Because ESSPLOSIONS ZOOM BOOM AWESOME HAVING A WAR HARDON PAYOFF, Etc." story. And the twist is, after careful consideration, President Barack Obama is going to see what the most gutless two bodies in the history of organized democracy -- The U.S. House Of Representatives and the U.S. Senate -- has to say about going to "war" in Syria.
And that's awesome, because it technically is their effing job to decide that stuff, a practice we've gotten away from, and which has greatly benefitted Congress, who rarely have to nut up and do anything anymore. But since society frowns on us just dropping the lot of them on Syria, they get to take a vote on it. Especially all those BIG TALKERS who claimed to want to take a vote, most of whom were lying when they said this.
I love it! I have basically been LOLing, since Obama decided that the legislature would join him in hell, on this decision. May as well! Do nothing, and Congress complains. Do something half-assed and Congress complains. Do something that by some stroke of luck deposes Assad and turns all of Syria into a Dairy Queen, and Congress complains that you didn't do that a year ago. Can't win with those idiots, so you may as well cut them in on the deal, too.
This will be the most nutting up Congress has had to do in a long, long time, too. Unless they figure out a way to form a "supercommittee," which is what they did the last time they chickened out of taking responsibility. (This would be bad, because they'd find a way to take their incompetence and irresponsibility and punish you for it.) Also, I keep thinking the sorts of pundits who I just know are going to complain that Obama did this and I'm so glad that they are upset. You might as well relish it too, because we can't do anything for anyone in Syria and that sucks -- this, today, is as good as this unhappy story in human existence is going to get, I'm afraid.
Nevertheless, LOL Congress. In the meantime, let's get surreal and weird right now. As usual, you may feel free to chat in the comments, drop me a line if you must, follow me on Twitter if you are feeling silly, check out my Rebel Mouse page for this week's Sunday Reads.
For everyone who's been struggling lately to read this on their mobile devices, we're going to try taking another run at solving the problem in the coming weeks. Hopefully we crack this nut.
FOX NEWS SUNDAY
I'm sensing a little apoplexy on the part of our show's producers, who term the thought of a Congressional vote on the matter an "about face." There are a lot of people coming on to sort this out. John Kerry, who is on all shows today, Senator Jack Reed (D-R.I.), Representative Peter King (R-N.Y.), and Senator Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.) -- here pulling double duty as both "The Republican Booked To Make The GOP Look Bad" and "The Guy Who Scares You Because You Are Reminded That Jim Inhofe Is In Charge Of Life Or Death Matters."
Also there will be a particularly terrible panel. But first, "President Obama shocked Washington and the world yesterday," Wallace says, referring to the correct application of Constitutionally-mandated "how to go to war in America" processes. Ed Henry says that a "top Syrian official" says that Obama is showing "hesitation." Can't hesitate to get in way over our heads in Syria, say some random Syrian dude.
Henry points out that this is a "big delay because Congress doesn't return until September 9" -- what, do they not know how to use Orbitz? Congress can actually return any old time they want to. So, there's your delay. Henry also frets that Obama "could lose the vote." Meaning that Congress could vote against the limited airstrike that won't remove Assad or prevent him from killing lots of people.
Even if Obama "wins," Henry says, Obama "could lose a lot of political capital," which I gather is the real precious commodity, to the Sunday show goons. (You think these people are sincerely concerned with the lives of Syrians? It's always about who is winning and losing the opaque games of Beltway brinksmanship.)
There are all kinds of shots of Congressman Mike Rogers approaching various lecterns, filled with microphones. The man looks HUNTED...terrified. That's the face of a guy who wanted to swing his member around, grandstanding, who now knows he's got to put his name on a dotted line.
Finally, John Kerry is here. "TO DISCUSS THIS STUNNING TURNAROUND."
Wallace wants to know why we are going to wait for Congress to return. Kerry says that the case they have to make about doing a Missile Strike That Won't Save Lives But Make Us Feel Good About Ourselves is stronger today than it was yesterday and only getting stronger. But he says that the President thinks that any future decision will be stronger with Congress having a vote, and the American people reflecting their will through Congress.
He suggests that people should be celebrating that Obama is "not acting unilaterally." All of the right people ARE celebrating this.
"We do not lose anything," Kerry says, "We actually gain and what we gain is the legitimacy of the full-throated response of the Congress and the United States working together."
Wallace is REALLY unhappy about all of this "America working precisely as it is supposed to work." "Mr. Kerry, this isn't CSI," he says, for some reason? Maybe they flout Constitutional norms at Las Vegas crime labs? "This isn't a civics lesson, lives are at stake," he says. He is really struggling with the concept of Obama having an opinion on what should be done, and yet asking Congress to grant him approval. This is all VERY funny to watch. "This is not a civics lesson," whines Wallace, who'd actually like to chuck everything that's known about civics in this instance.
Wallace wants to know what kind of message we are sending to our enemies, and the Syrian rebels. Kerry says that North Korea and Iran should take note that America is a confident democracy. "The President believes we are stronger when the Congress of the United States joins with us."
And the first brickbat of the day from Kerry, "Congress can't have it both ways." That is, Congress can't sit around mewling and whining about not having a say, and then sit around mewling and whining when they get their wish.
But this is the important takeaway here. Remember, very few people in Congress wanted a stake in this. They didn't want their skin in this game. But they wanted to reserve the right to complain and second-guess and imply that the process should have included them. Well, now it's including them, and you can sense a bit of a panic setting in. I don't know if Congress actually has the votes for the Missile Strike That Won't Save Lives But Make Us Feel Good About Ourselves, but I am overjoyed that for once, no one on Capitol Hill is getting away cleanly.
Wallace is just freaking out, trying to interrupt. He points out all the presidents who didn't seek Congressional approval, Kerry is all "IDGAF." "I'm amazed that you are arguing against Congress weighing in," says Kerry. He points out that if the Assad regime is stupid enough to try any thing in the meantime, the President maintains that right to act without Congress. Assad will also just be making a stronger case to pass the Missile Strike That Won't Save Lives But Make Us Feel Good About Ourselves.
Wallace asks what happens if Congress refuses to vote for the Missile Strike That Won't Save Lives But Make Us Feel Good About Ourselves. Kerry says that this won't happen, and then lays a major guilt trip on Congress: "I can't believe that Congress would turn its back on Syria."
Wallace says that Kerry was making a "powerful call for quick action." Kerry says that he never called for action that went around a Congressional debate. Wallace complains that Obama didn't take Kerry's advice, and Kerry says that the President followed it to the letter.
Finally, Wallace is reduced to, "But nothing's going to happen for ten days!" WAAAAH, me wanty my Missile Strike That Won't Save Lives But Make Us Feel Good About Ourselves.
Kerry, cold as ice, "Well, Chris, it will happen with the consent of the United States." And, "The President is not trying to create an imperial presidency."
Wallace is really like a six year old who's had his new toy taken away. "But this is not the plan!" Kerry disagrees, and says that he and POTUS talked on the phone about this and he hadn't made up his mind about anything. That is to say, there was no "this is the plan" moment, that got reversed when he opted to put Congress on the hook.
"I think we can create a unity of purpose here that makes America stronger and create a unity of purpose that is much more damaging and much more problematic for Assad," Kerry says. It feels wrong to waste this sort of rhetoric on the Missile Strike That Won't Save Lives But Make Us Feel Good About Ourselves, sure. But this is still pretty glorious in the way it upsets so many hypocritical people.
Wallace, now reduced to approvingly citing pro-Assad propaganda coming out of Syria, asks Kerry if he's given Assad a temporary victory. Kerry, obviously, scoffs at this. "That is in the hands of the Congress of the United States," he says.
Of course, America no matter what Congress eventually votes to do, remember that this is only going to result in the Missile Strike That Won't Save Lives But Make Us Feel Good About Ourselves.
There is a report from a Fox correspondent which relies heavily on quoting pro-Assad propaganda approvingly, and also reports that officials in Israel are in a full hyaena-whine over the fact that we have this Constitution thing that kind of precludes them from getting everything they want -- in this case the Missile Strike That Won't Save Lives But Make Us Feel Good About Ourselves -- as immediately as they might want it.
Let's talk to some of the Congresscritters that now have to plead with one or more of their testicles to finally drop. Peter King is sort of the loudest member of the Coward brigade, calling the President's decision to involve Peter King in the decision-making process an "abdication of his responsibility." Hey, I've been against this whole "involving Peter King in most important state decisions" thing, too, but up until now Peter King has been pretty insistent that he has some sort of role to play in the civic life of our nation.
Clutch pearls! King offers up a monologue about how Obama is failing to lead by recognizing Congress' Constitutional authority. "How can we expect to stop Iran on a red line if we can't do it in Syria?" he whines. That's King's problem, now.
Reed, for his part, is fine with the responsibility of debating and deciding, and thinks that having Congress in the mix is the right decision.
Wallace turns to Inhofe and asks him if Congress approve the authorization. Inhofe says that Congress won't approve it, and besides that the military is "so degraded" by POTUS that we can't afford to get into new conflicts.
Wallace is really concerned that the country is totally war weary and won't be able to get behind the Missile Strike That Won't Save Lives But Make Us Feel Good About Ourselves, which could lead to Congress voting in such a way that the Missile Strike That Won't Save Lives But Make Us Feel Good About Ourselves never happens. King says that he intends to vote for the Missile Strike That Won't Save Lives But Make Us Feel Good About Ourselves, but he thinks that maybe a lot of other people won't.
But how will House Republicans vote? King says that "if the vote was held today, it would be a 'no' vote." LOL.
Wallace asks Inhofe if the Missile Strike That Won't Save Lives But Make Us Feel Good About Ourselves is an idea that even makes sense. Inhofe says that this is all "salesmanship" and that "we all know that isn't going to be the case" -- in for a penny, in for a quagmire.
Wallace moves on to asking Reed about the central conundrum here -- why are we taking a strong stand on Assad killing people with gas, and not taking a strong stand on Assad killing people any other way. Reed notes that there are international laws and what not, but as far as I can recall, Syria is not a signatory to those treaties and laws. [CHECK THAT: Syria is a signatory to the Geneva Conventions and Protocol I.] So the real answer here is that none of what we may do in Syria is intended to make sense, or be logical, or be strategic. It's just a thin measure of making us feel better about ourselves.
Inhofe says that the mistake was to draw a red line about the use of chemical weapons. Maybe so! It's called "bluffing." And when the only thing you can maybe do to keep chemical weapons from being used is "bluffing," then you bluff. In due time, we may have the luxury of finding out just how useless bombs are at deterring the use of chemical weapons.
And now it's time to panel our way to oblivion with Joe Lieberman and Jack Keane and Jennifer Rubin and the lump of clear, feather-light cellophane doing business as Charles Lane. This is a double dose from the Worst Opinion Section In America. I promise not to drag this out.
Keane seems to think that there is a pattern, where Obama delays action militarily, and so cluck-cluck, tsk-tsk. Of course, we know this isn't true. Dude has a kill list. He has an itchy drone trigger finger. He's got a surveillance state that can't-wait-won't-wait to get their spy on -- peek first and ask for warrants later, if at all. So, ha, no. This is actually an amazing BREAK in the pattern.
Lieberman, naturally, doesn't think it's right for the President to come to Congress, because he's been long inured to simply ceding his power to the Executive Branch. In fact, ol' Vinegar Joe was once a pioneer, on the cutting edge, of degrading the Congress' firewall between themselves and the Executive Branch.
"Any advantage of a surprise attack we had in Syria," Leiberman says, is over now. The good news is that there was never going to be a surprise ANYTHING in Syria.
Rubin says that the Congressional leadership offices don't have any idea how Congress will vote, and so it's "lunacy" for Obama to have left it to them. Again, I am pretty much LOLing at this. It was wrong of Obama to point out how useless Congress is! Part of his job is to coddle them, even as they puke about how much they hate him.
Lane is the only person who slightly sticks up for Obama here, but he thinks that Congress now has Obama over a barrel. Is that the barrel filled with fish that Congress is too afraid to shoot at?
Keane supports the United States doing something terrifically half-assed, but we should have done something terrifically half-assed much faster. Also, the "good" rebels should get weapons.
Lieberman, desperately trying to win the tallest hobbit contest here, says that despite the fact that he is shocked and affronted by the fact that Obama has insisted that Congress needlessly perform their Constitutional function, would vote to give the President the authority to act. Ha, yes. "I STRONGLY SUPPORT WE GIVE THIS GUY I THINK IS IRRESPONSIBLE CARTE BLANCHE TO BOMB STUFF."
Rubin is against the Missile Strike That Won't Save Lives But Make Us Feel Good About Ourselves, and she is for...some other stuff. Getting rid of Assad, which would, I guess, allow a different group of thugs slaughtering a different group of people.
Lane and Rubin briefly argue, it's like watching two fruit roll-ups try to play checkers.
Lieberman says that he is sure that out enemies are cheering right now. They probably are! Congress is a funny-ass farce of an institution.
THE McLAUGHLIN GROUP
Gonna dial in to the nuthatch right now, as a brief intermission from war whining. Though I imagine there may still be some of that!
OMG this show is going to talk about unemployment and the middle class! And McLaughlin, in his stentorian voice-over narration, notes the hilarious irony of Obama going to an Amazon shipping warehouse to talk about the future of American jobs. If Amazon shipping warehouses are the future, then we are heading toward a dystopia. (As always, I recommend Mac McClelland's piece on Amazon.)
But as McLaughlin points out, Gene Sperling, in defending the decision, said that no one should denigrate any kind of work. But that's the best thing about a good economy with full employment! You as an employee have your boss over a barrel, because in those conditions, he either delivers the pay and the perks or you go somewhere where you can get them. The freedom to denigrate a terrible job is a leading indicator of a good economy.
Buchanan says that the Amazon warehouse is definitely the place to talk about the state of the American economy, because "manufacturing" jobs have become "service sector" jobs, and the rest of the economy is heading toward income inequality. He continues, "corporate America and middle America's economic interests diverged," and the two political parties sided with corporate America. That's basically right. It's too bad that the guy is such a nativist boor!
Clift agrees, and says that America could really stand to have a strong labor movement. She goes on to say that Amazon is the way of the future, and I'm trying to discern if she's particularly enthusiastic about that (having just called for a strong labor movement), and it seems that she's not. She's rather desultory about it, refers to Silicon Valley as a sort of shadow government. That's a terrifying thought, because what passes for a Silicon Valley "thought-leader" these days would have had Dr. Pangloss saying, "Guys, come on, we have to be more realistic."
Clift says, "I look forward to [Amazon workers] forming a union." That's going to take a while. Mort Zuckerman also claims to be pro-union, here, which I kind of don't actually believe. But he is super-pessimistic about the current state of employment.
Clarence Page goes on a bit of a monologue about the changing nature of the "internet economy," and the "opportunity" that Jeff Bezos buying the Washington Post represents, but I don't know, I sort of think you can only buy the Washington Post once.
There is some light yelling. When it resolves itself, Zuckerman is saying that "jobs are the most important thing" for providing structure. He sort of does this thing where he says very obvious things very gravely. It's good schtick. Buchanan, meanwhile, keeps leaning in to whatever his weird Studs Terkel side, railing about how the economy, as it's getting shaped and structured, is solely getting shaped and structured "for the rich." This surely doesn't disappoint Page, who moments ago lauded Buchanan for having woken up on the populist liberal side of the bed this morning.
There is some yelling. When it resolves itself, Buchanan and McLaughlin are talking about the trouble that India is in, and Russia. Clift says that China is in trouble, too. Page thinks that we are in trouble. Probably we are all in trouble, though Canadians sure seemed happy, when I was up there.
"Would you blame this on Ben Bernanke?" McLaughlin says. Zuckerman disagrees, Buchanan yells at him. There is some yelling. Or..."hard talk."
Finally, McLaughlin complains about being overcome with boredom, which is a nice luxury to have in America.
JOHNNY MAC POP QUIZ, MOFEAUX. "What is principal cause of America's economic malaise?" Four choices given: a) financial crisis by wall street, b) housing bubble by washington politicians, c) trade crisis brought on by China joining the WTO, d) excessive government debt, or e) none of the above.
Buchanan says "all of the above," which is wrong because one of the above is none of the above and that is not how the above stuff works. Clift says that it's housing bubble and Wall Street greed. Zuckerman says that the reason is the fact that we are "in a technological revolution that's changed the nature of manufacturing."
There is some yelling.
Page just says that the world is changing and we can't roll back globalization -- consumers love paying low prices, after all. Especially if they don't hear too much about how their shirts are made in collapsing Bangladeshi factories. Page says that there are better ways to improve the middle class than altering trade policies, like investing in education. McLaughlin is all, "How did we get on to education?" Uhm...you asked about proximate causes of and solutions to the economic malaise?
Now we are moving on to the 2016 horse race, which is starting? Huh? Maybe I should just embrace the madness that is the Permanent Presidential Campaign.
"After all, the next presidential election is only 1,102 days away," says J-Mac, as if that was just a non-noteworthy number of days between now and some other thing that's supposed to eventually happen.
Oh dearie me. Here is a list of the people that McLaughlin thinks definitely belong on the list of GOP candidates in 2016:
Jeb Bush. Okay that makes sense.
Scott Brown. LOL, nope.
Ben Carson. Ha, no.
Chris Christie. Sounds legit.
Ted Cruz. Probably, though he and Rand Paul may have to throw rock paper scissors to decide who's in and who's out.
Peter King. Uhhh.
Rand Paul. See above.
Rick Perry. See "2012."
Marco Rubio. See all those tea party people yelling at him?
Rick Santorum. Well, he did better than Rick Perry.
Donald Trump. TROLOLOLOLOLOLOL.
Page says that Jeb Bush is the most legit of everyone on that list, because "Republicans tend to respect seniority." I don't know over what Jeb Bush has "seniority," but whatever. McLaughlin is all, "What about Christie," and Page says that Christie has "to get past the right wing."
"He's an Eastern Republican, so he comes across as a liberal." There is some yelling.
Zuckerman says Christie and Bush are the top two candidates. Buchanan thinks that Jeb Bush is a "good man and a good governor, but he doesn't have the cowboy stuff that his brother had." I thought that's why we call Jeb "the smart Bush," though? Anyway Buchanan thinks that Cruz and Paul are the top two candidates, but admits that there's a lot of vote splitting that goes into that.
"Why hasn't anyone mentioned the Donald," McLaughlin asks. Clift, generously, says, "Because he's a fringe player under the best scenario." What Trump really is, is a Candyland player under the influence of hallucinogens, but I'd like him to run for President anyway, because I love laughter and laugher is good for everyone.
Clift says that Rand Paul has got "charisma with the young people" and Cruz doesn't have that. Buchanan disagrees. To be fair, Cruz does talk like the tight-assed Dean that you root against in all your "kiss-me-I'm-shitfaced" college movies.
There is some yelling. Really, everyone is yelling at Pat Buchanan. Zuckerman, especially: "There must be people in the Republican Party who want to win, and if they do, they won't nominate these people that Pat is talking about, because they are sure losers." (Also, minutes after declaring himself ideologically neutral, Zuckerman starts referring to the GOP as a "we.")
McLaughlin has another question. Which of these governors might throw themselves in the 2016 ring -- Haley Barbour, John Kasich, Tim Pawlenty, Mitch Daniels, Scott Walker, Nikki Haley, or this person called "Sarah Palin" who was briefly a governor before quitting to do reality teevee and Facebook carping, as a full time job.
Buchanan sees Walker or Kasich as the two most likely, and Clift agrees. Zuckerman thinks that Walker "will go in." Both he and Pat think that Walker could win the general. Page doesn't think so -- they'd need to take one shot at the nomination and lose before they notch a win.
McLaughlin says that it's all "too close to call," but that's precisely incorrect, it's actually way way way way too far away to call.
Oh, no, there's no time for predictions! Oh, well, back to Syria!
MEET THE PRESS
So, back to the Debate Over The Debate Over The Missile Strike That Won't Save Lives But Make Us Feel Good About Ourselves. We begin with John Kerry, however, and David Gregory wants to know why Obama kicked this to Congress, as if a Constitution exists or something. Kerry says, "Well, the case remains the same, David. The President of the United States has made his decision. His decision is to take military action in response to this outrageous attack. There's a front against the decency and sensibilities of the world...The message remains the same. And it's a message, I might add, that any President of the United States and any Congress ought to seek to enforce."
Gregory doesn't get it, and like Wallace, attempts the whole, "So Obama isn't listening to you, anymore. Does that make you feel undermined?" (Someone is projecting!) Kerry says, "I completely disagree with the fundamental premise that you set out."
KERRY: The issue originally was, "Should the President of the United States take action in order to enforce the credibility and the interest of our country and to deter Assad from using these weapons and to degrade his capacity to do so?" That was the issue. And that's the issue that we debated. There was no decision not to do that. And the President has the right to do that and we argued, not argued, discussed the options in the context of his right other take that action. The president then made the decision that he thought we would be stronger and the United States would act with greater moral authority and greater strength if we acted in a united way.
Gregory complains that polling suggests that most Americans don't want to go to war, and if Congress follows the will of the American people, we run the risk of not having the fun Missile Strike That Won't Save Lives But Make Us Feel Good About Ourselves. And believe me, when you are David Gregory, you have such a limited range of options when it comes to feeling good about himself.
So, what Gregory basically wants to know is if the pesky will of the people is going to get in the way here. Kerry says that he hopes the American people will see Congress' effort "as careful deliberation, as appropriate exercise of American constitutional process. The United States is strongest when the Congress speaks with the president, when the American people are invested, because we've had an appropriate vetting of all of the facts."
So -- clever, clever -- bringing the American people along and convincing them is now a job that Congress will have to share in doing, instead of simply taking their traditional role of complaining that they should have been asked for their input. Not that Congress will be alone -- Kerry continues to insist that they will keep piling on evidence in favor of the Missile Strike That Won't Save Lives But Make Us Feel Good About Ourselves.
This is a funny exchange, in which Kerry has some opinions on the Infotainment Industry:
DAVID GREGORY: Mr. Secretary, I just want to underline the news you made this morning. This is a sarin gas attack, perpetrated by the Assad regime, this is a slam-dunk case that he did it?
SECRETARY JOHN KERRY: The word "slam-dunk" should be retired from the American national security issues.
But what happens if Congress won't vote for the Missile Strike That Won't Save Lives But Make Us Feel Good About Ourselves? David Gregory is RILLY RILLY WORRIED GUYS LIKE SRSLY! Kerry says, "I do not believe the Congress of the United States will turn its back on this moment." Gregory is all, "ARE YOU SURE?" Kerry says, "I said that the president has the authority to act, but the Congress is going to do what's right here."
David Gregory now wants to check on the possibility that we'll do something more than the Missile Strike That Won't Save Lives But Make Us Feel Good About Ourselves, because John McCain sure wants to do something more, and he must be an authority because he keeps getting booked on Sunday Morning television shows.
KERRY: Well, let me draw a distinction here, David. The President of the United States has said that Assad must go, and that is the policy of the United States. But we do not believe that this military action the president has decided to take should be more than an effort to try to deter and prevent the use of chemical weapons and to degrade his capacity to use those weapons.
So the military operation is not calculated to become involved in the effort to topple him. But the political operation and the support for the opposition is. And the President of the United States, as you know, has declared that we will provide additional support to the opposition. We do not believe there is any scenario under which Assad could continue with any kind of authority whatsoever to govern in Syria.
And so yes, the policy is politically through the Geneva Process, through our commitment to the ultimate, negotiated settlement that will have to take place, there is no future for Assad in that governance. But this military operation is specifically geared to prevent a future chemical attack and to degrade the Assad capacity to be able to do that. Now let me be clear. Whatever the president ultimately decides to do in that contest, I assure you Assad will feel its impact and they will know that something has happened.
Gregory closes by asking how anyone can be sure that our first Missile Strike That Won't Save Lives But Make Us Feel Good About Ourselves won't be our last Missile Strike That Won't Save Lives But Make Us Feel Good About Ourselves. Kerry puts this pretty plainly:
KERRY: David, that will depend on whether Assad decides to use chemical weapons or not. The President of the United States does not intend to and does not want to see the United States assume responsibility for Syria's civil war. That is not what he is setting out to do. What he is setting out to do is enforce the norm with respect to international convention on chemical weapons.
He goes on to say that of course, no one respects or recognizes Assad as legitimate, but those disputes need to be resolved politically. It would also be a good thing for Syria to resolve itself. The U.S. doesn't have a person to swap in for Assad in Syria, and even if we did, going down that road would make things even worse for us.
To make things worse for the GOP's hawkish wing, Senator Rand Paul has been booked on this program. Let the internecine fracturing commence!
David Gregory...I don't think?...is completely aware of who Rand Paul is, and what he is all about, because he begins by asking if the proof of Assad's sarin attack is enough to change his calculus and make him favorably disposed to the Missile Strike That Won't Save Lives But Make Us Feel Good About Ourselves, but I'd be surprised if that was enough. To be honest, I'm just sort of waiting to see what Paul does that's dumb-in-the-other-direction, because this day needs a good third act twist that keeps up the sad, sad farce but does so in a new fun way.
To no one's surprise, Paul says that no, his mind has not changed.
PAUL: I would ask John Kerry is, you know, he's famous for saying, you know, how can you ask a man to be the last one to die for a mistake? I would ask John Kerry how can you ask a man to be the first one to die for a mistake? I would ask John Kerry, do you think that it's less likely or more likely that chemical weapons will be used again if the we bomb Assad? I will ask him if it's more likely or less likely that we'll have more refugees in Jordan or that Israel might suffer attack. I think all of the bad things you can imagine are all more likely if we get involved in the Syrian civil war.
Admittedly, those are all better questions than the ones Gregory asked Kerry but two things to remember are that Gregory wants the war and also this is a seriously, seriously low bar, the whole "better questions than David Gregory thing." I'm sort of amazed that Gregory didn't ask Kerry if the Missile Strike That Won't Save Lives But Make Us Feel Good About Ourselves might run for president in 2016. Over and over again, I mean.
Paul says that he is very "proud of the President" for coming to Congress, as is Constitutionally proper, but that he's concerned that what Kerry has been signalling is the willingness to ignore the will of Congress if Congress ultimately decides to vote down the Missile Strike That Won't Save Lives But Make Us Feel Good About Ourselves. He reckons that it's a "fifty-fifty" thing in the House.
This surprises Gregory, because he's all set to go with the Missile Strike That Won't Save Lives But Make Us Feel Good About Ourselves. Paul says that the Senate "will probably rubber stamp what [Obama] wants" -- this is assuming that Obama doesn't just want Congress to give him the out! -- but that it's a 50-50 shot in the House as to what happens.
Paul goes on to say, "If the rebels win, will they be American allies? Assad's definitely not an American ally, but I'm not convinced anybody on the Islamic side, the Islamic rebels will be American allies."
Gregory is all, "BUT THE RED LINE, OMG." Paul says that the red line should be "are American interests threatened," and he "doesn't see American interests on either side." Then things get a little weird?
PAUL: I see Assad, who has protected Christians for a number of decades, and then I see the Islamic rebels on the other side who have been attacking Christians. I see al Qaeda on one side, the side we would go in to support, and I see it to be murky. I don't see a clear-cut American interest. I don't see either party that is victorious, if either is victorious, being an American ally.
Okay, but...we're not going to say that "tie goes to Assad" on the grounds that he is slightly more positively inclined to Christians, are we? Because Christians would nominally find Assad to be quite repellent.
Oh, my! That's what we are doing, I guess, with Rand Paul? Apparently, we are, sort of:
PAUL: And I think the only way they do is if there's a change in government where Assad is gone, but some of the same people remain stable. That would also be good for the Christians. I think the Islamic rebels running is a bad idea for the Christians and all of a sudden we'll have another Islamic state where Christians are persecuted.
I think that anyone getting persecuted is a bad thing but we're sort of kidding ourselves if we adopt this pretense that Assad is someone who "protects Christians" or who Christians should rally around because his evil dementia is more prominently directed at other groups of people. Paul should just stick with the essential "murkiness" of everyone's motivations, instead of implying that Assad is positively inclined toward anyone.
Here is your dumb-in-the-other-direction moment, though, I guess! Runner up is Paul saying, "I think the failure of the Obama administration has been we haven't engage the Russians enough or the Chinese enough on this," which he follows up with, "the Russians have every reason to want to keep their influence in Syria." He needs to puzzle out some of his thoughts a little further.
Chuck Todd comes on to give a brief news recap, unnecessarily because the sort of people who aren't plugged into this stuff don't turn on Meet The Press to get their news. Finally, Senator Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) is here.
Murphy says that coming to Congress was the right move because now Congress can deliberate and the nation can take whatever next step without the fear of division. Murphy is asking the right question: "The question is, is military action actually going to make the situation better on the ground for the Syrian people and how do you make sure this doesn't escalate into something much more damaging and much more bloody within the region?"
Gregory WANTS WANTS WANTS his Missile Strike That Won't Save Lives But Make Us Feel Good About Ourselves, though!
GREGORY: But Senator, you heard Secretary Kerry say this was a sarin gas attack. That was news this morning based on new evidence and intelligence. And the president is saying, in effect, my words not his, "You've got 100,000 people killed, you now have 1,500 people killed by a chemical attack, including hundreds of children." How much bloodier does it have to get until the United States says, "W.M.D., that's the line you don't cross, we have to respond"?
SENATOR CHRIS MURPHY: Listen, I think about my two little kids at home every time that I watch those videos and those photos. And the question really is not is this unacceptable, but can we make this situation better. And ultimately, my worry is, and what's going to be my guiding principle over the next week as I enter into these deliberations, is will a U.S. attack make the situation better for the Syrian people or worse?
There's a potential that you could end up allowing those chemical weapons into the hands of even worse people...a wing of Al Qaeda, and there is of course a potential that this could spill into a much broader conflict in the region, which could allow a lot more people to be killed. I think those are just the essential questions we have to ask. So the guiding principle of the American foreign policy should be do no harm. And I think that will be the foundation of our debate.
It would seem that Murphy has little faith in his colleagues ability to wrestle with this stuff: "Listen, I think Congress passes the authorization. I was on the losing end of a 12/3 vote in the foreign relations committee against giving the president the authorization to arm Syrian rebels. I certainly enter this debate as a skeptic, but I'm going to allow the administration to make its case this week. I'm going to go back to Washington to sit on the foreign relations committee. I'm certainly a skeptic going in. But I'm going to allow the administration to present its evidence to Congress and to the Senate."
And now it's panel time. Meet The Press went out and got Bill Kristol for this, because I guess they were worried that they didn't have enough people on hand for panels who were fundamentally unserious and wrong all the time about everything. Joining Kristol is Gwen Ifill and Robert Gibbs and Katty Kay.
Kristol, however, totally comes out and undermines my position on the matter by supporting it, saying, "Given where we are now, there was really no strong reason not to go to Congress and good reasons to go. I think he did the right thing. I think we'll have a healthy national debate for the next week or two."
I am obviously doomed, everybody!
Ifill notes that Obama now brings Congress into the whole, "defend your credibility" camp, too. And she found David Axelrod's reaction yesterday to be interesting:
IFILL: It was interesting that David Axelrod, Robert's old friend, who was the president's advisor, immediately tweeted out yesterday, "Well, the Republicans have car, the dog has now caught the car." And so it's on them. The White House wasn't unhappy about that characterization.
Gibbs, as you might expect, praised Obama for being super deliberative. He is so deliberative, you guys, oh my god! Gregory snaps back, "Is her deliberative or is he too cautious?" Gregory is really of the mind that when it comes to military commitments and the probability of human death, you should just throw caution to the wind. I can see the incentives -- the more reckless we are, the greater the chances he'll get to cover people dying in Benghazi and stuff like that.
Gibbs, anyway, responds by saying that we need a united American front, if we decide to have the Missile Strike That Won't Save Lives But Make Us Feel Good About Ourselves.
Meanwhile, Katty Kay finally gets to say some stuff, and she thinks that it's all weak and muddled and indecisive and she's pretty sure that we've now lost our next war in Iran, too, before it happens. "It looks even as if the military outcomes and the political outcomes are not clearly laid out and clearly aligned," she says, in a sentence that can literally refer to any war we have fought this century.
Kristol remembers that a lot of people didn't want Bush to get authorization from Congress to fight the War in Iraq, because there was this tremendous fear that Congress might to something smart and prevent that round of epic pointlessness. John Kerry, he notes, did not vote for the authorization. But, as he points out, "we got it through with a Democratic House and a Democratic Senate against the leadership of the Democratic party." So there were enough stupid people in Congress to fight a stupid war.
Years later, the Democrats would sweep back into power in a wave midterm election, promising to end the war, which they didn't end up doing.
Gibbs does some wishful thinking, reckoning that David Cameron didn't get his authorization because he just didn't make the best case, and if he'd made a stronger case, Parliament would have backed him. But in the United Kingdom, they've gripped the legacy of Bush and Blair a lot more capably than they have in the United States, and they look back on that period as a terrible time in their lives.
Kay makes note of this: "Yeah, I think the vote in London was a concrete example of the damage that has been done to American intelligence and American-led policy in the Middle East by the Iraq war. And it was clearly the ghost that hung over parliamentarians...there was so much antipathy in Britain and in that body, in the parliamentary body, not to go along with another American-led venture in the Middle East on the understanding that we don't know where the finish is, this could end well as it has done in the past, and we don't want to be seen just to sign off on something."
Kristol basically suggests that the advantage that Obama (assuming he wants war) has is that the Democratic Party are really far less principled than the UK Labor party. "The entire Labour Party, Tony Blair's party, voted against him. President Obama will not have that problem. He will hold half the Democrats, presumably."
Kristol and Gibbs have a fun fight over Iraq:
ROBERT GIBBS: Let's understand the fundamental difference from Iraq, right? We know that there are chemical weapons and they have been used. We're still looking for the chemical weapons in Iraq.
BILL KRISTOL: Saddam used chemical weapons.
ROBERT GIBBS: Right.
BILL KRISTOL: Against his own citizens, actually.
GWEN IFILL: And the world did nothing.
Actually, he did so at the time with our tacit approval, but details!
BILL KRISTOL: Right, the world did nothing, we should've done something then, and we did something a little later.
ROBERT GIBBS: But understand that for months, we looked for the rational for Iraq. We continued to look for that rational for Iraq after we started a war with Iraq and still hadn't come up with the chemical weapons rationale. So doing this in a deliberate way again, this is why the president was elected to be president, because we're going do this in a different way.
Ifill finally suggests that maybe going into this debate with a huge chubby for relitigating the Iraq War debate isn't the most responsible thing in the world to do. (But a loy of this from the Obama administration -- A LOT -- is simply a big show of, "Hey, we actually got evidence and proved a case, so if nothing else, you must credit us for getting over that very low bar."
Now they are asking if Kerry was "hung out to dry." At least we're back to this show's real priorities.
Finally there is a segment on how things are going with refugees fleeing Syria. They are not going well. Nothing that a Missile Strike That Won't Save Lives But Make Us Feel Good About Ourselves can't fix, though, unless it doesn't fix it, in which case it won't even make us feel good about ourselves.
Here, for your consideration, are "The Pros of Putting Special Forces On the Ground in Syria." Read it! It makes a lot of very good points about the "false sterility" of our current "drone war logic." The too-long-didn't-read version, though, is this -- there are things that America could do right now to actually fix things, but they come at too high a political risk for anyone to attempt to do them.
Sorry. I've been saying, the moment four American casualties in Benghazi became a national political scandal, instead of simply being the utterly natural consequence of going to war with Libya, that the chances that we'd do anything significant in Syria were about nil. We'll probably do that Missile Strike That Won't Save Lives But Make Us Feel Good About Ourselves, and maybe Assad will keep slaughtering his people with conventional weapons -- a practice he will return to with new vigor as soon as our bombs start dropping.
About the only good thing we might get out of this is to re-establish the precedent that Congress' role in these actions is not to be a passive participant that takes credit when things go wrong and gets to carp and complain when things go poorly, but rather, to be an essential part of the authorization process. That's pretty good. It's going to be a real challenge for them to actually do their jobs and take responsibility. I'll invoke the famous "SuperCommittee" as a monument to Congress' typical cowardice, and hope that maybe they'll even come to enjoy doing their jobs -- the part of their jobs that's not just carting off K Street lucre, I mean.
Anyway, it's now the middle of our long weekend and time to declare this the nadir of the holiday and start doing things that actually make us happy in some modified, limited, temporary way. So, have a great day and a terrific week, and we'll see how our Missile Strike That Won't Save Lives But Make Us Feel Good About Ourselves is faring in seven-days time. Ta ta for now!
Oh, and Arsenal beat Tottenham. See? Things are looking up.
[The liveblog will be back on September 8, 2013. While you wait, feel free to check out my Rebel Mouse page for interesting reads from all around the web.]