I'm not sure anyone anywhere has ever written a stupider "news analysis" article:
Obama gambling that Syria won't be election liability
By Matt SpetalnickThis is brutally stupid spin masquerading as analysis.
President Barack Obama is gambling that his administration's failure to act forcefully to stem the bloody crisis in Syria won't become an election-year liability - and that looks for now like a good bet, with Americans weary of war and focused on the struggling U.S. economy.
A weekend massacre of civilians in Syria has again laid bare the lack of appetite on the part of Washington and many of its allies for military action against Syrian President Bashar al Assad.
It has also given presumptive Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney a new opening to try to paint Obama as soft on U.S. foes and timid in asserting American global leadership.
But with most Americans opposed to another large-scale U.S. military commitment overseas and the Syria crisis barely registering for many U.S. voters, Obama's aides and supporters believe he can weather attacks on the issue.
Polls in recent months have shown between two-thirds and three-quarters of voters opposed to U.S. intervention. Not even human rights groups are demanding major military action.
And Republicans themselves are divided on the right course of action in Syria and how much political capital Washington should invest there.
"Americans are war-weary, Americans are focused on our own economy, Americans want us to invest in our future," Democratic U.S. Senator Mark Udall said in a conference call with reporters during a trip to the Middle East. "I don't think this is at the top of Americans' list of concerns."
Obama and his White House aides say they have limited options in the Syria crisis.
Efforts to persuade Russia to halt arms shipments to its long-time ally in Damascus and to get both Moscow and Beijing to drop their opposition to further U.N. sanctions have proven fruitless.
Obama for now has all but ruled out arming Syrian rebels, whose peaceful protests have morphed into a to-the-death fight over the country's future.
Romney has called for arming Syrian opposition groups. But even some of his fellow Republicans question the idea.
"We're just not exactly sure who the bad guys are and who the good guys are right now in Syria," the Republican chair of the House Intelligence Committee, Mike Rogers, said on Wednesday.
The Obama administration has also shown little appetite for imposing a "no-fly" zone over Syria and bombing Assad's loyalists to protect civilians - as was done by NATO in Libya last year - or carving out a humanitarian zone on Syria's borders under armed international protection.
In theory, at least, Obama could forge a coalition of willing countries - including some Gulf states and some NATO members - to oust Assad by force.
But the White House has made clear there is almost no chance Obama will do that. He his campaigning for reelection in November in part on his ending of one war, in Iraq, and winding down another, in Afghanistan.
In response to the massacre of 108 civilians in the Syrian town of Houla, Washington joined with its allies on Tuesday in the largely symbolic step of expelling Syria's envoys.
'POLICY OF PARALYSIS'
Romney, neck-and-neck with Obama in recent polls, seized the chance after the massacre to accuse the administration of a "policy of paralysis" on Syria, and Republican Senator John McCain called Obama's approach "feckless."
McCain has called for the U.S. to lead an international effort to protect key population centers in Syria through air strikes.
Yet except for calling for "more assertive measures to end the Assad regime" and for the United States to work with partners to arm the opposition, Romney has yet to present a detailed plan of his own.
Other Republicans' calls for action have tended to stop short of demanding U.S. military intervention, as for example House Foreign Affairs Committee chairwoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen's statement on Tuesday that the United States should "expand our overall sanctions against Damascus."
Obama's aides believe he can weather political attacks over Syria, and that he is shielded on national security issues by his having ordered the killing of al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden last year.
An Obama campaign official, responding to Romney's criticism on Syria, dismissed the former Massachusetts governor's ideas as "reckless and backward-looking."
The risk to Obama is a Syrian crisis that worsens further, destabilizes the region and gains traction with the American public. A U.N.-brokered ceasefire plan has all but collapsed, and diplomats admit there is no "Plan B."
That, plus continuing nuclear standoffs with Iran and North Korea, could give Republicans hope for putting Obama on the defensive over foreign policy - as they have done already with his economic stewardship.
Still, Republicans will have a tough time convincing many Americans of the need to wade further into Syria's troubles after more than a decade of costly wars.
"There is a clear disinclination of Americans to get involved in another military conflict in another far-off place," said Brian Katulis, a Middle East expert at the Center for American Progress think-tank in Washington. "It's a hard case to move forward and that will be the Republicans' burden." ...
Spetalnick takes an extremely important and complicated story-- the chaos in Syria, and the lack of good options for outsiders who want to diminish the regime's savagery-- and spins it as political gamesmanship.
Except for the predictable calls for more bombing/invasion from McCain and Romney, all of the scarce facts Spetalnick types down confirm that the situation in Syria is terrible, but confusing, that there's no apparent capability nor plan nor desire on the part of any foreign governments to intervene, that leading Republicans are weary of jumping into a situation we don't fully understand, and that intervening is wildly unpopular among Americans.
So... on the idea of getting involved in a third war, all signs point to "no".
But Spetalnick baselessly couches our policy as a "political gamble" that might pay off.
(Jeffrey Goldberg's persistent chortling about how the US and the world criticize Syria without intervening, without himself offering a single idea as to what precisely we might do, is similarly grating and immoral, but it's a less pervasive media trope).
Just for good measure, Spetalnick wrongly describes the Center for American Progress as a "think tank". Just as no one should ever use that term for the Heritage Foundation or AEI, it's misleading to use that term for CAP. They're a "Democratic-leaning research organization", or something. They don't hold themselves out to be neutral. A good reporter would let his readers know where they're coming from.
I also love that Susan Cornwell and Jeff Mason added additional "reporting" for this nearly fact-free article. Did they use Google to find out who the Chair of the House Intelligence Committee was, and whether his website said anything about Syria?
Two of the worst features of our media are their relentless cynicism and the related reporting on almost every story through the prism of political choreography. Spetalnick's article, which is dedicated to increasing cynicism rather than informing readers, exemplifies punditry at its worst and most corrosive-- and safest.
You can never get in trouble with your bosses for cranking out articles that say, "both sides are playing this issue for political gain". Of course, you can't provide a useful good or service for your readers that way, either. After all, the reason we care about the government is because it implements policies that affect people's lives. This pervasive style of reporting gives the illusion of informing readers, when in fact it conceals or fails to offer the policy context, and merely makes readers more cynical about governance.