Here's the scenario: there's a country in the Middle East, with a despotic dictator in charge, accused of killing almost 100,000 of his own people, including children, and the US government wants to use our military to help remove him from power, because he has weapons of mass destruction. Our allies join us in accusing the dictator of using chemical weapons, and appeal to the UN, to allow military intervention.
"We've got physical samples," a US national security spokesman says.
But Russia is unconvinced. They say it smells too much like, well, let's hear it from them, according to some recent articles on RT.com.
Presidential aide, Yuri Ushakov: “We wouldn’t like to invoke references to the famous lab tube that [former US] Secretary of State [Colin] Powell showed, but the facts don’t look convincing in our eyes.”
Head of the Duma's Foreign Affairs committee, Alexy Pushkov, in a tweet: “The data about Assad’s use of chemical weapons is fabricated by the same facility that made up the lies about Saddam Hussein’s weapons of mass destruction. Obama is walking George W. Bush’s path.”
This is a direct repercussion from the recent National Security Agency leaks. One can no longer convincingly say, "Obama is not Bush," while he continues many of the Bush policies, including the collecting of personal data from the phone calls and email activity of millions of Americans.
This has devolved into an integrity issue for an administration that was elected, arguably, to restore faith in the executive branch. But Guantanamo remains open, its prisoners tortured with feeding tubes thrust through their noses and into their guts, and we've expanded the killer drone programs started under the 43rd president.
This White House may not be driven by a war profiteer like Cheney, but they are driven by politics, which can be even more opaque in its machinations.
That's not to say something shouldn't be done about the mass killings going on right now in Syria, but if he wants the backing of the American people, President Obama must clean up his house, first. He must convince us, and the world, that the administration can be trusted to act with consideration of rights, and lives. (And he can't just talk about the careful steps in killing Osama; that meme is, for him, perhaps ironically, the equivalent of Bush continually referencing 9-11.)
If they paid me for such things, I would suggest that there be some grand gesture of transparency, like giving into those in Congress who are asking for the declassification of certain elements of the data collection programs. I would also suggest an, "I feel your pain," kind of statement, regarding Bradley Manning, Edward Snowden, and the millions of people who sympathize with their "cause." He doesn't have to legitimize it. He just has to make us believe he understands it.
This was supposed to be a different kind of president, for us and for the world. He won the Nobel Peace Prize, for goodness sake. Now, part of the blame is on us and our expectations of leadership, but it's also on him to walk the talk. This country will never retake its shining beacon on the hill persona, unless courage is shown, and the people are inspired. You can do that, Mr. President. At least, I still believe you can.