But it is unlikely that a merciless drubbing from the news media and other critics is going to sway Mr. Obama. His decision to seek the approval of Congress for a strike on Syria, after saying that it had crossed his “red line” on the use of chemical weapons, also drew withering criticism — setting in place a narrative of feckless leadership that has dogged him for the last year.
Less noticed is that this decision led to one of his few foreign policy successes: Mr. Assad’s voluntary surrender of his chemical weapons stockpile — the result of a diplomatic proposal from Russia that Mr. Obama grabbed as an alternative to firing Tomahawk missiles when it became clear that Congress would never give its blessing for strikes.
Although Mr. Obama has gotten virtually no credit for that achievement, the lesson of the episode is hardly lost on him.
But it's completely lost on the media, who take Republican talking points as gospel.
The U.S. decided weeks ago to use air strikes to fight ISIS in Iraq. When the president said there's no strategy yet to do the same in Syria, he was acknowledging that the political circumstances in Syria are very different.
"I think he was just using shorthand to basically say it's a little more complicated in Syria if we want to do it smartly and within the bounds of a legal framework," Brian Katulis, a senior fellow at the Center for American Progress told CBS News. "It's spot on to say we're going to look before we leap, and that is in and of itself a strategy -- as opposed to the 'shock and awe' in Iraq."
As he articulated in a speech at West Point earlier this year, Mr. Obama's counter-terrorism strategy focuses on building more effective partnerships with countries where terrorist networks want to seek a foothold.
"If we rely only on America's military might, there's no question... they could have a substantial impact on the battlefield," Earnest said Friday. "But if we want to make sure [ISIS] doesn't come back, we need to make sure we have effective partners."
When it comes to the Middle East, in other words, Obama is neither a dove nor a hawk. He’s a fierce minimalist. George W. Bush defined the War on Terror so broadly that in anti-terrorism’s name he spent vast quantities of blood and treasure fighting people who had no capacity or desire to attack the United States. Hillary Clinton and John McCain may not use the “War on Terror” framework anymore, but they’re still more willing to sell arms, dispatch troops, and drop bombs to achieve goals that aren’t directly connected to preventing another 9/11. By contrast, Obama’s strategy—whether you like it or not—is more clearly defined. Hundreds of thousands can die in Syria; the Taliban can menace and destabilize Afghanistan; Iran can move closer to getting a bomb. No matter. With rare exceptions, Obama only unsheathes his sword against people he thinks might kill American civilians.
Understanding Obama’s fierce minimalism helps explain the evolution of his policy toward Syria and Iraq. For years, hawks pushed him to bomb Assad and arm Syria’s rebels. They also urged him to keep more U.S. troops in Iraq to stabilize the country and maintain American leverage there. Obama refused because these efforts—which would have cost money and incurred risks—weren’t directly aimed at fighting terrorism. But now that ISIS has developed a safe haven in Iraq and Syria, amassed lots of weapons and money, killed an American journalist, recruited Westerners, and threatened terrorism against the United States, Obama’s gone from dove to hawk.
More politics and policy below the fold.
A Mississippi judge has dismissed a lawsuit that seeks to overturn Sen. Thad Cochran's victory in a Republican primary runoff.
Judge Hollis McGehee said Friday that state Sen. Chris McDaniel, who lost to Cochran, failed to start the election challenge on time.
McDaniel will announce Tuesday whether he will appeal the ruling to the Mississippi Supreme Court.
McGehee issued his ruling a day after hearing arguments in Laurel about the timing of McDaniel's lawsuit.
With just over nine weeks remaining before Election Day 2014, the contest for control of the U.S. Senate likely hinges on the outcome of a half-dozen races that remain remarkably close, according to the latest public polls.
In estimates based on all available public polls compiled by HuffPost Pollster, the Democratic and Republican candidates are separated by less than 2 percentage points in five states: Arkansas, Colorado, Iowa, Louisiana and North Carolina. Four more states -- Alaska, Georgia, Kentucky and Michigan -- feature hotly contested races where Pollster estimates give the leaders slightly greater margins, but where either candidate has a real chance of winning.
A federal judge in Austin, Tex., blocked a stringent new rule on Friday that would have forced more than half of the state’s remaining abortion clinics to close, the latest in a string of court decisions that have at least temporarily kept abortion clinics across the South from being shuttered.
The Texas rule, requiring all abortion clinics to meet the building, equipment and staffing standards of hospital-style surgery centers, had been set to take effect on Monday. But in his opinion, Judge Lee Yeakel of the United States District Court in Austin said the mandate placed unjustified obstacles on women’s access to abortion without providing significant medical benefits.
Ferguson, Mo., stands out for the level of racial turbulence it has experienced this month. But as an economically lagging community that has undergone rapid demographic change in the last couple of decades, it’s not unusual at all.
An analysis performed for The Upshot by Andrew Beveridge, a sociology professor at Queens College, shows that there are 117 communities of 5,000 or more people in the United States that, like Ferguson, were over 50 percent white in 1990 and shifted to over 50 percent black in 2010.
Not all of them have the troubled racial history of Ferguson or its demographic mismatch between the population and the police, but they do resemble Ferguson in two ways: Most are suburban, and most are poorer than their overall metro area.
From there, Clinton addressed racial prejudice and inequality. But unlike Obama—whose comments were limited to banalities and “both sides” posturing—she had something smart to say.
“Imagine what we would feel and what we would do if white drivers were three times as likely to be searched by police during a traffic stop as black drivers, instead of the other way around,” she said, “if white offenders received prison sentences 10 percent longer than black offenders for the same crimes, if a third of all white men—just look at this room and take one third—went to prison during their lifetime. Imagine that. That is the reality in the lives of so many of our fellow Americans and so many of the communities in which they live.”...
Clinton’s statement is neither candid, personal, or especially conciliatory. Instead, it’s a little blunt, and in a good way. She asks for understanding and doesn’t give her listeners a rhetorical escape. “Imagine that,” she says, pushing her audience to conjure a world where white men were targets for law enforcement, and where their lives were routinely derailed for trivial offenses.