Here’s a lovely historical irony: A Democratic president has proposed limited military action in the Middle East, and conservative Republicans are aligning with anti-war Democrats, Occupy Wall Street, The Nation, MoveOn, and Code Pink to stop him.
For those of us who oppose the intervention, it should be a wonderful Kumbaya moment. But rightbloggers have no gift for consensus; they just can’t reach out to the people they spend their waking moments hating, even to stop a war. It’s like having a schizophrenic back you up in a bar fight; you never know whether they’re going to wind up a liability.
These are great days to be a peacenik, whether on principle or opportunistically. Since Obama told the nation that Assad’s use of chemical weapons against his own people in Syria required U.S. intervention, he’s been hammered by critics from both sides of the traditional Red-Blue divide.
By and large, though, rightbloggers don’t acknowledge liberal opposition to the Syria adventure — or, when they do, try to discredit it; for example, at the Washington Examiner Byron York claimed “there is a comparison much more fitting than Iraq for the contemplated action in Syria. It is the Obama administration’s intervention in the Libyan civil war.” Makes sense — you often hear people on the street talking about how they’d love another Iraq War, but Obama taking out our old friend Gaddafi was a horrible mistake.
Now, there are plenty of Republican lawmakers and conservative commentators who are still willing to give war a chance, just as they did in the days when Saddam Hussein was going to kill us all with WMD. But they retain and share one important attribute with their newly anti-war colleagues: They hope to include Obama among the Syria collateral damage.
At the Wall Street Journal, for example, Kimberley Strassel said Obama’s “crude calculus is that Congress can now rescue him however it votes” — apparently he’s somehow managed to convince voters that the Republican House is obstructionist! — and so hypocritically challenges them “to rise above the ‘partisan’ politics that he has, with great calculation, dumped on them.” Strassel urged the Republicans to heroically take the fall: “Remember (no matter how painful) that this is not a vote about the president or his machinations,” she said. “The only question before Republicans is this: Will they send a message to the world’s despots that America will not tolerate the use of weapons of mass destruction? If they will not send that message, they risk complicity in this president’s failed foreign policy.” Go ahead, fellas, being bigger than Obama! There’s a first time for everything.
But the rightblogger consensus on Syria is overwhelmingly negative. If you believe John Hawkins of Right Wing News (and this is one subject on which he may be trustworthy), the fellow travelers he’s polled are 84.8% opposed — and 76.1% opposed even “if it were proven beyond a shadow of a doubt that Assad used chemical weapons in Syria,” which is Obama’s casus belli.
On the question, “Do you think Congress should give Obama authorization for ANY sort of military operation in Syria?” 100% of Hawkins’ respondents voted no.
This goes for the top of the rightblogger chain, too. “If [Obama] does bomb Syria,” prognosticated Glenn Reynolds of Instapundit, “it will either do nothing much — underscoring his irrelevance — or it will topple Assad, which will likely lead to an Islamist Syria hostile to the United States.” Guess the “More Rubble, Less Trouble” model is no longer operative.
Another former Iraq war cheerleader, Ace of Spades, gave thumbs-up to “14 Reasons to Not Bomb Syria,” and accused Obama of not wanting to let Congress vote on it. (After Obama did just that, Spades became enraged that Bruce Springsteen had not come out against Syria strikes — “Where have all the strutting, preening Angry Doves gone to? America needs your wisdom, Band Camp” — and declared, “we cannot go to war under this clownshow’s disaster-movie leadership” because the Administration tried to recruit Iran and Russia to the operation, which he considered insufficiently butch.)
At RedState, one of the last redoubts of Iraq War boosterism, the tide is running strongly against. “We should be staying out of it,” declared showrunner Erick Erickson. “We should be hoping both sides incapacitate each other… We should be rooting for injuries in Syria, not rooting for the rebels.”
Many of these guys were, ten years ago, calling those of us who opposed the Iraq adventure traitors. Why are they now against the Syria adventure? They’re all got their reasons — and some of them are doozies.
Erickson’s RedState colleague Some Guy headlined, “The Obama Administration Gets Pwned By AIPAC?” — which confused us, as we thought the America-Israel Public Affairs Committee approved the Syria mission, until we realized that was what Some Guy meant — Obama had been “hooked, gaffed, and landed” into war by the Israel Lobby!
“The executive director of [pro-intervention non-profit] SETF is affiliated with WINEP, a pro-Israel think tank,” reported Some Guy. “And there is the nasty little coincidence of the SETF having the same hosting server and apparently the same web designer as a Jewish school in Boca Raton, FL. But the dots… eh, they’re probably just coincidences.”
Boy, there’s a switcheroo, huh? Rightbloggers have been trying to extricate American Jews from the death-grip of Democrats for years — see such vintage hits as RedState’s Daniel Horowitz’ “Obama Lied, AIPAC Died” (“It’s a time for choosing for many of the old Scoop Jackson Democrats. They are either with America and Israel, or they are with Obama and Hamas”). But for the moment at least rightbloggers seem less interested in this, with guys like Michael Savage declaring “Israel was looking to have big brother do her bidding… I think that the whole thing about Obama hating Israel is a ruse.” No wonder Pat Buchanan‘s on board!
Some have expressed opposition because Obama won’t go far enough — that is, won’t promise to kill Assad with his strikes nor salt the Syrian ground afterward so nothing can grow.
“I don’t believe it is in America’s interest to use force here,” former UN ambassador/lunatic John Bolton told the Free Beacon. “But if we were going to respond, why respond proportionately? Why not respond disproportionately?… A ‘tank plinking’ kind of raid will remove whatever credibility the president still has.”
Victor Davis Hanson said Obama’s 2011 Libya intervention “proved a fiasco… but at least we took out Qaddafi, our understood aim.” But he still complained that in Syria Obama could not be trusted to “retaliate against grievances… in such force that the attacked cannot retaliate, or at least realizes its planned retaliation would only ensure it more misery.” A few puny bombs, and then Assad will be left free to gas at will — maybe even gas us, because America really is a weak horse, just like Bin Laden thought!
Others just don’t accept the case for war. That’s understandable. Critics reasonably say that the Administration hasn’t proven Assad used chemical weapons, and don’t want to be rushed into conflict before the U.N. issues its report. “So far, no convincing evidence has been made public proving that Bashar al-Assad used chemical weapons to kill hundreds of Syrian people,” wrote the Christian Science Monitor. “That has left the door open to alternate scenarios and conspiracy theories.”
It sure has. Some people (including Vladimir Putin) think it was the rebels who deployed the chemical weapons, not Assad. And some, like Yossef Bodansky, think the Administration actually set the chemical attacks up so Obama could make boom-boom.
“The mere fact that weapon storage sites under the tight supervision of US Intelligence were opened up,” claimed Bodansky, “and about a thousand tons of high-quality weapons were distributed to the opposition indicates that US Intelligence anticipated such a provocation and the opportunity for the Syrian opposition to exploit the impact of the ensuing US and allied bombing.”
This is pretty far out, and Foreign Policy magazine called Bodansky’s one of the “5 Craziest Conspiracy Theories About Syria’s Chemical Attacks” — but don’t worry, this bizarre notion was only picked up by the more obscure rightwing figures, such as Rush Limbaugh.
Limbaugh attacked Republicans who planned to vote yes over “ostensibly, Bashar al-Assad nerve gassing his own people.” He cited Bodansky, and more direct evidence: “I’ve heard from a couple people who have lived in the Middle East (some of them claim to know Bashar) who say, ‘Basher just wouldn’t do it,” said Limbaugh. “He just wouldn’t gas his own people.'” He’s just not that kind of guy!
Limbaugh admitted some people told him this was “crazy,” but he responded that “the Democrat Party, the American leftists, their objectives are not always as stated, and they do lie, and they will lie to further their cause.” Now who’s crazy? Also: “If indeed this is a frame job, look at how well it’s being run.” What more proof do you need?
Glenn Beck’s The Blaze gave Bodansky big play as “THE MYSTERIOUS SCHOLAR BEHIND THE SYRIA THEORY RUSH LIMBAUGH TALKED ABOUT THIS WEEK.” “Rush Limbaugh has the stones to ask this week what I’ve been saying since Obama’s move towards Syrian war and the next move in WW III began:
“I’m not endorsing a ‘yes’ answer in highlighting Bodansky’s article,” claimed Bryan Preston at PJ Tatler. “I have wondered about something, though…” Preston then did the sort of plausible-deniability dance (“Bodansky himself pulls back to White House ‘foreknowledge,’ not planning. They’re two very different things”) that people do when they want to push a conspiracy theory and aren’t sure they have a long enough stick.
Western Journalism considered Bodanksy’s theory further proof that “Barack Hussein Obama conspired to murder hundreds of innocents, including children, in order to draw the United States into a war with Syria… Barack Hussein Obama is a traitor to the United States.”
Why would Obama cook up a phony war? If you expected to hear about the Project for the New American Century and the neocons, you’ve got the wrong bunch. Rightbloggers have a whole other demonology — teleprompters, arrogance, etc.
“Let’s be clear, this is not a WAR about abuse of internationally prevailing modes of conduct on the use of poisonous chemical gas, although such provides poignant carriage, lifting emotions enough to confuse common sense,” poeticized James Raider at Flopping Aces. “…The WAR noise is about ego and vexation, with a dose of revenge to be inflicted on a seemingly weak adversary (Assad) on the part of a slighted personality who made serious missteps in front of the world, Barack Obama. Not a slighted Office of The President,” he added, just to make sure you saw how petty this was, “but a slighted individual, Barack Obama.” Raider didn’t explain by whom Obama had been slighted, but it must have happened sometime after Election Day 2012.
After telling us what a flop Obama was, Raider rhapsodized about his opponent in the Syria struggle, Vladimir Putin: “He is a strategic thinker,” sighed Raider. “He took total control of Russia’s vast disjointed socioeconomic and political landscape through a thorough, effective, forceful, sometimes ruthless, campaign. He now rules that nation with a firm hand.” Wow, much better daddy than Obama; now we see how George Bush got lost in his eyes, and Raider in whatever he got lost in.
As their opposition heated up, it became increasingly clear that rightbloggers weren’t against the Syrian adventure because they were against war, or unconvinced by the evidence, or in favor of Assad, or against the Syrian rebels. They were against it for the same reason they’re against anything anymore, and that’s because Barack Obama is in favor of it.
“The debate itself… has already damaged [Obama’s] stature,” claimed Joel Pollak at Breitbart.com. “A ‘no’ vote will have even more far-reaching effects. One effect will be to punish Obama for once leading the anti-war movement as U.S. troops were fighting difficult battles in Iraq.” Huh? Pollak explained that “Congress will merely be holding him to the standard he set for his predecessor,” and thus he will be “hoisted by his own petard.” Serves Obama right for stopping the Iraq War in 2003, we guess.
Pollak saw two other “positive outcomes” if Congress voted “no.” For one: “Israel may decide to launch a pre-emptive strike against Iran’s nuclear program.”
That’s really who we want bombed, right? In fact, some of the brethren are complaining that Obama blocked a Israeli raid on Iran last year, thereby committing a double fault. “George W. Bush respected Israel for going ahead and hitting the Syrian reactor,” claimed Daniel Greenfield at FrontPageMag. “…Obama wouldn’t be that honorable, but there are big things at stake and Netanyahu is proving to be too small a man for a critical hour.” When Benjamin Netanyahu isn’t warmongerish enough for you, you might want to rethink your priorities.
“If Barack Obama allows Iran to obtain nuclear weapons,” fist-shook PJ Media kingpin Roger L. Simon, “he will have been hands down the worst president in the history of the United States. No one will be even close.” Roger L. Simon will see to that! He’s got pull.
For another, said Pollak, “a chastened president just might begin to see the merit of working with Congress rather than constantly undermining it.” Thus, rightbloggers get war and presidential humiliation! Doesn’t get better than that.
Others dreamed of doing away with Obama altogether. There’s been a Resolution before the House since June to impeach Obama if he tries to send troops into Syria without Congressional approval. Republican Congressmen and Senators have alluded to it. (Democrats were much slower about this sort of thing with Bush. Republicans have really got this impeachment thing macked.)
Some of the brethren have alluded to impeachment, too, but they do that all the time. What they were really hoping for in this case was something more like wishing Obama into the cornfield.
“If Obama Doesn’t Bomb Syria Now, He’s Toast,” headlined Walter Russell Mead. “…the United States will endure something like a presidential vacancy until Mr. Obama is replaced in 2017 or until he finds a way to restore his authority and prestige.”
Peggy Noonan declared that the American People had decided, “Wrong time, wrong place, wrong plan, wrong man.” The first three points just made her sound ridiculous — imagine the fan of “steely-eyed rocket man” Bush and his war now saying we can’t bomb Syria because the Pope is against it! But on the last one, she sounded confident, even daring, calling Obama “ambivalent, confused, unaware of the implications of his words and stands,” saying his Administration “has no discernible strategy,” and finally decreeing the American People’s lack of support for the Syria strikes “a comment on the past five years.” What the hell, some of her readers might have ADD.
“His presidency is just a vote away from being over all but in name,” wishfully-thought William A. Jacobson of Legal Insurrection. Not that he wasn’t concerned about chemical weapons in Syria, he said, but things have changed — “the embarrassing and sometimes shrill performances by John Kerry weakened the case,” for one thing, and “the real Obama — the one conservatives and the Tea party always saw — has emerged in full force,” by which Jacobson seems to mean that he and people like him believe the same things they’ve always believed about Obama. He closed: “we have lost as a country because we will spend the next three years facing emboldened enemies internationally without a President.”
Without a President! Despite Jacobson’s profession of regret, this is a rightblogger’s dream come true — for, unlike impeachment, the figurative loss of Obama doesn’t put Joe Biden in charge. If they can block Obama here, it’ll be the Clinton Blowjob of the new era — something that allows them to stop obsessing on the two-term Democrat and dream again of bamboozling the electorate. If not, well, they can always paint some signs and go marching down Fifth Avenue — oh, who are we kidding: Benghazi, baby, till the bitter end!