Critics From Both Sides Attack Obama on Syria

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As Barack Obama enjoys the finest golf courses Martha’s Vineyard has to offer, how much thought is he giving to the political firestorm surrounding his actions in the Middle East? Does he find himself recalling the words of Hillary Clinton when he lines up his next putt? Does he take a swig out of his bottled water around the 16th hole, gazing off into the blue sky above, thinking, “Hmmph. I’d like to see one of them do better.”?

It’s been a troublesome week for Obama politically, though it’s hard to remember the last week the president had that wasn’t troublesome in some way. If not for him, then for the American people. But his mess this week is all his own as politicians, political rivals, and pundits question his response to Syrian violence last year.

In an op-ed in the Washington Post on August 5th, Republican Senator Bob Corker lashed out at the president.

Those around the world who are looking to the United States for support against intimidation, oppression or outright massacres have learned a tough lesson in the past few years: This U.S. president, despite his bold pronouncements and moral posturing, cannot be counted on.

In Syria, President Obama declared that the brutal dictator Bashar al-Assad “must go.” The U.S. ambassador in that country and other administration officials openly encouraged opposition groups campaigning against the Assad regime. Yet when it came time to organize and provide lethal assistance to moderate opposition groups to help defend them against Assad’s attacks, the president turned away.

The op-ed followed a behind-closed-door meeting Obama had with several top lawmakers last week, Corker among them.  When Corker spoke up in the meeting, asking Obama a question that made pointed criticisms of the president’s response to Ukraine, Russia, Syria, and ISIS, Obama was reportedly visibly agitated. “Horseshit,” was how he characterized the idea that he could have achieved a better outcome in Syria if the U.S. armed the rebels earlier.

And of course, the most direct criticism of the president came from his former Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton. The likely 2016 Democratic presidential contender, a woman who Obama once fawned over – musing that she might have been the best SoS of all time, told Atlantic that the president should have armed the Syrian rebels long ago.

“The failure to help build up a credible fighting force of the people who were the originators of the protests against Assad — there were Islamists, there were secularists, there was everything in the middle — the failure to do that left a big vacuum, which the jihadists have now filled,” Clinton said.

Clinton claims – and she’s not the only one – that Obama’s failure to act sooner was exactly what allowed the rise of the ISIS militant group now requiring U.S. attention in Iraq. You can bet that if things really go south in that country that Obama is going to face withering criticism from both parties. But…will the noise be enough to take his focus off that tricky shot from behind the sandtrap? Shh, let’s see.