Obama Reveals There is Something Worse Than Being a Passionless Wimp

I have long had two complaints about President Obama: (1) He is not a liberal; and (2) He is not a fighter. Without devoting too much time to the first, I will simply say most reasonable people can probably understand President Obama is a moderate—as evidenced by the policies he pursues (e.g., his signature accomplishment has been to enact a Republican healthcare plan from the early 1990s); the advisors he chooses (e.g., Tim Geitner, Larry Summers, Jason Furman, Bob Gates, Chuck Hagel, John Brennan); and the potential advisors he conspicuously does not choose (e.g., Paul Volker, Howard Dean, Paul Krugman, Robert Reich).

The larger complaint I have against President Obama is his unwillingness or inability to fight (I have previously linked to the very good New York Times editorial written by Bob Herbert in which he refers to it as Obama’s “chronic unwillingness to fight”). For 4 ½ years, we have watched President Obama propose good ideas, but quickly fold up like a cheap card table at the first sign of opposition. For a liberal like myself who has fought tirelessly to get Democrats (including Obama) elected, it is heartbreaking. 

When liberals push back, they are hit hard by Obama apologists who explain why it was acceptable for Obama not to fight. The excuse is typically some variation of “There was no way Obama was going to get Congress to go along. He isn’t going to squander political capital on some quixotic endeavor.” While I vehemently disagree with this philosophy and believe that you never know what can be accomplished until you put the full force of the executive branch’s bully pulpit behind it, I accept that this is who Obama is. He is king of a town that, as Mark Leibovich points out in his new book, rewards cowardice more than any other characteristic.

But something happened on the way to Obama’s trip to the Wimp Hall of Fame: Syria.

Syria has demonstrated that Obama has courage and the tenacity to fight. Putting aside for a moment the rightness or wrongness of attacking Syria, there can be little question that Obama has fought hard to go into Syria and that this fight was a courageous one.

President Obama’s staff have shared with the media that they were caught off-guard by Obama’s Syria fervor, and that this push for action in Syria very much came from Obama himself. Further, polls show that by a 20-point margin, Americans do not want the United States to go into Syria. Moreover, it appears the war resolution that Obama has been pushing hard in Congress has no better than a 50% shot of passing the Senate, and barring an cataclysmic event, is doomed in the House.

Despite the world being against this; Congress being against this; and the American people being against this, President Obama is taking the fight to the world, Congress, and the American people. Such a fight against a unified opposition strongly indicates the person making that fight is driven by deep personal convictions.

Not only is Obama fighting, he is fighting hard. How hard he is fighting it is nothing short of miraculous. Let’s examine this for a moment. Obama’s Syria fight began on August 30, 2013 and has not let up. I present the following timeline to summarize just a smattering of Obama’s efforts to win support of his proposed attack on Syria:

  • Friday, August 30, 2013: President Obama and Secretary of State John Kerry give coordinated speeches imploring the world and Americans to support a strike against Syria. The same day, U.S. intelligence officials release previously classified information regarding Syria’s gassing of its own people in order to win favor with skeptics.
  • Saturday, August 31, 2013: Vice-President Biden joins President Obama in the Rose Garden for a press conference to push for action in Syria.
  • Sunday, September 1, 2013: The White House sends its surrogates, including Secretary of State John Kerry, to hit the Sunday talk shows.
  • Monday, September 2, 2013: President Obama spends his Labor Day working the phones lobbying Congressional Republicans to support his Syria resolution.
  • Tuesday, September 3, 2013: President Obama’s personal lobbying efforts pay off. He wins the support of Speaker Boehner. The White House sends its Secretaries of State and Defense to testify before Congress.
  • Wednesday, September 4, 2013: While in Sweden, President Obama opts to take questions about Syria. The White House issues a press release congratulating the Senate Foreign Relations Committee for passing its Syria resolution.
  • Thursday, September 5, 2013: During a meeting with Japan’s Prime Minister, President Obama provides remarks to the press stressing the need for a response to Syria.
  • Friday, September 6, 2013: President Obama gives a press-conference at the G-20 summit to discuss Syria. The White House issues a press release that provides a joint statement with other nations condemning Syria’s use of chemical weapons. Three days later, the White reissues what is essentially the same press release.
  • Saturday, September 7, 2013: President Obama gives his weekly radio address; it focuses almost entirely on Syria. Secretary of State John Kerry meets with the EU ministers in an effort to sway them to support action in Syria.
  • Sunday, September 8, 2013: White House Chief of Staff, Denis McDonogh, makes the Sunday morning talk-show rounds in an effort to win over support from the still-skeptical public and Congress.
  • Monday, September 9, 2013: President Obama engages in what The Christian Science Monitor calls a “full court political press rarely seen in Washington.” President Obama gives six TV interviews on all major networks and cable news channels. Secretary of State Kerry barnstorms around the country to garner support while Vice-President Biden stays in D.C. to call members of Congress to gin up support. The White House even pulls former Defense Secretary Robert Gates and former CIA director David Petraeus out of retirement to advocate on behalf of action in Syria. Yahoo calls this Obama’s “all-out push” and characterizes his media efforts as a “blitz.” The White House also issues a press release listing all of the nations that support action in Syria.
  • Tuesday, September 10, 2013: Vice-President Biden spends the morning meeting with House Republicans to try and persuade them to support Obama’s Syria resolution. In the evening, President Obama gives a prime-time, nationally televised address to the nation from the White house to discuss action in Syria.

Look at this! It is an all-out assault on our sensory inputs. A day hasn’t passed in the last two weeks where President Obama and his surrogates have not aggressively attempted to gin up support for attacking Syria. Every tool of the executive branch is being utilized: press conferences; lobbying of Congress by the president and vice-president; radio addresses; television interviews; speeches to foreign leaders; hitting all the morning talk shows; sending out surrogates to speak to anyone who will listen; issuing of press releases; and the biggest tool of all—the address to the nation from the Oval Office. This is what it looks like to fight for something you believe in. Whether it will work remains to be seen, but Obama’s devotion to this issue cannot be questioned…and that is what stings.

This leaves liberals with a very troubling quandary. We were wrong when we said Obama lacked the ability and passion to fight. Over the last two weeks, he has demonstrated that he has plenty of passion and knows how to fight hard. It’s just not directed to any of the things liberals (or most of America) care about.

What does it say about a president who can’t be bothered to meaningfully regulate Wall Street, fund Head Start, protect the environment, stop Republican governors from decimating unions, or fight for a real jobs bill, but stakes every resource he has to the wildly unpopular goal of bombing a small country that poses no danger to us or our allies? What it tells me is that I was wrong about President Obama. He is not a disinterested coward. Obama does have it in him to take bold positions and fight hard. Unfortunately, now that I see what gets Obama’s juices flowing, I find myself longing for the passionless wimp.

     – Dylan


2 Responses to “Obama Reveals There is Something Worse Than Being a Passionless Wimp”

  1. You may have given President Obama too much credit again. He has demonstrated the same zeal for a cause before; but unless it’s an election he doesn’t seem able to stick with it long enough to get it done. Examples are gun control after Sandy Hook and educating America on the good parts of the Affordable Care Act. I suspect he will let go of Syria long before its over. Unlike a pitbull the President’s jaws unclench before the sword meets the flesh.


    • Dave – I don’t get accused of giving the president too much credit very often, but I certainly wouldn’t bet against your theory. Sandy Hook is a good reminder of this president’s tenacity (or lack thereof). By the way, I love the pitbull analogy.

      – Dylan

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