Did the Obama administration just get lucky with Vladimir Putin? Or did it cleverly offer him a chance to play his favorite role: the Most Interesting Man in the World?
President Barack Obama was caught in a deep political and diplomatic bind. His vow to strike militarily in response to the gassing of hundreds of Syrians by President Bashar al-Assad was running into stiff bipartisan resistance from Congress, our trans-Atlantic allies and American opinion polls.
But the president suddenly looked like the luckiest guy in the world a day before he was scheduled to plead his case in a televised address. Russia’s President Putin, responding to an off-hand remark by Secretary of State John Kerry, stepped up like a last-minute hero and suddenly Assad’s government was agreeing to give up to international supervision the chemical weapons that, until then, Assad had denied possessing.
A lucky break? No doubt. But what’s striking to me is how prophetically this Putin scenario was predicted months ago by a well-known television executive who used to be a Republican political consultant to Richard Nixon, Ronald Reagan and George H. W. Bush.
“Putin is angry,” the TV exec said. “He thinks the United States doesn’t take him seriously or treat Russia as a major player. OK, fine, that’s how he feels. If I were president, I’d get in a room with him and say, ‘Look at the slaughter going on in Syria. You can stop it. Do it, and I’ll see to it that you can get all the credit. I’ll tell the world it was you who saved the innocent children of Syria from slaughter.
“ ‘You’ll be an international hero,’ “ the TV exec continued. “ ‘You’ll go down in history.’ Hell, Putin would go to bed thinking, ‘That’s not a bad offer.’ “