The Clinton Herald, Clinton, Iowa

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September 20, 2013

Who's afraid of Barack Obama?

Style points? Seriously? Style points? That’s what President Obama thinks the criticism of his zigzag Syria policy amounts to?

As presidential spin, this is insulting. As presidential conviction — if this is what he really believes —it’s scary.

Obama’s dismissive remarks came in response to a question by ABC’s George Stephanopoulos, who asked the president about criticisms of his approach as ad hoc, improvised, and unsteady.

“Folks here in Washington like to grade on style,” Obama sniffed. “And so had we rolled out something that was very smooth and disciplined and linear, they would have graded it well, even if it was a disastrous policy. We know that, ‘cause that’s exactly how they graded the Iraq War until it ended up blowing (up) in our face.”

Indeed, Obama portrayed capital insiders’ scorn as a badge of honor. “What it says is that I’m less concerned about style points, I’m much more concerned about getting the policy right,” he continued, taking credit for Syria’s having acknowledged its possession of chemical weapons and agreed to put them under international control. “That’s my goal,” Obama said. “And if that goal is achieved, then it sounds to me like we did something right.”

See? All’s well that ends well. Let the judges carp about whether the administration stuck the landing.

Except that this self-serving account omits two important facts. First, we’re a long way from knowing that this episode has ended well. No one can rely Russian promises and Syrian good will. This may well be a bullet only temporarily dodged, a pause in the crisis rather than a signpost of its solution. Even a successful outcome of a chemical weapons deal risks the perverse impact of further entrenching a regime that has murdered tens of thousands of its own people.

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