The Clinton Herald, Clinton, Iowa

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September 9, 2013

Old Obama would question new war plans

President Barack Obama surprised many by deciding to turn to Congress for approval before he fires missiles at Syria, but his decision makes sense. When proposing military action that almost nobody wants to wage, it is best to find someone with whom to share the blame.

That hasn’t been easy, especially after British Parliament voted against joining in Obama’s proposed strikes to punish Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, who is alleged to have ordered the killing of civilians with chemical weapons. Horrendous as that outrage has been, experts agree that there are no good options for the United States. The best that Obama can hope for is the best of bad options. That means, no matter what he does, a lot of people aren’t going to like it.

Most Americans don’t like it already, polls show. A Washington Post-ABC News poll found nearly six in 10 Americans opposed to missile strikes, with opposition shared by demographic majorities across party, racial and ethnic lines by double-digit margins.

The divided public reflects divisions in Congress. Although House Republican leaders broke their usual pattern of resistance to support the president, the Syria debate has split lawmakers into about a half-dozen unusual factions and coalitions.

Antiwar Democrats coalesce with anti-Obama Republicans. Hawkish Republicans like John McCain have joined hawkish Democrats who want more aggressive military policy and even regime change. Isolationist Republicans like Rand Paul would rather stay home. And there’s the usual Obamaphobic Republicans who want anything that will help the president to fail.

All of which leads me to resurrect an old question: Would Sen. Obama have voted for President Obama’s war?

In a speech at a Chicago antiwar rally in October 2002 that would prove pivotal to his 2008 presidential rise, Obama, than an Illinois state senator, famously made a case against President George W. Bush’s Iraq War that describes why so many oppose his proposed Syria attack.

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