Conservatives Slam Obama's Procrastination

Krauthammer says lack of urgency is “astonishing”; Podhoretz: announcement is “literally nonsensical.”

Gil Ronen ,

John Podhoretz
John Podhoretz

In initial reactions to US President Barack Obama's surprise announcement that he is turning to Congress for approval of a decision to strike in Syria, three prominent conservative voices are harshly condemnatory.

"I think this is astonishing," said columnist Charles Krauthammer on Foxnews. "But the most astonishing thing is the lack of any urgency... Congress will be back in a week, he says 'I can strike in a day, or a week, or a month,'” as if he's a judge handing down a sentence and the execution can be any time in the future. There's a war going on! You think everyone is going to hold their breath, hold their arms, step aside until Obama decides when he wants to go to Congress?"

Krauthammer said that asking Congress for approval is “absolutely necessary” but the way the matter has been handles is “amateur hour.” Obama should have first convened Congress and held a vote there – and then made a statement to the world about what he intends to do in Syria.

Now that Obama has made his statement, he said, he needs to convene Congress “in three days,” in which case “the world...will have a little respect.”

Of the way this matter has been handled, he said, “If you're a cynic, meaning if you're sitting in Syria, or in Iran or in Moscow, it looks like a president who'se been boxed into a corner as is looking for a way out.”

Meanwhile, Commentary editor John Podhoretz wrote in a reaction to Obama's statement:

"On the face of it, this is literally nonsensical. If Obama has the authority, he does not need Congressional authorization, and since he is characterizing his need to act in moral terms, a useful punitive strike in the midst of a civil war in which thousands can be killed in a day must as a moral matter be undertaken as soon as possible in order to punish the regime and degrade its ability to kill its own people at will.

"Instead, he has declared his intention to wait until Congress comes back in session—in eight days—and then debate the matter for a couple of days and then vote. At which time he will act. Unless of course it votes against him. In which case…what? He has said he has the authority to strike; what does he do then?

“Some people compare foreign policy to a game of chess. Barack Obama is playing 52 pick-up,” wrote Podhoretz.

Writing in the Telegraph, analyst Nile Gardiner contrasted Obama's failure to assemble a coalition to act against Syria, with the large coalition President George W Bush assembled againhst Iraq.

“President Bush invested a great deal of time and effort in cultivating ties with key US allies, especially Britain," noted Gardiner. "The Special Relationship actually mattered to George W. Bush. For Barack Obama it has been a mere blip on his teleprompter. Bush also went out of his way to build ties with other allies in Europe, including with Spanish Prime Minister Jose Maria Aznar, and an array of countries in Eastern and Central Europe. Obama simply hasn’t bothered making friends in Europe, and has treated some nations with sheer disdain and disrespect, including Poland and the Czech Republic. He has found common currency with France’s Socialist President Francois Hollande, an ideological soul-mate, but finds himself in a very lonely position elsewhere across the Atlantic.

"In addition, and most importantly," Gardiner added, "George W. Bush was a conviction president on foreign policy matters, driven by a clear sense of the national interest. President Bush emphatically made his case to the American people and to the world, explaining why he believed the use of force was necessary, and dozens of countries decided to follow him. In the case of Barack Obama, whose foreign policy has been weak-kneed, confused and strategically incoherent, the president hasn’t effectively made the case for military intervention in Syria, and has made no serious effort to cultivate support both at home and abroad.”