Obama Critics Are Misguided

The President addresses the nation on September 10, 2013

The President addresses the nation on September 10, 2013

President Obama’s patience on Syria is yielding perhaps the best policy outcome, even though the process is causing especially the far right to froth at the mouth in condemning Obama for “weakness” or “ineptitude” or a host of things.   Of course, within the GOP you have Senator Rand Paul saying that Obama wants to “ally with al qaeda” by opposing Assad, while Senator McCain wants to “help the anti-Assad rebellion.” That means that Paul says fellow Republican John McCain wants to “ally with al qaeda.”   And they criticize Obama?

A few points about the Syria case so far.  The core of the White House response has been consistent and clear:   1) the US and the international community should not tolerate the use of chemical weapons by the Assad government against civilians; 2) it is not in the US national interest to get involved in a bloody, on going war in Syria, nor is it in the US national interest to “go it alone” if the rest of the international community does not want to act in enforcement of the norms against WMD; and 3) the United States cannot act effectively if the country is not on board, meaning that Congress must approve any action taken.

The critics of Obama make the error of black and white thinking.   They think that if the US believes number 1 to be true, then the US has no choice but to act.   Not acting would be weakness, or sacrificing principle.   That’s the kind of “all or nothing” thinking that led us to the debacle in Iraq.   We may oppose the act of a foreign dictator but choose not to intervene – there have been horrific acts undertaken over the last century, rarely have we intervened.   The US has only intervened when it is in the US interest.

However in this case President Obama is dealing with a world that is much different than that of the past; instead of leading the “West” in a bipolar world, the US is major power in a multi-polar world which operates under different principles than before.   The Cold War world is past, both at home and abroad the US faces a fundamentally altered foreign policy reality.

McCain's not happy with the new GOP isolationists (Paul and McCain)

McCain’s not happy with the new GOP isolationists – Paul and McCain

The division between McCain and Paul illustrate the transformation.   Paul represents an “isolationist Republican” of the kind not seen since the early post-war years.   At that time anti-Communism morphed the party into a hawkish interventionist stance, one that has been pretty consistent through the Iraq War.   McCain represents a “Cold War Republican” whose view of the US is that of a global leader of the West, shaping world politics to fit American values and interests.   That role was possible in a bipolar world where other “western” states ad no real choice but to support the US.  They relied on the US for self-defense and for preserving the global free trade system upon which post-war growth was based.   The US could call the shots and expect others to jump.

Obama isn’t the first to realize the world has changed.   President Clinton found it extremely difficult to put his Kosovo coalition together, and President Bush had active opposition from France and Germany to his Iraq plans.   They colluded with Russia, something that obviously would have never happened in the Cold War.  The fact of the matter is the US is now a powerful player in a multi-polar world, with the East-West divide a thing of the past.  McCain’s Cold War mentality is obsolete.

Like it or not, the policies in Iraq and Afghanistan have weakened the US

Like it or not, the policies in Iraq and Afghanistan have weakened the US

The US cannot demand support from the “rest of the West” nor expect to receive it.   The debacle in Iraq shows the limits of US military power, and assures that other states neither fear nor worry about the consequences of opposing the US.  To be sure, Assad himself fears a US military attack, but also knows that the US no longer is a dominant world power.

Russia has been shielding the Assad regime from UN action; if Obama can bring Russia on board for some kind of action, it's a win

Russia has been shielding the Assad regime from UN action; if Obama can bring Russia on board for some kind of action, it’s a win

Moreover, politics at home are fractured, and it’s hardly Obama’s fault.  Assad’s ability to play the American right wing and get them to all but embrace him is an example of a domestic political situation where the far right oppose Obama so virulently that they do not want to have a united foreign policy.   McCain isn’t part of that group – he and others like Senator Graham, who have been harsh in their criticism of Obama on other fronts, are ready to support the President now.   They just find a party more extreme and virulent than in the past.

Mix the weakened state of the US on the world stage with the fractured and dysfunctional politics at home, and the US simply is not the world power it used to be.  It’s not Obama’s fault, or Bush’s fault or any one person’s fault – it’s a result of global and domestic political dynamics that have been building for over twenty years.

Yet despite that, Obama may end up with a real success on Syria – limited international action without risking US prestige and soldiers, advancing at least somewhat the norm against chemical weapons while pressuring the Syrian government.    He’s handling the situation with finesse, patience, and a dose of realism.   He understands the constraints, and seems to comprehend that the world of 2013 is part of a new foreign policy era.   The naysaying pundits can throw out their ad hominems, but the President appears immune to their sting.

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  1. #1 by modestypress on September 11, 2013 - 19:40

    Sometimes you “win” by “losing.” In this case, by letting Putin (not a person I admire) get credit for saving Syria. (Not that I care much for Syria, but whatever.) I doubt Obama cares, but I admire his finesse in this situation. And Kerry’s.

  2. #2 by lee1978 on September 12, 2013 - 05:17

    My highschool senior is studying this as part of his current events class. I am directing him to this blog entry!

  3. #3 by pino on September 12, 2013 - 19:53

    President Obama’s patience on Syria is yielding perhaps the best policy outcome, even though the process is causing especially the far right to froth at the mouth in condemning Obama for “weakness” or “ineptitude” or a host of things.

    Scott, your support of Obama here is over the top. There is no doubt that Obama and his administration is over matched and out of their element.

    To think that any aspect of Obama’s response to Syria has been thought out or crafted is laughable. It is one mistake after another.

    This is not his fault, however, he has never been qualified to hold this post. He is being asked to perform a role that he had never had an ounce of training or preparation for.

    But to claim that Obama is handling this situation is unexplainable.

    • #4 by Scott Erb on September 12, 2013 - 21:38

      As a scholar of foreign policy, I totally reject your personal attack on Obama. He’s handling this in a very impressive manner – and he’s getting the best possible result. Your attack on him is very vague – you’re not being specific. What would you do differently, what do you think he’s done wrong? It’s easy as a peon on the sidelines to throw potshots – people did that to Bush when he stumbled into the Iraq war (which turned out to be a huge fiasco). But what exactly do you think Obama has done wrong?

      • #5 by pino on September 12, 2013 - 22:14

        As a scholar of foreign policy, I totally reject your personal attack on Obama.

        Hmmm..

        He’s handling this in a very impressive manner

        He’s been absolutely controlled through out this entire thing.

        he’s getting the best possible result.

        What is the best possible result?

        What would you do differently, what do you think he’s done wrong?

        1. He set a Red Line.
        1a – This bullshit that he didn’t set the Red Line but the world did? Jeezus.

        2. When someone crosses that line you do what you said you would do.

        3. He defers to Congress all the while saying that he has the power to act even if they vote “No”.

        4. He doesn’t call them back from recess to hold the vote.

        5. If they did vote, BOTH chambers would vote no. He can’t carry his own party.

        6. He plays golf.

        7. His Secretary of State gaffs his way into policy.

        8. No one thinks that Assad ordered the attack.

        9. He can’t articulate what success would look like if we attacked.

        10. Putin has outplayed him. Obama is playing checkers while Putin is playing Go.

      • #6 by Scott Erb on September 12, 2013 - 23:57

        I don’t think the “red line” was that important. It was set by the world, it’s not just Obama – the US doesn’t have the authority to set a red line alone. I don’t think he said he’d do anything specific if the red line was crossed, nor do I think the US has the authority to act unilaterally on something like that.

        I do think it was right to go to Congress – we shouldn’t go to war or engage in military action without Congressional approval. Golf is irrelevant. I don’t think Putin outplayed him and the stuff about “looking like if we attacked” or “did Assad order it” is irrelevant. The fact is Obama talks about principles, is patient, and the outcome is probably the best possible given the circumstance. This is success – credit Obama for a good job!

      • #7 by pino on September 13, 2013 - 00:47

        I don’t think the “red line” was that important. It was set by the world, it’s not just Obama

        Scott you are wrong. It was set by Obama. The man said it, and he owns it. There is no serious commentator that thinks otherwise.

        nor do I think the US has the authority to act unilaterally on something like that.

        Obama does. He’s said so. He has said that he has the authority to act even if Congress doesn’t authorize.

        I do think it was right to go to Congress

        I agree – this he learned from Bush.

        Golf is irrelevant.

        No. No it’s not. He’s an ass for playing golf during this time.

        “looking like if we attacked” or “did Assad order it” is irrelevant.

        It speaks to the very heart of the matter! Did the Assad regime order the gas? So far, I have seen no evidence that proves this.

        Obama talks about principles, is patient,

        Obama is without a clue. Again, there is no one that seriously gives Obama credit for his handling of this situation except for in the tank partisans.

        Obama is completely out of his element.

  4. #8 by Scott Erb on September 13, 2013 - 06:45

    Pino, what the heck is a “red line.” And even if you think it was set by Obama (I think it comes from international law), there is nothing that necessitates the US act unilaterally. Obama is smart not to go that route, and I’m impressed that he’s not concerned that pundits fixate on comments like a “red line” and instead does what he thinks is in the best interest of the US – and he’s getting probably the best result possible. Pino, Obama is probably the best foreign policy decision making President I’ve seen since Bush the Elder – I’ve also read the books coming out about the process (Woodward, etc.). He’s the most competent President we’ve had since Bush the Elder. And there is nothing wrong with playing golf, to criticize him for that is silly and petty – it’s not like a President can’t relax when a long on going situation is taking place. It isn’t a crisis that requires he do nothing else. You go over the top silly in criticizing him for that (or you’re listening to right wing talk radio, which by definition is over the top silly)

    • #9 by pino on September 13, 2013 - 08:25

      Pino, what the heck is a “red line.”

      Well, Obama is the one that drew the “Red Line”, so that question must be answered by him. But when I heard it then and and now that chemicals have been used, I take it to mean that it would mean military action by the United States.

      But it certainly doesn’t mean nothing; which is what Obama has done so far.

      there is nothing that necessitates the US act unilaterally.

      Other than Obama saying we would. And Kerry.

      he’s getting probably the best result possible.

      Except that he isn’t the one getting it – Putin is. Obama had nothing to do with the current layout of the chess board.

      And there is nothing wrong with playing golf, to criticize him for that is silly and petty – it’s not like a President can’t relax when a long on going situation is taking place.

      The optics are horrible. In the same way he lectured corporate America for lavish parties in Vegas while he and Michelle had date night in New York City.

      Scott, you are alone in your praise for Obama on this. Everyone knows he painted himself in a corner on the Red Line, everyone knows that he doesn’t have the authority to strike Syria without Congressional approval, everyone knows he won’t get it. He would have lost that vote in both houses.

      Kerry has made two blunders; announcing the surrender of the weapons and then the description of the attack – “unbelievably small”.

      We’ll see what happens now. Kerry is sounding much like the Bush Administration did when they were talking about inspections in Iraq.

    • #10 by John Elias on September 13, 2013 - 08:43

  5. #11 by Scott Erb on September 13, 2013 - 08:50

    Obama had to convince Assad and Putin he would act – that’s part of the game, you need to give the other side incentive to compromise. I think Obama was weakened by Congress not wanting to go along – though I think that’s in large part the result of Iraq and Afghanistan and people having the “Iraq syndrome” like the old Vietnam syndrome. I know I opposed unilateral action. But I am NOT alone in my praise for Obama – you must be reading only right wing pundits if you think that. Compared to Bush blunders on Iraq this has been smooth – and unlike Iraq, it appears we are getting the best possible policy result. And really, isn’t that the point? If Obama gets a really good result, then he’s done his job well (and much better than the last guy – and better than Clinton’s problems in Kosovo too!) Nothing succeeds like success. I think that’s why the right wing is going to look petty criticizing Obama here. He’s been patient, willing to consider different options – only a fool would say “well, since I said red line I have to act” – that would be someone of low self-esteem worried about how it might “look.” His patience is yielding good results.

    • #12 by pino on September 13, 2013 - 10:21

      But I am NOT alone in my praise for Obama – you must be reading only right wing pundits if you think that.

      That’s the thing, the guys on the right think that we should attack. I’m reading NYT, Atlantic and The Nation.

      Here’s the deal. Obama has no idea what success looks like if he strikes Syria. He hasn’t presented a picture of his goals.

  6. #13 by Scott Erb on September 13, 2013 - 08:51

    I do suspect he will strike even without Congressional approval if the deal falls through – that’s the thing about criticizing him for not striking, the situation isn’t over and that possibility is still on the table. I will criticize him if he does, since I’d oppose it, but I don’t think Obama has ruled out a unilateral military strike by any means.

    • #14 by John Elias on September 13, 2013 - 09:29

      Just as Scott says…

      Why? Because Obama!

  7. #15 by pino on September 13, 2013 - 11:33

    But I am NOT alone in my praise for Obama – you must be reading only right wing pundits if you think that. Compared to Bush blunders on Iraq this has been smooth – and unlike Iraq, it appears we are getting the best possible policy result.

    nytimes.com/2013/09/11/opinion/dowd-who-do-you-trust.html?_r=0

    mediaite.com/tv/matthews-panel-hammer-obama-for-lack-of-forceful-leadership/

    washingtonpost.com/opinions/dana-milbank-kerrys-not-so-clear-sailing-on-syria/2013/09/10/142fe5da-1a52-11e3-a628-7e6dde8f889d_story.html

    theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2013/09/obama-acts-like-he-doesnt-know-hes-an-executive-power-extremist/279583/

    • #16 by Scott Erb on September 13, 2013 - 13:44

      Oh, of course they’ll be critics. But just as I praised President Bush in 2007-08 when others ridiculed him for shifting his policy, I praise Obama now. He was patient, he went to Congress even though he knew Congress would likely say no. To me that took some courage. I do think he’s willing to hit Syria unilaterally but because of his patience he’s getting what I think is the best outcome possible. So yeah, some pundits will yap and yiddle, but that’s what they do. I’m very happy with how this is playing itself out, and hope we get a good agreement so Obama doesn’t decide to strike with military force (and again, if he does – as I expect he will in that circumstance – I will criticize him!)

  8. #17 by Scott Erb on September 13, 2013 - 13:48

    Also don’t forget my point above: the US is no longer the kind of world power it was 20 years ago, which limits what any President can do effectively (that’s a lesson Bush learned the hard way – but he learned it and shifted policy dramatically after 2006), and Obama is hindered by a dysfunctional GOP that is so Obama-phobic that they look first to attack him rather than work together on foreign policy. Given all that, Obama’s results are pretty impressive!

    • #18 by John Elias on September 13, 2013 - 13:55

      “Given all that, Putin’s results are pretty impressive!”

      There, fixed it for ya Scotty!

  9. #19 by Scott Erb on September 13, 2013 - 17:01

    Though Putin’s really big victory was in 2003 when he undercut President Bush by conspiring with US allies Germany and France to prevent UN approval for the Iraq war and assure that the US wouldn’t get much support. That was a sign that the US was no longer the power it used to be – ten years earlier Russia would never have been able to do that with Germany and France. But the structure of the international system has changed. Bush didn’t get that and hence blundered – though he recovered nicely after 2006. I think Obama gets that, even if the pundits don’t.

    • #20 by John Elias on September 14, 2013 - 02:16

      LOL! Silly Scott. Of course Bush could not get Russia, Germany or France to join him. They were all deeply in the pocket of Saddam, any scholar of foreign affairs knows that none were more corrupt than Schroeder Chirac Putin. Really Scott you need to be less ideological about your “international system” and more pragmatic. Ideological thinking is a sign of a weak mind. Maybe I can teach you something and help you understand!

      • #21 by Scott Erb on September 14, 2013 - 02:39

        No, Germany was not at all in the pocket of Saddam, and France was sacrificing oil revenues promised by the US if they would help. The fact is, Bush was manhandled by Putin, who totally out played him. I have no clue what you mean by “ideological,” that’s a weird word for you to use. I think you don’t know what the word means if you’re applying it to the international system. Face it – back in 2003 Putin, Chirac and Schroeder conspired against Bush, and ultimately it hurt the US. That was a sign that the US no longer had a dominate role. To say Putin outdid Obama here is silly – he played into Obama’s hands. The critics of Obama on the right seem to forget just how bad Bush’s policy was a decade ago! Your weird effort to make this into an ad hominem about ideology (huh?) is your admission of weakness.

  10. #22 by Scott Erb on September 14, 2013 - 07:41

    • #23 by pino on September 14, 2013 - 10:55

      I don’t agree completely,

      I really enjoyed the critique from The Atlantic.

      No one believes that Obama is a hawk. As a student, as a State Senator and then as a Nation Senator the man was of the most vociferous in his disagreement with Bush and the wars. There isn’t a single shred of him that wants war.

      He misspoke when he created his Red Line -and it’s his and you know what it is- and he had to puff his chest in order to come across as a leader.

      But he also knows that he doesn’t have the authority to act. There is absolutely no danger to America and so needs congress. And he couldn’t carry the democrats, much less republicans.

      As the Atlantic mentions, Obama has done more to create an all powerful executive branch than Bush ever did. For all the force that people blame him for, he went to and obtained permission from Congress each and every time.

      Nothing Obama has done has the same legal authority.

      Simply put, the man lacks even a shred of the characteristics that define a leader.

      And yes, as John has said in his comments, it is your partisan position that is blinding you to the failings of the President.

  11. #24 by Scott Erb on September 14, 2013 - 11:26

    But Pino, your criticisms are over the top. Obama has accomplished a lot and his leadership style compares very well to Bush, Clinton, and Reagan. Sure, criticize and disagree, but he’s very competent, has more experience at the job than most, and I am glad that he is the President – not out of partisanship (I never felt that way about Clinton) but out of personal admiration for Obama the man. The more I read about him, the more I like him, even when I criticize him.

    • #25 by pino on September 14, 2013 - 13:39

      But Pino, your criticisms are over the top.

      My criticisms are in line with all people I’ve read – the message is muddled, Obama is negotiating from a position of weakness, he has no authority to strike and he has no coalition, domestic or abroad.

      has more experience at the job than most

      Scott. Listen to what you are saying. He has dramatically less experience than all his competition. McCain is significantly more experienced, Romney has orders of magnitude more experience than Obama has. When he was running in the Dem primary, Biden dwarfed Obama’s experience and Clinton was a new Senator just like Obama.

      Scott, to claim that this man has experience is another example of your partisan coming through.

      The more I read about him, the more I like him, even when I criticize him.

      This is how the man won. No one agrees with his policies or how he is handling the job. But people sure do like the guy.

      Which is a horrible combination for a leader.

  12. #26 by Scott Erb on September 14, 2013 - 13:54

    McCain’s impulsiveness disqualified him in my opinion. When he ceased his campaign because of the economic crisis only to restart it, called a meeting in Washington then didn’t do anything, and they way he reacts to things like Syria – I would not trust him to be measured, calm and patient. Those are things I admire in Obama. I also did not trust Romney the man – I think Obama’s experience was better, Romney was a rich son of a politician, Obama had to work his way up. Romney never experienced “real” life, Obama had to struggle to succeed and come up from almost nothing. Romney, like Bush the Younger, was a dynasty politician who inherited a lot and didn’t have to work much.

    The left disagrees with Obama because they say he’s not liberal enough. A lot of people agree with his policies (he’s been more effective than any recent President in getting a legislative agenda passed, including health care which other Democrats have failed at). Again, you can dislike him or disagree with him, but compared to Bush the Younger and Clinton, he’s far more experienced and effective. The Syria result is the optimal result, for crying out loud! It’s better than bombing (though the threat still stands – and yes, he can bomb without Congressional approval, and I suspect he would if an agreement wasn’t reached, or if it falls apart). He’s also gotten us out of Iraq, is extricating us from Afghanistan, has rebuilt the US reputation in the world (remember how low we were back in 2007), and the economy is perking up again after a severe recession. Seriously, I can understand that you don’t like him, but he’s a self-made man, a success story that rose to the top, inspired people, and has led the country through troubled times. He’s patient and thorough, and I can see that being criticized (that was one of Carter’s faults, though I see Obama as more decisive than Carter). He’s certainly more engaged and active than Reagan, whose horrid leadership abilities led to Iran-Contra.

    • #27 by pino on September 14, 2013 - 21:18

      >i> I think Obama’s experience was better,

      Yeah, I don’t wanna rehash the campaigns, I’m just saying that you can like Obama the man, you can like his ideas but you cannot with any shred of integrity, claim the man had any experience. He had zero.

      The Syria result is the optimal result

      Last year Obama said it was time for Assad to step aside. What Obama has allowed to happen, remember – Putin had driven this – is to legitimize the Assad regime and bought him implicit f not explicit US protection.

      He’s patient

      You keep using that word. I think that you are using it as a substitute for indecisive and weak.

      • #28 by Scott Erb on September 14, 2013 - 22:00

        He had as much experience as Clinton or Bush…or Reagan, the actor. He rose from nothing to become President, that’s pretty impressive. He went to Harvard, became editor of the Law Review, worked for a successful law firm, went into state politics, then the Senate. I mean, that’s more experience than a lot of Presidents have! And I think that Obama has gotten the best result we could hope for in this – you can criticize him, but I don’t see you saying what he should have done differently. If you can’t give a different scenario of what you think he should have done, your criticism is weak.

  13. #29 by Scott Erb on September 14, 2013 - 14:54

    By the way, Pino, read this article: http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2013/09/14/syria-breakthrough-russia-and-u-s-announce-agreement.html?utm_medium=email&utm_source=newsletter&utm_campaign=cheatsheet_afternoon&cid=newsletter%3Bemail%3Bcheatsheet_afternoon&utm_term=Cheat%20Sheet

    Money quote: “What the Obama administration contemplated – cruise missile strikes – would not have ended the fighting, certainly, and likely would have made it worse. What the administration has achieved with the threat of war rather than the act should be acknowledged for the limited but very real victory that it is.”

    Obama got everything he wanted without having to risk war. Kudos to the President!

  14. #30 by Scott Erb on September 14, 2013 - 21:02

    Pino and John – I am probably too positive about Obama because he thinks like me – that creates a bias. I think you two are too negative. We’ll let history judge.

    • #31 by pino on September 14, 2013 - 21:21

      We’ll let history judge.

      I’m gonna post this when I have some time, but this is the test.

      I don’t want predictions, that’s too hard, but results.

      What set of results would represent a failure and which ones would represent successes?

      Things like:

      1. Assad delivers the inventory in a week is a success
      2. Him not doing that is a failure.
      3. Syria failing to allow UN inspectors in – Failure
      4. UN allowed in to complete full inspections – success.

      What are your criteria?

    • #32 by thenewamericanlondoner on September 18, 2013 - 17:18

      Scott, I have missed following your blog and the vigorous debate that it provokes. Great post and kudos to you for sustaining such a well thought out defence.

  15. #33 by pino on September 18, 2013 - 17:38

    He had as much experience as Clinton or Bush…or Reagan, the actor.

    Clinton and Reagan were governors. Bush ran departments. Obama didn’t run a thing.

    Again, your partisan glasses are coloring your view of the facts.

    I mean, that’s more experience than a lot of Presidents have!

    It is zero experience. And less than the last 5 Presidents. You are making a resume out of whole cloth. I would not have hired Obama to manage a team of even 10 people in my organization.

    He had exactly zero experience.

    And I think that Obama has gotten the best result we could hope for in this

    I’ve noticed that you haven’t presented criteria for success or failure.

    Obama was manhandled. His policies are confusing and contradictory.

    Seriously Scott, your support for Obama in this is bordering on embarrassing.

    • #34 by Scott Erb on September 18, 2013 - 17:59

      Bush was governor of Texas, but that was at that time especially a mostly ceremonial position. Bush was a kind of loser, failed at businesses but his daddy had been President so he managed to get the chance. Much less impressive than Obama’s rise to the top, overcoming obstacles with success at every job and position – excellent experience. Law, state politics, national politics, etc. Plus he’s smart and a superb leader.

      And he’s more impressive than you or I in his career and experience. He also will have as much experience as President as anyone once his term ends! Obama got the best result possible, he’s had legislative victories, his policies make sense, and I’m very happy he’s President. He’s been elected twice too – so your anti-Obama tirade is a bit over the top silly. He’s proven himself, and you don’t seem to be able to accept it. Either that or you’re parroting right wing loons like Boortz and Limbaugh who aren’t even trying to be serious (they’re just entertainers).

      Criteria for success: success in foreign policy (undeniable), legislative success (more than any recent President, including health care, which others couldn’t do), executive action (his opponents complain, but he’s used executive power VERY effectively). Seriously, there is no way to claim he’s got no experience (remember, he’s a self-made success story) or that his Presidency has been a failure – you’re Obamaphobia leads you to over the top embarrassing personal attacks on a man who is your President and has been elected by a solid margin twice! (We can play this game all day if you want 😉 )

  16. #35 by Scott Erb on September 19, 2013 - 12:49

    A word to commentators: while vigorous disagreement is encouraged, I do not want this blog to become one where people are uncivil to each other, engage in personal attacks, or ridicule and berate others. Pure ad hominems are not acceptable, nor is a hostile tone or personal attack/ridicule. There are many partisan blogs left and right where that kind of emotion takes over. It does not get tolerated here. Such comments will be deleted.

    • #36 by SShiell on September 19, 2013 - 16:44

      Yawn!!!!!

  17. #37 by Scott Erb on September 19, 2013 - 17:48

    Another good article about Obama’s handling of the Syrian case: http://www.realclearpolitics.com/articles/2013/09/19/puzzled_by_a_panic_119997.html

  18. #38 by James P. Melcher on September 19, 2013 - 19:11

    Los Angeles Times cartoonist and blogger makes a similar argument to Scott’s here: http://www.latimes.com/opinion/topoftheticket/la-na-tt-conservatives-are-livid-20130918,0,4589801.story

  19. #39 by Alan Scott on September 21, 2013 - 08:25

    Scott,

    I agree pretty much with Pino on the way you defend President Obama and I decline to add anything on that subject, but one thing you said really caught my eye. You said the governorship of Texas when George W. Bush was President, was largely ceremonial. I find that statement to be beyond my understanding. Who runs Texas if the governor is a figurehead? Was Governor Bush like the Queen of England?

    • #40 by Scott Erb on September 21, 2013 - 09:36

      Here’s a quote from Wikipedia on the Governor of Texas: “Compared to the governors of other U.S. states, the governorship of Texas is a fairly weak office. The Lieutenant Governor of Texas, who presides over the state Senate, is considered a more powerful political figure, being able to exercise greater personal prerogatives.”

      Basically the governor does have a political role to veto bills and work with the legislature, but doesn’t have the kind of executive powers (running the government) that most governors have. In a weird way, Governor Perry had more actual power and hands on governing tasks when he was Lt. Governor than he has now.

      • #41 by SShiell on September 21, 2013 - 13:05

        It seems strange to me a PhD in Political Science would make a reference to an online source that he himself would downgrade student for using in one of his classes without any further discussion.

        A better source, the University of Texas (a liberal bastion within the state), does a far more credible treatment of the discussion of the position of Governor within the state of Texas and it is far and away not just a ceremonial position described but at the same time not typical of similar positions around the country. Much of the power of the governor comes from the old Texas Republic which put considerable constraints on the position in order to avoid the potential corruption of power that could ensue. Source: http://texaspolitics.laits.utexas.edu/1_1_0.html

        The money quote Wikipedia takes out of context from this very source for the good professors reference was “Unlike the U.S. President, who with Senate approval appoints his cabinet, the Texas Governor must share executive power with other executive officers.” The powers of the position are far more greater than any “ceremonial” position Erb infers.

        Also I would question Erb’s downplay of Reagan qualification “an actor” but was also a two-term governor of the state of California and, as such, wielded far greater executive power than almost any President of the 20th Century.

  20. #42 by Alan Scott on September 21, 2013 - 18:42

    Scott,

    While you are factually correct in your statements about the statutory power of Texas governors, I believe you are wrong in your assessments of the reality of their power. Just to show you that I am not merely looking at Bush’s term, I researched the NY Times obituary of Bush’s predecessor Anne Richards. They list her accomplishments as Texas governor. They do not sound to me to be figurehead items.

    Back to Governor Bush. My research shows that Bush’s governorship did exercise a lot of power. In fact he had to develop real bipartisan skills because of the weakness of his office. He was very good at making alliances with the Democratic Lt. Governor and the Democratic House Speaker to get tort, welfare, and education reform through the Texas Legislature..

    If the office were really as ceremonial as you believe then Bush’s poll numbers could not have been so high in 1998 that Democrats had problems putting up a candidate to run against him when he was up for reelection.

  21. #43 by Scott Erb on September 21, 2013 - 21:03

    Oh, Wikipedia is an excellent source for finding out basic information – it’s like consulting an encyclopedia. You don’t cite encyclopedias for research papers, but you can use them to find out facts. And the fact is, the Texas Governor does not run the executive “branch” as much as others, it’s relatively weak. I think Reagan’s lack of engagement was his biggest problem – he didn’t understand policy issues and Iran-Contra sucked up the second term of his Presidency, though I give him credit for stopping the defense build up when Gorbachev came to power and thus helping Gorbachev make the case to the Soviet military that he “tamed” Reagan.

    • #44 by SShiell on September 21, 2013 - 22:04

      You blew off Reagan’s experience off by saying “He had as much experience as Clinton or Bush…or Reagan, the actor.” (“He” being Obama) Eight years as the chief executive of what is arguably the most powerful state in the modern union cannot be minimized. And, by the way, Reagan’s “lack of engagement” has nothing to do with the issue of experience.

      Clinton and Bush (the junior) both had executive experience. Does not matter that they were “ceremonial”(?) or for a minor southern state. Compared to them Obama had zero executive experience. ZERO!

      You believe Obama’s experience was sufficient for the job – good – then just say so. You want to back it up with his blah blah blah accomplishments at this that or whatever job he had? Great. And compared to some, Obama’s experience may seem considerable. Lincoln had but a single term as a Congressman. Carter had only a single term as governor of Georgia and lost his bid for re-election. Even Washington and Eisenhower had zero political experience prior to their Presidencies.

      You don’t have to belittle the accomplishments of others in order to make your point.

      • #45 by Scott Erb on September 22, 2013 - 00:25

        Well, one thing’s for sure – Obama has had almost six (Five) years experience as President, Commander in Chief, and that is more than all but a handful of people. He’s a self-made man who rose from virtually nothing (a poor mom and family) to being the leader of the United States. I think his life prepared him very well compared to others – and I think it’s OK to compare his experience to others. But if that bothers you, well, OK – you can vent about not liking that.

        (Correction: almost five years experience as President)

  22. #46 by Alan Scott on September 22, 2013 - 14:12

    Scott,

    I hope you realize that you are now making the argument, that President Obama’s experience as President is what primarily makes him qualified to be President. That’s okay because that would be the case for Abraham Lincoln. Just be clear that is your case. And Barak Obama was not nearly as poor as Lincoln.

  23. #47 by factcheck on September 23, 2013 - 11:11

    Poor? The Private Hawaiian Punahoa prep-school for the poor and a poor Hawaiian bank Vice President grandmother?

  24. #48 by Scott Erb on September 27, 2013 - 13:04

    Today’s news on Iran add to the fact that the Syria agreement was a US victory, and President Obama’s foreign policy successes keep piling up. (More in today’s blog – September 27, 2013)

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