{{show_title_date || "Is Obama 'leading from behind Bill Clinton' on Syria?, 6/17/13, 8:17 AM ET"}}

Must-Read Op-Eds: Monday, June 17

Updated

BILL SCHOOLS BARRY ON SYRIA

MAUREEN DOWD

NEW YORK TIMES

Not only is President Obama leading from behind, now he’s leading from behind Bill Clinton. After dithering for two years over what to do about the slaughter in Syria, the president was finally shoved into action by the past and perhaps future occupant of his bedroom. … When Obama appointed Clinton “the Secretary of ’Splaining Stuff,” he didn’t think Bill would be ’splaining how lame Barry was. … While the president was avoiding talking about what he hadn’t wanted to do in the first place, the former president was ubiquitous and uxorious… On Friday, a self-satisfied Clinton told the “Morning Joe” hosts about Syria, “It looks to me like this thing is trending in the right direction now.” The less Obama leads, the more likely it is that history will see him as a pallid interregnum between two chaotic Clinton eras. Nature abhors a vacuum. And so does Bill Clinton.

THE ABSENT COMMANDER IN CHIEF

EDITORIAL

WALL STREET JOURNAL

If Mr. Obama wants to maintain public support for the U.S. anti-terror architecture he inherited and has robustly used, he is going to have to publicly defend it in the context of American interests and values. Without such a defense, the political vacuum will be filled by speculation and demagoguery as it has been for nearly two weeks. As a Senator, Mr. Obama might have joined the demagogues. Yet as President he has largely erred on the side of keeping the country safe, which confirms the truism that the world looks different from the Oval Office than from an Iowa fairground. He has bombed terrorists to death by the hundreds even as his rhetoric continues to suggest that he has saved the nation from George W. Bush’s anti-terror tyranny. This contradiction between his talk and action is now undermining support for Mr. Obama’s powers. … Mr. Obama has been lucky that his predecessors… protected the wartime powers of the Presidency. This has provided him with the tools to protect Americans from the deadly combination of Islamist fanaticism and modern technology. He now has an obligation to explain and defend those tools, lest he leave America more vulnerable and the Presidency weaker than he found them.

THE LEFT TURNS COMPLIANT ON VIOLATING CIVIL LIBERTIES

DANA MILBANK

WASHINGTON POST

Certainly, there are differences between now and then. Today, the program operates under court supervision and has at least the veneer of congressional approval (the administration circumvents the law’s requirement that only “relevant” records can be collected by claiming that all phone records of all Americans are relevant)… Yet it is jarring to see the left so compliant now that the surveillance has been sanctioned by a Democratic president. Even if the programs ultimately prove defensible, isn’t it worth finding out what they really are, before liberals accept a suspension of civil liberties they may come to regret?

THIS ISN’T HOW TO STOP HACKING

JOE NOCERA

NEW YORK TIMES

If you are going to lecture the world about right and wrong — and if you’re trying to stop bad behavior — perhaps you shouldn’t be engaging in a version of that behavior yourself. Instead, this has become one of the trademarks of the Obama administration: decry human rights abuses abroad, but hold men in prison in Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, who have never been accused of a crime. Say all the right things about freedom of the press — even as you’re subpoenaing reporters’ phone records. And express outrage over Chinese hacking while carrying on a sophisticated spying operation of your own citizens. It may seem to us a false equivalence, but the existence of Prism will make it far more difficult to force the Chinese to get serious about stopping their own hacking. Maybe America’s new motto should be: Do As We Say, Not As We Do.

LIVING WITH THE SURVEILLANCE STATE

BILL KELLER

NEW YORK TIMES

The danger, it seems to me, is not surveillance per se. We have already decided, most of us, that life on the grid entails a certain amount of intrusion. Nor is the danger secrecy… The danger is the absence of rigorous, independent regulation and vigilant oversight to keep potential abuses of power from becoming a real menace to our freedom. The founders created a system of checks and balances, but the safeguards have not kept up with technology. Instead, we have an executive branch in a leak-hunting frenzy, a Congress that treats oversight as a form of partisan combat, a political climate that has made “regulation” an expletive and a public that feels a generalized, impotent uneasiness. I don’t think we’re on a slippery slope to a police state, but I think if we are too complacent about our civil liberties we could wake up one day and find them gone — not in a flash of nuclear terror but in a gradual, incremental surrender.

A NATION OF KIDS ON SPEED

PIETER COHEN and NICOLAS RASMUSSEN

WALL STREET JOURNAL

Last month, the American Psychiatric Association released the fifth edition of its Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders… this latest version, known as DSM-5, outlines a new diagnostic paradigm for attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder. Even before DSM-5, doctors were already on track to prescribe enough stimulants this year for each American man, woman and child to receive the equivalent of 130 mg of amphetamine (about 40 five-mg pills of Adderall)… Stimulants can certainly benefit some young children with truly disabling ADHD. However, history has already taught us that overprescribing stimulants to millions of Americans leads to dependence, addiction and overdose. By medicating children for wiggling in their chairs… we are not teaching them vital coping skills to manage their behavior. Instead, we are teaching them to take a pill. One day, we’ll look back and wonder: Why did we do this?

Must-Read Op-Eds: Monday, June 17

Updated