How not to argue about Syria

Updated
How not to argue about Syria
How not to argue about Syria
Associated Press

The crisis in Syria is nuanced and complicated. There are plenty of reasonable, knowledgeable, and fair-minded folks on every side of the U.S. political fight, and there’s no reason to question the sincerity of those with sincere disagreements.

But there’s a catch. When someone supports intervention until President Obama agrees, supports congressional debate until President Obama agrees, and then supports diplomacy until President Obama agrees, then it’s not unreasonable to wonder if they’re honest brokers.

Brian Beutler raised a good point today.

When the full story of the Obama administration’s clumsy involvement in, and (possible) disengagement with, Syria is told, we’ll have a clearer sense of whether it was bungled all the way, or whether a diplomatic resolution was actually the product of a credible military threat and clever negotiating. Or maybe a bit of both.

But whoever tells that story should reserve a footnote for the handful of politicians and public figures who did a complete about-face from opposing President Obama’s proposed military strikes to mocking – and even rooting against – an unexpected diplomatic alternative.

If you took both of those positions you have some ‘splainin’ to do.

Karl Rove offers a helpful example, having insisted a few weeks ago that Obama go to Congress because lawmakers would obviously approve a resolution to use force, only to then condemn Obama for having gone to Congress because there’s no way lawmakers will approve a resolution to use force.

But Senate Minority Whip John Cornyn (R-Texas) has been even more brazen. He demanded that the president answer his questions about Syria and then asked no questions when he met with the president; he supported military strikes until Obama endorsed the same idea; and as Brian noted, Cornyn is now questioning the value of a possible diplomatic solution.

In other words, the #2 Republican in the Senate is, quite literally, against whatever President Obama is for – even when the president changes course.

Yes, policymakers can change their minds, especially as the circumstances change, and it stands to reason that some folks who felt one way about U.S. policy in August may feel differently in September. We want officials to be open-minded as more facts become available.

But when a politician who happens to be worried about re-election keeps changing his position so that he’s always at odds with the White House, just so he can say he disagrees with Obama, it’s hard to take the guy seriously.

There’s a critically important debate underway. It’s a genuine shame more congressional Republicans aren’t prepared to play a constructive role in it.

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John Cornyn and Syria

How not to argue about Syria

Updated