Monday September 9, 2013
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The White House chief of staff during the reign of President Richard Nixon was a guy named H.R. Haldeman who was not known for being a terribly patient man. The story goes that he would put the letters "TL2" atop memo that he thought were weak.
TL2 stood for "Too little, too late."
That pretty much sums up the Administration's frenzied attempt to gain support for an attack on Syria.
Americans are opposed to it, according to Gallup, by 36 percent to 51 percent. That is not only the lowest approval for military action in 20 years, but it is the only time that "opposed" has been a majority.
In that poll, Conservatives are opposed 33-59 and Liberals are opposed 37-51.
President Obama went to the G-20 meeting in Russia and, while he wasn't told to wait outside in the car, neither did the other 19 nations carry him around on their collective shoulders.
According to Reuters, he persuaded nine of the G20 nations plus Spain (not a member) to join the United States in signing a statement calling for a strong international response, "although it fell short of supporting military strikes, underscoring the deep disagreements that dominated the summit."
That means he couldn't get a majority to approve any type of international response.
According to the Washington Post, after listening to a plea by Vice President Joe Biden, the European Union foreign ministers issued a statement that "stopped far short of endorsing a U.S. military strike - something that U.S. officials acknowledged many of the organization's 28 member states do not support.
The EU members said no action should be taken before "U.N. chemical weapons inspectors release a report on their Syria investigation, expected some time this month."
The Post reported that
"a similar delay was advocated Friday by French President Fran�ois Hollande, whose government had said until last week that it was 'ready' to participate in a U.S.-led military strike against Syria."
The French surrendered to no one over whether to do something, anywhere.
Making the case might have become a bit more difficult when White House chief of staff Denis McDonough said, according to the Associated Press, on at least one Sunday show yesterday that while the administration lacks "irrefutable, beyond-a-reasonable-doubt evidence" that Assad used chemical weapons, "The common-sense test says he is responsible for this."
That seems to be a bit softer than Secretary of State John Kerry's assertion during his State Department speech calling for imminent intervention that
"Our intelligence community has carefully reviewed and re-reviewed information regarding this attack, and I will tell you it has done so more than mindful of the Iraq experience."
In the Congress, the New York Times reported late last week that in the U.S. Senate there are 25 announced votes for a resolution, 18 against, and 57 undecided.
Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev) has said that the resolution would be subject to filibuster and thus would need 60 votes to pass - which he said he thought it would get.
In the House, the Times reported 40 votes for an attack, 153 against with 240 undecided or unknown (there are two vacancies).
In the House, a resolution will take 217 votes to pass - assuming everyone votes. If the 153 number is correct then the anti-intervention forces are only 64 votes short. The pro-Obama Members, on the other hand, need 177 more, or three out of every four of the Members who are listed as undecided or whose position is unknown.
Even at that, House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va) showing no reason to hurry, wrote in a letter outlining the Fall legislative agenda that
"Members should expect a robust debate and vote on an authorization of use of military force pertaining to Syria in the next two weeks."
This has been all hands on deck for the White House staff as they are being sent to the Hill to lobby Members one-on-one, but the pressure they are getting from home might make those visits meaningless.
The President needs to convince the American public that this is a necessary step. To that end, the President has taped, or will tape interviews with six TV networks: ABC, CBS, NBC, PBS, CNN, Fox News. Those interviews will air prior to the President's Tuesday night speech.
Members whose offices are keeping track are reporting overwhelming opposition from constituents to an attack on Syria in the ranges of hundreds opposed to every one in favor.
If that is true, then the President's frantic attempts to sway public opinion may turn out to be, in the words of H.R. Haldeman: TL2.
On the Secret Decoder Ring page today: Links to the Gallup Poll, to the Wikipedia entry for H.R. Haldeman, and to Joe Biden's adventures with the EU.
Also the best editorial cartoon about this issue I have seen.
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