Where The Buck Stops

Not With Obama Apparently

Posted: September 7, 2013

And now to answer that question: With Congress? With the “international community”? With the secretary down the hall? Obviously, with anyone, or everyone, not named Barack Obama.

On Wednesday, the president abjectly denied ever having drawn a “red line” relative to the use of chemical weaponry in the Syrian civil war, presumably by the Damascus government. “I didn’t set a red line,” Mr. Obama said. “The world set a red line.”

This is as sad as it is patently absurd — not to mention deliberately forgetful. On Aug, 20, 2012, the president boldly drew such a line in the sand:
“A red line for us is we start seeing a whole bunch of chemical weapons moving around or being utilized. That would change my calculus. That would change my equation.”

Notice the use of “my” — as in “my calculus” and “my equation.” That’s about as definitive as it gets, in terms of who dabbled in figurative red paint.
Some 380 days later, the president did not quite see it this way. Now it’s “the world,” by approving a treaty forbidding the use of chemical weapons, that drew the red line — with Congress’ eager ratification, an imprimatur further underscored by its passage of the Syria Accountability Act of 2004, which addressed that nation’s possession of chemical weapons. So, in his mind, is Mr. Obama but a bit player in this drama?

This Wednesday stunner offers a clue: “My credibility is not on the line. The international community’s credibility is on the line and America and Congress’ credibility is on the line because we give lip service to the notion that these international norms are important.”

These are the words of a man no longer eager, it seems, to hold Syria accountable for its alleged abhorrent acts — if that ever was his true intention. Perhaps the last thing Mr. Obama wants to see happen is for Congress to give him the green light to put Syrian targets in his gunsights. A “no” vote on military action — which Congress (or at least the House) appears poised to deliver — is the president’s “Get Out of Jail Free” card, a catapult out of the corner into which he has painted himself with all his talk about “red lines” and “game-changers.”

In such a scenario, “the buck” — or, more specifically, this “buck” — stops on Capitol Hill. Harry Truman’s spirit shivers in embarrassment — and indignation.