Thursday, September 5, 2013

Syriaquestration: Governing by Hobson's Choice

    On Wednesday, I posited the following on Twitter:

    Thursday, James Taranto, in his Best of the Web column, also reflected on the president's actions regarding Congress and the authorization vote:
If we take Obama and Kerry at their word, then the president did not even consider the possibility that Congress would reject his request. Given the haste in which he made the decision and the desultoriness of his own effort to make the case for the request, that is a plausible reading of what happened. 
Failing to consider this contingency would be a stunning failure of planning... 
The other possibility is that Obama did not regard approval as a sure thing but figured that he'd win either way--that if Republicans balked, he could blame them for inaction in Syria, and if they went along with intervention, they'd share the blame for anything that went wrong...
    Taranto's take, which I excerpted here, is worth reading in full (almost invariably the case,) and I believe it supports my Syriaquestration thweesis (as long as I am coining words, why not two?)  The president and his spokespersons have often said that the sequestration, which the White House has only grudgingly acknowledged the president's role in proposing, was purposely designed to be so bad that no one would allow it to kick in.  As the country learned this spring, the president miscalculated.  Congress did not blink and the sequestration took effect.  The time-release poison pill was apparently not strong enough to kill opposition to the president's taxing and spending priorities.  So far, consequences of the sequester have been mixed, better or worse depending on which party is asked.
    Now the president has thrown down the gauntlet again, apparently not considering the possibility that Congress might pass on picking it up.  Or that Congress would pick it up, depending how you read the president's challenge.  That possibility has quickly almost become a fait accompli with many observers saying the president might not only lose on the Syria authorization vote, but lose "big", according to a Thursday night Politico report.  Whatever the president's reason or reasons for passing the buck to Congress, he may come to regret it.  Even if he was initially hoping Congress would vote down his proposal to get him off the hook for his "red line" remark, he and his subordinates in the last few days have portrayed the consequences of no military response as so dire that anything short of a disaster in Syria after a no vote would seriously damage the credibility of the administration.
    While there are similarities between the sequestration and Syriaquestration, and whatever harm has come from the former, the consequences of the latter are likely to be far worse, whatever the outcome of the current debate in Congress.  The president may learn too late that Hobson's Choice politics is a dangerous game, and the people of Syria, the entire Middle East, and the United States may all end up paying a high price for his ill-advised gamble.

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