Bashar Hafez al-Assad has caved in and, under the tutelage of his Russian arms suppliers, has agreed to give up his entire stockpile of chemical (gas) weapons. Incredibly, some analysts thought that Obama was weakened, or at the very least “appeared weak,” by negotiating a deal with Russia under which Russia’s client state, Syria, would give up its stockpile of poison gas. Weak? The Syrian government, under the pressure of a threatened attack, gives up it’s poison gas, and Obama appears weak? Does that make any kind of sense?
Or, again incredibly, some analysts asserted that by “partnering with a terrorist,” meaning al-Assad, Obama was legitimizing the Syrian regime. The US is partnering with Russia in this deal, not Syria. Furthermore, no one can “legitimize” or “de-legitimize” a government that holds power. Popular power or military might does that; nothing else matters. And, of course, this deal weakens al-Assad.
And, finally, there was talk that Vladimir Putin had emerged as a
leader of great stature by pressuring his clients in Syria to give up their chemical weapons. Oh? Putin had repeatedly blocked US efforts to handle this matter in the UN Security Council, but when US missile warships moved close to Syria, he came around to the US position. That raised Putin and reduced Obama’s stature? Really?
But surely the dumbest remarks were made those who wished that President Barack Obama could be more like Lyndon Johnson. Now, about Lyndon Johnson, they said, “There was a man who really enjoyed politics, a man who got his way with Congress because he knew how to twist arms, how to make deals, how to win. ” And that’s true. But either those commentators are purposely leaving out a crucial fact or they’re simply ignorant — Lyndon Johnson had the luxury of working with a Congress that was dominated in both chambers by his own Democratic Party. But even with a House and Senate of his own party, Lyndon Johnson finished his presidential term so politically ruined by his Vietnam policy that the only places he could give a speech without being heckled and booed and swamped by protesters were military bases.
Maybe you know the opening lines of Paul Simon’s “Kodachrome” — When I think back on all the crap I learned in high school, it’s a wonder I can think at all. Some of the grumps at Critical Pages feel that way after listening to the talking heads on Sunday morning news shows.