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FOR RELEASE TUESDAY, SEPT. 3, 2013
THE FALL OF THE FALL?
BY BOB FRANKEN
I usually chortle at media hyperbole where we foam at the mouth and present each political controversy as seemingly vital to the well-being of the U.S. of A. Well, this time, the laugh’s on me, because I am convinced that the next few weeks could well determine if we are permanently weakened as a nation.
Now that President Hamlet has treated us to an indecision soliloquy over when to attack Syria, he decided he’d bring the House and Senate into the act. In spite of overwhelming evidence that Bashar al-Assad’s regime had crossed the president’s “red line,” condemning hundreds to an agonized death, witnessed by millions around the word, the American leader has decided he shouldn’t order a punishing bombardment if no one has his back.
So after he had ordered the Navy ships in place, bristling with cruise missiles, he discovered that he had booked what amounted to a solo voyage. Even the Brits bailed on him. That’s when he executed his surprise turnaround and decided that he really should involve Congress before any attack so “the country will be stronger.”
In theory, that’s a good thing. Authorization from the legislative branch is true to the spirit of our democracy. However --and this is a huge “however” --a refusal by the members to give that authorization will inflict a serious wound not just on Barack Obama for the rest of his term, but also on the international credibility of the U.S. Our country’s status as a superpower will be undermined. It would be “catastrophic,” declared John McCain. Of course. He and his echo, Lindsay Graham, are the Senate’s superhawks, but it would be a mess. We are still paying the price for the deceptions that took us into the Iraq War and tarnished the U.S. reputation to the point that the British House of Commons voted to abandon the “special relationship” that has defined the alliance between the two countries. Imagine how much damage Congress could do if it rejected the commander in chief.
It’s entirely possible. This is not just partisan. A large number of Democrats are dead set against any action that might drag a “war weary” nation into the quicksands of a dangerous new battle, with no exit strategy and no real idea of the horrendous potential for escalation. Others, who have never seen a battle they didn’t want our young people to fight, believe he is not being tough enough. Add to the cauldron the Republicans who are itching to neutralize Barack Obama never mind the costs, and it could be a recipe for decline.
They’ve made their singleminded simplemindedness clear with their relentless efforts to sabotage health-care reform. Some are agitating to literally hold the government hostage unless Obamacare is “defunded,” threatening to shut down most federal agencies at the end of the month by refusing to pass a new budget if they don’t get their way. Other so-called cooler heads in the GOP argue that’s politically a lousy idea. But they have a more devastating one. They contend they should tie their demands for draconian cuts to the imperative of an increase in the debt ceiling. Unless it’s raised by mid-October, suddenly the worst-case scenario of a sovereign default turns the United States into a deadbeat.
It’s almost happened before, and by now we’ve gotten lulled by the false belief that somehow all the shrill ones will come to their senses. The problem is that it assumes they have any senses. That is one shaky premise. Already, the stars are out on the right-wing runway, elbowing each other for advantage in the presidential race. They are each trying in his calculated way to out-extreme the others appealing to a base that embraces rejection of anything Obama. Compromise is unacceptable. Now we must have statesmanship from them. Anything less will result in failures that could have a debilitating effect on the country. If the wrong decisions are made this autumn (and it’s entirely plausible), we will have a cold, dark winter, both at home and abroad.
© 2013 Bob Franken
Distributed by King Features Syndicate, Inc.