President Barack Obama has proven to be a "uniter not a divider" on Syria — but not in the way he would like.
The president has united isolationist libertarian Republicans and anti-war Democratic liberals around opposing a military strike against Syria's Bashar al-Assad, who is accused of using chemical weapons on his own people. And some on the far left and far right now also seem united in raising the "i" word: impeachment, should Obama decide to go into Syria without congressional approval.
In fact, Syria is accentuating divisions in each party to the extent that positions can't be said to reflect a consistent partisan line. Mediaite listed some of the positions — a study in partisan and ideological diversity. No: Chris Mathews, Liz Cheney, Dennis Kucinich, Mary Matalin, Laura Ingraham, and John Bolton. Yes: John Boehner, Eric Cantor, and Hillary Clinton. Unsure, but sounds like no: Charlie Rangel. And changing abruptly — depending on the day of the week — Arizona Sen. John McCain.
The greatest contradictions and political bile are, unsurprisingly, from Republicans, some of whom cite a host of justifications that, at the end of the day, are mostly political fig leafs for longstanding Obama hatred and an overwhelming desire to see him fail.
Some neocons have backed Obama, but with an "I told you so" subtext. Others demand he go far beyond a punitive strike. Mother Jones' David Corn reports that the Foreign Policy Initiative, founded by The Weekly Standard's Bill Kristol, sent Obama a letter signed by Republican strategist Karl Rove, former Assistant Secretary of State Elliot Abrams, and others that "calls on the president to provide 'vetted moderate elements of Syria's armed opposition' with the military support necessary to strike regime units armed with chemical weapons."
The prize for showing the most political disdain goes to an old pro: Former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, who voiced support for Obama's plan but called him the "so-called commander-in-chief."
Other Republicans go after Obama no matter what he says or does on Syria, and shift their previous positions so they're able to oppose him. Rep. Joe "You lie" Wilson (R-S.C.) asked if the move to attack Syria was to distract from the IRS and Benghazi "scandals." In the eyes of the Washington Post's Dana Milbank, Republicans want to have it both ways:
Genuine disagreements within the GOP can explain some of the contradictions. And it's a fair criticism to say that Obama waited too long to act, even if there was never a consensus for action. But the one thing that seems to unite the opposition is the belief that Obama is wrong, no matter what. [Washington Post]
Meanwhile, as Tea Party Republicans join in an usual coalition with liberal Democrats who are wary of approving military action in the wake of Vietnam and Iraq, the threat of impeachment looms. Conservative Republicans who set up an impeachment website are now touting Obama's "blundering incompetence." Conservative Republican Rep. Duncan Hunter and liberal Democrat former Rep. Dennis Kucinich warn that if Obama proceeds alone it could be considered an impeachable offense.
Obama's political capital is now spread alarmingly thin. With left merging with right, he's waging a political battle with few allies — and he may well lose.
THE WEEK'S AUDIOPHILE PODCASTS: LISTEN SMARTER
- How U.S. special forces are preparing for the worst-case scenario in North Korea
- I hate Ayn Rand — but here's why my fellow conservatives love her
- The 11 worst fast food restaurants in America
- Here's the schedule very successful people follow every day
- The biggest lesson Obama failed to learn from Bush
- Deficit scolds are the most crazed ideologues in America
- The weird obsession that's ruining the GOP
- A scientific fact-check of 2001: A Space Odyssey
- 10 things you need to know today: July 24, 2014
- 7 language habits that reveal your age
Subscribe to the Week