Nowhere does the expression “dammed if you do, dammed if you don’t” apply more aptly than to the job of the President of the United States. It’s likely that no one seeking that office understands this until they get there- and then find that the path to achievement is blocked by conflicting agendas, unrealistic expectations, special interests- and those who want the president to fail, just because.
After a year of two of applying the people and leadership skills that helped them to be successful politicians and office holders; presidents learn quickly that this job demands something much more. Suddenly they are confronted with situations that are not only far more complex then they looked from the outside, they require almost impossible solutions to resolve. This is when the President usually begins to fall back into positions that his predecessors held, seeking out some of the same advisors and furthering the same policies they had once condemned as folly. No wonder the American people often become disillusioned with the leaders they believed in because they had a different message- and they spoke it with the confidence that they could fix the ills and bring about the changes the country needed. How is it that we and they never learn?
When President Obama found himself in this difficult place, what could he do to salvage his reputation and popularity, achieve what he promised to during the campaign, and leave a legacy he could be proud of? How about playing both ends against the middle and then using whatever survived? Isn’t this what the president has done? First he drew a red line, then he backed away and said it wasn’t his line, he went to our allies for support and involvement in whatever steps would be taken, he asked permission from Congress who then had to take an impossible stand no matter what side of the red line they ended up on- and lastly, the public got to weigh in on and heavily influence whether we should act, act alone or not act at all.
After the dust settled, the President was left with no military support from our allies, a Congress that couldn’t decide on taking action or not, a public that was overwhelmingly opposed to intervention- and a foe who had stepped up to offer his support in reaching a peaceful solution that would also achieve the important goal of getting chemical weapons out of the hands of the Syrians, and eventually other countries as well. All in all, these are all good outcomes for the President- and he was able to avoid military intervention, which is what he promised to do as Candidate Obama. Has Obama been weak, indecisive, confused, and naïve? No, dumb like a fox.