President Obama is the most ridiculous sort of liar. He is the kind of liar whose lies are so transparently false as to be comical, were they not so sincerely made. He proved it Wednesday at a news conference in Stockholm, Sweden when he tried claiming that he did not, in fact, draw any red lines when it came to the civil war in Syria.
“First of all, I didn’t set a red line. The world set a red line. The world set a red line when governments representing 98 percent of the world’s population said the use of chemical weapons are abhorrent and passed a treaty forbidding their use, even when countries are engaged in war,” Mr. Obama said.
This is, of course, just obscenely false. Taken literally it is the silliest sort of petty lie – the kind some ignorant criminal would utter upon being caught with drugs in his pocket. It’s literally the “that’s not mine” of the political world.
Mr. Obama, of course, doesn’t mean it literally – at least let’s hope not – but is instead trying to argue that the standard he set against chemical weapons isn’t one he invented:
“So, when I said in a press conference that my calculus about what’s happening in Syria would be altered by the use of chemical weapons, which the overwhelming consensus of humanity says is wrong, that wasn’t something I just kind of made up. I didn’t pluck it out of thin air. There’s a reason for it,” Mr. Obama continued.
And in that narrow sense, he is right, it is a long-standing international law that chemical weapons are so abhorrent that their use on the battlefield is banned.
The problem is that nobody is accusing Mr. Obama of having invented the taboo against chemical weapons. The question he was asked – that many share – is about the credibility of the United States when its president declares that he will enforce that international ban.
In reality, Mr. Obama is not much better than the idiotic criminal who shouts repeatedly that he doesn’t know where the drugs found in his pocket came from. In both cases, it doesn’t matter one bit.
It’s not relevant who came up with the international prohibition on chemical weapons, Mr. Obama declared he would enforce it, end of story:
“We have been very clear to the Assad regime, but also to other players on the ground, that a red line for us is we start seeing a whole bunch of chemical weapons moving around or being utilized. That would change my calculus. That would change my equation. … We have communicated in no uncertain terms with every player in the region that that’s a red line for us and that there would be enormous consequences if we start seeing movement on the chemical weapons front or the use of chemical weapons,” Mr. Obama said on August 20, 2012.
In those few words, Mr. Obama declared that he, the American President, would not tolerate the use of chemical weapons in Syria. He was not restating international law, he was stating U.S. policy.
And it was a policy that, until this week, his administration was more than happy to explain to everyone:
“The President’s use of the term red line was deliberate and was based on U.S. policy. The world knew that the Syrian government possessed chemical weapons, and we had a concern that as the regime was increasingly beleaguered, it might use chemical weapons against the Syrian people in desperation. The message that the President delivered that day was the same message that he was delivering in private. It was one that he and others in the administration have reinforced on multiple occasions ever since,” Press Secretary Jay Carney said during a briefing May 6.
In other words, nobody in Mr. Obama’s government thought that his use of the phrase “red line” meant anything other than a statement of U.S. policy. Nobody considered it to be his declaration that he was merely enforcing international law.
This new line of argument, espoused by Secretary of State John Kerry yesterday in testimony before Congress as well, is perhaps the administration’s silliest lie yet. The facts of the matter are as perfectly clear to the public as they are to the police office pulling drugs out of a criminal’s pocket: it doesn’t matter where it came from, it’s yours.
Trying to lie to the public and say he didn’t set a red line in Syria should be below Mr. Obama. It is sad that he doesn’t seem to think so.
Matt Cover is Content Editor at Rare. Follow him on Twitter @MattCover.