President Obama could have been brilliant. Instead, he squandered his Reagan moment.
He had plenty of prime-time opportunities to make amends with the “red line” standard he set for the Assad regime, to push aside his pride and to challenge the Syrian government to surrender its chemical-weapons stockpile — without deferring to Russia.
He could have bellowed the flickering coals of Syrian freedom too stomped out to burn on their own, thereby igniting the cause of freedom among a people long oppressed.
What a speech that would have been — to spur a nation to greatness without the stinging weapons of war but with the incisive flourishes of a pen.
Like President Ronald Reagan’s address to Mikhail Gorbachev in Berlin, President Obama’s Syria address could have been groundbreaking, too, but was a missed opportunity that will forever mar his presidency.
President Obama instead genuflected, not to a Saudi king, but to the leader of a people formerly under the shadow of a polluted zeitgeist, ceding sovereignty to nations with less reputable governments than our own.
Rather than surround himself with supporters as George W. Bush did at Ground Zero, or boldly addressing a Soviet giant on foreign turf as President Reagan did, President Obama desperately appealed to the American people in a series of interviews urging support for a military strike, and then stood alone while surrendering to Russian President Vladimir Putin’s request that the United Nations compel Syria to forfeit its chemical-weapons stockpile.
It’s a shame to know that the man someone once told me — during the live broadcast of President Obama’s Cairo speech — could “do no wrong” could not, on his own or at the recommendation of his self-mined cabinet, muster the chutzpah to dare Syria to greatness but allowed himself to be reeled in by Putin.
Instead, we have a president who backtracked on his 2012 “red line” statement alleging his “calculus” against the Assad regime would shift in the event Syria utilized chemical weapons, purporting it was “the world” and not he that set the strict standard.
President Obama’s sluggish, reactionary handling of the chemical-weapons attack on Syria is the product of a self-centered president more intent on saving face than brainstorming a way to guarantee limited military engagement while maintaining national credibility worldwide and inspiring a global heart for freedom — all the more indication President Obama checked out of the White House Nov. 7, with whatever voice he had left for defending human life and American sovereignty following right behind him.
Carolyn Bolton is content editor for Rare. Follow her on Twitter @carbolton