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BOTH SIDES NOW: 'Feckless' Obama Zig-Zags to Success on Syria

09/15/2013 10:10 pm ET | Updated Nov 15, 2013

By Mark Green

Erickson & Reagan debate the deus ex machina of Putin salvaging Obama's Syrian policy after the chemical attack. Looks like 44's smart audibles worked better that 42's "resoluteness" on Iraq and that McGovern's 'come home' approach has prevailed over McCain's more-war.

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There were four distinct camps in the brief public debate over what to do, if anything, about Assad's chemical attacks: 1. humanitarian interventionists (Kristof) wanted a retaliatory attack to deter more germ warfare. 2. anti-war libs (Vanden Heuvel) thought a strike too violent a response to violence. 3. Obama-hating cons (Bolton & nearly all GOP) just seemed to oppose whatever he was for -- whether leading from behind or front, whether strike or not, whether go to Congress or not. 4. A large public majority opposed any more military action in the Middle East after a decade of war.

On Syria. How did Obama do in his White House Address on Syria this week?

"It depends on your lens" says Ron Reagan. "If you're seeing it through the lens of politics, it's easy to find something to beat him over the head with. But if you're concerned about further loss of life in Syria, it was a welcome attempt." (The show was taped the day before Kerry announced a "deal" to force Assad to remove his chemical stockpile in a process monitored by the UN.)

Speaking of beating him over the head, Erick Erickson thinks that the administration botched things throughout, from Kerry's comments that "Assad wasn't about to destroy his chemical weapons and that the President had the authority to strike even if Congress voted no, which made alot of congressional Democrats nervous."

Do either of you agree with the Wall Street Journal editorial that Obama should have rejected Putin's offer out of hand because we simply can't trust him and Assad to do the right thing? There's consensus that the President had the obligation to try given the price to be paid if there were an attack, especially without congressional ok. After listening to leading Republicans condemn Obama's decision-making -- "unmitigated disaster" (Rove), "stumbling through history" (Scarboro), "total disarray" ( Krauthammer) -- Erick doesn't disagree with Obama's and Kerry's stumbles but sticks to his guns that "The Russian position is the most viable one."

Ron adds that Obama's threats were based not on any imminent threat to America but on 'ethical moral considerations...which are not why nations act." But hasn't Clinton said that he regretted not acting sooner in Rwanda and didn't your father fail to do anything after Hussein gassed Kurd's in Iraq? Were Clinton and Reagan morally wrong not to have acted early? "Yes they were" says RR.

Erick concludes that the public anti-war sentiment is a big, new development that is shifting the center of gravity among Republicans against the use of force but also that "by 2016 Syria will be a non-issue." He presciently adds, given the next day's news, that "it's 100 percent likely that shortly we'll be pretending that Syria is getting rid of its chemical weapons."

Host: allow me a parody of what happens when Obama achieves an objective: "O CURES CANCER! "Not colds too?" McCain. "Took too long!" Rubio. "Did he use Fed $$!" Paul. "9/11 was worse!" Peter King. "Prez Playing G-d?" Santorum. "Leading from the middle is meh!" Noonan.

Last week Bill Maher was searching for a word to use when Republicans oppose policies they've previously supported once Obama follows them: he called it "black tracking."

The jokes about Bush and Obama "derangement syndrome" are not so funny. It appears that when something works -- like getting rid of Assad's chemical stockpile without resorting to force -- conservatives can't say anything good. How many bets must this President win through luck or skill or both -- OBL, Auto Loan, Libya, Stimulus, Deficits, now Syria -- for one Krauthammer/Will/Michael Goodwin to say once that something succeeded, that he's a serious, thoughtful person rather than a knave and fool? Perhaps never when there's a chunk of the punditocracy and party for whom conclusions lead to facts rather than facts leading to conclusions.

Recall after his reelection when Obama said that maybe now the GOP "fever would break"? Well, that was something both sides can agree he was wrong about.

On The Guns of Colorado. Erick and Ron split on how they would have voted on a gun bill in Colorado that broadened background checks, limited bullets in clips and required more in-person training by gun owners... and that led to the recall in a special election this week of two Democratic state senators.

Erick applauds their principled stand but concludes that the vote should and is scaring the crap out of Democratic state legislators in other states contemplating similar legislation. And while such gun control laws may poll well, this recall is also why a hard-right guy like Tom Tancredo is running ahead of John Hickenlooper for governor in that state right now.

Did Mayor Bloomberg overplay his hand by spending $350,000 to defend the two legislators since Westerners may not like it when a NYC billionaire spends money to tell them what to do. That's probably true, say the two panelists, but Bloomberg may have had little choice since he's the force behind Mayors against Illegal Guns and since the Koch brothers and NRA have long done the same thing.

Quick Takes: Vaccines and Tsnarov Accomplices. Erick and Ron disagree with critics on the right and left - from Michele Bachmann and Bobby Kennedy - who have linked vaccines to problems such as autism. But an outbreak of measles and whooping-cough in a Texas super-church has raised the issue anew. Since we're dealing with a contagious disease, should the vaccination decision be left entirely up the parents involved, should the state actively encourage all parents to inoculate, or should they require it?

There was a consensus in favor of encouragement though, occasionally if the disease is serious enough, making it mandatory is desirable.

Last, several pals of the Tsnarov brothers are being prosecuted for helping the brothers get rid of incriminating evidence after the Boston Marathon bombing and after they knew the two had been blamed for it.

Is a possible punishment of 25 years in jail about right given the terrorist act or is it excessive? Again, there's agreement that 19 year-old college kids had acted impulsively and stupidly to befriend their pals and shouldn't suffer such extraordinary jail time.

Mark Green is the creator and host of Both Sides Now.

You can follow him on Twitter @markjgreen

Send all comments to Bothsidesradio.com, where you can also listen to prior shows.

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