National polls show nearly across-the-board declines in public confidence in Democratic leadership. In the usual partisan calculus of win-and-loss this would seem the moment of the chief executive's maximum weakness and, therefore, of Republican advantage. Consider this, though.
It would be pretty easy to be pessimistic (or even downright cynical) at this juncture in time, for these and dozens of other reasons. Even so, the possible success of the idea is more than a little tantalizing, for all concerned.
A debate over the Syrian AUMF should encourage members of Congress -- if they've got the guts -- to survey this entire record of U.S. military activities in the Greater Middle East going back to 1980. To do so means almost unavoidably confronting this simple question: How are we doing?
Now, as if having learned nothing from the devastating and costly aftermaths of the military invasions of Iraq, Afghanistan and Libya, you're beating the combustible drums to attack Syria -- a country that is no threat to the U.S. and is embroiled in complex civil wars under a brutal regime.
When a head of state is responsible for the deaths of 100,000 of his people and has used chemical weapons against innocent civilians -- the world needs to respond. Doing nothing is not an option. But how should we respond, and what are moral principles for that response?
Even if the president musters enough votes to strike Syria, at what political cost? Any president has a limited amount of political capital to mobilize support for his agenda, in Congress and, more fundamentally, with the American people.
The debate we're about to have will affect the lives of many people, and will determine whether fellow human beings live or die. It may shape the geopolitical conflicts of the future. What's more, the way we choose to conduct that debate will help shape the kind of country we become.