Andrea Mitchell: Can You Blame Obama For Not Calling On Congress In Syria Speech?

President Obama has been facing an unusual amount of criticism lately for his handling of the Syrian crisis, so it was only a matter of time before someone in the mainstream liberal media tried to cut him some slack for his weak leadership. On Wednesday’s Andrea Mitchell Reports on MSNBC, the host-turned-apologist asked if Obama could really be blamed for not calling on Congress to authorize a military strike in Syria.

Mitchell was talking to Rep. Mike Rogers (R-Mich.), chairman of the House intelligence committee and a supporter of military action against Syria, about the president’s Tuesday night speech. Rogers expressed disappointment that Obama was not more forceful in making the case for intervention in Syria. Mitchell then defended Obama’s indecisiveness:
 

"But you've had a lot of Republicans speaking out against him, and Democrats. Mitch McConnell in the Senate, the Republican leader, speaking out against military action. Can you blame him for giving a speech that doesn't call on Congress when he would have faced almost a certain defeat?"
 

There’s the familiar refrain of blaming Congress, particularly Republicans in Congress, for the president’s problems. But it was Obama who brought Congress into this discussion at a time when many people thought he would act alone to order a strike against Syria. He asked for their authorization, and it appears that most members of Congress -- regardless of party -- are unwilling to give it. Obama may order the strike even if Congress votes it down, which would make him look too arrogant to respect Congress.

Obama created the political mess that he now finds himself in. So yes, we can blame him for giving a speech that didn’t call on Congress to vote on Syria. The president asked for Congress’s involvement, and now he is hearing their opinions. He cannot legitimately ignore the consensus opinion just because he doesn’t like it.

Andrea Mitchell shouldn’t make excuses for Obama’s wishy-washy leadership on Syria, especially if she wants to convince viewers that they've somehow stumbled onto an objective news channel instead of MSNBC.

Below is a transcript of the question in context:

REP. MIKE ROGERS: Yeah, Andrea, I have to tell you I was a little disappointed. I do believe there's a national security interest for the United States to engage militarily or diplomatically to make sure that there's not a proliferation in use of chemical weapons by this regime or any other regime. And I just didn't get the sense that the president, you know, raised it to that level. I heard a little bit of campaign rhetoric I've heard before mixed in this speech, a lot of reluctance as commander-in-chief. Didn't really want to do it, didn't want to find myself here. I thought he performed well on the part where he talked about the horrific consequences of chemical weapons use. The problem is, I think he needed to try to bring Americans in together on why would we do this? What is in our national security interests? And he didn't have that steely resolve of a commander-in-chief where he laid out the moral obligation and talked about a surgical strike designed completely to deter the use of chemical weapons by the Assad regime. I didn't get that sense from any of it. And that's why, candidly, I was disappointed.

ANDREA MITCHELL: But you've had a lot of Republicans speaking out against him, and Democrats. Mitch McConnell in the Senate, the Republican leader, speaking out against military action. Can you blame him for giving a speech that doesn't call on Congress when he would have faced almost a certain defeat?

ROGERS: Oh, believe me, if this vote were this week, it would have lost in huge numbers, but I think that was the job of the commander-in-chief. We've never really seen the president have to get up and talk about difficult foreign affairs news in a way that was asking the American people to join in on hard decisions. That has really never happened. So this was his chance to play that presidential commander-in-chief role and bring America in about why this is so important to the United States' national security interests. You know, I've heard it interpreted here, that they're going to have 70,000 troops to secure this. I've heard all kinds of craziness here for people who don't want to do this or at least want to make it a political issue. Politics used to stop at the water's edge. I wish we could get back to that because the world is a troubled and dangerous place. That spells trouble for us in the future. I thought the president could loft up, try to get above both the politics on the left and the politics on the right and try to say, here's what our national security interests are. And listen, I don't want to use it either, but the stronger I am, the better outcome of any diplomatic discussion. And right now he doesn't have a lot of leverage. He should have raised that up, talked about our national security interests and then closed the deal by asking America to be with him. None of that happened last night. It was really candidly confounding to me with the seriousness of where we were and find ourselves that we didn't get those kind of clear, commander-in-chief messages.

Paul Bremmer
Paul Bremmer is a Media Research Center News Analysis Division intern.