The Spin Begins: White House 'Gird[ing] for Battle with Congress' Over Syria Airstrikes

The president's call on Saturday for Congress to debate and pass a resolution authorizing airstrikes against Syria also served as a telegraphed message to the liberal media about how to spin the message in a way that puffs the president politically while turning a serious question of foreign policy and use of military resources into a domestic political grist for the 2014 midterms.

Well, the Wall Street Journal's Jay Solomon and Janet Hook smartly saluted and fired their salvo in a piece filed at the paper's website on Sunday afternoon headlined, "White House Girds for Battle With Congress." Here's how they began:


WASHINGTON—The White House is girding for more than a week of battle with Congress over President Barack Obama's plan to launch limited military strikes against the Syrian regime for its alleged use of chemical weapons last month.

[...]

Mr. Obama said on Saturday that he has decided he should order a limited military strike against Syria, but in an about-face he said he would ask Congress to authorize the mission.

Notably missing from the rest of the article, however, was any account of the draft resolution that the White House has proposed, which seemingly gives the president carte blanche, stating he "...is authorized to use the Armed Forces of the United States as he determines to be necessary and appropriate" with regards to Syria's use of chemical weapons. So much for "limited military strikes," at least if the White House got exactly what it wanted on a straight up-or-down vote without any amendments.

Solomon and Hook quoted Secretary of State John Kerry from his Sunday appearance on ABC's This Week, before noting that "Mr. Obama's decision to seek congressional approval for military action, claiming the U.S. had lost its nerve and was fading as a global superpower."

But it wasn't until deep in the article that Hook and Solomon suggested that a conservative Republican might be the president's strongest ally and defender on Syrian airstrikes:

A key question is who will be leading the charge on Capitol Hill to help build support for the measure in advance of the vote. House Speaker John Boehner (R., Ohio) hasn't stated his position but has raised questions about the administration's broader goal and strategy.

However, Mr. Obama has an important Republican ally in House Intelligence Chairman Mike Rogers, who has strongly supported a targeted strike on Syria.

"We better send a very clear message, in a unified way, that we're not going to tolerate proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, let alone their use," Mr. Rogers said Sunday on CNN.

Solomon and Hook noted no similar point person in either the House or Senate Democratic caucuses that could rally Democratic troops to the president's aid. The only thing close to that was when Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Bob Menendez (D-N.J.) was noted to have said that "senior administration witnesses will testify" before his panel this week.

Mr. Obama has a tough sell in Congress, and it's not on predictably partisan grounds, as there are some Republicans completely on board and some Democrats completely in opposition, and vice versa. 

Of course, "Congress" has become a byword in the liberal media to smear the Republican House, while overlooking the dysfunction that is the Democrat-controlled Senate. The president is banking on this to be an opportunity to score some political points, even though the picture is a lot more complicated than the morality play he would like the media to forward.

Responsible journalism would call for dispassionately relaying all sides of the debate rather than helping the White House write this into a partisan narrative. The Wall Street Journal's Washington correspondents would do well to take their job seriously for the benefit of their readers and their own credibility as political journalists.

Ken Shepherd
Ken Shepherd
Ken Shepherd is the Managing Editor for NewsBusters