He's not going to let members of Congress wiggle out of it. The president has concluded his comments on Syria from the Rose Garden, saying that while the US military stands ready to strike and while he stands ready to give the order, he is asking the people's representatives in Congress to vote and approve such action. The ships stand ready to execute that action, and that readiness is not time-dependent. Incidentally, the timeline now in effect with the president's announcement also gives the UN weapons inspectors time to furnish a final report, since Congress is due back in town on September 9, and the debate and the votes are scheduled soon after that.
The president could not be stronger in his own judgment, however. He was passionate, he was outraged at what the Syrian government has done by using chemical weapons to attack its own people, and he was focused on the idea that the United States - and the civilized world - had a duty to act. The president did not shy away for drawing the line on where he stands - that he has decided that a limited military air strike is that action. He called on allies to stand with us publicly, and he asked our Congress to debate and vote, but not stall.
While the people are being heard in this time frame, and while our representatives in Congress debate, let us at least afford the president the respect of the fact that he, for the first time probably in the last half century, has done for Congress what Congress has been too afraid to do for itself. A Constitutional scholar, he has decided to seek the ascent of Congress, and make Congress reclaim - and own - its Constitutional role as warmaker He has, with one speech, as our own Liberal Librarian noted, undone the imperial presidency.
In affording him that respect, let us be honest with him as he has been with us. If you are still opposed to intervention, say so, but do not use the upcoming session of Congress to debate the issue as a stalling tactic. If you want your representative to vote no, then call them and ask them to vote no, instead of dragging out the debate, if the only purpose of such dragging out is to delay action. And please do so without questioning the facts presented by our intelligence community. The president has afforded you the respect of going to your representatives for a debate and a vote, and for the UN team to put out its report. Afford him the respect that he is telling you the truth about what our intelligence has found.
This debate will be the most important debate of this year, and probably this decade. But this debate is about Syria, and more than just about Syria. But in order to be productive participants in this debate, we will need to shed talking points. Every person who is with the president and wants military action to go forward is not a war-monger, and every person who stands opposed is not untouched by the suffering of those who perished in the chemical attack. The principles of pacifism and humanitarianism may come into conflict at times as we debate this. The principles of US national interest in protecting international norms of a chemical weapons ban and diplomatic solutions to civil wars will come into conflict in this debate. But we will all do our fellow Americans a favor by doing more listening than judging.
The president has just proven the cynics wrong, one more time. All we have heard from the media since the beginning of this crisis is how the president was going to start the attack ... well, yesterday, you know. From every which corner, we have been hearing that the president was making a crass decision to rush to war. We have been constantly hearing complete and utter lies about how the president was going to strike without even giving the UN weapons inspectors time to finish their work.
And now that he's made the decision to bring Congress in, I am sure we are going to hear handwringings about how the president is indecisive, weak, etc. etc.
This president's foreign policy has always been deliberate, careful and considering deeply the interest of the United States and the humanitarian causes we, as the world's oldest Constitutional democracy and the lone superpower have a responsibility to care for. The president has now created more room for debate, for Congress to weigh in, and for the American people to be heard.
Just like clockwork, the media has lined up to say how the president "changed his mind" at the last minute because... well because it turns out that their "reporting" all week long about an impending strike fell apart. He made them look like fools.
And just like clockwork, neocons on the Right are lining up to say that the president is "ceding" executive power and "abdicating" his responsibility. They are deathly afraid of both Congress being put on record and by the re-alignment away from the imperial presidency that Barack Obama is making a path for.