Inside the Beltway: Parsing the Syria response

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Will President Obama go “surgical” in Syria? Press, pundits and analysts have taken to using key phrases to explain the ever-mutating, ever-dramatic situation — at least until uneasy world leaders arrive on a proper and productive response to the continuing civil unrest. Among the most popular terms: “boots on the ground” gets much play, along with moral obligation, moral imperative, definitive evidence, international coalition, undeniable, event of great concern, red line, war-weary Americans, sit on the sidelines, proportional strike, clear objective, viable option, strategic assets — the list keeps growing.

Well, yeah. The press, after all, must invent a language, a kind of diplomatic media shorthand, to help track evolving, unpredictable circumstances. And yes, we’ve heard some of them before. “Surgical” is a clear favorite in the press and among lawmakers, who have all bandied about phrases, such as surgical airstrike or surgical response with much abandon. “Surgical,” in fact, was used more than 9,000 times in recent news accounts about Syria, according to an informal Google News count.

But in the end, there are the pollsters, who come bearing numbers, not descriptions. A recently released Reuters/Ipsos poll reveals — to use a convenient phrase — war-weary Americans. The most telling numbers: only 9 percent of the respondents said Mr. Obama “should act” on Syria, and 4 percent approve of sending in U.S. troops. “Boots on the ground” emerges as the least favorite citizen alternative. See more results in the Poll du Jour at column’s end.

“The polls suggest that, so far, the growing crisis in Syria, and the emotionally wrenching pictures from an alleged chemical attack in a Damascus suburb this week, may actually be hardening many Americans’ resolve not to get involved in another conflict in the Middle East,” says Reuters analyst Lesley Wroughton.

THE RNC ON MLK

The Republican National Committee staged a cordial and, yes, a very authentic event on Monday to mark the 50th anniversary of the 1963 March on Washington as well as Martin Luther King’s “I Have a Dream Speech.” Among the many in attendance at the Capitol Hill Club: Allen B. West, Wisconsin Rep. F. James Sensenbrenner Jr., Fox News contributor Juan Williams, National Urban League President Marc Morial, NAACP Senior Vice President Hilary Shelton, Alveda King, former Richard M. Nixon aide Bob Brown, Virginia Republican Party Chairman Pat Mullins, Center for Neighborhood Enterprise founder Bob Woodson and Oklahoma House Speaker T.W. Shannon.

“We must be honest about those black politicians who are standing on those who sacrificed and are using that position for corrupt purposes,” Mr. Woodson told the crowd in a dramatic moment. “We need to call them out, because they are moral traitors. … But we’re silent about that.”

There was also singing, the Pledge of Allegiance, a heartfelt convocation and a most sincere host.

“At our core, we’re all fighting, in our own ways, for a better country. It’s so good that we can come together for an event like this. It’s something we don’t do enough,” committee Chairman Reince Preibus told the crowd.

“When Dr. King spoke at the march, he spoke of standing in the ‘symbolic shadow’ of the great emancipator. Today, we stand in the symbolic shadow of the great civil rights leader,” he said in closing. “May God bless the legacy of Dr. King and of the March on Washington — and may God guide us in the continued pursuit of what is just and right.”

HOWIE GETS A PERCH

The tectonic shifting of media empires continues. Howard Kurtz — former kingpin media analyst for The Washington Post, CNN, The Daily Beast and Newsweek — has landed a one-hour Fox News show called “MediaBuzz,” airing Sunday mornings, beginning Sept. 8.

The show will feature erudite guests, of course, and focus on the state of the news media and its “shaping of current events and their role in politics,” the network explains, noting that the tweeting, Facebooking social media crowd will also come into play. Of note: Mr. Kurtz’s program will air opposite CNN’s “Reliable Sources,” the show he previously hosted for 15 years.

‘STOP HILLARY PAC’ GETS A BOOST

It’s a political action committee with one very aggressive purpose: “to ensure Hillary Clinton never becomes President of the United States,” the organizers say. They insist that “the American way of life is under attack” and frame the former secretary of state as “the liberal standard-bearer of the next generation of liberal creep on our constitutional rights.”

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