- The Washington Times - Wednesday, August 28, 2013

It has taken eight days for the major players to stake out their territory after the chemical attacks on civilians in Syria. The emerging strategic messages and responses are under the magnification of many journalists who pine to shield President Obama from any comparisons to former President George W. Bush, and the challenges he faced in the aftermath of Sept. 11, 2001, and the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Here’s the short guide of what’s evolving:

The Republican Party: Two distinct, opposing sides have emerged. On one side are the old school hawks and pragmatists, such as Sen. John McCain of Arizona and Rep. Peter T. King of New York who approve of a military strike. Like, now. They are in contrast to Libertarian-leaning lawmakers, such as Sens. Rand Paul of Kentucky and Ted Cruz of Texas who are unconvinced that national interest is at stake, are skeptical that an intervention will work and remain fearful of its price tag. Lawmakers also have criticized the White House for revealing too many tactical details, meanwhile.

The U.S. Congress: Britain will hold an emergency session of Parliament on Thursday to craft its response to Syria. Will Congress follow suit? One bipartisan group of 116 Republicans and Democrats led by Rep. E. Scott Rigell, Virginia Republican, has asked the White House to consult Congress, as per the War Powers Resolution. The group has offered to “share the burden of decisions regarding U.S. involvement.” The inevitable question: Could a U.S. intervention place Americans at risk of a terrorist attack on U.S. soil?

Russia and China: Both nations say there could be “catastrophic” outcomes to a strike on Syria, insisting that the U.S. is bypassing the U.N. Security Council and rushing to judgment. They claim it is uncertain whether the regime of President Bashar Assad or rebel forces were behind the chemical attack. The wild card: Mr. Obama visits Russia next week for the G-20 economic talks.

Iran and Israel: Iran warns that an attack on Syria will automatically put Israel in the line of fire and at risk of retaliation. “The flames of outrage of the region’s revolutionaries will point toward the Zionist regime,” one Iranian parliamentarian noted this week. As for Israel, sales are brisk for gas masks.

President Obama, Secretary of State John F. Kerry, et al: The proverbial “red line” has been crossed, a moral imperative could be a stake. Will the White House only generate a political solution?

No “regime change” is the order, officials insist, even as news reports say a U.S. intervention in Syria could come as early as Thursday, and targets already have been identified. Though Mr. Kerry and Vice President Joseph R. Biden emerged with strong language and much posturing, the White House must now determine the timing of an appropriate, America-worthy strike that resonates with the Assad regime — with no collateral damage. Oh, yes, and one that generates some positive press coverage.

INSTITUTIONAL KNOWLEDGE

“The fundamental problem we’ve got — the United States — is that this administration has been in a withdrawal mode, in an apology mode. And therefore, that vacuum we’ve created is being filled by people who don’t have our values or our interests. And that gives China and Russia an opportunity to do things that are, fundamentally, against what we, as a country, and the American people would prefer to have happen.”

Donald Rumsfeld, reviewing White House response to the Syria question on Fox Business Network.

BEDSIDE READING

There’s an online resource for those still trying to figure out the Affordable Care Act, as the days dwindle down to a precious few; remember, Obamacare will emerge in all its behemoth glory in 32 days.

The resource? That would be Dontfundobamacare.com, a site that includes a public petition to Congress to defund the health care law that already has drawn close to 800,000 signatures, lawmakers’ voting records and contacts, a fact sheet and a pledge for senators and Republican U.S. Senate candidates declaring they would repeal the health care law — along with who supports such a measure.

The site is a project of the Senate Conservatives Fund, a political action committee.

CULTURAL MOMENT

For those who have a meaty relationship with their vehicles or life in general: Ford Motor Co. announced Wednesday it is now selling generously sized, vinyl “Bacon Racing Strips” to affix on the hood, side, roof or rear of cars and trucks.

Prices begin at $78 for four; the company is intent on marking International Bacon Day, which is Saturday. Information here: Fordcustomgraphics.com

FORT HOOD FOLLOW-UP

On the way: A trio of Texas Republicans plan to announce legislation to honor the victims of the Nov. 5, 2009, shooting at Fort Hood. On hand Monday in the town of Killeen: Sen. John Cornyn and Reps. John R. Carter and Roger Williams will reveal the details of the “Honoring the Fort Hood Heroes Act,” which gives both military and civilian victims of the shootings the same status granted to 9/11 victims.

All of the victims would be eligible for a Purple Heart or the Department of Defense civilian award equivalent. The legislation also would officially label the attack as a “terrorist attack on the United States.”

ANTHONY WEINER’S LAST HURRAH

Well, so much for the New York City mayoral campaign of Anthony D. Weiner, at least according to a new Quinnipiac University Poll. Mr. Weiner has garnered only 8 percent of the vote, and ranks fourth in the race, just a dozen days shy of the Democratic primary. Public advocate Bill de Blasio is in the lead with the support of 36 percent of likely voters, followed by City Council Speaker Christine Quinn (21 percent) and City Comptroller William Thompson (20 percent).

“The political cliche that the most liberal candidate wins the Democratic primary in New York seems to be alive and well,” says poll director Maurice Carroll, citing Mr. de Blasio’s proposal to “tax the rich,” among other things.

“Voters seem to be getting bored with Mayor Michael Bloomberg. Almost two-thirds want a new direction by the next mayor,” Mr. Carroll notes.

POLL DU JOUR

81 percent of Americans have heard about the Affordable Care Act through print, broadcast or online media.

49 percent don’t trust the information “at all,” 28 percent trust it “a little,” 16 percent trust it “some,” 3 percent trust it “a lot.”

57 percent of Americans disapprove of defunding the health care law; 34 percent of Republicans and 81 percent of Democrats agree.

36 percent approve of defunding the law; 60 percent of Republicans and 15 percent of Democrats agree.

34 percent of Americans say they trust information about the law they receive from federal agency sources; 21 percent of Republicans and 47 percent of Democrats agree.

33 percent say they trust information from state agencies; 24 percent of Republicans and 41 percent of Democrats agree.

Source: A Kaiser Health Tracking Poll of 1,503 U.S. adults conducted Aug. 13 to 19 and released Wednesday.

Angst, uneasy laughter, complaints to jharper@washingtontimes.com.