Inside the Beltway: The mounting din of Syria talk

Talk is dramatic over Syria, fueled by endless commentary from those witnessing President Obama grind through unfamiliar gears as he switches from the hopey-changey man who once won a Nobel Peace Prize to, uh, a president confronting the realities of the office.

“Here’s my question for every member of Congress and every member of the global community: What message will we send if a dictator can gas hundreds of children to death in plain sight and pay no price?” Mr. Obama said upon announcing he would seek the support of Congress for a surgical strike on Syria in the imminent future. Now come the reactions, seemingly from all corners. A minuscule sampling:

“We are not going to lose this vote.” (Secretary of State John F. Kerry, to ABC News)

“Just days ago, we were celebrating 50 years since the March on Washington. President Obama stood where Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.stood, and we honored Martin with our words in Washington. Now here we are days away from dishonoring him with our deeds in Syria.” (PBS host Tavis Smiley, to ABC News)

“President Obama has already helped foment this civil war and supported the al Qaeda jihadists We should be choosing peace — not a new conflict.” (Text from Ron Paul’s new “Stay Out of Syria” petition)

“I think the line in the sand should be that America gets involved when American interests are threatened. I don’t see American interests involved on either side of the Syrian war.” (Sen. Rand Paul, to NBC News)

“Votes in Congress will reflect the collective wisdom and the definitive position of the American people on the use of force in Syria as expressed by their elected representatives. Absent, though, was a commitment from President Obama to honor and adhere to the outcome of these votes.” (Rep. E. Scott Rigell, Virginia Republican, in a public statement)

“What is the exit strategy?” (Political strategist Mary Matalin, to ABC News)

“President Obama will show he deserved the Nobel Peace Prize, or else insult it and all its long list of proud holders, tarnishing the Nobel Institution, spitting in the face of humankind, disrespecting the will of his people.” (An editorial in Pravda, a Russian news agency)

“With hurdles seemingly too great to overcome, and results of military action hard to foresee, Obama chose a way out by kicking the ball to Congress.” (News report from Xinhua, the Chinese state press agency)

“Whether the Congress lights the red or green light for an aggression, and whether the prospects of war have been enhanced or faded, President Obama has announced yesterday, by prevaricating or hinting, the start of the historic American retreat.” (An analysis in al-Thawra, a state-run newspaper in Syria)

HERE COMES MORE NOISE

It’s hard to decipher who’s anti-war and who’s not as the Syria matter fixates public officials. But one thing is for sure. Beginning Tuesday, the old school, placard-waving peacenik crowd plans a “mass protest” followed by a vigil at the U.S. Capitol, along with multiple demonstrations near the White House.

“Time is of the essence. We have been in the streets all over the country. The opposition to a new war is everywhere. This forced the administration to step back from imminent bombings,” says Brian Becker, national coordinator of the Answer Coalition, an anti-war, anti-racism activist group that has organized large-scale rallies since 2001.

Mr. Becker theorizes that President Obama is forging a deal with “right-wing hawks” Republican Sens. John McCain of Arizona and Lindsey Graham of South Carolina. Or something like that. The group has planned its largest event on Saturday as lawmakers begin to return to the nation’s capital to vote on the Syria matter. Mr. Becker also predicts a “round-the-clock visible anti-war presence” for the near future.

“The Answer Coalition has organized demonstrations and rallies all over the country for the past 10 days — including the demonstration in front of the White House that echoed into the Rose Garden as President Obama spoke,” Mr. Becker adds.

STILL THE GREATEST

Some have not forgotten that Monday is V-J Day, marking the 68th anniversary of Japan’s formal surrender to the U.S. aboard the USS Missouri, then anchored in Tokyo Bay. A morning ceremony at the National World War II Memorial some three blocks from the White House marks the date, including a wreath-laying by World War II vets, remarks by retired Army Maj. Gen. John P. Herrling and a performance by tenor Anthony Kearns, a founding member of the Irish Tenors.

The deeds of those soldiers, sailors and airmen are still revered.

They remain “the Greatest Generation, from the battlefront to the home front, who, in the truest sense, saved the world from tyranny and brought freedom to millions around the globe,” says retired Army Lt. Gen. Mick Kicklighter, chairman of the Friends of the National World War II Memorial, a nonprofit group.

STRATEGIC RECYCLING

Of note: NASA’s Lunar Atmosphere and Dust Environment Explorer blasts off on Friday from the federal agency’s mid-Atlantic facility on Wallops Island in Virginia to orbit the moon for 100 days and study the fragility of the of lunar atmosphere. The spacecraft also boasts a first, of sorts:

“The probe will launch on a U.S. Air Force Minotaur V rocket, an excess ballistic missile converted into a space launch vehicle and operated by Orbital Sciences Corp. of Dulles, Va.,” NASA says.

OH, THAT’S RIGHT, IT’S LABOR DAY

“I will continue to support collective bargaining rights that strengthen the middle class and give voice to workers across our nation. And I will keep pushing for a higher minimum wage — because in America, no one who works full-time should have to live in poverty. Thanks to the grit and resilience of the American worker, we have cleared away the rubble of the worst recession since the Great Depression. Now is the time to reward that hard work.”

— From President Obama’s proclamation recognizing Labor Day 2013.

GINGRICH GETs AN EARLY CUE

A media moment of sorts: CNN’s newly reinvented “Crossfire” will debut a week early to cover the Syria matter. Hosts Newt Gingrich, S.E. Cupp, Van Jones and Stephanie Cutter will step in front of cameras Sept. 9, just as Congress returns to dire Syria duty following its five-week summer recess. “Crossfire” was last on the air eight years ago.

“The hosts are ready,” Sam Feist, CNN’s Washington bureau chief, told The Hollywood Reporter.

POLL DU JOUR

54 percent of Jewish Israelis say the United States’ position in the Middle East will be “strengthened” if President Obama takes military action against Syria.

21 percent said U.S. status will not be affected by a military strike; 14 percent believe it will be “diminished.”

26 percent of Arab Israelis say U.S. status will be strengthened if there is a strike on Syria; 20 percent believe the status will remain unaffected; 34 percent say the status of the U.S. will be diminished.

46 percent of Jewish Israelis think Syrian President Bashar Assad will attack Israel if the U.S. stages a military strike on Syria; 42 percent think Mr. Assad will not attack.

40 percent of Arab Israelis believe Mr. Assad will attack Israel; 47 percent believe he will not.

Source: An Israel Democracy Institute-Tel Aviv University survey of 601 adults in Israel conducted Aug. 27-28.

Theoretical questions, churlish remarks to jharper@washingtontimes.com.

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