- The Washington Times - Monday, September 2, 2013

Too much talk, not enough action: The adage comes into play among those who criticize President Obama for either overthinking the Syria matter, huddling with advisers or simply handwringing on the sidelines as the situation grows worse. Of course, the slowing of discourse plus a series of mini-events and public statements could be strategic devices to buy time or prime diplomatic channels. Or not.

Certainly a meeting Monday afternoon with Sens. John McCain of Arizona and Lindsey Graham of South Carolina — described by the press as “Republican hawks” — adds to the public impression that meaningful action, or a reasonable facsimile thereof, is underway.

There are political moments to consider. During their terms in the White House, Ronald Reagan ordered two airstrikes while Bill Clinton ordered six, including cruise missile launches and air attacks in late 1998 against Iraq for not complying with U.N. weapon inspections, according to Associated Press historical records. In 1998, the White House was dealing with Mr. Clinton’s dalliance with intern Monica Lewinsky, and it was a complicated moment, indeed. Republicans were convinced the strike was a diversion from possible impeachments hearings, though there were other interpretations.

“For Monica Lewinsky, they hit Afghanistan and Sudan. And now, for Monica’s eyes, they hit Baghdad,” an Al-Jazeera analyst noted.

These days, Secretary of State John F. Kerry vacillates between aggressive language and neutral promises that the Obama administration’s case for a surgical strike against Syria “is building.”

“This isn’t ‘CSI’ and we already know who the bad guy is,” proclaims a Boston Herald editorial. “Obama has said repeatedly he believes he has the power to act in the wake of this violation of international law — and he does.”

The newspaper frets much over Syrian President Bashar Assad.

“So why the decision at this late date to delay any action for at least another two weeks all the while giving Assad time to shelter weapons and the planes that deliver them? And what if during those two weeks — emboldened by this administration’s incompetence and dithering — Assad uses sarin again? What if there are more babies wrapped in white linen for the world the see? Then it’s all on us.”

PARSING THAT RESOLVE

The White House released the exact text of President Obama’s letter to Congress requesting authority to use military force in Syria. It consists of eight terse segments that begin with “Whereas” and essentially explain the attack that killed 1,429 Syrian civilians, and cite assorted legal points about chemical weapons, the United Nations and national security.

And the specifics? Mr. Obama says the objective of military force in Syria is to “deter, disrupt, prevent and degrade” the potential use of chemical weapons. He also points out that “the conflict in Syria will only be solved through a negotiated political settlement,” ultimately declaring in the final point: “Whereas, unified action by the legislative and executive branches will send a clear signal of American resolve.”

The aforementioned Sen. John McCain used the phrase “degrade” several times during his news conference on the White House driveway Monday. Other lawmakers will get their teeth into it all next Monday. Reactions surfacing, slowly but surely. Among them:

“Congress’ role in U.S. military force has too often been abdicated to presidential authority, so I look forward to a vigorous debate,” observes Sen. Bob Corker, Tennessee Republican, and a ranking member of the Foreign Relations committee.

“The United States should only engage militarily when it is pursuing a clear and attainable national security goal. Military action taken simply to send a message or save face does not meet that standard,” notes Sen. Marco Rubio, Florida Republican.

FOR THE LEXICON

It was an endless August, with September looming as endless, and alarming. So as a diversion, here are a few trite new words just added to the ever eager Oxford Dictionaries, which has added 42 new entries in the past month alone. Among them, exactly as they’re listed:

“Omnishambles” (British informal): A situation that has been comprehensively mismanaged, characterized by a string of blunders and miscalculations.

“Derp” (informal exclamation) Used as a substitute for speech regarded as meaningless or stupid, or to comment on a foolish of stupid action.

“Squee” (informal exclamation or verb). Used to express great delight or excitement.

CHALLENGING OBAMACARE

Now in the final days of their “Exempt America” tour, high profile tea partyers and conservatives journey to Atlanta and Columbia, S.C., on Tuesday to make their case to defund the Affordable Care Act. Leading the way: Brent Bozell, founder of For America, and Jenny Beth Martin, co-founder of the Tea Party Patriots, plus representatives from four regional tea party groups.

The big whoop-dee-doo is at high noon Sept. 10, however. The groups will rally on the West Lawn of the U.S. Capitol, counting Sens. Mike Lee of Utah and Rand Paul of Kentucky, seven Republican congressmen and Herman Cain among 25 speakers at the event.

“If Obamacare isn’t good enough for big business, big labor, or big government, then it isn’t good enough for the American people,” the organizers declare.

SINISE EARNS An OO-RAH

He’s a Hollywood veteran who can now can add “Leatherneck” to his resume. That would be actor and musician Gary Sinise, who has been named an honorary U.S. Marine by none other than Gen. James F. Amos, commandant of the Marine Corps. Mr. Sinise, 58, was recently honored right there in the general’s home at Marine Barracks, not far from Capitol Hill.

“This was one of the most extraordinary nights. I was totally surprised by what the general gave me. I’m humbled, shocked, moved and motivated to keep standing up for our men and women and giving back to them,” the actor says.

The general reciprocated, calling Mr. Sinise a “humble patriot,” and “tireless advocate for our men and women in uniform.” That advocacy includes entertaining troops and their families, building specialized homes for the severely wounded, and with the USO, hosting “classic American meals” for military communities and deployed troops passing through airports.

Other Hollywood folk have earned the same jarhead honor, incidentally. Chuck Norris was named an honorary Marine in 2007.

POLL DU JOUR

• 70 percent of Americans paid attention to the details about Edward Snowden leaking details about NSA surveillance to the press; 73 percent of Republicans and 71 percent of Democrats paid attention.

• 47 percent of Americans overall think Mr. Snowden was “brave” to share the information; 45 percent of Republicans and 43 percent of Democrats agree.

• 42 percent overall say the Snowden matter was the “scandal of the summer”; 48 percent of Republicans and 40 percent of Democrats agree.

• 19 percent overall say the press devoted too much coverage to the Snowden matter; 20 percent of Republicans and 17 percent of Democrats agree.

Source: A Harris Poll of 2,045 U.S. adults conducted Aug. 16-20 and released Thursday.

Historical minutiae, fussy factoids to jharper@washingtontimes.com