This doesn’t come from just any talking-head guest on Barack Obama’s friendliest cable-news channel, either, but from its management. MSNBC.com executive editor Richard Wolffe — who wrote not one but two Obama-friendly books over the last four years — called the President’s performance in the St. Petersburg press conference “actually embarrassing,” and blasted the White House for pushing a dishonest rationale for war (via Mediate and The Corner):
Wolffe began by agreeing with the panel on MSNBC’s Now with Alex Wagner that the “service professionals” quoted in reports strongly questioning whether the administration had a clear and achievable goal in Syria were out of their depth. “I’m afraid we have civilian control of the military for a good reason,” he said.
However, Wolffe clarified that civilians, too, are unconvinced by the case for intervention the president has been making.
“I do think that the president’s press conference today was actually embarrassing,” Wolffe said. “It was as muddled and unconvincing.”
“If you want to take a country to a difficult place which is this authorization for war, you have to be much more clear and convincing about what the rationale is,” he continued. “At the heart of this was the absolute moral outrage of those civilians being gassed in their sleep. That’s it. And this administration cannot seem to stick to that line which is how they got into this position in the first place.”
Both Wagner and Eugene Robinson express considerable skepticism over the strategy of the White House as well. Robinson calls this “dilemma creep,” which he says is even worse than mission creep, and says Obama should stop talking about fixing Syria — which is what John McCain wants — and just deal with deterrence on chemical weapons. Wagner points out, though, that Obama hasn’t even made a case yet for that, not without explaining why the red line was set, explicitly invoking the “responsibility to protect” (which is what created the debacle in Libya), even to the point where military leaders can get on board.
If Obama is this far from making the sale on what has been his most friendly media ground, how much more difficult will it be four days from now, on the anniversaries of 9/11 and Benghazi, when he tries to sell the American public on military intervention that will benefit the terrorists behind both attacks?