Specifically, he says, “We anticipated winning that vote and winning it quickly” before Putin popped up with his idea of Assad voluntarily giving up his WMD to avert any U.S. strikes. That’s a lie. WaPo kept a whip count at the time to track congressional opinions about hitting Syria. Before the attack was finally abandoned by the White House, 263 members of the House and 43 members of the Senate had already committed to voting no, with dozens of other Senators still undecided at the time — including eight Republicans. If all eight had voted no, there would have been 51 votes against, guaranteeing that an AUMF would fail even if it wasn’t filibustered. Public opinion was opposed to strikes too and grew more deeply opposed as Obama dithered: Pew found a 15-point jump, from 48 percent to 63 percent against hitting Assad, in the span of one week. It would have been a political fiasco for Obama, which is why at one point Kerry was reduced to reassuring Congress that any airstrikes against Assad would be “unbelievably small” and why the White House lunged at Putin’s proposal once he offered them a way to take action against Assad without using military assets.
Here’s my favorite part of Kerry’s answer, though, explaining why Obama went to Congress for approval in the first place:
Lo and behold, unbeknownst to everybody on a Thursday before the weekend we were going to strike, David Cameron went to the parliament and lost the vote. Now, how, in the wake of Britain’s parliament deciding no in a democratic fashion, with congressmen screaming “you’ve got to come to us,” can the president decide to stiff democracy in America and say no?
I love the idea that it only occurred to Obama to seek the legislature’s approval after David Cameron reminded him that that’s what’s supposed to happen in democracies. If only the Brits hadn’t embarrassed him by taking the will of the people as expressed by their elected representatives seriously, Obama could have bombed Assad in blissful contempt of public opinion. But of course, this is a lie too — in fact, it’s a lie twice over. Obama didn’t go running to Congress because Britain had set an example that he simply couldn’t ignore. He went running to Congress because he was fully aware of him strongly opposed American voters were to a new war in the Middle East. He wanted political cover from Congress by getting them to approve an AUMF; that way, if public opinion about hitting Syria fully collapsed before the midterms, he could claim that it was a bipartisan initiative with plenty of support from the most hawkish Republicans in Congress. But never mind that. The even bigger lie here is the idea that Obama was prepared to stand down and bow to “democracy in America” even if there was a feasible way politically to avoid that. Remember this idea, floated during the great Syria debate?
Source close to administration: WH might accept Senate-only approval of Syria strikes. Top WH official says source is "just guessing."
— John Harwood (@JohnJHarwood) September 7, 2013
Obama was prepared to ignore one half of “democracy in America” as represented by Congress because the votes weren’t there for him, which suggests that his respect for democracy is basically a sham. Although, after executive amnesty, we already knew that.
Two clips for you here, one of Kerry lying about the congressional vote and the other, via the Free Beacon, of him suggesting that Assad is the only obstacle to peace in Syria. If only Assad would stand down, we could get a ceasefire going. Is that right? ISIS and the Nusra Front are going to tone down the violence if Assad stops bombing them for awhile? The idea, I guess, is that once Sunni civilians no longer fear sectarian violence from the Shiite Assad, they can turn their attention to purging the jihadis from their own territories a la the Awakening in Iraq’s Anbar province during the war. How long would Assad’s guns have to stay quiet, though, before Sunnis in Syria trusted him enough again to turn on their ISIS/Nusra “protectors”? A year? Two? Five? It’d be one thing if you could install international peacekeepers in Sunni territories, but to do that you’ll have to oust ISIS and Al Qaeda first, in which case where exactly is the ceasefire? Or is Kerry suggesting that Assad should reach some sort of truce with the jihadis, in which case everyone gets to hold the territory they’ve already conquered? Preventing an ISIS terror state is the whole point of the U.S. air campaign there, ostensibly, so how could we possibly agree to that truce?