Pundits, Pesticide, And The President

This morning, after the President’s press conference in Russia, I watched a few liberal pundits on MSNBC criticize Obama’s demeanor during his exchange with reporters, including his lack of enthusiasm, and so on. The idea was that the President doesn’t seem all that convinced about his own decision to attack Syria. Presumably for these folks, the President’s leadership style is much too thoughtful and not forceful or decisive enough for their tastes. He’s too professorial, don’t you know. He should be the cheerleader-in-chief.

Now, I’m used to hearing those criticisms from right-wingers, who seem to value more “manly” decision-making, which to them requires less thought and more knee-jerking. But I never thought I would live long enough to hear liberals implicitly long for Bush-like decisiveness, which decisiveness was pregnant with a false but, apparently for some, comforting certainty.

Such decisiveness and certainty resulted in things like, say, the attacking, defeating, and occupying of Iraq, which we were told with utter certainty was not only necessary (turns out it wasn’t), but would bring us much good will in the Middle East (turns out it didn’t). Even though the Iraq war, from its pretenses to its promises, was a colossal mistake, at least, dammit, Bush was certain and decisive and forceful!

When it comes to making decisions on the use of force, I’ll take the thoughtful, get-it-right-the-first-time style of Barack Obama, no matter how much it irritates people on the right—or left. Thus, fed up with listening to liberals whine about the President’s leadership style, I thought I would at least get a taste of the big league whiners. So, while on my way to Fox, I stopped by CNN and found a Tea Party town hall being conducted by the one and only Jefferson Beauregard Sessions, who represents Old South Alabama in the U.S. Senate. He was trying to explain, to hard-headed teapartiers like himself, the dynamics of what is going on in Syria and Congress. And, of course, it is all President Obama’s fault because he is a weak leader:

If President Bush had told Bashir Assad, “You don’t use those chemical weapons or you gonna be sorry, we’re coming after you, this will be a consequence you will not want to bear,” I don’t believe he would have used them (raucous applause)…People didn’t see strength in the President’s red line…

Sessions, echoing what I heard liberals on MSNBC say minutes before, called Obama an “uncertain trumpet.” Well, if it is certainty that people want, they should go to a once-saved-always-saved, Bible-believing Baptist church and confess their faith in Jesus and live happily ever after, however long the after is. Then they can say things like the following, which was said by a town hall teapartier immediately following Jeff Sessions’ put down of Obama and his praise for the leadership qualities of George W. Bush:

I stand here and I listen to you and, uh, and I sure hope that in those secret meetings that you have good intelligence…but…I’m not sure it was a chemical weapons attack. I think it was a pesticide attack. I think that the al Qaeda could get a hold of pesticides. It was not consistent with a chemical weapons attack. The emergency people came in there too quickly. They would not come into an area with poison gas residue all over the place. I read a very interesting analysis of this, and I think it was setup to get the United States to come in there and do al Qaeda ‘s dirty work.

But here’s my question: You have something that none of us here have. You have a megaphone. You have a platform. You have a microphone. But my question to you is I’ve seen this president…crossing one red line after another, you know, fraudulent birth certificate—everybody knows that his documents are a fraud, everything about this man is secret, nobody knows anything about Obama, nothing! Gays in the military, gun-smuggling to the Mexicans, getting Mexicans killed, getting Americans killed…He violates the Constitution in that he has a duty as the President of the United States to enforce the laws of the United States. He’s refused to enforce the immigration laws. He’s refused to enforce the Defense of Marriage Act, which was signed by Bill Clinton for heaven sake’s [sic]. This man has violated so many, he’s crossed so many red lines, and now Syria.

And my question [sic] is, What do you think is the red line for Barack Obama? When is the United States Senate, when are our representatives going to say that he’s gone too far and stop this man? As a U.S. Senator, do you feel like you personally are incapable of doing anything to stop him? Or do you feel like you’re capable of doing something to stop him, and if so what is that? Thank you very much (loud applause).

To which Jeff Sessions replied:

It is sad that…such a large number of people have lost confidence in the President, his integrity or his willingness to lead…

Yes, it is sad. And what is sadder is that a United States Senator is part of the problem, part of the reason that ignorant and ill-informed and conspiracy-crazed Americans, like that poor Tea Party fool in Alabama, can feel comfortable in standing up and saying such stupid things and expect only the mildest of rebukes from a Senator who has so much to say about leadership:

But you know I can’t agree with all of those things. I don’t think they’re probably factually correct, all of them. I just don’t think that’s true, some of them. I do believe that from the day we saw his Supreme Court nominations, his own statement that, uh, he wanted judges to do “empathy,” and basically that’s saying you want judges not to follow the law but to do whatever feels good at the time…They do not respect the rule of law as the President of the United States should…[blah, blah, blah]

Jeff Sessions had been criticizing President Obama’s leadership style, he had been talking about how weak Obama is, how that leadership weakness allows bad things to happen. Yet the Senator couldn’t stand up to a freak at his town hall freak show and say to him, “Look, pal, what you said was crazy. It was nuts. You’re an embarrassment to the Republican Party. Stop reading those wacky right-wing conspiracy websites and stop spreading this crap at my town halls.” Now that would have been real leadership.

The “pesticide” conspiracy theory espoused by that Tea Party nut was undoubtedly related to the larger conspiracy going around—promoted by Rush Limbaugh and others using the writings of an Israeli-American political scientist named Yossef Bodansky—that President Obama may have helped plan the chemical attack on civilians in Syria on behalf of al-Qaeda rebels. Here is a typical headline from a true-believing, Christian website called Sword At-The-Ready:

Obama Regime Armed Al Qaeda-Rebels To Use Chemical Weapons In Syria

Now, it appears to me that the pathetic, brainsick individual at Sessions’ town hall was trying to imply what that headline states outright and what the accompanying article articulates:

Obama has been and is engaged in arming Jihadists in the Middle East, our avowed enemies. Evidence is mounting that not only did Obama arm the Jihadists in Syria with heavy weapons from Benghazi, the Obama regime helped plan the chemical weapons attack near Damascus.  A tactic the Bosnian Muslims utilized in their civil war to get the UN to bomb the Serbs.

In the process of helping radical Islam in raising up the black flag over secular dictatorships, Obama emasculates the United States and destroys it’s reputation among the world’s nations.

If you consider Obama’s agenda is to destroy the country and raise up his utopia over our ashes – much of what Obama has been doing and demands to do – makes sense.

It’s not incompetence, this is all deliberate.

Sword At-The-Ready says it is,

dedicated to the presentation and discussion of Conservative American Principles in light of the Scriptures, Our True History, Culture and Politics.

You get it: there is a culture war/civil war going on between people of fundamentalist-quality faith and everyone else, especially our diabolical leader, Barack Hussein Obama.

It’s too bad that among the nuts, even though he isn’t quite as nutty as the nutty people attracted to one of his town halls in Wetumpka, Alabama, is Jeff Sessions. This man sits in, uh, the world’s greatest deliberative body but he couldn’t bother to—or worse, didn’t want to—call out someone who doesn’t believe the President is a citizen and who suggested that he is involved in a pro-al Qaeda plot in Syria.

So much for leadership.

For the record, CNN cut away from the town hall shortly after Sessions began his reply to the gullible Tea Party conspiracist guy. And later in a story reporting on what happened at the Sessions town hall, the gullible Tea Party conspiracist guy wasn’t mentioned, nor was Jeff Sessions’ inadequate, leadership-less response. Thanks, CNN.

jeff sessions townhall


  1. King Beauregard

     /  September 6, 2013

    This whole Syria business has reinforced something I’ve suspected for a while: pound for pound, people on the far left are every bit as dumb as people on the far right, they just have so little representation in Congress that we never get to see them actually screw up. But with the Syria situation — where every toilet-dwelling leftie seems to believe that Obama is fabricating all the evidence against that nice Mr. Assad, and it was probably the rebels who gassed 1400 civilians in a “false flag” operation — it’s clear that the far left is every bit as impervious to new information and as unyielding to reason as the far right.

    That said, if indeed a bunch of rebels (backed by al Qaeda) can get their hands on enough sarin to kill 1400 civilians in a single attack, that just demonstrates how desperately the world needs more drone strikes. Even after a decade of drone strikes in Pakistan, we haven’t killed nearly as many civilians as Syrian “rebels” did in a single afternoon, so I’m game for just about anything we can do to disrupt their plans.

    (Parenthetically, my views on attacking Assad and on drone-striking terrorists are very much the same, in that I base my decision on whether inaction is likely to cost even more lives. But while I believe we have disrupted much of al Qaeda’s ability to operate, I don’t think we can apply enough military pressure to curb Assad.)


    • Some on the left’s knee-jerk reaction has been a little dismaying to say the least. I don’t know if there is proportional amounts of far left gullibility, since much of the far right’s gullibility is related to fundamentalist religious dogma, but it has been a cause for concern as regards our ability to conduct a rational foreign policy.

      As for whether we can “curb Assad” with military pressure, it may be already happening, depending on how credible is the latest attempt by Russia to broker a deal to allow Syria’s stockpile of chemical weapons to come under international control. Granted, it is a long shot, likely to be an attempt simply to buy more time, but if it pans out it is a least a curb on Assad’s willingness to once again use chemical weapons.

      And that ain’t nothing. Especially if we don’t have to fire a shot.



  2. Man, I’m depressed. Information has never in history been more available, nor has the supply of bullshit. What the world needs is a bullshit filter. Where’s Steve Jobs when you need him? 🙄


    • There isn’t a bullshit filter conceivable that could eliminate all the shit I see on the Internet, Jim. It is really amazing, and I used to get a lot of it in my emails, but I have written back to so many of those that spread it that I don’t get much of it that way anymore. So I guess the best bullshit filter is still the human mind and the willingness to tell people what they don’t want to hear: don’t believe every goddamn thing you read online.


  3. middlechildwoman

     /  September 7, 2013

    My mission as a former high-school teacher was to stamp out ignorance. It was hardly ever willful ignorance on the students’ parts. I have noticed a plethora of willful ignorance among our politicians on all levels. Not-so-hidden agendas aimed at personal wealth and power for these same politicians are making me think that I may be losing my optimistic nature. A big thanks to you, EC, and Jim Wheeler for doing all the research on this willful ignorance. I don’t have the patience nor the stomach for this stuff. I don’t think that President Obama is perfect but DO believe that he is a man of integrity and intelligence. I still have his back.


    • Me too, MCW.


    • Couldn’t agree more, my friend. The President has made some missteps throughout his presidency, including over the mess in Syria, but his integrity and intelligence are unassailable in my view. And I’ll have his back on those two attributes until I see something that radically changes my mind. We can differ on this or that policy or on the way things are communicated and fought for, but Mr. Obama is not vulnerable to any charge of a lack of integrity or intelligence or thoughtfulness.



  4. ansonburlingame

     /  September 7, 2013

    One step at a time, maybe, I offer additional views.

    First, I see the President and others in NO WAY “manufacturing” evidence. Nor did I ever see such done by Bush and his administration. Both administrations INTERPRETED the evidence available however, as related to WMD. Generally speaking both administrations drew the conclusions that military power was needed as a result.

    Bush immediately went “all in” for a regime change. President Obama has recommended a more “limited” response of “punishing” a regime. But interpretation of available evidence was used my both, not “manufacturing evidence” by either, in my view.

    Based on what I have been told or read, America (and thus the “world”) yet knows who ordered and executed the release of chemicals in Syria in Aug (21st?). Everyone would like to really know that answer but no one (outside of Syria) knows, for sure, yet.

    Bush, Powell and many others pushed their INTERPRETATION of evidence to justify invasion and regime change in Iraq. President Obama is pushing his administration’s INTERPRETATION of the evidence to call for “punishing” Syria. The world, at least the western world failed to conduct an independent interpretation of evidence and thus “believed” the Bush call for invasion. We the people are now engaged in a debate with some offering different interpretations, more “what ifs”, of available evidence before authorizing some form of “punishment”, involving military power.

    I certainly do so but with NO political motives. I, for one, look at available and unclassified evidence and ask more questions. I should have done that in 2003 as well but did not. I “trusted” the administration. Now I am looking more carefully and would do the same if Romney was now our President. WHY were chemical weapons released and WHO did so, rather specifically are my questions now. I have yet to get any “good answers” either.

    As for leadership by the current President, I have no complaints right now. He has made a tough decision and is doing his best to lead the nation to follow those decisions. He and his administration have not done anything “weak” in leading in that regard.

    But, but, but, I continue to worry about the policies, foreign policies of this administration, apolitically to the extent possible, in the Middle East, more narrowly the Arab Spring, and now focused just on Syria, for now. It the President has failed, and I believe he has, it is a policy failure, bad choices in what to do in the Middle East. (and Iraq, and Afghanistan, and Pakistan to some degree, etc.)

    Building and sustaining great strength, economically and militarily and diplomatically, along with great resolve to USE that strength, are hall marks of all great international leaders. I suggest that President Obama has not done so for the last almost 5 years.

    Said another way, I much prefer “Churchhill” instead of “Chamberlian” (or is it “land”). Foreign policy wise I prefer Reagan over Obama as well. But that is just me, of course in terms of “preferences”. Peace through strength is a good, but incomplete slogan. It should be Peace throught strength AND resolve, nationally.

    I see a geat lack of American, national, resolve, at least since 9/11 and perhaps longer. American strength (military, economics and diplomatically) as well is in a steep decline, nationally. But for now we remain a superpower in terms of strength (but not national resolve). But how long will that last now, superpower strength, I wonder. Not long in my view, say 10 years or so.



    • King Beauregard

       /  September 7, 2013

      “Said another way, I much prefer “Churchhill” instead of “Chamberlian” (or is it “land”).”

      Funny thing about Churchill: he was lucky enough to not have to make the hard calls that Chamberlain did, and we are relying mostly on Churchill’s history of Churchill to demonstrate how well Churchill predicted things. While it’s easy to see how “wrong” Chamberlain was, he wasn’t half the fool people remember him to be: sacrificing Czechoslovakia to the Nazis bought Chamberlain and England time to ramp up for war, and they used that time EXTREMELY efficiently.

      The champion of the Battle of Britain, the Spitfire, wasn’t even introduced until 1938; Britain had to scramble to build an air force capable of withstanding the German’s top-notch Luftwaffe. If the Battle of Britain had taken place a few months sooner than it actually did, Britain may well have not been ready, and could have lost the air war, leaving Britain ripe for invasion by sea.

      If Churchill had been in Chamberlain’s position, he might well have been remembered as the “Peace in Our Time” guy, because the alternative was to go to war before being adequately prepared. We may hope that, in Chamberlain’s memoirs, he would have been decent enough to say, “I can’t really fault Churchill for turning his back on Czechoslovakia, or England might well have fallen to the Nazis too.”


      • Thanks, King B, for a different and salient perspective on Chamberlain. Of course one also must consider that Churchill’s warnings of the need for military preparedness went back enough years that, if Britain had heeded him Hitler would have seen a far different opposition than he did. And I can’t really agree that Churchill’s correct assessment is mostly based on his own accounts – there is lots of other evidence, not least William Manchester’s excellent biography. Also, while there are similarities between Syria and the resurgence of Nazi Germany, there is an important difference now. Hitler’s motivation was power and aggrandizement whereas Assad’s, and Iran’s, is also about religion and that makes this an even harder problem to solve.


    • Anson,
      Just a word on “manufacturing” evidence and “interpreting” it.

      For the sake of argument, I will grand you that the Bush team didn’t strictly make up shit about what was happening in Iraq (even though some folks think they did). But the difference here is that the neo-cons intentionally interpreted the evidence to support their already formulated plan to attack Iraq. That is not even remotely comparable to what is happening in this present case for at least two reasons:

      1) There is no thirst on the part of this administration to get the U.S. involved in the Syrian mess. That has been obvious for two years now. Thus there is no reason to interpret the evidence in dramatic ways to support a strike. It is what it is and it convincingly points to Assad’s regime as guilty of using internationally banned chemical weapons.

      2) The public is quite opposed to any involvement, and it would have been quite easy for the administration to interpret the evidence in a ridiculously skeptical manner and use that skepticism as a reason not to act, which is its default position anyway. The fact that it didn’t do so is to its credit.

      Thus it is that one can confidently believe what the administration, and others in Congress who have seen the intelligence (including Republicans), is saying in terms of what happened and who did it.

      You also criticize the President for policy failures in the Middle East. I don’t know one president, at least since WWII, who hasn’t made mistakes in the Middle East in some form or another. The easiest thing for any one of us to do is to criticize after the fact, even though it is often all we can do, since we don’t know all the intelligence behind policy decisions. The harder thing is to specifically design a policy in any situation that is guaranteed to work, whatever “work” might mean in that part of the world. When you are able to do that, write back to me and share it with me.

      Finally, I appreciate your support of the President, at least in this matter, even though I disagree with your assessment of American “strength.” However this present matter plays out, we are and will remain the anchor of the world, in terms of stability and strength. It’s just that if we fail to act now (assuming the Russians and Syrians are bluffing about their willingness to turn over the chemical stockpile to international control), we will have some rebuilding to do, in terms of our credibility.



  5. ansonburlingame

     /  September 7, 2013

    Go read http://www.winstonchurchill.org/learn/speeches/speeches-of-winston-churchill/101-the-munich-agreement

    …. to see what Churchill wanted to do. We all know what Chamberlain DID do!



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