New York Times columnist David Brooks expressed his disappointment in President Barack Obama’s decision to seek war authorization from Congress last weekend on Friday.
Brooks, who made the remarks on Friday’s broadcast of PBS’s “NewsHour” during his weekly segment with Creators Syndicate columnist Mark Shields, said that the president had put his own credibility at home and internationally up for a vote by Congress.
“[I]n Congress, I think it’s bad,” Brooks said. “I think the decision to go to Congress was a very unfortunate decision, because it made it much bigger than Syria itself. Now it’s a test case for Obama’s credibility, credibility around the world and credibility at home. There is a common assumption that he can rally public opinion, he can lean on Congress, and ultimately they will force Democrats to say — they don’t like the policy, but they will say you can’t let Obama go down and have his credibility destroyed. I’m really dubious that that’s going to be the case. I think Republicans are going to be largely against. That’s really clear. The Democrats in their hearts, they’re against. The noise from their districts is going to be solidly against. Pelosi is very good at rallying votes. But I think this is a — going to be an uphill fight for them, and if he loses, it will be really bad for the administration.”
Later in the segment, he said Obama’s proposed military action was more about saving face in the eyes of the Iranians more than it was to actually hurt Bashar al-Assad’s Syrian regime.
“I certainly agree, if Syria was the main thing,” he said. “I think, when you go to war, if Syria was the main thing we were worried about, and if we actually had a plan to actually change something materially for the good in Syria, then going to Congress would be fine, and that would be a good thing to do, to get popular support, so the president isn’t isolated, so you get enough people on board in the beginning, so they’re there at the end when things get complicated. That would be fine. But this really isn’t about Syria. The policy is not going to do anything materially to affect Syria. We may lob a few missiles in there. That’s just face-saving. Let’s face it. The real issue is the broader credibility of the president, the international credibility of the United States, especially vis–à–vis Iran. This is really about Iran more than Syria. And by going to Congress and potentially getting slapped down, then our credibility vis–à–vis Iran is in shatters, and the president’s credibility at home is in shatters. And so I just — on substantive ground, I think Mark is right. On Machiavellian ground, I think it was a mistake.”