Obama Ends Longest Week at Crossroads on Syria

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It's the latest piece of Obama-backed, second-term legislation that has been mired on Capitol Hill. He pushed for immigration overhaul, but the legislation passed the Senate only to be stalled in the House of Representatives with no obvious path forward.

He pushed for gun control after the Newtown Massacre left 26 children and elementary school teachers and staff dead, but Congress rejected a background check bill pushed by the White House.

The other shoe fell this week. Two Democratic lawmakers who supported gun control legislation in the Colorado State Senate were recalled in a National Rifle Association-backed campaign, despite efforts from Democratic groups and unions to save them.

Obama's Syria policy has frozen progress on all other congressional priorities, including an all-important bill to fund the government for the remainder of the year and the debt ceiling, which will be reached next month. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid lamented Thursday as he closed the Senate for business, "This was a wasted week."

PANNED SPEECH

Obama's Tuesday primetime speech was the venue that many thought he would use to make his case for military action convincingly to the American public. But with more than 32 million people watching, according to Nielson, many thought it was a missed opportunity.

Indeed, it inflamed some of the few supporters of his military plan and the many opponents.

"The president just seems to be very uncomfortable being commander in chief of this nation," Sen. Bob Corker, a supporter of Obama's push for military action, vented to CNN Wednesday. "It's just a complete muddlement."

Professor Jameson said the speech was part of a failed communication strategy on the part of the White House.

"The speech is well written, the speech is well argued, it was delivered well; the problem is the speech didn't need to be given," Jameson said. "The fact is the speech was decided on before ongoing events overtook the need for the speech."

A former Obama spokesman wrote that the primetime address actually played to one of Obama's greatest weakness, not his greatest strength.

"When Obama squares to the lens, he seems to lose grasp of the energy that makes him an engaging speaker at other times," Reid Cherlin wrote this week in The New Republic. "He may be able to melt a crowd with an Al Green line, but when he addresses us directly through the screen, he is nearly always flat and lifeless.

PUTIN'S PLAY FOR POWER

Russian President Vladimir Putin, not one to miss an opportunity to vie for the upper hand, penned an op-ed in The New York Times that cited the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, suggesting that Obama should abandon "American exceptionalism."

"It is alarming that military intervention in internal conflicts in foreign countries has become commonplace for the United States," Putin wrote. "Is it in America's long-term interest? I doubt it."

Conservative pundit Charles Krauthammer suggested this week that the editorial directly reflected on Obama's leadership.

"These are the fruits of a completely incompetent, epically incompetent foreign policy diplomacy by Obama," Krauthammer said on Fox News. "I mean, this, what we're seeing here is Putin so confident of himself after Obama had to acquiesce to this face-saving negotiation that he could actually engage in this."

Despite Putin's suggestion, contrary to U.S. evidence, that Assad didn't use chemical weapons in the Aug. 21 attack, Andrew Kuchins, director of the Russia and Eurasia Program at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, said when a U.N. report on Syria is release next week, Putin might suddenly appear far less in control of the situation.

"It may appear that [Putin] has the upper hand now, but if there's more evidence to suggest the Russian position about what happens on Aug. 21 is untenable," Kuchins said, "then the upper hand comes back to us."

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