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2013 in Review: What I Got Wrong

Ross Douthat reviews his arguments from 2013 and identifies some of his mistakes. He says this about his prediction that Congressional rejection of a Syria resolution would have wrecked the remainder of Obama’s presidency:

This prediction was overtaken by events when Vladimir Putin offered the White House a face-saving way out. But even though the fateful vote never took place, my apocalyptic tone was unwarranted and overwrought. Not that the Syria debate wasn’t bad for the administration’s credibility. But in hindsight I’m not sure a lost vote would have made the damage that much worse.

In the same spirit, I want to look back at what I’ve said over the past year and acknowledge my worst misjudgments. Back in June, when it was reported that the administration had decided to provide some weapons to part of the Syrian opposition, I assumed that this was the beginning of a common pattern of gradual escalation and increasing involvement in a foreign conflict that we had seen before. The decision itself was a lousy one on the merits, and it is fortunately one that has since been rendered mostly irrelevant by subsequent events, but it wasn’t as significant as I feared and has not amounted to much in the six months since. More egregiously, I assumed that Obama wouldn’t ask Congress for authorization to attack Syria (because he didn’t do so in 2011 for the Libyan war and didn’t believe their authorization was required), and I assumed the administration wouldn’t be willing to pay the price for a deal that would give it cover to avoid attacking Syria, and on both of those I was just wrong.

During the shutdown foolishness, I paid too much attention to how the damage from the shutdown would affect the 2014 elections. Whatever damage the GOP suffered from its easily avoided self-inflicted wound, it doesn’t appear to have lost them their chance to take control of the Senate, and so talking about its impact on Senate races was premature at best. At the start of the year, I greatly overestimated Marco Rubio’s ability to finesse the immigration issue, which I assumed he would cynically exploit just long enough to get some positive media coverage before abandoning his support for bad legislation. As it turned out, Rubio succeeded only in wrecking his standing with many of his conservative supporters and spent the rest of the year desperately bidding to regain their affection.

about the author

Daniel Larison is a senior editor at TAC, where he also keeps a solo blog. He has been published in the New York Times Book Review, Dallas Morning News, World Politics Review, Politico Magazine, Orthodox Life, Front Porch Republic, The American Scene, and Culture11, and was a columnist for The Week. He holds a PhD in history from the University of Chicago, and resides in Lancaster, PA. Follow him on Twitter.

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