William Galston wrings his hands over Obama’s recent criticism of his Syria critics:
Mr. Obama knows that proposals to further embroil the U.S. in another Middle Eastern conflict are very unpopular—especially with the base of the Democratic Party. He cannot possibly believe that Mrs. Clinton would advocate a no-fly zone to improve her chances of winning the nomination. As he understands full well, she is saying what she believes, consistent with her past (spurned) advice to him, and with the perspective and knowledge of a veteran senior government official.
It is hard to believe that Clinton would think that endorsing the insanity of a “no-fly zone” in Syria improves her chances of winning the nomination. To the extent that Democratic voters are paying attention to this, it will almost certainly make things more difficult for her during the nomination contest. Even so, Galston misses the point here. Obama obviously thinks the position Clinton has endorsed is a bad one (and it is), but because she is the front-runner for his party’s nomination he probably thinks he has to minimize her support for an irresponsible policy and dismiss it as nothing more than a maneuver. In other words, he is cutting Clinton slack because he doesn’t want to damage her political prospects, which is what he would do if he treated her as the person with the horrible foreign policy judgment that she clearly is. Clinton’s position is much worse than Obama suggests. She isn’t “playing politics” in the sense that she is pandering to her party’s voters, but rather she is instinctively backing more aggressive measures as she has always done throughout her public career. It’s part of a pattern of making terrible decisions regarding military intervention that she has exhibited for the last two decades.
Clinton’s preference for a more hawkish approach to Syria is proof that as bad as Obama’s Syria policy has been it is easy to imagine how it could be worse and more costly for the U.S.