Our Conflicted Commander in Chief

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from The Wall Street Journal,

Mr. Obama seized on Mr. Putin’s Syria offer like a drowning man grabs for a lifeline.

In his Tuesday afternoon visit with Senate Republicans on Capitol Hill, President Barack Obama said that his evening television address would not cause a 20-point rise in support in the polls for an attack on Syria. The president told GOP senators that while he was good, he was not that good. According to people in the room, the audience chuckled—after which Mr. Obama added, “Although I am pretty good.”

Actually no, Mr. President, you are not.

Mr. Obama’s speech will not significantly move the needle on public attitudes toward striking Syria. The address again showed the limits of the president’s ability to shape opinion, as with his health-care plan that became less popular the more he spoke about it.

Mr. Obama also used Tuesday’s speech to engage in some quick rewriting of history. For example, he explained that while as president he possesses “the authority to order military strikes,” he has asked for congressional approval because his predecessor was guilty of “sidelining the people’s representatives from the critical decisions about when we use force.”

Small problem: Congress overwhelmingly voted in September 2001 to authorize the use of force in Afghanistan and overwhelmingly in October 2002 to authorize the use of force against Iraq. The only president in the last decade to use military action without prior congressional approval was Mr. Obama, in Libya in 2011.

Mr. Putin saved Mr. Obama from a catastrophic congressional defeat, which is why the president seized on Mr. Putin’s offer like a drowning man grabs for a lifeline. In return, Russia receives a growing role in the Middle East for the first time since the early 1970s.

Such is the cost of Mr. Obama’s handiwork. Begin with his lack of strategic thinking, his unwillingness to provide patient leadership, and his failure to build strong relationships internationally. Add a profound absence of trust among congressional Republicans and a lack of goodwill even among congressional Democrats. All these have now come home to roost.

The nation is saddled with Mr. Obama for three more years. And yet, he thinks he’s “pretty good.”

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