By Eugene Robinson, Opinion Writer
The Obama administration keeps undermining its own case for a punitive strike in Syria. If the president wants permission from Congress and support from the American people, he and his aides had better get their story straight.
The “messaging,” to use an unfortunate Washington term, has been confusing, contradictory and halfhearted. The nation simply will not approve going to war if its leaders cannot coherently explain what they want to do, how they plan to do it and why.
Secretary of State John Kerry threw mud into turbid waters Monday when he said the attack would be an “unbelievably small, limited kind of effort.” This punch line came at the end of a string of similar assurances: no “troops on the ground,” nothing “prolonged,” merely a “very targeted, short-term” affair.
But if the attack is designed to be so limited, why bother? Why not just send a special envoy to give Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad a stern talking-to, followed perhaps by a reassuring hug?
First on CNN: Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid has turned down a Russian request to meet to discuss Syria, his office says, making it unclear if any U.S. lawmakers will sit down with a planned delegation from Moscow.
This comes less than a day after House Speaker John Boehner rejected a similar request from the Russian government.
A spokesman for the Russian embassy would not comment on the declined requests. “We are still working on the visit,” Maxim Abramov said.
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