Here's how the Obama folks have been starting to spin Syria. The president made a credible threat to use military force in Syria. At the same time, he worked behind the scenes to get Russia's Vladimir Putin to push Bashir al-Assad to give up chemical weapons.
These two seemingly discordant initiatives, brilliantly coordinated, combined to produce a process to eliminate Assad's chemical weapons without even a shot being fired across the bow.
Of course, every bit of this is false. Only the most credulous Obama fans are fooled.
Back on Aug. 20, 2012, in response to an intelligent question from NBC's Chuck Todd, the president said that the use of chemical weapons by Syria would be a "red line" that would "change my calculus."
That's a threat to go to war. As the Washington Post's Walter Pincus points out, once a president declares a red line, he should be prepared to back it up. He should order military contingency plans, consult with members of Congress and seek support from foreign governments.
There is no evidence that Obama did any of these things in a serious or sustained way in the 366 days between his red-line statement and the use of chemical weapons in the suburbs of Damascus — not even after British and French intelligence reported the use of chemical weapons last spring.
Then during the week of Aug. 26-30, leaks poured out from the administration that Obama would order air strikes in Syria, but only little ones. Regime change was off the table.
On Friday night before the Labor Day weekend, Obama suddenly decided, during a walk in the White House grounds, to seek congressional approval.
Were any soundings taken of congressional opinion before that decision? It doesn't seem likely.
Even the slightest pulse-taking would have suggested that getting majority approval would be difficult in a House of Representatives where most Republicans mistrust the president and most Democrats are congenitally dovish.
Especially when public opinion strongly opposed any military intervention.
Attempts to propitiate Democrats by stressing that air strikes would be only a pinprick inevitably repelled Republicans willing to support only measures that would weaken or dislodge the Assad regime.
After Labor Day, as media vote counts started showing a majority of House members voting or leaning no, White House Chief of Staff Denis McDonough, who accompanied Obama on his Friday night walk, was still predicting that the administration would prevail. That was either insincere or delusional.
The claim that the Russians agreed to push Syria on chemical weapons only because Obama threatened to use force requires a belief they thought he would do so after an adverse congressional vote. Not likely.
Nor is it likely that John Kerry's statement in his Monday press conference in London that the attack could be avoided if Syria submitted to international inspections was part of a calculated strategy. Kerry's next words were, "But he isn't about to do it, and it can't be done, obviously."
Kerry was winging it, and so was Obama when he spoke favorably of Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov's offer to push Syria to give up its poison gas.
So the president's Wednesday night speech included words supporting military action and other words explaining that it wasn't necessary.
It can be argued that Obama's decision to hold off on air strikes and negotiate with the Russians is better for the United States in the short run than the other two alternatives on offer — ineffective air strikes or a landslide repudiation of the commander in chief by Congress.
But in the long run, it's a terrible setback for America.
Richard Nixon and Henry Kissinger muscled the Soviet Union out of Middle East diplomacy back in 1973. In the 40 years since, American presidents have kept the Russians out.
Now they're back in. A nation with a declining population, a weakened military and an economy propped up only by oil and gas exports has suddenly made itself the key interlocutor in the region.
Obama has allowed this even though it's obvious that effective disarmament is impossible in a nation riven by civil war and ruled by a regime with every incentive and inclination to lie and conceal.
The negotiations and any fig-leaf inspection process can be dragged out for weeks, months and years, as Saddam Hussein demonstrated.
Obama said he hoped to degrade Syria's chemical weapons program. Instead he has degraded his own — and America's — credibility.
(Syndicated columnist Michael Barone is senior political analyst for The Washington Examiner, is a resident fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, a Fox News Channel contributor and co-author of The Almanac of American Politics.)
Last Updated on Wednesday, 31 December 1969 07:00
To The Daily Sun,
First, I want to make it clear that I am writing this as a single member of the Board of Selectman. My opinions expressed in this letter should in no way be interpreted as representing those of anyone else on the board individually or as the view of the board as a whole.
The Board of Selectmen, relative to whether or not there was cause to remove two elected planning board members from office, conducted a public hearing recently. There was much uproar about the process of how that hearing came about and very little about the actual conduct of the two members in question. That was certainly unfortunate and by anyone's standards it could have been handled better. However, in this case the conduct occurred entirely in the public eye, recorded on video and recorded in the official minutes of the meeting. Neither I, nor anyone else had to rely on some anonymous complaint to determine whether or not the actions of the members actually took place. This was conduct, which occurred, in an open hearing for a Conditional Use Permit, conduct that was not refuted in any way by one of the members during their hearing.
The focus should have been and should be on the conduct of the two Planning Board members during the public hearing for the Bear's Nest application. This was for a lookout tower that had been constructed without any building permit, and was in violation of two portions of the Zoning Ordinance. During that hearing, both members stated repeatedly and emphatically that it was their opinion that the application before them failed to meet one or more of the required criteria necessary for approval. One member voted "no" on three of the required criteria, but then choose to vote for the application's approval. That member continued to state that they felt the application was in violation of the ordinance but that it was a "has been", referring to the fact that the building already existed. When questioned further about changing their mind, their statement was "I didn't change my mind, I changed my vote". In other words, they still felt that the application was in violation of the ordinance, but were voting for its approval anyway.
The second member in question also felt that the application did not meet the requirements of the Zoning Ordinance and stated so repeatedly during the hearing. He also stated at the beginning of the hearing "If I may, I do not think in any way the fact that something has already been built should affect our decision at all". Yet when it came time to actually vote and weigh in on whether or not the applicant had met the criteria, he refused to vote on one of the criteria and then abstained on another. When questioned by fellow board members about that conduct he stated, "I abstained on those two, um, for the reason that there is a reality here... the alternative really is to deny it and the effect of that would be to either require that it be moved or taken down or some other, or maybe we go to court for six months or a year...". He followed that with, "I guess in further, to further my thoughts on the thing. I think that the board ought to very carefully consider what happens if we say no. I don't like being held, to have my feet held to the fire." When that member was asked why he didn't just vote then on those two criteria he responded, "Because I am not going to say that I believe that they passed, that they met those two criteria." In other words, much like the member mentioned above, this member also did not feel that the necessary criteria had been met, yet they then proceeded to make the motion to approve the application and voted for it in the end.
The issue at hand is this: members of our land-use boards are not there to do what they think is in the best interest of the public or the voters. Their duty is to protect the public interest as embodied in the zoning ordinance. This is a very important distinction! The overall integrity of our zoning ordinance is an invisible party to every case and part of their function is to protect its interests! The question that should be asked in every case is, "Could we allow EVERYBODY whose property is in these same circumstances to do the same thing, and still preserve the integrity of the zoning ordinance?" In this particular case, we have two Planning Board members who repeatedly stated that this application did not meet the requirements of our zoning ordinance, but still failed to protect it by voting accordingly! There should have been no consideration given as to the possible consequences of their particular vote, whether in the affirmative or negative, other than would their decision uphold the integrity of the zoning ordinance. It shouldn't have mattered how deep they perceived the applicant's pockets to be, or how impressive the applicant's attorney was in presenting their case, or the perceived threat of a lawsuit if the application was denied, all that should have mattered was whether the applicant met the requirements of the zoning ordinance. In this case these two members felt that the applicant had fallen short but would not or could not do their duty and uphold our zoning ordinance.
At the end of the day, I believe that the conduct of these two Planning Board members dealt a serious blow to the integrity of our zoning ordinance. In doing so, I also believe that damage was done to the credibility of any enforcement attempts in the future regarding our zoning ordinance. It has been stated by some that we as a Board of Selectmen should have challenged the Planning Board's decision in Superior Court. It is my opinion that if these two Planning Board members had done their duty that would not have been necessary, nor would it have addressed the much more serious issue. It is one thing for our land-use board members to faithfully apply our zoning ordinance, make a judgment call on any given application as to whether or not it meets the required criteria and then vote accordingly. In those cases one might still disagree with their decision, but they will have followed the law and applied it to the best of their ability. If however, we have members who will not vote to uphold our zoning ordinance even when they think and publicly state that it would be violated by a particular application, then what is the point of having a zoning ordinance in the first place?
Jonathan W. Tolman
Selectman, Town of Moultonborough
Last Updated on Friday, 13 September 2013 01:54
To The Daily Sun,
I read with great sadness of the passing of Bob Kingsbury, a true patriot and gentleman who loved his country. I had the great pleasure and honor of meeting Mr. Kingsbury at several rallies and meetings over the past two years. He stood out to me as a very patriotic gentleman who was proud to have served his country. At a time when I was researching my father's service in the army in WWII and tracing his footsteps through the European theater of operations, Mr. Kingsbury was a wealth of information and was more than patient and gracious with his time.
My father, too, fought at the Battle of the Bulge. Mr. Kingsbury was kind enough to relate some information on that battle to me as well as give me some very informative publications he had written on the subject. His thoughts and insight into that great Battle gave me a much better picture of what my Father and so many other brave young men had endured.
To read that Rep. David Huot did not think Mr. Kingsbury's views made him a candidate to serve the public was really offensive to me. We need more people like Bob Kingsbury! He was the epitome of a true American patriot and a part of that greatest generation the likes of which I fear we may never see again. It might interest Rep. Huot to know that Bob Kingsbury's views are the views many Americans share, myself included. His passing is a great loss and he will be greatly missed by me and many others at future rallies and meetings.
Last Updated on Thursday, 12 September 2013 10:16
To The Daily Sun,
It is quite telling when a former judge and sitting state representative can write about someone who has just passed away as though it doesn't matter what he says about him. I am referring to the recent letter Mr. Huot wrote, which had tasteless comments about the Honorable Representative Kingsbury. It is confirmation of the trouble we are all in. Mr. Huot of ALL people should know that Representative Kingsbury was ELECTED BY THE PEOPLE. It is clear that Mr. Huot's vanity supersedes his intelligence, because by Mr. Huots standards, when he lacks the ability to agree with Representative Kingsbury, he thinks Representative Kingsbury shouldn't have served the people who elected him! Mr. Huot has shown his true, dirty, liberal colors. Mr. Huot lacks respect for our God-given rights to ELECT WHOM WE CHOSE and the long honored right for Representative Kingsbury's TO SERVE AS AN ELECTED OFFICIAL.
I for one will always remember the time Representative Kingsbury took to talk to his constituents and listen when they spoke. He is going to be sorely missed by those who love this state and country. Representative Kingsbury had more class in his baby finger than Mr. Huot will ever have, because with Mr. Huot's over inflated ego, there is simply no room for class.
Last Updated on Thursday, 12 September 2013 10:11
To The Daily Sun,
This is a response to Rep. David Huot's letter to the editor dated Sept. 10 (http://www.laconiadailysun.com/index.php/opinion/letters/71361-rep-david-o-huot-9-5-114-priority), which gave "recognition" to a great man, the late Rep. Bob Kingsbury, a soldier, father, friend, and patriot.
I initially thought it was nice of Rep. Huot to "reach across the aisle" with his (limited) admiration of Rep. Kingsbury, until I got to the point in his letter where he said "...some of us did not think it wise that a person with his views should serve in public office..." I just about fell off of my chair!
I was going to keep my opinion to myself but as I carried on my work at my computer that awful gut feeling didn't go away; something just kept tugging at me to not "just sit around and complain (but to voice my views) openly and honestly," a virtue Rep. Huot's letter seems to extol.
So here is open and honest: I can't believe that Rep. Huot, an elected official — a judge for 30 years — who is purportedly so well acquainted with our legal and political process to have decided the fate of thousands of litigants spanning three decades — would have the arrogance and haughtiness to condemn Rep. Kingsbury's "wisdom" for serving in public office because of a view or set of views that he holds which happen to contrary to the author.
That narrow-minded reasoning is tantamount to saying "unless your opinions can be inserted comfortably into Judge Huot's little partisan container, it would be unwise to serve in public office." That one line of Rep. Huot's "reasoning" alone exemplifies the depravity of partisan representation, calls into question the "wisdom" and discretion he used for so many years on the judicial bench, and has made an abject mockery of the 70-year legacy of Rep. Kingsbury's service. He should be ashamed of himself and he owes the late Rep. Kingsbury a public apology.
Last Updated on Thursday, 12 September 2013 10:07