Obama in his own words


This is a weighty but fascinating article – I recommend it heartily to Politics students! However, pulling out examples from such a lengthy piece is therefore unusually difficult. Therefore, I have pulled out some quotes to support certain aspects of Unit 4 in the Presidency topic. There is certainly more in the article than I have pulled out and it is worth reading it it’s entirety.

Evidence of the President being a singular executive with all the power and a weak cabinet: The quote is about the speech in which Obama outlined that the use of chemical weapons in Syria was a red line that would force the USA to act. “Even his own advisers were surprised. “I didn’t know it was coming,” his secretary of defense at the time, Leon Panetta, told me. I was told that Vice President Joe Biden repeatedly warned Obama against drawing a red line on chemical weapons, fearing that it would one day have to be enforced.”

Evidence of checks on the President in Foreign Policy: The quote is about enforcing the red line once it was clear that chemical weapons had been used. “But the president had grown queasy. In the days after the gassing of Ghouta, Obama would later tell me, he found himself recoiling from the idea of an attack unsanctioned by international law or by Congress.”

Evidence of a weak cabinet: The quote is about Obama’s reluctance to take action in Syria and how much the Cabinet actually knew. “Many of his advisers did not grasp the depth of the president’s misgivings; his Cabinet and his allies were certainly unaware of them”. Also, this quote supports a weak cabinet – the decision here is the decision not to take action in Syria; “Neither Chuck Hagel, then the secretary of defense, nor John Kerry was in the Oval Office when the president informed his team of his thinking.”

Evidence of importance of EXOP, especially WHO: The quote is about Obama choosing to not take action in Syria and how to explain it. “He asked McDonough, his chief of staff, to take a walk with him on the South Lawn of the White House. Obama did not choose McDonough randomly: He is the Obama aide most averse to U.S. military intervention, and someone who, in the words of one of his colleagues, “thinks in terms of traps.” Obama, ordinarily a preternaturally confident man, was looking for validation, and trying to devise ways to explain his change of heart, both to his own aides and to the public. He and McDonough stayed outside for an hour.”

Evidence of lack of importance of EXOP (in this case NSC): The quote reinforces that ultimately the President is a singular executive with power alone as he chose to ignore Rice’s advice. “Susan Rice, now Obama’s national-security adviser, argued that the damage to America’s credibility would be serious and lasting”

Evidence of powers of persuasion with Congress: The quote shows how Obama tried to persuade Congress but also could be used to show where powers lies as ultimately obama went back on his word. “Obama’s decision caused tremors across Washington as well. John McCain and Lindsey Graham, the two leading Republican hawks in the Senate, had met with Obama in the White House earlier in the week and had been promised an attack. They were angered by the about-face.”