Decisiveness Overrated? White House Thinks Yes

Posted September 12, 2013 at 3:34pm

President Barack Obama’s Syria strategy may not have been particularly decisive, but that’s not a bad thing, according to the White House.

White House Press Secretary Jay Carney defended his boss Thursday after a blistering few weeks of criticism in Congress and elsewhere over his handling of the Syria crisis.

Carney said the American people “appreciate a president who doesn’t celebrate decisiveness for decisiveness’ sake.” He also said Americans like that Obama is open to “new information” and adjusts his course accordingly.

Carney said that in the end, the president will deserve credit if the diplomatic initiative with Russia to get Syria to give up its chemical weapons arsenal succeeds.

Carney brushed off criticism from the Syrian rebels that simply taking Assad’s chemical weapons does not hold him accountable for the gassing of his citizens.

And he reacted strongly to Vladimir V. Putin’s op-ed in The New York Times, which ripped Obama for calling America “exceptional.” But Carney didn’t go so far as to say the president was “insulted,” as Speaker John A. Boehner, R-Ohio, did earlier Thursday.

“We’re not surprised by President Putin’s words. But the fact is that Russia offers a stark contrast that demonstrates why America is exceptional,” Carney said.

“Unlike Russia, the United States stands up for democratic values and human rights in our own country and around the world. And we believe that our global security is advanced when children cannot be gassed to death by a dictator,” he said.

Carney said Russia “is isolated and alone in blaming the opposition for the chemical weapons attack on Aug. 21.”

And he said that there’s “a great irony” in Putin placing an op-ed “because it reflects the truly exceptional tradition in this country of freedom of expression. And that is not a tradition shared in Russia.”

That said, Carney sought to keep the pressure on Russia to deliver on its proposal with a verifiable, timely destruction of Syria’s chemical weapons.

Russia “has put its prestige and credibility on the line in backing this proposal to have Syria, the Assad regime, give up the chemical weapons that until two days ago it claimed it did not have [and] turn them over to international supervision with the purpose of eventually destroying them.”