August 26, 2014

THE COUNTRY’S IN THE VERY BEST OF HANDS. The Hill: White House struggles with message on threat of ISIS.

The White House is struggling to deliver a clear message on the threat posed by radical Islamist group ISIS and what the administration might do to counteract it.

Officials have sowed confusion by giving different statements at different times on the level of danger posed by the Islamic group, whose full name is the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria.

Obama’s decision last year to ask Congress for authority to level Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s forces with air strikes is also haunting the administration as it mulls strikes in Syria against ISIS. There have been no guarantees that similar Congressional approval will be sought this time around.

White House press secretary Josh Earnest was peppered with questions on the issue Monday. Referring to the proposed strikes against the Assad regime last year, Earnest responded, “That was a different situation, right?”

But he said little that was definitive about whether attacks against ISIS in Syria are now being considered. Any such action would represent a major escalation from the current situation, in which the U.S. is carrying out airstrikes against ISIS positions in northwestern Iraq.

Strikes within Syria would not merely represent a significant ramping-up of U.S, military action. They would also risk providing de facto assistance to the Assad regime, even while the United States hopes that government will be deposed.

The issue of congressional approval for strikes inside Syria was given another twist late on Monday when Sen. Tim Kaine (Va.), a Democrat known to be close to Obama, issued a statement insisting that “I do not believe that our expanded military operations against ISIL are covered under existing authorizations from Congress.”

Our junior-varsity administration is in over its head, and even they’re starting to notice. But they’re still dragging their feet.

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