Folks who aren't into assuming these kinds of decisions resemble a sixth grade playground altercation know that when it comes to Syria - there are no good options. And so I began to think about what I knew about how the President tends to handle those kinds of decisions.
I immediately thought of the article by Michael Lewis published in Vanity Fair back in October 2012 titled Obama's Way. At one point in the article, President Obama comments on the kind of analysis people like Dowd are engaged in.
One of the things you realize fairly quickly in this job is that there is a character people see out there called Barack Obama. That’s not you. Whether it is good or bad, it is not you.Lewis' article is also helpful in describing the President's decision-making process in a similar situation - whether or not to intervene in Libya. If you're interested in that, I'd suggest you go read page 6 of this rather lengthy article. To summarize, President Obama had a meeting with all "the principals" on his national security team. They presented him with a binary option of either a no-fly zone (which obviously wouldn't work) or doing nothing.
The idea was that the people in the meeting would debate the merits of each, but Obama surprised the room by rejecting the premise of the meeting. “He instantly went off the road map,” recalls one eyewitness. “He asked, ‘Would a no-fly zone do anything to stop the scenario we just heard?’” After it became clear that it would not, Obama said, “I want to hear from some of the other folks in the room.”And then Lewis makes this fascinating observation:
Obama then proceeded to call on every single person for his views, including the most junior people.
His desire to hear out junior people is a warm personality trait as much as a cool tactic, of a piece with his desire to play golf with White House cooks rather than with C.E.O.’s and basketball with people who treat him as just another player on the court; to stay home and read a book rather than go to a Washington cocktail party; and to seek out, in any crowd, not the beautiful people but the old people. The man has his status needs, but they are unusual. And he has a tendency, an unthinking first step, to subvert established status structures. After all, he became president.So if Dowd and others think that President Obama bent to the desires of his "daddy" Clinton on the issue of Syria, I'd suggest they're reacting out of their own projection onto a "character called Barack Obama." Reading Lewis will give you a small window into how the man actually operates.