President Barack Obama appears to be dangerously close to what would be an historic rebuke at the hands of Congress, if the current whip-count projections on the authorization to attack Syria continue to hold.
Pundits on both sides of the aisle say losing the high-stakes bid for congressional authorization would make Obama an instant lame-duck, and might well endanger his entire second-term agenda.
The resolution authorizing an attack on Syrian strongman Bashar Assad, as punishment for his use of chemical weapons against his own people, is still expected to pass the Democratic-controlled Senate.
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But the real question mark all along has been whether the administration could muster enough support to get the attack resolution through the House. And there, the situation for the administration appears to be growing dimmer by the hour.
Various news organizations are contacting members of Congress to see where they stand on the attack authorization. While each outlet has different numbers, the ominous sign for the administration is that all of them show the "no" votes outpacing the "yes" votes by a more than a 3-1 margin.
Most alarming for the administration may be The Washington Post whip count.
The Post has contacted 371 of the 435 members of the House. Of those contacted, 204 representatives are against authorization or leaning against it. That compares to 24 members in favor and 143 members who are undecided, and 48 of the undecided representatives are Republicans.
Of the undecided members, the Post reports, many of them have yet to receive the administration’s intelligence briefing on the sarin gas attack in Syria. About 25 percent of those opposed to the authorization are Democrats, which means the resistance to the proposal is clearly bipartisan.
Of course, there's always the chance that last-minute lobbying by the administration will change the political calculus. But with an election year looming and both the Democratic and GOP bases opposed to further military excursions in the Middle East, the Obama administration appears to be in serious trouble.
Obama canceled a scheduled trip on Monday to California so he can remain in Washington to lobby legislators before the vote. There are indications he also may make a nationally televised address in a bid to rally public support.
The concern that Congress might balk at authorizing the attack, just as the House of Commons did in Britain, was precisely the reason several Obama aides argued strongly against the president’s surprise announcement on Saturday to ask Congress to OK his war plans against Syria.
On Thursday afternoon, as the whip counts were being tallied, the realization dawned in the nation’s capital that President Obama is perilously close to what would be an historic, humiliating international rebuke.
To date, no major military power or international organization has supported Obama’s stated intention to launch a cruise-missile barrage at Assad, the so-called "shot across the bow."
Aaron Blake and Sean Sullivan of The Washington Post reported the prospects for getting the measure through the House "are looking progressively dimmer for the Obama administration."
On Wednesday, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee sent the resolution to the full Senate chamber by a 10-7 vote. But by Thursday, there appeared to be a growing groundswell of opinion against the proposal.
On his radio program Thursday, Fox host Geraldo Rivera announced that he had changed his mind and will now oppose the initiation of any hostilities against Assad, saying, "I can’t support this decision to get involved in the Syrian civil war."
In an email statement to Newsmax, Rivera elaborated on his change of heart.
"If a punitive strike is called for in Syria," Rivera said in an email, "why wasn't a punitive strike called for in Libya after Ambassador Stevens and his three brave colleagues were killed last year in Benghazi?
"Assad committed a crime against humanity. It's the world's job to punish [him], not just ours."
The veteran newsman and commentator went on to predict that the resolution will fail.
"Congress will not approve this, and the president must not defy the obvious and growing opposition to this ill-advised and admittedly ill-defined act," he wrote. "Once a missile is lobbed, there is no such thing as a limited and measured result."
If Obama were to lose on the key congressional vote, the political repercussions would be profound.
Veteran pollster and columnist Matt Towery of Insider/Advantage Polling tells Newsmax that Obama’s support in the House looks so shaky right now it could even begin to cost him support in the Senate.
"I think the president is in extraordinarily deep trouble, as are the House leaders who put their necks out on this," Towery tells Newsmax.
He added that with the vote in the House scheduled soon after Congress returns to session on Sept. 9, the clock is already running out for Obama to recapture the momentum.
"The sense of urgency is about to be lost here," he said.
Democratic pollster and Fox News commentator Doug Schoen, a contributor to Newsmax magazine, says that everyone will lose if support for the resolution implodes.
"Obama will seek to blame the Republicans if he loses the vote on Syria, as he has with issue after issue, time after time. On this occasion," he said, "I believe the strategy will fail — if only because as the United States comes to look weaker and weaker, so too will President Obama."
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The biggest losers in the battle, Towery says, may be House Leaders John Boehner and Eric Cantor, because they have voiced support for the measure.
"I don't think this will be a history-making failure on Obama's part, because I think his presidency is basically at a point where it is viewed as ineffective and pretty much at its end anyway. This may be the bow at the top of the package marking the ineffectiveness in the second term. But I don’t think this will be a new emblem of failure. I mean, we’re already there," Towery said.
But he added: "It would be very difficult for Boehner and Cantor to be re-elected to leadership of the House, with this sort of revolt on their hands."
He also called the division within the GOP between the leadership and the base "a harbinger of things to come."
"A Republican Party that is barely holding itself together at the seams in my opinion is splitting itself apart," Towery said. "In my opinion, that’s almost as big a story as a president who in his second term is proving to be almost completely ineffective."
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