Tags: Syria | david | gergen | syria | obama

David Gergen: Obama 'Winging It' on Syria

Sunday, 01 Sep 2013 04:22 PM

By Greg Richter

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President Barack Obama's administration appears to be "winging it" on Syria, says commentator and former presidential adviser David Gergen.

Obama did the right thing seeking congressional approval for military action against Syria, and he is likely to get it, but the way he went about asking for it raises new questions about his leadership, Gergen told CNN on Sunday.

"This has been messy. They look like they're winging it," Gergen said. "From day to day you never know quite where they are."

Obama drew a "red line" a year ago, warning Syrian President Bashar Assad that use of chemical weapons would force the United States to consider taking action in the country's civil war. Syria is believed to have crossed that red line multiple times since, but video last month showing victims of an attack that killed more than 1,000, including more than 200 children drew new calls for action.

Gergen, who has served three Republican presidents and Democrat Bill Clinton, said Obama made the statement "casually" and had not thought it through before making it.

"He does not want to do this. It's obvious," Gergen said. "But were it not for the red line I don't think that he would be."

"We've been hearing from a week now that it's coming, the military is coming, there's going to be action," Gergen said. "Everybody thought when he went out in the Rose Garden yesterday he was going to go out and announce that military action was under way."

Instead, Obama said he would seek Congress' backing and that it didn't matter if the United States waited for weeks to act. A week earlier, the White House said action should be taken quickly because Assad could disperse his forces, making them hard to find.

Lately, Secretary of State John Kerry and Obama have been doing a better job delivering a decisive message, Gergen said. "But they have to keep that up now, because there's a sense, maybe they really don't have a grip on this."

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