Politico on the president's decision to ask for a congressional vote on Syria:
The upside to a win: Obama could get some of his juice back, both at home and abroad, and Congress would co-own the fallout if anything goes wrong in Syria.I'm sure you've read many variations on that "co-own" bit -- usually in the form of "Congress will co-own the outcome regardless of the vote." I just don't believe it's true -- it certainly won't be true if Obama loses the vote and launches an attack anyway, and I don't think it will be true even if Obama abides by the results of the vote.
What group of Americans is going to be upset at Congress if it votes down an attack, Obama stands down, and Assad's abuses increase? Americans are sick of war. To use the phrase Frank Rich started using in the waning years of the Bush administration, Americans have tuned out war -- this war, Afghanistan, Iraq, Egypt, Libya, whatever. Average Americans don't like the wars and feel powerless to alter their course. They can't figure out who are the good guys and who are the bad guys, who's on our side (is anybody?) and who's a dangerous enemy. Whatever happens in Syria will just seem like more of that muddle.
And if there's an attack on Syria, most Americans will associate it exclusively with the administration. The president isn't going to announce the beginning of the attack in a prime-time speech flanked by John Boehner and Harry Reed. Members of Congress aren't going to be briefing reporters on how the attacks are going -- that's going to fall to John Kerry and Chuck Hagel and other members of the Executive Branch.
If there's a real benefit for Obama and Democrats, it might be that a vote to endorse the attack will make crazy-base Republicans even angrier and more determined to root out "RINOs" (yes, supporting military action now make you a "RINO"), which means even more energy devoted to primarying fellow Republicans. Some Republican voters may succeed in making some Republican officeholders "co-own" any attack.
But there'll be a dozen hot-button issues between the time the bombs stop dropping and November 2014, so I think even that effect will be limited. Remember, we have Obamacare kicking off, and Republicans have a government they want to shut down or drive into default. That's going to mean much, much more in next year's elections.