Way back in 1997, a noteworthy black comedy film Wag the Dog put forward the story of a scandal-ridden president who managed to win re-election by ginning up a fake war to kick his wrongdoing off the front pages.
Then Bill Clinton, beset by the Monica Lewinsky scandal, flung some bombs around in Sudan, supposedly because terrorists were there but actually just taking out a pharmaceutical factory and a few camels. He'd already been re-elected, but he did manage to not get impeached. Accusations that he was trying to "wag the dog" swirled ever since.
Politicians have known for a long time that war drums can drown out the noise of a tar-and-feather mob. Thanks to the blatancy of the movie, though, ordinary people have figured this out. What worked well in the past worked not quite so smoothly for Bill Clinton.
And then there's Barack Obama, whose own attempt to "wag the dog" in Syria fell so flat as to lead to the British Parliament's first rejection of a prime minister's request for war approval in nearly three hundred years. Remember the old 60s bumper sticker "What if they gave a war and nobody came?" Congratulations, Mr. Obama, you just became a 60s slogan!
The far left is celebrating this victory for peaceniks, and they're at least partially entitled to a victory dance. Syria is not worth one cent of our money or one drop of our blood; we'd sooner make money by selling weapons to both sides, cash on the barrelhead of course.
Indeed, if by looking like a fool and persuading nobody Mr. Obama has diminished the power of the presidency a wee bit, that's not entirely bad. In our view, Congress is supposed to have the power to declare war, and the president is not supposed to be able to just whack anybody he feels like unless they attack us first - which is the one evil deed Bashar Assad has been careful to not do. With next to nobody in office or on Main Street really wanting this war except Mr. Obama himself, it's good to know that there actually are limits to our Imperial presidency.
If Mr. Obama's purpose was a war, that's been foiled. We don't think it was, though; his recent speech on the subject can't have convinced even himself.
No, it seems more likely that he too was trying to "wag the dog" and change the subject away from Benghazi, IRS anti-Tea-Party bigotry, the Fast and Furious murderous gunrunning, and on and on. On that scoreboard, Mr. Obama is pretty close to declaring victory: the scandals have all dropped off the charts entirely.
Even his failed "pivot to the economy" isn't so bad. When he tried to give a speech on that topic, it was mostly pre-empted by the massacre at the Washington Navy Yard. So America got to see the brief news blip "President gives speech on economy," but didn't have to hear the Same Old Speech he's given any number of times before and which will create exactly zero new jobs just like last time.
Really, what Mr. Obama needs is a pivot away from the continued flat economy, away from ongoing foreign-policy disasters, away from the budget battles with Congress... hmm, what does that leave? Not much.
Perhaps it's time to see how things go when someone else is controlling the narrative, just like Mr. Putin grabbed the foreign-policy spotlight and Congress and the American people slapped Mr. Obama's hand off the "War" button. It couldn't be that much worse.
Over the past five years, the editors have been secretly working on a book that summarizes the fundamental viewpoints of Scragged.