After weeks of Republicans criticizing President Obama's ISIS strategy, yet failing to actually say the thing they were trying to say, Speaker of the House John Boehner (R-OH), the highest-ranking Republican in the world, finally gave a straight answer to whether there should be U.S. ground troops in Syria.
On Sunday morning's This Week with George Stephanopoulos, Boehner took the familiar sitcom mother-in-law posture we've all come to know and love, first answering the question about American boots in Syria by saying "The president doesn't want to do that," and later insisting that Congress would love to vote on authorizing the action in Syria and Iraq, but Obama didn't ask for their opinion. Along the way, though, Stephanopoulos managed to pin Boehner down.
Boehner first tried the dodge that the president shouldn't be saying we won't use ground troops. "If I were the president, I probably wouldn't have talked about what I wouldn't do," Speaker Boehner said. "And maybe we can get enough of these forces trained and get ‘em on the battlefield. But somebody's boots have to be there."
"And if no one else will step up, would you recommend putting American boots on the ground?" Stephanopoulos asked.
"We have no choice," Boehner replied. "These are barbarians. They intend to kill us. And if we don't destroy them first, we're gonna pay the price."
The Speaker also made another important, point-blank admission toward the end of this clip:
"I think he does have the authority to do it. But the point I'm making is this is a proposal the Congress ought to consider."
It's ironic that the leader of the party that's been screeching and suing and impeach-baiting because Obama thinks he's a king has just essentially made President Obama a king. Although this has been obvious to me for months, it's just jarring to hear them come out and say it. Under current law, the President's claim of authority can only be limited by Congress, and to hear Speaker Boehner tell it, the only possible challenge to the authority President Obama is claiming would be if Obama asks for his authority to be limited.
As for ground troops in Syria, I've got good news for John Boehner: the White House has consistently, specifically not ruled out using ground troops in Syria, and has even consistently reminded people that they've already been doing that. They have also somehow managed to avoid the political and strategic consequences of that through the use of the most poorly-concealed Jedi mind trick ever. These aren't the forward-deployed, combat-ready, mission-specific 'droids you're looking for.
The bottom line is that nothing President Obama says will keep us from becoming mired in a hopeless Middle Eastern morass. Only the good judgment of our leaders will do that, and Boehner has made it clear that for the foreseeable future, President Obama's judgment will be the only game in town. Try that out on President Cruz and see how you like it.