If there’s anything that annoys liberals more than the constant derpy comparisons of Barack Obama to Ronald Reagan, it is President Obama’s (and before that, Senator Obama’s) constant stream of praise for Saint Ronnie. You know what I’m talking about, shit like this:
Yes, we can… throw up a little.
We’ve all probably believed/wished that this was just some shit Obama had to say to get “Reagan (White) Democrats” to vote for him, and in a New York Times article this past weekend, that cherished hope was confirmed. According to New York Times White House correspondent Peter Baker, the President let Reagan have it while meeting with guests before his big speech last Tuesday:
At one point, Mr. Obama noted acidly that President Ronald Reagan sent Marines to Lebanon only to have hundreds of them killed in a terrorist attack because of terrible planning, and then withdrew the remaining ones, leaving behind a civil war that lasted years. But Reagan, he noted, is hailed as a titan striding the earth.
And, AND, he refused to call it an act of terror!
The rest of the article is chock-full of unguarded commentary by the commander-in-chief, including the advice he would have given to ISIS on an effective alternative to beheading, all of it based on this rather convoluted bit of attribution:
The president invited a group of foreign policy experts and former government officials to dinner on Monday, and a separate group of columnists and magazine writers for a discussion on Wednesday afternoon. Although three New York Times columnists and an editorial writer were among those invited to the second session, this account is drawn from people unaffiliated with The Times, some of whom insisted on anonymity because they were not supposed to share details of the conversations.
This is not to say that the account is unreliable, it is pretty well-sourced, or that the president necessarily expected his comments to remain private, since many of the guests were not journalists, including former Bush administration officials. But it is a strange and murky way to skirt off-the-record rules, a practice that has become more and more common. A news outlet attends an off-the-record session, and then another journalist leaks to that outlet anonymously, and the letter of the agreement is honored.
Unlike some blind-quote-heavy content, though, Baker’s piece has great news value, even aside from the awesome Reagan slam. In among the surprisingly candid assessments of his critics, and of the politics of the ISIS crisis, the president also revealed his thinking on attacking Syrian government targets:
He made clear the intricacy of the situation, though, as he contemplated the possibility that Mr. Assad might order his forces to fire at American planes entering Syrian airspace. If he dared to do that, Mr. Obama said he would order American forces to wipe out Syria’s air defense system, which he noted would be easier than striking ISIS because its locations are better known. He went on to say that such an action by Mr. Assad would lead to his overthrow, according to one account.
It was a revelation that White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest would only obliquely confirm this week, and a window into the power this president feels, as well as how he intends to wield it. In his speech later that night, the president would announce a shift from defense to offense, but the administration has been pounding offensive pegs into defensive holes for weeks, and will continue to fit everything it can under the wide umbrella of the president’s war powers.