This morning, in a post on Syria, chemical weapons, and how Obama would react to reports that Assad had used them, I asked “Will Obama Study Calculus?” Apparently, based on remarks he made after I posted, the answer is yes!:
OBAMA: The Use Of Chemical Weapons In Syria Will ‘Change My Calculus’
“To use weapons of mass destruction on civilian populations crosses another line in terms of international norms and laws,” Obama told reporters in the Oval Office, according to a White House pool report.
“That’s going to be a game changer.”
Asked whether Syrian President Bashar al-Assad had crossed a “red line” by using chemical weapons, however, Obama hedged carefully:
“Knowing that there’s chemical weapons in Syria doesn’t tell us when they were used or how they were used. We ourselves will be putting a lot of resources on this,” he said, according to the pool report. “A line has been crossed when we are seeing tens of thousands killed by the regime.”
“For the Syrian Government to use chemical weapons on its people will change my calculus,” Obama added. “This is not an on and off switch, it’s an on going challenge that all of us have to work with.”
Earlier Friday, White House Press Secretary Jay Carney also took steps to hedge the administration’s claim that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad had used chemical weapons against the opposition.
“We are continuing to work to build on the assessments made by the intelligence community, that the degrees of confidence here are varying, that this is not an airtight case,” Carney told reporters.
Note the use of use of the word “hedge” twice: who knew Obama was so into risk management?
He also said:
“Obtaining confirmation and strong evidence, all of those things we have to make sure that we work on with the international community,” the president said. “And we ourselves are going to be putting a lot of resources into focusing on this.”
Leading from behind. Again. And talk about lawyerly caviling (which I did in this morning’s post)-his remarks are about as perfect an example of political circumlocution as you’re ever likely to see. All in all, playing to the form I predicted in the morning.