President Barack Obama held a 48-minute press conference Tuesday at the White House, addressing a number of key issues and highlighting why so many are mired in gridlock.
The two most important were the possible military intervention in Syria and the continued failure of Congress to cooperate with his efforts on a wide range of fronts.
On Syria Mr. Obama is trying to deal with a difficult situation in which, after his unwise drawing of a red line against chemical weapons use there, certain elements want to see the United States enter the conflict. The latest New York Times/CBS News Poll showed that 62 percent of Americans do not support intervention in the fighting. Yet the defense industry, a Pentagon worried about a shrinking budget and Israel, which wants America to be distracted from pressing it for a Middle East solution, are pushing for U.S. military action.
Mr. Obama pushed back in the press conference, noting the lack of clarity in intelligence on chemical weapons use in Syria, argued against taking the country into war without more certainty and international agreement. This contrasts with the Bush administration debacle in dragging the country into the eight-year war in Iraq.
In response to a reporter who suggested that the president no longer had the ability to push his programs through Congress, Mr. Obama slammed the Senate for requiring 60 votes, instead of the normal 50-plus-one majority on its bills. He acknowledged pain and irritation on budget sequestration, citing the fact that Congress had broken the rules of that measure by moving money around in the Federal Aviation Administration budget to meet short-term concerns as opposed to long-term needs.
He urged Congress to pursue "common-sense solutions" to problems facing the country, claiming it was not his job to get members to behave. He expressed an intention to continue to work hard on immigration reform and to take up again the problem of the prisoners, many of whom are on a hunger strike, at the U.S. Naval Station in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.
Mr. Obama's attitude could be described as realistic and practical, but also judgmental and petulant with reference to a Congress which seems to oppose everything he proposes, sometimes just for the sake of it. It is hard to see how the country benefits from this situation in Washington.