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National Editorials & Columns

Presidential Dithering

John Kerry put on quite a war dance in the Senate on Tuesday.

The secretary of state, backed up by Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel and Joint Chiefs Chairman Martin Dempsey, went before the Foreign Relations Committee to urge senators to support the newly drafted resolution giving President Obama authorization to use airstrikes in Syria.

Kerry made some impressive arguments in favor of military action.

He said the evidence is undeniable that Assad’s military forces used chemical weapons to kill nearly 1,500 men, women and children in Damascus.

He said if the United States does not act to punish Assad it will send the wrong message to every rogue regime in the world.

And at one point, cranking up the rhetoric, Kerry said, “This is not the time for armchair isolationism. This is not the time to be spectators to slaughter.”

At about this point in the proceedings, I began to wonder whether Kerry’s talking points had been written by George W. Bush. When I closed my eyes, I swear I heard the voices of Colin Powell, Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld explaining why the U.S. had a moral duty to invade Iraq and take out Saddam Hussein.

Kerry’s running argument with Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky about whether the Obama administration was going to go to war even if Congress didn’t give its permission brought me back to 2013 – and reminded me how horribly Obama’s indecisiveness has botched Syria.

Let’s say everything Kerry said the other day about Assad’s gas attack and the importance of the civilized world punishing him is true.

Let’s say Obama is not playing some cynical political game with Congress.

Then what is the president waiting for? Why hasn’t he already kicked Assad’s butt?

Two weeks after Assad gassed his own people and crossed the president’s imaginary red line, we’re still debating in Congress and worrying whether Vladimir Putin will get mad if we beat Russia’s favorite Middle Eastern pet.

Long before Assad had a chance to launch a poison gas attack, our cut-rate commander in chief should have ordered a few cruise missiles fired at Assad’s head to get his full attention – or better yet, kill him.

It’s too late for such presidential decisiveness now. Obama needed to show Assad that he – and the United States – meant business a long time ago.

Sen. Lindsey Graham was right when he said this week that it’s already too late for the United States to come up with a Syria strategy.

At this point, all we can do is drop some leaflets on Damascus telling the Syrians how sorry we are that we have a president who still can’t get his act together.

• Michael Reagan is the son of President Ronald Reagan, a political consultant.

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