The One Where the President Showed Up

It's not every Sunday that the President graces the Sunday shows with his presence. But here we are, today, with Barack Obama appearing on ABC's This Week for an interview with former Clinton adviser George Stephanopoulos.  

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It's not every Sunday that the President graces the Sunday shows with his presence. But here we are, today, with Barack Obama appearing on ABC's This Week for an interview with former Clinton adviser George Stephanopoulos.

The President took a moment to explain how he was satisfied with the deal with Russia, completed a day before the interview aired, and how a lot of attention to detail was put into the terms, even though some around Washington didn't approve. "I’m less concerned about style points, I’m much more concerned about getting the policy right,” Obama said. "What I’ve said consistently throughout is that — the chemical weapons issue is a problem. I want that problem dealt with."

The President also devastatingly cut through any of the knee-jerk reactions to the deal by explaining just how Washington likes to examine political news. "Folks here in Washington like to grade on style," Obama said. "Had we rolled out something that was very smooth and disciplined and linear they would have graded it well, even if it was a disastrous policy."

"We know that, 'cause that's exactly how they graded the Iraq War until it ended up blowing in our face," Obama said.

Obama cautioned other countries not to take any cues from the Syrian ordeal should the U.S. threaten any other trouble-making country any time soon. "My suspicion is that the Iranians recognize they they shouldn’t draw a lesson that we haven’t struck to think we won’t strike Iran. On the other hand, what is — what they should draw from this lesson is that there is the potential of resolving these issues diplomatically," Obama said.

Obama also helpfully reminded Iran that nukes rank way higher on the list of priorities than chemical weapons. "Iranians understand is that the nuclear issue is a far larger issue for us than the chemical weapons issue," Obama said. "The threat against Iran — against Israel — that a nuclear Iran poses, is much closer to our core interests. A nuclear arms race in the region is something that would be profoundly destabilizing."

The President took a moment to respond to his detractors, and Russian president Vladimir Putin's New York Times op-ed alleging the rebels are behind the chemical attack in Syria. "Nobody around the world takes seriously the idea that the rebels were the perpetrators of this," Obama said.

And then the President was asked about some domestic issues, like the recovering economy and the stalled drive for immigration. Of course, Stephanopoulos couldn't resist the opportunity to ask Obama about the 2016 race for the White House and who he thinks would be a better candidate: former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton or Vice President Joe Biden. "I just got reelected last year," Obama said. " My focus is on the American people right now. I'll let you guys worry about the politics."

You'll be shocked -- just shocked -- to hear that Rep. Mike Rogers doesn't trust this joint plan with the Russians to secure Syria's chemical weapons stockpile. "Obviously, I'm skeptical," the House Intelligence Committee Chairman told CNN's State of the Union host Candy Crowley on Sunday. "This is a Russian plan for Russian interests. And we should be very, very concerned." Rogers thinks the Russians may have pulled a fast one on the President and took advantage of his "indecisiveness" at a vulnerable moment. "They saw it, they stepped in," Rogers said. "If the president believes like I do that a credible military force helps you get a diplomatic solution -- they gave that away in this deal."

Meanwhile, on CBS's Face the Nation, Sen. Carl Levin was more than happy to take credit for Russia's decision to cut a deal with the U.S. "This progress would not have been achieved without the threat of a military strike by President Obama," the Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman said. "It's no coincidence that after that threat was achieved and made -- and after our Foreign Relations Committee on a bipartisan basis voted to authorize the use of force, the Russia finally decided it would put some pressure on Syria and get involved." And that risk of military force must continue in order to keep Syria in line.  "It is so important that the continuing threat be very readily available," Levin said.

Sen. John McCain expressed his disapproval and asked all kinds of questions about the Syria deal on NBC's Meet the Press. "It’s not a matter of trust it’s a matter of whether or not it will be enforced," McCain said, explaining his concern over what will happen should Syrian president Bashar al-Assad not comply with the deal's terms. "Suppose that this deal is made and then Bashar Assad does not comply?" McCain asked. "Whatever happened to the president’s red line' where he said if they use chemical weapons we will respond?"

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.