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September 09, 2013 9:26 AM White House Now Seeks Bush-Era Endorsements on Syria

By Jeffrey Goldberg

For the first time in the unfolding Syria crisis (okay, maybe for the third time), I feel as if we’ve definitively slipped down the rabbit hole. Last night, Susan Rice, President Barack Obama’s national security adviser, tweeted the following: “Former NSA Steve Hadley: ‘I believe the only way we’re going to get a good outcome is if the President uses military force in Syria.’ ”

This statement might be true, or it might not. I don’t know, which is one of the reasons that ambivalence is the appropriate response to the president’s request to Congress. But the issue is not the statement — the issue is the person who made the statement. A reminder: Steve Hadley was George W. Bush’s national security adviser. The Obama administration, which came into power in good part because of the national security missteps of the Bush administration, is now citing a former Bush official — an official deeply involved in analyzing and packaging what turned out to be inaccurate intelligence about Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction capabilities — to buttress its case for intervention in Syria.

This is not a complaint about Steve Hadley, by the way. I like Steve Hadley. I am just noting with some surprise that a senior Obama administration official, Susan Rice, feels it necessary to buttress her case for intervention by citing the words of a man closely associated with what many Americans believe to be one of the greatest national security policy failures in generations, the armed intervention in an Arab country prompted by fears about chemical weapons.

She did it for a reason, obviously, apart from the respect she might feel for a predecessor. The reason, I’m guessing, is that the administration is increasingly isolated, and so fearful of losing this fight in Congress, that it will publicly tout the support of just about anyone, without much thought for the political consequences attached to certain types of endorsements.

Jeffrey Goldberg is a columnist for Bloomberg View, and a senior editor at The Atlantic.

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