Offhand Ultimatums

The issue of the United States’ response to the apparent use of chemical weapons by the Syrian government has been on the front burner for weeks now.  After fruitless efforts to build an international coalition, followed by vows to go it alone, then by a decision to seek congressional approval, it seems late in the game for a new proposal.  But that’s what happened yesterday.

Secretary of State John Kerry, in response to a question at a news conference, said Syria could avert a U.S. attack by placing its chemical weapons under international control — whatever that means.  The Obama Administration said Kerry’s response was a “rhetorical argument” that wasn’t meant to make a diplomatic overture, but that was how it was treated.  Russia, Syria, and others in the international community immediately expressed support for the idea, as did congressional Democrats who don’t want to vote on whether to authorize the President to use military force.  By the end of the day, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid announced that the Senate vote on the issue would, in fact, be delayed.  And when President Obama last night sat for interviews in a TV blitz designed to build support for a limited strike, he was responding to the news, rather than making it.  In view of the reaction to Kerry’s comment,  the President said he would put plans for a military strike on hold if Syria put its weapons stockpile under international control — although he expressed skepticism it would happen.  Of course, the obvious question is:  if the President is skeptical, why would the Secretary of State make the proposal in the first place?

Tonight the President is supposed to make a speech to the American people about the Syrian issue.  Perhaps he will take the opportunity to explain his Administration’s confusing approach to the issue, with the American position seemingly swaying in the wind created every time John Kerry speaks.

The President and his supporters profess to be mystified by why Americans aren’t supporting their policy on Syria, whatever it is.  It’s not that Americans aren’t sickened by the use of chemical weapons.  Instead, it’s that this Administration has little credibility when it says that America needs to act, alone if necessary, to address the situation.  We don’t understand why this should be our job, and we simply don’t credit the Administration’s increasingly outlandish promises — like Secretary Kerry’s statement yesterday that the military effort needed to “degrade” the Assad regime’s chemical weapons capabilities would be “unbelievably small.”   We also see what has happened in Libya and Egypt and don’t believe that some kind of thread-the-needle air strike can “degrade” chemical weapons capabilities without creating more chaos in an already chaotic region.  The credibility gap isn’t helped by the Administration’s shifting positions and heedless issuance of offhand ultimatums that apparently weren’t intended to be ultimatums in the first place.

I’ll Miss You My Friend


Well it was supposed to be like any other Sunday in September, with pro football and such, but then I got the sad news that Aunt Bebe passed away at the age of 86. She was my aunt, but as I grew older she became a very good friend, a buddy.

When our family moved to Columbus in the early seventies Dad’s brother Uncle Tony and Aunt Bebe regularly visited us driving down from Akron during the summer weekends, for most holidays and of course for Ohio State home football games when she became Bebe Buckeye decked out in grey pants, scarlet vest, scarlet and grey top hat and sash covered with Buckeye buttons.

When I retired a few years ago I had the opportunity to visit her more often. We always went to Edgars for dinner and sat at the bar sharing appetizers and drinking wine. Our last time there a rather inebriated older gentleman came up behind her and said “I’d recognize that hairdo anywhere, you’re Bebe Webner”. She turned to me with that twinkle in her eye and said “I have no idea who this person is”. Come to find out she met the gentleman years ago when Uncle Tony worked at Goodyear, proof that she never really changed much over the years always staying fit and trim.

Whenever I visited she always had ESPN on her television set. You see Aunt Bebe was a nephews dream because not only did she love sports, but she was a very knowledgeable fan. Her favorite show was Mike and Mike in the morning which she watched daily. She felt that sports was one of the reasons that Uncle Tony was drawn to her.

My favorite football story she used to tell was her recollection of the 1950 “Snow Bowl” game that she and Uncle Tony attended during a blizzard in Columbus. The teams punted an incredible 45 times sometimes on first down in hopes that the other team might fumble the ball, with Michigan winning the game 9 to 3 despite never getting a single first down. I’ll miss calling to her on Sundays after Ohio State football and basketball games when she would give me her thoughts on what the offense or the defense needed to do better to win the next game.

She was an easy person to talk to and fun to be around. I always enjoyed our chats whether they were about current events or family issues when she would often say “Oh that’s ridiculous” or “Are you kidding me”. I enjoyed her candor and appreciated her helpful advice which she often gave whether you asked for it or not. You always knew where you stood with her.

While her life’s road was often rocky I always admired her resiliency from the setbacks and curve balls that life would throw her way. She never asked for help and prided herself on being a truly independent woman which she was.

Unfortunately I didn’t get a chance to see her these past few months as her health deteriorated rapidly, but I know in my heart that she is now with Uncle Tony who stole her heart years ago when he bought her a grilled cheese sandwich after a football game at Ohio Wesleyan, at least that’s what she said.

During one of my visits up to Akron I read her a poem that I often post when I lose someone close to me and she loved it. It’s called “Remembered Joy” which I offer in her memory.

Don’t grieve for me, for now I’m free. I’m following the path God laid for me. I took his hand when I heard him call. I turned my back and left it all. I could not stay another day, to laugh, to love, to work or play. Tasks left undone must stay that way, I found much peace at close of day.

If my parting has left a void, then fill it with Remembered Joy. A friendship shared, a laugh, a kiss. Ah yes, these things I too shall miss. Be not burdened with times of sorrow; I wish you the sunshine of tomorrow. My life’s been full, I’ve savored much; good friends, good times, a loved one’s touch.

Perhaps my time seemed all to brief; Don’t lengthen it now with undue grief. Lift up your hearts and share with me; God wanted me now; he has set me free.