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Jamie Stiehm
Past and Present
12 Sep 2014
Declaring War on the Defensive/Washington Notes

The mood in the Capitol was jittery on Sept. 10. The day descended into the night scene of a somber president,… Read More.

5 Sep 2014
President Obama, Meet Your Mate: James Madison

America needs a foreign policy vision that's fresh, clear and bold as a series of crises cascades over the … Read More.

29 Aug 2014
Love, Slavery and Truth in the Madison Match

Hello, Dolley — Madison, I mean. She stole the glory from the British burning down the president's … Read More.

Summer Falls Fast for Obama and the Nation


Summerfall, that's the time it is. Yet the nation's capital has gone autumnal before the first leaf falls.

The calendar says the first day of autumn lands Monday. Summer has a few more days on the boards, but feels as good as gone. At night, cicadas still sing us to sleep, but won't be for long.

Schoolgirls at the Cathedral are lined up in their field hockey skirts. My favorite garden blooms, zinnias and cosmos, are giving way to less lovely 'mums and sturdy pumpkins at the farmers market. And the yellow black-eyed Susans, now have only their black eyes left. Like the NFL.

On a brighter side of fall, the Metropolitan Opera is opening with a gala and Mozart's "The Marriage of Figaro" on Monday. The Jewish New Year, 5775, is on its way at sundown not far behind autumn. Shana Tova.

Some hate to see summer go so soon. Others praise the beauty and rhythm of October. Either way, it's no ordinary change of season here in Washington. Nobody will forget this fall in a hurry. Just when we were curled on the hearth to see watch Ken Burns' latest documentary on the remarkable Roosevelt family, we've got troubles of our own knocking.

What's happening here is pretty clear. The president has the power to change the country landscape colors abruptly, outside of time. That's what he has done, as we will see in sharper relief in the coming months

President Obama declared a war on television, yes, another war on Iraq. No, he didn't ask Congress. He simply told them in kind of an imperious way, in the same delivery he told the American people: By the way, this is the way it's going to be.

Is he a man for all seasons? We shall see. Tempered and grave, Obama may be headed for his own fall. This is the last act of his presidency and everyone knows it.

Safe to say so far, neither his friends nor foes are happy. People, especially politicians, like to feel as if they are in the room.

No discussion, no dissent, is not really the American way, nor is the loner leader. Both Bush presidents sought authorization votes in the House and Senate for their Iraq wars.

A new war is the president's plan two weeks after having no strategy "yet" as August's lingering light fell on the island where the Obama family summers.

I hope Obama is not headed for a fall, but I do think he's heading for a squall — in a gathering sandstorm.

The deserts of Iraq and Syria, where ISIS rose up, are made of medieval darkness, which makes the old Tower of London look like a bed and breakfast. To rush to war in unknown terrain over the gruesome fate of two individuals as summer fades is not good policy, period. We went to war in Iraq over the wretched, cruel deeds of 19 men, mostly from Saudi Arabia, and look how well that turned out. Iraq had nothing to do with 9/11 and possessed no WMDs — the pretexts for war.

A squall looms in the distance on the home front, too. We can see it from our summer porches, steps and grills. When Democratic candidates hit the hustings, pig roasts and steak fries, they don't mention Obama's name. They are running away more than they are running with him. Hillary and Bill Clinton, who never met a stranger, are more popular out there with "folks," a word Obama uses nonstop. Yet he's far from folksy. Passing strange.

Obama's shaky support will likely play out in the November midterm elections. The American electorate knows that an economic "recovery" has not come home to their houses and families. People also know the war in Iraq, the longest war ever, is a big reason for the economy's sluggish state. Obama ran for president reaching out to war-weary voters and promising to end the war in Iraq.

Sounds like tragic irony to me.

I made a simple last supper of summer, involving berries, corn, angel food cake, lemonade with sprigs of mint. Have you ever had English summer pudding with orange zest? It's the sweetest thing under the setting summer sun. Shakespeare wrote a lost sonnet about it, I bet.

Dare I say bittersweet this year.

To find out more about Jamie Stiehm, and read features by other Creators writers and cartoonists, visit



1 Comments | Post Comment
It would seem that the autumn for our president brings briskness and cool breezes from all around him, but I am less troubled by his use of presidential powers. The Bushmen of days gone by relied on the whirling sentiments of a captive nation, in a world far different than today. If Obama had asked congress for their hand, only a finger would have been available. I think wisdom is in his pocket; the political savvy of a measured man. If the president had yielded to the whims of congress, they surely would have declared a ground war, with boots, muskets and bayonets.
Comment: #1
Posted by: david marks
Fri Sep 19, 2014 9:52 AM
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