NewburyportNews.com, Newburyport, MA

September 14, 2013

Putin gets leg-up over Obama in Syrian controversy

By Bill Plante
Newburyport Daily News

---- — Big Freddy was deep into his morning newspaper when I arrived and only grunted as I squeezed my way into the booth.

“Win one or lose one?” I asked as I waved for the usual from the waitress.

“If you’re referring to me, I’ve been playing matters of interest at the tracks close to the vest, but if you’re referring to what’s going on between Obama and Putin over the Mexican standoff over poison gas in Syria, I’m betting Putin wins big time with Obama playing second fiddle with his fingers crossed,” Freddy said.

“What’s with the Mexican standoff?’’ I asked.

“Three countries going head to head over whatever with each one of them trying to figure out how to come out the winner,” Freddy said.

“The US, Syria, and Russia,” I said.

“With Russia calling - you should pardon the word - the shots,” Freddy said.

“If you’re referring to the piece from him in the New York Times, I didn’t hear any ‘shots’ in it,” I said. “In fact, I thought he made a lot of sense.”

“You have a lot of company,” Freddy said.

“Obama has himself way out on a limb with a big crack in it - ready to give the ‘GO!’ signal for an attack on Syria, even though he was taking heat from both sides of the aisle in Congress because of what they were getting from the ‘Not another war!’ calls from back home.

“So Putin gives him a breather.”

“Smart move by Putin.” I said.

“Putin’s being Putin and don’t knock it this time,,” Freddy said. “It gives him a leg up in more than the muddled East.

“Syria’s important to Russia, but he’s not all that comfortable with the poison gas, so he takes some of the heat off Assad, whom he wants gone, and gives himself the leg up he needs with Syria.

“It also gives us a breather because we’ve been doing too much with the bomb dropping wherever for whatever.”

“Well Kerry’s had quite a hand in this, as well,” I said.

“Ah yes, our brand new Secretary of State,” Freddy said.

“Why the sarcasm?” I asked.

“None intended, and I take your drift. But who knew?” Freddy said.

“All those years giving way to Teddy Kennedy without so much as a by your leave otherwise for much of anything that would make headlines.

“But now he’s roaring like a lion.”

“Well he was doing that about Vietnam where he served with distinction,” I said.

“So were most of the veterans who fought there,” Freddy said, “but the question is whether he is right now on wanting to hit Assad for using gas.”

“What we do know from the reaction to the use of gas is it’s something we never want to see again,” I said.

“Which is why Putin suddenly takes the stage as fixer upper for getting rid of the gas and an attack by the US,” Freddy said. “That makes him the region’s number one peace maker with Obama a fading runner up, while everyone gets to take a sigh of relief until the next blowup.”

Bill Plante is a Newbury resident and a staff columnist.