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President Les Nessman

by Jerry Bader

No self-respecting career radio person over the age of 40 isn't a fan of "WKRP in Cincinnati. The 1978-82 sitcom about a fictional (and dreadful) Cincy radio station rang familiar to many of us who worked for small time radio early in their careers. WKRP's incompetence personified was News Director Les Nessman. Les didn't have a newsroom, he had a news corner. But Les dreamed of the day when he'd have his own room and he put tape on the floor declaring "some day, there will be walls here." So complete was Les' fantasy that he insisted people enter his space through his imaginary door. They were forbidden to cross the tape because, after all, those are walls you know.

I was reminded of Les today when President Barack Obama declared that it was not he alone who set the chemical weapons "red line" with Syria. No, the world did.  That's what he meant a year ago, when he was trying to make Syria disappear as an election issue. Realizing he was standing alone, President Obama tried to drag Congress into the ultimatum he issued. Apparently concerned that may not happen, he's now trying to redefine whose red line it is. Just as Les insisted everybody go through the imaginary newsroom door, the President insists that everybody take ownership of the imaginary red line. And he's betting that nobody will notice that the newsroom walls are really just tape on the floor.

His aversion to taking ownership of any potential political threat has, in fact, reached a delusional stage. Sensing Congress may not join him in the box he created, he's simply saying they're already in the box. The whole world owns the red line; obviously, that includes Congress. The loudest argument for Congressional approval was that America's credibility with its allies was at stake if the President was rebuffed. Well that reason is shot to hell because the President just destroyed whatever credibility he had. 

That would change "my calculus, my equation." Does he really think the world community isn't going to see this as completely revisionist? Of course the mainstream media is doing its usual part, claiming Mr. Obama is "reframing" his red line rhetoric.Welcome to the 21st century media, where ever year is "1984."  Does he really believe pretending he never issued the ultimatum looks better than backing away from it (not that either is good). "WKRP" was cancelled before Les ever got his walls, ending his fantasy. We're not so lucky; this is real life. Let's hope the President rejoins us int, and soon.