For generations, the American people have had a standing deal with their Presidents: Go ahead and mess with the prime-time lineup once in a while, interrupt Who’s the Boss, Seinfeld, NCIS: Los Angeles, or whatever. But you better make it count. You better have something new to say. And when it comes to speeches of national security, you better leave the impression that you have this thing under control.
On Tuesday night, President Obama decided to test this unspoken pact. For 16 minutes from the East Room, he took over the nation’s televisions to repeat the same complex and contradictory case for bombing Syria that he has been making for two weeks, even though he acknowledged at the end, there is no longer an imminent need for the country to make a decision. He delayed the start of America’s Got Talent to announce he would be delaying a congressional vote.