Back In Illinois before he went to the US Senate, Barack Obama had a regular poker game with his fellow state legislators down in Springfield, the state capital. He was known to be pretty good.
He is about to be a part of the biggest poker game of his life.
Cameron's House of Commons defeat stunned Americans. I was flooded with emails that said basically: "What's up with the Brits?" Newspaper headlines screamed "The British are NOT coming!" A few even searched for a British equivalent to the calumny that was heaped on the French at the time of the Iraq War: "Cheese-eating surrender monkeys." But nothing quite worked.
Expat Brits in the US tried to explain to all and sundry that Cameron is not head of state, no matter how presidential he plays it. Tony Blair was so good at it that he was known as simply "the prime minister". To many Americans that was Brit-speak for 'president". They're gobsmacked that British voters seem to have actually got through to their representatives and got them to do what the people wanted.
And for all you Miliband haters out there - look away now. In the US his stock has risen. The rumour that was being put out here that he was dead over there is actually the opposite. The Democrats, Labour's sister party, see him as smart. He listened. He acted. He changed the script.
Obama sees Syria as one of the definitions of his presidency. But Syria is the battleground for a 21st Century proxy war. Iran, Saudi Arabia, many major players are there. And there is something else: Obama can't afford to do a 'W' and go in with all guns blazing. The president's past, steeped in vociferous opposition of the Iraq War, won't allow it.
This September/October, Obama has the annual debt-ceiling circus to look forward to, the now yearly farce cooked up by the Republicans to basically hold the president up to scorn and the nation to ransom.
This year features the repeal of the health care law known as 'Obamacare'... and perhaps the little matter of the president's own impeachment. Now, with the debate that both House and Senate leaders have agreed to, Republicans will, finally, have some meaningful work to do.
Right-wing shock jocks who drive so much of the Republican Party's agenda are about to be sent into a tailspin.
Do they listen to the public and urge their people in Congress and the Senate to vote against striking Syria, thereby making Obama look presidential as he goes before the American people to tell them he is listening to them. Or will the shock jocks have their people in Congress and the Senate vote for a strike against Syria, thereby making Obama look presidential as he goes before the American people to tell them he is listening to them.
The Republicans know that either way, they'll be punished at the mid-term elections next year if they get so tied up in their usual attempt to take down Obama that they don't hear and understand what the electorate want.
The POTUS knows this.
Barack Obama is back at the table. The stakes couldn't be higher.