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WP: Syria Vote Tests GOP Presidential Candidates

From the Washington Post:

Obama’s call for Congress vote on Syria puts GOP’s 2016 presidential hopefuls to the test

By Dan Balz | September 1, 2013

President Obama has put his and the nation’s credibility at stake with his call for congressional authorization to launch a military strike against Syria.

We would argue that he has only put his own credibility at stake. Does anyone really doubt that the US could lob some cruise missiles into Syria?

But the coming debate also provides an early and important test for any Republican contemplating a campaign for the White House in 2016.

Whether serving in Congress or not, prospective GOP presidential candidates will be pressed to answer whether they agree with Obama about the need to retaliate militarily against Syria for its alleged chemical weapons attack and, if not, whether any response is required.

It’s almost as if there are different standards for Republican candidates.

The answers to these and the other questions that will arise with regard to Syrian policy will begin to define areas of agreement and disagreement in a Republican Party whose foreign policy consensus has been frayed by a decade of wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and the emergence of new voices within the party.

As others have learned from past debates about using military force, there are potentially serious political consequences later to the words said and votes taken now. None of these politicians can know now how their actions will be judged in two or three years. Inevitably, some will then find themselves on the wrong side of public opinion, whether among GOP primary voters or the electorate at large.

Former secretary of state Hillary Rodham Clinton’s 2002 vote as a senator to authorize the invasion of Iraq, which seemed relatively safe at the time, proved enormously costly when she sought the Democratic presidential nomination in 2008. Her support provided Obama, who had opposed the war, an opening to grass-roots liberal activists.

BS. Hillary’s vote almost never came up. Not even in the debates. And it certainly was ignored by the news media. Similarly, we don’t recall John Kerry being pressed on his vote to go to war in Iraq when he ran in 2004.

Obama’s stuttering week, in which he surprised his own advisers and the rest of the world by putting seemingly imminent military action on hold and calling for congressional approval, has focused renewed attention on his leadership — which is why he has so much to lose if he is rebuffed…

So the news media’s goal will be to make sure he is not rebuffed. And, if he is despite their best efforts, they must find a way to punish those who voted the wrong way.

As Obama makes that case, how will Republicans, particularly those with presidential aspirations, respond? There are a variety of questions for them to answer. Do they support military action as retaliation for the recent attack? Do they accept the evidence of the use of chemical weapons or doubt U.S. and other intelligence findings? Do they think the limited military action under consideration would be insufficient and therefore unwise? If that is the case, what kind of military action do they favor? Do they oppose all military intervention in Syria? If so, what would an effective strategy be toward Syria?

There are other questions: Do the Republicans support the administration’s resolution as written, or would they advocate amending it? If they are critical of the administration’s general strategy on Syria, what approach would they recommend? What precedent do they think military action, or inaction, would set for future uses of chemical weapons by Assad or others? …

Some Republicans may oppose the president simply because they are opposed to the president. But that does not constitute a foreign or national security policy…

Unlike deep thinking national security experts like Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi, who only opposed Bush because he was a Republican President.

So far, most of the prospective GOP candidates in Congress have resisted making any definitive statements about where they stand on the president’s latest move.

Paul praised the president for taking the issue to Congress, but on NBC’s “Meet the Press” on Sunday he said he thinks that “it’s a mistake to get involved in the Syrian civil war.” He added, “If Congress votes this down, we should not be involved in the Syrian war. And I think it’s at least 50-50 whether the House will vote down involvement in the Syrian war.”

Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) said military action “taken simply to send a message or save face” does not meet his standard of using military force only when there are “clear and attainable” national security goals. He also wrote last week that failing to act would “further embolden Assad . . . leaving the impression that the United States is feckless and weak.”

Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Tex.) said he was glad Obama listened to calls from Republicans and Democrats to put the issue before Congress, but he offered no signal about the substance of the case. Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.), the party’s 2012 vice presidential nominee, has been silent, as have other prospective candidates who are not serving in Congress but are eyeing 2016 campaigns.

Prudence argues for careful statements as Congress remains in recess. But in putting his own presidency at stake by calling for a congressional debate about the use of force, Obama has put Republicans on notice that they too must declare exactly where they stand.

Hilarious. Meanwhile, we still don’t know where Obama stands.

This article was posted by Steve Gilbert on Tuesday, September 3rd, 2013. Comments are currently closed.

2 Responses to “WP: Syria Vote Tests GOP Presidential Candidates”

  1. Astravogel

    I believe this quote from Jerry Pournell covers this situation:

    “The American people have always regarded the Army as their own; it belongs
    to the Congress, not to the President.”

  2. Rubio: failing to act would “further embolden Assad . . . leaving the impression that the United States is feckless and weak.” I hate to break it to you Marco, Obama already looks feckless and weak. Dropping a few cruise missiles isn’t going to change that. In fact, it may go further to prove that very opinion. If Obama hits every target he wants to hit, and there is no discernible change in the course of the Syrian civil war (mostly because we’re giving them all the time they need to secure their positions), then it makes him look even weaker. And with the brain trust Obama is planning things, I doubt anything they do will have any long term actual benefit to America. It’ll change the news cycle, keep Ben Ghazi, the NSA, the IRS, and every other scandal off the news for a while so it may benefit Obama, but not America.




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