Several Republicans were for a strike in Syria, at least until President Obama was for it, that is.
In recent days, the number of GOP lawmakers backing away from potential U.S. intervention following Syrian President Bashar al-Assad allegedly turning chemical weapons on his own people seems to be piling up.
Republican Rep. Michael Grimm of New York changed his position last week, arguing Obama should have acted immediately after the Aug. 21 attacks.
“As debate has dragged on in Congress, the President has weakened his position as our leader and deteriorated our credibility on the world stage. The President has changed his red line to the world’s red line, he showed his hand when he should have kept it close, he failed to gain the support of key allies, and continues to delay action indefinitely until Congress acts, he said in a statement.
Grimm added, “Now that the Assad regime has seen our playbook and has been given enough time to prepare and safeguard potential targets, I do not feel that we have enough to gain as a nation by moving forward with this attack on our own.”
Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida has also long promoted U.S. intervention in Syria’s bloody civil war, but did not vote for limited military strikes in the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. The Tea Party favorite has argued that Obama has waited too long to act, accusing the Obama Administration of leading “from behind.”
GOP Rep. Mike Coffman of Colorado, who initially supported action in Syria, now says he is undecided. And in May, Sen. Jim Inhofe of Oklahoma wanted Obama to “step up” and show Assad that his “barbaric actions have consequences.” Now he’s against intervention, insisting “our military has no money left.”
Democratic strategist Maria Cardona argues that these apparent flip-flops have nothing to do with budgeting, policy, or military strategy. It’s all about the party of the man doing the asking. “Does anyone seriously think if it was a Republican president asking that they would not be in favor?” she said. “Now that it’s Obama calling for intervention…they’re looking for every reason to oppose him.”
Meanwhile, some Republicans, including Reps. Mike Rogers of Michigan and Adam Kinzinger of Illinois are arguing for intervention but insisting Obama has done a poor job convincing the American people and Congress.
Obama will give a major prime time speech on Tuesday night in which he’ll again lay out his case. It comes as the White House over the weekend released graphic photos and video of the alleged chemical attack. The president also gave his pitch abroad at the G-20 summit in Russia last week and gave several statements from the White House. Secretary of State John Kerry, Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel, and Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Martin Dempsey, all testified on Capitol Hill twice. What more could Obama have to say?
Jeanne Zaino, a professor of political science at Iona College and of political campaign management at New York University, said Obama must give more specific would-be scenarios and explain what the goals are and how exactly to achieve them. She said it was a mistake when Obama said it wasn’t his credibility, but the world’s, on the line.
“If you’re going to ask the American public to follow you into a war as limited as you say it’s going to be…you have to be willing to put your credibility on your line,” Zaino said. She added, “My fear is that president Obama is so personally torn on this…that we may not get that level of energy behind this.”