Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) today became the first congressional leader to come out against President Obama’s request for authorization for strikes against Bashar al-Assad.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.), House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio), Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) and Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) all previously pledged their support.
McConnell, though, is the only one of the bunch in a re-election fight.
In a lengthy floor speech this morning, McConnell said his constituents largely “aren’t exactly clear about the mission themselves, or shy about saying so.”
“No one should be faulted for being skeptical about this proposal, regardless of what party they’re in, or for being dumfounded at the ham-handed manner in which the White House announced it; there is absolutely no reason to signal to the enemy when and how, and for how long, you plan to strike them — none. As I’ve said before, you don’t send out a ‘save-the-date’ card to the enemy. And yet there are other important considerations to keep in mind here as well that go beyond the wisdom or the marketing of this proposal,” he said.
“I’ve spent a lot of time weighing all these things. I’ve thought a lot about America’s obligations, and the irreplaceable role that I’ve always believed, and still believe, America plays in the world. And I’ve also thought a lot about the context, about this President’s vision, and his record, and what it says about whether we should be confident in his ability to bring about a favorable outcome in Syria. Because how we got to this point says a lot about where we may be headed.”
McConnell them rattled off a summary of Obama’s foreign policy history before coming back to Syria.
“I’ve concluded that being credible on Syria requires presenting a credible response, and having a credible strategy… this proposal just doesn’t pass muster,” he said.
“I have never been an isolationist. And a vote against this resolution shouldn’t be confused by anyone as a turn in that direction. But just as the most committed isolationist could be convinced of the need for intervention under the right circumstances when confronted with a threat, so too do the internationalists among us believe that all interventions are not created equal. And this proposal just does not stand up,” McConnell continued.
“So I will be voting against this resolution. A vital national security risk is clearly not at play, there are just too many unanswered questions about our long-term strategy in Syria, including the fact that this proposal is utterly detached from a wider strategy to end the civil war there, and on the specific question of deterring the use of chemical weapons, the President’s proposal appears to be based on a contradiction. Either we will strike targets that threaten the stability of the regime — something the President says he does not intend to do — or we will execute a strike so narrow as to be a mere demonstration.”