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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

MIA McConnell: This is What Passes for GOP ‘Leadership’?

As President Obama prepares for his address on Syria, he has backing for military action from from some Republican leaders, including House Majority Leader Eric Cantor and Speaker John Boehner, while others in their party are attacking Obama for what they believe to be a miscalculation of public support for military action. Not all Republican ‘leaders,’ however, have voiced an opinion, as Daniel Strauss notes at Talking Points Memo:

Republican Matt Bevin, the primary challenger running against Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell’s (R-KY) in the 2014 Senate race, is urging him to announce his position on whether to take military action in Syria.
“It’s too late for Mitch McConnell to lead on the issue of Syria, but he needs to let Kentucky and the rest of America know where he stands,” Bevin said in a statement on Monday. “We deserve better than a senator who ducks important debates like amnesty, defunding Obamacare, and now strikes in Syria. Like a true career politician, he waits to see the poll numbers so he can weigh how it will affect his own re-election instead of making decisions based on principles.”…McConnell has withheld publicly taking a stance on Syria, making him the only top congressional leader who has not yet said whether the United States should conduct a missile strike.

McConnell has said he will announce his position this week, presumably when he stops trembling at tea party threats. To be fair, however, McConnell isn’t the only Republican who is having trouble defining his position, as Sahil Kapur explains in his post, “Five Republicans Who Were For Syrian Intervention Before They Were Against It,” also at TPM. From Kapur’s report on GOP presidential aspirant Sen. Marco Rubio:

BEFORE: “The fall of Assad would be a significant blow to Iran’s ambitions. On those grounds alone, we should be seeking to help the people of Syria bring him down. … Finally, the nations in the region see Syria as a test of our continued willingness to lead in the Middle East. If we prove unwilling to provide leadership, they will conclude that we are no longer a reliable security partner, and will decide to take matters into their own hands. … The most powerful and influential nation in the world cannot ask smaller, more vulnerable nations to take risks while we stand on the sidelines. We have to lead because the rewards of effective leadership are so great.”
— Speech to Brooking Institution, April 25, 2012
AFTER: “While I have long argued forcefully for engagement in empowering the Syrian people, I have never supported the use of U.S. military force in the conflict. And I still don’t. I remain unconvinced that the use of force proposed here will work. The only thing that will prevent Assad from using chemical weapons in the future is for the Syrian people to remove him from power.”
— Remarks at Foreign Relations Committee hearing, Sept. 4, 2013

And here’s Sen. Ted Cruz:

BEFORE: “Right now we need to develop a clear, practical plan to go in, locate the weapons, secure or destroy them, and then get out. We might work in concert with our allies, but this needs to be an operation driven by the mission, not by a coalition. The United States should be firmly in the lead to make sure the job is done right.”
— Congressional record, June 20, 2013
AFTER: “I think a military attack is a mistake. For two reasons. One because I think the administration is proceeding with the wrong objective, and two, because they have no viable plan for success. They are beginning from the wrong objective because this attack is not based on defending U.S. national security. … I don’t think that’s the job of our military to be defending amorphous international norms. There are many other steps we can do to express strong disapproval to Assad’s murderous conduct, But I don’t think it’s the job of the military.”
— Transcript of Cruz interview on ABC’s “This Week,” Sept. 8, 2013

M.I.A. Mitch may end his dithering and weigh in today or tomorrow, after the President’s speech. No doubt his supporters hope he will resist the temptation to stake out both sides of the issue, like his vacillating Republican colleagues, Sens. Cruz and Rubio.

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