Obama Needs to Sell Syria Strike to Americans, Say Boehner, Cantor
Posted at 12:25 p.m. on Sept. 6
(Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)
Feeling the pressure of a Congress and a public that appears strongly opposed to a U.S. military strike against Syria, House GOP leaders are calling on President Barack Obama to make his case to the American people.
A spokesman for Speaker John A. Boehner said Friday that the Ohio Republican has “consistently said the president has an obligation to make his case for intervention directly to the American people.” Boehner earlier this week came out in favor of intervention in Syria, in retaliation for that regime’s alleged use of chemical weapons against its own people.
“Members of Congress represent the views of their constituents, and only a president can convince the public that military action is required,” said Boehner spokesman Brendan Buck. “We only hope this isn’t coming too late to make the difference.”
Boehner and Majority Leader Eric Cantor, R-Va., have been left to fend off lawmakers and constituents who seem to want nothing to do with U.S. intervention in Syria. Already, unofficial whip counts show a majority of House lawmakers — and a majority of House Republicans — are opposed or are leaning against an authorization for the use of military force in Syria.
On Friday, Cantor, who also registered his support for a strike earlier this week, seemed to be trying to drum up support when he wrote an op-ed in the Richmond Times-Dispatch. But he also called on Obama to convince the American people.
“The president owes Congress and the American people additional details on his strategy to bring to an end the Assad regime, combat Iranian and Hezbollah influence in the region, prevent future WMD use by Assad or transfer to terrorists, and prevent al-Qaida from acquiring safe haven in Syria,” Cantor wrote.
“Frankly, two years of mixed signals from the Obama administration, misplaced focus and a routine lack of outreach to members of Congress have fueled pessimism in this mission. I share that frustration. But it’s not just the president’s credibility that is on the line; it is America’s leadership in a troubled world that is in question.
“That is why I told the president last week he needs to explain these issues directly to the American people, and to the world. The president must lead, and he must convince the country that this is in America’s national security interests and that he has a strategy to achieve our objectives and restore America’s badly tarnished leadership.”
Obama does plan to address the American people on Tuesday from the White House. But the president will have to make a pretty convincing case to sway public opinion that continues to harden against Syria. Only 32 percent of those polled recently believe Obama has explained why the United States should intervene in Syria.
While the president made a Rose Garden address Aug. 31 announcing that he would seek congressional authorization for Syria, he has let top administration deputies, like Secretary of State John Kerry and Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel, largely make the case to Congress and the public.
But with congressional leaders on both sides of the aisle hesitant to whip the Syria resolution, proponents of intervention in Syria, such as Boehner and Cantor, have watched support for military action evaporate.