Roll Call: Latest News on Capitol Hill, Congress, Politics and Elections
February 10, 2016

Obama Needs to Sell Syria Strike to Americans, Say Boehner, Cantor

John Boehner Eric Cantor

(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.

He continued:

“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.

  • Brightmeadows

    I’m a life long Republican (save for my idealistic college years). I can’t understand Boehner and Cantor. Why are going to aid al Qada in overthrowing a secular government? Sure Assad is a bad man. But al Qada is worse. It doesn’t make any sense to me that Assad would use gas at the same time UN weapons inspectors were in Syria looking for it. It makes perfect sense that al Qada (“the rebels”) would do just that. al Qada kills innocent people every day. Remember 911.

    Obama, McCain and Kerry are lying. Boehner and Cantor are wrong.. deceived or stupid.

    • invention13

      Boehner and Cantor may be shrewder about this that it seems at first.
      Vote with the president, and at the same time, tell the troops to ‘vote their conscience’. It actually makes some sense – it takes the most visible targets in congress away.
      I’m disappointed in McCain. He is getting to be a caricature of himself – it looks like there are no wars he doesn’t like. I also _really_ didn’t like the way he was trying to shout down some of the constituents at the town hall the other night – disrespectful in the extreme. Kerry is a self-important blowhard who married a rich woman – that’s really all you need to know. You listen to his remarks at age 27 and contrast it with the way he is shilling for a dubious war now – I mean, jeez…! Say what you want about Obama – I can’t even imagine Kerry as president.

  • Typical_White_Person_pa

    Ya, a speech! That’s the ticket! Apparently this is the best these clowns including the CIC can come up with. So Boehner and Cantor bent over and thought the country would not mind. Which is what they’ve been doing on every issues. Bye guys…time to slink away with Rubio who did himself in over amnesty.

  • invention13

    Boy do they have it right this time!

    No more of the classified briefings for congressional leaders.
    The “trust us, we’re justified and it will all work out ok” nonsense.
    It is high time for the administration to give the American people something other than contempt and lay their cards on the table – declassify the evidence and make it public.
    Speaking personally, I’m not going to be swayed by ‘soaring rhetoric’ that I don’t remember a word of 15 minutes after the speech ends.

    Specifically, I need:

    Evidence that Assad did it. The _evidence_ not simple assertions.
    Where the weapons came from.
    What the ultimate goal is – where do you want the situation to go?
    What the contingency plan is if things go sideways.
    Why, other than ‘what kind of world to you want to live in’ generalities, this is in our national interest.
    What the risks are.
    What are the metrics for success (other than not getting any Americans killed).

    Verbal ‘cotton candy’ isn’t going to make it.

  • Defend Liberty

    Arguably, the regard for responsibility has fallen low enough to undermine the very freedom upon which our prosperity and civilization rest.

  • Defend Liberty

    To justify and wield arbitrary power, those who preach from collectivism’s altar often attempt to hijack democracy’s ideal by claiming that majority rule is absolute.

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