McCain: Great, 'Red Line' Needs Congress' OK?

Outspoken White House critic blasts Obama's '11th-hour' waffling on Syria

By Polly Davis Doig,  Newser Staff

Posted Sep 1, 2013 1:31 PM CDT

(Newser) – Never one to shy away from bashing the White House over its Syria policy, John McCain was out in full force today, warning that "the whole region is going to be engulfed" and blasting President Obama thusly: "When the president of the United States said that it was a red line, he didn't say that ‘it's a red line and by the way I’m going to have to seek the approval of Congress." As Politico reports, McCain complained that Obama should have ordered a strike under the War Powers Act, but by waffling "at the eleventh hour"—when "the strikes are already planned"—the administration's "steadfastness and purpose" will suffer "serious consequences." But now that the decision is headed to Congress, McCain says he wants to see a strategy that will stop Bashar al-Assad's use of chemical weapons and is “more than just, 'We're going to launch some cruise missiles and that’s it.'" John Kerry was also making the rounds this morning; Elsewhere on your Sunday dial, as per Politico:

  • Sen. Rand Paul: "It's a mistake to get involved in the Syrian civil war. The one thing I would say, that I'm proud of the president for, is that he's coming to Congress in a constitutional manner and asking for our authorization. That's what he ran on. But you ask John Kerry whether or not he'll stick by the decision of Congress, and I believe he waffled on that and wobbled and wasn't exactly concrete that they would."
  • Rep. Mike Rogers: "We better send a very clear message, in a unified way, that we're not going to tolerate proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, let alone their use. And if you don't send that message, that has real-world consequences. This is not a reality TV show. At the end of the day, something will actually happen. People will lose their lives."
  • Rep. Pete King: “If (Obama) says this is as important as it is and sending so many mixed signals over really the last year and certainly over the last ten days, this is a clear failure of leadership. And if you feel so strongly about it and he doesn't want to take the action himself, then he should call us back into session tomorrow. We can't be waiting nine, 10 days, and allowing Syria to prepare for this and sending such a mixed signal to the world and particularly to Iran.”
  • Sen. Jim Inhofe: “If you’re going to say something, you’ve got to back it up, and this president clearly has retreated from the position that he took, not just in the last couple of days, but about a week ago when he talked about a red line."
  • Sen. Saxby Chambliss: “I think the weakness is that he said again yesterday, ‘I'm going to take military action.' Well, the world is saying, you know, your predecessors, whether Bill Clinton, Ronald Reagan—we could go back even further—when something like this has happened and the national security of the United States has been put at risk, then presidents lead. In a time of crisis, presidents make tough, hard decisions and they lead. And there's weakness here on the part of the president.”
  • Bill Kristol: "I think the Republican Party will step up and do the right thing and support the president against a chemical-weapons-using, terror-sponsoring, Iran-backed dictator."
  • Sen. Tim Kaine: “When that case is made, and it's not only made to Congress but to the American public, I believe that we will rally behind the principle that use of chemical weapons is wrong, and it can't go unpunished. Presidents often over-reach, and Congress often wants to evade responsibility, evade votes, rather than accept the consequences. I think this could be a very historic and important debate, and, again, if we can reach a consensus, we will be much stronger as a nation."

In this July 22, 2013 file photo, Sen. John McCain on Capitol Hill in Washington.
In this July 22, 2013 file photo, Sen. John McCain on Capitol Hill in Washington.   (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite, File)
Sen. John McCain briefs the media at the Security Conference in Munich, Saturday, Feb. 2, 2013.
Sen. John McCain briefs the media at the Security Conference in Munich, Saturday, Feb. 2, 2013.   (AP Photo/Matthias Schrader)
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