September 3rd, 2013
10:16 AM ET
12 months ago

McCain, Graham issue tough warnings on Syria dilemma

(CNN) - Republican Sen. John McCain, who met with President Barack Obama on Monday, said the president would "seriously consider" sending weapons to the rebel forces in Syria on top of a military strike against the country's regime.

"That means providing them not only weapons but the kind of weapons they need: anti-armor and anti-air. AK-47s don't do very well against tanks, so we discussed that and that that would be a course of action that the president would seriously consider, I guess is the best way to describe it," the Arizona Republican said Tuesday on CNN's "New Day."

McCain and fellow Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina have been vocal proponents for a strategy that seeks to topple President Bashar al-Assad's regime, rather than take limited, punitive strikes against Syria.

Syria possible strike: Get up to speed in 20 questions

Graham, who also met with Obama on Monday, gave harsh criticism of the president's handling of the situation in Syria so far, including the Obama's decision to seek Congressional authorization for military action more than a week after chemical weapons were used in Syria. With Congress still in recess, a vote is not expected until next week.

"This is about the most mismanaged situation I've ever seen since World War II, when they were trying to control the Nazis. This is bizarre," Graham said in a separate interview on "New Day."

McCain underscored a sense of urgency, saying the delay in taking action will worsen the situation in Syria and further complicate a potential U.S. intervention.

"To think that the Syrians aren't making accommodations to the likelihood of a strike by moving their assets around, including military assets into civilian areas is foolishness. This kind of telegraphing punches could make our mission much more difficult and much more damaging to the civilian population. It's frankly crazy," he said.

While the administration announced this weekend it had positive results for traces of sarin used in Syria, some skeptics say it's best to wait until the United Nations chemical weapons inspectors release their results from samples gathered last week. Those results could take up to three weeks. Others point to varying intelligence gathered from the U.S., France and the United Kingdom.

But McCain argued "we need no further proof."

"I mean those bodies you saw stacked up with physical wounds, I mean, it's clear that the issue is chemical weapons. He's already used them, it's been proven," he said.

Military has concerns about Syria mission

It's now up to Congress to weigh in on whether the U.S. should take action, though the president has said he maintains the right to act unilaterally. So far, most lawmakers indicate they're undecided on the issue and many are waiting to hear what the administration says in congressional hearings and more classified briefings this week.

How will they vote? House of Representatives | Senate

Graham said he hopes Congress will get behind the idea of a military campaign and weapons upgrade for the rebels, otherwise, he said, "the worst is yet to come."

"This vote is going to be too close to call right now, and if we lost this vote, oh my God, I can only imagine how it would make us look throughout the world. But if we have a weak response, that's just as bad. So the president needs to up his game," he said.


Filed under: John McCain • Lindsey Graham • Syria
soundoff (96 Responses)
  1. josebesr

    Mc Cain and Graham talk tough but their not putting their live on the line.

    September 3, 2013 12:04 pm at 12:04 pm |
  2. wendel

    the president was smart to involve congress. Not because he is afraid. This way if congress does not go along they will be the ones looking bad. Good move Mr president

    September 3, 2013 12:05 pm at 12:05 pm |
  3. REALITY

    We have no allies in Syria. Syrians, Hezbollah, Iranian special forces and al-Qaeda are killing each other. If we send them all enough ammunition, maybe they will kill each other.

    September 3, 2013 12:06 pm at 12:06 pm |
  4. james

    The message this really sends is that you can blow up kids and civilians all you want. Torture them, set them on fire all you want, but use chemicals and we'll intervene. Another attack against a country that hasn't attacked us? We don't have the resources to police every state that coomits atrocities. Maybe it is time to put more resources into the U.N. peacekeeping force. With two Million refugees, humanitarian aid would ensure that we have two million people in the area with some favorable opinion of us when obviously whatever group that wins this conflict won't. Brutality determines the winner. Everyone else loses, including the president and it's time to cut losses and back off.

    September 3, 2013 12:13 pm at 12:13 pm |
  5. don

    @Mel.... You people complain when he makes decisions on his own and complain when he consults Congress. All you people do is complain. I don't see you coming up with any solutions just more problems.

    September 3, 2013 12:16 pm at 12:16 pm |
  6. wendel

    I keep hearing from the trolls that Obama is breaking international law that he is afraid . What's wrong with you trolls. What international law are you talking about? Do you just like to make stuff up and see if it will stick? This situation is a mess granted but you idiots are really off the wall. After the Iraq mess the world is leery of any involvement. But the US has to step up. We tell the world one thing so we must act. This president is damned either way because republicans don't like to back anything he does. This is more important and unity should be shown.

    September 3, 2013 12:16 pm at 12:16 pm |
  7. Monza

    If our president thought he WOULDN'T get congressional approval- he wouldn't involve them. He was fully prepared to act and the public responded EXTREMELY negatively, on BOTH sides. If he went into Syria without congress, leaving the public outraged- he'd ruin his legacy. AND this will be war, it's not going to be pretty. All of that would fall on him alone. However, if he waits for congress KNOWING they'll approve (and they likely will), allowing extra time to dizzy the public with spin- once we go in and it gets ugly -it falls on no one person, but instead on our political processes. No one then is accountable. I hope the public stands firm on remaining uninvolved, and pressures congress. It's our last "out" in this situation. Though... They probably will do whatever anyway. :-/

    September 3, 2013 12:17 pm at 12:17 pm |
  8. Scott Cisney

    Mel: The president ordered a mission into Pakistan to kill or capture Bin Laden after a decade of searching for him. That was a hard decision. This is a hard decision, but it is likely to take more time and potentially cost more lives and the president wants to have the support of congress in doing this. Which is what the constitution requires, by the way. It used to be that partisan activity stopped at the "water's edge". Sadly, your attitude will probably affect how those on the other side will treat a republican president in a future crises.

    September 3, 2013 12:18 pm at 12:18 pm |
  9. mightyduk

    People were criticizing Obama for not consulting congress like Bush did. Now that he is consulting congress hw gets criticized by clueless above. Dam if you do dam if you don't.

    September 3, 2013 12:19 pm at 12:19 pm |
  10. Rudy NYC

    Mel

    The only reason Obama is consulting Congress is because he is AFRAID of making a decision. It was real easy for him to stand on the sidelines and criticize Bush, but when it comes down to him having to make a hard decision he can't or won't do it.
    -------------
    Psst. Congressional Republicans have been screaming that the POTUS cannot act without and authorization from the Congress. You're criticizing Pres. Obama for following the U.S. Constitution to the letter.

    September 3, 2013 12:19 pm at 12:19 pm |
  11. jon wilson

    What if Assad uses Chemical weapons again? We have to send a message to Assad a.s,a,p. We've already waited to long. Just a couple of major air strikes might change their mind. Right now we look like wimps.

    September 3, 2013 12:20 pm at 12:20 pm |
  12. rs

    "Obama could not lead flies to a garbage can. This is why you never, ever elect a community organizer as president."
    _________________
    Not that you'd understand it, but a "Community Organizer" (and university professor, lawyer and U.S. Senator) might be wise to use those skills to gain consensus (especially from the anti-American GOP) before pulling the trigger.

    Tell the truth- was picking a male cheerleader a better choice in the last administration??

    September 3, 2013 12:28 pm at 12:28 pm |
  13. Wake up People!

    Whatever Mel. President Obama is not weak. It takes a lot of courage to stand up and try to do the right thing when the people that should be working with you are looking in strawberry patches for a reason any reason to impeach you. It also takes a lot of courage to run for POTUS in a country where people of any color are looked down on. Had the GOP sucked up their loss and attempted to at least be civil with the POTUS maybe we wouldn't be where we are today. Had the GOP put as much effort into working with the POTUS instead of working against him, maybe we would be better off. No all they do is criticize him for any and everything he does. One minute they are for something, and the minute he agrees with them, they are against it. You don't think the entire world is watching?

    I'm not for any war but I do trust this President, that you and your ilk constantly refer to as the community organizer, he is not a war monger, but is an incredible man that has more brains in his pinky toe than the previous occupant of the Oval Office has in his entire body.

    September 3, 2013 12:30 pm at 12:30 pm |
  14. Rick McDaniel

    Both of these guys need to be replaced int he next election, and in my state, I feel certain Graham WILL be replaced, with someone who backs the wishes of the people of SC.

    September 3, 2013 12:40 pm at 12:40 pm |
  15. Terry

    Rick McDaniel

    Amen to that, and old senile McCain also needs to go

    September 3, 2013 12:45 pm at 12:45 pm |
  16. Fair is Fair

    "However, if he waits for congress KNOWING they'll approve (and they likely will), allowing extra time to dizzy the public with spin- once we go in and it gets ugly -it falls on no one person, but instead on our political processes."
    ------–
    I think GWB might disagree with that. At any rate, if it does get ugly (and "ugly" is a mild term to use for what's going to happen, IMO), the President's minions will say "congress told him to", when nothing could be further from the truth. Congress "authorized him to"... BUT the decision is HIS and HIS ALONE.

    September 3, 2013 12:52 pm at 12:52 pm |
  17. morigoldlist

    Take a deep breath and just imagine... it may not be true, but just imagine that the chemical gas (flouride) was used by the rebels to "force" the US to attack Assad. Would John McCain and his pals be so fervent in their attempts to get the US to bomb the rebels? Which rebels would you bomb?

    All we keep hearing about is the 100,000+ Syrian civilians that have so far been killed by Assad? Did none of the rebel fighters get killed?? Not One? How about Assad's soldiers... none of them got killed either??

    Mori Goldlist
    Toronto Canada

    September 3, 2013 12:58 pm at 12:58 pm |
  18. Dominican mama 4 Obama

    Mel

    The only reason Obama is consulting Congress is because he is AFRAID of making a decision.
    -------------------------------------------------
    Spoken like somebody who hasn't been paying attention to how THIS President has maneuvered the GOP into the proverbial, unenviable corner.
    The country doesn't want military interference.
    President Obama thinks we should do something to voice our objections to Syria violating international laws. Yet at the same time he realizes that we're "war-weary".
    Congress clamors, nay, demands that he lets THEM vote on it.........
    Wayyy too easy if you ask me.

    September 3, 2013 01:04 pm at 1:04 pm |
  19. pat carr

    Looks like old McWar is back at it again. I am sure he will be glad to personally contribute to the war effort!

    September 3, 2013 01:10 pm at 1:10 pm |
  20. Dominican mama 4 Obama

    I'm not for any war but I do trust this President, that you and your ilk constantly refer to as the community organizer, he is not a war monger, but is an incredible man that has more brains in his pinky toe than the previous occupant of the Oval Office has in his entire body
    -------------------------------------------------
    Come, come now Wake up lest you be accused of "worshipping" your President!
    It is okay for the usual suspects to express their hate and dislike of the man and his politics, but it is not cool for us to support him dontchaknow!
    Lol!!

    September 3, 2013 01:12 pm at 1:12 pm |
  21. Hard Corps

    Mel is an idiot troll blinded by hate. Obama is a true American, living the American dream, wealthy, strong, courageous and intelligent. Mel is dumb & owns a diner and is mean to Alice, Flo and Vera.

    September 3, 2013 01:21 pm at 1:21 pm |
  22. ST

    @ Rudy NYC
    You mentioned that Assad regime lack of investigating of who used the chemicals is laughable.
    Are you really serious of what you are writing Dear Rudy?
    Where and how on earth a government sees such an action done to its people and continue to be quiet? Do you think it can happen here or somewhere else? Even in Somalia where they do not have a proper govt. can't swallow such an action. Please let us argue basing on thinking, BUT not for the sake of arguing only.

    September 3, 2013 01:24 pm at 1:24 pm |
  23. Sniffit

    "the President's minions will say "congress told him to", when nothing could be further from the truth. Congress "authorized him to"... BUT the decision is HIS and HIS ALONE."

    Nope. He could do certain things unilaterally under the War Powers Act, but if he seeks Congressional authorization, they ALL share the blame, just like they ALL shared the blame for Iraq. If, for example, like Iraq, it somehow came to be that the chemical weapons attack was misinformation, then that might absolve some of the congresscritters who relied on the truth of that claim (like some did with respect to "Iraq has WMDs!!!"), but otherwise, they can all stew in it together. But that's not likely. This isn't a hunt for imaginary WMDs, but a response to verifiable claims that they were actually used. In that absence of it all turning out to be premised on a lie, they ALL share the blame. If it turns out nicely, you'll no doubt be trying to spread the credit tho, eh?

    September 3, 2013 01:26 pm at 1:26 pm |
  24. truth hurts but reality bites

    wendel
    the president was smart to involve congress. Not because he is afraid. This way if congress does not go along they will be the ones looking bad. Good move Mr president
    ----

    Yes, it is very, very comforting to know we have a political hack and game player in the White House leading this country from behind while endangering the lives of our military, all for political chicanery. Obama is a very dangerous person and should never have been elected, let alone re-elected. The country has already paid an enormous cost for his economic failure and now all of his foreign policy blunders are coming home to roost.

    September 3, 2013 01:31 pm at 1:31 pm |
  25. A Kickin Donkey

    The number of hi tech weapons [anti-tank missiles] provided should be kept to a minimum. Just like Andy Taylor gave Barney Fife ONE BULLET at a time, so too should we give "rebels / freed0m fighters " weapons in Syria. A few, and I mean a FEW, closely TRACKED weapons can level the playing field. Most of the weapons provided though should call for Improvisation by the rebels. Let the special forces command in Tampa recommend what combination of bleach, ammonia, charcoal, and diesel fuel [sarcasm intended] to give to the rebels to allow them to fashion a potent weapon against Assad that would have limited utility against us, Isreal, Turkey, Jordan, etc.

    September 3, 2013 01:42 pm at 1:42 pm |
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