September 11th, 2013
08:44 AM ET
12 months ago

Lawmakers give mixed reactions to Syria speech

Washington (CNN) – President Barack Obama's Syria speech Tuesday night drew a variety of political commentary ranging from mostly supportive to harsh criticism of the diplomatic pinball that has led to this point.

House Intelligence Committee Chairman Mike Rogers, R-Mich., said in a statement that he's "hopeful a diplomatic solution can be reached, however, I am skeptical of any proposal proffered by the Russians and doubt Assad's motives for agreeing to this plan ... the President still urgently needs to develop and execute a coherent strategy to address all of those threats."

Live Blog: President Obama's national address

Two of the most ardent proponents of a strike in Congress delivered even more couched remarks, with a joint statement from Republican Senators Lindsay Graham of South Carolina and John McCain of Arizona saying they regretted that the President "did not speak more forcefully about the need to increase our military assistance to moderate opposition forces in Syria, such as the Free Syrian Army," they said.

McCain: Russia's Syria proposal 'has to be explored'

"We also regret that he did not lay out a clearer plan to test the seriousness of the Russian and Syrian proposal to transfer the Assad regime's chemical weapons to international custody."

Syria speech: What's next on Obama's to-do list

Sen. Rand Paul, Republican of Kentucky, who was believed to be one of the most ardent opponents of any military strike on Syria, said on Twitter that the Obama speech did nothing to convince him. To CNN, he argued that "what the president has planned is not going to accomplish what he says he's going to accomplish," in punishing Syrian President Bashar al-Assad for the believed use of chemical weapons last month, Paul said.

Even Democrats seemed unlikely to heap open praise on the Obama administration, with House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi one of the few to give open credit to Obama. "Pres. Obama's leadership brought diplomatic solutions back to the table, shows his willingness to exhaust every remedy before use of force," she tweeted.

CNN Instant Poll: Did Obama move the needle on Syria?

Connecticut Democrat Sen. Chris Murphy has been skeptical of a military strike but called the address a "good speech" on Twitter, arguing that Obama was right to delay the vote. "Resolution of Syrian crisis can only come through political & diplomatic means," he wrote.

Democratic Rep. Elijah Cummings of Maryland has been undecided on a military strike against Syria but he credited Obama for making a "great moral argument," in particular pointing out Obama's contention that U.S. troops could be gassed. Still Cummings urged caution, saying that the U.S. must be careful any action doesn't "mushroom into something else," he said.

The Senate has delayed any vote on the Syria resolution, a resolution that now has even less support after the Russian government offered a path to Syria handing over its chemical weapons stockpiles, which Syria appears to have embraced.

Senate group making changes to authorization resolution

One of the few seemingly still in favor of the resolution is Sen. Carl Levin, chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee. In a statement he said "I believe Congress can best support the goal of a diplomatic solution by approving a resolution that authorizes the use of force if Syria refuses to give up its chemical weapons."

–CNN's Bryan Koenig contributed to this report


Filed under: Congress • President Obama • Syria
soundoff (11 Responses)
  1. robertholt

    Wars and rumors of wars.

    September 11, 2013 08:49 am at 8:49 am |
  2. Lynda/Minnesota

    "I am skeptical of any proposal proffered by the Russians and doubt Assad's motives for agreeing to this plan ..."

    I guess this was Mitch Rogers speaking, whomever he is. But, here's the deal. Whatever happens ... happens.

    I've sat back and listened to the Syrian back and forth talking points in sorrow; in disbelief; in anger; in contempt; and a whole host of other emotions. Emotions primed by certain folks from one side of the aisle and repeated by certain other folks from that same side of the aisle. I was then primed by certain folks from the other side of the aisle. NOT ONE OF THEM HAD ANY IDEA WHAT THEY WERE TALKING ABOUT. Nor, do I think, did the media.

    What I do know is that WWIII has yet to begin. For that I am grateful.

    September 11, 2013 08:57 am at 8:57 am |
  3. Data Driven

    @McCain and Graham,

    "the need to increase our military assistance to moderate opposition forces in Syria, such as the Free Syrian Army,"

    LOL, these two. Just making stuff up as they go along. They have no idea, zero, of who constitutes the "Free Syrian Army". In any case, what does any of that have to do with the stated goal, which is to neutralize the existing CWs in Syria?

    Want different goals, gentlemen? Run for President. Oh that's right, one of you already has.

    September 11, 2013 09:08 am at 9:08 am |
  4. RIchard Long

    On the Anniversary of 9-11, we need to commemorate all those lives lost to AL-Qaeda terrorists by... launching an attack in support of Al-Qaeda terrorists.

    September 11, 2013 09:11 am at 9:11 am |
  5. ST

    I watched CNN last night after the President speech. It was a discussion of CNN workers and Rep. Elijah Cummings who pointed out one time that: His constituency including himself have difficulties to believe intelligence. He went on to say: before attacking Iraq, the most respected person Colonel Powell gave a false report, how come they have to believe the intelligence now? For god's sake no one on that table came to explain to this Rep. that, this time is a different situation. In Iraq it was going there to find WMD, in Syria we all witnessed with our own eyes what WMD looks like by witnessing of those people who were gassed, especially children. Where are serious people gone who CNN used to have before ? Are these people sitting there to count hours go by? I was very, very, astonished watching them!

    September 11, 2013 09:13 am at 9:13 am |
  6. Tom

    So a bunch of Republicans were unhappy with Obama's speech. Who could have seen that coming? Obama could have said "puppies are cute" and the Republicans would disagree.

    September 11, 2013 09:41 am at 9:41 am |
  7. Rudy NYC

    Pres. Obama's critics will continue to criticize no matter what he says or does. For example, they've accused him of not showing leadership for years. So when he takes a frim stance against Syria a year ago no one really complained about what he said at the time. All of sudden, that act of leadership is being mischaracterized as weakness, uncertainty, and incompetence. Solution, ignore them and keep it moving forward.

    September 11, 2013 09:54 am at 9:54 am |
  8. Gurgyl

    Obama knows what he has to do.

    September 11, 2013 10:01 am at 10:01 am |
  9. sonny chapman

    Many Dems. voted to give George W. the green light on the Iraq War in order to present a united front & to give him leverage IN CASE W. wanted an outcome other than war. Why won't the usually Trigger Happy Repubs. do the same for Obama? What happened to their 2002 Campaign Theme,"Country First" ?

    September 11, 2013 10:02 am at 10:02 am |
  10. Tampa Tim

    I preferred Obama's talk to Rand Paul's theme of curling up in a fetal position and let the world pass us by.

    September 11, 2013 10:34 am at 10:34 am |
  11. S.B. Stein

    There still needs to be a resolution authorizing force because I personally don't trust the Syrians; not that the Russians or Iranians are really going to be more trustworthy. The resolution needs to say when things fail (& what constitues failure), the president is authorized to take these actions and for how long.

    September 11, 2013 10:49 am at 10:49 am |