September 11th, 2013
04:51 PM ET
10 months ago

Sen. Corker slams Obama on credibility

Washington (CNN) – Sen. Bob Corker, one of the few Senate Republicans who’s been eager to work with the White House on domestic and international issues like Syria, expressed utter disappointment in the president’s handling of Syria and, in unusually frank terms, questioned his abilities as commander in chief.

“The president just seems to be very uncomfortable being commander in chief of this nation,” an exasperated Corker said Wednesday in an interview on Capitol Hill.

“He's very good in an interpersonal setting, he just cannot follow through,” he added. “He cannot speak to the nation as a commander in chief. He cannot speak to the world as a commander in chief. He just cannot do it, and I don’t know what it is.”

The Tennessee Republican is supportive of the president’s proposal for military action in Syria, following President Bashar al-Assad’s alleged use of chemical weapons on civilians last month. Corker authored the Senate resolution with Sen. Bob Menendez, chairman of the foreign relations committee, to give the president authorization to use force.

The resolution passed the committee last month, but a full Senate vote on the measure has been delayed indefinitely as the Obama administration seeks a possible diplomatic solution. While Corker said he still supports President Barack Obama on potential military force, he argued it’s getting more and more difficult to stand by his side.

He even revealed that he fired off an email to White House Chief of Staff Denis McDonough Wednesday morning expressing his disappointment with the president’s address to the nation, saying “you guys are really hard to help, ok?”

“I'm still there, but they make it so hard to help them when they don't make the case in the way that it needs to be made,” said Corker, expressing dismay that Obama did not make the case of how the United States’ credibility is at stake when it doesn’t follow through on its foreign policy. “It’s just a complete muddlement.”

Corker said he hadn’t heard back from McDonough and didn’t expect to, since “it was a pretty pointed email.”

Corker even said during his interview with CNN that he “shouldn’t be saying everything” he was saying but said his “temperature level is up slightly” after Tuesday night’s speech.

The senator specifically pointed to the “red line” the president drew last year referring to chemical weapons. “He never discussed that last night, never talked about how important it is for us to have credibility in the region.”

Corker, who was part of a small group of GOP senators that had dinner with Obama and Vice President Joe Biden on Sunday, said the president is “confident and very engaging” in a private setting. The two have met often on policy issues and went golfing together as recently as May, something the president rarely does with members of Congress. But Corker reiterated Obama is “very uncomfortable being commander in chief” on a more public stage.

When the president went to Capitol Hill on Tuesday to meet separately with Senate Democrats and Republicans, Corker said Obama “framed the discussion” in a way that made Corker think the president would talk about the “red line” and U.S. credibility during the speech. But Corker now feels he “could not be more disappointed” by the content of his address.

In his remarks, the president tried to sell military intervention should the diplomatic option fail. He made the moral argument–citing the horrific images of adults and children dying from the attack—and tried to lay the political and strategic reasons for why force would be of national security interest to the U.S. and to the region.

“If fighting spills beyond Syria's borders, these weapons could threaten allies like Turkey, Jordan and Israel,” Obama said. “And a failure to stand against the use of chemical weapons would weaken prohibitions against other weapons of mass destruction and embolden Assad's ally, Iran, which must decide whether to ignore international law by building a nuclear weapon or to take a more peaceful path.”

“This is not a world we should accept,” he continued. “This is what's at stake.”

But Corker was frustrated there was no mention of the United States’ “credibility” should the country forego following through with its ultimatum on chemical weapons. “I heard no word—not one word of it.”

The administration’s latest handling of the Syria situation, Corker said, has hurt Obama “tremendously” in his relations with members of Congress—relationships the president had been trying to strengthen through more outreach this year. “He's a diminished figure here on Capitol Hill, I can assure you that,” he said.

Corker said he’ll still try to work with the president on certain issues like he has with immigration and the country’s fiscal problems, “but at the moment I’m very discouraged.”

– CNN's Ashley Killough contributed to this report.


Filed under: Bob Corker • President Obama
soundoff (92 Responses)
  1. Jeff Brown in Jersey

    And Corker is significant because?

    September 11, 2013 10:53 pm at 10:53 pm |
  2. Bamabegone!

    Who is Barack Obama? Ah, yes - nobody particularly intelligent or important - just someone the liberals elected because he speaks well - joy to the world!!!

    September 11, 2013 11:02 pm at 11:02 pm |
  3. tanrah43

    CNN has turned in fauxs news apparently your new bosses are gop cronies.

    September 11, 2013 11:32 pm at 11:32 pm |
  4. evenabrokenclock

    Why don't we do it in the road? No one will be watching us. Why don't we do it in the road?

    September 11, 2013 11:52 pm at 11:52 pm |
  5. Jack

    After being harassed, called every name, but the "N" word in the book. Maybe, just maybe you should support our President!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    September 11, 2013 11:58 pm at 11:58 pm |
  6. Evergreen

    There is a time to be the Commander In Chief and a time to be a Statesman. The President is able to handle both and strike the right balance. Syria is not going anywhere. If diplomacy fails there will still be plenty of targets to hit. President Obama and President Putin aren't nearly as petty as some of the keyboard warriors that post on this site. They will reach common ground

    September 12, 2013 12:08 am at 12:08 am |
  7. Michael Benjamin

    The president is screwed! There are not enough Republicans who have his back over Syria. America's credibility is secondary to Republicans in making the president look bad. That has been their position since he won in 2008. The only way out of this mess is to cut taxes for the rich then the Republicans might support him.

    September 12, 2013 12:33 am at 12:33 am |
  8. Dvet

    Congress doesnt have any credibility.

    September 12, 2013 01:10 am at 1:10 am |
  9. Fish

    Just one more completely ridiculous statement which amounts to nothing but bulloney!!! The President isn't comfortable being President??? or being a leader??? I think his cork is loose, just one more rabid right utterance of hypocrisy that means absolutely nothing more than hot air!!! Where in the world are these morons coming from making statements like this with no evidence reason or logic. I need a drink to wash this stuff down!!!

    September 12, 2013 01:40 am at 1:40 am |
  10. SecrtSqurll

    You would think that the nation would notice the total lack of respect that Republicans have for the office of President. They seem to want to harm the nation far more than any terrorist, and do so just because they do not get their way. Pathetic.

    September 12, 2013 02:28 am at 2:28 am |
  11. Iamnotfooled

    President Obama is very comfortable in his role as Commander-in Chief. He is also very good at it. He could be way better if the Republicans would work with him instead of against him on everything.

    September 12, 2013 03:45 am at 3:45 am |
  12. LIAR

    It would be fine for MR.President to work with Russia about the Syria Resolution, I just wonder WHY MR.Putin have not really working with Mr.Obama on the Edward Snowden Issue in the last few weeks? Secondly, WHY Russia want to wotk with Mr. LIAR, Putin has just called Mr.Kerry is a big LIAR???

    September 12, 2013 04:08 am at 4:08 am |
  13. Mike

    Well opinions are a dime a dozen. So Corker how about showing some American loyalty, this just doesn’t seem to be the time for such unproductive or uneventful comments. Is it an opportunity to catch a little limelight that you see here.. Current world events as we see them to be, need to be treated with caution and tactfulness as the President has already demonstrated to do so well. I am sure that he is being updated of changes on a moment to moment basis requiring him to contemplate on these as they occur. His record on following through is very good by the way. So take a break..

    September 12, 2013 04:14 am at 4:14 am |
  14. Tom

    A Republican criticizing Obama? OK! Anything else going on any more important that this? How about JOBS? Any of you republicans remember promising to create jobs? I may not be the brightest bulb on the string, but I do remember you running on that premise, but since that time, all I have heard from you is 'NO' and 'Obama is an idiot'.........you got anything else in that head of yours? You know.....something that will help the country! Criticizing the President has just become boring! Give it a rest!

    September 12, 2013 05:06 am at 5:06 am |
  15. Angel

    Intervention on part of the U.S. should be minimal at best. Let these other countries try to resolve the situation. Past history
    tells us that middle eastern countries need to take part in policing their region more effectivelly instead of destroying one
    another and wanting us to help. Putin may say all he wants but bottom line he just another politician trying to make
    points. Why did the Soviet Union pull out of Afganistan?

    September 12, 2013 07:04 am at 7:04 am |
  16. Minnie Mouse

    To stand in front of the American people and say "No boots on the ground", is an unfair statement because it may or may not be true.

    We are threating a country that as America, we don't live in. It's great to be a caring and compassionate person but as the President of the United States your threats are going to turn into real actions. Your asking Congress for permission for a limited targeted strike in Syria, which is now calling for full military action on land, water and sea.

    Your threats are being heard not just in America, it's world wide because all of our worlds technology.

    If a concrete solid decision are made and Syria agrees to hand over it's weapons, there will be nothing limited about this process. Our first step of limitation by threats of action now turns into a lengthy complex dangerous technical process in which will take years and involve thousands and thousands of military troops, as well as the involvement from other countries.

    The job is so massive that it may not even be possible to do. We are talking about chemicals, that can contaminate the air we breathe, the water, our land and the lives by the thousands that could be lost in the process if something were to go wrong during the destruction and removal process.

    The costs of the process, will be unknown because we do not know what it's going to take or how long. This is something that has never been done before in massive large quantities. It's a process of trial and error that puts all our countries and it's people at risks, not just the military providing something were to go wrong.

    I feel that our president has started something that our country may not be able to get out of because we are so involved now. Your asking for military action from the support of Congress and the American people. I feel that you may just now get this but in the end it may cost you your job. It's going to take thousands of troops to take on the task of the chemical weapons removal.

    Anyone who's been through a war, anyone who's in the current military, the government, the pentagon, surrounding countries, the America people ect..... knows that this is going to take "Boots on the ground", it's inevitable.

    September 12, 2013 07:07 am at 7:07 am |
  17. smithdp

    Senator Corker. Wait and watch Obama make the right choice on Syria. You mistake puffing your chest out and saying "bring it on" for leadership. Last time that happened someone cowboyed us in to invading a country under false premises.

    September 12, 2013 07:09 am at 7:09 am |
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