September 11th, 2013
04:51 PM ET
12 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. Lynda/Minnesota

    A thought before the end of the day. CNN has lost all credibility. Just my opinion.

    September 11, 2013 04:56 pm at 4:56 pm |
  2. Data Driven

    Yes, Bob, Obama has a tendency to operate outside of Beltway norms. You're just not used to it.

    Ask yourself this, Bob, and set aside for the moment whether you agree with the President's policy or not: how do comments like yours help?

    I swear, some of these Congresscritters bring out the parent in me. Or, more to the point, the forward-thinking young man in me, patiently trying to describe the benefits of, say, a new railway to a hamlet in Victorian England.

    September 11, 2013 05:02 pm at 5:02 pm |
  3. Jules

    I agree with Lynda – CNN is running so fast to right it makes your head spin. No longer fair and balanced just another faux new station. Some of the talking heads are pathetic in placating those who want to spin to the right.

    September 11, 2013 05:03 pm at 5:03 pm |
  4. just saying

    obama only feels comfortablde on the golf course, at celebrity events or standing in front of pre-selected crowds of adoring koolaide drinkers that believe the drivel that oozes from his mouth.

    September 11, 2013 05:03 pm at 5:03 pm |
  5. BigTBone

    Officially done commenting on CNN sites. They are now in fix news territory.

    The bad thing is that the sellouts here are still viewed as lefty MSM by the freakazoid cons and will never be legit.

    September 11, 2013 05:10 pm at 5:10 pm |
  6. Gurgyl

    This sob is crazy. Do you think I have credibility on GOP thugs that destroyed this nation? Hell, no.

    September 11, 2013 05:10 pm at 5:10 pm |
  7. Sniffit

    Breaking: White male conservative Republican projects his own deep-seeded, subconscious feelings of bigoted resentment towards black Dem POTUS onto everyone else, assuming that his own inability to have or show any respect for him is shared by everyone else. Story at every 5 minutes.

    September 11, 2013 05:11 pm at 5:11 pm |
  8. Sniffit

    "obama only feels comfortablde on the golf course"

    And you only feel comfortable with a white POTUS.

    September 11, 2013 05:11 pm at 5:11 pm |
  9. Sniffit

    "The administration’s latest handling of the Syria situation, Corker said, has hurt Obama “tremendously” in his relations with members of Congress"

    HAHAHAHAHAHAHA!!!! You mean with the people who have spent 5 years doing nothing but trying to destroy him? Color me dismayed!!!! And then GFY, you partisan dillhole.

    September 11, 2013 05:14 pm at 5:14 pm |
  10. sammy750

    Wow, he and his Republican buddies have a lot to say about Obama. They have voted against the American People wishes for a few years. Defeating all the bills that the American people want passed.

    September 11, 2013 05:16 pm at 5:16 pm |
  11. Sniffit

    Brass Tacks: Corker is trying to re-establish his Teatroll bona fides after appearing to be a little too supportive of things Obama said and did. He's trying to balance that out.

    September 11, 2013 05:16 pm at 5:16 pm |
  12. don in albuquerque

    Wow! Stop the presses! Hit the Batsignal, Commissioner! Another GOTP member slams the President! Work hard guys and maybe you can hold him to two terms. You don't work on anything else, so this should be east.

    September 11, 2013 05:17 pm at 5:17 pm |
  13. Anonymous

    Well, tell you what Bob. Try spending every day facing the radical right wing who is out to destroy you and
    America by obstructing everything you try to do. Try hearing the nasty names being thrown in your face,
    or at your wife.
    Try being told "you lie" while giving a speech in the once revered House Chamber.
    A lesser man would have crumbled, thrown his hands up and said "let George do it". George did do it,
    whipping through his Presidency without a care. Free to whack weeds and vacation almost l/3rd of
    his two terms, travel all over the world, making stupid comments, and following Cheney's lead and not
    one word of objection – from anybody.
    I'm disappointed too, in the weakness of the Republicans who are so afraid of Norquist and the Tea Party,
    they can't get anything done.
    I imagine President Obama never imagined that some of you would be willing to sell America down the
    river based only on personal hate for him
    In the words of your beloved GW Bush: "Fool me once shame on...shame on you. Fool me – you can't
    get fooled again". I won't be "fooled again". Never trust a Republican until they quit tossing out the
    moderates and get over their pettiness.

    September 11, 2013 05:21 pm at 5:21 pm |
  14. Joan

    President Obama is one of the most intelligent, capable, caring and charismatic leaders the US has ever had. Despite all the lies and hatred spewed at him he has stayed focussed and classy. Actually the way he is treated by his opposition and the media, the United States doesn't deserve him. He understands what is going on far more than any of the media realizes. He stood up to Assad using chemical weapons, threatened a strike, Assad and Putin caved and now there could be a peaceful solution if the opposition and media don't muddy the waters and mess it up. Everyone is watching.

    September 11, 2013 05:23 pm at 5:23 pm |
  15. Tom

    Is CNN trying to become Fox lite? Covering every Republican who has something negative to say about Obama as big, breaking news is a little silly. Or, maybe you guys now see it as "fair and balanced?"

    September 11, 2013 05:23 pm at 5:23 pm |
  16. Ronald

    GOP, so quick to want to go to WAR, but not so eager to support the POTUS on domestic issues. GET REAL!!!!

    September 11, 2013 05:36 pm at 5:36 pm |
  17. just saying

    Sniffit

    "obama only feels comfortablde on the golf course"
    --

    FIFY

    And you only feel comfortable with a COMPETENT POTUS.

    September 11, 2013 05:36 pm at 5:36 pm |
  18. Lynda/Minnesota

    @Jules.

    Unfortunately, I can't say what I really think so I do the best I can within the restrictions I am given. Others are able to spit just about anything they want out on these posts. I'm held to a higher standard. Don't ask me why.

    SMS.

    September 11, 2013 05:40 pm at 5:40 pm |
  19. ThinkAgain

    @just saying: "obama only feels comfortablde on the golf course, at celebrity events or standing in front of pre-selected crowds of adoring koolaide drinkers that believe the drivel that oozes from his mouth."

    Tell that to bin Laden and all the al Qaeda leadership rotting in their graves because of President Obama's orders as Commander in Chief.

    September 11, 2013 05:50 pm at 5:50 pm |
  20. Lisa P.

    If Senator Corker thinks he could do it so much better perhaps he ought to put his own credibility on the line and run for President himself.

    Personally I thought President Obama did a pretty good job of reminding everyone that the military option is still open. That's all he needed to do at this point in the negotiation. Ball in the UN's court, then we'll see if Putin is good on his word.

    September 11, 2013 05:50 pm at 5:50 pm |
  21. Sniffit

    "And you only feel comfortable with a COMPETENT POTUS."

    Might explain why I'm feeling so relaxed in the face of your 5 year hissy fit, champ. But please, do carry on...and on...and on and on and on...

    September 11, 2013 05:51 pm at 5:51 pm |
  22. ThinkAgain

    @Sniffit: "Brass Tacks: Corker is trying to re-establish his Teatroll bona fides after appearing to be a little too supportive of things Obama said and did. He's trying to balance that out."

    And only a tin-foil-hatted, RWNJ, low-information, whiny coward (read: Republican/tea troll) can't see that.

    September 11, 2013 05:52 pm at 5:52 pm |
  23. tiscali.it

    wow... he says that of that man he got Bin Ladin one try and the pirates without going to congress

    Burnie.. President Obama got exactly what he wanted.... Russia to do what they suppose to do about Assad.

    September 11, 2013 05:55 pm at 5:55 pm |
  24. Thomas

    If we change the name of Syria to Iran , the GOP will be all for an attack . If we change the name of the United States of America to say India , the GOP will be all for a cast system that represents the 4%.

    Sen. Bob Corker a man with a grudge .

    September 11, 2013 05:55 pm at 5:55 pm |
  25. just asking

    Tom
    Is CNN trying to become Fox lite? Covering every Republican who has something negative to say about Obama as big, breaking news is a little silly. Or, maybe you guys now see it as "fair and balanced?"
    -–

    yeah, you tell them! doesn't cnn know they are only supposed to post good things about obama and nothing from his critics? why aren't they behaving like a good old left wing obama propaganda machine? obama should just shiut them down right?

    ahhhhhh the tolerate left! tolerate of any type of deviate or criminal behavior but not of any opposing viewpoints.

    September 11, 2013 05:56 pm at 5:56 pm |
1 2 3 4