September 11th, 2013
04:51 PM ET
10 years 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. Matt

    Dems never criticized bush for 8 years.... And no media ever covered it.

    September 11, 2013 06:01 pm at 6:01 pm |
  2. Bmike

    My wish coming is Hillary gets elected....the republicans will jumping off of buildings..use to like CNN but they sold out to the right..think about it when was the last time they had a smart republican the nerve to put Obama down...Really...

    September 11, 2013 06:10 pm at 6:10 pm |
  3. otlset

    Shoot, I could easily see Obama was a lying con-artist way back in 2008. Shame the populace is so gullible to be taken in TWICE by the phony liar! Fools.

    September 11, 2013 06:15 pm at 6:15 pm |
  4. G

    but he zipped it when americans were getting killed for oil in iraq

    September 11, 2013 06:18 pm at 6:18 pm |
  5. IBrown

    Corker should run for president since he knows what it takes to be commander in chief. It is easy for all these senators to hide in their office in Capitol Hill and spill crap. Crocker run for president if you are not to chick because you don't know what it takes

    September 11, 2013 06:21 pm at 6:21 pm |
  6. Kerryann Walters

    Some people have no respect For the president of America. I don't understand why President Obama Is the most disrespected president ever! All these politicians Especially the Republicans vote agsinst everything he tries to do. All this is about politics And who don't want to lose the next election. Mr Obama is the Commander in chief There's no other rank higher than that. We are living in a country that does not support the president We all need to ask ourselves what are we giving ouraiders to think of us. United we stand divided we fall! Everyone seems to forgot he took out Bin Laden. I get so annoyed turning on my television And seeing everyone disrespecting the president. What if something happens to America tomorrow morning I guarantee that we all would want him to act In a full force that isgoing to protect our country. What sides with a dictaget that kills woman and children? No one is thinking of that they are thinking about their Next election. I urge all the people who likes to talk negative about the president remember he wasn't Elected by coincidence He was ordained to be a two term president! I wish you could run another 10 terms Just saw that all the negative people could Be quiet. He is the president because we elected him. I am so sick of all these politicians Coming on television and disrespecting him.. I know if a lot of them were in his position They will not be able to do the job he's doing. People have a tendency of saying things They would do if they were in that person's position. I learnt years ago To Look before I leap. If a lot of these people were in the president position right now They would probably handle this Syrian matter Far more worse and he's doing. He is a very smart intelligent man And all I wish for Is for people to stop being disrespectful. All these politicians have their own agenda By saying the rude things they say about him . He's the President get use to it And show the man some respect..

    September 11, 2013 06:23 pm at 6:23 pm |
  7. Tampa Tim

    I think most people have just about had it with the worthless republicans who have nearly destroyed the country, and want to finish it off before 2014. I am finding elected repubs to be worse than al Qaida.

    September 11, 2013 06:28 pm at 6:28 pm |
  8. Tampa Tim

    CNN is becoming a garbage dump just like Fox. Soon we will find out that they also have a substantial foreign ownership.

    September 11, 2013 06:30 pm at 6:30 pm |
  9. Name jk. Sfl. GOP conservatives,the garbage of America.

    Well, lets see, the GOP had sense 2001 to get Osama and failed for all those years and Obama got him!!!! The GOP had to wars running at the same time and mismanaged both of them, wanted to go into Syria for the last two years and now want to oppose Obama, GOP just shut up , you have 0 credibility on ALL issues including Obama care that we want and is the law, your bs isn't workingandcwe know your in the pockets of the insurance industry. Your going to pay with your jobs in 2014 midterms when you LOSE the house AND senate,GOP losers!!!!

    September 11, 2013 06:30 pm at 6:30 pm |
  10. kgala

    Corker Speaketh with Blinders on.

    September 11, 2013 06:35 pm at 6:35 pm |
  11. Name Batman

    I am uncomfortable that Corker is even in the Senate.

    September 11, 2013 06:43 pm at 6:43 pm |
  12. FGW

    Thank God Obama recognizes the problem with Syria, and is working towards resolving the issued at hand. Again, the dummies of the Republican party are participating in a concerted effort to damage and sell a special brand of hate because our President is a black man. They would never evah do this to a white President. I don't appreciate one single word this nut who is a senator named Bob Corker, and is collecting a salary from the hard working tax payers of this country. Close the door on this ugly man's face, and shove the golf balls where the sun don't shine.

    September 11, 2013 06:45 pm at 6:45 pm |
  13. Name Bigburnzie2000

    Obama made Putin blink.Syria is close to Russia and combatant wise are weak.Splendid move Obama.The Kremlin has no submarines and no army.

    September 11, 2013 06:49 pm at 6:49 pm |
  14. Name jk. Sfl. GOP conservatives,the garbage of America.

    The GOP is too incompetent to run the country and they prove it every day and will lose the house in 2014 in spite of there vote rigging, losers!!!!!

    September 11, 2013 06:51 pm at 6:51 pm |
  15. Real Speak

    How can any of you say that CNN is Fox News lite. CNN buried this story. Anyway, it's sad for me to say this but for those that call the GOP a bunch of racists for disagreeing with the President, time to look in the mirror. Your own bigotry is evident by your blind following of a man based on his race. He is fallible and in this moment he has obviously been at his worst equal to how he was at his best when he took out Bin Laden.

    September 11, 2013 06:56 pm at 6:56 pm |
  16. Leftcoastrocky

    was obama uncomfortable as commander-in-chief with respect to iraq, afghanistan, bin laden, libya? NO

    September 11, 2013 07:01 pm at 7:01 pm |
  17. simplefaith

    Republicans will not get into the White House in 2016. Too many idiots in the gtroup. I say Ms. Hillary Clinton will win hands down if she ran for president..

    September 11, 2013 07:02 pm at 7:02 pm |
  18. simplefaith

    Worse Congress I have ever seen in years. I have been around a long time.All they seem to do is try to block the President in getting any work done. People don't vote for the same jack asses that have been obstructionists for the last five years. Examples: Mitch McConnell. John Boehner, Rubio, Rand Paul, Cantor, etc. The only half decent Repub is Chris Christi.

    September 11, 2013 07:09 pm at 7:09 pm |
  19. HEEHAW

    Ahhahaha, and he supported chimp in chief Bush!

    September 11, 2013 07:18 pm at 7:18 pm |
  20. tom l

    PD Sniffit,
    Wow your latent racist feelings are coming out. Only someone who harbors such feelings would glean from this story that racism is behind what Corker is saying. Race doesn't even occur to me but it occurs to you at every moment of every story of every day. Only someone with those feelings would think that racism has something to do with it. So now because Corker, who supported Obama when he was talking about striking Syria and has now changed his stance, is only against him because of the color of his skin? But he was supporting him before. How do you do it? You twist and turn with each and every post and contradict yourself more and more each day to support your immature thought process that everything with Obama is about race.

    And on that note, you have accused Putin of not working with Obama because he, too, is a racist. Now Putin is the one you trust to take care of Syria's chemical weapons. I ask you this, why would Putin do that? How could you possibly think this is a good idea to trust a racist like Putin who obviously has it out for Obama. Now Putin is going to help Obama and make him look good??? That makes no sense. Don't you think he has some nefarious reasons behind what he's doing? He is a racist according to you so that could be the only logical conclusion. So which is it, PD Sniffit? Your twisting like a pretzel. Perhaps I should change you from PD Sniffit (Paula Dean for those that don't remember) to Rold Gold.

    September 11, 2013 07:18 pm at 7:18 pm |
  21. Name

    you voted for him

    September 11, 2013 07:21 pm at 7:21 pm |
  22. eric

    Bush seemed real comfortable his last year he hid under his desk.

    September 11, 2013 07:22 pm at 7:22 pm |
  23. tom l

    Bush took 5 months, got UN approval, had other countries join in the fight and also got approval from Congress. And liberals still complain that he rushed to war and didn't have world support. Obama, on the other hand, has not gone to the UN, does not have one country that will join in the fight and doesn't have approval from Congress (not even from his own party). What's wrong with this picture? The intellectual dishonesty of the left knows no bounds.

    September 11, 2013 07:24 pm at 7:24 pm |
  24. Maria Rivera-Carvalho

    A Republican senator, still full of sour grapes and bile, criticizing the president? For people like Bob Corker, it's difficult to recognize true statemanship. But, senator, voters do. You better get serious about the business of doing your job. Character assesination is a Republican trademark that backfires everytime but there really are slow learners. And remember, senator, history is not kind to Fifth Columnists.

    September 11, 2013 07:30 pm at 7:30 pm |
  25. dmf

    Sen. Corker , do you consider your self smart ! You try it . What have you achieved as a GOP Senator ? here is to do list : for 2014 budget reconciliation process , the unemployed , Working poor , Women , GLBT and minority rights , immigration reforms , Gun violence control ... Sen. talk is cheap . President Obama now needs a break . The GOP in Congress have wasted time , at tax payers account for five years , as obstructionists and doing nothing .

    September 11, 2013 07:33 pm at 7:33 pm |
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