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. Name fannie

    Obama makes a better commander and thief than commander and chief

    September 11, 2013 07:37 pm at 7:37 pm |
  2. Jack

    Sen. Bob Corker, maybe you should look in the mirror!

    September 11, 2013 07:39 pm at 7:39 pm |
  3. Life

    Oh, yeah. I suppose almost anyone should be "comfortable" with being commander in chief of the most powerful armed forces in the world. All the decisions are perfectly simple and clear, after all, and there are never unanticipated consequences from either acting or not acting. A leader should never make it seem like they have to think about what they're doing, when they can bluff it out like GWB did. Corker's just another Tennessee politician pretending to be helpful while spearing his fantasy friend Obama in the back. Go back to the "holler', Corkie ol"boy.

    September 11, 2013 07:54 pm at 7:54 pm |
  4. Jd21

    Ignorance of history; total lack of leadership skills; dour, lecturing demeanor. This guy wins the triple crown of presidential incompetence. He has bungled everything he's touched, and he's even brought back Keynesian economics, which has failed everywhere it's been tried. He's yours, libs. Glad you love him. Just hope we can survive him.

    September 11, 2013 07:58 pm at 7:58 pm |
  5. Namedave

    He's a community organizer not a commander in chief

    September 11, 2013 07:59 pm at 7:59 pm |
  6. sniff

    I love the fact that in this country we can agree to disagree. I could not diagree with you more, Obama will go down in the same light of Grant and Carter. Do not even say the opposition is treating him bad, were you alive during the Bush years? Obama is treated like a king compaired to that.

    September 11, 2013 08:18 pm at 8:18 pm |
  7. rs

    More nonsesne from the Right. When he doesn't bomb Syria (like when they wanted to in December), he isn't leading. When he seeks (as the Constitution demands) Congressional approval to go after Syria (as the GOP demanded), he isn't leading.
    Just mindless whining from the Right- working ever faster to make themselves irrelevant.

    September 11, 2013 08:37 pm at 8:37 pm |
  8. rs

    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.
    Focus man, focus! Golf is a bad analogy. Remember when Bush said he'd "give up" golf while Americans were dying in a war? They he got photographed golfing just a few weeks later? Face it, W took almost 400 days of vacation in his first 5 years in office compared to Obamas 87.
    Who's the slacker?

    September 11, 2013 08:40 pm at 8:40 pm |
  9. liberal

    The reality about the GOP is: if the President turns left, they all scream he should turn right. If the President turns right, they all screaming that he should know to turn left. If the President wants to have a discussion with the GOP about 'left' or 'right', they all scream that he is not leading. If the President doesn't have a discussion with the GOP about 'left' or 'right' they scream that he is ramming stuff down their throats.

    Throw the GOP out. They are useless.

    On a different note: Five years ago Lehman Brothers imploded, the last straw that brought down down the economy. Remember where we were when Obama was sworn in, the complete panic that we were going to hit the ground etc. And look where we are now! We've made HUGE improvements in every area, despite the GOP trying to obstruct EVERYTHING the President has worked on.

    Throw out the GOP.

    September 11, 2013 08:57 pm at 8:57 pm |
  10. ThinkAgain

    @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?"

    No, CNN, is just interested in their click-through rate. So sensationalism wins every time.

    September 11, 2013 08:59 pm at 8:59 pm |
  11. ThinkAgain

    @Anonymous: "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."

    Yes, it's pretty astounding that all these supposed Christian, freedom-lovers are such jerks (actually, I'd like to use a 5-letter word that starts with "P" and ends with "CK", but CNN would censor me).

    I wouldn't care, except the RWNJ are actively trying to destroy our country. How else can you explain people who WANT our president and our country to fail – HOW?

    September 11, 2013 09:01 pm at 9:01 pm |
  12. JTDeth

    Obama stepped into it in his usual thoughtless careless moralizing way by arbitrarily staking out a "red line" that has already been crossed without consequence by others in a situation where the country did not see that line as important. Assad called him on it. Obama, having alienated his potential allies in Congress by his endless expressions fo contempt and vilification directed towards them, having alienated even our staunchest allies, the Brits, by his constant petty insults and lack of support for them (an inheritance from the anti-British sentiments discussed in "Dreams of My Father"), and then finding only a fraction of the liberals would turn tail on a dime and stomp on their principles of the last 20 years to become instant militarists – found himself without allies or supporters of note. All the worst – after a lifetime of "leading from behind" by taking no initiative or risk and letting others do the work and take the risk then emerging at the last minute to take credit if it succeeded or backstabbing and vilifying them if it failed, Obama stumbled into actually having to lead something. Corker is absolutely correct that Obama cannot lead his way out of a paper bag. The final piece to this sad unveiling of a failed narcissist is that the ruthless and wiley Putin then threw him a lifeline but one which both of them knows cripples Obama for the rest of his Presidency since, to avoid final public humiliation he then handed the timelines and initiative to our opponents the Russians. This will be an interesting chapter is Obama's biography. Hopefully the country survives this period of having such an unaccomplished utter amateur as President. I think we will. We survived Aaron Burr and Jimmy Carter.

    September 11, 2013 09:02 pm at 9:02 pm |
  13. saneandeducated

    A Republican senator lecturing about credibility? I'm incredulous.

    September 11, 2013 09:02 pm at 9:02 pm |
  14. RalphB

    Shorter Corker: Know what that speech needed? More cowbelll!

    September 11, 2013 09:02 pm at 9:02 pm |
  15. JTDeth

    On another note, it is just so interesting to see how many commenters see the fact that CNN publishes anything critical of Obama as a sign of descent into the dark side. The fact is that CNN is way left of center but they are at least trying to mave some appeal to the moderates.

    September 11, 2013 09:04 pm at 9:04 pm |
  16. Really

    Corker should just put a cork in it and shut his mouth.

    September 11, 2013 09:07 pm at 9:07 pm |
  17. tstorm92

    The GOP will NEVER be an ally of the United States or our governemnt .Republicans hate our president, our way of life, even our middle class. This is not news.

    September 11, 2013 09:11 pm at 9:11 pm |
  18. Nietzsche

    Surprise! You're Dead! (You said Small Government or Big Government)

    Righteous Judgement requires not favoring one side over the other, and it was this that saved Noah when the hearts and minds of the world were corrupted. You must want government that's not too big and not too small, government that is just right – True Righteousness, not Self-Righteousness. Remember Goldy Locks, not too hot, not too small, and just "right".

    September 11, 2013 09:20 pm at 9:20 pm |
  19. vikingwoman

    Oh, put a cork-er in it & bob on outta here! Just had to go there, y'all!!

    September 11, 2013 09:25 pm at 9:25 pm |
  20. Just

    The O experiment is now recognized as a fail worldwide.

    September 11, 2013 09:26 pm at 9:26 pm |
  21. notfooledagain

    I suspect that B0 is a really good community organizer.

    September 11, 2013 09:53 pm at 9:53 pm |
  22. Steve/Florida

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

    I'd like to point out to Senator Corker - and anyone else who shares the same wrong information - that the President is not the commander-in-chief of the nation. He is the commander-in-chief of the armed forces only. As a retired military man I can tell you there's a very big difference. For example, in the military you can get court martialed for disobeying an order by your commander. So it follows that if the President were the CINC of the nation, Senator Corker and a whole slew of Republicans (even some Democrats) would in the docket facing charges, right behind Rush Limbaugh and most of the folks on the Fox News payroll. Come to think of it, that might not be a bad idea...

    September 11, 2013 09:55 pm at 9:55 pm |
  23. Anonymous

    Ask Bin Laden and Qaddafi how they feel about President Obama's commander-in-chief capabilities. Oh wait, they are gone thanks to Obama's decisions which resulted in ZERO American soldiers' deaths in both cases unlike previous president which shall remain nameless but it has four letters and starts with "B". No wonder Putin is trying to save his pal, Assad's life by giving up chemical weapons. Google "gunboat diplomacy" if you do not understand what Obama is doing. Bob Corker may want to listen to Obama next time instead of whining to CNN that his feelings are "hurt".

    September 11, 2013 10:02 pm at 10:02 pm |
  24. El Flaco

    Has Obama sent 5000 American soldiers to their deaths for no reason?
    If not, then he's a step up from Bush.

    September 11, 2013 10:03 pm at 10:03 pm |
  25. Gerry Daley

    These people going after CNN....I would bet money that they believe every bigot who poses on FAUX News as a journalist.

    September 11, 2013 10:23 pm at 10:23 pm |
1 2 3 4