Washington Whiplash: DC Pivots Away From Syria

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Nothing fades faster in Washington than an unpopular idea.

The debate over military intervention in Syria departed DC Thursday for the quiet halls of the United Nations and picturesque Geneva, where Secretary of State John Kerry and UN Ambassador Samantha Power are taking the lead on negotiating the transfer of Syrian chemical weapons to the international community. And no sooner were the diplomats wheels up out of Andrews than Washington breathed a collective sigh of relief, shelving the politically unpopular talk of war and returning to the familiar, reassuring routine of partisan bickering and legislative fights.

Even the White House seemed happy to move on, as President Barack Obama marked a pivot from his administration’s singular focus on Syria of the past three weeks.

“Even as we have been spending a lot of time on the Syria issue and making sure that international attention is focused on the horrible tragedy that occurred there, it is still important to recognize that we’ve got a lot more stuff to do here in this government,” Obama said Thursday morning before a meeting of his Cabinet, ticking off a list from education to the budget that he hopes to turn to.

Among them, politics: Vice President Joe Biden is  scheduled to travel to Iowa Sunday to attend Sen. Tom Harkin’s annual steak fry, a major political event in the state home to the first contest of the 2016 presidential cycle.

On Capitol Hill, attention had already started to shift after Obama’s speech Tuesday night.

First on the list of other pressing issues was passing a continuing resolution to fund the government past September 30, as Congressional leaders faced more questions about the tea party than Syria in their weekly press conferences.

The House was expected to vote Thursday on the funding bill, but Speaker of the House John Boehner had to postpone the measure to shore up support for the resolution after conservative members insisted on opposing it because it doesn’t directly cut funding to Obamacare. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid huddled with Boehner, Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi Thursday morning to discuss ways to avert a government shutdown with so little time remaining. House Majority Leader Eric Cantor informed members that the chamber would likely cancel a planned recess the week of Sept. 23 and that members may have to work into the following weekend, though a final decision won’t come until next week. The Senate, meanwhile, has turned to debating a modest bipartisan attempt to boost energy efficiency.

But Congress’ respite may not last as long as some on Capitol Hill might hope. Debate over Syria hasn’t been completely eliminated. Instead it’s returned to where it was before the chemical weapons attack on Aug. 21. Members of both parties are drawing battle lines over the extent to which the United States should support and arm the Syrian opposition, a familiar fight that has been waged for more than 18 months. “[Authorization for the Use of Military Force] for limited air strikes is likely dead at this point,” said a House GOP aide. “Going forward, the question of training and equipping opposition forces with lethal aid will remain a primary issue for the committees involved.”

 

The White House won’t get much of a Syria break either. While Obama put his request for military authorization on hold Tuesday, the administration has continued Congressional briefings on Syria. The U.S. hopes to strengthen its diplomatic position by keeping a credible military threat against Syrian President Bashar Assad in play. But the mixed message to lawmakers has removed the sense of urgency responsible for what little support there was for war on the Hill. Whatever momentum Obama had built has been reversed and the administration will face an even tougher sell in Congress if negotiations fail or Assad uses chemical weapons again.

That was evident after a House Homeland Security committee briefing Thursday, when members of the President’s own party raised questions about a strike and even opposed arming the Syrian rebels. “I have taken a position strongly opposed to arming the Syrian rebels,” said Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (D-Hawaii), a military veteran. “As we have just honored those who have been killed by al Qaeda on 9/11 yesterday to even consider arming those who have struck and will attempt to strike in the future against us, [arming the rebels] is unconscionable.”

“We want to make sure we know who these folks are,” said Rep. Eric Swallwell (D-Calif.). “There are at least 10 formidable groups out there. Some of them are al-Qaeda. Some of them are anti-West. You better take the time to make sure you know who is who on that battlefield.” Many Republicans, especially those who opposed Syria strikes, share that opinion. White House Press Secretary Jay Carney repeatedly declined to engage in a discussion about American aid to the Syria opposition, which is classified and can be accomplished without Congress. “Both the political and military resistance are and will be receiving assistance,” Carney said.

For now, though, lawmakers and the White House are relishing the break from the issue that the new–and distant–diplomatic track is giving them.

17 comments
tfox393
tfox393

i wanna ride maria like a wild horse going into the night

tfox393
tfox393

My skidmarks could run a country better than bush and his tiny joint

tfox393
tfox393

Bush and his kinky wife ruined america

AntonioAugustoCastillo
AntonioAugustoCastillo

MY FELLOW AMERICANS,

President Obama is the most peaceful leader America has ever had.

He is working 24/7 keeping us safe from additional wars that the merchants of dead and their cohort of politicians for hire are drooling/lobbying for.

Americans need to rally for President Obama, a true and visionary world leader.

sifc33
sifc33

Wait what? Where's the "red line" gone to? 

Sibir_Russia
Sibir_Russia

???"over the extent to which the United States should support and arm the Syrian opposition"

External assistance to the opposition, which leads the armed struggle against the legitimate government, is a gross violation of fundamental rules of international law. In the Declaration on principles of international law, adopted by the UN General Assembly in 1970, it is noted, in particular, that no state shall organize, assist, and financing of armed actions aimed at the violent overthrow of the regime of another state.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov: Arming Syrian Opposition Contradicts the International law

jmac
jmac

Christaine Amanpour's anger erupts with Andrew Sullivan now shouting his peace-nic flag after he supported Bush's invasion of Iraq over "weapons of mass destruction" (chemical and nuclear).   America shouldn't have to sell it's soul simply because Bush was a lying jacka$$:

"How many more times do we have to say that weapons of mass destruction were used?" she said. "And as bad as it is to decapitate somebody, it is by no means equal. We can't use this false moral equivalence about what's going on right now. They tried to do it in the Second World War. They tried to do it in Bosnia. They tried to do it in Rwanda and they're trying to do it now. There is no moral equivalence."

As her panelists tried to interject, Amanpour snapped, "Wait just a second!" Once she had the floor, she continued, "The president of the United States and the most moral country in the world based on the most moral principles in the world, at least that's the fundamental principle that the United States rests on, cannot allow this to go unchecked, cannot allow this to go unchecked...I'm so emotional about this."   --------

I agree with her.   If we invade a country on false pretenses based on the very premise of WMD's, then let a previous president joke about it after he twisted information to lie about it, we have lost our way.  It won't be Bush's fault - it will be our fault.  Our fault for letting him get away with torture, with lying to invade a country that had nothing to do with al Qaeda and the guys who hit us on 9/11, and our fault for now deciding we'll all be the peace niks that Andrew Sullivan made fun of before the invasion of Iraq.   Shame on us.     


faracegerald
faracegerald

@AntonioAugustoCastillo Obama us a terrible president, easily the worst in history. he has ruined this country and made us look weak. you have to be and ignorant welfare collecting simpleton to think he is as good as you think he is. stop being such and overweight uneducated liberal swine

jmac
jmac

@sifc33  The red line's still here.  Should Assad renege on the chemical weapon's agreement we still have to hit him.  We have to do that because we invaded a country based on a dictator using chemical weapons 15 years before and the lie that that dictator was using yellow cake and close to a 'mushroom cloud.'   

Later joked about by the president who used that excuse.  So funny that Saddam had no WMD's.  Hilarious to that Republican president.  


jmac
jmac

@Sibir_Russia Russia - lying about Assad's use of chemical weapons.  Or maybe Russia just likes to play dumb?

anon76
anon76

@Sibir_Russia 

He sends them Hellfires for both Christmas and Ramadan.  What a mensch!

jmac
jmac

@Sibir_Russia  Maybe this legitimate government shouldn't have violated international law by using chemical weapons.   The proof is hard to deny.   The UN didn't back Bush and Colin Powell as they fudged the truth on Iraq,   -----  but the UN says Assad used chemical weapons.    

jmac
jmac

@faracegerald @AntonioAugustoCastillo faracegerald -The cowboy  Bush made us look weak by veering from the man that attack our towers and going after a very weak country (weaker than when his dad went in) by using false information that he joked about in a Correspondence Dinner.  He thought it was hilarious that Saddam had no WMD's.   

 Our cowboy bully president went after the weakest bully on the playground to impress you.  Apparently, it worked.  

RamonRoman
RamonRoman

@faracegerald @AntonioAugustoCastillo facegerald, I would be so educational to see how much you know about the difference between the liberal and conservative philosophy. Your economic system is ruining this country little by little the same way that the European economies are being ruined. Your economic system is cyclical. You will never get rid of this. And when the downs come, the only people that suffers is the 99%, and you that have lived this down cycle have seen the result eye to eye. Don't blame Obama and the liberals, blame yourselves, because you are in love with this system and anything that goes to help the less fortunate, for you is communism.

 It is necessary for you sir to read your constitution and see what are the duties of the congress, in case you don't have time, here is ARTICLE I SECTION 8 CLAUSE 1, "

Section 8

1:  The Congress shall have Power To lay and collect Taxes, Duties, Imposts and Excises, to pay the Debts and provide for the common Defence and general Welfare of the United States; but all Duties, Imposts and Excises shall be uniform throughout the United States;". I Hope that you understand to whom you have to put the blame.