Stateside,  Syria

Obama meets with McCain on Syria; other Republicans say stupid things

As Congress prepared to debate President Obama’s plan to launch military strikes against the Assad regime in Syria, Obama has invited one of his harshest Congressional critics– Republican Senator John McCain– to the White House.

Having announced over the weekend that he’ll seek congressional approval for military strikes against the Assad regime, the Obama administration is now trying to rally support among Americans and their congressman and senators.

Monday’s meeting with McCain is meant to address concerns of those who feel Obama isn’t doing enough to punish Syrian President Bashar Assad’s government for an attack in the Damascus suburbs last month that the U.S. says included sarin gas and killed at least 1,429 civilians, more than 400 of whom were children. On the other side of the spectrum, some Republican and Democratic lawmakers don’t want to see military action at all.

On Sunday McCain said Assad was “euphoric” over Obama’s decision to delay action.

One of the loudest critics of the administration’s handling of Syria, McCain said the president should have taken action early on in the two-year-old conflict. But with “unprecedented leaking” about what ships and missiles the United States have positioned in the region, he argued, “a reversal at this point, I think, has serious consequences as far as the steadfastness and purpose of this administration.”

McCain said in order for him to get behind the president’s resolution, “we have to have a plan, it has to be a strategy; it can’t just be, in my view, pinprick cruise missiles.” Still, he warned, “the consequences of the Congress of the United States overriding a decision of the president of the United States of this magnitude are really very, very dangerous.”

I think it’s significant that Obama is reaching out to McCain. I hope the senator can convince the president that any strikes against the Syrian regime need to seriously damage Assad’s war-making capabilities.

Meanwhile, McCain’s fellow Republican senator, Tea Party favorite Rand Paul, has gone so far as to defend the government of the mass murderer Assad:

Paul… on Sunday portrayed the current conflict in Syria as one between the government of President Bashar Al Assad, who Paul said “has protected Christians for a number of decades,” and “Islamic rebels,” who Paul said “have been attacking Christians” and are aligned with Al Qaeda.

He said the best outcome for Syria would be Assad’s government without Assad because it would help placate Russia and China.

As Senator Paul may or may not know, Syrian Christians who dare to oppose Assad are not treated any better than Muslims who do the same.

And Elizabeth O’Bagy, who has has made several visits to Syria since the conflict began, reported last week in The Wall Street Journal:

Moderate opposition forces—a collection of groups known as the Free Syrian Army—continue to lead the fight against the Syrian regime. While traveling with some of these Free Syrian Army battalions, I’ve watched them defend Alawi and Christian villages from government forces and extremist groups.

Politico reported on another Tea Party favorite:

Former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin is condemning potential American military action in Syria, charging it would be President Obama “saving political face” and saying, “Let Allah sort it out.”

“So we’re bombing Syria because Syria is bombing Syria? And I’m the idiot?” Palin wrote in a Facebook message to her followers on Friday, before the president said Saturday that he would seek Congressional approval.

Yes, Sarah. You’re the idiot. And I hope McCain has finally realized what a catastrophic decision he made when he chose you to be a heartbeat away from the presidency in 2008.

Update: USA Today reports:

President Obama’s bid to get congressional support to use military force in Syria received a boost Monday as Republican Sens. John McCain and Lindsey Graham said they have more confidence the White House is developing a better strategy for dealing with Syria.

McCain and Graham are key votes Obama will need to win Senate approval for the United States to launch missile strikes againstSyria in response to an Aug. 21 chemical weapons attack that killed more than 1,400 people.

Obama said Saturday he had concluded the United States should launch an attack in response to the attack, but he said he wants approval first from Congress.

McCain and Graham have jointly expressed concerns that a military strike should be part of a broader strategy in Syria, not simply a random attack to punish the regime.

After meeting with Obama Monday, they both said they believed the White House is developing a strategy that would weaken the regime of President Bashar Assad and boost Syrian opposition forces — though they said Obama has more work to do to explain this plan.