06 September 2013

OIP Derangement Syndrome at Work in Congress

In the summer of 2012, the Republican Party nominated a candidate who had spent months talking about Syria’s chemical weapons like this:

I think we have to also be ready to take whatever action is necessary to ensure that we do not have any kind of weapon of mass destruction falling into the hands of terrorists and whether that requires troops, or whether that requires other actions by our friends and allies.
Of course, Mitt Romney also repeatedly called Syria Iran’s “route to the sea,” even though Iran doesn’t border Syria and has its own coastline. Nevertheless, he was the Republican Party’s choice for President, in part because he talked so tough.

For years Marco Rubio, Republican senator from Florida, advocated more American action against the Assad regime in Syria, making statements like this in April 2011:
Now in Syria, we are faced with a challenge requiring the United States to find its voice in defense of the Syrian people and to implement meaningful actions in the immediate term. The administration must stop dithering as innocent Syrians die at the hands of a merciless regime.
He made similar comments in April 2012.

On 9 May 2013 Jim Inhofe, Republican senator from Oklahoma, wrote in USA Today about Syria:
It’s more important now than ever that President Obama step up and exhibit the leadership required of the commander in chief. It’s time he clearly articulate a plan to help stem the violence, lead the international community, and demonstrate to Assad that his barbaric actions have consequences. Continued inaction by the president, after establishing a clear red line, will embolden Assad and his benefactors in Tehran to continue their brutal assault against the Syrian people.
On 25 August the Boston Herald reported this about Scott Brown, former Republican senator from Massachusetts:
Brown suggested a few surgical air strikes “could send a very powerful message” to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad that alleged chemical warfare attacks have crossed the line.
Two days later Mike Coffman, Republican representative from Colorado, told the Denver Post:
I will support the president should he conduct a limited strike on Syria in order to deter Assad from further use of chemical weapons…
On 31 August, Michael Grimm, Republican representative from New York, told the Staten Island Advance about the Syrian question:
I am supporting the president on this. He is going to have to strike. He should use our superior air power, our naval power. These should be targeted strikes to disable their air force and where they hold their chemical weapons.
On that same day, President Barack Obama asked the US Congress to support his plan to attack Syrian military targets as punishment for using sarin. He had been advocating that plan for about a week.

As I noted last week, after Obama announced his policy, Republicans made a sudden shift from supporting military action against Syria to opposing it. The New York Times quoted Tim Murphy, Republican representative from Pennsylvania, describing his constituents’ communications:
“Generally, the calls are like this: ‘I can’t stand President Obama; don’t you dare go along with him.’”
Not surprisingly, Republican lawmakers are following the shifting sentiments of their party voters. As Dana Millbank of the Washington Post wrote of Republicans in Congress:
Some protested when Obama threatened to bomb Syria without congressional approval; others then criticized him for seeking congressional approval. They complain that Obama’s use-of-force resolution is too broad; they argue that it would amount to only a “pinprick.” They assert that he should have intervened long ago; they say that he has not yet made the case for intervening. They told him not to go to the United Nations; they scolded him for not pursuing multilateral action. They told him to arm the rebels and, when he did, they said he had done it too late and with insufficient firepower.
This week Sen. Rubio voted against any military action against Syria in the Republican Foreign Relations Committee.

Last week Sen. Inhofe said the US couldn’t afford to take action in Syria.

Former senator Brown criticized the junior senator from Massachusetts for indecision, but declined to say whether he still supported the policy he’d advocated two weeks before.

Rep. Coffman announced that he was now undecided on Syria.

And Rep. Grimm switched his position entirely.

There are legitimate reasons to question and oppose the White House policy on Syria, but OIP Derangement Syndrome isn’t one of them.


J. L. Bell said...

On the day that Rep. Michael Grimm (R-NY) publicly reversed his position on air strikes against Syria, his office sent out an email that said:

Today, I decided to withdraw my support from President Obama’s proposal for a military strike against Syria. I have heard from many of you in Staten Island and Brooklyn, and it is clear to me that their is strong opposition to the strike. As your voice in Washington, I will continue to listen and take a stand for you.

Will you stand with me in opposing President Obama’s plan with a donation of $25 or more right now?

Grimm’s office then said that he was shocked, shocked that his fundraisers had used this pitch.

J. L. Bell said...

Days after the rest of the Congressional leadership had stated their positions, Sen. Mitch McConnell, Republican of Tennessee, went before television cameras to declare that he didn’t support air strikes on Syria.

But, confirming his play to voters with OIP Derangement Syndrome, McConnell criticized Obama, saying: “It is long past time this President drops the pose of the reluctant warrior — and lead.”

Thus, McConnell is reluctant to take military action, but Obama is wrong for behaving like a “reluctant warrior.” And McConnell waited until the President, every other legislative leader, rival candidates in Kentucky, and public opinion had become known, but he claimed it was Obama who had failed to “lead.”

J. L. Bell said...

After echoing President Obama’s warning to Syria about using chemical weapons during the 2012 campaign, and after waiting until the President had already started to move toward a diplomatic solution and postponed his request to Congress to authorize military action, Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wisc.) steadfastly came out against the President’s policy.