The Republican hypocrisy on Syria is just amazing. Imagine that Mitt Romney were president. Romney took a far more hawkish line than Barack Obama did on Syria during the campaign. He wanted to arm the rebels, supported in-country cover ops, and so on. So if Bashar al-Assad had used chemical weapons during President Romney’s tenure, there’s every reason to think he’d be pushing for action too. And what, in that case, would Republicans now temporizing or opposing Obama be doing in that case? They’d be breathing fire, of course. There’s a lot of chest thumping talk right now about how a failed vote will destroy Obama’s credibility. I guess that may be to some. But to anyone paying attention, the credibility of these Republicans is what will suffer, and the vote may well come back to haunt some of them in 2016.
Some Republicans are, to their credit, taking the position consistent with their records. John McCain stood up to those people who looked like they were about two feet away from his face at that town hall meeting last week. Lindsey Graham deserves more credit, since he’s facing reelection and is being called “a community organizer for the Muslim Brotherhood.” On the other side, Rand Paul and the neo-isolationists are probably taking the same position they’d take if Romney were president, although we can’t be completely sure. If Romney were in the White House, by 2016, “was so-and-so tough on Syria?” would probably be a top litmus test (unless, of course, things got really terrible over there). I could easily see Paul declaiming on the unique evil of chemical weapons that just this once required him to break from his noninterventionist views, but as things stand he at least is taking the position with which he is identified.
But most of them? Please. The Gold Weasel Medal goes to Marco Rubio, asothers such as Tim Noah have noted. Back in April, Rubio thundered that “the time for passive engagement in this conflict must come to an end. It is in the vital national security interest of our nation to see Assad’s removal.” Removal! Obama’s not talking about anything close to removal. So that was Rubio’s hard line back when Obama was on the other side. And now that Obama wants action? Rubio voted against the military resolution in the Senate Foreign Relations Committee last week.
Ted Cruz? Just in June, Cruz wanted to go into Syria and rough ’em up. “We need to develop a clear, practical plan to go in, locate the weapons, secure or destroy them, and then get out.” Now? Syria is a distraction from, you guessed it, Benghazi. He said last week: “We certainly don’t have a dog in the fight. We should be focused on defending the United States of America. That’s why young men and women sign up to join the military, not to, as you know, serve as al Qaeda’s air force.”
There are many others. These two are worth singling out because they want to be president, and their craven and brazen flip-flopping on one of the most important issues to come before them in their Senate careers is more consequential than the flip-flopping of some time-serving senator no one’s ever heard of. But the whole picture is contemptible.
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