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Obama's Address Fails to Move Congressional Foes on Syria

By John Gizzi   |   Tuesday, 10 Sep 2013 11:26 PM

If the goal of President Barack Obama's address on Syria Tuesday night was to move congressional skeptics on his call for U.S. action against the Assad regime, he clearly fell far short.

Although many members of Congress declined early comment on the address and wanted to see how developments with the Russian proposal unfolded, other lawmakers opposed to any U.S. action in Syria made it clear to Newsmax that they were unmoved by the president's latest remarks.

"He was very articulate, as usual," Republican Rep. Bill Posey of Florida told Newsmax shortly after Obama concluded his speech. "But my answer is still no. I was strongly opposed and am still opposed to any U.S. military strike."

As to the latest proposal of the Russians that Syria destroy its chemical weapons, Posey said: "I'm pleased to see the international community attempt to resolve the dispute over chemical weapons. But the major focus in Washington should be the economy and how we can best help business compete and create jobs for fellow Americans."

Republican Rep. Bill Johnson of Ohio, who had told Newsmax over the weekend he was "leaning against" support of a U.S. airstrike, said soon after Obama concluded his remarks that "if the House of Representatives is asked to vote on the current plan to attack Syria, on behalf of Eastern and Southeastern Ohio, I will vote no."

Johnson, a 26-year U.S. Air Force veteran, said that while "the president is suddenly suggesting a diplomatic solution with Russia and Syria -- neither of whom we have any hope can be trusted -- nothing Mr. Obama or his team said convinces me that his proposed strikes on Syria will have any real effect in preventing any future chemical weapons attacks."

Republican Rep. Randy Hultgren of Illinois was hopeful of the Russian initiative but critical of the administration's approach to Syria.

"I do not believe the president and his administration have made a convincing case to the American people that striking Syria with military force is in the best interest of our nation," Hultgren said. "I welcome constructive diplomatic efforts and will look seriously at any proposal that takes chemical weapons out of the hands of Assad — or rebel factions — and places them under secure international monitoring and control."

Republican Rep. Trey Radel of Florida was even stronger in his response to Obama's address.

"I am still utterly unconvinced that we need to strike at Syria," Radel, a member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, told Newsmax. Obama's speech was "just part of the cloudy, unclear message of this administration when it comes to foreign policy."

Radel, who has been to the Mideast and attended the classified briefings on Syria provided by the administration to Congress, said that "we know what a terrible civil war it is, but Assad still has a sense of stability and control over the country, its military, and chemical weapons."

"My fear is that if we strike and destabilize the regime, those chemical weapons will fall into the hands of al-Qaida and the radical Islamists and other bad people. And the intelligence briefings made it clear that the opposition is full of them."

As to the offer of Russian President Vladimir Putin to step up and seek a peaceful solution to the Syrian situation, the Floridian told us: "Let's say I'm skeptical. But I approach foreign policy the way I do congressmen on the other side of the aisle: if they provide something credible, I'm open to their ideas."

John Gizzi is chief political columnist and White House correspondent for Newsmax.

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