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Democrats face divide over a strike on Syria

By Ken Thomas

Associated Press

POSTED:
LAST UPDATED: 01:23 a.m. HST, Sep 07, 2013


WASHINGTON » President Barack Obama's pursuit of a military strike in Syria has put congressional Democrats and party leaders around the country in a tough spot.

They face loud opposition from war-weary constituents at home and are wary of being pulled into another foreign conflict. But they also are confronted with grim images from Syria of gassed children and the pleas of a president from their own political party to consider the consequences of inaction.

Breaking from Democrats' long history of being the party typically opposed to military conflict, Obama is pushing for a limited military strike in Syria in response to President Bashar Assad's alleged use of chemical weapons. House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid have rallied behind him.

But some liberal and moderate Democrats, the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan fresh in their minds, have begun joining dozens of conservative Republicans registering their opposition. And many rank-and-file Democrats are undecided on whether to support a congressional resolution for military action, questioning whether it would turn the tide in a bloody civil war, whether it's in the U.S. national interest and whether it would prompt Assad to retaliate with more chemical weapons.

"We've been to this dance before and we saw what happened in Iraq," said Rep. Bruce Braley, D-Iowa, who says he is leaning against supporting the resolution. "And I have a solemn responsibility to understand what the risks are before I vote to authorize the use of force. What's the risk to the U.S. and the president's standing in the world if the Congress votes against the resolution?"

Emerging from a closed-door briefing on Thursday, Rep. Tulsi Gabbard, D-Hawaii, an Iraq war veteran, said she wanted answers about what would happen after a U.S. attack but her own military experience was giving her "great pause" before making a decision.

Rep. Alan Grayson, D-Fla., was resolute in his opposition. "It's simply not our responsibility," he said, wearing a tie covered with 1960s peace symbols.

In the Senate, Democrats Chris Murphy of Connecticut and Tom Udall of New Mexico opposed the resolution to authorize a strike when it was up for a committee vote while recently elected Massachusetts Sen. Ed Markey, who succeeded Secretary of State John Kerry, voted present. West Virginia Sen. Joe Manchin, one of the party's most moderate members, said he would oppose the resolution. More than a dozen Democratic senators are supporting it.

Obama captured the Democratic nomination in 2008 in part because of his opposition to the Iraq war, a position that he used effectively against primary opponent Hillary Rodham Clinton, who as senator voted in October 2002 to authorize the war but then stumbled among anti-war Democratic voters.

Many Democrats in the House first won their seats in the elections of 2006 and 2008, when the party was fueled by voters who blamed President George W. Bush for the enduring conflicts. It is difficult for many of those Democrats to authorize U.S. intervention in a new conflict -- even as Obama and Kerry assure them that it will be narrowly focused and not include U.S. ground troops.

"Members are trying to really listen and hear and understand," said Rep. Gregory Meeks, D-N.Y., who said he was undecided after emerging from a private briefing on the issue Thursday night. "They don't want to make the same mistake that was made before."

The deliberations extend into households. Rep. Jan Schakowsky, D-Ill., who opposed the 2002 Iraq war authorization, is undecided this time but has said a failure to hold Syria accountable for the chemical weapons attack would set a "terrible precedent."

Schakowsky's husband, Democratic strategist Robert Creamer, supports the plan. He wrote in a Huffington Post column last week that the U.S. needs to punish Assad for using chemical weapons, writing, "The world cannot afford an iconic use of chemical weapons to go unpunished."

The Syria vote has generated an intense lobbying effort by the left to pressure Obama to stay out of the civil war.

Liberal activists are planning candlelight vigils across the country on Monday night to urge members of Congress to oppose the resolution, and they suggest those who support military action risk political punishment in the future.

"Everyone who positions themselves as a progressive needs to think very hard about what their vote will mean down the road," said Anna Galland, executive director of MoveOn.org. Galland said the vote "could impact how our members view future votes, future primaries."

At the same time, a large delegation of members representing the influential American Israel Public Affairs Committee, the pro-Israel lobbying group with strong ties to congressional Democrats, plans to press lawmakers on Capitol Hill next week. The organization has urged the House and Senate to approve the resolution, saying, "Barbarism on a mass scale must not be given a free pass."

The vote could carry implications beyond this year. House Democrats who represent liberal districts might face primary challenges if they support the resolution. The votes could figure prominently in several key Senate races crucial to Democrats' effort to maintain control of the chamber during Obama's final two years.

Incumbents in three closely watched races -- Sens. Mark Pryor of Arkansas, Mary Landrieu of Louisiana and Mark Begich of Alaska -- remain undecided. Braley, who is running to succeed retiring Democratic Sen. Tom Harkin, noted that in 2006 he aired an ad in his first congressional bid that said "serving in Congress is a solemn responsibility because only Congress can authorize going to war."

Among potential 2016 presidential candidates, Clinton said through an aide that she supported Obama's efforts in Congress. As secretary of state she urged the administration to intervene in Syria, and a speech in Philadelphia on Tuesday could give the former first lady the opportunity to discuss a potential U.S. response. Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley told reporters last week that there was a need for a "clear understanding of what it is exactly this mission would hope to accomplish."

Wrapping up a trip to Sweden and Russia, Obama will try to make a full-court press next week, addressing the nation on Tuesday while his administration fans out to briefings and meetings with wavering lawmakers. The president said Friday he understood the difficulty of the vote and posited that it was "conceivable" he would not persuade a majority of the American people to get behind him.

"Ultimately, you listen to your constituents, but you've also got to make some decisions about what you believe is right for America," Obama said. "And that's the same for me as President of the United States."

Associated Press writers Alan Fram in Washington and Thomas Beaumont in Des Moines, Iowa, contributed to this report.







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wizard417 wrote:
does the rest of the world care about what has happened in Syria, why not let the ARAB NATIONS handle this. feel this intervention would put the economy back to where it was 5 yrs ago. take care of America first
on September 7,2013 | 05:27AM
1local wrote:
where is Hirono on this issue - she has blindly supported Obama in the past.
on September 7,2013 | 09:53AM
HD36 wrote:
AIPAC, the American Israel Public Affairs Commitee will remind all these democrats of the free trips and campaign dontations they recieved. Attacking Syria is only the first step they say. Since Hezbolla has ties to Iran, we'll have to attack them too since they might have nuclear weapons. Oil will surely spike over $150 a barrel, gas over $6 a gallon. It still baffles me that all the metal from the Trade Towers from 9/11 was quickly taken to China for recycling. It's a good thing a peice was taken by a citizen and given to a scientist to examine. He found thermite on a peice of supporting beam. This chemical burns through metal at over 1000 degrees, which explains why the towers fell straight down, like in demolitions. Another false flag like the Gulf of Tonkin incident, since 2001 we have been fighting a war against terror in Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya, Egypt, and now Syria, and next Iran. Israel should be very proud of their American lap dog.
on September 7,2013 | 06:26AM
Toneyuki wrote:
So the CIA gassed those poor people to drag the US into another regime change?
on September 7,2013 | 07:51AM
HD36 wrote:
I'd say the rebels, with CIA support. The motive isn't regime change, but rather to draw in Iran and prepare to attack them with Israel.
on September 7,2013 | 02:39PM
palani wrote:
Watch out for those black helicopters! They're coming for you. Tell the space aliens that they will have to wait to abduct you.
on September 7,2013 | 09:05AM
HD36 wrote:
They typical response from someone who doesn't have the answers is to label you a conspiracy theorist. Answer me this: How did tower 7 come down in a free fall collapse without being hit by anything? Did you know it held over $2.6 trillion dollars that was missing from the Pentagon? What's a false flag inciident? Why was the Gulf of Tonkin incident a false flag? Oh I forgot, you believe whatever you're told. Good boy.
on September 7,2013 | 02:45PM
WooWoo wrote:
"Breaking from Democrats' long history of being the party typically opposed to military conflict" What malarkey, a shining example of selective memory. Woodrow Wilson took us into WWI, FDR took us into WWII, Truman took us into Korea, and JFK took us into Vietnam. Clinton had Somalia. I'm not arguing that a republican counterpart in each of those situations might have avoided war, I'm simply pointing out that the quoted statement above can be proven as patently false.
on September 7,2013 | 06:46AM
livinginhawaii wrote:
That's exactly what I was thinking. It kind of make you wonder what else disclosed in this article is false.
on September 7,2013 | 08:11AM
pcman wrote:
IRT Woo on Democrat wars. You can add JBJ (expanded VN war), Clinton (Bosnia, Cosovo, Iraq).
on September 7,2013 | 11:38AM
cojef wrote:
The irony of the past events is the "hawkish" rhetoric being spouted from the lips of the former anti-war liberal of the Vietnam era, now Secretary of State. One would conclude that Obama's choice, Senator John Kerry for the postion of the Secretary of State was because of his stand on that war. The 2 speeches made by the Secretary on behalf were outstanding oratories, first to make immediate strikes against the Assad's regime, and the second for the need to secure Congressional approval. Commendable performance by the Secretary for being such a loyal defender of the President. Hollywood could not have orchestrated a better performance than what had been demonstrated by the "dove" Kerry. Either, he has an excellent speech writer or Hollywood should present with an honorary actor's card memembership. Although his speeches were very moving, was not convinced that we should get involved in an sectarian religious war that is not in the best interest of the US. For in essence, it is actually Iran influenced Shittes against the populace Sunnis. One lesson not learned is, if the world body can outlaw gas weapons, the question begs, why not nuclear weapons. That will stymie the need for Iran to pursue nuclear capabilities.
on September 7,2013 | 07:46AM
Toneyuki wrote:
Once again the hypocrisy of the left comes out. We can't even prove that it was Assad that ordered the attack. The UN has not authorized anything (like they did for Iraq) and Obamas coalition includes France and ......?
on September 7,2013 | 07:54AM
jayz43 wrote:
Toneyuki, good use of the pregnant pause. Today, at least we now know that Dear Leader did NOT draw that red line in the sand. Everyone else in the world did.
on September 7,2013 | 08:14AM
cojef wrote:
How true, yet the Democratic Senator from California is concerned more about creditability of the US than the possible loss of our young and women lives. Is our President's creditablility at issue, that we may have to engage ourselves into a quagmire of war? Certain media critics have espoused that it is a sectarian war between the Shites (Assad regime) and Sunni general population and we ought not get ourselve involved. As such, our involvement may cause the Iranian much headaches and then they may bomb the Israelis. Russia, also will not remain silent as they are heavily invested in both Iran and Syria.
on September 7,2013 | 04:00PM
false wrote:
It is a tough choice... Should the Democrats do what's best for themselves and the party, or what's best for the nation and the world?
on September 7,2013 | 08:03AM
palani wrote:
Since when have they ever made the latter choice?
on September 7,2013 | 09:07AM
Ronin006 wrote:
This comment was sent for approval. Why is the SA protecting Hirono? “Why is Mazie Hirono so silent about where she stands on the issue? During her election campaign, she boasted about how she was opposed to the war in Iraq while she was Lieutenant Governor, so why is she waiting to tell us where she stands on war with Syria? My guess is she is against taking military action against Syria but will vote for it to keep Obama from losing face. If she does, it will show how unprincipled she is.”
on September 7,2013 | 09:13AM
Toneyuki wrote:
How is getting involved in a civil war without evidence, without UN acceptance good for our country?
on September 7,2013 | 12:12PM
Ronin006 wrote:
Emperor Obama has spoken. How dare anyone question him.
on September 7,2013 | 12:46PM
cojef wrote:
OOps sent for approval for indicating that Syrian issue involved sectarian issues and it was not appropriate for us to get involved in any strikes against Assad.
on September 7,2013 | 08:23AM
Ronin006 wrote:
This comment was sent for approval. Why is the SA protecting Hirono? “Why is Mazie Hirono so silent about where she stands on the issue? During her election campaign, she boasted about how she was opposed to the war in Iraq while she was Lieutenant Governor, so why is she waiting to tell us where she stands on war with Syria? My guess is she is against taking military action against Syria but will vote for it to keep Obama from losing face. If she does, it will show how unprincipled she is.”
on September 7,2013 | 09:14AM
Ronin006 wrote:
Why is Mazie Hirono so silent about where she stands on the issue? During her election campaign, she boasted about how she was opposed to the war in Iraq while she was Lieutenant Governor, so why is she waiting to tell us where she stands on war with Syria? My guess is she is against taking military action against Syria but will vote for it to keep Obama from losing face. If she does, it will show how unprincipled she is.
on September 7,2013 | 09:11AM
Ronin006 wrote:
Why is our junior senator so silent about where she stand on the issue?
on September 7,2013 | 09:16AM
Ronin006 wrote:
During her election campaign, our junior senator boasted about how she was opposed to the war in Iraq while she was Lieutenant Governor, so why is she waiting to tell us where she stands on war with Syria?
on September 7,2013 | 09:17AM
Ronin006 wrote:
My guess is our junior senator is against taking military action against Syria but will vote for it to keep the President from losing face. If she does, it will show how unprincipled she is.
on September 7,2013 | 09:19AM
cojef wrote:
You got it right he led with his lips and now has his mouthpiece Secretary of State running around trying to convince the Congress to bail him out. Even the President mouthed the issue of creditability, he lack none from all the scandals that have beset his administration from the IRS, Benghazi, and NSA and other EPA issues like Solynda. Have had 4 post sent for approval also.
on September 7,2013 | 04:17PM
Ronin006 wrote:
With regard to the my previous three comments, my original comment was sent for approval, perhaps because I used our junior senator's name and the censors at the SA wanted to be sure I said nothing negative about her. So I eliminated her name and broke up one comment into four.
on September 7,2013 | 09:23AM
Ronin006 wrote:
Where there is a will, there is a way.
on September 7,2013 | 09:23AM
cojef wrote:
3 post have been sent for approval as the SA is biased toward the President. My post was concerned with the civil war between the Assad regime and the general population which is represented an opposing sect of the Muslim relligion. Evidently the SA does not like any post relating to religion.
on September 7,2013 | 04:08PM
Ronin006 wrote:
Posts sent for approval sometimes appear later if the censor finds they do not violate the SA’s standards. However, the censors worked 8 to 5 weekdays only. Posts sent for approval at other times never will appear.
on September 7,2013 | 04:52PM
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