President Barack Obama and Senator John McCain in a press conference, taking place on March 4, 2009. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
The Congressional vote on whether to strike Syria offers insight into which wing of the Republican Party — the traditional hawks or a growing bloc of non-interventionists — has the advantage in foreign policy debates.
Republican divisions on national security have flared over drone use, aid to Egypt, and the National Security Agency surveillance practices. Tensions have played out in battles between Senator John McCain of Arizona and Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky. In a rare moment of clarity, Sen. McCain called Mr. Paul and his compatriots “wacko birds.” In return, Mr. Paul suggested that hawks like Mr. McCain were “moss covered.”
Former spats could pale in comparison with the fight over whether to attack Syria, an issue on which Sen. McCain and Sen. Paul will be the leading spokesmen for their party’s two wings.
Mr. McCain has long advocated intervention in Syria’s civil war. After meeting with President Obama at the White House on Monday, he said that it would be “catastrophic” if Congress did not approve the president’s proposal and that such a rejection would result in the United States’s credibility being “shredded.”
Mr. Paul on Sunday made clear his opposition to Mr. Obama’s proposal, taking to Twitter and the talk shows to taunt Secretary of State John Kerry. “John Kerry is, you know, he’s famous for saying, you know, how can you ask a man to be the last one to die for a mistake?” Mr. Paul said. “I would ask John Kerry, how can you ask a man to be the first one to die for a mistake?”
Mr. Paul is very aware that the vote offers just that chance to reorient the Republican center on foreign affairs, and the debate gives him the chance to re-establish himself as the voice of the Tea Party movement.
Syria has important implications for the 2016 Republican presidential contest. White House hopefuls in Congress will be forced to choose between the wishes of Tea Party activists opposed to a strike and the wishes of more traditional Republicans, whose ranks include some major donors and Israel supporters. A “yea” vote on taking action in Syria would put opponents of Sen. Paul, like Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida, on the same side as Pres. Obama.
Via The New York Times.