‘Hell no!’: Obama speech on Syria fails to sway support on Capitol Hill
President Obama managed to sway at least one lawmaker Tuesday night as he laid out his case for military strikes on Syria: Rep. Sean Duffy, a Wisconsin Republican, who said he went “from ‘no’ to ‘Hell no!’ “
Mr. Duffy’s stance was the most emphatic of the reactions, but it was typical of lawmakers on Capitol Hill, who didn’t seem swayed one way or the other by Mr. Obama’s appeals to conservatives or liberals.
Those who were already backing strikes said they remained behind the president, in some cases arguing he’s still not going far enough. Sens. John McCain and Lindsey Graham, who have been pushing for more sever action to oust the Assad regime in Syria, said Mr. Obama missed opportunities to argue for increasing aid to the Syrian rebels.
“We also regret that he did not lay out a clearer plan to test the seriousness of the Russian and Syrian proposal to transfer the Assad regime’s chemical weapons to international custody,” they said in a joint statement.
On the other side are most lawmakers, who range from skeptical to outright opposed, including Mr. Duffy.
“Following tonight’s speech, I have moved from ‘no’ to ‘hell no!’ ” he said in a statement. “The president’s foreign policy stance on Syria has been completely incoherent and his comments tonight did not change that. He failed to make the case to the American people that he has a plan — let alone one that will work. Americans are not buying it and neither am I.”
Lloyd Doggett, a Texas Democrat, said that like Mr. Obama, he was outraged over the Aug. 21 chemical weapons attack that the U.S. says left more than 1,400 people dead in the Damascus suburbs, but he said diplomacy was the right course.
“This is a challenging approach but better than a go-it-alone strike that effectively leaves Assad controlling all of those chemical weapons. I do not support authorizing an American attack that could entangle us in a bloody, costly regional conflict,” Mr. Doggett said.
And Rep. Adam Smith, the ranking Democrat on the House Armed Services Committee, said he is awaiting the results of Russia’s offer to have Syria turn its chemical weapons over to an international authority.
“This is a difficult situation, and ideally a diplomatic solution is achieved, but I still remain undecided that a military strike is the appropriate course of action should diplomacy fail,” he said.
An instant poll conducted for CNN found that of those who listened to the speech, 61 percent said they supported the president’s stance. Mr. Obama said he wants to strike at Syria, but will give time for international diplomacy efforts to play out.
Most of those surveyed by CNN said they believe diplomacy will eventually resolve the situation.
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