Sen. Rand Paul skeptical of proposed U.S. strike against Syria


McClatchy Washington Bureau

A highly skeptical Sen. Rand Paul on Tuesday sharply criticized President Barack Obama’s bid to launch military strikes against Syria, saying the mission’s purpose remained murky and uncertain.

“I don’t see sending my son or anyone else’s son to die for what many are saying is a stalemate with no good outcome,” the Kentucky Republican told reporters.

Paul also questioned whether Obama has the authority to launch military action without congressional consent. Paul made his case in an animated exchange Tuesday with Secretary of State John Kerry, as the Senate Foreign Relations Committee heard testimony on the Obama administration’s decision to take military action against Syria.

Paul is seen as one of the Senate’s most outspoken questioners of the mission, as well as a potential 2016 Republican presidential candidate. He’s been outspoken in his questioning of the administration’s authority to take military action against Syria.

After a series of hearings and briefings this week, which continue Wednesday, Congress is expected to debate and vote next week on the president’s request for military action. Paul conceded the Senate is likely to approve the measure, though he said he was talking to “like-minded senators” about how to proceed.

“Our best chances for ultimate victory is in the House,” Paul said, where Republicans have a 233-200 majority.

Though Obama is seeking approval, administration officials have not ruled out striking Syria regardless of what Congress says.

Paul was appalled.

“I want to be proud of the president, but every time I’m just about there, then I get worried that really, he doesn’t mean it, that he’s going to sort of obey the Constitution if he wins,” Paul said. “Make me proud today, Secretary Kerry. Stand up for us and say, you’re going to obey the Constitution if we vote you down, which is unlikely.”

Kerry said that Obama already has the authority to launch a strike, and anyway, he’s not seeking to wage a war. Paul noted that the Constitution doesn’t distinguish between big and small wars. “Ask the people on the ships launching the missiles whether they’re involved with war or not,” he said.

Kerry was flanked by Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel and Army Gen. Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

“You’ve got three people here who’ve been to war,” said Kerry, a Vietnam veteran. “There’s not one of us who doesn’t understand what going to war means and we don’t want to go to war. We don’t believe we are going to war in the classic sense of taking American troops and America to war. The president is asking for the authority to do a limited action that will degrade the capacity of a tyrant who has been using chemical weapons to kill his own people.”

Paul also challenged the administration on the consequences of a strike. What happens to Israel, he asked, if Syria retaliates?

“Most reports I hear say we’re not even probably going to directly bomb chemical weapons because of what might happen to the surrounding population. So my guess is he still will have the ability,” the senator said. “I think it’s equally likely he does it again or doesn’t do it again.”

Kerry was getting irritated. “I can make it crystal clear to you Israel will be less safe unless the U.S. takes this action,” he said tersely.

Iran and Hezbollah are two of Syrian President Bashar Assad’s biggest allies, Kerry explained, and they’re the biggest enemies of Israel.

Assad must be stopped now, Kerry said. “If the United States doesn’t hold him accountable,” the secretary explained, “it’s a guarantee Assad will do it again.”;Twitter:@lightmandavid

Read more Politics Wires stories from the Miami Herald

President Barack Obama speaks about the My Brother’s Keeper Initiative, at the Walker Jones Education Campus in Washington, Monday, July 21, 2014. President Obama announced that leaders of 60 of the largest school systems have pledged to expand minority boys' access to better preschools and advanced classes and to try to prevent grade retention, suspensions and expulsions.

    Obama heads off to raise money on the West Coast

    Amid a swirl of foreign and border challenges, President Barack Obama is embarking on the one mission that has regularly proved a winner for him — raising money for his fellow Democrats.

FILE - This June 2014 file photo shows President Barack Obama shaking hands with former Procter and Gamble executive Robert McDonald, his nominee as the next Veterans Affairs secretary, at the Department of Veterans Affairs in Washington.  A federal investigative agency says it is examining 67 claims of retaliation by supervisors at the VA against employees who filed whistleblower complaints. The independent Office of Special Counsel said 30 of the complaints about retaliation have passed the initial review stage and were being further investigated for corrective action and possible discipline against VA supervisors and other executives. The group’s report comes as the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee holds a hearing Tuesday on the nomination of Robert McDonald to be VA secretary.

    VA nominee McDonald goes before Congress

    President Barack Obama's choice to lead the beleaguered Veterans Affairs Department is going before the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee for a confirmation hearing as Congress considers a bill to help the next VA leader do his job.

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie leaves a diner, Monday, July 21, 2014 in Greenwich, Conn. Christie at the diner with Connecticut Republican gubernatorial candidate Tom Foley.

    Christie: No plans to campaign in NY for Astorino

    Republican New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie said Monday he doesn't have plans to campaign for New York's Republican candidate for governor because he doesn't campaign for candidates he doesn't think can win.

Miami Herald

Join the

The Miami Herald is pleased to provide this opportunity to share information, experiences and observations about what's in the news. Some of the comments may be reprinted elsewhere on the site or in the newspaper. We encourage lively, open debate on the issues of the day, and ask that you refrain from profanity, hate speech, personal comments and remarks that are off point. Thank you for taking the time to offer your thoughts.

The Miami Herald uses Facebook's commenting system. You need to log in with a Facebook account in order to comment. If you have questions about commenting with your Facebook account, click here.

Have a news tip? You can send it anonymously. Click here to send us your tip - or - consider joining the Public Insight Network and become a source for The Miami Herald and el Nuevo Herald.

Hide Comments

This affects comments on all stories.

Cancel OK

  • Marketplace

Today's Circulars

  • Quick Job Search

Enter Keyword(s) Enter City Select a State Select a Category