In his address to the nation Tuesday night, President Obama tried to convince the skeptical American public that Syria’s reported use of chemical weapons warrants a limited but effective military response unless diplomatic efforts to disarm Syrians succeed in the next few days – but Rep. Marsha Blackburn, R-Tenn., said his efforts aren’t working.
Blackburn, who announced her opposition to the use of force earlier this week, told WND the Obama administration’s actions over the past week have been far more confusing than reassuring and Tuesday’s speech didn’t help.
“It was conflicting because it seemed to confuse the issue,” she said. “You know you look at the past week, it was urgent. You had Secretary Kerry’s speech. Then it was, ‘Let’s go to Congress and let them decide.’ Then it was, ‘Well, I think I don’t like what I’m going to hear from Congress so let’s see what else is out there.’ Then it was, ‘Let’s see what Russia has to say about this.’ So we’ve been a little bit all over the board on it.”
The vote counts in Congress are trending against the president, particularly in the House. Public opinion polls show Americans overwhelmingly oppose military action as well. Obama is now asking leaders to postpone any votes while the diplomatic process plays out. Blackburn isn’t holding her breath.
“I’m beginning to think he will probably not come to Congress at all for a vote,” she said, noting that she and other members were even more skeptical about backing the president after receiving a classified briefing.
“I had remained a ‘lean no’ until I was able to get those classified briefings, and I came out of the briefing without certainty on the issues of who actually instigated and carried out the attacks, who was in possession of the chemical weapons, uncertainty as to our having a definable plan and a way to define the mission for our men and women in uniform,” Blackburn said. “I left with more questions than answers.”
The congresswoman attracted quite a bit of attention in the past few days for suggesting she might be willing to back military action in Syria if the sequestration cuts impacting the military were reversed. Critics accused her of playing politics on a grave matter of national security, but Blackburn stands behind the idea.
“You cannot send men and women into battle without the training, the tools and the resources to do the job,” she told WND. “I think it is immoral to send those individuals into battle and not be able to give them what they need to carry out that mission.
Blackburn added, “The military has had two complete rounds of cuts. Prior to sequestration, they had a $400 billion cut. Then sequestration brought them a $500 billion cut. So basically it boils down to this. We did the draw-down in Iraq, the military got cut. We did the surge in Afghanistan, the military got cut. We had issues with Egypt, with Libya, with Pakistan, the military got cut. The president goes in and signs an order to reduce their pay increase. They were to get a 1.6 percent pay increase this year. The president chose to give them only one percent, and then the next day he goes out and says we need to carry out these strikes on Syria. That type of action by the commander in chief is completely inappropriate.”
Blackburn isn’t nearly as hopeful as Obama about Russia and Syria agreeing that Syria will surrender its chemical weapons stockpiles to the international community and eventually have them destroyed.
“Look at what has transpired with Russia in the recent past,” she said. “You have the issues with Snowden. You have the way they came in and said, ‘Let’s do this with Syria,’ then they’re going to be there to protect Syria. I just don’t have a high degree of confidence that Russia is going to be there to serve us well or be on our side in this Syrian situation.”