During Friday’s broadcast of MSNBC’s The Daily Rundown, Rep. Tom Cole (R-OK), the Deputy Majority Whip in the House, spoke with host Chuck Todd regarding President Obama’s comments during a Thursday press conference where he said that there isn’t a strategy yet when it comes to bombing ISIS in Syria. Republicans and conservative pundits, especially neo-cons, jumped all over that comment to portray the President as unprepared and incapable to lead in regards to issues within the Middle East. Todd was likely preparing for Cole to climb aboard the criticism train and slam Obama on his comments.
However, something strange happened. Cole actually commended POTUS for the restraint he has shown so far and pointed out that the United States should not be looking to engage itself in a civil war in Syria that is being fought on at least three different fronts. Per Cole, the President only has so much latitude under the War Powers Act to act alone. After that, he must go to Congress and make the case for further action, especially when it comes to sending forces into another country. As of now, besides the limited air strikes in Iraq and humanitarian aid, the President has authorized air surveillance of ISIS in Syria. Beyond that, Obama has pointed out that there is no additional strategy when it comes to dealing with ISIS within Syria.
Below is video of Cole talking to Todd, courtesy of MSNBC:
Todd first asked how important a role Congress is to this situation. Cole said that Congress is central to any action moving forward and pointed out that the President should not be engaging in military action that goes beyond the War Powers Act. He then said the following:
“It’s important for the world to understand that when we deploy force, we’re doing it as a country and not in a partisan manner, that we genuinely are united. I think the elements of a strategy are there. Look, the president has made it clear, and I think appropriate, that we’re talking about air strikes at some point, we’re talking about special operators, we’re talking about aid and training for people on the ground, and we’re talking about alliances in the region, which I think are going to be not easy to construct but pretty doable, since nobody on the ground, even our enemies, don’t like ISIL.”
After that, Todd wanted to know what happens if Congress authorizes limited air strikes in Syria. Basically, Todd wanted to know if this leads to a full military engagement in Syria. Cole said he doesn’t think that should be the case and gave President Obama credit for being “commendably cautious” when it comes to Syria.
“I think our main goal is ISIL. I don’t know that we have a, quote, ‘responsibility’ in Syria after that. And I think the president is being commendably cautious about being involved in the middle of a Syrian civil war. I understand that at the minimum it is a three-sided conflict and a probably a lot more than that. So again, I think moving in unilaterally to go after anything other than ISIL is probably not a very good idea. And moving unilaterally is not a good idea at all.”
Now, let’s be clear here. Cole is no ally of the President. He has publicly criticized POTUS a number of times over the past few years. Like any House Republican, he has engaged in childish taunting and has tossed his fair share of hyperbolic criticism at the White House. However, like many other Republicans in Washington, he knows that warfare is not something to be treated lightly. While you have John McCain, Lindsey Graham, Mike Rogers and the other neo-cons in Washington beating the war drums, followed up by other Republicans and pundits who are just using international crises to hammer the President, there is a contingent of lawmakers on the right who know that we not only need to be cautious, but whatever action is taken must be from a politically united front.
Of course, that isn’t going to appeal to those who are sending out idiotic tweets using #WeDontHaveAStrategyYet. Then again, the only thing that appeals to them is anything they think makes the President look bad.