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Obama to McCain: ‘Hey John, I need your help’

By BRADLEY KLAPPER
September 2, 2013

Sen. John McCain (CBS News)

Sen. John McCain (CBS News)

President Barack Obama is inviting former foe Sen. John McCain to the White House, hoping one of Congress’ most intractable foreign policy hawks will help sell the idea of a U.S. military intervention in Syria to a nation deeply scarred by more than a decade of war.

Having announced over the weekend that he’ll seek congressional approval for military strikes against the Assad regime, the Obama administration is now trying to rally support among Americans and their congressman and senators.

Monday’s meeting with McCain is meant to address concerns of those who feel Obama isn’t doing enough to punish Syrian President Bashar Assad‘s government for an attack in the Damascus suburbs last month that the U.S. says included sarin gas and killed at least 1,429 civilians, more than 400 of whom were children. On the other side of the spectrum, some Republican and Democratic lawmakers don’t want to see military action at all.

Obama’s turnabout on Syria sets the stage for the biggest foreign policy vote in Congress since the Iraq war.

On Sunday, Secretary of State John Kerry said the U.S. received new physical evidence in the form of blood and hair samples that shows sarin gas was used in the Aug. 21 attack. Kerry said the U.S. must respond with its credibility on the line.

“We know that the regime ordered this attack,” he said. “We know they prepared for it. We know where the rockets came from. We know where they landed. We know the damage that was done afterwards.”

Kerry’s assertion coincided with the beginning of a forceful administration appeal for congressional support.

On Capitol Hill, senior administration officials briefed lawmakers in private to explain why the U.S. was compelled to act against Assad. Obama, Vice President Joe Biden and White House Chief of Staff Denis McDonough also made calls to individual lawmakers.

Further classified meetings were planned from Monday to Wednesday. The Senate Foreign Relations Committee plans a meeting Tuesday, according to its chairman, Sen. Bob Menendez, D-N.J. The Senate Armed Service Committee will gather a day later, said Oklahoma Sen. Jim Inhofe, the top Republican on the panel.

McCain, the candidate Obama defeated for the presidency in 2008, said Obama asked him to come to the White House specifically to discuss Syria.

“It can’t just be, in my view, pinprick cruise missiles,” the Arizona Republican told CBS’ “Face the Nation.”

In an interview with an Israeli television network, he said Obama has “encouraged our enemies” by effectively punting his decision to Congress. He and fellow Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina have threatened to vote against Obama’s authorization if the military plan doesn’t seek to shift the momentum of the 2 ½ year civil war toward the rebels trying to oust Assad from power.

Obama is trying to convince Americans and the world about the need for action.

So far, he is finding few international partners willing to engage in a conflict that has claimed more than 100,000 lives in the past 2½ years and dragged in terrorist groups on both sides of the battlefield.

Only France is firmly on board among the major military powers. Britain’s Parliament rejected the use of force in a vote last week.

Russia’s foreign minister, Sergey Lavrov, said Monday the information the U.S. showed Moscow to prove the Syrian regime was behind the chemical attack was “absolutely unconvincing.”

With Navy ships on standby in the eastern Mediterranean ready to launch missiles, Congress on Sunday began a series of meetings that are expected to continue over the next several days in preparation for a vote once lawmakers return from summer break, which is scheduled to end Sept. 9.

Senior administration officials gave a two-hour classified briefing to dozens of members of Congress in the Capitol on Sunday.

Lawmakers expressed a range of opinions coming out of the meeting, from outright opposition to strident support for Obama’s request for the authorization to use force.

Among Democrats, Rep. Sander Levin of Michigan said he’d approve Obama’s request and predicted it would pass. Rep. Elijah Cummings of Maryland said he was concerned the authorization might be “too broad.” Rep. Bennie G. Thompson, the senior Democrat on the House Homeland Security Committee, said the administration still has “work to do with respect to shoring up the facts of what happened.”

Republican Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers of Washington said she was concerned about what Congress was being asked to approve. Sen. Jeff Sessions, R-Ala., said the war resolution needed tightening.

“I don’t think Congress is going to accept it as it is,” Sessions said.
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Copyright  © 2013 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.

Copyright  © 2013 Capitol Hill Blue

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One Response to Obama to McCain: ‘Hey John, I need your help’

  1. Carl Nemo **==

    September 2, 2013 at 4:33 pm

    Why the President would enlist John McCain to ‘sell’ the idea on attacking Syria is beyond me? / : |

    Senator McCain has demonstrated many times during the past decade or so that he’s not banging on all cylinders with lapses in memory along with downright nonsense issuing from his mouth. He’s an embarrasment when he goes on his so-called ‘fact-finding’ tours in these zones of conflict.

    To me, he’s a loose cannon on deck and no doubt so to other savvy Nam era senior citizens. John McCain is a legend in his own mind and falls far short of the the mythos created over the years for his political benefit.

    If Senator McCain says attack Syria that’s exactly what this nation shouldn’t do. He along with other perma hawks in Congress who are nothing but running dogs for the MIC have zero credibility when it comes to the waging of war. Their ‘advice’ over time has gotten this nation into a heap o’ trouble financially speaking. Why should they care, they are spending the public’s dime and in doing so will eventually crater the U.S. into the ground with the only option being sovereign default.

    Lastly this doesn’t account for the hundreds of thousands of non-combatants who’ve lost their lives along with U.S. service men and women in addition to the returning vets suffering from serious PTSD issues and all for nothing. We haven’t secured Iraq, Afghanistan or will we stabilize Syria with our ill thought “gun boat” diplomacy.

    If we do attack, mark my word that in the months and years to come post another military interventionist debacle, that an entirely different story will come out for the justification of this attack and it will not have been the discharge of chemical weapons upon civilians.

    Carl Nemo **==