The man charged with leading Democrats back to a majority in the House on Tuesday downplayed the potential political impact of the crisis in Syria, saying that regardless of what action takes place, voters will care far more about other issues by next November.
"It does not complicated the cycle at all; 2014 is not going to be a referendum on Syria," said Steve Israel, chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee. "2014 will be a referendum on who can get things done and who clung to partisanship and extremists."
Polls have shown deep public opposition to any military action in the Middle Eastern country: A United Technologies/National Journal Congressional Connection Poll found just 21 percent endorsed launching a "limited military strike, using only air power, to punish the Syrian government for using chemical weapons." Fifty-five percent said the U.S. should "do nothing and stay out of the Syrian civil war."
Many Democratic House members have voiced skepticism about the proposed military action. And on the politics, Israel, who is personally supportive of such action, emphasized that the DCCC is not encouraging or discouraging members from supporting a vote allowing a military strike.
"The DCCC has absolutely no opinion, no calculation," Israel said. "We are emphatically neutral on this issue. Our job is to win elections, not to shape foreign policy and national security."
House Democrats, he added, won't back the strike simply to help Obama.
"They love the president, but they love themselves more," he said. "So at the end of the day, they're going to do what makes the most sense for themselves and their districts."
Still, Israel couldn't help but take a swipe at House Republicans for opposing Obama's proposal, suggesting their opposition was rooted not in principled opposition but in partisanship.
"Does anybody truly believe that if Mitt Romney had been elected president and asked House Republicans for exactly what President Obama is asking, that House Republicans would oppose it to extent that they're opposing what President Obama wants?" he asked. "The level of hypocrisy is what amazes me."
This article appears in the September 11, 2013, edition of NJ Daily.