Rand Paul to Senate: “˜The President Must Make the Case for War’

The Republican senator isn’t the only one who thinks so — the majority of Americans want to hear it too.

Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., asks a question of Secretary of State John Kerry on Capitol Hill in Washington, Tuesday, Sept. 3, 2013, as Kerry testifies before a Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing on Syria.  
National Journal
Marina Koren
Sept. 9, 2013, 10:40 a.m.

In a let­ter to his fel­low sen­at­ors Monday, Re­pub­lic­an Rand Paul urged his col­leagues to vote “no” on a res­ol­u­tion be­fore Con­gress to au­thor­ize U.S. mil­it­ary in­ter­ven­tion in Syr­ia, ar­guing that Pres­id­ent Obama hasn’t made a case for tak­ing ac­tion.

The Ken­tucky sen­at­or bor­rowed a line from former Sec­ret­ary of State Colin Pow­ell’s auto­bi­o­graphy: “War should be the polit­ics of last re­sort. And when we go to war, we should have a pur­pose our people un­der­stand and sup­port.” Paul wrote that he doesn’t be­lieve Syr­ia “passes that test.”

The law­maker, a GOP fa­vor­ite for the 2016 pres­id­en­tial elec­tion, isn’t alone in this opin­ion. A USA Today sur­vey re­leased Monday found that just 22 sen­at­ors and 22 House mem­bers say they’ll sup­port a U.S. strike against Syr­ia in re­sponse to a chem­ic­al-weapons at­tack al­legedly car­ried out by Syr­i­an Pres­id­ent Bashar al-As­sad’s re­gime last month. On the oth­er side, 19 sen­at­ors and 130 House mem­bers are ready to vote “no” on a res­ol­u­tion later this month to au­thor­ize the use of force.

Op­pos­i­tion to a U.S. strike against Syr­ia stretches bey­ond the Belt­way. The latest polls show that nearly two-thirds of Amer­ic­ans are op­posed to an at­tack, a sig­ni­fic­ant spike from just last week, when 48 per­cent of cit­izens were op­posed.

“This res­ol­u­tion does too much by in­volving us in a civil war in which there is no clearly defined Amer­ic­an na­tion­al se­cur­ity in­terest,” Paul wrote in the let­ter. Here, Amer­ic­ans seem split: 45 per­cent say Syr­ia poses a threat to the U.S., while 50 per­cent dis­agree.

Paul’s let­ter did echo Amer­ic­ans’ opin­ions on something that is likely to dom­in­ate the con­ver­sa­tion about Syr­ia this week. “The pres­id­ent must make the case for war,” he said. Fifty-four per­cent of Amer­ic­ans seem to agree with him, say­ing that Obama has not ex­plained his ra­tionale for a strike clearly enough.

Obama plans to do just that, in six tele­vised in­ter­views with ma­jor news net­works Monday night and a speech to the na­tion from the White House Tues­day night. The pres­id­ent won’t sway Paul; wheth­er he can con­vince the Amer­ic­an pub­lic re­mains to be seen.

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