Was Kerry winging it on Syria?
posted at 10:00 am on March 1, 2013 by Ed Morrissey
One reason that Senate alums get easy rides in confirmation hearings is the presumption that as members of the club, they represent a close tie to a presidential administration and their activities. It supposedly eases the communication gap between the White House and Capitol Hill, as the appointee will have personal contact with the men and women who have oversight into Cabinet agencies, while helping an administration build support for policies and initiatives through the personal relationships on the Hill. Chuck Hagel was a poor choice in that regard (as well as many others, which became apparent during his confirmation hearing) because he built few of those personal relationships in two terms in the Senate, and torched the one he had built with John McCain over Barack Obama and the surge.
Lawmakers on Thursday said the State Department left Congress in the dark about the administration’s decision to aid rebel forces in Syria.
The leaders of the panels that cover foreign policy told The Hill they weren’t briefed ahead of Secretary of State John Kerry’s announcement Thursday that America would be sending $60 million worth of food and medicine directly to the rebels battling Syrian President Bashar Assad.
As it turns out, the White House and State Department didn’t bother to brief anyone on Capitol Hill on their decision to reverse course and provide direct aid to the Syrian opposition, which will run $60 million. The decision will put “non-lethal” resources into the hands of a rebellion whose most significant component has been listed as a terrorist organization with ties to al-Qaeda — by the agency Kerry now runs.
Democrats weren’t openly criticizing the lack of consultation, but Republicans certainly were. Their staffs were engaging the State Department almost to the moment Kerry made the announcement, yet “were told nothing”:
Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.), the top Republican on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee that Kerry used to chair, said his staff were talking to the State Department until 8 p.m. Wednesday to get a sense of what might be discussed at Thursday’s meeting in Rome with the Syrian opposition. They were told nothing. …
Sen. James Inhofe (R-Okla.), the top Republican on the Senate Armed Services Committee, said he wasn’t briefed, either.
“Isn’t that strange?” he said. “Yeah, I should have.”
Corker told The Hill that Republicans would likely have supported the decision, which makes the blindsiding all the more strange. Why not build political support for that move, especially bipartisan support, that could be rolled out at the same time? Even if Republicans decided to balk at it — House Armed Services chair Buck McKeon said “at some point, they start using bullets to shoot back at us” — at least some Republicans would have come along. Isn’t that the value of Kerry’s ties to the Senate?
Michael Ramirez reminded us this week that Kerry’s tenure is just another example of “smart power”:
That certainly seems to be the overriding philosophy of the White House, at least in dealing with Congress.
Also, be sure to check out Ramirez’ terrific collection of his works: Everyone Has the Right to My Opinion, which covers the entire breadth of Ramirez’ career, and it gives fascinating look at political history. Read my review here, and watch my interviews with Ramirez here and here. And don’t forget to check out the entire Investors.com site, which has now incorporated all of the former IBD Editorials, while individual investors still exist.