U.S. Sen. Mark Pryor should hit the front page of Sunday newspapers tomorrow with this:
Statement by Senator Mark Pryor On Syria
The decision to use military force is one of the gravest responsibilities Members of Congress face, and it is one that I take very seriously. I have heard presentations and testimonies from the Administration on their case for military action, have read and studied the text of the authorization for the use of military force that will come before the Senate next week, and have listened to the concerns of thousands of Arkansans as I have traveled the state.
I have said, before any military action in Syria is taken, the Administration must prove a compelling national security interest, clearly define a mission that has a definitive end-state, and then build a true coalition of allies that would actively participate in any action we take. Based on the information presented to me and the evidence I have gathered, I do not believe these criteria have been met, and I cannot support military action against Syria at this time.
Polling suggests Pryor has joined the current majority sentiment. Congress is split deeply, including within the two parties.
Pryor’s decision has obvious political implications. Republican U.S. Rep. Tom Cotton has been an outspoken advocate of military intervention and regime change. He’s also talked of a willingness to engage with Syria in the context of bellicose remarks on Iran and North Korea. Cotton is, in short, an unabashed hawk. For now, Pryor’s might seem the safer political course. But Cotton’s desire for war, though opposed by many Arkansas voters, including deeply conservative voters, might be grudgingly admired for its robust bellicosity.
Call me crazy, but I think you have to give Mark Pryor some credit on principle for opposing military action. Instinctive support of the military runs strong in the red states of Dixie. Here, it’s complicated by a call to action of a commander in chief who’s loathed by precisely the sort of voters — older conservative white men — who’d normally be wearing flag lapel pins on the issue.
The split is particularly ironic given Tom Cotton’s Tweet this morning. Who’s with President Obama now?
PS — Lots of external factors yet to come. CNN, for example, says it has been leaked videos of the aftermath of use of chemical weapons in Syria. I’m guessing it’s ghastly.