Presidential Hopefuls Stake Out Syria Positions : It's All Politics Voting for or against military action has proven to have long-lasting political consequences for politicians angling for the highest office in the land. Here's what potential 2016 presidential candidates have had to say on Syria.
NPR logo Presidential Hopefuls Stake Out Syria Positions

Presidential Hopefuls Stake Out Syria Positions

Voting in favor of war or military strikes has proved to have long-lasting political consequences for politicians angling for the highest office in the land.

Just ask former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, whose 2002 vote for the Iraq War resolution as a U.S. senator contributed to her failure to secure the Democratic presidential nomination six years later.

Or check in with current Secretary of State John Kerry. His for-it-before-I-voted-against-it position on Iraq War funding as a U.S. senator contributed to his loss to incumbent George W. Bush in the 2004 presidential election.

Which brings us to the crop of potential 2016 White House hopefuls, and how they have decided to post up on the Syria issue.

While some remain on the fence (Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis.), or say they will not weigh in (New Jersey GOP Gov. Chris Christie), two big players in the Republican fold, Sens. Marco Rubio and Rand Paul, formally voted Wednesday against authorizing a military strike against Syria as members of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

The measure passed the committee, 10-7, and now moves to the full Senate.

Two potential presidential candidates on the Democratic side, Clinton and Vice President Biden, support President Obama's plan to launch a missile strike.

Here's what potential 2016 presidential candidates have had to say on Syria.

Statements On Syria

  • Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla.

    Mark Wilson/Getty Images
    Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., attends a Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing on Syria on Wednesday.
    Mark Wilson/Getty Images

    "While I have long argued forcefully for engagement in empowering the Syrian people, I have never supported the use of U.S. military force in the conflict. And I still don't. I remain unconvinced that the use of force proposed here will work."
    -- Sept. 4 statement

    "The goal of preventing a dominant Iran is so important that every regional policy we adopt should be crafted with that overriding goal in mind. The current situation in Syria is an example of such an approach. The fall of Assad would be a significant blow to Iran's ambitions. On those grounds alone, we should be seeking to help the people of Syria bring him down."

    "But on the Foreign Relations Committee, I've noticed that some members are so concerned about the challenges of a post-Assad Syria that they've lost sight of the advantages of it. First, Iran would lose its ally and see its influence and ability to cause trouble in the region would be correspondingly reduced, but Hezbollah would lose its most important ally too along with its weapons supplier. And the prospects for a more stable, peaceful, and freer Lebanon would improve."
    -- April 2012 speech at the Brookings Institution

  • Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky.

    Mark Wilson/Getty Images
    Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., at Wednesday's Senate Foreign Relations Committee vote on the Syria resolution.
    Mark Wilson/Getty Images

    "We are told there is no military solution in Syria, yet we are embarking on a military solution. The president has failed to demonstrate a compelling American national interest in the Syrian civil war."

    "To be sure, there is a tragedy of a horrific nature in Syria, but I am unconvinced that a limited Syrian bombing campaign will achieve its intended goals. I frankly think that bombing Syria increases the likelihood of additional gas attacks, may increase attacks on Israel and Turkey, may increase civilian deaths, may increase instability in the Middle East and may draw Russia and Iran further into this civil war."

    "By pre-announcing a limited attack, we pre-announce limited effect."

    "Our brave young soldiers should not be asked to risk their lives and limbs in a civil war with no certain ally. On the one hand, we have a tyrant who gassed his own people. On the other hand, we have radical Islamists and al-Qaida. When no compelling American interests exist, we should not intervene. No compelling interests exist in Syria."
    -- Sept. 4 statement

  • Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas

    Brandon Wade/Getty Images
    Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, speaks Aug. 20 at a Dallas press conference.
    Brandon Wade/Getty Images

    "I commend President Obama for listening to bipartisan calls for him to seek congressional authority before any possible use of force against Syria. Given that the president did not request an emergency session of Congress, that must mean that he agrees there is no imminent threat requiring the commander in chief to act without consulting the representatives of the American people."

    "I remain concerned that the mission proposed by the president is not in furtherance the vital national security interests of the United States. To date I have heard a great deal from the administration about punishing Bashir al-Assad for violating an 'international norm' through the use of chemical weapons, and that this is why we must act against him. Abstract notions about international norms should never displace U.S. sovereignty to act, or refuse to act, for our national security."

    "Assad's murderous actions have claimed the lives of more than a hundred thousand of his own people, which is a humanitarian tragedy. But our chief strategic concern should not be international norms; it should be preventing the chemical weapons from falling into the hands of al-Qaida or other terrorists who might use them against us and our allies."

    "It is now incumbent upon President Obama to make his case and persuade Congress that his plan is necessary, and the best course to preserve our security and protect our liberties. Like the president, I welcome this debate and I agree this is an issue of the highest seriousness that transcends partisan politics."
    -- Aug. 31 statement

  • Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis.

    Brenadan Smialowski/AFP/Getty Images
    Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis., listens during the 2013 Fiscal Summit at Mellon Auditorium on May 7 in Washington, D.C.
    Brenadan Smialowski/AFP/Getty Images

    "The president has some work to do to recover from his grave missteps in Syria. He needs to clearly demonstrate that the use of military force would strengthen America's security. I want to hear his case to Congress and to the American people."
    -- Sept. 3 statement

  • Gov. Chris Christie, R-N.J.

    New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie speaks to fellow Republicans on Aug. 15 during the Republican National Committee summer meeting in Boston.
    Josh Reynolds/AP

    "If I had seen some of the things that had happened over the last year-plus in Syria I'd be concerned if I had family there as well. And certainly the use of chemical weapons is something just is intolerable for civilized society. I empathize with those folks who have relatives back in Syria but I'm going to let the policy making be done by the people who are getting the bulk of the briefing on this, which is our federal representatives."
    -- Sept. 3
    speech at New Jersey Institute of Technology

  • Vice President Joe Biden

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    Vice President Joe Biden listens Friday as President Obama speaks at the White House.
    Getty Images

    "Chemical weapons have been used. No one doubts that innocent men, women and children have been the victims of a chemical weapons attack in Syria and there is no doubt who is responsible for this heinous use of chemical weapons in Syria: The Syrian regime."

    "The president believes — and I believe — that those who use chemical weapons against defenseless men, women and children should and must be held accountable."
    -- Aug. 27 speech before the American Legion

  • Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton

    Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton speaks at the Clinton Global Initiative on June 13 in Chicago.
    Scott Olson/Getty Images

    "Secretary Clinton supports the president's effort to enlist the Congress in pursuing a strong and targeted response to the Assad regime's horrific use of chemical weapons."
    -- Sept. 3 statement from an aide