He starts by reminding his audience of President Lyndon B. Johnson’s Gulf of Tonkin resolution, which got the United States more deeply involved in Vietnam, and then talks about President George W. Bush’s invasion of Iraq.
“Syria is different,” Connolly insists. “We have a president who is a reluctant warrior. . . . Anyone who believes he has some secret plan to put troops in Syria and invade it — I don’t think anyone really believes that about him.”
Then Connolly makes the moral case that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad must be stopped from gassing his own people. “This is a great test. This is not a pleasant moment,” he says, before conceding of the use-of-force resolution: “I don’t even know if it will pass the House.”
Afterward, Beverly Stohr, 72, approaches Connolly. “Why does it have to be us that leads this?” she asks. “Why can’t it be the U.N.?”
“Because Russia blocks everything,” he responds.
“I feel we don’t need to be policeman to the world,” Stohr says. Later, in an interview, Stohr, an independent, says: “If we get into the Middle East, it will never end. It’s a hot spot.”
Another woman expresses concern that U.S. strikes could dislodge the chemical storage units and create a bigger problem. “I worry about that,” Connolly confides.
Connolly has some supporters. Ron Christian, 74, a Lutheran minister, says he favors strikes because his wife’s Norwegian cousin was held for two years in a Nazi concentration camp in Bucharest during World War II.
Bill Henry, the retired journalist, spent time fighting in Korea in the 1950s and says of the Assad regime: “Bomb the hell out of ’em.”
As Connolly prepares to depart, he professes to be comfortable with his decision.
“They know I’m voting my conscience,” he says of his constituents. “If I was going to do something cynically political right now, I’d say, ‘You know what, I’m opposed to this.’ What do I get out of working to try to find a narrow path to achieve limited goals that are very important?”
At the very least, more time on television. The day before the O’Donnell appearance, Connolly also made the case for military strikes on “All In With Chris Hayes,” on MSNBC. This coming Sunday, he’s booked for CNN’s “State of the Union” and Bloomberg TV’s “Capitol Gains.”