It is easy for politicians to rationalize expediency, especially when it comes to voting “no” on painfully, imperfect legislation (otherwise known as every hard vote). One can always make up excuses for rejecting a measure and/or for claiming one doesn’t have enough information (which those not clairvoyant rarely do). What takes guts is to vote in the face of naysayers, one’s political interests and one’s personal pique.
In the case of the Syria resolution any mid-level staffer can come up with reasons for voting no. The president messed this up. The president has been inept in pushing Congress. The polls are against it. There are no good choices. Harder, however, is to say we must support the institution of the presidency and the credibility of the United States despite these many concerns.
That is what 10 members of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee did this week. Sens. Robert Menendez (D-N.J.), Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.), Benjamin Cardin (D-Md.), Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.), Christopher Coons (D-Del.), Richard Durbin (D-Ill.), Tim Kaine (D-Va.), Bob Corker (R-Tenn.), Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.) and John McCain (R-Ariz.) all cast the hard vote for an amended Senate resolution. Democrats will get nothing but grief from their left-wing base; Republicans are being tarred by the right-wing pundits and loud-mouth groups (e.g., Heritage Action, FreedomWorks). These senators may not carry the day in their body, but they have set an example for their peers and done all that was humanly possible to rescue the country from the president’s foolishness. They have risked their own credibility to save not Obama’s credibility (his, I think, is lost for good), but that of the country and the West. That’s the most you can ask of any elected official.
So to these senators, we say well done, ladies and gentlemen.