Dan wrote about John McCain's demurrals earlier, but I'd chalked that up to the Maverick trying to exploit his leverage to produce a more muscular resolution. But might the party's super-hawks actually be preparing to vote 'no' on the administration's preferred resolution to authorize force? Lindsey Graham spoke to the Washington Post's Jennifer Rubin, and sounds mighty concerned about the president's fecklessness and goal-lessness:
Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) told Right Turn in a phone conversation this morning, “I’m not going to support a strategy that has zero chance of success.” Contrary to news reports, he told me that he and Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) aren’t yet sold on President Obama’s strategy for Syria. Without them, Graham said bluntly, there is little chance of a “yes” vote from Congress. “I don’t know if we can carry [the yes vote] over the finish line but I can assure defeat without us.” Graham is realistic about our current options. “This is not a yes or no question. It’s about bad and worse,” he observed. “Good and very good are in the rear view mirror.” Nevertheless, he warned, “I’ve got to be convinced there is a strategy.” Right now, the jury is out. For the first time I can recall, he said a hapless effort with no chance of success is “just as bad” as a “no” vote...I asked him what the chances of a yes vote were. “It’s a jump ball. People are persuadable,” he said of his colleagues. He warned that if the Democrats make the resolution narrower, as some are now promising to do, they will lose McCain and him.
Translation: If we're going to do something, let's really do something. A superficial, ineffectual, face-saving "mission" won't cut it. Based on their muddled and incoherent performances at yesterday's Senate hearings, Secretaries Kerry and Hagel left the distinct impression that the administration is flailing. Kerry essentially argued that the administration's policy is regime change in Damascus, but that any American military action wouldn't be in pursuit of that end. His on-the-fly "thinking out loud" expressions of hypothetical boots-the-ground scenarios -- which he repeatedly walked back -- lent an air of unpreparedness and confusion to the proceedings. If Obama's men were there to persuade, they didn't do a very good job. And it seems as though it'll take a lot to persuade most Americans that an intervention in Syria is a wise decision. The president is in a bind: Water down the resolution so much as to make it useless, and he risks losing the McCain/Graham faction. Beef it up to the point that it has real teeth, and House Democrats may bolt. The senior Senators from Arizona and South Carolina aren't the only national security-minded conservatives who are balking at the president's "strategy," such as it exists. Allahpundit notes that Liz Cheney has also come out publicly against a strike, as has John Bolton. Think about that. Sen. Marco Rubio, who doesn't share the non-interventionist impuluses of fellow Tea Party freshman Sen. Rand Paul, appeared on Fox News' Special Report last night and sounded awfully reluctant to go along with the White House's plan:
UPDATE - By the way, Hillary Clinton valiantly came out in favor of a Syria strike via an anonymous aide. Clinton praised Bashir al-Assad as a "reformer" in 2011. John Kerry, who's playing Colin Powell's role in selling this war, has called Assad a partner for peace.
UPDATE II - McCain and Rubio split over the committee resolution vote (McCain yes, Rubio no). It passed 10-7-1, with Massachusetts' Ed Markey voting "present," perhaps as an homage to Barack Obama's State Senate career and Syria policy. A vote in the full Senate is expected next week.