John Kerry, speaking on Face the Nation, defended Barack Obama’s delay in implementing action against Bashar Assad while he goes to Congress for authorization.
Host Major Garrett asked, “I know you believe the president’s decision to seek congressional authorization is courageous, but isn’t it bowing to a political reality that had been communicated to the president late this week that there would be significant congressional backlash if he didn’t give Congress a role, and that backlash, in part, reflected the inability of the Administration to make its case this past week?”
Kerry responded that President Obama had not shown any weakness by deferring to Congress on military action in Syria:
I disagree with that premise in all accounts. The fact is that the president clearly had sufficient case presented to the American people that Assad had engaged in outrageous crimes against humanity, and that it was vital to take steps. I think the president realized in consultations with the Congress that people wanted to weigh in. and he believed after thinking about it that the United States of America is much stronger when we act in concert. Rather than have the debate after an attack be all about our constitutional process or “did the president abuse his power” or was it correct and have weeks of sort of being torn apart about that, the president felt it was much more important for us to act with unity of purpose and in a concerted way. I think that this is not just a great decision, I think it’s the right decision. Since when is it wrong for the President of the United States to ask Congress, the elected body that represents the people of America, to weigh in?
When asked about the fact that the action has been delayed for a couple of weeks and if he was “disappointed that your advocacy for a swift response was overridden,” Kerry objected to the idea that he had called for a hasty response:
I did not advocate in any way that the response had to be swift. In fact, I often said we need to take time to do certain things. I’m not going to go into the deliberative process and tell you what I said or someone said to the president of the United States.
He also felt that it was a very important message, if you will, to Iran, to North Korea, and to others not only about our democratic process, but most importantly, that we are prepared to uphold the norms of international behavior as a country; we united behind that, and that that gives greater impact to whatever choices we might faced in other places in the future.
Kerry also revealed that there is conclusive evidence that Assad had used chemical weapons, saying, “Today I’m at liberty to tell you that we now have samples back from first responders in East Damascus; those samples of hair and blood have been tested and they have reported positive for signatures of sarin.”