With recent polls revealing that a majority of Americans—black, white and Hispanic—are opposed to U.S. military intervention in Syria, Sen. John McCain used a threat to assure his constituents in Arizona that the intervention would be limited. On a radio show Thursday, the senator asserted that President Obama would be impeached if there were “American boots on the ground.”
“No one wants American boots on the ground, nor will there be American boots on the ground, because there would be a impeachment of the president if they did that,” McCain said during an appearance Thursday on radio host Mike Broomhead’s show out of Phoenix.
McCain has expressed support for military intervention, an important conservative voice of support for Obama, as he tries to lobby Congress to authorize a military strike against Syria in retaliation for a chemical weapons attack three weeks ago that killed more than 1,400 civilians.
Meanwhile, a Washington Post poll showed that 40 percent of blacks support airstrikes, while 56 percent did not. For Hispanics, the figure was 31 percent supporting with 63 percent opposed, while for whites it was 38 percent supporting and 59 percent opposed. The poll was revealing because it revealed an extremely rare instance in Obama’s tenure where whites and blacks express nearly identical views—in opposition to his position.
Understanding that he has a long way to go to convince the public to support his plan, the president will address the nation on Tuesday to explain why this situation is different from the American wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. The White House is also choreographing an intense lobbying effort in Congress when lawmakers return this week. For instance, while the president is speaking to the country, the American Israel Public Affairs Committee will send 250 advocates across Capitol Hill. Urging members of Congress to support a strike, advocates will also express that failure to support Obama’s “red line” against the use of chemical weapons by Assad will be interpreted by Iran as timidity by the U.S. to enforce a red line against their production of nuclear weapons.
Obama supporters fear that the Congressional opposition to the president, which includes many members of the Congressional Black Caucus, including influential members Barbara Lee and Charles Rangel, might have already reached the magic number of 218 in the House, meaning the president’s request would go down in flames, which would be a major embarrassment.
Obama is leaning heavily on his former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, who is likely to talk about Syria at one or both of two events she is attending this week—a previously scheduled visit to the White House on Monday to promote wildlife conservation, and a speech the next day in Philadelphia.
The president himself will tape interviews on Monday, the day before his speech to the public, with ABC, CBS, NBC, Fox, PBS and CNN.
“Right now, to most of the country, this seems like a simple question of, ‘Is Congress going to vote to start another war?’ ” said David Plouffe, a former senior adviser to the president who was back in the White House last week, demonstrating that this was the most intense lobbying effort by the White House since healthcare reform in 2009. “Tuesday night and other opportunities can help fill in the picture for people about both the rationale and limited nature of the response.”