Pop quiz: Which 2012 presidential candidate urged the United States to "work with partners to organize and arm Syrian opposition groups so they can defend themselves"? If you guessed Barack Obama, you were wrong. Mitt Romney repeatedly criticized President Obama's "policy of paralysis" which allowed Bashar al-Assad to "slaughter 10,000 individuals." Romney's position was shared by many in his party outside of the libertarian right — that is, until it became President Obama's position too. Here are two Republicans who would like to succeed Governor Romney as the 2016 nominee who are straining to distance themselves from their Romney-like (and Obama-like) position on Syria.
Marco Rubio has been one of the great supporters of military intervention in Syria. Two years ago he penned an essay in Foreign Policy calling for President Obama to "back up our rhetoric with action." Last year, he argued that failure to act would diminish America's prestige abroad, and also tauted the benefits of a post-Assad world.
And just this April, Senator Rubio made another plea for military intervention and overthrowing Assad. “[T]he time for passive engagement in this conflict must come to an end. It is in the vital national security interest of our nation to see Assad’s removal."
So it should come as no surprise that Marco Rubio voted against military intervention when the option came before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. The senator explained his reversal as simply a distrust in American military's power to effect change.
"I have never supported the use of U.S. military force in the conflict," he said before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. "I remain unconvinced that the use of force proposed here will work. The only thing that will prevent Assad from using chemical weapons in the future is for the Syrian people to remove him from power.”
Not many conservatives' stars shine brighter among the new right than that of Ted Cruz. The junior Texas senator is known for his hardline conservative ideology which he perfected before entering college and hasn't changed his mind on at all in the intervening years.
Early this summer Cruz longed for an apparent military intervention, calling for the U.S. to "develop a clear, practical plan to go in, locate the weapons, secure or destroy them, and then get out." While in the same speech Cruz criticized arming the rebels, he remained firmly in the interventionist camp. That is, until, President Obama asked for the Senate's support.
On Sunday, Cruz lambasted Syria as a ploy to divert attention from the president's real scandal, Benghazi. "You don't hear the president mention Benghazi...We ought to be defending U.S. national security and going after radical Islamic terrorists."