Speeches & Floor Statements

Floor Speech: Comments on the President's Remarks on ISIS

Posted on September 10, 2014

I am glad I had the opportunity to be on the floor today to hear the remarks of the Senator from Virginia.  All of us look forward to the president's remarks tomorrow night.  I am going to reserve my comments because of the seriousness of the subject and out of respect for the Office of the president until after the president addresses the nation.  But I would say this.  Having heard the senator from Virginia, I hope the president and his advisers listened carefully to what the senator from Virginia said.  None of us want to see another military adventure in the Middle East.  As in Virginia and West Virginia and Tennessee, we have had thousands – tens of thousands of Tennesseans who have been in Iraq and Afghanistan three, four, five, six times or tours of duty.  But this ISIS threat is a different kind of threat to civilization, and very well could be a threat to the United States.  It requires a response.  It requires the president's leadership.  He is the Commander in Chief, and it is his job to lay out for us a firm and clear strategy for, in the words of his administration, how we will defeat and destroy this new movement. 

            In thinking about whether to come to the Congress, I think it is useful for the president to think back to the first President Bush and the decision he had to make.  I was in his cabinet.  I came just about that time and the idea of a ground war in the Middle East was a shocking thought.  We have not had something like that in this country for a while, and the president was reluctant at first to come to the Congress to gain approval for that, but he did it.  And he said after he had done it that he was in retrospect glad he did.  What did he gain?   

            Even though it was a contentious debate and the margin of the vote wasn't large, it gave a clear signal to the world that we were united as a country against this perceived threat at that time.  It gave a clear signal to the country that regardless of party we were united with the president of the United States on what he saw as an urgent mission for our country.  As a result of that, he had an enormously successful operation.  It was well planned, funded by other countries, primarily, and had a limited objective.  They got to the gates of Baghdad, the objective was realized, and we came home.  I think the fact that the president sought the advice of Congress was a part of that. 

            In this case I think this president would find in this body careful listeners to what he has to say, a willingness on both sides of the aisle to consider his strategy, and a willingness to support a carefully crafted plan to meet his objectives.  This is not Libya, this is not Grenada, and this is not Panama.  This is at least 2 or 3 years.  It is not nation-building, we assume, but any time our country is expected to have a military action especially in the Middle East again, it needs to have the full support of the American people, and that starts here.  

            So I will wait until Wednesday night to hear what the president has to say, but the senator from Virginia has given some very careful and reasonable advice, and I hope the president and his advisers will consider that very carefully. 


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