Spend enough time observing and interacting with politicians, and one quickly can differentiate those focused exclusively on politics from those interested in getting some things done. Sen. Bob Corker, R-Tenn., falls into the latter category. And that makes his take on the Obama administration’s handling of foreign policy worth mulling.
Corker is no Senate back bencher lobbing incendiary political bombs at President Barack Obama to impress right-wing billionaire campaign donors. He’s the ranking Republican on the Foreign Relations Committee and a senior member of the Banking Committee.
For much of the last few years, Corker was always among those GOP senators summoned to the White House to meet with Obama or his senior staff about the kind of massive federal fiscal deal that would lessen or terminate the remaining years of across-the-board defense and domestic budget cuts.
To be sure, Corker has spent perhaps as many hours as any other Republican lawmaker working with Obama and senior administration officials. Unlike his GOP colleagues, Corker bristles as phrases they often use to describe Obama’s foreign policy approach such as “leading from behind.”
But he does share their collective frustration.
Take Syria, an issue on which Corker says members of both parties feel “a tremendous amount of disappointment” with Obama. He noted Republican and Democratic members of the Foreign Relations Committee “stood with the president” on everything from arming and training rebel forces to air strikes that Obama canceled last summer.
Here’s how Corker, during an MSNBC interview, described Obama’s handling of US national security and foreign policy:
“It’s this policy of always being a day late and a dollar short, letting things fester until they become a much bigger problem.”
He added that Republicans and Democrats can’t get details they’ve repeatedly requested from the White House about its Syria plans and policies:
“They say they have a plan. They won’t share it with us. They say they have activity that’s underway. They won’t share that with us. We’ve asked for an in-depth brief, which you’d think the Foreign Relations Committee would have gotten a long time ago.”
Obama and his administration have entered their sixth year in office. Yet, Corker’s frustrations — and other high-profile conflicts the White House has had with even its Senate allies — show the administration has struggled to learn how to work with Congress.
And that, perhaps more than anything except his controversial healthcare law, could be Obama’s legacy.
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