For Kentucky's Senators, the Issue of Syria has Different Implications

Sep 4, 2013

A Western Kentucky University political analyst said the ongoing debate over possible U.S. military action in Syria comes at an opportune time for Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul.

Political Science Professor and Warren County Republican Party Chairman Scott Lasley said Paul has long talked about the U.S. needing to adopt a less aggressive foreign policy. Sen. Paul--who is considering a presidential run--has been a vocal opponent of U.S. military involvement in Syria, saying it’s not in America’s interest to get involved in another nation’s civil war.

Lasley said Paul’s position is something that could attract voters who wouldn’t normally side with the Bowling Green Republican.

“Particularly with younger voters, where Republicans have struggled the last couple of election cycles," Lasley said. "A lot of time there’s not a huge difference between younger voters and older voters, but one of the areas that you do see a difference is the aggressiveness of foreign policy.”

Lasley said Sen. Mitch McConnell finds himself in a tougher position, given his role as Senate Minority Leader. Lasley said while McConnell would normally be inclined to oppose President Obama, the Kentucky Senator also has to take into account how not acting in Syria would impact America’s image abroad.

“First of all, the first thing to keep in mind is that things automatically get more complex as soon as you’re in a leadership position," Lasley said. "I think Democrats like Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi are discovering that. John Boehner definitely knows that, as well as Senator McConnell. The set of responsibilities become very real and different, and certainly in the context of a re-election bid.”

Sen. McConnell has—so far—not taken a public position for or against U.S. military action against Syria. 

Lasley said McConnell has to take into account the fact he’s being challenged by a Tea Party activist in next year’s Senate GOP primary. But Lasley also said McConnell is likely to take into account how not acting in Syria could damage America’s image with important allies abroad.

The Louisville Republican was quoted Tuesday in The Washington Post as saying he appreciated the briefing given to lawmakers by President Obama regarding a possible military strike.

"While we are learning more about his plans, Congress and our constituents would all benefit from knowing more about what it is he thinks needs to be done--and can be accomplished--in Syria and the region," McConnell said.