DUNCAN, Okla. — President Barack Obama put himself into a tough spot when he threatened action against the Syrian government if it used chemical weapons on its people, said U.S. Rep. Tom Cole.
The Oklahoma Republican is among 140 members of Congress - including 21 Democrats - who signed a letter this week warning the president against delivering on that threat without their consent.
Cole, who is home during Congress' August recess, told a town hall meeting in Duncan on Wednesday that Obama "irresponsibly drew red lines in the sand."
The president, said Cole, seems set on a military response to reports that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad ordered a chemical weapons attack. Cole said that “would be using military means to give him credibility for probably saying something he shouldn’t have said.”
The Obama administration and British leaders say they have evidence of a gas attack last week that killed hundreds of Syrians, marking an especially heinous escalation of a nearly two-year civil war that's already killed more than 100,000 people.
The United Nations has sent inspectors to Damascus to investigate those reports.
The White House announced Thursday that it will brief Congressional leaders on Syria.
Cole, who represents Oklahoma's 4th District, touched on various other topics during his exchange with about 100 people.
He took an unpopular stance among some in the room when he said he's unwilling to vote to stop all government spending unless the Affordable Care Act is defunded - even though he's voted 40 times to repeal Obamacare.
While some urged a more aggresive position, Cole said he's unwilling to cut money to the military, veterans, National Weather Service and other vital government services to make a political point when Congress returns to session next month.
"I think it would be a political disaster (for Republicans) in 2014,” he said.
Mike Smith is a reporter for The Duncan Banner.