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Kaine: Obama Made ‘Mistake’ Insisting Assad Must Go

• November 10, 2015 8:12 am

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Sen. Tim Kaine (D., Va.) had sharp criticism for President Obama’s strategy in Syria during an interview Tuesday on MSNBC’s Morning Joe.

Kaine’s most pointed criticism of Obama was the president drawing red lines that he could not follow through on in Syria. In particular, Kaine brought up Obama’s insistence that Assad must go immediately, an assertion the administration has backed off of in recent months.

"I think when the president said Assad must go, I think it was probably a little bit of a mistake. He got out ahead of himself when he said those words," Kaine said. "He realized President Bush said Saddam Hussein must go. I said Mubarak must go. When the United States has tried to say who the leader of another country should be in this region, we usually have not done a very good job at it."

Russian president and Syrian ally Vladimir Putin has committed to keeping the Assad regime in power, therefore maintaining his interests in the region.

"After the president made that commitment, Assad must go, he raised expectations in Syria and then he didn't follow through on it because he realized the limits of America's ability to change a regime. That did dash a lot of hopes and expectations," Kaine said. "That was unfortunate."

Kaine, who has been eyed as a possible running mate for Hillary Clinton, argued that Congress shared responsibility for the chaos in the Middle East because they have yet to pass an Authorization for Use of Military Force that Obama has requested. He claimed that members of Congress did not want their fingerprints on a tough decision.

"I think the problem is we don't have a comprehensive strategy," Kaine said.  "We saw ISIS go to a presence in Afghanistan, Yemen, Somalia. We just recently dispatched troops to Cameroon to counter Boko Haram, which has sworn allegiance to ISIL. So this is a threat that's mutating. We spent nearly $5 billion. We've lost service members' lives. It's time to really have a strategy between Congress and the president, and that involves Congress being willing to engage and Congress hasn't been willing to do that."

Still, Kaine suggested Obama’s plan in Syria is simply not working. He listed three facets of U.S. engagement in Syria: combatting ISIS, ousting Assad, and providing relief for a humanitarian crisis. The problem, Kaine said, was that the three facets do not mesh together well under the administration’s current program.

"We're doing things but they just don't knit together into a whole," Kaine said.