Republican presidential candidate Jeb Bush said on Thursday that Congress should have voted to authorize President Barack Obama's call for airstrikes in Syria in 2013 and criticized his presidential opponent Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) for dismissing them as insufficient to ebb the violence in the region.
"We should support the president because that was better than inaction. No action at all, we see what happens," the former Florida governor told conservative radio host Hugh Hewitt. "The lack of action now creates chaos, and meanwhile, Assad continues to barrel bomb the innocent civilians, we have a refugee crisis, Russia’s on the march, our allies don’t know where we stand, our support for the remnants of the Syrian Free Army is tepid at best. People are looking for American leadership, and they’re not getting it, and I think Congress should have shown support at that point."
Rubio, when asked about the issue during last month's Republican debate, said he opposed the airstrikes because they would not be enough, calling them "pinprick attacks."
In response, Bush said Thursday that Rubio should have supported the airstrikes.
"I agree with Sen. Rubio that the president has not been forthcoming with a strategy, but when he had a chance to show support for the creation of one, he didn’t do it, and I just think that turned out to be a bad decision," Bush said.
In 2013, Obama called for limited airstrikes in Syria as retribution for the country's use of chemical weapons in the ongoing civil war. Rubio, as a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, voted against the authorization, and he and many GOP lawmakers criticized Obama for not having a clear strategy beyond the airstrikes. The measure never reached the full Senate because when it became clear that it would not pass, Obama asked congressional leaders to pull the legislation from consideration.
On Thursday, Bush said he disagreed with fellow Republicans and said Obama was right to pursue limited military action, despite the GOP opposition.
"Well, I think the appeal was pretty tepid but he did make the appeal, and I think at the point it wasn’t popular among some parts of the Republican Party and so I think people were sticking their fingers in the breeze and that’s wrong," Bush said. "Look, being popular is not what we’re talking about, being president of the United States requires having a clear vision, having a backbone, and I thought that that vote was uncalled for."
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