U.S. Sen. Bob Corker said today that he expects the White House to announce soon how it will deal with the "almost demonic" terrorist group known as the Islamic State, but he doesn't expect the nation to send troops back into combat in the Middle East.
Corker, the top Republican on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said during a speech to 100 Black Men of Middle Tennessee that he had tried to reach Denis McDonough, Democratic President Barack Obama's chief of staff, earlier in the day. He later told reporters that he was trying to "push (the administration) along in making a decision."
"There's going to have to be a recognition that, as we've known for some time, there is no border between Syria and Iraq, and the ISIS (Islamic State of Iraq and Syria) crisis is going to have to be addressed on both sides of the border," he said. "This is the most well-funded, roughest, almost demonic group of people that we have ever dealt with as a nation. They've got equipment that no extremist group like theirs has ever had.
"It's going to take a coordinated effort using our air assets, our drone assets, our intelligence assets to help stabilize and beef up the Iraqi military, but to do the same thing with the Kurds and do the same thing with the moderate opposition within Syria itself."
But Corker said he doesn't think anyone in the U.S. government wants to see "actual combat boots on the ground."
"We want to support," he said. "We want to empower. We want to make sure that the people that are on the ground, that are in essence the countries' own people, are the ones taking steps forward. But we've seen what has happened when America plays no role."
Corker also said he'd like to see Obama doing more to help lift Americans economically.
"The nation is divided. We haven't had that leadership to compel us forward," he said. "You can have 70 senators choreographed on the Senate floor. But it's not the same as the White House having a vision towards ... putting the kinds of things in place to not focus on bringing down the top 1 percent but to raise up everyone."
He said Congress has failed to lead, too. He called passage of a recent Senate infrastructure spending bill "a total embarrassment" because the legislation taps into general fund money again instead of raising user fees so that they'll cover costs.
The second-term senator has not ruled out running for president in 2016. But while admitting that it's hard not to think about the impact he could have from the Oval Office, Corker gave what he acknowledged was "a major non-answer" when a woman in the audience asked him about his ambitions.
"There are so many things to consider, not the least of which is your own family," he said. "What I hope is going to happen is that there's going to be a consensus candidate on our side of the aisle who's well known, and hopefully there'll be a consensus candidate on the other side of the aisle, and we're going to have a big debate in 2016."