WASHINGTON — Sen. Bob Corker on Wednesday ripped President Barack Obama's handling of Syria, saying it has hurt U.S. credibility and diminished his stature as commander in chief.
Corker has been a key ally in the administration's effort to convince skeptical lawmakers they should approve a military strike against Syria. But the day after the president delivered a prime-time address to say diplomatic efforts should continue, the Tennessee Republican sounded fed up.
"He's a very good speech-maker," Corker said, speaking on CNBC. "But I could not have been more disappointed in the content."
Corker said he was led to believe the president's speech would reaffirm his commitment to punish Syria for using chemical weapons against its own people — a claim Syrian President Bashar Assad disputes. When Obama instead said he wanted to give diplomatic efforts spearheaded by Russia a chance, it left Corker frustrated.
"When our commander in chief draws a bright red line and a country passes that, to me it's about our credibility as a nation," he said. "I really thought the president was going to talk about that red line. Look, chemical weapons interest me, but what interests me regarding us is our credibility around the world. He did not make that case. He alluded to me that he was. He did not."
Corker worked with the White House and Democratic Sen. Robert Menendez of New Jersey, chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, on a resolution authorizing the use of military force in Syria. The committee approved the authorization last week, though it's given little chance of passing the full Senate or the House.
Corker also is upset the administration hasn't moved faster to arm moderate rebels in Syria who are fighting to unseat Assad.
Obama has "done more in a short period of time to damage American credibility around the world than any modern president," the senator said.
Corker said later on CNN that the president's handling of Syria has been a "muddlement," and he said it will be tougher for the president to sell his agenda on other issues to lawmakers.
"He's a diminished figure here on Capitol Hill. I can assure you that," he said.