PolitiFact's Truth-O-Meter is checking the facts, this time after Florida Sen. Marco Rubio (R) came out in support of President Donald Trump's use of airstrikes to retaliate against the Syrian government for using chemical weapons on their people. In contrast, Sen. Rubio had a different opinion four years ago when then-President Obama proposed airstrikes to respond to Syrian chemical weapon use.
During a nationally televised interview, Rubio said that the Obama administration’s 2013 Syria proposal "had no clear objective," while Trump’s Syria strike "had a clear strategic objective."
Our partners at PolitiFact Florida looked into Rubio's claim. PolitiFact reporter Joshua Gillin says that Rubio's statement rates FALSE on the Truth-O-Meter. Gillin says that there are obvious similarites between the two incidents.
"We're talking about two different Syrian incidents, one in 2013, and the other on April 7th of this year," said Gillin. "In 2013, President Obama had to deal with a situation where Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad used chemical weapons on his people. The Obama adminstration went to Congress to get their approval, and they had cabinet and adminstration members talk to lawmakers on the Hill about the plan. They had clear targets, target packages, and followup targets all ready to go. This was planned to show Syria that there were consequences to using chemical weapons. Obama's proposal did not get enough votes in Congress, so there were no airstrikes in retailiation for chemical weapon usage."
Four years later, another chemical weapons attack by Syria prompted retaliation from President Donald Trump. "President Trump authorized the use of Tomahawk missiles on an airfield that was used for the attack," said Gillin. "In this case, Trump made the call himself, and then, through his spokespeople, justified the airstrikes as a way to deter Syria from carrying out more chemical weapons attacks."
Looking back four years ago, Sen. Rubio questioned Obama adminstration officials about the plan to use airstrikes against Syria. Rubio noted his concern that the administration plans were, in fact, too narrow to do any sort of permanent damage to Assad's ability to use chemical weapons again in the future.
Because Rubio acknowledged President Obama's detailed plan during a hearing four years ago, his current statement that President Obama had no clear agenda for the airstrikes goes against what he said in 2013, leading to his statement being rated FALSE on the Truth-O-Meter.
SOURCES: Airstrike agenda differences?
- PolitiFact ruling
- ABC News, This Week transcript, April 9, 2017
- FactCheck.org, "McConnell Revises History on Syria," April 7, 2017
- Rubio website, "Rubio Statement on U.S. Airstrikes in Syria," April 6, 2017
- New York Times, "Obama Seeks Approval by Congress for Strike in Syria," Aug. 31, 2013
- New York Times, "Draft Resolution for Use of U.S. Military in Syria," Sept. 1, 2013
- Huffington Post, "A Yes Vote of Conscience for the World’s Red Line," Sept. 6, 2013
- White House, "A Letter from the President to the Speaker of the House of Representatives and the President Pro Tempore of the Senate," April 8, 2017
- State Department, Remarks With National Security Advisor H.R. McMaster, April 6, 2017
- CQ, Senate Foreign Relations Committee Holds Hearing on the Authorization for Use of Military Force in Syria, Sept. 3, 2013
- CQ, House Foreign Affairs Committee Holds Hearing on the Authorization for Use of Military Force in Syria, Sept. 4, 2013
- CQ, House Armed Services Committee Holds Hearing on the Authorization for Use of Military Force in Syria, Sept. 10, 2013
- CQ, archive search, conducted April 11, 2017
- Obama White House archive search, conducted April 11, 2017
- Phone interview, Council on Foreign Relations senior fellow Philip Gordon, April 11, 2017