Sheila McLaughlin reports:
House Speaker John Boehner was one of the early backers of President Barack Obama’s call for a military strike in Syria.
So, how’s that playing in Butler County, the heart of the 8th Congressional District of Ohio?
Not very well, according to The Enquirer’s discussions this week with residents and public officials in Butler County, where Boehner lives and which holds the most political weight in Boehner’s five-county Congressional District 8 in Ohio. Butler County is a staunch Republican stronghold with the largest population and the highest household incomes.
It’s the same place where Boehner lately has come under fire from some of his more conservative constituents. They accused him of losing sight his Republican principles for repeatedly voting on measures to raise the debt ceiling and taxes.
One political expert said Boehner’s support might cost him votes next session for Speaker of the House, but he doubts it would oust him from Congress.
Of the 20 people the Enquirer approached about Boehner, some didn’t even know who he was, much less what was his stance on an attack on Syria.
Other opinions ranged from applauding him for at least making a decision to questions about whether he’s still a conservative. One person said he staunchly agrees with what Boehner did and that politics shouldn’t be involved.
Patricia Harmon, 49, of Middletown, suggested Boehner was a turncoat.
“I thought he didn’t like Democrats. Why is he all of a sudden backing the president?” she said.
Dave Kern, a tea party member and head of the Butler County Republican Party, thinks Boehner is misguided but doesn’t necessarily blame him.
“I think John was given bad advice,” Kern said of Boehner’s support of the president. “What the President has proposed to do makes no sense. But (Boehner) surely has been privy to reports that I have not seen and should not have seen.”
Boehner was one of few Republicans to come out publicly in support of an airstrike in Syria. He said the United States needed to respond to Syria’s use of chemical weapons, which reportedly killed 1,400 civilians in Damascus.
Since then, other local federal lawmakers such as Kentucky’s Senators Mitch McConnell and Rand Paul, as well as Ohio’s Senator Rob Portman have come out against military action.
The debate in Congress over a military strike was on hold Tuesday after Obama said he might consider a diplomatic resolution following Russia’s proposal for Syria to surrender its chemical weapons to international control. Also on Tuesday, Syrian officials said they would sign an international agreement banning chemical weapons and pledged to open its storage sites and provide full disclosure immediately.
Butler County Sheriff Rick Jones says it doesn’t matter why Boehner sided with Obama. His support of military action was plain wrong.
“I don’t care who the president is. We shouldn’t be bombing anybody else right now. We need to stay at home, build our military,” Jones said. “We’ve got so much going on here. Why don’t we stop and do something about the warring going on in our own country, kids killing kids?”
Chris Kelley, a lecturer in political science at Miami University and a voter from West Chester Township where Boehner resides, said Boehner didn’t have a choice but to speak out.
“Boehner cannot keep his mouth shut on this issue because he is the Speaker of the House – a constitutional officer in line for the presidency. It would have been irresponsible for him to say nothing,” said Kelley, suggesting that complaints about Boehner’s actions on Syria were coming mostly from members of tea party groups.
“Boehner does not have the luxury of being a back-bencher and opposing action simply because the President supports it. Boehner realizes the support may be valuable to the horse trading that is at the heart of our political process.”
Karen Howell, 65, of Liberty Township, now questions Boehner’s politics.
“If I could find a conservative to elect, I would. I don’t think he’s the conservative I thought he was. This is a civil war. Let the country to themselves,” she said.
But, Lucinda Greene, 43, of Hamilton, can’t fault Boehner. At least he made a decision, she said.
“I’m kind of torn about having to go to war especially when we have so much war here. But I just feel because these are elected officials, they have to make a decision be it right or wrong. This is what we voted for,” Greene said.
WHAT BOEHNER’S CONSTITUENTS ARE SAYING
“I’m glad he did it. I wish more of them would do it. I don’t think the president makes decisions lightly. Just from what I’ve read and seen, people are weary of the Iraq thing, the Afghanistan thing. This is a separate issue. If this Assad killed these children with chemicals, then action needs to be taken.” – Bud Arbino, 61, Hamilton.
“(Boehner and Obama) are vacillating so much, I don’t think you can count on any standard from them.” – Jerome Cook, 49, Hamilton.
“I respect him taking a stand up front. But I don’t think we should be stepping into this.” – John Vaughn, 64, Fairfield Township.
“I really don’t think we ought to be doing any of that right now. They need to keep their nose out of certain business in the other countries.” – Barbara Williams, 56, Hamilton.
“It’s a moot point. My problem with is is this should have never been discussed. It should have been addressed on a government level. We’ve elected these people to take care of us. I want to feel safe with my government and feel like they know what’s best for us and that our military and the higher ups know what to do and they need to address it. Not just sit here and dilly dally for weeks on end and then do it.” – Kim Berry, 55, Liberty Township.
“All we know is what they let us know. If it really was for the right reason, I would be in favor of it.” – Drew Johnson, 45, a West Chester resident who hasn’t made up his mind about Boehner or the Syria issue.
“I personally disagree with going into Syria. I think John Boehner should be focused on defunding Obamacare. But, I actually think he believes in (military involvement in Syria). He’s always been strong in supporting the military. But I don’t think that’s what we should be doing.” – Ann Becker, 37, president of the West Chester and Cincinnati tea party organizations.