Fast becoming one of Congress' most vocal critics of a military strike in Syria, Rep. Rick Nolan, D-Minn., traded barbs with Secretary of State John Kerry on a conference call with lawmakers Monday afternoon, Politico reports.
Kerry spoke to about 130 House Demoncrats on the 70-minute Monday call, as the Obama administration presses its case in Congress for the limited military strike.
Kerry was joined by other key officials including Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel, National Security Advisor Susan Rice and Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, Politico reports. Obama administration officials are trying to make a case that the U.S. must respond to the alleged use of chemical weapons by the Assad regime in Syria – or risk more violence and instability in the Middle East.
On the call, Nolan challenged the evidence White House officials have presented on the reported use of chemical weapons. Nolan and Kerry got into a “heated exchange,” according to multiple sources, Politico reported. Nolan likened Syria to Vietnam, which angered Kerry, a decorated veteran who was wounded in that conflict.
Vietnam began with an authorization of force after U.S. ships were attacked in the Gulf of Tonkin, and American involvement escalated from there.
Obama officials are suffering "historic amnesia," Nolan said on the call, NBC News reported.
Last week, prior to Obama's decision Saturday to seek authorization from Congress for a strike, MPR reported that Nolan said, “We are war weary. These wars of choice and this so-called nation-building abroad is bankrupting this country. It’s causing nothing but trouble for us throughout the world and it’s time that this Congress step up." Nolan has also said, "we risk danger to our ally Israel" and "blowback to the United States" by Syrian radicals.
Nolan, 69, was re-elected in 2012 after having served in Congress from 1975 to 1981.
Minnesotans informally polled at the State Fair by the Star Tribune support Obama seeking input from Congress, and agree there should be some response to Syria's actions – but it's not clear what that should be.