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How Rep. Alan Grayson is winning the war against the case for war


GraysonU.S. Rep. Alan Grayson, the anti-war Democrat from Orlando, is helping lead a bipartisan coalition to block President Obama's Administration from bombing Syria, and he's using what looks like a novel approach in Congressional hearings: Asking real and pointed questions.

While others make speeches that masquerade as campaign speeches, Grayson used today's Foreign Affairs hearing to rattle off a series of questions designed to raise doubts about the rush to bomb Syria and the consequences for doing so.

At the same time, Grayson is quietly trying to persuade fellow Democrats and some Republicans to vote no. So far, coupled with organic Republican opposition to Obama, the effort appears to be working in the GOP House, where even Democratic support is relatively tepid, which also reflects a war-weary public and polls showing the lack of popularity of bombing Syria.

That could change in the coming days if the United Nations, on the ground in Syria, determines chemical weapons were used and if the administration does a better job making the case for attacking Bashar al-Assad's regime.

Grayson's position isn't just consistent policy for the Congressman, who was opposed to the Iraq war, it's good politics.

"Alan Grayson: A Congressman with Guts," says his new campaign website, "Tell Congress: Don't Attack Syria."

It has gathered 36,000 signatures, his campaign says. The site also gives people the chance to donate.

Grayson has parlayed his role of anti-war agitator in chief into multiple appearances in the news media, which can't resist intramural squabbles because they ring more true than red-on-blue or blue-on-red back-and-forths. The Atlantic has a fascinating must-read on Grayson and his criticisms on CNN of the administration's case for war was razor sharp.

Grayson continued in that vein today during his five minutes of questions for Secretary of State John Kerry, Gen. Martin Dempsey and Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel:

Grayson: "Do Syria and Hezbollah have the means to launch a counterattack against U.S. vessels in the Mediterranean, the U.S. embassy in Beirut and Israel?"

Dempsey: Yes, but not much

Grayson: "Would you say that a counterattack is more likely than not?"

Dempsey: "No, I don't think I could say that..."

Grayson: "There are 189 signers of the chemical-weapons convention -- Syria does not happen to be one of them -- how many of those signatories have pledged to participate in the military intervention in Syria? And what exactly has each one pledged to do?"
Kerry: "There are at least 10 countries that have pledged to participate. We have actually not sought more.... there are many more that support.... There really is a limit for this kind of an operation as to how many you want to participate. You want support. But just physically the management of it" becomes difficult with so many partners.

Grayson: "Secretary Hagel, will the military action in Syria, if it does take place, require a supplemental appropriation and, if you think not, then will you commit to that not?"

Hagel: Well, it depends on the option that the president would select. I have said that we will work with the Congress on whatever the cost of that is."

Grayson: "There has been a report in the media that the administration has mischaracterized post-attack Syrian military communications, and that these communications actually express surprise about the attack. This is a very serious charge. Can you please release the original transcripts so that the American people can make their own judgment about that important issue?"

Hagel: "What transcripts are you referring to?"

Grayson:"The transcripts that were reported that took place after the attack in which the government has suggested that they confirmed the existence of the attack. But actually it has been reported that Syrian commanders expressed surprise that the attack had taken place, not confirmed it."
Hagel: "Well, that's probably classified, Congressman. I'd have to go back and review exactly what you're referring to."

Grayson: "Well, you will agree that it's important that the administration not mislead the public in any way about these reports, won't you?"

Hagel: "Well, of course. But I'm not aware of the administration misleading the American public on this issue or any other issue."

Grayson: "Well, you agree that the only way to put that matter to rest is to release the original reports in some redacted form.."

Hagel: "Well, I'm not going to agree to anything until i see it and i understand better what it is. But it most likely is classified."

Grayson: "I understand that. I'm asking: will you declassify it for this purpose?"

Hagel: "I just gave you my answer. I have no idea what exactly you're talking about. I'd have to go back and look at it, I'd have to confer with others -- our intelligence community -- that's all I can tell you."