OTR Interviews

As world waits for Obama's move on Syria, senator laments that Congress has been 'missing in action' on foreign policy

A US attack on Syria appears imminent as White House admits there must be a response to use of chemical weapons


This is a rush transcript from "On the Record," August 27, 2013. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

GRETA VAN SUSTEREN, FOX NEWS HOST: Republican U.S. senator Bob Corker warning President Obama Congress is not just a consultant when it comes to making decisions about Syria. Senator Corker joins us. Good evening, sir.

SEN. BOB CORKER, R-TENN.: Greta, good to be with you. Thank you.

VAN SUSTEREN: What do you mean by that Congress is not just a consultant?

CORKER: Well, they have -- they are honoring the War Powers Resolution, which says that they have to consult with Congress. I was consulted with yesterday because of my position on Foreign Relations.

But I would hope they would also come back and seek an authorization. The president does have the ability as commander-in-chief to start activities like those that are being discussed, but I think he's much better off if he gets approval from Congress.

So they still have another step, obviously, from the standpoint of making our nation aware of what's happening. There still are intelligence documents that need to be declassified so that the American people and myself -- I do plan to go up -- I am going up tomorrow, and hopefully, will have a classified briefing. But there's another step as far as informing the American people of the knowledge we have regarding the chemical use on the ground.

And then, you know, what I would hope is that at some point, they would come to Congress for an authorization. You know, Greta, Congress has been missing in action now for a long time relative to foreign policy. We take no ownership over these issues as a result. And some of the debates that I was listening to, actually, prior to coming on just a minute ago -- some of those emanate from the fact that the -- there is no ownership over these activities that take place.

VAN SUSTEREN: Why not -- I'm sort of curious, I mean, there's a lot of attention on what the U.S. is going to do, and I know that British prime minister has -- is going to convene parliament to discuss whether he can get authorization. But you've got the Arab League, of which Syria is a member, but now suspended. Why aren't we deferring to the Arab League to sort of discipline or punish or do a military action themselves? Why would we be doing it in front of them?

CORKER: Well, I think, you know, the president -- you know, the leader of our country has announced, whether you like it or not or whether you supported him or not, that if a red line was crossed, action would be taken. I think in this case, they think there's no question whatsoever that this action has been taken.

And I will say that, you know, Iran is watching. As we make statements, are we going to back those statements? So I let me just say this, Greta. I strongly support a targeted, surgical, proportional approach to Syria on this. At the same time, I do not want it to be the kind of approach militarily that gets us off of the policy that we now have in place, and that is Syrians taking the lead.

I mean, we have announced that our policy is going to be to equip and train the moderate vetted opposition. To me, that is a policy that should continue. And so to me, the Syrians need to be the ones that continue to carry this out.

I think you know that they're very unorganized. I know your last person said that. Candidly, General Idris, who we're consolidating around, isn't even really operating inside Syria. The coalition of civilians is operating out of Cairo. So there really isn't any consensus in the country as to who would take over if Assad goes.

So there's a lot of work that needs to be done on the ground by the opposition. We need to let them take the lead. Our role should be equipping and training and giving humanitarian aid after we do what I think is going to happen over this next week, if the intelligence reports are made available to all of us. If we take those steps, I want to make sure that it doesn't take us off our stated policy as it relates to the opposition.

VAN SUSTEREN: What is our -- what are we seeking to achieve, or what is our target? I assume if we go after the chemical weapons, we run the risk of another humanitarian crisis. If we go after Assad, I think he moves around, or at least he's hard to find. I mean, what -- what is our actual target if we do make these surgical strikes?

CORKER: You know, I know those options are being presented. And I'll have to -- you know, we've been, obviously, in conversations. Those options -- because they're still discussing what they are and what the chances of success are with those, I don't know what those options are yet.

You've heard people -- I've heard people on your program talk about the various options, everything from the presidential palace, which apparently, the White House is saying is not going to be hit, to airstrips to the compounds that you just laid out. But at this time, again, it's Congress's role to authorize, and again, I hope it will come to us to do that. It's the commander-in-chief's role to actually conduct the activities on the ground.

VAN SUSTEREN: And are you satisfied that you are being consulted, that the phone calls are going back and forth? Is that what you mean by consulting? So it's the president's meeting that standard?

CORKER: Yes. So Greta, the standard is loose. And again, I do -- yes, I was consulted yesterday. I did receive a call from the secretary of state. We had a conversation. We did check back to the -- with the White House, is that their view of what consultation is. I did have conversations with the Situation Room on Friday and on Sunday.

But Greta, one of the things that I feel I should have, and I would hope the American people would have some glimpse of, is, I want to see the intelligence. I want to see what our intelligence officials have found on the ground.

Obviously, it's interesting that the United Nations is there. Candidly, they don't even have a mandate to assert blame in this case. They're just trying to see if there's been any kind of chemical warfare. So to me, it's very important to also understand what it is we're relying upon, to know for sure. And I think this administration feels very sure, but I want to know what it is that they're relying on to be sure that there's actually been chemical warfare that's been utilized.

VAN SUSTEREN: Senator, thank you, sir.

CORKER: Thank you. Thank you very much.