Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Is Sen. Bill Nelson Sleeping with the Enemy?

OK - I know that I'm under a blogging pause, but this is too important to wait.


U.S. Senator Bill Nelson - that's right Floridians, your Sen. Nelson - took it upon himself to meet today with Syrian President Bashar Assad. I'm aware that the Baker-Hamilton group urged talks with Syria, but I do not recall it mentioning that those talks should be initiated by a rogue U.S. senator.

Here's the AP story:

In a direct affront to the Bush administration, a Democratic senator spent an hour Wednesday with Syrian President Bashar Assad in Damascus, emerging from the meeting to say Assad was willing to help control the Iraq-Syrian border.

Sen. Bill Nelson (news, bio, voting record) of Florida, a member of the Armed Services and Foreign Relations committees, met with Assad after the State Department said that it disapproved of his trip. The United States has limited
diplomatic ties with Syria because of its support of Hezbollah and Hamas, which
the U.S. deems terrorist organizations, and President Bush has expressed
reluctance to seek help from Damascus on Iraq until the Syrians curb that support and reduce their influence in Lebanon.


"We don't think that members of Congress ought to be going there," White House press secretary Tony Snow said, adding that the United States continues to denounce Syria's meddling in Lebanon and its ties to terrorist groups.

Snow noted the existing diplomatic ties between U.S. and Syria. "I think it's a real stretch to think the Syrians don't know where we stand or what we think," he said.


The senator shrugged off suggestions he was challenging Bush's authority by sidestepping administration policy that the U.S. have no contact with Syrian officials.

"I have a constitutional role as a member of Congress," Nelson said.

Meanwhile, Bush criticized Damascus anew and called on it to free all political prisoners.

In a statement, the president expressed support for the Syrian people, and said they "deserve a government whose legitimacy is grounded in the consent of the people, not brute force."

The U.S.-backed government in Lebanon led by Prime Minister Fuad Saniora is being challenged by the Hezbollah-led, pro-Syrian opposition. Bush said Syria should disclose the fate of the many missing Lebanese citizens who disappeared following their arrest in Lebanon during decades of Syrian military occupation.

"The Syrian regime should immediately free all political prisoners, including Aref Dalila, Michel Kilo, Anwar al-Bunni, Mahmoud Issa, and Kamal Labwani," Bush said. "I am deeply troubled by reports that some ailing political prisoners are denied health care while others are held in cells with violent criminals."

Doesn't Nelson know when he being used as a public relations tool?


Yes, it's the same Bill Nelson (hat tip Hot Air).

Little Green Footballs has been following the story all day and has some good stuff.
From Blogmiester USA: Dodd and Kerry will be meeting with Middle East leaders.

The idea that Dodd and Kerry are going to talk to leaders in Iran and Syria
when the administration is reluctant to do so (and hoping to pass on messages
from Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice) does nothing for our nation. It shows
those countries that we continue to be divided on key policy issues such as
national security. All these two are doing is stroking their own egos.

We'll keep following this story. For now the pause is back on!!

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