What will Warner do about Syria?

The Cuccinelli campaign has made something of an issue out of Syria. It’s an honest question as to whether a foreign policy matter over which a governor has no control should be a part of the current political dialogue. I don’t think it does, but I also understand the political calculus. The prospect of a Democratic president leading the nation into a war/conflict/hand-waving exercise that most people seem to oppose, and doing so with the blessing of a Democratic-controlled Senate, could put Terry McAuliffe on the spot.

And so he keeps quite, not distancing himself from the President or from Sen. Tim Kaine, who has already voted (in committee) for the Senate version of force authorization.

McAuliffe won’t be able to stay mum indefinitely. Whatever he says will make for good theater. But the one we should be paying attention to is the other Virginia politician who actually does have a say whether the U.S. should use force in Syria: Sen. Mark Warner.

Warner’s carefully cultivated “radical centrist” image has served him very well. But the Syria vote leaves him nowhere to hide, and how he votes will could become an issue in the 2014 election. So rather than come right out and say what he intends to do, we get this:

“I think the administration is building its case for the moral implications. What I don’t think the administration has done a very good job of is… explaining to the American people both the risk of acting but also the risk of not acting.”

Warner said he’s not heard much public support for military action.

“Virginians are seven-to-one, eight-to-one against,” he said. “And it’s across the political spectrum.”

He noted that as a member of the Senate Intelligence Committee, he has access to sensitive information that every citizen cannot review.

“It’s important for me to listen to Virginians,” he said. “But I believe our government is a republican form of government – that you hired me. I make the best judgment and then people have a chance to fire me or not.”

The shorter version: “I’m going to vote to authorize the use of force (after going through the motions of giving it serious thought) and I dare the Virginia GOP to do anything about it. But just in case the President botches his speech on the issue, I’ve got an out.”

Bases covered.

Or at least they are right up until he is required to vote. All we can be sure of is that Warner will not go the full Ed Markey and vote “present.”