WASHINGTON -- Rep. Joe Wilson (R-S.C.) is very suspicious about why President Barack Obama wants to bomb Syria, not because Wilson doesn't believe the administration's chemical weapons claims but because he has a hunch that the call for air strikes is designed to distract from issues like the implementation of Obamacare.
At a House Foreign Affairs Committee hearing on Wednesday afternoon, Wilson -- who became famous for shouting "You lie!" at the president during the 2009 health care speech before Congress -- pointed to an April 25 letter from the White House that said U.S. intelligence agencies had concluded "with varying degrees of confidence” that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's forces had used chemical weapons on a small scale.
"Why was there no call for military response in April?" Wilson asked Secretary of State John Kerry, who was testifying before the committee. "Was it delayed to divert attention today from the Benghazi, IRS, NSA scandals; the failure of Obamacare enforcement; the tragedy of the White House-drafted sequestration or the upcoming debt limit vote? Again, why was there no call for military response four months ago when the president's red line was crossed?"
Kerry replied that Obama didn't believe in April that the evidence was strong enough to convince the public of the need for a strike. The Obama administration did not start pushing for a military response until after more than 1,400 people were killed in an Aug. 21 chemical weapons attack in metropolitan Damascus, which U.S. officials have pinned on Assad's government.
"But the president didn't believe [in April] it was a compelling enough case to win the support of the American people and the world. But this is. The president did respond; he upgraded what we were doing very significantly," Kerry said.
Rep. Jeff Duncan (R-S.C.) also brought up some of the House GOP's favorite bogeymen.
"I can't discuss the possibility of the U.S. involvement in Syria's civil war without also talking about Benghazi," said Duncan. "The administration has a serious credibility issue with the American people, due to the unanswered questions surrounding the terrorist attack in Benghazi almost a year ago. When you factor in the IRS targeting of conservative groups, the AP and James Rosen issues, 'Fast and Furious' and NSA spying programs, bottom line is there's a need for accountability and trust-building from the administration."
CORRECTION: A previous version of this article misstated that Wilson's "You lie!" outburst was during a State of the Union address. It was during a health care speech before Congress.