Dem Senate challenger criticizes McConnell for silence on Syria

Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) is coming under criticism from his Democratic challenger for relative silence on a possible U.S. strike against Syria.

Democrat Alison Lundergan Grimes, referring to McConnell, told The Hill that “being mum on issues of national security is not being a leader.”

McConnell has not released any statements regarding a possible military strike against Syria.

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While Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) has pressed the administration to consult with Congress and fellow Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul (R) has criticized the idea of strikes, McConnell has been quiet.

McConnell may have to tread cautiously on the issue given Paul’s opposition to a strike, which he said could end up killing Syria’s Christian minority.

McConnell is already facing a challenge from the right in local businessman Matt Bevin, and may want to avoid aggravating tensions with Tea Party conservatives who see him as too much of a GOP establishment figure.

Grimes’s comments to The Hill followed criticism on the right of her own statements on Syria.

On Wednesday, the Democratic Senate candidate told reporters that she was “monitoring” Secretary of State John Kerry on Syria. Her comments were criticized by the Weekly Standard as “incomprehensible.”

Grimes sought to clarify her comments on Friday, and called for the Obama administration to figure out an exit strategy from Syria before launching a military attack.

“President Assad's use of chemical weapons against civilians is reprehensible,” she said of the Syrian leader.

“We have to hold the regime accountable, but we have to keep Kentuckians in mind … Before we engage them in a conflict, with boots on the ground, I want to make sure that there's an appropriate and proper exit strategy,” she said.

She later added in an email that she would be open to "limited missile strikes,” and that the president should consult with Congress on his strategy in Syria.

“Limited missile strikes against select military targets could send a message to Assad while reducing the risk of escalation that would pull the U.S. into Syria's civil war. We need to listen to our military leaders and make sure there is an exit plan before any boots are placed on the ground,” she said.

Grimes added: “I am continuing to monitor the situation closely and listening to what Secretary Kerry has to say this afternoon, and while not required, am hopeful that the president will lay out the evidence and strategy before Congress for ratification before taking action.”

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