KPCC live event: California House members seek diplomatic solution for Syria (video)

KPCC's Airtalk Host Larry Mantle speaks with public policy professors Robert G. Kaufman of Pepperdine and Edwin Smith of USC.
KPCC's Airtalk Host Larry Mantle speaks with public policy professors Robert G. Kaufman of Pepperdine and Edwin Smith of USC.
Grant Slater/KPCC

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Members of California’s Congressional delegation backed President Obama's shift in focus from a military strike against Syria to a diplomatic plan to destroy the country's chemical weapons.

The four congressional members spoke to KPCC for a series of interviews conducted by AirTalk host Larry Mantle on Tuesday night after the president’s speech (you can view video of the event below). The conversations were part of a public event at KPCC’s Crawford Family Forum, which also included a live broadcast of the presidential address and a panel discussion with policy experts.

In interviews with KPCC, several California representatives said Obama was wise to postpone a Congressional vote to authorize military action during his national address Tuesday night.

RELATED: Where does your member of Congress stand on a Syria strike?

Republican Rep. John Campbell of Irvine said up until now the president has lacked the necessary votes in the House, and possibly the Senate. Campbell added nothing in the president’s Tuesday speech was likely to change the minds of already-skeptical lawmakers.

“I didn’t hear any new information and I actually frankly didn’t hear any new arguments,” Campbell said. “I was unmoved by it.”

Campbell and other Congress members instead threw their support behind the proposal that Syria turn over its stockpile of chemical weapons to international monitors.

That the proposal originated with Russia – a staunch ally of Syrian dictator Bashar Al Assad – was not lost on Rep. Adam Schiff, a Democrat from Burbank. 

“It may have been a shrewd gambit by the Russians,” said Schiff, who sits on the House Intelligence Committee.  “But the fact that it was shrewd for them doesn’t mean it wouldn’t be wise for us to accept.”

Democratic Congresswoman Janice Hahn of San Pedro gave the plan a “great chance to succeed,” despite Russian President Vladimir Putin’s insistence that the US remove any future threat of force against Syria.

“This is negotiation,” Hahn said. “If that’s part of the deal that we have to take that off the table, I hope we do.”  

Democratic Congressman Brad Sherman of Sherman Oaks said even a “sloppy” execution of the Russian plan – one that resulted in just a partial dismantling of Assad’s chemical arsenal - would still be preferable to airstrikes on weapons depots.

“Not only would some of the weapons go into the environment but if you kill the people guarding those weapons than those weapons become available to some on the rebel side,” Sherman said.

Schiff shared Sherman’s concerns. Opposition forces have attracted Islamist extremists and, “there is real risk that the weapons could be obtained by Al-Qaeda, Hezbollah, Al-Nusra or some other terrorist organization,” Schiff said.

If you missed it, you can watch full video of KPCC's event below:

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Catch up with the conversation on Twitter, hashtag #KPCCSyria, below.

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