Alan Grayson is back.
The Florida Democratic congressman vocally opposes potential U.S. military action in Syria. In slamming a foreign policy priority of President Barack Obama, Grayson's showing a willingness to confront his own party's leader every bit as vociferously as he previous denounced Hill Republicans.
Grayson suggested in a New York Times op-ed Saturday that the Obama administration has manipulated intelligence to push its case for U.S. involvement in Syria's two-year civil war. He says members of Congress are being given intelligence briefings without any evidence to support administration claims that Syrian leader Bashar al-Assad ordered the use of chemical weapons.
Grayson said he cannot discuss the classified briefings, but noted details in the administration's public, non-classified report are being contested.
Over the last week the administration has run a full-court press on Capitol Hill, lobbying members from both parties in both houses to vote in support of its plan to attack Syria. And yet we members are supposed to accept, without question, that the proponents of a strike on Syria have accurately depicted the underlying evidence, even though the proponents refuse to show any of it to us or to the American public.
My position is simple: if the administration wants me to vote for war, on this occasion or on any other, then I need to know all the facts. And I'm not the only one who feels that way.
The pointed opinion piece is Grayson's latest criticism of the administration's Syria approach. On MSNBC Thursday, he said, "Listen, most people understand this is simply not our problem. This is not our problem to solve." Earlier in the week on CNN Tuesday he deplored the idea of military action and said, "We are not the world's policemen. A strike is not going to accomplish anything useful," Grayson said. "It is not our problem. It is very expensive and it's dangerous."
Grayson's blunt-spoken style comes as no surprise. He reentered the House in January 2013 the way he left it two years earlier, as one of its most controversial figures.
Grayson in 2008 defeated an eight-year Republican incumbent in an Orlando-based district. Once in office he quickly shot off his mouth. Early in his first term he called conservative radio host Rush Limbaugh a "has-been hypocrite loser." He became one of the Federal Reserve Board's staunches critics, and joined with then-Rep. Ron Paul (R-Texas) to get the "audit the Fed" bill passed. But he overstepped when in a radio interview he referred to a Fed senior adviser as a "K Street whore." Grayson apologized for the remark.
During a 2010 House floor speech Grayson, who holds three Harvard degrees, make his infamous comment: "If you get sick, America, the Republican health care plan is this: Die quickly."
In 2010, Republican Daniel Webster unseated him in a highly negative campaign. But when districts were redrawn two years later Grayson was able to make a House comeback. The Orlando-based 9th District was redrawn to include a larger Hispanic constituency, and Grayson won his 2012 campaign easily.
Early in his second congressional stint Grayson seemed to have mellowed, at least somewhat. Slate political writer David Weigel recently called Grayson, "The Congressman Formerly Known as Crazy" for his new statesman-like willingness to work with House Republicans on floor amendments that drew support from Democratic liberals and libertarian-leaning Republicans, among others.
That included a House Science Committee markup of a NASA funding bill, in which the Republican-controlled panel adopted five of Grayson's amendments. Weigel noted:
The new strategy is simple. Grayson and his staff scan the bills that come out of the majority. They scan amendments that passed in previous Congresses but died at some point along the way. They resurrect or mold bills that can appeal to the libertarian streak in the GOP, and Grayson lobbies his colleagues personally. That's how he attached a ban on funding for "unmanned aerial vehicles," i.e. drones, to the homeland security bill.
But the Syria crisis has revived pugilistic Grayson, even if the wealthy former trial lawyer's ire is now directed against a Democratic president. Some are happy to see it back. Others not so much.