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The Senate seems to suit Chris Murphy

By David Collins

Publication: The Day

Published September 06. 2013 4:00AM

It turns out the vote on a military strike on Syria is not an easy one - harder, apparently, than the vote to go to war with Iraq.

Iraq was accused by President George W. Bush only of having certain weapons, not using them, recently anyway, against innocent women and children, as we've seen in Syria.

The debate this time crosses a lot of political and philosophical boundaries. Absent now seems to be the post-9/11 jingoism and the inclination to support the commander in chief, no matter what.

I didn't agree with Connecticut Sen. Chris Murphy's vote this week, in the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, against the Syria resolution. He said he won't take part in a procedural block but will vote no again when it comes up in the full Senate.

I was impressed, though, with the way Connecticut's new senator made known his views and gracefully bucked party leaders. After all, how often do junior senators get arm-twisting calls from the president, a president in the same party, and say no.

Not only has Murphy been eloquent in explaining his no vote, and his angst over the lack of good solutions for Syria, but it is also impressive that he has found so many ready and willing national news outlets to help him explain himself.

Part of that comes from the news value of a Democrat in the Senate bucking his president.

But Murphy also got a lot of national press when gun control legislation was being discussed in the wake of the Newtown shootings.

A lot of that was because he represents the people of Newtown.

But I think it was also because he has been a fast study in the Senate, has a good grasp of the issues and discusses them well.

He's turned out to be a go-to senator for the stand-up interview in Washington. He's smart and articulate and seems to have the instinct for a good concise interview.

More than a few times I have seen Connecticut's senior senator on television, behind Murphy, as the younger senator works a mic. You can't help but think the other senator's remarks ended up on the edit room floor.

Murphy's quick celebrity in town is good for him, of course. But it's good for Connecticut, too.

He's doing the job he was sent there to do. And even if you don't like what he's saying or how he's voting, you might have to admit he is good at explaining himself.

I especially liked the courage it took, in the wake of the passage of Connecticut's new gun control laws, for Murphy to answer from the heart when asked in front of a television camera about gun makers bullying lawmakers and threatening to pull out of the state.

Let them go, was more or less the senator's refreshing answer.

As for Syria, Murphy says, the vote was a close call. But ultimately, he remains dubious that a limited strike will help and that it could bind America to the conflict for a long time.

Everyone, he says, likes to believe there is an American button to press every time there is a problem in the world.

I agree with a lot of what Murphy says about Syria. But I also believe we have to be careful about the message sent by looking away from atrocities.

In the end, if I were the junior senator from Connecticut, I would probably have had to give the benefit of the doubt to a president and commander in chief who has proven himself moderate and thoughtful in executing foreign policy and using military force.

But I give Sen. Murphy credit for voting his conscience.

This is the opinion of David Collins.

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