Intel Seat Gives Turner Even More Influence

By: John Bennett

January 15, 2015

Defense News 

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WASHINGTON — House Armed Services Committee member Mike Turner has secured a seat on the Intelligence Committee, giving the Ohio Republican added influence on national security issues.

House Speaker John Boehner on Wednesday tapped Turner, HASC's Tactical Air and Land Forces subcommittee chairman, for the intel panel.

Over the past year, Turner has become more of a national figure — especially on national security issues. He was one of the most outspoken GOP critics of President Barack Obama's handling of the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

"President Obama continues to ignore the obvious. Ukraine has been and continues to be invaded by Russian troops," Turner said late last year. "To counter this aggression, the president of the United States must at least be willing to acknowledge that Russia's actions are an invasion and a violation of Ukraine's sovereign territory."

And he has been among the most vocal GOP voices in questioning the president's strategy for fighting the Islamic State.

Turner has become a regular face on cable news networks, sometimes doing multiple hits a day — and almost always discussing national security matters.

Just last week, Turner was called on to defend House Republican leaders' strategy to attach riders targeting Obama's immigration action to a must-pass Department of Homeland Security funding bill.

"Well, remember, Wolf, if anything shuts down, it's not because Congress shuts it down. It's because the president either vetoes or is unwilling to take action," Turner told CNN's Wolf Blitzer on Jan. 8.

"If a bill is on his desk to fund Homeland Security but doesn't fund his effort to change the status of illegal immigrants and he vetoes that, he will be the one who shut down the [agency] without looking to what he should be focusing on," Turner said, "which is a global strategy which was called for the 9/11 Commission to address Islamic extremist and Islamic terrorism."

He even was a guest last August on NBC's "Meet the Press" program, a shift typically reserved for Washington heavyweights.

During that high-profile appearance, Turner sharply dubbed Obama's foreign policy approach in Iraq and Syria a "failure" that stemmed from "neglect."

"This appointment grants me direct jurisdiction over all the national intelligence operations," Turner said in a statement. " This appointment — in conjunction with my Armed Services Subcommittee Chairmanship — grants me significant oversight jurisdiction over the Department of Defense and the United States intelligence community."

Turner eyed a run for the full HASC chairmanship, but ultimately held fire.

One Turner aide told Defense News last year that his boss was urged to run for chairman by people from across the defense-industrial-congressional complex.

"Members from across the Republican spectrum — both junior and senior members — have come up to Mr. Turner and encouraged him to do this," the Turner aide said at the time. "It's all gamut of people: it's other members, it's industry people, and it's Pentagon people."

Several GOP sources say Turner is setting himself up to seek that post at the end of just-installed Rep. Mac Thornberry's run leading the Armed Services Committee.

Some in Washington see Turner as a rising star inside the House GOP caucus, with several current and former aides saying he has become one of the party's most articulate and forceful critics of the Obama administration.

Seats on the Armed Services and Intelligence panels likely will only increase Turner's standing in the caucus. After all, another Republican leader led a HASC subcommittee and sat on the Intelligence panel in the last Congress: Thornberry.

The committee assignments and his presence on television news programs means the 2016 presidential election gives him a chance to raise his profile even more.

With former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton tapped by almost every expert's overwhelming favorite to land the Democratic presidential nomination, Turner is poised to help the Republican nominee question her national security agenda.

Turner as one of the GOP's national security go-to guys gives the party a young, energetic and articulate voice on the full range of defense and foreign policy issues to hit Clinton daily on cable news and regularly on the Sunday morning political shows.

What's more, Turner's Ohio remains in the swing state category, and the GOP nominee likely would need to take the Buckeye state to upset Clinton.

That could give Turner a role in helping the party achieve a major goal: Keeping the Clintons out of the White House.