The story about Democratic Congressman Dennis Kucinich unauthorized diplomacy in Syria continues.
With the House not in session, Kucinich has been in Syria, where he was quoted by the state news agency saying kind words about President Bashar al-Assad, whose government has killed its own people. "President al-Assad is highly loved and appreciated by the Syrians," Kucinich said, per the news outlet.
Mr. Kucinich, who has fiercely opposed the U.S. intervention against Libyan strongman Moammar Gaddafi, traveled to Damascus over the weekend to huddle with Syria’s dictator, who is desperately seeking to avoid being isolated and labeled illegitimate by the outside world. Thanks to the slaughter by his security forces of at least 1,400 people — the vast majority of them unarmed civilians — Mr. Assad has few friends these days: The European Union and United States have sanctioned him personally, and even his regime’s most faithful allies are close to abandoning him... But Mr. Assad still has a friend: Mr. Kucinich.
Kucinich today issued a press release, stating: "I don’t support the violence, I don’t condone the violence and by direct appeal to President Assad and in supporting those who are seeking freedom and serious reforms, I am working to end the violence. I appealed to President Assad to remove his forces from the cities. He told me he would, and today we learned that he has begun to do just that."
The White House tells NBC News that Kucinich's trip wasn't authorized by the administration.
"The Congressman is there of his own accord and not representing the administration in Syria," a White House spokesman says. "We do hope, however, that he made clear to President Assad the need to immediately cease the violence and intimidation of the Syrian people and to begin a meaningful political dialogue."
Back in a May interview with the Cleveland Plain Dealer, Kucinich refused to blame Assad for the violence in Syria. "We also understand that there's very serious questions raised about the conduct of the Syrian police, but we also know the Syrian police were fired upon and that many police were murdered," Kucinich told the paper.
Also from that interview: "I've read where President Assad has made certain commitments, and I would imagine that when things finally settle down, that President Assad will move in a direction of democratic reforms," Kucinich said. "He has already made that commitment from what I can see."