This week on Squawking Heads, everyone has opinions on this new war smell and Lindsay Graham says “F you.” It’s hard to make jokes about this one so let’s just get into it.
The topic on everyone’s plate, understandably, was the escalating conflict in Syria. After yet another horrific attack perpetrated by President Bashar al-Assad against his own people, the Trump administration took unilateral action and launched 59 cruise missiles at the country. It was an action that was a complete about-face from Trump’s previous America First doctrine and, in the eyes of some members of Congress, showed a blatant disregard for the Constitution. So where did everyone fall on the issue?
Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, United Nations Ambassador Nikki Haley and National Security Advisor H. R. McMaster were tasked with voicing unequivocal support for the action. All three said this was just the start of what the United States is prepared to do to end Assad’s reign of terror in the country, without ever coming right out and saying they would remove the dictator. Each of them also used their time to sharply criticize the Russian response, toeing the line of what seems to be an impending Cold War.
“The interesting thing, Chuck, is when this chemical weapons murder happened to so many people, Russia’s reaction was not, ‘Oh, how horrible,’” Haley said on Meet the Press. “Their initial reaction was, ‘Assad didn’t do it. The Syrian government didn’t do it.’ Why were they that defensive that quick?”
It was one of the more unified showings from the Trump-front, with each member of the administration staying on script.
Typically hawkish John McCain was leading the charge to do more, telling Face the Nation’s “Well, I think what the president did was an excellent first step and it was a reversal of the last eight years.”
“But it is now vitally important we develop a strategy, we put that strategy in motion, and we bring about peace in the region,” McCain continued. “And that obviously means that there has to be a cessation of these war crimes.”
McCain was joined by Senator Lindsay Graham.
“He abandoned a position that was not working, which is leaving Assad alone,” Graham said of Trump’s actions. “This President’s setting in motion actual strategy to get rid of Assad. To the American people, the war never ends with Assad. He’s a recruiting gold mine for ISIL and al-Qaeda.”
You need congressional approval and you don’t have the votes
Senator Tim Kaine most succinctly summarized this point of view of Meet the Press.
“We are a nation where you’re not supposed to initiate military action, start war, without a plan that’s presented to and approved by Congress. That makes us different than virtually any nation in the world,” Kaine said. “The idea of the drafters of our constitution was that you had to put a check against an executive gone wild. We don’t have a system where the president just gets to launch missiles against anybody they want to. And they haven’t presented a plan to Congress and asked for our approval. That’s what they’ve got to do.”
Kaine went on to say he has previously supported military actions in cases where humanitarian atrocities are being committed, but with proper congressional approval.
Senator Bernie Sanders posited that America should stay out of the conflict entirely until an international coalition could be formed to bear the brunt of the military action.
“May I say, that when we have a collapsing middle class and 28 million people without any health insurance and an infrastructure that needs a trillion dollars of repair,” Sanders said on Meet the Press. “That maybe we don’t want to throw trillions of dollars more into unending, perpetual warfare in the Middle East.”
Honestly, watching videos of the chemical gas attacks in Syria for several hours straight rendered me incapable of making a lot of jokes. Hopefully next week will be filled with fewer casualties and more gifs.