Trump ac­tions in Syria di­vides Democrats

The Washington Times Daily - - POLITICS - BY VALERIE RICHARD­SON

The left’s united anti-Trump front has frac­tured over the airstrikes on Syria, di­vid­ing es­tab­lish­ment Democrats who ap­plauded the mil­i­tary ac­tion and an­ti­war pro­gres­sives alarmed about the specter of greater Mid­dle East in­volve­ment.

Ver­mont Sen. Bernard San­ders, an in­de­pen­dent who ran for the 2016 Demo­cratic pres­i­den­tial nom­i­na­tion, broke with the Demo­cratic leadership by op­pos­ing Pres­i­dent Trump’s de­ci­sion to launch 59 Tom­a­hawk mis­siles last week at a Syr­ian air­field af­ter a chem­i­cal at­tack that left an es­ti­mated 80 civil­ians dead.

“What can we say about some­body who gases men, women and chil­dren in his own coun­try? It is dis­gust­ing be­yond words,” Mr. San­ders said on NBC’s “Meet the Press,” re­fer­ring to Syr­ian pres­i­dent Bashar As­sad.

“But what we have got to do is be smart and fig­ure out what is the ra­tional so­lu­tion. Is putting 50 mis­siles into Syria go­ing to solve that prob­lem?” said Mr. San­ders. “At the end of the day, in my view, we’ve got to learn about the fail­ure of our ef­forts in Iraq and Afghanistan, not re­peat them.”

His mes­sage con­trasted that of Se­nate Mi­nor­ity Leader Charles E. Schumer, who praised Thurs­day’s mil­i­tary ac­tion as “the right thing to do,” and House Mi­nor­ity Leader Nancy Pelosi, who called it “a pro­por­tional re­sponse to the regime’s use of chem­i­cal weapons.”

There was more agree­ment from Democrats on what hap­pens next. Mem­bers of both wings say Mr. Trump should come to Congress and al­low law­mak­ers to de­bate the ad­min­is­tra­tion’s Mid­dle East strat­egy be­fore tak­ing fur­ther ac­tion.

“We don’t have a sys­tem where the pres­i­dent just gets to launch mis­siles against any­body they want to,” said Sen. Tim Kaine, Vir­ginia Demo­crat, on “Meet the Press.”

Rep. Henry Cuel­lar, Texas Demo­crat, said that in the case of Thurs­day’s strike, “no au­tho­riza­tion was needed at all. But if he es­ca­lates, then it might be some­thing he needs to talk to Congress [about].”

“What he [Mr. Trump] did was ap­pro­pri­ate,” Mr. Cuel­lar said on “Fox & Friends.” “Like all Amer­i­cans, I was hor­ri­fied by what he [Mr. As­sad] did to his own peo­ple.”

At the other end was Sen. Ed­ward J. Markey, Mas­sachusetts Demo­crat, who warned the mil­i­tary ac­tion could lead to “a quag­mire for the United States for a gen­er­a­tion that we would re­gret.”

He called for a “com­pre­hen­sive de­bate on the floor of the United States House and Se­nate,” but also said he would op­pose mil­i­tary ac­tion even un­der those con­di­tions.

“I would not vote to al­low him to do it. But the least the Amer­i­can peo­ple would be en­ti­tled to is that full de­bate,” Mr. Markey said on CNN’s “State of the Union.”

No Demo­crat has been more out­spo­ken than Rep. Tulsi Gab­bard of Hawaii, who said in a Thurs­day state­ment that the “es­ca­la­tion is short-sighted and will lead to more dead civil­ians, more refugees, the strength­en­ing of al Qaeda and other ter­ror­ists, and a di­rect con­fronta­tion be­tween the United States and Rus­sia — which could lead to nu­clear war.”

Con­gres­sional Pro­gres­sive Cau­cus lead­ers, in­clud­ing Demo­cratic Reps. Raul M. Gri­jalva of Ari­zona and Keith El­li­son of Min­nesota, warned that the “unau­tho­rized at­tacks could pull the United States into a re­gional war and es­ca­late this un­prece­dented hu­man­i­tar­ian cri­sis.”

“The best way Pres­i­dent Trump could help the peo­ple of Syria would be to im­me­di­ately aban­don his in­hu­mane ban on refugees from Syria and other war-torn coun­tries, as well as his dra­co­nian cuts to diplo­macy and in­ter­na­tional aid,” said the cau­cus in a Fri­day state­ment.

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