Trump actions in Syria divides Democrats
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.