Like many presidents before him, Donald Trump understands that when there are problems on the domestic front, nothing changes the narrative faster than blowing up stuff.
That's proven to be the case again with last night's firing of 59 Tomahawk cruise missiles at an airfield from which the U.S. believes Syrian president Bashar Assad's government launched an April 4 chemical weapons attack that killed more than a hundred people, including children.
This development has essentially muzzled members of the Colorado congressional delegation who have been critical of Trump thus far, energized his backers and left Democratic senator Michael Bennet searching for middle ground, as usual. In a statement, Bennet essentially validates the military response, with the minor caveat of suggesting that Trump consult with Congress, as he didn't do in this case, if he'd like to take such action down the line.
Unsurprisingly, Trump's decision to launch the Syrian strike, announced during brief remarks from Mar-a-Lago in Florida (in front of a backdrop that seemed to have been constructed by C-grade theater students at a local high school), contradicts earlier statements — specifically a series of 2013 tweets warning then-president Barack Obama not to attack Syria over previous chemical weapons attacks. Some examples:
"The President must get Congressional approval before attacking Syria-big mistake if he does not!"
"If Obama attacks Syria and innocent civilians are hurt and killed, he and the U.S. will look very bad!"
"The only reason President Obama wants to attack Syria is to save face over his very dumb RED LINE statement. Do NOT attack Syria,fix U.S.A."
"AGAIN, TO OUR VERY FOOLISH LEADER, DO NOT ATTACK SYRIA — IF YOU DO MANY VERY BAD THINGS WILL HAPPEN & FROM THAT FIGHT THE U.S. GETS NOTHING!"
Then again, two other August 2013 Trump tweets actually echo what happened yesterday:
"No, dopey, I would not go into Syria, but if I did it would be by surprise and not blurted all over the media like fools."
"If we are going to continue to be stupid and go into Syria (watch Russia), as they say in the movies, SHOOT FIRST AND TALK LATER!"
President Donald Trump making a statement about the bombing of the Syrian airfield during a brief appearance last night.
This time around, bombing the airfield was a win-win-win for Trump from a political standpoint. Not only was he able to distract haters in the media and beyond from a series of embarrassing failures that have taken place during his administration's early days (including the defeat of the first attempt at repealing and replacing Obamacare), but the move makes him seem as if he's not under the thumb of Assad ally Russia, whose alleged ties to Trump and his minions are currently under investigation. As a bonus, he gets to look resolute and strong in a way that tends to set political opponents back on their heels.
Case in point: Neither representatives Jared Polis nor Diana DeGette, who've excoriated Trump in regard to just about everything since he took office, have released any statement at all about the bombing, and Ed Perlmutter, who's on the cusp of announcing a run for governor, has also been silent thus far. The same is true of reps Scott Tipton and Doug Lamborn, but once they speak up, you can bet they'll be as supportive as fellow congressman Mike Coffman, whose Facebook page shared the photo at the top of this post alongside the following take: "Tonight's actions in Syria come after Assad's horrific actions against his own people. America must show leadership and I'm thankful for what appears to be an effective response by our military."
Senator Cory Gardner's reaction was even more bellicose, replete with the sort of apocalyptic imagery that Trump himself loves:
“Tonight, the United States of America took action against a treacherous regime whose actions and allies have shown the world the dark edge of humanity. The use of chemical weapons is illegal under international law and the Administration is well justified taking this long-overdue action tonight against a designated state sponsor of terrorism.
“I believe this action must be part of a broader strategy to achieve the following U.S. national security goals: to ultimately remove a brutal and lawless regime from power that is in violation of international law, to eradicate the Islamic State and associated groups, and to achieve a clear humanitarian goal of saving the Syrian people from slaughter.
“I hope our partners in freedom and dignity will see this U.S. leadership as the first act of a global partnership to end this chapter of depravity.”
Bennet, who checked in nearly two hours after Gardner, at just shy of 10 p.m. Mountain Time last night, was much more cautious in his tone. "The chemical weapons attack in Syria that killed innocent civilians, including children, required a response," he stated. "The Assad regime must be held accountable for these atrocities."
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He also provided cover should the current situation escalate into the sort of regime-change effort that Trump has long derided, writing, "Assad has no place in the future of Syria. As long as he is in power, the Syrian people will remain trapped in a horrific and dangerous situation."
Only after these attaboys did Bennet offer a negative comment, albeit a weak and tempered one: "Moving forward, any military action must be conducted in consultation with Congress and considered only as part of an articulated strategy to address the ongoing crisis."
If that's the worst condemnation of the president that the Democrats can muster, Trump has no reason to hesitate the next time he feels like calling in the military — which, given the success of the most recent salvo, could happen anytime.