Follow the Leader

By John Patrick O’Donoghue

Here they go again. Democrats sleepwalking, a sedentary establishment cleansed from any true muscle with leaders almost eager to stand behind a once arch-nemesis as they hit the launch button. Just look at their reaction to President Trump’s Tomahawk strikes on a Syrian government airfield Thursday. You can see the donkey’s insecurities growing from the decades of being branded as “weak” from party opposition to the Vietnam War. The Vietnam-era slandering lingers, our Democrats are not what they used to be. Did they learn anything from Bernie’s primary success and Hillary’s big failures?

We collected congressional responses from both parties in swing counties nationwide. It is not surprising to hear blue hawks in doves’ clothing tacitly approve Trump’s response to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s chemical attack.

Democrats held hands and stood behind both Bush’s as they dove into the Middle Eastern quagmire. The first Bush pulled out before chaos could be conceived; the second sought myopic regime change and thoughtless retribution. Democrats compensated for their soft reputation on foreign policy with devout interventionism on behalf of both Bush’s. Today, the few Democratic voices that capture national attention speak in the same compassless tone that cannot find north; the tone that cost Hillary Clinton the 2016 election. Their insecurity on the military and foreign policy front make them puff out their chests in the name of human rights and global peace with often no consideration for the political or moral consequences.

They work best as underdogs. The underdog scores political points where possible and forwards critiques to the party in power. In the buildup to Afghanistan and Iraq, Schumer, Clinton, and countless others held hands while rubber-stamping Bush’s bumbling intervention. Six years later they successfully manipulated the narrative to one of being bamboozled by the Rove-Cheney-Bush machine, a strategy that helped propel Barack Obama into the White House. This plan fails when political maneuverings cannot erase the memory of the American people.

It seems Democrats learned nothing from the successes of Obama and Bernie Sanders as that strategy has not changed. Hours before President Trump responded to the tragic civilian deaths in Homs by raining down Tomahawk missiles against Assad’s Shayrat Airbase – a facility used over the past two years by Russian and potentially Iranian military forces as well – former Secretary of State Clinton addressed the Syria issue at the New York Women in the World Summit: “I really believe that we should have and still should take out his airfields and prevent him from being able to use them to bomb innocent people and drop sarin gas on them.” Schumer responded to the strikes in kind: “making sure Assad knows…he will pay a price is the right thing to do.” Democratic House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi agreed: “Tonight’s strike in Syria appears to be a proportional response to the regime’s use of chemical weapons.”

The new deaths in Syria spread the ugly stain already upon Obama’s foreign policy tapestry. In the context of ignoring a six-year travesty, Assad’s lie that all chemical weapons were removed in 2014, and the intelligence community’s failure to smoke out that lie, Trump acted. Yet where was the “proportional response” to Assad’s chemical ravaging of suburban Damascus in 2013, a much better documented strike recorded by US intelligence officials that took the lives of almost 1,500 civilians? The record shows Congress would have refused intervention if Obama tried. While US leaders were scrambling to stabilize Libya following their toppling of Muammar Gaddafi in 2011, the outrageous early Assad atrocities did demand action.

The unquestioning support – though couched in clamorings for Trump to seek the advice and counsel of Congress – from leading Democrats reflects the war game strategy they have played for the past seventeen years. A good Democrat idlest, wary of stepping out ahead of the pack. Then the Republican President hits launch and they scurry, holding press conferences and committing to our armed forces and human rights. As soon as the bipartisan roughhousing of a Middle Eastern tin-pot dictator breaks a window, and constituents demand answers while midterms knock, they shift their responsibility for firebombing the region across the aisle and mask themselves in Democratic innocence. They are like the  snot-nosed brat who hides behind the school yard bully as he pummels the weird kid, throwing stones and calling names until challenged themselves. They say bold and angry things when strength is popular and scurry when shit hits the fan.

Trump has planted the seed of another Middle Eastern regime change whose consequences will blossom as the players at hand – the Kremlin, Assad, Iran, the Gulf States, rebel groups, and ISIS – react. The military move — which ran counter to the president’s sentiments on Syrian intervention during the Obama administration — was generally well-received, both by the press and leading figures in each party. However, there were defectors on both sides of the aisle, including Senator Rand Paul (R-KY) and Representative Tulsi Gabbard (D-HI). And there is hand wringing, particularly among those in Democratic leadership, on the issue of congressional authorization of military force going forward. But whatever the consequences, we must remember while he made the initial strike, the resounding subsequent praise comes from those who days before were seriously questioning his loyalties.

We need answers to those questions just as we need new Democrats with long memories and strong character. Already most are falling in line not unlike they did behind Bush sixteen years ago. If we are to act further in Syria, Democrats cannot repeat their past hypocrisy. Find evidence. Demand change. Act. But if a Democratic-backed Trump push in Syria blows up in everyone’s faces, don’t expect the forgiveness of the war-weary American people. We must not rally around the flag and in the process forget what it should stand for.

Below is a sampling of where some congressional representatives of Bush-Obama counties stand on the President’s action.

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Marc Veasey (D)

“With last night’s actions, it is urgent that Congress debate the need to update the Authorization for Use of Military Force (AUMF) to reflect the global threats abroad.”

Congressional District: 33, Texas

Bush-Obama County in District — Dallas County

Full Statement:

“The world was shaken by the images that resulted from Bashar al-Assad’s latest chemical attack against his own people. Despite my support for the goals of last night’s airstrike, the crisis in Syria will not be resolved by one night of airstrikes. It is imperative that President Trump consults with Congress about the long-term strategy in Syria, the repercussions of last night’s actions, and any future planned military operations. With last night’s actions, it is urgent that Congress debate the need to update the Authorization for Use of Military Force (AUMF) to reflect the global threats abroad. When Congress enacted AUMF in 2001, the world was not operating under the threat of ISIS, Russia’s aggression in Europe, provocations by North Korea, and violations of missile treaties. That is why Congress must now debate how these new realities will shape any updated authorizations for future military actions.”


Mark Pocan (D)

-“There is no legal basis for last night’s missile strike against Syrian military assets.”

Congressional District: 2, Wisconsin

Bush-Obama County in District — Richland County

Full Statement:

“There is no legal basis for last night’s missile strike against Syrian military assets. Congress must be called back immediately, if President Trump plans to escalate our military involvement. He must send a new Authorization for Use of Military Force (AUMF) to Congress, as I have previously called for. The American people deserve a thorough debate and vote in Congress as required by law if any escalation is expected. While those who commit these terrible acts must be held accountable, we too must be accountable to the Constitution and laws of the land. If the suffering of the Syrian people is an ‘affront to humanity,’ we have a moral responsibility to offer safety and refuge to these families.”


Gerald Connolly (D)

“A fifty-nine cruise missile strike can’t be a substitute for a policy going forward.”

Congressional District: 11, Virginia

Bush-Obama County in District — Prince William County

Full Statement:

“We must respond to the use of chemical weapons. We should have responded in 2013 and it was Congress that balked. A fifty-nine cruise missile strike can’t be a substitute for a policy going forward. Congress and the new Administration must begin a dialogue and debate about our Syria policy.”


Brian Babin (R)

“The tyrants and dictators around the world better take notice that for the first time in eight years we have a strong and decisive commander-in-chief in the White House.”

Congressional District: 36, Texas

Bush-Obama County in District — Harris County

Full Statement:

“The tyrants and dictators around the world better take notice that for the first time in eight years we have a strong and decisive commander-in-chief in the White House. … I commend the President for his firm leadership and making clear to Assad and the entire world that such evil will not be tolerated. American leadership is back and it is high time.” (Houston Chronicle website):


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About Author: John P. O'Donoghue

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