April 8, 2017

Trump’s Very Presidential Week

by Hal Gershowitz

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Of Thee I Sing Heading AuthorsDonald Trump may not have been our choice for President (then again, neither was Hillary) and we have not been sparing in our criticism of him, but this was a good week for Trump, the Presidency and, we believe, the country.  For the Never Trumpsters who may be reading this, feel free to skip and, perhaps, tune in instead to the Baylor-Ole Miss basketball game this afternoon, or tune into MSNBC and contemplate why the Syrian nerve-gas attack against their own civilians was really President Trump’s fault.


We believe the military strike ordered by President Trump against Syria’s Shayrat air base was entirely justified, brilliantly planned and executed, and consistent with the latitude he has to strike under the War Powers Act. There are hundreds of American troops in Syria and thousands in the general region. A beleaguered dictator like Bashir Al Assad using outlawed and very deadly nerve gas anywhere in the area is sufficient justification for the President, as Command-in-chief, to take immediate action. Assad has five more airbases, and, depending on what he does next, we hope the President doesn’t hesitate to destroy Assad’s remaining air power infrastructure.

Few knowledgeable people today doubt that President Trump did what former President Obama should have done four years ago. President Obama’s failed bluff drastically changed the course of the civil war and the balance of power, as Russia swiftly took advantage of America’s timidity and moved into Syria and, effectively, took over the war against the Syrian people. Approximately four hundred thousand Syrian civilians have, subsequently, died and another million have fled into Europe. America’s fecklessness during Assad’s war against his people will, eventually, become the focus of historians. They will not be writing volumes about which Americans are apt to be proud.

One of the worst kept secrets of the Syrian civil war is that there have been dozens of  gas attacks since Syria officially agreed to give up its weapons stockpile following a 2013 sarin gas attack against a Damascus suburb. Gas attacks are known to have taken place in Idlib and Saraqeb where doctors said they had treated more than two dozen patients following a suspected chlorine gas attack.

A global chemical weapons watchdog, the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, said it was confident that chlorine gas had repeatedly been used as a weapon.

Since President, Barack Obama stepped back from enforcing his “red line” on the use of gas, continued Syrian attacks have drawn nothing more than public condemnation from western leaders.

Assad seems to have assumed that as long as his gas  attacks were kept relatively small he could get away with using chlorine and sarin. But many in the west knew the toll of dead and maimed civilians was mounting, and many have become concerned that the use of chemical weapons was no longer as shocking as it was a few years ago.

“There is certainly a huge risk of normalizing the use of chemical weapons,” said Richard Guthrie, a British chemical weapons expert who has raised concerns about the wider impacts of Syria’s continued use of toxins as weapons. President Trump’s decision to strike lets the world know that the United States has no intention of letting these weapons become “normalized.”

So we think President Trump acted wisely and decisively. He also sent a well-honed message to both China and their ward, the North Korean man-child dictator Kim Jong Un.

President Trump’s military strike will also not be lost on Vadimir Putin when he meets with US Secretary of State Rex W. Tillerson in their first face-to-face encounter next week. Putin now knows that whatever assumptions he has made about Donald Trump must now be recalibrated.  We suspect the Ayatollah is doing some recalibrating in Tehran as well.

Gorsuch nomination:

 We were also pleased that Neil Gorsuch was confirmed for the Supreme Court by the US Senate, even if only along party lines. We do not know what positions the new Associate Justice will take regarding issues the court will be addressing. We have our concerns. But the spectacle of the Schumer-promoted filibuster of the nomination of an eminently qualified conservative justice was ridiculous and, we believe, most of the country saw it as ridiculous. We believe Senate-majority-leader McConnell’s decision not to take up Justice Garland’s nomination was rather bone-headed, but not without justification—justification provided in the past by none other than, you guessed it, Senators Chuck Schumer and Joe Biden.  In a speech urging President Bush (43) not to nominate anyone should a vacancy occur, Biden took to the Senate floor, and said the nomination process should be put off until after the election, which was on Nov. 3, 1992. Schumer was even more explicit in opposing a nomination in a president’s last term arguing, “if any new Supreme Court vacancies opened up, Democrats should not allow Bush the chance to fill it.” We think all of this is a sad commentary, but in partisan Washington DC we suppose what’s always been good for the goose has always been good for the gander.


Finally, it seems, that President Trump has, perhaps, grown a bit wary of his senior strategist Steve Bannon. We’ll have to see. We never believed Bannon should have been appointed a principle member of the National Security Agency, and for reasons not fully understood at this time, President Trump has yanked him from that position.

All in all, a good week for President Trump.

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