Every time President Donald Trump seems to have a modicum of momentum on his side—the bungled political capital he wasted after his speech to Congress, for example—he seems to squander it away, either intentionally or because his administration is in such disarray.
As we observed this week, yet again, nothing appears to rally a hostile news media more than bombing a country in the Middle East. The media was gushing over Trump’s decision to strike a Syrian air base on Thursday with 59 Tomahawk missiles in response to the Syrian regime’s chemical weapons attack on a village.
But what comes next in foreign policy strategy is anything but clear, as various members of Team Trump have sent contradicting signals in the past 24 hours that have left observers—including members of Congress—scratching their heads.
As The Washington Post noted Sunday, U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Nikki Haley appeared on CNN Saturday to say that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad needs to be removed from power. This comes months after the Russia-backed Assad regime already had begun to re-establish control over much of the country.
Meanwhile, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson also hit the TV news show circuit sending the exact opposite message, telling CBS’ Face the Nation that the U.S. focus will be on destroying the Islamic State, and then bringing all sides together—including the Assad regime—to negotiate a path forward.
Once the ISIS threat has been reduced or eliminated, I think we can turn our attention to stabilizing the situation in Syria. We’re hopeful we can prevent a continuation of the civil war, and that we can bring the parties to the table and begin the process of political discussion. Clearly that requires the participation of the regime, with the support of their allies…
That led to harsh criticism of the Trump administration’s waffling on the issue by several members of Congress, including senators John McCain, Marco Rubio and Bernie Sanders, among others.
On Sunday, as The Washington Post points out, National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster appeared on Fox News Sunday, trying to present a cohesive argument.
“We’re not saying that we’re the ones who are going to effect that change,” McMaster said. But that just caused more confusion.
Given all of this, Sanders reiterated that Trump needs congressional approval to take further military action on Syria, or any other country, for that matter, The Hill reported.
“I think he has got to come to the United States Congress,” Sanders said, referring to the president. “I think he has got to explain to us what his long-term goals are.”
If he has long–term goals, that is.