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Assault on America, Day 371: Trump to Congress: Read My Tweets; Dems don’t get it

Trump and Options
Of all the sayings the late President George H.W. Bush is famous for, perhaps the most notable was his 1988 assurance to the Republican National Convention that he wouldn’t hike taxes, slowly reciting, “Read my lips, no new taxes.”

It's impossible to determine if Bush truly meant what he said at the time and political historians continue debating whether the one-term Republican failed in his 1992 reelection bid because Americans (in addition to Congress) took him literally, read his lips and then held him accountable for eventually reneging on the solemn vow. Skeptical politics watchers are used to ignoring the incessant hyperbolic utterances of office seekers and the trend remains the same today for the vast majority of Washington wannabes.

Except maybe for President Donald Trump, who stands as the exception to the rule. When Trump says something -- especially via Tweet -- people tend to listen and take the statement at face value. Trump had a message for Congress this week regarding his day-to-day operations, a 2020 version of “Read my lips” with a bit of a different tweak. Jamie McIntyre reported at The Washington Examiner, “Democratic members of Congress continue to complain that the White House failed to inform congressional leaders prior to the hit on Iranian military commander Qassem Soleimani. The Democrats have charged that President Trump should have informed the so-called Gang of Eight senators -- four Republican and four Democrats who are typically briefed on intelligence matters by the executive branch.

“In response to the complaints, Trump suggested they need only read his Twitter feed to keep up with what he’s doing. ‘These Media Posts will serve as notification to the United States Congress that should Iran strike any U.S. person or target, the United States will quickly & fully strike back, & perhaps in a disproportionate manner,’ Trump wrote on Twitter. ‘Such legal notice is not required, but is given nevertheless!’

“In response, the official Twitter account of the House Foreign Affairs Committee wrote: ‘This Media Post will serve as a reminder that war powers reside in the Congress under the United States Constitution. And that you should read the War Powers Act. And that you’re not a dictator.’”

Dictator. Hmpf. Trump’s not doing anything Obama or George W. Bush or Bill Clinton… or George H.W. Bush… or Ronald Reagan didn’t do. Were they dictators too?

Herein lies the eternal power struggle between the president and Congress. In the twenty-first century, warlike exploits can be ordered and carried out in virtual real time, which somewhat negates the constitutional mandate to seek permission from Congress for each single act of the administration. All presidents do it (which isn’t necessarily an excuse, just advancing the point). Needless to say, President Obama didn’t ask the Republican controlled House for permission to strike Osama bin Laden in the 2011 raid, but Democrats seem awful honked off now that Trump didn’t brief Nancy Pelosi, Adam Schiff and “Chucky” Schumer before giving the go-ahead to vaporize Iranian military commander Qassem Soleimani in a drone strike last week.

On the Rush Limbaugh show on Monday Trump said taking out Soleimani could’ve and should’ve been done years ago when both Presidents Obama and George W. Bush had operable intelligence and the opportunity to get it done. Judging by the fact the Iranian general was still breathing up until Trump sanctioned his worldly exit, we gather the former White House occupants balked at the chance.

Trump didn’t, and it’s got a lot of people upset. What’s astonishing here is Democrats and various Trump critics gripe and moan about not being notified in advance rather than acting overjoyed that an enemy met his maker (or more likely went the other direction). Or they say the strike was motivated by racism! One wouldn’t normally anticipate Trump’s political opposition acting so upset that the U.S. military successfully carried out another objective. Where’re the kudos for the men and women who performed their duties without acclaim, reasonable pay and recognition from the people they serve?

Counselor to the President Kellyanne Conway summed it up well on Fox News the other day, saying, “We’ve got Americans who have buried their sons and daughters because Soleimani had them executed. We have thousands of other Americans who are maimed and injured – some of them devastatingly for permanent injuries – because of Soleimani. So I’m a little sick already of the hero worship it seems of Soleimani from some people who just can’t get over the fact this was an important call by our Commander-in-Chief.”

Definitely. Conway’s right. At any rate, Trump subsequently told Congress to “read my tweets” going forward if they want to know what’s happening in Trump world. Trump clearly sees Twitter as a more effective means to announce policy and get around the old-style press briefing at the same time. Why shouldn’t he? Trump counts 69.3 million followers and has sent out over 47,700 tweets, each one composed and delivered without the slightest limitation or filter from someone who didn’t vote for him. Regular readers of Trump’s Twitter feed know the president explains in clear and simple language what he thinks about any number of current topics, free from cross-examination from the likes of Washington Post, New York Times and CNN reporters.

And it’s not like Obama held many in-person media briefings either, though he did have a regular press office with a press secretary who would spout the president’s lines without much back-and-forth or elaboration from the powers-that-be. (In reality, Trump talks to the press quite a lot compared with his predecessor.)

Democrats are correct in insisting that only Congress can declare war, but these days the concept of “war” isn’t quite as cut and dried as it was in the late 18th and early nineteenth centuries. Even back then, presidents felt empowered to act without a formal say-so from Congress if a crisis cropped up, which is a necessity for any number of reasons, not the least of which is expeditious use of time and the absolute need for secrecy.

The precedent established by President Thomas Jefferson in dealing with the Barbary Pirates was thus: Congress grants a president its tacit approval to conduct spur of the moment defensive military measures simply by providing him the means to do it. In the present instance, Congress, through the budgetary process, paved the way for advanced weapons and communications systems as well as intelligence gathering. Trump in turn had repeatedly warned the Iranians via tweet that action could be forthcoming if they didn’t cease their recent self-destructive behaviors.

Further, Congress has very little say in the foreign policy realm and it’s not exactly established (by court definition or otherwise) what constitutes a “war” in the constitutional sense. The president can’t turn the entire world into a nuclear bomb created parking lot with the stroke of his executive pen, but there’s wide latitude, furnished by the voters every presidential election, to do what he or she feels necessary to protect the United States and its interests.

There’s another dilemma at hand in this regard. Enemies aren’t always well defined either. Undisputed evidence suggests Soleimani and the Iranian mullahs were operating within the bounds of a different country -- Iraq -- just as they’d done in Syria, Lebanon and other Middle Eastern locales. Similarly, Osama bin Laden and Al-Qaeda didn’t possess official sanction from a legitimate government and neither did the Islamic State. How could Congress possibly declare war against these groups without a designated capital to capture or military command structure to confront?

Blasting Soleimani to kingdom come upsets the Iranian military but it’s not as though American forces infiltrated Tehran and carried out their orders in plain view of the country’s political leaders and defense forces. Democrats also appear to forget -- or purposely ignore -- that President Jimmy Carter ordered the ill-fated American hostage “rescue” attempt (Operation Eagle Claw) in April, 1980 (an election year, no less) without any kind of formal war declaration from Congress, which was controlled by his own party at the time.

If Carter had social media and Twitter at his disposal, as Trump does now, would he have communicated directly with the American public? Exactly how many details does Congress need to know? Aren’t Trump’s Twitter policy briefings sufficient? Do Pelosi and Schumer desire and deserve consultation from Trump before the president meets with all foreign leaders? Should they receive briefings from top military commanders too?

Or is this all a bunch of gratuitous political grandstanding hooey propagated by Democrats who specialize in the doing?

Trump is dealing with a lot of things these days, including the impeachment farce instituted by the House Democrats. The president isn’t dwelling on it, however. Dave Boyer reported at The Washington Times, “President Trump said he and Congress shouldn’t be ‘wasting time’ on an impeachment trial while they’re busy with more important work.

“Four days after he ordered a fatal airstrike on an Iranian general in Iraq, Mr. Trump said is too busy to devote his attention to the ‘political hoax’ in Congress.

“’Congress & the President should not be wasting their time and energy on a continuation of the totally partisan Impeachment Hoax when we have so many important matters pending,’ the president tweeted. ‘This was not what the Founders had in mind!’”

The Founders -- and what they intended -- are on a lot of minds these days, apparently. The great men certainly didn’t foresee -- and would no doubt, disapprove of -- the vast expansion in the president’s power. But times change and the constitutional system they created is comprehensive enough to encompass the present political crises.

The Constitution sets the outlines and relies on people of good character to work within its framework. Trump is doing so, and it’s not really all that controversial. If there was a Democrat sitting behind the Resolute desk in the Oval Office, we wouldn’t be having this conversation. And if there was a Republican majority in the House, most of this overstepping wouldn’t have taken place either.

If a Democrat president was employing social media -- READ MY TWEETS! -- there would be a completely different set of standards employed by his (or her) political opponents and the media. And dimwit Colin Kaepernick wouldn’t be whimpering about how the drone strike was motivated by Americans wanting to kill innocent brown people.

No one disputes we’re living in interesting times. President Trump isn’t your prototypical president and today’s Democrats aren’t a conventional opposition. Trump was correct to suggest Democrats consult his Twitter feed for up-to-the-moment policy -- it’s one less source to subpoena and impeach.

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