Biblical and Constitutional Politics
Gorsuch and Syria
Two Events with Far-Reaching Ramifications
By Gary F. Zeolla
On Thursday, April 6, 2017, the US navy fired 59 Tomahawk Missiles onto an airbase in Syria. The next day, Neil Gorsuch was confirmed to the Supreme Court. Both of these events have far-reaching ramifications.
Neil Gorsuch Confirmation
Almost all Democratic Senators vowed to vote against the confirmation of Neil Gorsuch. Their reason for doing so had nothing whatsoever to do with Neil’s qualifications. He is eminently qualified to be a Supreme Court justice. It also had little to do with his judicial philosophy. Yes, he is a more conservative justice than a President Hillary would have nominated, but that is what elections are all about. The main reason for the Democratic almost universal objection was what happened to President Obama’s appointee Merrick Garland.
Merrick was appointed after the death of Justice Antonio Scalia last year, but Republicans blocked a vote on his nomination from even coming to the floor of the Senate. They did so based on the “Biden rule” that a justice should not be voted on in the last year of a President’s term.
Former VP Joe Biden had made this declaration in 1992 when he was in the Senate and George H. W. Bush was in the last year of his first term in office, during his reelection campaign that ultimately lead to the election of William Clinton. Biden’s point was that the voters should decide if a Republican or Democratic President appointed the next Supreme Court justice.
However, Democrats counter by saying that Justice Anthony Kennedy was confirmed to the bench in February 1988, an election year. That is true, but it was only after Robert Bork’s nomination was rejected due to vicious attacks on him by the left. He had initially been nominated by President Reagan in June of 1987, long before the election year started. Kennedy was then nominated in November 1987, still before the final calendar year of Reagan’s second term.
With that background, the Republicans knowing that could not get to the 60 votes needed to stop a Democratic filibuster invoked the “nuclear option.” This was a change in senate rules, making only 51 votes needed for closure to the debate period for Supreme Court nominees. The next day, Neil was confirmed to the bench on a 54-45 vote, with just three Democrats voting to confirm him and one Republican abstaining (NYT. How Senators Voted on the Gorsuch Confirmation).
This thus sets the precedent that future Supreme Court nominees will only need 51 votes to be confirmed and effectively leaves the minority party with no voice in the confirmation of Supreme Court nominees. This means that whenever there is a President and a majority in the Senate from the same party, that party can put anyone on the bench that they want, no matter how far left or right they are.
Right now, both are Republicans, so that means if there are any more vacancies on the Supreme Court for at least the next three years, most certainly a conservative will be nominated to the Court. This will have ramifications for many years if not decades to come.
It is assumed Justice Gorsuch will vote with the conservative wing of the Supreme Court. If he does, that will mean there will be many 5-4 right-leaning votes in the near future. But that is no guaranteed. There have been many appointees to the court who were thought to be right-leaning who ended up voting mostly liberal.
This is seen in the aforementioned Anthony Kennedy. It was thought he would be solidly conservative but has proven to be the “swing vote” on the court, often voting with the left wing. This has led to many 5-4 leftist votes, such as the recent vote to legalize same-sex marriage. Therefore, it remains to be seen how Gorsuch will vote.
But even if he does not turn out to be a true conservative, President Trump very likely will have another crack at nominating a justice, and with this new precedent, he can nominate as right-wing of a conservative as he wants.
Many conservatives are rejoicing over this whole situation, but three years from now, it will rightly be pointed out how hypocritical Republicans are if a justice retires or passes away in 2020 during Trump’s reelection campaign, and Trump nominates a justice, and they vote on his or her nomination. And if Trump loses reelection and the Democrats take control of the Senate, then the tables will be turned, and the Democratic President and Senate will nominate and confirm a far-left wing justice with no input from the Republicans.
Moreover, the door is now open for invoking this same 51 Senator rule for closure on debates over legislation. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has said this will not happen, but if the Dems filibuster an important piece of legislation, it can easily be seen how the Republicans could resort to such a strategy. In that case, the minority party will become irrelevant.
Again, conservatives might rejoice over such a move now, but the tables could turn in the near future, and it will be conservatives that will be left without a voice in the Senate.
Bottom line of all of this is the partisanship in Washington has hit a new low. Both Republicans and Democrats are more concerned with keeping their jobs than with serving the American people. As such, although I am glad Neil Gorsuch was rightly confirmed, as he is eminently qualified, the path he took to get there is very distressing.
Bombing of Assyrian Airbase
The bombing of the Syrian airbase was in response to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad using chemical weapons against his own people in Syria’s ongoing civil war. Many are praising President Trump for making the decision to take this action, while just as many are condemning him for it. The praises and the complaints are coming equally from the left and the right, so at least in part this does not appear to be a partisan issue. And that is the only good thing about this whole situation.
Those who are praising him are doing so as the pictures of dead babies after the chemical attack were incredibly distressing. And the understandable gut-reaction is that something just has to be done. And an attack on the airbase from which came the planes came from that dropped the chemicals weapons at first glance appears to be an approximate response. Taking out that airbase might prevent future such attacks and would send a strong message to al-Assad that such attacks will not be tolerated.
However, there are several concerns about the attacks, and most of these are bipartisan. The first bipartisan complaint is that Trump did not seek Congressional approval for the military action, while the Constitution gives the power to declare war to Congress, not the executive branch, and such an attack is an act of war.
The counter-argument to this is that Congress has not actually declared war since December 8, 1941. For those who don’t know, there never was an official declaration of war in regards to the Korean War, the Vietnam War, Operation Desert Storm, the Iraqi War, and the War in Afghanistan. Officially, all of those were “police actions.” However, there was congressional resolutions approving all of those military actions. But there was no such congressional approval for this military action.
Now the reason the Trump administration will say congressional approval was not sought was that doing so would have caused a great delay, as Congress debated the issue. And most assuredly, this debate would not have been kept secret. As a result, Syria would have had time to prepare for the attack and moved the bombers and weapons out of the airbase before the strike occurred.
That is sound reasoning, except for one problem—Syria did get advance warning. This was due to the Trump administration warning Russia about the strikes. They did so as Russia also had personal and planes in that airbase, and Russia did clear out both before the attacks. But needless to say, this was not kept secret from the Syrian military personal at the base, and they also were able to clear out much of the personal and planes from the base. As a result, all the attack accomplished was to destroy a couple of empty hangers, while leaving the airfield itself intact. As such, the planes can now be moved back, and future strikes can be launched from that same airfield (The Drive. America's Tomahawk Missile Attack on Syria’s Shayrat Air Base Was a Sham).
The second bipartisan reason for complaints is simply the cost. Those 59 cruise missiles cost $1 million dollars. And those dollars could have been spent in many other more fruitful ways. Even militarily, a B2 stealth bomber mission would have cause much greater damage than the cruise missile attack. But that would have involved risk to US military personal. That is why the Tomahawk Missile has become the weapon of choice for presidents who do not want to risk the backlash that American causalities would cause.
The third bipartisan reason for complaints is Trump promised during the campaign that he would not get the USA involved in the Syrian civil war, having criticized Obama for doing so. This has led to even some longtime Trump supporters to be critical of Trump.
The fourth bipartisan reason for complaints is that no matter how despicable the chemical attack was, it was not an attack on America, Americans, or even on American interests in the Middle East. As such, it simply is not our business. We are not and should not be the world’s policemen. And that is true. We cannot respond to every atrocity committed by every dictator. But the media with its images of dead children have a way of making that complaint mute. Again, it is hard not to cry out that something must be done, and a military strike is the most definitive option. But we will get to a possible non-military option in a moment.
But first, there is some partisan bickering occurring over this attack. First, the Trump administration and Republicans in general are saying the reason this attack was needed was due to the failure by Obama to enforce his “red line” against Syria. Obama had threatened military action if al-Assad use chemical weapons, but when he did, no such military action occurred. Instead, the Obama administration used diplomacy with al-Assad, and it was declared in January that Syria was chemical weapons free. That obviously was not the case.
Then the left is saying the murders of the children shows why we need to let Syrian refugees into the USA and why Trump’s travel ban is immoral. And there is no doubt that if these families had migrated to the USA, then those poor children would still be alive. However, there is no guarantee they would have migrated, even if our borders were wide open. Most Syrians want to stay in Syria, as that is their homeland.
A better plan would be to set up “safe zones” for Syrian refuges in the Middle East, so they can be near if not in their homeland until the civil war is over, then they can easily go back to their country afterwards. Much talk has been made about such safe zones, but nothing has been done. And that is a failure of both the Obama and the Trump administrations. But this non-military option is a better than air strikes that do not accomplish their intended purpose.
Finally, there are conspiracies nuts who are trying to tie this situation in with the supposed Trump/ Russian collusion during the election. They are saying this whole situation was staged, the chemical attack and the response, just to divert attention from that scandal. But such a claim is just as much fake news as the supposed Trump/ Russian connection, with there being zero evidence of either. But both claims show who far the left will go in its attacks on Trump, even in the face of such atrocities as a chemical weapons attack on children. Such is truly despicable.
But whether appropriate or not, this attack has far-reaching ramifications. Most certainly, Syria will retaliate in some way. This could possibly be in the form of an attack on American troops in the Middle East, an attack on US embassies in the Middle East, or even a terrorist attack here in the USA. But whatever form it takes, the Trump administration will have to respond in some way, and we could easily be on our way to a war in Syria.
Making that possibility even scarier is Russia might get involved. They are already moving a warship into the Mediterranean Sea. It was to avoid a confrontation with Russian that Trump warned them about the Syrian strike beforehand, but that obviously did not work, as Russia is still furious.
If war is a possibility, President Trump needs to get congressional approval before getting us embroiled in another Middle Eastern war. Whether Congress will approve it or not will depend on how damaging the Syrian response is. If many Americans are killed, then maybe Congress will go along with the idea. But even at that, it is doubtful, as the American public really does not have the taste for yet another protracted war.
There are many Americans who stick their heads in the sand and ignore “politics.” But these two events show why that is not wise. Both of these events have far-reaching ramifications that could affect many Americans.
Supreme Court decisions affect all of us, so whether you are on the right or on the left, you should be concerned about who gets appointed. From abortion, to homosexual marriage, to the right to bear arms, to free speech, to religious freedom, to privacy issues, all such controversies eventually get settled in the Supreme Court.
If the USA goes to war or a terrorist attacks occurs in response to this missile attack, that will lead to many wounded and dead Americans. Consequently, the lives of many of us will be affected by both of these events, possibly yours, whether you paid attention while they happened or not.
Gorsuch and Syria. Copyright © 2017 by Gary F. Zeolla.
The above article was posted on this website April 9, 2017.
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