Trump's weekend of blowing things up

From airstrikes to tweet storms, it was an explosive time in the White House

President Trump.
(Image credit: The Associated Press)

In what has become the new normal in American life, President Trump spent the weekend behaving erratically and destructively, as the Mueller investigation closes in on the president's closest associates. The last few days featured almost every square on the Trump Bingo Card — starting with pointless airstrikes whose efficacy was self-evident to the president even before they were over, followed by unexplained reversals of past positions memorialized in tweets ("What I am saying is stay out of Syria," the future president posted in September 2013), early-Sunday-morning Twitter logorrhea including five separate, unhinged statements about Jim Comey before 9 a.m., and head-scratching policy trial balloons like his sudden desire to rejoin the Trans-Pacific Partnership, followed of course by an instantaneous about-face: "Would only join TPP if the deal were substantially better than the deal offered to Pres. Obama."

First, President Trump authorized Friday's joint American-British-French military strike on assets of Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad, in response to the regime's deplorable chemical weapons attack on civilians in the city of Douma. Trump failed to obtain cover from the U.N. Security Council and declined to seek congressional authorization for such a strike — an assault on a foreign military in the absence of direct provocation or an impending threat. President Obama, when considering a far more wide-ranging attack on Syria in 2013, ultimately concluded that he needed the permission of Congress, which was not forthcoming. Congress has not granted an Authorization for the Use of Military Force (AUMF) against the Syrian government, and the idea that either the 2001 AUMF against al-Qaeda or the 2003 edition for Iraq covers these actions is laughable. While the strike was legally defensible based on past precedent and a strict reading of the 1973 War Powers Resolution, they are a stark reminder of the need to revisit and place boundaries on the president's nearly limitless war-making authority.

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David Faris

David Faris is an associate professor of political science at Roosevelt University and the author of It's Time to Fight Dirty: How Democrats Can Build a Lasting Majority in American Politics. He is a frequent contributor to Informed Comment, and his work has appeared in the Chicago Sun-Times, The Christian Science Monitor, and Indy Week.