The most jarring real-time assessment of President Trump’s decision to attack—and then to not attack—Iran came from George Conway, the outspoken conservative lawyer who happens to be married to White House apologist in chief Kellyanne Conway.
Recalling the political calculus that asks who Americans would want in the White House in the middle of a dangerous and volatile night, Conway observed early on Friday morning, “So in two hours it’ll be 3 a.m., and an erratic, unstable, incompetent, ignorant, intellectually lazy, narcissistic, and sociopathic man whose judgment no serious, intelligent person trusts remains in charge of deciding whether or not to start a potential war in Western Asia.”
Noting Trump’s claim that he rescinded the attack order after realizing it would cause as many as 150 Iranian casualties, Conway tweeted: “Trump didn’t realize UNTIL TEN MINUTES BEFOREHAND that a planned airstrike would kill over a hundred people and would therefore be grossly disproportionate to the loss of a UAV? To say this is amateur hour would defame amateurs.”
He went on: “Resign. If you didn’t know this until it was almost too late, you’re even more of an idiot than people think you are. Do the country and the world a favor. Go back to real estate, where the worst you can do is kill banks.”
That’s a reasonable proposal. Unfortunately, Trump is an unreasonable man. And since the shambling excuse for a president will not stand down, it it time for Congress to stand up.
The House and Senate need to send clear signals regarding the intentions of the branch of government that is constitutionally charged with responsibility for declaring wars and authorizing or rejecting military missions.
“Last night, we were minutes from war: ten minutes from another war in the Middle East that Congress has not authorized and that the American people do not want.” Senator Tom Udall, a key member of the Foreign Relations Committee, noted Friday morning.
Thankfully, the president did not follow through—but we cannot trust him to hold off John Bolton and other administration officials who are brazenly pushing for war with Iran for long. Our Iran policy is in chaos, careening towards war and to change course the president should immediately fire John Bolton. Bolton’s long campaign for violent regime change has now pushed us to the brink—and as these internal disagreements spill out into the open, we are only increasing the risk of grave miscalculation, confusing our allies, and reducing any possibility of de-escalation and diplomacy.
“Making matters worse,” the senator added,
the proposed attacks last night lack any Congressional authorization, nor has the full Congress been briefed on the unmanned downed drone. Under these circumstances, the Senate cannot continue to duck a vote on a potential war with Iran. To do so represents nothing less than a total abdication of our constitutional duty. It has never been more urgent that Congress step up to the plate and take a vote on my bipartisan amendment to prevent an unauthorized war with Iran. Every Senate Democrat is ready to vote on it, and it continues to gain greater bipartisan support. Majority Leader McConnell needs to let us vote as soon as the Senate returns, before it’s too late.
Udall’s amendment is, indeed, a bipartisan proposal. He submitted it earlier this month along with four Democratic senators (Virginia’s Tim Kaine, Illinois’s Dick Durbin, Oregon’s Jeff Merkley, and Connecticut’s Chris Murphy) and Republican Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky.
Paul, who has backed previous moves demanding that the president seek congressional approval for military action, is not the only Republican expressing concern about a rush to war with Iran. Utah Republican Mike Lee was a lead signer on a June 18 letter from Republican and Democratic senators, in which they wrote:
We remain concerned that increasingly escalatory actions by both sides will lead to an unnecessary conflict. Given that growing risk, we want to reiterate that, as of this date, Congress has not authorized war with Iran and no current statutory authority allows the U.S. to conduct hostilities against the Government of Iran.
Opposition is coming, as well, from the House, where members such as Congressional Progressive Caucus co-chair Mark Pocan complain that the president is “stoking a war with Iran.” Arguing that the House and Senate must no longer be “bystanders,” Pocan says, “Congress should demand that President Trump seek approval from the House and Senate before taking offensive action against Iran.”
Just this week, the House voted to sunset the 2001 Authorization for Use of Military Force (AUMF) that Democratic and Republican presidents have used to excuse for going around Congress on questions of war and peace—and that some Republicans continue to claim gives Trump leeway to attack Iran without consulting the House and Senate. The House member who has for almost two decades led the fight to end executive abuse of an outdated AUMF, California Democrat Barbara Lee, argues that the White House has no blank check for endless war. “Let me be perfectly clear,” says Lee, “the Administration does not have the authorization to go to war without Congressional approval. Trump and Pompeo must come before Congress and make their case before any action is taken.”
Congressman Ro Khanna, an ally of Lee and Pocan, says he is “preparing to introduce an amendment to the Defense bill prohibiting any dollars from being used for a war in Iran without Congressional authorization.” He adds, “Every Democrat should join this to prevent another trillion dollar war in the Middle East.” That’s true. But so, too, should every Republican who takes seriously an oath sworn “to support and defend the Constitution of the United States.”