The Syria Question and its Ramifications for a Booker V. Gabbard 2020 Prez Primary


A fascinating 2020 Democratic Presidential Primary match-up – with the soul of the party hanging int he balance – would pit U.S. Senator Cory Booker (D-NJ) against U.S. Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (D-HI).

Booker fiercely backed former U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton last year, while Gabbard resigned her position as vice chair of the Democratic National Committee and threw her support behind U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders (D-VT).

Both Booker and Gabbard have supporters nudging them toward a showdown with President Donald J. Trump, and last week’s Syrian missile strikes – and what happens next – could prove critical defining ground for the two potential presidential candidates who arguably occupy different wings of the party.

A military veteran, Gabbard over the weekend came out strongly against Trump’s strike on Syrian targets. “I have not seen that independent investigation occur and that proof presented showing exactly what happened and there are a number of theories of exactly what happened that day,” the congresswoman told CNN’s Wof Blitzer.

Arguing the need for Congressional action in order for the United States to undertake an act of war, Gabbard condemned the strike. “Congress and the American people need to see and analyze this evidence and then make a decision based on that,” she said.

Booker called for congressional oversight going forward, but stopped short of outright opposing the U.S. strikes on government targets affiliated with Syrian leader Assad. In a statement issued after the strike, Booker kept his outrage squarely focused on the chemical attacks the Trump administration says Assad perpetrated.

“The chemical attack in Syria that killed dozens of innocent civilians, including many children, is a heinous act and a crime against humanity,” the junior senator from New Jersey said. “The ongoing war in Syria is a tragedy of historic proportions – the loss of life there unfathomable – and the United States should always seek to, in a thoughtful and deliberate way, alleviate human suffering and prevent acts of barbarity whenever possible.

“History has shown the dire consequences of military engagement without a clear plan or strategy,” he added, signaling – presumably – the emphasis he intends to place on congress’ forthcoming role.

“Any escalation in our engagement in the continuing conflict in Syria demands that the President put forth a clear plan for the American people and that he seek authorization for the use of military force from Congress as the Constitution requires,” Booker added. “Escalation without the support of Congress, the American people, and our allies would create more instability and put lives at risk.”

The stark difference – Gabbards’ condemnation of the strike without Congressional action first, versus Booker’s insistence on congressional action going forward while condemning the initial chemical attacks and electing not to opine on Trump’s use of force – sets the scene for a rivalry that could continue to highlight the Democrats’ national divide.

Two weeks ago, Democratic National Committee Chairman Tom Perez came to Newark and Long Branch in the company of his hand-picked Deputy Chairman, U.S. Rep. Keith Ellison of Minnesota. Backed by Clinton and the bulk of the Democratic establishment, Perez defeated the Sanders-backed Ellison in an Atlanta chairman’s battle earlier this year, and Perez sought in their subsequent “unity tour” the public repair of that very ugly party rift going back to Clinton versus Sanders.

Booker’s allies will always argue that their candidate is bigger than those balkanized delineations of the rest of the Democratic Party, and make the case for him as a presidential candidate precisely because he transcends those brands easily identifiable with the Clinton or Sanders wing of the party. He has significant Wall Street backing, true. But he also voted in favor of the Iran Nuclear deal favored by Democratic hawks.

He’s not easy to pin down.

Plus his relative youth and deep Obama roots make him an easy cross-over to millennial voters who always dragged their feet with Clinton.

But if Gabbard – already criticized by former Democratic National Chairman Howard Dean and other party leaders for her Syria stance – takes a shot at president in 2020 as the new, uncompromising progressive leader of the Sanders movement – her hard and fast stance on Syria could pose a serious challenge to Booker from the left in a primary, and the potential for a younger and fresher party bloodletting than the baby boomer spectacle afforded by Clinton v. Sanders.

The result could sink the party into despair, gloom and a deeper chasm than existed even last year – or maybe create a vibrant and tough ticket out of the tatters of a hard fought contest – Booker-Gabbard 2020 – or Gabbard-Booker 2020.

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3 responses to “The Syria Question and its Ramifications for a Booker V. Gabbard 2020 Prez Primary”

  1. This Syrian-American activist calls Gabbard’s Syria stance dangerous, as it strips Syrians of agency in their own civil war, making the stance colonialist and racist. Hardly a progressive position. She does not mention that Gabbard’s position supports Assad and Putin in Syria, and serves to divide Democrats/progressives, one of Putin’s clear goals. What IS Gabbard up to?

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