President Trump made an important point at his rally in Toledo, Ohio, yesterday. He said (and I’m paraphrasing) Democrats may be crazy but they are quite good at staying united. He was pointing out how on impeachment, they weren’t completely united which made it an exceptional case. He also knows that on certain issues, they will walk the party line invariably. He then highlighting how House Republicans were united in their opposition to impeachment.
Representative Matt Gaetz broke party lines to vote in favor for the Democrats’ Iran War Powers resolution. He wasn’t alone, but he was notable as a staunch Trump supporter who voted against the President’s wishes this time. It seemed like an ideological move, one that under normal circumstances would make sense. I’m a fan of those who will vote for what’s right and best for their constituents and not along party lines 100% of the time. But this was the wrong time. It was the wrong hill for Gaetz’s rising celebrity within the GOP to die on.
First, Iran is not the best example as a subject to voice one’s Article I concerns. They have demonstrated they want to kill us. They have taken steps to kill us. They have killed many Americans in recent years and will want to continue doing so until the people they call the “great satan” are finally vanquished. Moreover, there seems to be a fuss over whether or not Qasem Soleimani was planning imminent attacks on United States forces. This point should be moot and, to be fair, I’m disappointed the White House chose to highlight this point at all. The narrative should have been, “He was an American-killing terrorist leader and his death makes Americans safer.”
Second, this was a resolution without teeth. It’s symbolic as a concurrent resolution instead of having the legal backing of a joint resolution. As such, it’s pure politics. Some may say that’s the right circumstance for Gaetz to express his concerns since there was no harm so there’s no foul. But in reality, the exact opposite is true. A symbolic concurrent resolution that has no chance of ever being enforced is the time to stand behind the politics of the day, which is Americans supporting the killing of Soleimani and the current path to peace that we’re now on as a result. A resolution with the teeth necessary to hold a President under the constraints of Article I, allowing Congress to maintain full powers of war, is the time to abandon symbolism and vote for what’s right.
It’s hard to tell what motivated Gaetz to go down this road despite his explanations, such as his interview with Fox News host Tucker Carlson below. At the end, he says President Trump is too smart to be painted by Nancy Pelosi as a pro-war politician. But here’s the thing. This phony war powers resolution with no teeth was 100% intended to paint the President as a pro-war politician. It would have been a great time for Gaetz to vote against the resolution, then explain to the world that he supports restraints on presidential power when it comes to war but wouldn’t support this pseudo-resolution because it was pure partisan- and election-year-jockeying.
This was a huge miss for Gaetz. We can agree that every president should be restrained by the Constitution and still acknowledge that Pelosi is playing politics with this toothless resolution. It seems like a “look at me” spotlight move by Gaetz.