Biden Gives Go-Ahead On Airstrikes In Syria Amid A Flurry Of Controversy

Last Wednesday night President Joe Biden approved an airstrike that struck an Iranian-backed facility in Syria, amid bipartisan criticism on how to act. The move came weeks after Iran launched a missile at US targets in Iraq, killing a US contractor and wounding another service member. Following the initial Iranian attack, a first test of the Biden administration in the Middle East, some Senators from the Republican side saw blood in the water and pressed the President to take action. From Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Kentucky) to Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC), many Republicans voiced support for retaliating against the Iranian government. It wasn’t what happened during the retaliatory strike that frustrated Biden’s counterparts in Congress however, it was before the counterstrike. Only the congressional leadership, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA), Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY), and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) were notified before US action took place.

War powers have been a topic of much controversy and bipartisan debate on what the President can and can’t do without Congressional approval. Article 1 Section 8 of the United States Constitution states that Congress has the power “To declare War, grant Letters of Marque and Reprisal, and make Rules concerning Captures on Land and Water;”. Since President Biden didn’t consult with the full Congress, many like Senators Tim Kaine (D-VA) and Mike Lee (R-UT) believe this attack needs legal justification- at a minimum. This also upset progressive Democrats such as Ilhan Omar (D-MN) and Ro Khanna (D-CA), who have always been vocal opponents of US involvement in the Middle East. Following a confirmation defeat and minimum wage knock by the Senate Parliamentarian, it has not been the start to the Biden presidency many were hoping for.

Moderates and Progressives Separate Themselves in the Third Democratic Debate

The third Democratic Presidential Debate came, went, and left many faced with uncertainty on the political battlefield. The first party-sanctioned event to have only one night of debates saw ten candidates battle for their messages to be heard, and a possible soundbite or two to make it to the Twitter-sphere following the event. However, little happened that was “expected”, which arguably led to the most interesting debate yet.

The lesser-known candidates proved themselves exceptionally well with multiple high profile interactions that are sure to put ink to parchment for the Saturday paper. Julián Castro, HUD Secretary under the Obama Administration, took multiple stabs at frontrunner Joe Biden. First, when Biden was speaking about medicare and whether it should be a buy-in option or automatic, he seemed to consistently go back on his word. Castro saw a flaw in Biden’s statement and asked the former Vice President if he “forget what [he] said two minutes ago?” Castro, not finished with his attempted bash at Biden, pointed out the hypocritical nature of Biden’s references to his work under former President Barack Obama. In an attempt to attach himself to Obama, he claims he was a large part of “that administration”. However, he eventually did go back and say he acted solely as the Vice-President and had no say on certain issues.

Entrepreneur Andrew Yang, an outsider candidate who tailors well towards millennials and internet culture, was much more prominent in this debate than any prior. He managed to join in the conversation (amounting to only a few minutes throughout the debate), each time seeing much applause from the audience. At this event, he announced that he would be running a contest to prove the value of his “Freedom Dividend”, Yang’s take on a Universal Basic Income. He claimed that 10 campaign donors who donate in the coming days will be chosen to receive $1,000 every month until the election. This truly riled up the crowd and got the newsrooms buzzing.

Some other interesting comments also took place in this rowdy arena. Booker, when commenting on foreign affairs, noted that he found Justin Trudeau’s hair intimidating. Pete Buttigieg, the Mayor from Indiana, took a stronger anti-war stance on Afghanistan and made a campaign promise to require congressional approval for all military action. Harris made a soundbite for the century, asserting that “Trump’s been tweeting out ammunition.” As no debate is free of them, a group of protesters interrupted Biden during his closing statement.

Mitchell Young (2023), when asked what his initial thoughts about the debate were, said that there is a “clear divide between the left and more moderate democrats”. Continuing on the party cleavage, he noted that “Booker and Castro did a much better job”. While both candidates are not “top tier” candidates, both gained valuable air time. Again, while managing to show himself to the cameras, Young brought bad press with his attacks against Biden.

Christopher Demarkey (2023) expressed similar points declaring that “Booker, Castro, and Biden had [sic] great nights”. This can be further extrapolated when examining the first round of mudslinging with healthcare where the “radical left got called out on healthcare”, and that “Bernie and Elizabeth Warren were ganged up against”. Biden and Sanders were seen at multiple points during the healthcare question outright yelling at each other on live TV, with Biden claiming Sander’s plan for Medicare For All is not economically sound.

The debate, while over, will see hours upon hours of continuous usage until the next. Until then, the soundbites of the candidates will haunt them, or greet them, as each one of them turns on the news to see their poll numbers on the rise, or on the decline. The October Debate, scheduled for the 15th and 16th in Ohio, will see the same debate requirements as that for September.