Donald Trump, Nikki Haley, Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders are competing for the absolute worst reaction to Soleimani's death

The American people desperately need leadership. Instead, they're being given a food fight

Jay Caruso
Washington DC
Tuesday 07 January 2020 21:36 GMT
Huge crowds surround funeral procession of Soleimani as it moves through Kerman, Iran

During a time of intense international conflict, people tend to look toward elected officials to provide calm and steady leadership. Sadly, in the wake of the drone attack that killed Iranian general Qasem Soleimani, we’re witnessing something that looks a lot less like reassurance and a lot more like a food fight scene from Animal House.

The leadership test, naturally, starts at the top. And President Donald Trump has failed spectacularly. Taking to his favorite outlet — Twitter — the president threatened Iran after they promised retaliation for Soleimani's death. Trump then tweeted about the possibility of targeting sites "important to Iran & the Iranian culture." The tweet received immediate criticism, along with reminders that such military targeting could be considered war crimes under international law.

When Secretary of State Mike Pompeo sought to downplay Trump's tweet, he ended up being pushed aside. ”They're allowed to kill our people. They're allowed to torture and maim our people. They're allowed to use roadside bombs and blow up our people. And we're not allowed to touch their cultural site? It doesn't work that way,” the president said to press aboard Air Force One not long after.

Not helpful.

Democrats, particularly those running for their party's presidential nomination, haven't exactly inspired confidence either. Senator Elizabeth Warren, in an interview with CNN's Jake Tapper, referred to Soleimani as a "senior foreign military official" and claimed Trump had him "assassinated" (it took Meghan McCain on The View to get Warren to say Soleimani was also a terrorist).

Warren also suggested Trump did it all to distract from impeachment. And when Tapper pressed, "What do you think?”, Warren refused to answer, saying instead, "It's an appropriate question.”

Elsewhere, former vice president Joe Biden issued a statement acknowledging Soleimani's responsibility for the deaths of American troops and saying he "supported terror and sowed chaos,” but went on to claim Trump "just tossed a stick of dynamite into a tinderbox."

In an appearance on Morning Joe, former South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg said Trump made the call "without the proper consultation with Congress," and suggested that the president’s actions might have been illegal.

In what was perhaps the most offensive broadside, Senator Bernie Sanders dared to suggest Trump ordering the drone attack that killed Soleimani was similar to Russian President Vladimir Putin murdering political dissidents.

And just when you didn't think it could get any worse, along comes former Ambassador to the United Nations, Nikki Haley. Not typically known for engaging in absurdities, Haley iced the face-palm cake when she said, "The only ones mourning the loss of Soleimani are our Democrat leadership and Democrat presidential candidates."

All parties — literally and figuratively — have to understand the killing of Soleimani was not the same as taking out a low-level Al Qaeda or Isis leader. And while the tucked-away enclave known as Washington DC will soon get caught up in impeachment drama once again, the issue of Soleimani's death will continue to reverberate internationally.

As the saying goes, a house divided against itself cannot stand. President Trump and Democrats in Congress, as well as Trump’s potential 2020 opponents, don't have to agree at all on how to handle the situation with Iran. Foreign policy and national security will always have diverging points of view on what will work best.

But the propensity for United States political leaders to immediately fall into a sandtrap of political partisanship and the president to behave like a cartoon character doesn't do anyone any favors. The situation is not going away anytime soon. Democrats and Republicans alike have to put aside the petty bickering and begin to take their responsibilities to the American people much more seriously.

Jay Caruso is the managing editor of the Washington Examiner magazine

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