There’s no great mystery behind the crisis conditions in northern Syria. While conditions in the area were relatively stable of late, Donald Trump withdrew U.S. military forces – defying the advice of his own administration and failing to consult our allies – effectively giving the green light to Turkey to launch a brutal offensive against our Kurdish allies. The results have been catastrophic.
One of Congress’ top Republicans argued yesterday, however, that House Democrats bare at least some of the blame for the crisis conditions.
Rep. Liz Cheney of Wyoming, the third-ranking House Republican, claimed Democrats’ impeachment inquiry into President Donald Trump is partly to blame for Turkey’s invasion of northern Syria.
Though Trump has faced bipartisan backlash for withdrawing American troops from the region ahead of the Turkish assault against U.S.-allied Kurdish forces, Cheney said Democrats should also be held responsible for the crisis.
During a Fox News appearance, Cheney argued that the ongoing impeachment inquiry is part of an attempt “to weaken this president. The Wyoming Republican added, “It was not an accident that the Turks chose this moment to roll across the border. And I think the Democrats have got to pay very careful attention to the damage that they’re doing with impeachment proceedings.”
In other words, by Cheney’s reasoning, Turkey saw an American president weakened by an impeachment inquiry, tried to take advantage of the opportunity, and launched a military assault. If only House Democrats had ignored Trump’s misdeeds, the argument goes, maybe Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan would’ve ignored the green light provided by the White House.
As the HuffPost report added, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s office described Cheney’s argument as “delusional,” which seems more than fair under the circumstances. Indeed, the idea peddled yesterday by the House Republican conference chair is bizarre: Turkey doesn’t care about some congressional hearings; it cares about the withdrawal of American troops. This isn’t complicated.
I can appreciate why some of the White House’s far-right allies would look for ways to shift the blame for Trump’s disastrous decision away from the president, but unless Liz Cheney is prepared to make the case that the House Democratic majority forced Trump to make a ruinous national security decision, the whole argument is plainly ridiculous.
That said, there is a larger arc to this: some in the GOP want to characterize the impeachment process as inherently dangerous.
Last week, for example, Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, argued that impeaching Trump might “destroy the nation.” This week, Liz Cheney argued that impeachment invites national security crises.
The idea, evidently, is that it’s in Americans’ interests for Congress to simply look the other way when confronted with evidence of presidential wrongdoing. For at least some of Trump’s Republican allies, accountability isn’t just unwarranted, it’s also hazardous.
We heard some rhetoric along these lines in the latter half of the Bush/Cheney era, when many on the right insisted that the Republican White House’s critics had a responsibility not to criticize the president, at least not loudly, because any effort that undermined George W. Bush’s standing might encourage terrorists.
Those arguments were absurd at the time. Their rhetorical cousins are no better now.