On The Record: President Trump Vs. Private Citizen Trump On Syria
In an official statement, President Trump described the recent chemical attack in Syria as "reprehensible" and went on to argue the "heinous actions by the Bashar al-Assad regime are a consequence of the past administration's weakness and irresolution." In other words, he blamed former President Barack Obama.
Returning to a common theme of his campaign, Trump's statement concluded, "President Obama said in 2012 that he would establish a 'red line' against the use of chemical weapons and then did nothing. The United States stands with our allies across the globe to condemn this intolerable attack."
Trump's criticism of Obama's policy on Syria goes back to 2013. A private citizen at that time, he argued that the U.S. should not get involved in the conflict.
On Tuesday, Trump's statement did not include what — if anything — his administration would do about the recent attack or what his posture will be toward Assad in light of it. Press secretary Sean Spicer said that the president's statement "speaks for itself." He said Trump is meeting with his national security team, is "alarmed" at what is happening and that there will be further discussions with allies about the appropriate action. He added, "I think, at this point, as things develop, I'm not ready to talk about our next step, but we'll get there soon."
Spicer also referenced Obama's red line comment, in which the then-president said, "A red line for us is we start seeing a whole bunch of chemical weapons moving around or being utilized. That would change my calculus. That would change my equation."
At the time, Trump didn't say anything about it on Twitter. It wasn't until Syria started dominating the headlines in the summer of 2013 that Trump began weighing in. Two days after the U.S. concluded the Assad regime had used chemical weapons, Trump tweeted that the U.S. "should stay the hell out of Syria."
We should stay the hell out of Syria, the "rebels" are just as bad as the current regime. WHAT WILL WE GET FOR OUR LIVES AND $ BILLIONS?ZERO— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) June 16, 2013
His message: Stay out; Syria is not America's problem. And Trump was relatively consistent on that as the conflict in Syria intensified and the Obama administration contemplated an expanded U.S. role.
President Obama, do not attack Syria. There is no upside and tremendous downside. Save your "powder" for another (and more important) day!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) September 7, 2013
In late August 2013, the U.S. and international community concluded that the Syrian government had again used chemical weapons. The Obama administration was reportedly considering a military strike against Syria to send a message, and private citizen Trump questioned whether it was worth it.
What will we get for bombing Syria besides more debt and a possible long term conflict? Obama needs Congressional approval.— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) August 29, 2013
And long before he was a candidate, Trump was critical of politicians — including Obama — for telegraphing their military strategy.
If we are going to continue to be stupid and go into Syria (watch Russia), as they say in the movies, SHOOT FIRST AND TALK LATER!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) August 29, 2013
On Aug. 30, 2013, a U.S. intelligence assessment found more than 1,400 Syrians were killed in the chemical weapons attack. Trump's tweets focused on how that made the U.S. look.
How bad has our "leader" made us look on Syria. Stay out of Syria, we don't have the leadership to win wars or even strategize.— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) August 30, 2013
The next day, Aug. 31, Obama announced he would seek congressional approval to carry out strikes in Syria. This was widely seen as a way to back away from the red line he had drawn, putting the responsibility for a decision to escalate involvement in Syria on the shoulders of Congress.
President Obama's weakness and indecision may have saved us from doing a horrible and very costly (in more ways than money) attack on Syria!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) September 1, 2013
If the U.S. attacks Syria and hits the wrong targets, killing civilians, there will be worldwide hell to pay. Stay away and fix broken U.S.— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) September 3, 2013
It rapidly became clear that Congress wasn't going to be able to agree on authorizing force — and that Congress really didn't want the responsibility.
On Sept. 5, 2013, Trump's concern was that Obama had set the red line in the first place.
President Obama put himself in a very bad position when he talked about Syria crossing the RED LINE. Amazingly, now he denies he said that!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) September 5, 2013
The only reason President Obama wants to attack Syria is to save face over his very dumb RED LINE statement. Do NOT attack Syria,fix U.S.A.— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) September 5, 2013
A day later, seemingly joking, Trump offered his own solution: Use Obamacare in Syria so "they would self-destruct."
If Syria was forced to use Obamacare they would self-destruct without a shot being fired. Obama should sell them that idea!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) September 6, 2013
Secretary of State John Kerry ultimately worked out a multinational agreement, including Russia, in which Assad would agree to give up his chemical weapons. Trump's assessment was not positive.
This new Russian strategy guarantees victory for the Syrian government-and makes Obama and U.S. look hopelessly bad. President in trouble!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) September 10, 2013
In the end, he concluded the way Obama had handled Syria made America look weak.
That's a view President Trump continues to hold, as evidenced by the statement he released on Tuesday.
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