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Media split on war powers

House Democrats are invoking the War Powers Act to restrain President Trump from further military escalation with Iran without Congressional approval. Many in the mainstream media are backing the House Democrats on this, but saying this should reign in all Presidents, not just Donald Trump.

If it were applied in an even-handed manner, that might be persuasive but it’s not. It’s interesting that it’s being played out as Republicans are breaking ranks, but only three Republicans voted against the War Powers resolution. Eight Democrats went against their party. So it seems it’s just fringe elements in both parties breaking rank.

I was on Fox News Media Buzz with host Howard Kurtz and other guests Griff Jenkins and Ray Suarez to discuss this and Rep. Pelosi’s impeachment delay. Watch:


KURTZ: There’s a largely party-line vote that drew heavy media coverage, House Democrats invoking the War Powers Act to restrain President Trump from further military escalation with Iran without congressional approval.
Some pundits criticized the move. Others called it justified, saying the president hasn’t adequately explained the killing of Iran’s top terrorist.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And now, the Democrats want to, at least symbolically, try to tie the hands of the president. It just seems like in the context of real world events, it seems like a crazy idea.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: This dog’s breakfast mess of conflicting, evolving, internally-contradictory, vague, and frankly, unbelievable assertions from the president and the administration as to why exactly he launched this strike in the middle of his impeachment.

KURTZ: So Gayle, many in the media, I think, are backing the House Democrats on this, but saying this should be done to reign in on all presidents on war powers and not just Donald Trump.

TROTTER: Well, if it were applied in an even-handed manner, that might be persuasive but it’s not. It’s interesting that it’s being played up as the Republicans are breaking ranks when only three Republicans voted against the war powers resolution. Eight Democrats went against their party. So it seems like it’s just fringe elements in both parties that are breaking ranks —


KURTZ: Well, Utah Senator Mike Lee is not a fringe guy. He’s a strong Trump ally —


TROTTER: On this issue, he’s a fringe player.

KURTZ: OK. Ray, there’s a new media focus, I think, on Congress restraining the president’s authority to declare war. But this goes back to the Vietnam War when the War Powers Act was originally passed, mostly symbolically at that time to rein in Richard Nixon, and Congress hasn’t really done how much in this area since.

SUAREZ: The framers of the Constitution gave war-making power to specific bodies with specific mechanisms, and we now honor it in the breach.


SUAREZ: Well, there hasn’t been a declaration of war since Pearl Harbor.

KURTZ: Right.

SUAREZ: And we’ve been in a lot of wars since then. And the problem is that no — when the president of your party is in, no Congress wants to oppose the executive branch’s unfettered ability to use military force.

KURTZ: And then it flips if it’s an opposition president. And obviously, any president has to be able to respond in the nuclear age. Let me go now to all the chatter and speculation, Griff, about when is Nancy Pelosi going to send over the articles. CNN and others said it could be Friday. And Friday it was, like, OK, now she actually says it’s going to be Tuesday.

There’s so much she’s going to do, and she’s not going to do it. She got annoyed with the questions from reporters a couple of times. Wasn’t all that pontification about if and when ultimately pointless? She was going to act when she was going to act.

JENKINS: Look, the media, I don’t think, covered quite enough that her gambit to try and force concessions out of Mitch McConnell with the trial that she knew she would ultimately have to give articles of impeachment over — she lost that. Let’s call it like it was. She thought she could how old out, now she’s got to turn it over, and so she’s saving face.

But at the end of the day, it is worth noting that at the same time we were urgently going to need to get this impeachment trial going. But then she held back. She passes this war resolution that does nothing. It’s nonbinding. It doesn’t become law. You’re not even going to stop the president. So really I think that the coverage of her handling of those two issues at the same time is going to be something that we’ll hear more of.

KURTZ: Well, you know who agrees with you on the first part is NBC’s Chuck Todd who said on the air that she tried to smoke out Mitch McConnell, and she failed. Now, Pelosi usually gets positive coverage as a master strategist. She’s on the cover of Time this week about her gamble on impeachment. But I think since many Democrats have ended up breaking with her on this strategy that nobody could quite figure out.

Even the pundits who are sympathetic were forced to say, well, what did she really accomplish?

TROTTER: Well, it’s good that there’s mainstream media coverage of, like, you’re saying, the Democrats who have broken rank like Senator Dianne Feinstein, who is very esteemed in the Democratic Party, a leader of the Senate. She essentially told Nancy Pelosi to hurry up. And it’s good that the media have reported that because, you know, she’s managing these two things at the same time.

But the war powers resolution is a symbolic gesture. The impeachment isn’t also a symbolic gesture because, obviously, the Senate is not going to convict and remove President Trump. And we’re seeing that the confluence of these two events has not worked to Speaker Pelosi’s advantage.

KURTZ: Right. Impeachment may be symbolic, but I think that the — it will always go down in the history books that the House voted to impeach Donald Trump, even though it was almost a uniformly party-line vote. Do you agree that Nancy is Pelosi lost the media battle one, this 23-day delay or whatever it was?

SUAREZ: Well, by the — by day 23, it was starting to look not so great. But let’s go back three weeks when coming right out of the gate after the articles were approved, her delay was looking kind of brilliant when documents shook loose, detailing some of the communications between various executive branch offices over Ukraine and when John Bolton started to do sort of — to use the old Nixon phrase, a modified hangout. And we started to think, oh, maybe John Bolton’s in play —


SUAREZ: But then once the days continued to go on, she probably started to get pressure from her own party, because Cory Booker, Elizabeth Warren, Bernie Sanders, and Amy Klobuchar don’t want this going on while they’re trying to win primaries.

TROTTER: Well, give an advantage to the Senate Republicans too, because Senator McConnell said, you know, you can delay all you want, we’re going to take it up. So I think the Senate Republicans also put a lot of pressure, and there was coverage of that.

KURTZ: One-sentence answer. By next week with impeachment, will Iran seem like an old story?

JENKINS: No, because Persians have a long memory. And we should expect there will be another chapter in that. Wherever it is, Ray eluded to it earlier. I think impeachment is going to be gone a lot quicker than the Iran story.

KURTZ: Good two sentences from Griff Jenkins, Ray Suarez, Gayle Trotter, to see you all this Sunday.