Late-Night MSNBC: Guests Meltdown on Trump Not Being Obama, Scream Strikes Were Illegal

Needless to say, the knives were out on MSNBC to attack the U.S. military’s airstrikes in Syria late Thursday night and early Friday. Guests Steve Clemons and Phyllis Bennis were quite unglued, frowning that President Trump didn’t gather “international and regional support” like Barack Obama did and doing the bidding of the Kremlin by arguing the strikes broke international law.

An MSNBC contributor and The Atlantic’s Washington editor at large, Clemons appeared in the 11:30 p.m. Eastern half hour and whined to lying Brian Williams that it’s early to say if the airstrikes were a sign of strength or weakness compared to the illustrious Barack Obama’s Libya expedition. 

Ignoring how little the Obama administration actually did to halt the bloodshed in Syria and failed to stop Libya from collapsing post-Gaddafi, Clemons swooned:

[W]hen he took action in Libya or in December 2015 when he aligned 34 Islamic nations to join other European allies in attacking ISIS and bombing them in just as spectacular a raid as the attacks that you have been showing frequently in that Department of Defense clip. President Obama made sure he had both international and regional support for the action. He made sure that there was an assessment that the deployment of force would have an impact, and that the, you know, that the ripple effects of this were contained and looked at. And that we had allies working with us. That isn't the case here. Donald Trump has certainly sent a signal that he can take a step unilaterally without coordinating with allies[.]

Williams continued to tee up Clemons, who returned seconds later to pathetically argue that “[h]umanity was not gathered by the United States to respond to al-Assad” and while Trump “took leadership,” the liberal writer fretted that this wasn’t “coordinated with the rest of the world.”

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While former Obama officials like Tony Blinken and Marie Harf praised the airstrikes, Clemons reminisced over the last administration: 

All I remember is December 2015 when President Obama launched a spectacular attack against ISIS and we were all on MSNBC all night, looking a the dramatic pictures we saw and very quickly we saw how little was achieved, how hard it was to hold that alliance together, how quickly allies fell out and how the story and script changed. 

Just before 1:00 a.m. Eastern on Friday, far-left loon Phyllis Bennis decided to fall in line with Assad, China, and Vladimir Putin by arguing that, even if Trump had “consulted” Congress beforehand, the strikes were “still be a violation of international law.”

“The United Nations charter, which remains the law of the land, treaties are superior parts of our law of our legal system, says very clearly that a country cannot go to war legally except for two very narrowly defined circumstances, neither of which have been met. One, if the Security Council decides, the other if there is an immediate issue of self defense, which is not the case here,” Bennis added. 

The awkward, post-midnight rant wrapped up by reiterating:

So, this is clearly a violation and I think what we are looking at is another indication where we are seeing these failed policies once again where, you know, we have been at war with terrorism for 15, 16 years. Terrorism is doing just fine. This doesn't work. 

Here’s the relevant portions from the MSNBC Special on April 6 and 7:

MSNBC Special
April 6, 2017
11:34 p.m. Eastern

STEVE CLEMONS: I think the first thing that occurs the me is, you know, slightly what Kevin Barron laid out although I have a slightly different take. We don't know by Donald Trump taking this action whether in the long run this looks weak to the rest of the world or strong and what I mean by that is that Barack Obama when he took action in Libya or in December 2015 when he aligned 34 Islamic nations to join other European allies in attacking ISIS and bombing them in just as spectacular a raid as the attacks that you have been showing frequently in that Department of Defense clip. President Obama made sure he had both international and regional support for the action. He made sure that there was an assessment that the deployment of force would have an impact, and that the, you know, that the ripple effects of this were contained and looked at. And that we had allies working with us. That isn't the case here. Donald Trump has certainly sent a signal that he can take a step unilaterally without coordinating with allies, without necessarily doing — and take an action and we are going to have to see down the road where that unilateral impulse, that nudge is perceived like countries like China, he is sitting with XI Jinping in Florida with others. Is one of strength or one of weakness. I don't think we have discussed that yet. That's the first thank that comes to find. 

BRIAN WILLIAMS: Steve, I don't mean this argumentativally. Look at all the signals prior to this, 75 days of this administration, that the world has sat back and been watching. 

CLEMONS: I mean, the world has sat back and watched and you know, certainly we had chemicals weapons there, chemical weapons are an assault on humanity. Humanity was not gathered by the United States to respond to al-Assad. Certainly, Donald Trump took leadership. He took [steps] forward. He demonstrated a resolve to be muscular in attack. I don't think that means necessarily at the end of the day that he is going to be interested in state building or trying to make sure we have a warmer, cuddlier Syria later on down the road. He demonstrated he is willing to take action but it's not one coordinated with the rest of the world. He hasn't demonstrated I think in contrast to George W. Bush or Barack Obama or name the president you like to do it, they sew together international alliances to take these kinds of action. Donald Trump and his team did not do that here and I find that interesting. 

WILLIAMS: Steve, you know Washington well, and the structure of government. How much of the Normal national security structure around this President from State to Pentagon to National Security Council is just not there? They are missing. They are not nominated. They haven't been confirmed. 

CLEMONS: Enormous layers are missing. You know, I have huge respect for H.R. McMaster, General Jim Mattis at the Pentagon and General Kelly and even Tom Bossert, the President's Assistant for Homeland Security. He’s a very good top echelon team. I interviewed John McCain in Brussels and he said while at that point he had not yet met Donald Trump during his presidency, he had hopes that Donald Trump would listen to his high quality national security team. What happens in a contingency like this is that you have lots of players that come in to begin thinking about Rachel was discussing earlier, unintended consequences, the ripple effects, the other pieces, you know, relationship management, alliance management and a lot of that second and third tier level of folks aren't there. I think he has very good people around him and advising him, but in my book, it's not enough to handle the complexity of where this might good morning many people have calked about Iran. Turkey is in the picture. Russia is certainly in the picture and we just don't know what the next second and third steps this might be. All I remember is December 2015 when President Obama launched a spectacular attack against ISIS and we were all on MSNBC all night, looking a the dramatic pictures we saw and very quickly we saw how little was achieved, how hard it was to hold that alliance together, how quickly allies fell out and how the story and script changed. 

(....)

April 7, 2017
12:56 a.m. Eastern

PHYLLIS BENNIS: I do want to point out one other point, though. Whatever the decision of Congress, if Congress were to be consulted, if they were to give permission, this would still be a violation of international law. The United Nations charter, which remains the law of the land, treaties are superior parts of our law of our legal system, says very clearly that a country cannot go to war legally except for two very narrowly defined circumstances, neither of which have been met. One, if the Security Council decides, the other if there is an immediate issue of self defense, which is not the case here. So, this is clearly a violation and I think what we are looking at is another indication where we are seeing these failed policies once again where, you know, we have been at war with terrorism for 15, 16 years. Terrorism is doing just fine. This doesn't work. 

NB Daily Foreign Policy Libya Middle East Syria Conservatives & Republicans Liberals & Democrats MSNBC Other MSNBC Atlantic Video Government & Press Steve Clemons Bashar al-Assad Donald Trump Barack Obama
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