Saturday, August 18, 2018
Editorials

Editorial: Donald Trump's justified missile strike

President Donald Trump's missile strike against a Syrian military airfield was a reasonable response to Syria's chemical attack on civilians that was a gross violation of moral norms and international law. But the attack also marked another abrupt twist in Trump's Syria policy, raised the stakes with Russia and Iran and further complicated the picture on the ground in Syria's six-year-old civil war. While the action received praise from members of both political parties and some U.S. allies, the president needs to explain to the American people how it fits into a more coherent, clear foreign policy going forward.

The United States fired 59 Tomahawk missiles from two warships in the Mediterranean Sea, striking the Shayrat air base. That is the base Washington says was used in the attack on the northern Syrian town of Khan Sheikhoun on Tuesday, which killed 87 people. Western nations said the attack involved a weapon made of chlorine and a nerve agent, likely sarin, a toxin banned under the Chemical Weapons Convention, which Syria joined in 2013.

Russia, whose military support has kept Syrian President Bashar Assad's regime afloat, condemned the U.S. strike and suspended an agreement with Washington to coordinate the use of airspace over Syria, where a U.S. alliance has been bombing Islamic State forces and Russia is flying sorties to attack militants and anti-Assad Syrian rebels. Russia is stalling for time, and it previously took credit for negotiating an arrangement in 2013 for Syria to dismantle its chemical stockpiles. Its call for an investigation is aimed at softening condemnation of its client state and maintaining the stalemate in the civil war.

World leaders generally rallied around Trump's decision, as did members of Congress from both parties and both of Florida's senators, Democrat Bill Nelson and Republican Marco Rubio. But support was often narrowly tied to the horrific images of the chemical attack, which killed dozens of children. Already Friday, some on Capitol Hill called for a full debate on requiring the White House to seek Congress' approval for further hostilities. This reflects both the potential for escalation and the hesitancy in Congress for extending U.S. military missions even further in that unsettled part of the world.

Trump's inconsistency on Syria hasn't helped. He consistently vowed during the campaign to stay out of Syria, and this week his administration dismissed the goal of removing Assad from power. Then Secretary of State Rex Tillerson reversed that stance and Trump was moved to respond militarily after viewing the horrific images following the chemical attack. Reacting by gut with a seesaw approach does not send a coherent message, reassure allies or provide clarity to the American public. Nikki Haley, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, said Friday the White House was "prepared to do more" but hoped it would not be necessary. What does that mean?

Trump has few options. More strikes would send a provocative signal to Assad, the Russians and Syria's Shiite allies in Iran, and it would raise expectations among rebel groups that the American public and Congress may refuse to fulfill. It also could trigger a response from Russia that would escalate the stakes.

Responding to uphold the spirit of the chemical weapons ban is legitimate. But if the president is weighing the larger morality of a war that has taken 400,000 lives and sparked a migration crisis for millions, he needs to lay out what American interests are at stake and the extent to which the United States may be called on to protect them. America's foreign policy has to be clear and consistent and cannot shift by the day or by the latest television report, even if this time the reaction happened to be justified.

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Editorial: Did Rick Scott’s wallet affect his epiphany on rail line?

Editorial: Did Rick Scott’s wallet affect his epiphany on rail line?

Within weeks of taking office in 2011, Gov. Rick Scott made one of the worst decisions of his administration and refused $2.4 billion in federal money for a high-speed rail line between Tampa and Orlando. Within months of leaving office, the governor...
Published: 08/17/18
Editorial: Hillsborough has a place among growing number of governments suing opioid makers

Editorial: Hillsborough has a place among growing number of governments suing opioid makers

Local governments across the land can find plenty of reasons to go after the drug industry over the crisis of opioid addiction.Hillsborough County can find more reasons than most.• In 2016, the county led the state with 579 babies born addicted to dr...
Published: 08/17/18
Editorial: Here’s what needs to be done to stop algae blooms

Editorial: Here’s what needs to be done to stop algae blooms

The environmental crisis in South Florida has fast become a political crisis. Politicians in both parties are busy blaming one another for the waves of toxic algae blooms spreading out from Lake Okeechobee and beyond, fouling both coasts and damaging...
Published: 08/15/18
Updated: 08/17/18
Editorial: Journalists are friends of democracy, not the enemy

Editorial: Journalists are friends of democracy, not the enemy

It is real news that the Hillsborough County School District said this week it will accelerate testing for lead in drinking water and release the results after the Tampa Bay Times reported testing would take years and that until we asked families wer...
Published: 08/15/18
Updated: 08/16/18

Bumping into GOP cowardice on guns

One small island of sanity in the generally insane ocean of American gun culture is the near-complete federal ban on civilian possession of fully automatic weapons — machine guns.The nation got a bitter taste last year of what we’d be facing on a reg...
Published: 08/14/18
Updated: 08/17/18
Editorial: Vaccinations are safe way to prevent measles

Editorial: Vaccinations are safe way to prevent measles

The revelation that three people in Pinellas County have contracted the measles virus should be a wake-up call to everyone to get vaccinated if they haven’t been — and to implore parents to immunize their kids. Contagious diseases such as measles can...
Published: 08/14/18
Updated: 08/17/18
Editorial: Habitat for Humanity still has questions to answer about selling mortgages

Editorial: Habitat for Humanity still has questions to answer about selling mortgages

A good reputation can vanish overnight, which is why Habitat for Humanity of Hills-borough County made a smart decision by announcing it would seek to buy back 12 mortgages it sold to a Tampa company with a history of flipping properties. The arrange...
Published: 08/14/18
Editorial: Vote — or a minority of the electorate will decide your future without you

Editorial: Vote — or a minority of the electorate will decide your future without you

40%of Americans who were eligible to vote for president in 2016 just didn’t bother. That number dwarfs the portion of all eligible voters who cast a ballot for President Donald Trump — 27.6 percent — or, for that matter, Hillary Clinton, 28.8 percent...
Published: 08/13/18
Updated: 08/17/18
Editorial: Why stand your ground has to go

Editorial: Why stand your ground has to go

Pinellas-Pasco State Attorney Bernie McCabe made a reasonable decision to charge Michael Drejka with manslaughter in last month’s deadly Clearwater convenience store parking lot confrontation. The shooting, which erupted over use of a handicap parkin...
Published: 08/13/18
Editorial: Politics aside, arguments are clear for moving appellate court to Tampa

Editorial: Politics aside, arguments are clear for moving appellate court to Tampa

It’s time to re-establish a permanent home for the state appeals court that serves the Tampa Bay region.It makes sense to put it in Tampa, the same as it made sense 30 years ago when the court’s operations began moving piece by piece up Interstate 4 ...
Published: 08/09/18
Updated: 08/10/18