"Well, they went and did it."
As one might expect, Buck kicked off Thursday's program with an enthusiastic endorsement of the GOP's decision to deploy the nuclear option, changing Senate rules to mandate a simple majority vote to approve Supreme Court justices rather than a supermajority.
Yet Buck was surely the one and only radio host in the country to provide his listeners with a deep historical dive on the history of the filibuster, its word origins (hint: it's Dutch, and involves pirates), and its context within congressional history.
For the curious, or the squeamish about the ethics of this deal, it is surely required listening. It also included one of Buck's best Mitch McConnell impersonations yet.
The Way Ahead in Syria
Buck then invited on James Carafano, vice president of the Heritage Foundation and a 25-year Army veteran, to talk over the best way ahead in Syria.
Carafano began by responding to comments by Secretary of State Rex Tillerson that a coalition to deal with Syria was "in the works."
"My guess is he’s talking about a limited punitive action, similar to what Reagan did against Gaddafi," Carafano. "Definitely not a ground invasion."
Buck asked whether even the enforcement of a no-fly zone would create some trouble.
"If we were going to do something punitive, there’s a gauntlet of things you walk through. You don’t want to escalate into a larger conflict, or tie you down over the long term. You just want to send a message. A no-fly zone doesn’t fit that criteria. You want it to be proportional, you want a military target that is significant to the regime."
Buck pointed out that one reason deposing Assad is not on the table is that the most likely political parties to fill the vacuum are no better, and in some cases worse.
"We can live with Assad being in charge," Buck said. "The Islamic State we can’t live with."
Nunes Steps Aside
Buck then turned to the news that former House Intelligence Committee chairman Devin Nunes is stepping aside.
"Left-wing groups filed ethics violations against Nunes," Buck shared. Nunes denied the charges, calling them baseless, but said it was in “the best interest of the intelligence community” and named Trey Gowdy and Mike Conaway.
"The interesting thing I see is that Nunes is not stepping down, he’s stepping aside," Buck said. "And with Trey Gowdy taking over, I don't think that is any help at all to the Democrats. In fact, Gowdy is more troublesome for the Democrats, because he’s a former prosecutor and a dogged and tenacious fellow."
The French Defense
Buck then took a call from writer David French, Senior Fellow at the National Review Institute and a veteran of Operation: Iraqi Freedom, to discuss the Syria situation, and found that he and French shared an attitude of caution to the conflict that is rooted in Syria's unique, and desperate, condition.
“This is not like the decision of whether or not to drop some bombs on an Al Qaeda compound. This is about attacking a country with Russian boots on the ground, Russian defense systems, and Russia has declared that the preservation of that regime is within its core national interest," French said. "We need to think really long and hard if this is the right time to get into a great power confrontation."
"Who benefits?" asked French. "Not necessarily our allies."
Buck pointed out how even for a limited engagement, or a "punitive action," as discussed by Thursday's other guest, Jim Carafano, “Murphy’s Law gets in the way.”
“That’s the thing that’s so concerning to me," said French. "The Assad regime has been a rolling warcrime for six years now. Suddenly it looks like we’re off to the races.”
"We’re getting an emotional reaction when what we need is a strategic discussion," Buck added.
French emphasized that military options were not the only measures available to the administration.
"We still have the ability to use economic weapons against Russia, Iran and other supporters of Assad’s regime."
"Americans don’t know what great power conflict is like," French added. "We need to take real care. That doesn’t mean that we’re weak. It means that we’re wise and prudent."
Quickly, Buck made time to mention the article by the Weekly Standard that former NSA Susan Rice told NPR that the Obama administration had taken credit for getting Syria to hand over all of its chemical weapons "verifiably and voluntarily" in January of this year.
"It’s really the arrogance of these people that gets to me," Buck said. "They are just powerfully arrogant people. People lose their lives becaues of the decisions made by the top echelon of the White House, in this country and elsewhere."
"They really believed Assad gave up all of his chemical weapons?" Buck mused. "Are they bald-faced liars, or are they not nearly as smart as they think they are?"