Sen. Cory Booker’s trip to Iowa this Tuesday was a short one, as he cancelled several planned caucus events amid the United States’ developing situation with Iran. He headed back to D.C. to attend a congressional briefing — the candidate sits on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.
He was able to hold two events today in Des Moines, however, where the campaign rolled out a “Black Americans with Cory” caucus coalition.
In an interview with Starting Line Tuesday morning, Booker said he was eager to hear from the Trump Administration whether the president met the standards for use of military force without congressional authorization — he had “healthy skepticism.”
Booker also expressed concern over the United States’ larger strategy in the Middle East and how his presidential campaign will fare without physically being in Iowa.
“There will be a very important classified briefing tomorrow where the administration will present evidence around the intelligence that they had, that they feel justified this attack. They called it an imminent threat,” Booker said. “The question really is, what was so imminent in this moment versus six months ago, three months ago, two months ago, a month ago? Is there something different?”
Following Trump’s decision to order a drone strike that killed Iranian general Qassem Soleimani in Baghdad last Friday, Booker was on CNN weighing in on the death.
“This is not something that should be done on impulse,” Booker said. “It should be done in a larger strategic vision and understanding what the consequences could be in taking out this significant — assassinating someone of such a significant leadership role in Iran.”
Booker’s Senate colleague and 2020 competitor Bernie Sanders introduced a bill on Friday with California Rep. Ro Khanna to block Pentagon funding for any unilateral actions Trump takes to wage war against Iran without congressional authorization.
Democratic Sen. Tim Kaine of Virginia also introduced legislation on Friday to make the Trump Administration stop hostilities with Iran that are not authorized by Congress.
Booker wasn’t familiar with Sanders’ bill but said he was working with Kaine, who he described as “one of the most important voices” trying to write a new, bipartisan authorization for the use of military force.
“Presidents, Democratic and Republican, have been, in my opinion, doing expansionist efforts which has diluted the power, the constitutionally assigned war powers of Congress and surrendering them to the executive. And presidents have been seizing upon that,” Booker said.
“I do believe we must, we must introduce a new authorization for the use of military force,” he added. “That curtails this drift of power into the executive that is a sign to Congress. We’re in a very perilous time.”
On the campaign trail, Sanders and former Vice President Joe Biden have been among the most outspoken against the hit on Soleimani. Since Friday’s attack, Biden has been criticized for his 2003 vote in favor of the war in Iraq.
Booker argued it wasn’t constructive to look into the former vice president’s past on the subject.
“There’s not many candidates [where you can] compare apples to apples, with the exception of Bernie Sanders. And we don’t know what other people would have done if they were in Congress at the time,” Booker said. “That’s not the constructive conversation right now. I think the constructive conversation is that we do need an experienced commander-in-chief with good judgment. Period. And voters have to evaluate that.”
But voters may have a hard time evaluating the candidate without him being in the state.
“I will always do my job as a senator,” Booker said. “That’s my top priority as a senator, especially on issues of national security, impeachment and the like, but we know that my campaign in Iowa is competitive because of my connections to voters.”
Booker acknowledged that his campaign runs best on the ground, with “big conversions” made at town halls or rallies, ending with record numbers signing commit to caucus cards.
“The days I’m down there could literally mean my not connecting with thousands of voters and that’s very problematic for our campaign, because we win when people get a chance to engage with me,” he said.
In lieu of his presence here, Booker said he’s shifted money around to stay on TV. A new 30-second ad buy is permeating Iowa’s airwaves, highlighting the candidate’s signature “Rise Together” message.
“We now are competing with those far more resourced individuals or campaigns, so I’m glad. But this is a time where we have got to continue a sustained campaign, and it’s very costly to us,” Booker said.
By Isabella Murray