The Center for the National Interest’s Director of Defense Studies, Harry Kazianis, and Foreign Affairs Reporter Curt Mills joined SiriusXM hosts Matt Boyle and Amanda House on Breitbart News Saturday to discuss how President Donald Trump sells strikes in Syria to his base.
Trump ran on an anti-interventionist platform, but his decision to order a second strike on Syria is testing members of his base who feel betrayed.
Trump even drew comparisons to George W. Bush when he tweeted Saturday morning “Mission Accomplished!” — evoking the unfortunate image of the former president landing on an aircraft carrier prematurely denoting victory in Iraq.
Boyle noted, “I don’t know if they’re his Deplorables anymore, I think they might just be Deplorables.”
Kazianis, who supported the president’s decision, acknowledged that Trump has to explain to his base why he ordered the strikes.
“I think he has to explain it to them that he’s not betraying his principles,” he told House and Boyle. “One of the reasons a lot of people voted for him, a lot of people supported him, is he’s not George W. Bush, or Barack Obama, launching wars of regime change.”
Kazianis argued, however, what Trump did Friday differed from his predecessors, Bush and former President Barack Obama, who oversaw the deployment of hundreds of thousands of U.S. troops to Iraq and Afghanistan.
“It’s very different when you’re dropping bombs from the sky as opposed to hundreds of thousands of boots on the ground. They’re very, very different. It’d be one thing if the president was launching airstrikes all over the place and getting us involved in conflicts, I don’t really see that from this administration,” he said.
“Bombs from the sky are bad, but boots on the ground would be a tragedy.”
He noted that the president has pushed for diplomacy versus strikes against North Korea, despite a lot of voices in his administration pushing for a “bloody nose attack and regime change.”
“He’s resisted all of that,” he said. When the opportunity for negotiations with Kim Jong Un arose, “He immediately jumped on that.”
“I think that shows what his character is in terms of foreign policy. He’s not a neocon, or anything like that. He still has the bones of being much more restrained,” he added.
Mills noted the president’s decision has disappointed core high-profile supporters – particularly TV show hosts Tucker Carlson, Laura Ingraham, Tomi Lahren, and Alex Jones – who have blasted the decision to strike Syria.
“The president has to be very careful politically how he manages this,” he said, noting that “some concerns are piling up” among his base, who will look back to a year ago and ask, “Where is the wall? Why are we in Syria?”
Boyle recalled Trump’s rhetoric on the campaign trail slamming the decision to invade Iraq, and a key moment at the South Carolina GOP debate when he hit Bush on the war.
“Trump is playing with fire and he needs to do a really good job selling this to the base, especially in an election year, because this is the kind of thing that could deflate the movement,” he said.
“I think it’s a binary choice. Does the president wants to be popular at the Four Seasons in Washington, D.C. with John McCain and other people? … Does he want to be supported or at least tolerated by people who had nothing but terrible things to say about him during the campaign?
“Or, does he want to deliver for the core constituency that delivered him the presidency? I think he needs to make up his mind on that if he wants to shape a coherent, organized 2018 election strategy, as well as a potential reelect,” he said.