The Current

'I'm not a one-issue voter': U.S. Republicans divided over Trump's decision to pull out of Syria

Republican strategists say that U.S. President Donald Trump's withdrawal of troops from northern Syria has prompted an unprecedented wave of criticism from some of his staunchest defenders. But for some, that doesn't mean they'll stop supporting him.

Strategist says she supports Trump despite risk of 'devastating humanitarian crisis'

U.S. President Donald Trump speaks about Turkey and Syria at the White House on Oct. 7. (Kevin Lamarque/Reuters)
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A longtime Republican strategist says she still supports U.S. President Donald Trump even though she fears his decision to pull troops from northern Syria could cause "a tremendous, devastating humanitarian crisis."

"It's wrong, and we should not abandon people — our allies — that have been so instrumental to our war on ISIS," said Alice Stewart, a strategist and CNN political commentator.

But she told The Current's interim host Laura Lynch that she is "not a one-issue voter."

Stewart, who is also a fellow at the Harvard Institute of Politics, said she feels Trump has followed through on many promises on the domestic issues that matter to her.

Alice Stewart, a longtime Republican strategist, said that while she is strongly opposed to Trump's actions in Syria, she continues to support him based on issues of domestic policy. (Courtesy of Alice Stewart)

"That is Supreme Court nominations, that is religious liberties, rolling back federal government regulations, and a lot of what he is doing with regards to the economy," she said.

"If he continues to to enact that legislation and those policies, I will continue to support him," she said. "But that doesn't mean I'm going to support what he's currently doing in Syria."

Stewart thinks that voters "will look at the totality of this president, and the overall record," as he seeks re-election in 2020.

Several high-profile Republicans have spoken out against Trump's Oct. 7 decision, which has allowed Turkey to launch a major offensive against the Kurds in the region.

Speaking on TV's Fox & Friends last week, Republican Senator Lindsey Graham said that: "This impulsive decision by the President has undone all the gains we've made, thrown the region into further chaos." 

He warned it could give defeated ISIS fighters being detained in the region "a second lease on life." 

Republican Congresswoman Liz Cheney also called it a "catastrophic mistake." On Monday morning, Fox & Friends co-host Brian Kilmeade said on air that "the president must realize he made a huge mistake."

Nicholas Fandos, a congressional correspondent for the The New York Times, told The Current that prominent Republicans may be more willing to break rank with Trump on Syria than on other issues, because foreign policy currently doesn't resonate with voters as strongly as issues like taxes and healthcare do.

"There's less risk for them sticking their neck out and crossing the president on foreign policy, than there would be on domestic issues," he said.

Displaced Syrians sit in the back of a truck in the Syrian border town of Tel Abyad, on Oct. 11. (Delil Souleiman/AFP via Getty Images)

Republican strategist Rick Wilson said the move had "caused the biggest break with Trump among people who ordinarily are fairly uncritical supporters of him."

He pointed out the criticism was happening against the backdrop of an impeachment inquiry into Trump, over allegations he abused his power to undermine a political opponent. 

"The foreign policy [issues] make it harder to defend the impeachment-related offences," said Wilson, editor-at-large at The Daily Beast.

"The erratic behaviour makes it harder to justify support for the president that's been, so far, universal amongst the Republican elected class," he told Lynch.

"All these things will start to be seen as a part of an ongoing crisis; they'll all come together as an element of 'Things that are wrong in the Trump world.'"


Written by Allie Jaynes. Produced by Ben Jamieson and Danielle Carr.

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