2020年1月8日 星期三

On Politics: The Trump Doctrine Tests the G.O.P.

So far, the president has offered something for both hawks and isolationists. Will that last?
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By Lisa Lerer

Politics Newsletter Writer

Hi. Welcome to On Politics, your guide to the day in national politics. I’m Lisa Lerer, your host.

Photo Illustration by The New York Times; /EPA, via Shutterstock

Here’s the thing about wartime presidents: They tend to win re-election.

It isn’t always pretty. George W. Bush won the popular vote in 2004 by the lowest margin of victory ever for an incumbent president. And, sure, some presidents have chosen not to run for re-election in the face of low approval ratings — like Lyndon Johnson during the Vietnam War and Harry Truman during the Korean War.

But generally, when the United States is at war, or approaching it, Americans keep their commander in chief.

I thought about that electoral history as I watched President Trump address the nation from the White House this morning, after Iran fired missiles at two bases in Iraq that house American troops.

Standing in front of a phalanx of cabinet secretaries and uniformed senior military officers, Mr. Trump strove to craft an image of unity after days of conflicting and confusing messages about his order last week to kill one of Iran’s most powerful generals.

After issuing a series of threats toward Iran in recent days, Mr. Trump tried to give his administration an off-ramp to avoid escalating the conflict. (It helped that no one was hurt in the Iranian missile strikes, according to initial battle assessments.)


“The fact that we have this great military and equipment, however, does not mean we have to use it,” Mr. Trump said after outlining American combat potential. “We do not want to use it.”

Political science research suggests that “rally round the flag” events — when a president’s popularity jumps because Americans back their commander in chief — are rare, and the effect tends to be greatest when there is bipartisan support for a foreign intervention.

That’s not something we should expect in this case, given the strong Democratic criticism of Mr. Trump’s move to kill the Iranian commander, Maj. Gen. Qassim Suleimani.

What Mr. Trump is aiming for, then, is more like a “rally round the party” effect.

Already, Mr. Trump has given the various Republican Party constituencies plenty to cheer — and vote for — this November. In most polls, his approval rating among Republicans hovers around 90 percent.


Social conservatives praise his steps to restrict access to abortion and ensure a conservative majority on the Supreme Court. Fiscal conservatives boast about the booming economy. Now, in wake of the biggest foreign policy decision of his presidency, Mr. Trump is trying to find a way to satisfy both the hawkish and the isolationist wings of his party.

The combination of his aggressive strike — one that two previous presidents had deemed too risky — and his more measured remarks today is emblematic of Mr. Trump’s dual foreign policy doctrine.

This is not a new approach for Mr. Trump. While he vowed to end America’s “endless wars” during his campaign, he also promised to “bomb the hell out of” the Islamic State’s militants. He has promised to bring back troops from the Middle East even as he’s deployed more to the region in recent months.

Those kinds of cross signals have allowed both camps to claim that he represents their interests.

Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, one of the more hawkish Republicans on Capitol Hill, called Mr. Trump’s address a “home run speech.”


“All Americans should support President Trump’s efforts to resolve the threat from Iran peacefully and fully understand the Maximum Pressure campaign must continue with a credible military component,” he said on Twitter.

Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky, one of the party’s strongest supporters of a more minimalist foreign policy, heard a slightly different message, and tweeted: “The president shares my thoughts that the last thing we need is another ground war. He doesn’t want endless wars. I continue to hope for de-escalation and diplomacy.”

There are signs, however, that Mr. Trump’s dual foreign policy doctrine could cost him some support — particularly if tensions with Iran were to escalate into a more direct confrontation.

Just hours after Mr. Trump delivered his remarks, Mr. Paul and another Republican, Senator Mike Lee of Utah, said that they were not satisfied with a classified afternoon briefing they received from top military officials, and that they planned to join a Democratic effort to limit the president’s ability to take future military action against Iran without congressional authorization. (That measure stands little chance in the Republican-controlled Senate.)

Mr. Graham’s response: By supporting such a measure, Mr. Paul and Mr. Lee are “empowering the enemy.”

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Beyond the ‘Yang Gang’

David Degner for The New York Times

PLYMOUTH, N.H. — Over the past several months, as I have periodically visited Andrew Yang on the campaign trail in New Hampshire, his crowds have grown. But his events have often attracted the same types of voters: relatively young people who mostly support progressive ideas and candidates. At events on recent trips, I have even started to see voters whom I have encountered two or three times.

So I was struck last week when I showed up at another round of Yang events in New Hampshire and found a much larger share of snowy-haired voters who said they were considering more moderate candidates in the Democratic primary. Many said that it was their first time hearing Mr. Yang speak in person and that they were pleasantly surprised to see a “young” and “energetic” crowd.

Cynthia Mathews, 64, of Campton, N.H., said she had Amy Klobuchar and Pete Buttigieg at the top of her list. But she said she had also become interested in Mr. Yang, a former tech executive and entrepreneur, after seeing him on television. “I’m interested in how he talks about the encroachment of automation into our economy and the problems that’s going to pose,” she said while waiting for Mr. Yang to speak in Plymouth.

Mr. Yang and his team seemed to notice the difference in the crowd’s demographics, too. At several of the campaign events I attended, the candidate opened his stump speech by conducting an informal survey.

“Raise your hand if you’ve seen me speak before in some context,” he said at the event Ms. Mathews attended. “Raise your hand if you’re hearing me for the first time.”

“Wow,” he said, after a pause to peer at the crowd. “That’s most everyone.”

… Seriously

Then, the princess invaded a foreign nation, rescued the beautiful prince and spirited him back to her sunny kingdom of Los Angeles.

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