Pence and Pompeo are desperately trying to smooth things over with Trump’s evangelical base after Syria withdrawal: report
Far-right white evangelicals have been unwavering defenders of President Donald Trump, sticking by him through countless scandals and rushing to his defense on everything from the Russia investigation to a hush money payment to adult film star Stormy Daniels. But the Christian Right has been decrying Trump’s decision to withdraw U.S. troops from northeastern Syria and abandon the United States’ Kurdish allies. And in a report for the Kansas City Star, journalists Michael Wilner and Bryan Lowry discuss the ways in which Vice President Mike Pence and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo have been trying to smooth things over with Trump’s white evangelical supporters.
“Shortly after news of the U.S. withdrawal broke,” Wilner and Lowry explain, “aides to both officials moved to shield their politically ambitious principals. They walked a thin line between disparaging Trump for his decision and tying their bosses perilously close to the controversial move.”
Pence and Pompeo, according to Wilner and Lowry, have been telling white evangelicals that Turkish forces under President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan would have made their incursion into northeastern Syria whether U.S. troops remained or not.
Far-right Christian fundamentalist and Trump supporter Tony Perkins, who heads the Family Research Council as well as the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom, is quoted in the Kansas City Star as saying that the Syria withdrawal “did shake the evangelical community a little bit. This was uncharacteristic of this administration.”
Another pro-Trump theocrat, Pat Robertson, has been extremely critical of the withdrawal and asserted that Trump risks “losing the mandate of heaven” because of it. And such criticism from evangelicals is exactly what Pence and Pompeo are worried about.
A spokesperson for the U.S. State Department told McClatchy, “Secretary Pompeo had the pleasure of meeting with thousands of evangelical Christians last week in Nashville to discuss religious freedom and his deep faith that drives him every day. Keeping an open dialogue with leaders of all faiths will continue to be a top priority for the secretary as we address Turkey’s unilateral action in Syria.”
Evangelist Franklin Graham, son of the late Rev. Billy Graham, has been highly critical of the withdrawal as well. And on Tuesday morning, according to Wilner and Lowry, Pence called him to discuss Graham’s efforts to assistant Kurdish refugees.
Pompeo has been mentioned as a possible 2020 U.S. Senate in Kansas, although he hasn’t decided whether he will or won’t be running. Republican strategists are fearful that if Tea Party extremist Kris Kobach receives the GOP senatorial nomination in Kansas, he would be defeated by a Democrat in the general election — and they believe Pompeo would be a much stronger candidate.