Trump’s support by far-right white evangelicals seemed unshakable — but that was before he turned his back on Kurdish allies
President Donald Trump has been wildly popular among far-right white fundamentalist evangelicals such as Franklin Graham, Robert Jeffress, Pat Robertson and Liberty University’s Jerry Falwell Jr. From the Russia investigation to the Stormy Daniels sex scandal, white evangelicals have been unwavering in their support of Trump. But journalist Amir Tibon, in a report for Haaretz, stresses that Trump has finally done something that has infuriated evangelicals like Graham and Robertson: withdrawing U.S. troops from northeastern Syria and abandoning the Kurdish allies that have helped the United States in its battle against the terrorist organization ISIS (Islamic State, Iraq and Syria).
The Syria debacle, Tibon reports, marks “the first time since Trump entered the White House in 2017 that he had to endure such a strong level of criticism from evangelical leaders.” Those evangelicals, Tibon notes, were unfazed by “the Stormy Daniels affair” and his “racist attacks on black members of Congress” as well as Trump’s “attempts to recruit foreign governments to aid his 2020 reelection campaign.” But Robertson and Graham haven’t been shy about lambasting Trump for withdrawing U.S. troops from northeastern Syria.
Robertson asserted, “the president of the United States is in danger of losing the mandate of heaven if he permits this to happen.” And on October 9, Graham tweeted, “the Kurds are the ones who have been leading the fight against ISIS in Syria. Also pray for the Christians who the Kurds have been protecting. They could be annihilated. Would you pray w/me that Pres. @realDonaldTrump will reconsider? Thousands of lives hang in the balance.”
Tibon notes that Mike Allen, one of Trump’s evangelical advisers, has also criticized the withdrawal and said of Kurdish forces, “America never had stronger supporters in the region.” In an October 8 article for CBN News, Allen wrote that Trump was “opening the door for” an “all-out assault against the Kurds.”
An aide to a Republican senator, interviewed anonymously, told Haaretz that it remains to be seen whether or not the Syria withdrawal will do any long-term damage to Trump’s relationship with his hardcore base.
“There’s a possibility the Turkish attack leads to horrifying pictures conquering the news cycle, and Trump gets a ton of criticism for it,” the aide told Haaretz. “But it’s also possible this story is forgotten in two weeks, and we’re back to fighting the Democrats over impeachment — and the party unites around him.”
Activist Joel Rosenberg told Haaretz, “it’s hard to make a case that this will have any political consequences for the president in the immediate future, but it’s worth noting that this is the first time such criticism has been leveled at him from the evangelical community. I don’t think it would be wise to just ignore it.”