President Trump’s strike against Syrian president Bashar al-Assad’s regime Friday night did not earn universal praise from his most vocal supporters.
Ever since Trump indicated one week ago he would retaliate against the latest chemical weapon attack attributed to regime forces, he netted intense criticism from many on the Right.
A lot of it came from sources that have always opposed intervention in Syria, such as InfoWars and social media personality Mike Cernovich. What was most interesting is that Trump’s decision received flak from prominent voices on his favorite news channel.
Two primetime Fox News hosts expressed skepticism about the strike. Tucker Carlson spent most of the week attacking the idea of a strike as a betrayal of Trump’s “America First” campaign promises.
“Overthrowing Assad’s regime in Syria would cause chaos,” The Daily Caller co-founder said last Monday on his 8 PM program. “Many thousands would die and, in fact, we might likely see the genocide of one of the last remaining Christian communities in the Middle East. And we ought to care about that. Some of the dead, of course, would be American servicemen. A new war would cost us tens of billions of dollars.”
Laura Ingraham also shared Tucker’s skepticism. While reports filtered in Friday night of American missiles raining down on Syria, Ingraham wondered what was the purpose of the strike.
“I guess it feels good because there are horrible things happening there. But what do we really accomplish here tonight in Syria? This is not why Donald Trump got elected,” she said during her 10 PM program.
Ingraham battled with former Trump administration official Sebastian Gorka over the necessity of the strike. At one point, she laughed at Gorka for saying America’s “founding documents” required a strike against Assad.
“I think we can all pull out quotes from the framers about foreign entanglements,” the Fox News host said to an unamused Gorka.
Also joining Carlson and Ingraham in their criticism was Fox News contributor Tomi Lahren. Lahren makes a surprising critic, considering that she has expressed support for nearly all of Trump’s actions since he became president. Both Carlson and Ingraham have criticized the president numerous times prior to the Syria strike.
On Thursday, Lahren released a video monologue for Fox in which she strongly denounced strikes against Assad.
“How many times will we keep sticking our fingers in the fire before we realize that spreading democracy in the Middle East does NOT work?” Lahren argued. “How many times must we attempt to pick winners and losers in civil and tribal wars we do NOT understand?”
The young conservative urged Trump to pull all American troops out of Syria, saying we’re not fighting “for our interests over there.” She reiterated her opposition to intervention after Trump struck Assad Friday night, tweeting, “Americans should not die fighting a war that’s NOT OURS TO FIGHT.”
Frequent Fox guest Ann Coulter was another prominent Trump supporter ripping the president for attacking Assad. Coulter was a famous supporter of the Iraq war, but it appears she now leans more toward the non-interventionist side.
It would have been unthinkable in the George W. Bush years for primetime Fox hosts to criticize a Republican president’s use of military force. There would have been an endless stream of support, with hosts challenging the patriotism of anyone who disagreed with the president’s decision.
Sean Hannity, the one remaining primetime host from those days, fully supported Trump’s action. So did former Fox star Bill O’Reilly, the other big Fox host from the aughts.
The mainstream Right has come a long way from the days of yelling “these colors don’t run!” to skeptics of military intervention. Ron Paul was a pariah in 2008 and 2012 for his views on foreign policy and was denounced by all of his fellow Republican presidential contenders for those opinions.
Now you can hear Paul-esque foreign policy views every weeknight on “Tucker Carlson Tonight.”
Non-interventionism doesn’t necessarily dominate the Right as hawks still find a home on Fox and in the White House. But that view now has far more influence on the American Right than at any time in recent memory.
The primary reason for this development lies with the man who launched the Syria strike. Trump won the Republican primary with an “America First” foreign policy agenda, one that would avoid the nation building of the Bush-era and be more pragmatic in how it dealt with the world. He even argued Bush lied to get America into Iraq — a line that would have made him Fox News’ enemy of the week in 2006. In 2016, it helped make him the Republican nominee.
Trump’s criticism of hawkish foreign policy — argued under the mantle of America First and delivered in bellicose language — made non-interventionism more palatable for Republican voters. Average Republicans had witnessed two disastrous interventions in Iraq and Libya, and they were willing to vote for someone who promised a change.
The president isn’t receiving much praise for his latest strike, a stark contrast to last year’s strike, when ardent liberals gushed over how presidential he was to bomb Syria. Trump can no longer change the channel to ignore his angry supporters reminding him of his campaign promises.
Trump may have made non-interventionism mainstream, but it’s now independent of him. And it’s here to stay.