Ann Coulter was one of the earliest and most outspoken supporters of Donald J. Trump. She stood by him during his earliest campaign “scandals” and brilliantly advocated for many of Trump’s positions. Though controversial, Coulter has been an ardent advocate of conservative principles over the years. What’s more, she has been one of the few commentators who has consistently argued for stronger border protections; even before it was in vogue. As the president of DePaul University’s College Republicans in 2011, I had the honor of hosting Coulter. She was an interesting and engaging speaker and a pleasure to host.
In recent weeks, however, Coulter—along with many other of Trump’s earliest supporters—has taken a dispiriting turn in her thinking about the Trump Administration. Coulter castigates President Trump for what she describes as his “Syrian misadventure.” President Trump’s retaliatory strike against Bashar al-Assad’s air force in Syria strikes Coulter as a betrayal of his “America First” position.
Assad launched sarin nerve gas at his own civilians as part of his strategy for winning the Syrian Civil War. Because of Trump’s cruise missile strike, roughly 20% of Assad’s air force was decimated. Like so many other former Trump supporters who’ve come out against President Trump’s cruise missile attack, Coulter believes that Assad “is one of the least bad leaders in the entire Middle East” since he’s not a jihadist, as the Islamic State, al Qaeda, and the Muslim Brotherhood are.
Of course, this view ignores the fact that Assad allowed al Qaeda to use his territory as a place from whence to attack American forces fighting in the Sunni Triangle of Iraq. It also ignores the fact that Syria has been a long-time client state not only of Russia, but more dangerously, of Iran. Indeed, Iran uses Syria as a place from whence to conduct its own jihad against Israel. So, the claim that Assad is not a problem for the U.S. is odd.
Also, Coulter asserts that President Trump got it wrong on Syria by reposting a series of tweets that Trump issued in 2013 claiming that the Obama Administration’s proposed strike on Syria was not in America’s interest. Coulter states that Trump in 2013 “was right on every point.” Of course he was. At the time. Coulter seems to forget that context is king.
In the first tweet listed, Trump wrote “What will we get for bombing Syria besides more debt and a possible long term conflict? Obama needs Congressional approval.” Given the irresponsible way Obama behaved in the Middle East, he needed Congressional restraint imposed upon him. Trump was also right to fret about the possibility of starting a wider war by striking Syria in 2013. Again, Obama was a mad bomber in the Middle East. There was nothing to suggest that once he started bombing Assad’s forces in Syria he would stop until he ousted Assad, just as he did to Gaddafi in Libya.
The Trump Administration, on the other hand, has insisted that it has no intention of invading Syria to depose Assad. Besides, at what was Trump’s strike directed? He attacked an air base that was far removed from most major civilian populations. There was no real chance of massive civilian deaths. Further, it was a proportional attack, meaning that it limited the chances of escalation with either Assad or his Russian and Iranian allies.
Throughout her piece, Coulter continues with the insinuation that Trump went all out Neocon in Syria. Really? If Trump went Neocon in Syria, we’d have up to 150,000 U.S. troops readying to take Damascus, topple Assad, and make Syria into a democracy. Trump would be making a case for his actions entirely on the basis of what was good for the Syrian people and have very little concern for whether the attack advanced American interests. Moreover, if Trump were a Neocon, he’d have designs to liberate all of the Middle East from dictators so as to remove the conditions that make radicalization possible (as so many Neocons believe).
What did Trump do following the Syrian attack? Oh, that’s right: he pivoted away from Syria and started talking with China regarding North Korea and with Russia about its support for Assad (as well as Iran). He also doubled down in helping our forces have a chance at killing the growing ISIS threat in Afghanistan.
The most troubling thing about Coulter’s piece is that it reads like something that Eric Erickson or Bill Kristol would write. After trashing Trump’s cruise missile attack (again, a cruise missile attack does not equal an invasion of Syria), Coulter turns to engaging in the unsubstantiated rumors of internal dissent within the Trump White House. She writes, “My nightmare scenario: Trump and Jared watching TV together and high-fiving: DID YOU SEE THE NEWS! THEY LOVE YOU! All Trump had to do was pointlessly bomb another country, and it was as if a genie had granted his every wish.” This assertion is bizarre.
First, rumors of a feud between Jared Kushner and Steve Bannon are likely overblown. They’re made up by the media in a pathetic attempt to separate Trump from his supporters and to sow dissension within the highest levels of the Trump Administration. The media tried this also with other leading Trump advisers, such as Dr. Sebastian Gorka and Michael Anton.
Second, Coulter claims that the Syrian strike was “pointless.” Tell that to the Chinese who are moving rapidly to rein in North Korea, lest they find an American force sitting across from their border in newly liberated North Korea. Third, despite receiving a small bump in his polling, Trump’s overall approval rating remains 21 points below average at its one-month mark than any other presidency. This strike was about furthering American interests globally, not a cheap ploy for ratings as if his presidency were no different than a reality TV show. Coulter used to know that Trump knew the difference. Now, I guess she’s revealing her doubts.
Coulter seems to have taken up the battle cry of several leading Leftists to claim that Trump’s “vulnerability” is flattery. According to Coulter, these pro-war Liberals and conservatives in the elite laid “it on thick with the Syrian misadventure.” Despite her avowed support for Trump early on in his campaign, Coulter has clearly embraced the elite’s view that Trump can be easily manipulated by playing on his ego. Coulter views Trump as the Left does: a superficial, malleable man.
Yet, if Trump were such a superficial person, would it not have been easier to run as a Democrat? After all, Trump was a wealthy Manhattanite who worked in the media industry. He knew about Left-wing bias in the press. He saw how Republican contenders got treated by the media. Just because Trump loves to talk about himself and likes a lot of gold, that does not mean that the man cannot understand when he’s being played. It does not mean that he will abandon that which he campaigned on at the first sign of praise from the media. I thought Coulter knew this.
Then again, however, for all of her anti-Neocon rhetoric, Coulter was a consistent supporter of George W. Bush’s handling of the Iraq War. At the height of the insurgency, when everything was falling apart in Iraq, Coulter routinely claimed that the war was going “swimmingly.” She famously called for invading Muslim countries in order to “kill their leaders and convert [their people] to Christianity.” Coulter was also a consistent supporter of Chris Christie. Further, she was a full-throated supporter of Mitt Romney in 2012. So, perhaps, her judgement is not as sound on Trump as I once thought.
Besides, the public agony of Ann Coulter (and other purported Trump supporters) over the President’s pinprick cruise missile strike in the desert is getting tiresome. They should know better. Trump is making America great again. He’s been president for under 100 days, and yet he’s fulfilled a great many of his campaign promises. President Trump has consistently proven that he is putting America’s needs first.
Can we stop agonizing and give the man a break?