What Crawford, Westerman must consider with Trump
Idon’t know the real reasons why people do things, including often myself. This column is about considerations.
Last week, all four U.S. House of Representatives members from Arkansas voted for a resolution criticizing President Trump’s decision to let Turkey attack the Kurds. It passed 354-60 with 225-0 support among Democrats and 129-60 support among Republicans.
That was interesting but not surprising. Republicans and Democrats disagree about much, but there’s a consensus – not unanimous agreement, but consensus – that the United States cannot simply disengage from the world’s hotspots. Trump disrupts that consensus, as he does so many things.
Also interesting – and also not surprising – were the comments made by Arkansas’ House members, as reported by the Arkansas Democrat-gazette.
Rep. Steve Womack, who represents the state’s 3rd District in Northwest Arkansas, was direct, as he often is. The Democrat-gazette reported him saying the pullout was not a “well thought-out decision” and asking, “Does our word mean anything?”
Rep. French Hill, who represents Central Arkansas’ 2nd District, said on the House floor that the Trump administration is “disengaging from Syria without a strategy.” Using Trump’s own words against him, he said the few American forces who had been in Syria were not engaged in an “endless war.” He said the pullout would give Syria and Russia a chance to create a “bloodbath” that could reverse the gains the United States has made against the ISIS terrorists.
On the other hand, Rep. Rick Crawford, who represents eastern and northern Arkansas’ 1st District, avoided criticizing Trump in an interview, saying Trump was “not necessarily” betraying the Kurds. Rep. Bruce Westerman, who represents the sprawling 4th District covering southern and western Arkansas, didn’t even mention Trump in a written statement. Instead, he criticized Turkey.
I’m confident the four all genuinely supported the resolution.
But why were Womack and Hill critical of Trump, while Crawford and Westerman were not critical at all? Part of it could be due to background and personality. Womack and Hill – particularly Hill – are traditional Republicans, as is Westerman. Womack is a former mayor of Rogers, while Hill was a banker who previously had worked for President George
H.W. Bush. They are far from Trumpists. Westerman is a civil engineer and forester who served in the state Legislature.
Crawford, meanwhile, traveled a more unconventional path. He disposed of bombs in the Army, competed in rodeos and was a rodeo announcer, and then was an agriculture news reporter and broadcaster.
Maybe it’s just me, but doesn’t that sound more like a guy who would fit better with Trump than a mayor, a banker who worked for Bush, and an engineer? I’m not being critical of anyone here. Crawford, like Trump, is not a conventional type.
Then there are the political considerations, which never can be ignored. Politics these days is about solidifying the base. That’s definitely the case in Arkansas, where your congressional seat is safe if you have the support of a majority of Republicans. Crawford and Westerman represent districts with a lot of conservative rural white voters. That’s Trumpland. Womack and Hill represent the state’s most urban and suburban districts. They have a little more room to maneuver in being critical of the president.
Talk Business & Politics conducted a poll of likely Arkansas Republican voters in April 2018. That’s a long time ago, but it’s instructive.
Trump had more than 80% approval among Republicans in Womack’s and Westerman’s districts, which was a lot. In Westerman’s 4th, however, it was 91.3%. And in Crawford’s 1st, it was 96.6%. The poll had a margin of error of plus-minus 3.8%, so I guess it’s theoretically possible that the only Republicans in the 1st District who didn’t approve of Trump were the ones who happened to answer the poll.
That political reality is not necessarily the only reason Crawford and Westerman were more cautious than Womack and Hill in their comments about Trump. But it was a consideration.