What Craw­ford, Wester­man must con­sider with Trump

The Saline Courier - - OPINION - STEVE BRAWNER Steve Brawner is a syn­di­cated colum­nist in Arkansas and for­mer man­ag­ing ed­i­tor of The Saline Courier. Email him at brawn­er­[email protected] Fol­low him on Twit­ter @steve­brawner.

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.

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