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Trump Backer Says Put Jobs First

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

Chris Buskirk is back in our studios. He's a conservative blogger with the site American Greatness, supporter of President Trump, and he joins us on a dramatic moment for the new administration. Welcome to the program, sir.

CHRIS BUSKIRK: Oh, thanks. Thanks for having me.

INSKEEP: So what do you make of the president ordering strikes on Syria?

BUSKIRK: Yeah. It's a - it's not something I expected, I'll be honest with you. But it is something I think that the president and his administration needs to take the time to explain to the American people in general, to his voters in particular. I don't think this is what a lot of people both on the left and the right expected from this administration, which was a quick jump into military action in Syria of all places. Sure, we saw the - we saw action early on in the administration in Yemen. I think that was broadly supported. Syria is a different - is a different beast altogether.

INSKEEP: Well, there was a different policy being pursued in the campaign and in the administration up to just the other day in which the president said the focus is ISIS. That's all we really care about. And in fact, the administration took off the table the idea of removing Assad from power, Bashar al-Assad, the president of Syria. Now here's the president striking Syria. Is anybody going to see this as a loss of focus among Trump supporters?

BUSKIRK: Unless there's a good explanation, I think sure. I mean, I think people will want to give the president the benefit of the doubt. We always know that presidents and their national security teams have more - have access to more information than we do. But nonetheless, this was something that was discussed during the campaign. It's been discussed recently from the National Security team within the administration. And it is a - it is a different focus than what was expected. I think that to the extent that the president wants to pursue a policy that is so radically different than what he has talked about in the past, namely not focusing on ISIS but focusing on the Assad regime itself, that he needs to explain that. He needs to build support among his base and among the American people more generally.

INSKEEP: What would the America First philosophy that the president talked about have dictated in your mind in this situation? Horrible gas attack, as the president called it, and it's being blamed on Syria. What should he have done?

BUSKIRK: Sure. We can - look, we can stipulate up front. A horrible atrocity was committed. The question for any American president - it doesn't matter for was President Obama or President Trump or any future president - I think that the same questions apply, which is what vital national security interest is at play here? If we start there, I think that explains a lot. Now, if you want to make the argument, well, this is a humanitarian crisis, fine. You make that argument then. Don't just act and assume everybody's going to come along and understand what your motivations were. I think whatever the motivation was on the part of the administration, that needs to be explained clearly and a case needs to be made for military action.

INSKEEP: Chris Buskirk, I think this is really interesting because on this limited point of whether to go after the regime with airstrikes, you're actually sounding a little bit like President Obama, who was very reluctant to go there, very reluctant to get too involved in Syria's war. However critical you might be of other parts of the president's involvement, it's almost as if the current president and the last president were on a similar page tacitly until now.

BUSKIRK: On this particular issue, I think this may be the one foreign policy point where at least rhetorically the two of them agreed. And again, I just come back to the fact that action has now been taken, and I want to give the president the benefit of the doubt. But nonetheless, we have blood and treasure at risk. And I think the president owes the American people an explanation to say, look, here's why I did this, and if we're going to go forward, here's why we're going to continue and build that support. You know, what does victory look like? What are the costs involved? What are the interests of this country that are at stake here? And this is why we're going to take that action. If we don't do that, then you risk not losing just support of Trump voters but of the country at large.

INSKEEP: Chris Buskirk, thanks for coming by. I really appreciate.

BUSKIRK: My pleasure.

INSKEEP: He's a blogger with the website American Greatness.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC) Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.