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“Republicans really have little respect for Trump”

Jurgen Zurheide: We wonder, what happened in the United States this week? The President obviously gave the Turkish president the green light for his invasion of Syria, and later he returned to power. In the own party, and that is remarkable with the Republicans, it is strongly criticized for it. And one wonders: what happens in foreign policy, who has the say? The president also justifies himself to his own supporters, he gets applause, but otherwise something may have changed in Washington. Has that really changed? We want to talk about this with John Kornblum, the former American ambassador here in Germany. Good morning, Mr. Kornblum!
John Kornblum: Good Morning!
Zurheide: Mr. Kornblum, as a diplomat, I ask you first of all, such a contract as we have seen him on a DIN A-4 page, because Mr. Pence has now concluded in Turkey, where this alleged truce is concerned – have you ever seen such a contract on a DIN A 4 page in your long diplomatic career?
Kornblum: Oh yes, I have seen much shorter contracts and also seen empty contracts. But in this case, the paper that was agreed on was obviously an attempt by the American administration to save something from a very weak and bad affair.
Trump makes quick, unprepared decisions
Zurheide: What does the whole thing say? Because let’s start a bit earlier, there was this telephone conversation, where he obviously, Mr. Trump, gave Mr. Erdogan the go-ahead for the invasion. Later he probably realized that that was not so good. What does that say about the administration when there is a telephone conversation, which is probably unprepared or where the president did not get prepared, then letters are sent that are also less diplomatic, there is a letter from a page, which does that say about the administration and the way politics, foreign policy is made?
Kornblum: Well, that just confirms the impression you’ve had for a long time, that is, it’s an administration that’s pretty much out of joint. There are revelations almost every day now in Washington in the press and in public about inconsistencies, about very quick, unprepared decisions, et cetera, et cetera. It’s a trend that’s been around for a year or more. And it will probably cause a really deep crisis.
Zurheide: Now we have the other point, and I would like to analyze that, the conversation between the government and the opposition, what we have seen, where the question was: where did a meltdown take place with Trump or Ms. Pelosi? What does that mean for the government and the opposition? Or do you say, well, that is still in the realm of the normal, or has that already left the normal?
Kornblum: Well, in politics it is always difficult to define the normal. But in that case, I mean, the sentence was doomed to death from the start, so to speak. The idea of ​​having an objective discussion between Pelosi and Trump has long since disappeared. But it was done, and Trump did not disappoint, Pelosi said he had a meltdown, so to speak, on the other hand, he says he’s praying for Pelosi because she’s somehow sick. It simply shows that there are no more relationships and that the impeachment process is now very fast and very consistent.
“Republicans really have little respect for Trump”
Zurheide: Now we look at the Republicans. Although you are a democrat, but still the question for you: What happens there? First of all, when I read, firstly, we know that in the House a large majority has condemned the President’s actions in Syria, and now Mitch McConnell is coming and saying he is sharply criticizing the Syrian Trump. What does that mean? What is happening inside the Republican Party, or is that overrated, if I ask that anyway?
Kornblum: No, I think the most important point for the Republicans at the moment is the election campaign. We are now barely a year before a choice. And Republicans really have little respect for Trump, you hear that over and over again, but of course they have respect for Trump voters. And many Republicans are afraid that if they go too far against Trump, they’ll be punished later by the Trump voters, and they’ll have to weigh that very closely. But there are more and more Republicans speaking out, and the issue with Syria was actually a good opportunity for Republicans to say legitimacy because foreign policy is not so much the focus of attention here. And you see, a vast majority of Republicans voted against Trump in Syria. And that shows how deep the rejection is in the party. But in the end: campaigning is in every country, so to speak, the center of a deputy.
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Zurheide: Therefore, the question, we have again seen pictures of a campaign event of Trump, where again the, I would almost say, the Jubelperser there and support him. How does that affect the electorate? You have just said that foreign policy is still under the radar. Does that have any effect?
Kornblum: Well, you can not say that, but these events that he does have a goal, and that’s to animate a base, as you call it. And he is still able to do that. There are still likely to be between 20 and 25 percent of the population who are really determined for him, and we can probably expect that he will do that increasingly in the near future because that is the only place where he really gets approval.
“Foreign policy plays virtually no role in the election campaign”
Zurheide: On the other hand, if you give the figure of 20, 25 percent – that’s not enough for reelection, is also clear. He does not have to be 40, he has to go to 50. Can he do that with such a strategy, or is this again such a typical elite discussion we are both conducting here, about foreign affairs that may interest only some that the elites in Washington say it all does not work, but that People say otherwise? I think we were wrong, right?
Kornblum: Yes, well, the people are hard to gauge, that’s the problem. The latest polls show that well over 50 percent of the population is now in favor of initiating a formal release. And in the end, it has very, very few voices to do in the states that are very critical to the election. And that’s why you’re a bit cautious with the Republicans because you can not know how that math will turn out. And it is not an elite discussion, but it is also, let’s say, no proper political discussion, because the mathematics in our electoral system is so complicated that it can hardly be calculated in advance.
Zurheide: There are some who say: It will be, if anything is going to tip over in the Republican Party, it will be so fast.
Kornblum: Yes.
Zurheide: So there’s something under the surface. The question is, where could such a point come from? Or is this question again too much interested, because in this country, Mr. Trump does not like so much?
Kornblum: Well, Syria is a very important point because it is just bad, inhumane. And this morning in the Washington Post, for example, there’s a Mitch McConnell, the Republican head of the Senate, where he criticizes this decision very hard. That’s already news. But you are right: foreign policy plays virtually no role in the election campaign. And even if it’s a bad decision, as in Syria, it is believed that this is exactly the feel of its base, that America has been involved in too many foreign wars and that the targets in Syria are too unclear, there are others who do that and he can probably justify that with some of his constituents.