On Tuesday, I noted the oddity of a sitting president of the United States being contradicted on nearly every area of national security by his own intelligence community. I was responding to the testimony before the Senate Intelligence Committee of Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats, CIA director Gina Haspel, and FBI director Christopher Wray, each of whom provided assessments diametrically opposed to Donald Trump’s own expressed opinions on Russia, North Korea, Iran, Syria, ISIS, the southern border and the threat of climate change.
On Wednesday, the president lashed out against their testimony, stating “they are wrong,” calling them “extremely passive and naive,” and suggesting “perhaps Intelligence should go back to school!”
The top Democrats on the congressional intelligence committees were predictably unimpressed.
Trump drew rebukes for his tweets from Democrats, including Rep. Adam B. Schiff (D-Calif.), chairman of the House Intelligence Committee.
“It is a credit to our intelligence agencies that they continue to provide rigorous and realistic analyses of the threats we face,” Schiff said in a statement. “It’s deeply dangerous that the White House isn’t listening.”
Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-Va.), the vice chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, also weighed in.
“The President has a dangerous habit of undermining the intelligence community to fit his alternate reality,” Warner said in a tweet. “People risk their lives for the intelligence he just tosses aside on Twitter.”
But we really shouldn’t see this as a partisan concern. At the New York Times, Peter Baker reports on a growing chorus of Republican critics of Trump’s foreign policy.
They think pulling out of Syria and Afghanistan would be a debacle. They think North Korea cannot be trusted. They think the Islamic State is still a threat to America. They think Russia is bad and NATO is good.
The trouble is their president does not agree.
More than two years into his administration, the disconnect between President Trump and the Republican establishment on foreign policy has rarely been as stark. In recent days, the president’s own advisers and allies have been pushing back, challenging his view of the world and his prescription for its problems.
The growing discontent among Republican national security hawks was most evident on Tuesday when Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the majority leader and perhaps Mr. Trump’s most important partner in Congress, effectively rebuked the president by introducing a measure denouncing “a precipitous withdrawal” of American troops from Syria and Afghanistan.
There are partisan differences on most foreign policy issues, and there is rarely unanimity within either party. We’re getting close to unanimity on some things though, like skepticism about North Korea’s good intentions, the inadvisability of a hasty and unplanned pullout of Syria, the nefarious activities of Vladimir Putin, and the importance of NATO. Trump is isolated on these issues, and it’s putting stress on the Republicans.
Watching him discredit the testimony of his own administration’s foreign policy and national security experts isn’t going to make them feel any better about his continued presidency.