“We’ve been there long enough. We’ve done what we’re supposed to. Now, let the people take over and do their thing,” Harold said. “If they can’t? Hey. You had your help. We taught you how to fish, you oughta be able to eat.”
Harold wasn’t alone in his sentiments among those who watched Trump rally voters for the Louisiana governor’s race, which will be held Saturday. Their support suggests that while the decision has been unpopular with Republican lawmakers with more traditional, hawkish views on foreign policy, it has been greeted positively by the president’s most ardent supporters — the ones he is counting on to turn out in droves as part of his reelection strategy. Trump campaigned on a promise to pull troops out of conflicts abroad as part of his nationalist platform and his supporters argue that his Syria decision is consistent with what he said he would do on the campaign trail and since becoming president.
“Going into the Middle East is one of the worst decisions ever made in the history of our country. It’s like quicksand,” said Trump, who did not mention Syria by name Friday night. “We are slowly and carefully bringing our great soldiers and warriors back home.”
Critics of Trump’s decision to withdraw troops from Syria argue that the president is leaving the Kurds — longtime U.S. allies crucial to American efforts to combat the Islamic State — defenseless at the hands of the Turkish military, which launched an offensive against them in northern Syria in the wake of U.S. withdrawal. They also argue that the decision will allow for the regeneration of the Islamic State in the region.
Sen. Lindsey O. Graham (R-S.C.), for example, bent his usual supportive posture to call the decision “shortsighted” and “irresponsible.” Other usual Trump allies have echoed similar critiques. Some supporters Friday dismissed such criticism of the decision by dismissing the critics themselves.
“Lindsey Graham is criticizing him? Lindsey Graham — I think he folds when things get tough,” said Aloner Nicks, 66, from Ville Platte, La.
“That’s what I like about Trump. He is tough. He doesn’t fold. He’s my John Wayne. My Clint Eastwood. My Rocky Balboa.”
Others separated the effects Trump’s decision would have on American troops from the potential consequences for the region.
“I’m glad he did it. Get our troops out of harm’s way.” said Katy Burgess, a Lake Charles resident. “I’m not so sure I agree with Turkey doing what it’s doing, but I’m glad he pulled our troops out of harm’s way.”
Trump has pushed a similar interpretation, arguing that he is prioritizing American interest over others — an argument he articulated in striking terms for the crowd Friday night.
“I am not president of the world. I am president of the United States of America,” Trump said. “We reject globalism. We embrace patriotism.”
That line received raucous applause from a crowd gathered to watch Trump stump for two Republican candidates for governor who are hoping to combine for more than 50 percent of the vote here Saturday, thereby forcing a runoff election with incumbent Democrat John Bel Edwards.
Trump had kept that crowd waiting about 30 extra minutes late for the rally to start Friday evening, and he told the crowd China had kept him — a reference to negotiations with Chinese Vice Premier Hiu Le that resulted in the White House agreeing not to proceed with plans to increase tariffs on Chinese goods soon. Even as he explained the delay, Trump made sure to tell the crowd he had elevated domestic priorities over foreign business.
“I said I’m not going to be late for Louisiana, even if it means standing up China,” Trump said.
Trump spoke for an hour and a half, and didn’t touch on the situation in the Middle East until the end of his remarks. When he did, some attendees were already on their way out, and those remaining showed no signs of opposition to the president’s strategy.
“I feel very strongly that he’s doing the right thing for our troops. That’s what’s most important to me, doing what’s best for our people,” said Julie Davidson, who has two sons serving in the Marine Corps.
Trump said the decision is not made with only American troops in mind.
“After decades of building foreign countries, we are finally rebuilding our own country,” His supporters echoed the notion that other countries have benefited from American help while Americans have not.
“[They] haven’t helped us,” Harold said. “It’s doesn’t have to be quid pro quo, but you didn’t help us.”