“Fox & Friends” is so much more than a morning show. It is a kind of daily briefing for President Trump, whose Twitter feed often indicates that he is tuning in and forming policy views, based on what he sees. His focus this week on a caravan of Central Americans bound for the U.S. border appears to have been prompted by one of the show's segments, for example.
If he was watching Wednesday, Trump got a stern warning, along with his regular dose of positive reinforcement. “Fox & Friends” co-host Brian Kilmeade said “it would be a disaster” for the United States to withdraw troops from Syria, as the president has indicated he would like to do.
“I was really disturbed when the president said this last week,” Kilmeade said, referring to Trump's remarks at a rally in Ohio.
“We'll be coming out of Syria, like, very soon,” Trump said last Thursday. “Let the other people take care of it now.”
Trump reiterated his intention on Tuesday, saying, “I want to get out. I want to bring our troops back home. I want to start rebuilding our nation.” He added that the United States gets “nothing — nothing — except death and destruction” out of military spending in the Middle East. “It's a horrible thing.”
On “Fox & Friends,” co-host Pete Hegseth — whom Trump recently considered as a possible secretary of Veterans Affairs — challenged the president's thinking.
“If you pull out of Syria too quickly, you create a vacuum,” he said.
“ISIS — the caliphate has been defeated, but they've all fled into Turkey. Islamist Turkey,” Hegseth continued, using an alternate term for the Islamic State. “And they're still involved. You've got the Kurdish allies still not ready to stand up by themselves. And you've got Iran wanting to take over that entire vacuum and wanting to build a land bridge to our friends in Israel.”
“And what about Russia, too?” co-host Ainsley Earhardt added, noting Russia's support for the regime of Syrian leader Bashar al-Assad.
Kilmeade then turned to address the camera — and possibly the president — directly, employing a familiar strategy to make his point: flattery.
“I think the president is too smart,” Kilmeade said. “He knows what happened when President Obama took his troops out of Iraq. ... Man, it was a dumb move for him to do that. Look, it created ISIS.”
Kilmeade added that Trump “wants Saudi Arabia to pay for our 2,000 troops [in Syria]. I'm fine with that because we are doing their work. But there is not a person around the president, I believe, that would support him pulling out the troops. It would be a disaster.”
“This could be a negotiation,” Hegseth offered — appealing, like Kilmeade, to the president's ego.
“I hope it's a negotiation,” Kilmeade replied. “It would be a disaster.”
Trump has not tweeted about the “Fox & Friends” commentary, but what the president sees on his favorite network could influence his thinking. After all, he just tapped John Bolton, a Fox News Channel commentator, to be his next national security adviser.
Bolton said recently that another U.S. airstrike on Syria would be “justified” and that a conflict with Iran and Russia in Syria is “one possibility.”