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Trump’s reversal in Syria causes ‘cracks’ in GOP support

President Trump saw cracks in support among congressional Republicans last week, following his decision to pull back troops in northern Syria and amid allegations he withheld military aid to Ukraine for political gains. The busy week in politics comes as Democrats prepare for the latest presidential debate set for Tuesday in Ohio. Jeff Greenfield joins Megan Thompson for some analysis.

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  • Megan Thompson:

    It's a busy week in politics, including the upcoming Democratic debate on Tuesday in Ohio. Jeff Greenfield joins me now from Santa Barbara for some analysis.

    So we heard this news this morning about Hunter Biden, he's now stepping down from the board of a Chinese company. How do you think that's going to play out this week?

  • Jeff Greenfield:

    It's an issue that Democrats raise all the time about President Trump's family who were still actively involved in tens of millions of dollars in businesses, and I could see some of Joe Biden's opponents saying, well, you know, was that a case of good judgment, how come you didn't raise this with your son when he was beginning to sign on to some of these companies?

  • Megan Thompson:

    What else do you think are going to be hearing on Tuesday from the candidates?

  • Jeff Greenfield:

    So I think two things are going to come up. One, I think the interrogators, the panel are going to ask these candidates how much they identify with some of the more controversial positions that some have taken. Beto O'Rourke suggested that churches that oppose same-sex marriage be deprived of their tax-exempt status, which is widely at variance with traditional First Amendment notions. I think the other kinds of issues that have come up in the past: are you for open borders or do you think that there's going to be some limit? Do you favor taking away private health insurance? Where are you on abortion, any restrictions? The other thing that I think is going to come up is age. We just had a 78-year-old candidate suffer a heart attack and I think that issue is going to come up with respect not just to Sanders but with Joe Biden, who is almost the same age. It's an interesting notion that if either of those two people are elected president, on their first day in office they will be older than Ronald Reagan was on his last day. And I think that's an issue that's going to haunt at least Sanders and Biden, possibly Elizabeth Warren, though the polls suggest people are less worried about her age than they are about Sanders or Biden.

  • Megan Thompson:

    Turning now to the impeachment inquiry. For the past three years, President Trump has had almost lockstep support from congressional Republicans, but we are starting to see some cracks in that, right?

  • Jeff Greenfield:

    Yeah, and I think it's because the more immediate issues have to do with foreign policy matters that are of special concern to senators because the Senate is the body that ratifies treaties, confirms ambassadors and diplomats, and what the president stands accused of doing with respect to Ukraine is holding an ally besieged by Russia hostage to his political concerns. So depending on what next week's witnesses say at various congressional committees, you can see some congressional Republicans bothered by this in a way that other things that Trump has done did not. I also think this sudden reversal of policy in northern Syria, where after a phone call with the president of Turkey, we're hearing reports of chaos in northern Syria, of ISIS prisoners being freed. That's the kind of result that is going to bother Republican conservatives who have long argued that we need a more muscular foreign policy.

  • Megan Thompson:

    I mean, how much do you think this is going to weaken the president's hand as we approach the very probable likelihood of impeachment in the House?

  • Jeff Greenfield:

    Well, you know, we should think back to the Clinton impeachment when only five Democrats, basically southern Democrats who really weren't Democrats at all, voted to impeach the president and no Democrat in the Senate voted to convict. As of now I don't see more than a handful, fingers of one hand with some left over, a couple of Republicans in the House who will vote for impeachment, but unless and until a kind of reasonable number of Republicans break with him, I think he's going to continue to fight this on the basis that this is partisan politics and it's an attempt to undo the 2016 election and that line is going to hold until we see signs of more cracks in the wall than we've seen so far.

  • Megan Thompson:

    Great. Jeff Greenfield, thank you so much as always.

  • Jeff Greenfield:

    Thanks for having me.

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