By any reasonable standard, Donald Trump is in a brutal position. He’s struggled to get his approval ratings out of the 40s. And yet, Trump remains standing in part because the Republican base loves him. According to Gallup, a whopping 87 percent of Republicans approve of Trump’s performance. But the scales may be coming off the eyes of at least one major Republican-leaning think tank.
The Heritage Foundation has been one of the leading voices of the conservative movement for the better part of four decades. It was the first major conservative think tank to throw its weight behind Trump, and played a significant role in recommending people for the Trump administration. Some 66 Heritage Foundation employees and alumni ended up in the West Wing. It also recommended the nominations of, among others, Scott Pruitt, Jeff Sessions, and Betsy DeVos.
Under the circumstances, it comes as no surprise that the Heritage Foundation has been one of the loudest cheerleaders for Trump. For instance, in June, Trump railed about a supposed spike in crime in Germany, even though German crime statistics show crime actually dropped last year. But in a case of alternative facting that would do Trump himself proud, Heritage Foundation fellow Robin Simcox claimed Trump was actually on to something. It claimed that Germany faced more terror threats in 2016 than it did from 2000 to 2013 combined. Its verdict?
“Trump’s tweet comes closer to capturing the mood and feeling in Europe than his critics. He seems to recognize what so many politicians and media figures won’t: that Europe faces a major crisis in its culture and in its democracy. Obsess over the technicalities of this specific tweet and you are missing the trees for the forest.”
More recently, Heritage Foundation fellow Hans von Spakovsky dismissed the bipartisan outrage over the separation of migrant families as no big deal. As he put it, it was merely a consequence of “illegally crossing–or recrossing–our border.”
That’s what makes some recent action on the Heritage Foundation’s Twitter feed rather interesting, to say the least. On Thursday, ahead of Trump’s trip to the NATO summit in Brussels next week, the Heritage Foundation’s social media team felt the need to give Trump a few reminders.
What does it say when a think tank, regardless of political shade, has to remind the president of the United States that Russia is not our friend? Or that Putin is a crime boss? Or that his takeover of Crimea is illegal? Or that NATO is a critical part of our defense policy? Tellingly, only one of those five statements–the call for Europe to spend more on defense–matches Trump’s stated or known policy.
The Heritage Foundation has also let it be known that it is not pleased with Trump’s recent round of tariffs. On Saturday, it retweeted a thread from foundation fellow and economist Tori Whiting calling for the tariffs to be rescinded.
Lest you think that Whiting was merely speaking for herself, she was merely reiterating what she said a few days earlier on the foundation’s official podcast, “Heritage Explains.” Listen here.
What makes this even more staggering is that this public break with Trump comes at a time when there seems to be an 11th commandment in the conservative movement: “Thou shalt not speak ill of Donald Trump.”
Could Trump’s favorite think tank be coming to its senses? We’ll just have to wait and see.
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