When you entered the voting booth to cast your ballot for president last November, what issue was top of mind? If you said "foreign policy," you were among a tiny minority — only 13% of respondents to a CNN exit poll said it was the top issue — and you probably voted for Hillary Clinton, who won that minority by 27 points.
When it came to specific issues of national or economic security, however, whether domestic or overseas, those who voted for now-President Donald Trump were activated along foreign policy lines. For voters opposed to international trade or worried immigrants might take American jobs, Trump was the candidate by a wide margin. He won voters who said the fight against ISIS was going "very badly" by 71 points. And the 18% of voters who viewed terrorism as the most important issue supported Trump by a 17-point margin.
About two weeks before the end of his first 100 days, Trump may have found his footing in an area where he has the least expertise: foreign policy. Trump's approval rating was at 35 percentage points in mid-March. It has now risen to 41 points, holding steady after firing missiles at Syrian government forces, dropping the "mother of all bombs" on Afghanistan and saber-rattling against North Korea. The American media has jumped on Trump's action-oriented strategy, giving the TV-obsessed leader a plethora of headlines that paint Trump as decisive and aggressive on the world stage.
Rep. Mac Thornberry (R-Texas) was one of several Trump surrogates who tested this narrative in recent days. On Fox News Sunday, the chair of the House Armed Services Committee attacked former President Barack Obama to highlight what he sees as Trump's successful pivot. "President Trump is taking a different approach, thank goodness," Thornberry said. "He is sending a message that now the United States is going to stand up for our interests and make sure we have the military capability to prevail if we choose to use force."
That echoes recent comments from Vice President Mike Pence, who said Monday that America's "era of strategic patience" with North Korea has ended. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, who has advocated for foreign intervention and is a champion of an America with worldwide prominence, now meets with the president more than any other cabinet secretary. Trump's turn toward an aggressive foreign policy also comes as the president has demoted Steve Bannon, the mastermind of the president's "America first" message during the campaign and his early weeks in office. Bannon represented an inward-looking, often nativist viewpoint — he reportedly advocated against the Syria strike and was overruled — and has railed against the "globalists" that seem to be getting the upper hand in the White House.
Trump seems to see foreign policy as an area where he can "win" — in contrast to his attempts at health care reform and a travel ban, which ended in embarrassing failures for the president. Trump and his inner circle are continuing to ramp up pressure on North Korea with tweets and statements. The president is softening criticism of China to pressure the Chinese into bringing North Korea to the negotiating table after the country launched another missile over the weekend. The test failed, but raised concerns about North Korea's ability to launch major munitions.
With the Supreme Court confirmation of Neil Gorsuch standing as Trump's only major domestic win, one which required forever changing Senate rules, the attraction of "winning" on foreign policy may keep the president focused on a fight with North Korea instead of with the House Freedom Caucus or moderate Senate Republicans.
Victory at all costs led Trump to his win in November. To save a presidency many view as struggling, be prepared for this president to follow the scent of decisive action and increased approval ratings to conflict overseas.
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Today: Foreign policy hardly seems like Donald Trump's forte — but it's one area where, so far, he's been able to get what he sees as wins
More: Why you should pay attention to Turkey's vote.
Even more: Protesters demanded Trump's tax returns.
Trump's schedule today: Hosting the Easter Egg Roll and Hunt at the White House. Meeting with Secretary of State Rex Tillerson.
In Turkey, an authoritarian consolidates power
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan narrowly won a referendum to give him sweeping new powers to control all areas of Turkish government. Erdogan will now be able to appoint a near-majority of Supreme Court justices while taking executor powers away from the parliament, which sees its role in governing greatly diminished.
As Trump considers greater intervention in Syria, the stability of Turkey will be an important factor for American decision-making. Erdogan has helped the U.S. fight ISIS, but also attacked Kurdish rebels the U.S. has supported. The Turkish leader has cracked down on dissent since he survived a coup attempt less than a year ago. The election, which Erdogan's opponents claim he won fraudulently, gives an increasingly authoritarian leader more power in a country that is one of the few functioning democracies in the region — and a key NATO ally.
Tax Day protests demand Trump release his returns
Thousands of people turned out at Tax Day protests nationwide on Saturday to demand Trump release his tax returns. From San Francisco to New York and from Denver to Washington, D.C., protesters gathered, drawing Trump's ire on Twitter. The size of the protests demonstrated continued broad opposition to the president and evidence the "resistance" movement is still growing.
On the same day, an unrelated rally turned especially ugly. Protesters on the far left and far right clashed violently in Berkeley, California, on Saturday. Mic confirmed one of the aggressors was a known white supremacist who was attending in support of Trump. Anarchist protesters opposed to the president, wearing black face masks, also attacked Trump supporters. There's video of what amounted to a pitched battle at the link.
Fizzling tax reform?
Republicans wanted a grand legislative move on health care. Instead, they suffered a major defeat. Fearful of going the same way on taxes, the GOP are reportedly considering a scaled back approach to overhauling the tax code. It won't go as far as anyone wants, but it may be enough to keep moderates and conservatives together. More from Axios.
News and insight you cannot miss:
• Congress has 11 days to pass a measure to keep the government running beyond April 28. The latest negotiations include continued funding for Planned Parenthood and the Affordable Care Act, along with no dollars for Trump's border wall. (CNN)
• Comparing the Russian and American press in an era of fake news. (New York Times)
• Male, conservative Supreme Court justices are prone to interrupting liberals more than liberal or female justices are likely to cut off their conservative peers. (New York Times)
• Teen slams Republican senator, defends Planned Parenthood in epic town hall exchange. (Mic)