Chicago (CNN)Republicans on Capitol Hill are becoming dismayed by President Donald Trump and worry what his tumultuous opening month portends for the next four years, prominent neoconservative commentator Bill Kristol said.
Bill Kristol: Hill Republicans asking if they can survive four years of Trump
The Axe Files, featuring David Axelrod, is a podcast distributed by CNN and produced at the University of Chicago Institute of Politics. The author works for the podcast.
"I think if you talk privately to Republicans on the Hill, it's like, 'Oh my God, what is going on? Can we survive this for four years?'" Kristol told David Axelrod on "The Axe Files," a podcast from the University of Chicago Institute of Politics and CNN.
The cautious optimism Republicans initially had "has flipped," he said.
This sense of confusion and unease will have legislative implications, Kristol predicts, as the policy goals of the Republican Party run up against political realities in Washington.
Kristol said congressional Republicans and commentators made a "big mistake" in believing the "facile" notion that the last eight years of legislation could be easily undone and replaced with conservative policies that would then be signed into law by a Republican president.
Trump has to contend with an ideologically diverse group of senators that won't be inclined to jettison principle for the sake of handing legislative victories to the new president, stated Kristol. "I think his legislative agenda is in much more trouble than people think."
"It is actually hard to govern," he said, recalling the legislative difficulties President Barack Obama faced despite enjoying a filibuster-proof majority in the Senate. "It is hard to get big pieces of legislation through" Congress.
Kristol, who served as Vice President Dan Quayle's chief of staff during the George H.W. Bush administration, was a leading voice of the "anti-Trump" movement during the Republican primary and advocated for a third-party challenger to Trump and Hillary Clinton in the general election.
A well-known proponent of a muscular US foreign policy, Kristol also expressed a deep concern with Trump's "America first" philosophy, which Kristol said signals America's withdrawal from an unstable world in need of its leadership.
The reassurance Kristol found in some of Trump's Cabinet appointments, he said, has dissipated as Trump navigates the complexities of foreign diplomacy with a worrying degree of impulsiveness and bombast.
"I've got to say, this first month has been very unnerving to me and to many, many others," Kristol said.
The conversation with Kristol took place before Trump's appointment of Lt. Gen. H.R. McMaster as his national security adviser, an appointment Kristol and other conservatives enthusiastically praised.