NASHVILLE - After Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump came under fire this week for controversial comments about NATO, U.S. Rep. Scott DesJarlais, R-Tenn., quickly rushed to his defense, saying, "It's expensive to police the world."
The move by the 4th Congressional District congressman is indicative of the support the South Pittsburg physician has given to the sometimes-brash billionaire and former reality star who accepted his party's nomination Thursday night.
DesJarlais got on the Trump train early this year and hasn't looked back.
In the latest instance, Trump told The New York Times he would ensure NATO member nations have "fulfilled their obligations to us" before he would move to protect them in the event of an attack.
That put Trump on a hot plate yet again with U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., who was critical, calling it a "rookie mistake."
But DesJarlais, a member of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs was quick to defend Trump on Thursday in an interview with The Daily Caller.
Trump, the congressman said, is "trying to make this a true alliance" and noted the U.S. is the only NATO member to spend more than 3 percent of its GDP on military spending.
"America always tends to be there when countries are in need, and I think he is just making the point that NATO needs to be there with America," DesJarlais said. "These countries have to do a better job of fulfilling their obligation."
U.S. Sen. Bob Corker, R-Tenn., who was considered among others by Trump as his running mate before the former Chattanooga mayor withdrew his name, has also stepped up to defend Trump on occasion, while at other times offering mild criticism where they part ways.
Regarding Trump's latest NATO comments, Corker, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee chairman, said in a statement, "First of all, our Article 5 commitments [to NATO] should never be questioned. It is the essence of the alliance."
"It is true, however," Corker added, "that many of us on both sides of the aisle are becoming exasperated that most members of the alliance are not honoring their obligations.
U.S. Rep. Marsha Blackburn, R-Tenn., meanwhile, was expected to deliver a Thursday night speech in support of Trump at the Republican National Convention in Cleveland.
Earlier in the day, Blackburn criticized Trump's GOP primary rival, Ted Cruz, for failing to endorse Trump during his Wednesday night convention speech, calling it "most unfortunate" during a panel session on women in politics hosted by The Atlantic and streamed on C-SPAN.
It "did not serve him well," Blackburn said. "I think as he lets time and space play its course, he will come back at that at some point in time and say, 'Why did I choose to do that?'"
Blackburn said GOP women "will take a lead in reuniting our party, and encouraging these guys, as I've said several times this week - same thing I would tell my kids when they were growing up: Get over yourself. Or as Taylor Swift would say, 'Shake it off.'"
But two other top Tennessee office holders have been more muted on Trump. U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., has simply said he will support the nominee.
As of late Thursday afternoon, Gov. Bill Haslam still had not done even that. A day earlier, Haslam did offer full praise of Trump's selection of Indiana Gov. Mike Pence, a staunch conservative, as his running mate.
Contact staff writer Andy Sher at email@example.com or 615-255-0550. Follow on Twitter @AndySher1.