“Tax cuts. Deregulation. More for the military; less for the United Nations. The Islamic State crushed in its heartland. Assad hit with cruise missiles. Troops to Afghanistan. Arms for Ukraine. A tougher approach to North Korea. Jerusalem recognized as Israel’s capital. The Iran deal decertified. Title IX kangaroo courts on campus condemned. Yes to Keystone. No to Paris. Wall Street roaring and consumer confidence high.
And, of course, Neil Gorsuch on the Supreme Court. What, for a conservative, is there to dislike about this policy record as the Trump administration rounds out its first year in office?
That’s the question I keep hearing from old friends on the right who voted with misgiving for Donald Trump last year and now find reasons to like him. I admit it gives me pause. I agree with every one of the policy decisions mentioned above. But I still wish Hillary Clinton were president.”
—-New York Times Bret Stephens, in a column titled “Why I’m Still a NeverTrumper”
Stephens, since joining the Times left-heavy columnist stable as its token wishy-washy cnservative, has been occasionally perceptive, often incoherent, and obviously conflicted. In this case, he is ethically confused.
I wrote the equivalent of this column in the post called Roger Simon Says The NeverTrumpers Owe The President An Apology. Well, He’s Not Getting One From Me…(Mine was also better, and I wasn’t paid for it.)
Like Stephens, I do not regard Trump’s largely successful first year (by his own standards, and certainly by the standards of those who predicted a national catastrophe) sufficient to bring me to retract my original objections to Trump. I wrote,
“Competent and responsible leadership is not only made up of what a leader does, but how he does it. How Donald Trump operates as President is divisive, obnoxious, politically self-destructive, undignified, chaotic and scary, just as I expected. This conduct, which is entirely a product of his character deficits and near complete lack of interest in ethical values, does harm far beyond the benefits any policies he may advance that I agree with, or that are improvements over the mess left by Barack Obama. He is, day by day, week be week, diminishing that strength and credibility of the Presidency by lowering it to his thuggish, crude, juvenile level. He is also provoking his opposition and the news media to lower themselves to his level or lower, doing further damage to our democracy.”
This essentially what The Times columnist is saying when he writes,
“And want to preserve your own republican institutions? Then pay attention to the character of your leaders, the culture of governance and the political health of the public. It matters a lot more than lowering the top marginal income tax rate by a couple of percentage points.
This is the fatal mistake of conservatives who’ve decided the best way to deal with Trump’s personality — the lying, narcissism, bullying, bigotry, crassness, name calling, ignorance, paranoia, incompetence and pettiness — is to pretend it doesn’t matter. “Character Doesn’t Count” has become a de facto G.O.P. motto. “Virtue Doesn’t Matter” might be another.
But character does count, and virtue does matter, and Trump’s shortcomings prove it daily.”
Nonetheless, we properly judge leaders on both their accomplishments and their effect on our culture, the office, and the institutions. How anyone could write that last paragraph and still say “I still wish Hillary Clinton were President” without giggling hysterically and hurling himself out the window is a mystery for the ages. Her career was built on the man for whom “It’s the economy, stupid!” was invented, to drive in the position that character didn’t matter. I join Stephens in wishing that we had a different President, one who could lead strongly (unlike, say, the previous President), with dignity (unlike Bill Clinton), competently (unlike the Republican President in between), and honestly without making Lincoln, Washington and Ike roll over in their graves with his petty, boorish and presidential conduct every day. Hillary Clinton, however, is obviously not different enough to be a net improvement, especially with the corrupt, anti-free speech, anti-male, anti-white, divisive and cynical nascent totalitarians that now dominate her party, with its complicit 90% of the news media.
Stephens is willing to trust the party that has been trying to undermine our institutions since the 2016 campaign (has he missed the entire Donna Brazile story?) with preserving those institutions? Meanwhile, Clinton’s character is better than Trump’s like being ripped to pieces by a jaguar is more pleasant than being eaten by a shark.
What Stephens is saying is that he will accept untrustworthiness, dishonesty and corrupt character AND is willing to forfeit what he regards as positive developments. That makes no sense. That is just blind Trump hate.
If he really wishes she were President, Stephens is not only not a conservative, he’s not competent.