Victor Davis Hanson:
Count the reasons to oppose Donald Trump’s candidacy for the Republican nomination for president. His conservative credentials are thin, recent, and often haphazard. His brash style will likely alienate more voters than it will attract. What he calls being “direct” translates as gratuitously mean-spirited, rude, and even cruel. His knowledge of the issues, at least in traditional terms or compared with that of his Republican rivals, varies from spotty to nonexistent. And Trump often, like Hillary Clinton (e.g., dodging bullets in the Balkans) or Barack Obama (cf. the mythoi of his “memoir”), seems to make up details about his long business career.
All that said, there are two strains of opposition to Trump that seem incoherent. First is the suggestion that the majority of his supporters, the “Trumpsters,” are deluded — the naïve fooled by a buffoon. The second is the suggestion that the Trump candidacy marks a new low in American politics, in terms of decency and competence.
Let us quickly dispense with the second writ. Trump is a reflection of, not a catalyst for, a dishonest age. To illustrate my point, take a few of our contemporary public figures who are running for office on their assumed superior character and ethics. There is no need to dwell on the inveterate dissembler Hillary Clinton, with her labyrinth of e-mail, Benghazi, Clinton Foundation, and Wall Street speaking-fees deceit. Bernie Sanders, the archetypal socialist, calls for the wealthy to pay exorbitant income-tax rates. Yet Sanders himself paid an effective rate of about 13 percent, after taking thousands of dollars of itemized deductions, including a mortgage-interest deduction on a second home — all legal, and all just the sort of self-interested tax planning routinely embraced by Americans in the upper brackets, whose resulting reduced taxes the socialist Sanders is on record as abhorring. In recent interviews, the supposedly cerebral Sanders proved himself a veritable dunce, clueless about the U.S. banking system, current U.S. financial statutes, and the basics of how the U.S. criminal- and civil-justice systems work. I suppose if he were Trump, Sanders would argue that he was too busy making “huge” profits to sweat such details, but what is Sanders’s excuse for being so ill-informed? That he was too occupied as a U.S. senator to learn anything about the nation’s banking and legal systems?
Would Trump mar the protocols of the White House? Perhaps. But that is another horse that long ago left the barn. Barack Obama has recently invited a number of rap artists, with long pedigrees of extremist and racialist rhetoric, to the White House. One, Kendrick Lamar (said to be Obama’s “favorite rapper”), has a current album whose cover shows a number of African-American males on the White House lawn, boozing, holding wads of cash, and celebrating, while the body of a dead white judge — black crosses mutilating his eyes — lies before them. Deep, profound, heavy symbolism? Switch the ancestries of the album’s corpse and its celebrants, and the Southern Poverty Law Center would be all over it.
The other White House guest rapper, Rick Ross — does life really replicate album covers? — had his ankle-bracelet alarm go off following a presidential chat. A judge had it clapped on Ross’s ankle because he is currently on bail facing charges of kidnapping, aggravated assault, and aggravated battery (how does one get through the White House metal detector with a court-imposed ankle bracelet on — did someone pass him through with a wave of the hand?). Obama has praised Beyoncé as a role model for his own daughters. The singer’s just-released video shows her destroying cars with a baseball bat as she promises to exact revenge on rivals, or, more specifically, “I’m gonna f— me up a bitch.”
We could, of course, beat another presidential dead horse in Bill Clinton, a figure who makes Petronius’s Trimalchio appear staid and well-mannered. Is there a chance that a President Donald Trump would hire an intern and engage in oral intercourse with her in the Oval Office bathroom, after enduring a long string of complaints from a variety of women that he had variously grabbed their breasts in a White House hallway, pulled out his phallus in an Arkansas hotel room, and sexually assaulted a nursing-home operator? In Clinton’s case, this was all contextualized by his feminist wife — and current likely Democratic nominee — who now supports recalibrating sexual-assault laws on the premise that the allegations of female accusers “deserved to be believed.” I doubt that even the most imaginative writer on The Apprentice could top that. By “that,” I mean behavior that was once at least tsk-tsked by the Washington elite establishment, and that would easily get a teacher fired in Fresno or a fork-lift driver sent home in Akron.
But these are merely distractions in the age of the new normal, in which a president has ignored the Constitution, rendered immigration law null and void, doubled the U.S. debt, crashed U.S. foreign policy, and left us facing Armageddon from Iraq to the nation’s health care.
The moral corruption of our elites predated and transcends Donald Trump, and is second nature to many of his likely critics. Take one example from our premier legal institution, Harvard Law School, steward of America’s jurisprudence. Recently at a Law School panel on the Middle East, a young Harvard law student, Husam El-Qoulaq, asked visiting Israeli dignitary Tzipi Livni, a former foreign minister and a center-left representative in the Israeli Knesset, a simple question: “OK, my question is for Tzipi Livni. Um, how is it that you are so smelly?”
Aside from the anti-Semitic pedigree of the slur about “smelly” Jews and the crassness of the question, what was the reaction of Harvard Law School? It refused to release the name of the questioner, and in Orwellian fashion edited his question out of a video altogether (in the same manner that the White House initially edited out from its official video French president Hollande’s reference to “Islamic terrorism”). El-Qoulaq so far faces no disciplinary action, and thus apparently is emblematic of the values of Harvard Law School. But were he Jewish and were the visiting dignitary a Palestinian, he would have been expelled or become persona non grata on campus.
Harvard Law School and its aptly named Dean Minow are just coming off another “teachable moment,” in which it is likely that the supposedly racist defacing of the photos of African-American law professors was not the work of white racists at all, but yet another campus example of supposed anti-racists seeking to concoct micro-aggressions to justify their own advocacy existence — again, to the silence of Dean Minow. But it’s not just Harvard. Few administrators at Duke, Yale, the Clinton Foundation, or the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change would have the requisite moral fides to accuse Trump of either lying or corruption.
Back to the first charge. In fact, Trump’s supporters are not nativists, xenophobes, and veritable nihilists. They represent instead a mass revolt against insanity of the sort that we have grown accustomed to assume is normal.
Consider that almost half of all traffic accidents in Los Angeles these days are hit-and-run. Has Jeb Bush or John Kasich or, for that matter, Jorge Ramos been hit by a driver who left the scene of an accident, and who was without car registration or insurance? I have twice — and on four occasions I have had a driver veer off the road onto my property, destroy numerous grape vines, ditch his wrecked auto, and flee. The government response was not to help track down the fleeing criminal in order to allow compensation. Instead, on one of those occasions, an officer warned me that if I were to tow the abandoned car away for salvage fees to set against the damage I would be arrested. The tragic and needless death of Kate Steinle is, for those at ground zero of illegal immigration, a “There but for the grace of God go I” moment that thousands share.
Are a few of the NRO’ers starting to do their mea culpas?
Seems some are attempting to rehabilitate their claim to the title; pundit.
Well, I appreciate VDH when it comes to most of his views.
I have to wonder how much research (and from where) these guys do before they opine, however.
I have only seen Donald Trump campaign in a mere shirt and jacket (no tie) twice.
On both occasions he was outdoors in high winds and wearing a ball cap.
(The “Make America Great Again,” caps are all made in the USA, in CA, to be specific.)
And, on many occasions I have heard Donald Trump say he would move into the White House and NOT LEAVE for 4 years….ie., no foreign vacations. Business travel for the USA only.
I have also heard him say that he’d not take the Presidential salary. If a token pay was a requirement he would accept a $1/year paycheck.
On a different thread Donald Trump via Paul Manafort was meeting with Mitch McConnell.
But how else can people work together if they refuse to meet together?
And meeting with someone does not equal buckling to their will 100% either.
Donald Trump gives an example of signing a deal for a building then doing a walk-through and discovering many deal-breaking faults.
He went into a meeting and talked the sellers down even more than he hoped to!
When Donald Trump has Mitch McConnell ”on his side” he can wheel and deal the Dems ”on the other side” into much more than, say, Obama could when he refused to even work with his own Dems on the Hill.
What’s wrong with that?
I wonder if or when the first NRO ”Against Trump” signatory will come around in public.
Some of them are slouching into position to do just that.