Of all the things I’ve ever gotten wrong, the most embarrassing is probably that, once upon a time, I called David French principled.
My first exposure to French was via the Evangelicals for Mitt website, where he (rightfully, at the time) made the case for nominating Mitt Romney in 2008 (shocking as it may seem to younger righties today, back then he really was the conservative alternative to pro-abortion Rudy Giuliani, nanny statist Mike Huckabee, and pro-himself John McCain).
From there, I found French’s background as a religious liberty attorney who volunteered to go to Iraq not only incredibly impressive, but incredibly humbling. As anti-Trumpism began morphing from a valid primary position into a general-election malady, French’s service to both his country and the movement kept me straining to give his intentions the benefit of the doubt for as long as I could.
But eventually, it became impossible not to notice that David wasn’t merely wrong, but dishonest.
It became impossible to ignore that he was willing to risk the lives and liberties of millions of Americans for no better reason than to register his contempt for a distasteful presidential candidate. Since 2016, there have been countless examples of French’s distortions (demonizing Christians while twisting their arguments, playing semantic games to trash honest conservatives, and pieces that so egregiously misstate facts and law they have to be extensively fact-checked by colleagues after publication), and his watered-down conservatism (suggesting we can’t do anything about libraries hosting drag queen events for kids, asserting hateful lunatics have a First Amendment right to teach students at taxpayer expense, citing fringe trolls as evidence conservatism as a whole and America itself are becoming more racist, and most recently accusing the Right of “caricaturing” environmentalism).
But while his latest piece for Time Magazine (where he apparently runs the stuff that’s too dishonest and too lefty even for post-Buckley National Review) may mark a new low, it also helpfully gathers many of his worst lies into one place, the ultimate proof that Pastor David French thinks the commandment against bearing false witness is either optional or doesn’t apply to him, and just how much of other people’s lives, liberties, and well-being he’s willing to sacrifice to be rid of Donald Trump.
It was telling that in hours of testimony and sometimes acrimonious cross-examination, Mueller’s critics did not undermine a single one of the report’s material factual assertions regarding Trump’s conduct or the conduct of his team.
They also demonstrated that Mueller didn’t give a damn about the veracity of the “material factual assertions” that launched so much of the investigation, that he couldn’t explain the partisan biases of the team he assembled, that he could cite no precedent for the “not exonerated” standard, that he refused to reveal when he concluded there was no collusion (because that would’ve required explaining why he chose to keep the probe going for at least an additional year), that he wouldn’t explain his team’s leaks to the press, and that he was only interested in one party’s potential “collusion” with the Kremlin.
It’s not a “Russia Hoax” to note that Trump’s former National Security Adviser, Michael Flynn, lied about his contacts with Russia. It’s a simple fact that Trump’s campaign adviser, George Papadopolous, lied about his communications with a person he believed to be connected to Russia.
Trump’s longtime friend and informal campaign advisor, Roger Stone, has been indicted in part for lying about his efforts to contact Wikileaks.
Moreover, there is now also evidence that Manafort transmitted internal Trump campaign polling data to Ukrainians and a Russian oligarch.
Trump’s former “fixer” and lawyer lied about Trump’s continued efforts to negotiate a deal for a Trump Tower Moscow – efforts that continued during a presidential campaign where Trump made startling conciliatory statements about Vladimir Putin.
It’s absolutely true that Donald Trump Jr., Paul Manafort, and Jared Kushner met with a Russian lawyer in Trump Tower in an effort to get incriminating information on Hillary Clinton, part of what Trump Jr. was clearly told was “part of Russia and its government’s support for Mr. Trump.” Trump himself then edited Donald Jr.’s statement in 2017 to mislead the public about the true intent of the meeting […]
All of it reflects the fact that the Trump campaign was laden with individuals who were willing, eager even, to accept campaign help from America’s chief geopolitical foe.
All of which is bad. Trump’s campaign boast that he would hire only “the best people” was a farce, and possibly the single biggest handicap to his presidency. Even so, none of it amounts to evidence that the Trump campaign learned of, condoned, or encouraged any illegal Russian activities, or that it promised anything to the Kremlin in exchange for support…as further evidence by Trump’s actual policies toward Russia.
They are every bit as much reflective of his character and disposition as the infamous “Access Hollywood” tape, his multiple adulteries…his hush-money arrangements with porn stars…
Say, did you know Donald Trump was a sexual reprobate? What a scoop!
Later in the piece, French admonishes readers to “never presume that Americans already know the facts,” that “Trump’s flaws are already ‘baked in’ into how people think of him”…but let’s be honest: this one is definitely already baked in, and French knows it.
Of course Trump’s sexual history is repugnant. So is perverting the Christian understanding of sin in service of a personal vendetta. French writes as if Trump is still having affairs (they’re well over a decade old), as if Trump hadn’t obviously worked things out with the person he actually wronged (that would be his wife Melania, not David French).
When we sin, we owe repentance to God and to the individuals we’ve hurt. But Christianity has never held that a man should be perpetually shunned or endlessly re-condemned for what he did or was in his past (you may have heard that the Bible is kind of big on forgiveness). Rather than upholding the faith, French’s venomous fixation on Trump’s affairs reinforces the secularist stereotypes of Christians as vindictive scolds who brand people with scarlet letters for the rest of their lives.
French understands all of this perfectly well…at least, he does when the sinner in question is a young ex-CNN photographer who used to tweet about the murder of “Jewish pigs”:
…the multiple, corroborated sexual assault and sexual harassment claims against him…
Houston Baptist University theologian Robert A. J. Gagnon has an exhaustive post reviewing these claims, which everyone should read (and which French will almost certainly never attempt to engage, because he’s not about to let substantive critique get in the way of indignation). The most indefensible part of all this is French trying to spin demented leftist E. Jean Carroll’s demented story as credible.
Again, David, “thou shalt not bear false witness” applies to everyone, even pretentious National Review writers.
…his “very fine people” comment in the aftermath of the deadly alt-right violence at Charlottesville…
You mean when Trump explicitly, repeatedly disavowed the bigots? You mean the “very fine people” quote that was referring to Americans who oppose tearing down historical statues, not to the alt-right? That comment?
…his claims that a “Mexican Judge” (actually, an American judge born in Indiana) shouldn’t adjudicate his Trump University case…
Yes, Trump is a sloppy speaker who routinely leaves himself vulnerable to malicious spins on his quotes. No, that isn’t a justification for pretending not to know what Trump was referring to: Judge Gonzalo Curiel’s membership in a left-wing, anti-Trump organization that expressly frames its advocacy around Hispanic identity. He wasn’t arguing that race makes someone incapable of objectivity.
…his lavish praise for dictator Kim Jong Un…
Whether driven by narcissistic reciprocity for compliments from tyrants or a demented understanding of what diplomacy requires, Trump’s flowery words for the likes of Kim are contemptible. They demand severe criticism. That said, the fact that he says crap like this about anyone who butters him up also illustrates that when he similarly compliments Putin, he’s doing it out of ego and/or stupidity, not conspiracy.
…and his recent, racist demand that black and brown American congresswomen should “go back to the totally broken and crime infested places from which they came.”
French is libeling Trump. There’s no nicer way to put it. He knows Trump isn’t a racist. He knows Trump’s attack was rooted in the Squad’s anti-American, anti-Semitic values, not their race (note well that three out of the four voted against condemning the movement to boycott Israel).
I think most decent human beings understand a simple concept: the harsher an accusation, the higher its burden of proof. Racism is a top-tier charge in the United States, and requires more rigor than seizing on the race of the targets while willfully ignoring a non-racist meaning and motivation that’s readily apparent, solely because you want the speaker to be a racist.
French understands this. He’s well acquainted with the concepts of fairness and charity, and in fact bends over backwards to give the benefit of the doubt to left-wing writers who tell obvious lies in the name of murdering preborn children. Yet when the subject is Donald Trump, only the most malicious interpretation will do.
Incredibly, none of the above are the most despicable parts of French’s screed. Those would be the headline…
Mueller’s Testimony Didn’t Move Us Toward Impeachment. But It Should Make Us Determined to Vote Trump Out
…and the closing declaration:
It’s now up to the American people to ensure that the truth [or rather, what David French pretends the truth is – CF] carries political consequences.
This is not merely a call for conservative and Republican voters to stay home or vote third-party (which would be irresponsible enough). If your express goal in voting is not just to make a statement, but specifically to deny Trump a second term, the only viable way to do so is by voting for his Democrat opponent…whoever the pro-abortion, pro-prostitution, anti-religious liberty, anti-border, gun-grabbing, socialist nominee may be.
Let’s be perfectly clear: David French—self-appointed evangelical moral arbiter, presumed social-conservative thought leader, pundit in good standing at what was once the Right’s preeminent opinion journal—is actively encouraging his readers to hand control of the executive branch of the United States government to the party of murdering preborn (and newborn) children at taxpayer expense, of stealing elections, of pro-LGBT conformity, of dismantling religious liberty, of illegal immigration, of replacing constitutional fidelity with judicial oligarchy, of weaponizing government against political enemies, of indoctrinating students at taxpayer expense, of disarming Americans, of union dominance, of worsening American healthcare, and more.
All because David French hates one man more than he loves the rest of his countrymen.
Ultimately, this is about more than one prominent pundit throwing his conscience away. It’s about a culture of intellectual dishonesty and political negligence that permeates “elite” conservative punditry, and under Rich Lowry’s leadership, National Review has become one of the worst offenders. We hear a lot about how Steve Bannon tarnished Andrew’s life’s work during his stewardship of Breitbart—and rightfully so—but too little about how NR’s current stewards have done the same to William F. Buckley’s.
No faction is without sin or error in the Right’s current civil war, and we need voices willing to push back against Trump’s true failings (on that score, Conservative Review and even Ann Coulter offer a much more serious, responsible model than the #NeverTrump shrieking chorus). But repairing and refocusing the Right is all-but impossible as long as we have an unethical, fanatical cabal of useful idiots for the Left muddying the waters from the perch of formerly-authoritative conservative institutions.
For the moral and intellectual hygiene of the conservative movement, National Review should be the next—but not the last—swampcon publication to go the way of the Weekly Standard.