Mitt Romney and #NeverTrump’s Selective Regard for Presidential Character

As has been abundantly covered by now, freshman Senator Mitt Romney rang in the new year with a Washington Post op-ed lambasting Donald Trump’s character—you know, for the five people still unaware that Romney considers the “very not smart” Trump a “fraud” guilty of “dishonesty,” “greed,” and “bullying.”

He had a few valid criticisms and a lot of shameless pandering to the Left (pledging to condemn “racist” or “sexist” presidential statements, for instance, tacitly endorses the smear that Trump is not merely flawed, but bigoted). But while much has already been said of Romney’s reasoning and motives, the sympathetic reviews—and the broader debate on the subject—reveal much more we’ve yet to discuss.

David French insists Romney was merely “say[ing] things that are true and stak[ing] out a future” for a Trump-free conservatism and GOP. Jim Geraghty muses that after watching Romney, John McCain, and George W. Bush, many conservatives decided “good character was no advantage in politics and possibly a liability.”

A few days before Romney, Jonah Goldberg wrote his own (but far from his first) declaration of Trump’s low character. He claims “most of the angry responses” he gets about it “are clearly rooted in the fact that they do not wish to be reminded,” and chides those who “assume that I am referencing the president’s style” rather than substance.

I grant that Trump’s character is abysmal, and must confess to finding most of his defenses unpersuasive on this particular point. But that’s an utterly banal observation, and #NeverTrumpers are disastrously wrong about everything preceding and inferred from it.

First, it’s one thing to (rationally and truthfully) criticize Trump offenses as they happen, and quite another to periodically repackage general diatribes about obvious propositions that have already been beaten to death. The former is about accountability; the latter is about you. How many of these pieces bring new information to the debate? What’s their purpose beyond signaling fealty to the #NeverTrump tribe? (Which is hardly necessary in Romney’s case, given his diligence in renewing his membership every few months.)

Second, the idea that it’s some unprecedented crisis or compromise to accept such a president—that voting for Trump is too high a price to defend 320 million Americans from a leftist administration—should be alien to any self-respecting student of the Founding or of human nature.

Given the option, of course a more upstanding president would be preferable. But while the Founders knew America needed a moral citizenry, they didn’t expect moral leaders to be the norm. That’s why we need a Constitution in the first place; it’s how checks and balances were expected to work—the Founders counted on officeholders’ ambition, not their altruism, being “made to counteract ambition.” The work of good government doesn’t indefinitely pause just because neither choice on the ballot is pure enough for our liking, and the difference between four years with an administration of flawed allies versus one full of enemies is bigger than any one person.

Finally, all of the above rests on the comforting-yet-poisonous fiction that Trump represents a moral decline from his Republican predecessors.

Never mind that Bush abandoned an innocent subordinate to a malicious prosecution, swore on a Bible to uphold the Constitution then signed a law he admitted might violate it, and considers a probable rapist his “brother from another mother.” Never mind McCain’s own marital history and Trumpian mean streak, his attack on Vietnam veterans who spoke out against John Kerry, or his judgment that Americans should’ve kept suffering under Obamacare just because Democrats weren’t given a chance to sabotage repeal. Never mind that expediency seems to change more than a few of Romney’s values.

Speaking of which, Mitt, perhaps someone who entered politics as a defender of abortion should consider a little humility on the subject of other Republicans’ character…

In 2016, a few months before writing that Trump’s “low character is disqualifying,” Kevin Williamson argued that Marco Rubio’s blatant lying about the contents of the Gang of 8 amnesty bill shouldn’t dissuade voters, because while others “demand that a president” be a “moral mascot for the country […] I just want to know what I can use him for.”

I don’t recall anyone at National Review, Weekly Standard (RIP), or Commentary challenging Williamson’s transactional case for ignoring Rubio’s dishonesty.

To Trump’s character critics, none of the above threatens membership in the pantheon of “good Republicans,” nor do countless other acts of deceit, promise-breaking, or moral compromise by these and other better-mannered leaders. That’s why the “#NeverTrump fixates on style” charge sticks—it’s not that there aren’t substantive Trump critiques, it’s that they’ve never minded poor character before as long as it came in sufficiently-civil wrapping.

To say that voters dropped character in 2016 ignores two simple truths: that Trump’s low character was still higher than Hillary Clinton’s, and that the GOP had already been defining character down for years. Many of us held no illusions that our pre-Trump votes were for good men either; we were backing the only options we had to advance conservatism and protect the country from leftism.

If those most troubled by Trump’s character really want a more principled future for conservatism, perhaps reflecting on how their own approach to immoral leaders—who generally didn’t even honor their ends of the bargain—helped pave the road to 2016 would be a bit more productive than “Isn’t Trump Awful, Nineteenth Edition.”

Awful #NeverTrump Arguments, Part 1: Steve Deace

The intense disgust Donald Trump inspires in most conservatives is unquestionably valid, seeing that he’s a loathsome, unqualified buffoon who ruined the best chance we’ve had since 1984 to put a truly worthy movement conservative, Ted Cruz, in the White House. The emotional difficulty of looking past his offenses and weaknesses is understandable, and there are legitimate concerns about Trump’s fitness for office, chances against Hillary Clinton, and representation of the Republican Party.

However, it’s increasingly apparent that Trump Derangement Syndrome has so consumed most of the #NeverTrump movement that they’ve lost the ability to objectively evaluate both Trump’s weaknesses and the consequences of another Clinton presidency. Not only are opposing arguments ignored without serious consideration, many NeverTrumpers hurl indignation and condescension at any suggestion there are opposing arguments. Ugly though it sounds, it’s hard not to conclude that some have decided that the future of their country is less important than projecting their self-image as morally and ideologically purer than the rest of us.

It’s time to start calling out this arrogant negligence. The following is the first in a series of posts calling out the shoddy logic and irresponsible flippancy dominating #NeverTrump arguments. To be clear, not everyone we’ll discuss is guilty of all the sins described above, but all display a distinct lack of seriousness unworthy of the future generations who will suffer if they get their way and Hillary wins. Continue reading

New at American Clarion: Disappointment in Paul Ryan Provides Clue to America’s Current Mess

Wilfred McClay of the University of Oklahoma best summarized the root cause of conservatives’ unpleasant choice for president this fall: “when a political culture forbids respectable politicians from raising essential topics, the electorate will soon turn to ‘unrespectable’ ones” like Donald Trump.

Unfortunately, the punditry remains slow to recognize this, and nothing symbolizes its cognitive dissonance more than the reactions to House Speaker Paul Ryan supporting Trump despite Trump’s attacks on Judge Gonzalo Curiel. The past few weeks have been filled with fears and lamentations over the threat to Ryan’s standing as, Wisconsin radio host Charlie Sykes puts it, “the intellectual leader of the conservative movement in the GOP.”

National Review’s Jonah Goldberg sums up the sentiment in writing that it’s “more difficult for me to write than it should be” that Ryan’s “a disappointment”:

[P]hilosophically and temperamentally, I’ve long felt that Ryan is my kind of politician, and that judgment didn’t change after getting to know him (which is rare, given how most politicians are all too human). His vision for government’s role and the kind of party the GOP should be has always resonated with me, even if I didn’t agree with him on every policy or vote.

It should tell you all you need to know about the sorry state of the Right that disappointment in Ryan took this long for so many.

Read the rest at American Clarion.

National Disgrace Marco Rubio Wants to Inflict Himself on America Again

The one silver lining to this disaster of an election was supposed to be that at least we’d be getting rid of Marco Rubio. Unfortunately, Rubio has just decided he wants to stay in the Senate after all.

If the Right really held honor at a premium, the very possibility would have been met with such a unanimous hail of incredulity and disgust that Rubio never would have considered it (then again, if that were the case his presidential ambitions never would have gotten past a momentary delusion of grandeur).

Rubio ran for Senate claiming to be an anti-amnesty candidate, then when he got there he repeatedly lied to the country on behalf of the Gang of 8 amnesty bill. That left the GOP base even more distrustful they could trust anybody in elected office, giving Donald Trump his opening to gain a real foothold with the electorate. Not once has Rubio taken responsibility for his dishonesty.

Then, when he ran for president, he repeatedly lied about Ted Cruz, the only plausible alternative to Trump. Finally, he ensured Trump’s victory by helping to split the conservative vote and screw over Cruz’s delegate prospects long after it was clear he wasn’t going to become the nominee…and yet, after all he did to both Cruz and the country, Rubio has the gall to ask Cruz to help his new vanity campaign?

You have no honor, Mr. Rubio. The country cannot trust you. For the incalculable harm you’ve done to your country, the only way you could regain a sliver of your honor would be to acknowledge you don’t belong anywhere near public office.

New at American Clarion – Trump Won Because Conservatives Let Him

Now that we’re stuck with the ugly choice of Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump, we’re long overdue for a chat about just how easily this mess could have been avoided. Shocking though it may be that such a cartoonishly unqualified and un-conservative figure could sweep the Republican nomination, it was inevitable that the mistakes and blind spots that establishmentarians and conservatives allowed to fester for years would eventually blow up in our faces.

Most agree on the first cause: feckless Republican leaders, whose record of surrender has made their base desperate for someone to take a wrecking ball to Capitol Hill, and doubtful that anyone from within the party could suffice. So when Trump swept in sounding like that someone—and making immigration, the issue on which party and base are most divided, his centerpiece—of course he forged an emotional bond impervious to subsequent reviews of his record.

It’s not Trump’s fault nobody stepped in to fill that demand first—even Ted Cruz, who fought the establishment from day one, underestimated the stridency he needed to project, or how moves like his poison pill amendments to the Gang of 8 bill would backfire.

Read the rest at American Clarion.

Should You Vote for Donald Trump?

After decades of lackluster presidential nominees who embodied various diluted forms of center-right thought, this year we finally had an authentic, passionate movement conservative to rally around in Ted Cruz. Finally we had an opportunity to restore the Constitution, liberty, and prosperity; to take real steps toward ending the massacre of abortion, to shrink government rather than slow its growth, to turn the tide of America’s culture war and put the Left on the defensive for a change. Finally we had our chance to vindicate conservatism against the cancerous moderation espoused by the Republican establishment.

And we blew it. Thanks to a perfect storm of primary voters letting themselves be conned by a clown and divided among a half-dozen mediocrities and vanity candidates, and too few conservative leaders willing to show leadership and make clear that Cruz was the only serious choice, instead we’re now stuck with Donald Trump as the GOP nominee for President of the United States. A choice so manifestly terrible that it seemed inconceivable a year ago. Yet here we are.

So patriots have a decision to make: hold our nose and vote for Trump to protect the country from Hillary Clinton, or stay home to protest Trump’s lack of character, competence, and conservatism? My answer has wavered back and forth over the past year, so I hope this review of all the arguments for and against will help similarly conflicted conservatives find a definitive answer.

Before diving in, let’s dismiss two unserious options out of hand: voting for Hillary Clinton (such a despicable, asinine idea that those who’ve written and published it should be ashamed of themselves), and voting for a third-party or independent candidate (no, not even that obnoxious imbecile Austin Petersen who gives Glenn Beck such a tingle up his leg). It’s simply delusional to believe the latter could actually become president, so if you’re doing it for the symbolism it’s functionally no different than staying home. If you absolutely must put down another name at the ballot box, at least choose a deserving and likely future nominee by writing in Ted Cruz.

(Caveat: if by some bizarre, infinitesimal, miraculous twist of fate a quality conservative somehow uncovers the secret path for an independent candidate to reach the White House, I of course reserve the right to take that back and revise the conclusion of this post.)

That said, let’s begin. Continue reading

New at Live Action: Donald Trump’s Amendments to GOP Platform on Abortion Would Be a Disaster

If it wasn’t already clear that Donald Trump doesn’t really understand how pro-lifers think, he’s doing a bang-up job of reinforcing the point every few weeks. As Live Action News’ Danny David covered earlier, Trump said the following on the Today Show:

SAVANNAH GUTHRIE: The Republican platform, every four years, has a provision that states that the right of the unborn child shall not be infringed. And it makes no exceptions for rape, for incest, for the life of the mother. Would you want to change the Republican platform to include the exceptions that you have?

TRUMP: Yes, I would. Yes, I would. Absolutely. For the three exceptions, I would.

GUTHRIE: Would you have an exception for the health of the mother?

TRUMP: I would leave it to the life of the mother, but I would absolutely have the three exceptions.

Pro-life activist Abby Johnson had some choice words in response:

Read the rest at Live Action News.