I don’t think I speak for myself alone when I confess utter bewilderment at the number of conservatives – among whom I count long-term friends – who seem to have lost their marbles when assessing the presidential candidacy of Donald Trump.
The Wall Street Journal’s Bret Stephens, to take one example that can stand for many, is an astute analyst – in my view one of the best political commentators writing today. Yet he is the author of this opening paragraph in the Wall Street Journal, which leaves me scratching my head, and embarrassed for my friend:
The best hope for what’s left of a serious conservative movement in America is the election in November of a Democratic president, held in check by a Republican Congress. Conservatives can survive liberal administrations, especially those whose predictable failures lead to healthy restorations—think Carter, then Reagan.
I can’t think of anything that is right about these sentences.
The president’s first business is the nation’s security. Did Reagan really repair the damage that Carter did? It is true that he pulled the nation back from Carter’s policies of appeasing our enemies and disarming our military. But he failed to retrieve Carter’s greatest foreign policy disaster.
It was Carter who brought down America’s ally, the Shah of Iran, and brought the Ayatollah Khomeni back from exile, thereby transforming Iran into the first jihadist state, and America’s deadliest enemy. Neither Ronald Reagan nor both George Bushes could undo that.
Could a Republican Congress – assuming that there would be a Republican Congress if Trump lost – hold a Democratic president like Hillary Clinton “in check.” How did that work out during the destructive reign of Barack Obama?
With Republican majorities in the House and Senate Obama had no real problem in becoming the first American president to build his legacy around a policy that can fairly be described as treasonous – providing a path to nuclear power and ballistic missile capability to an Iranian regime that is our nation’s mortal enemy, has already murdered thousands of Americans, and is ruled by religious fanatics who have made no secret of their determination to destroy us.
Bret Stephens and an all-too-prominent cohort of inside-the-beltway conservatives want to turn the presidency over to Hillary Clinton “to save conservatism.” What can this mean?
Have they forgotten who Hillary Clinton is? As Secretary of State she was the foreign policy captain in an administration that abandoned Iraq, thereby betraying every American and Iraqi who gave his or her life to keep that benighted country out of the hands of the terrorists and Iran (not that any Republican had the temerity to say so).
ISIS is as much her godchild as Barack Obama’s. In creating the vacuum that ISIS filled Hillary was only carrying on the Democratic foreign policy tradition that Jimmy Carter inaugurated of sacrificing America’s security to pie-eyed internationalist delusions.
As Secretary of State Hillary Clinton supported the overthrow of an American ally in Egypt and its replacement by the Muslim Brotherhood, the fountainhead of al-Qaeda and ISIS. She colluded in the overthrow of an American ally in Libya – a country posing no threat to the United States – thereby turning it into a base for ISIS and al-Qaeda.
It was Hillary who was behind the gunrunning scheme to al-Qaeda rebels in Syria that led to the Benghazi disaster. She denied Ambassador Stephens – her American pawn in Benghazi – the security he requested in order to cover Obama’s retreat in the war on terror (it was election time), and then lied about his murder and that of three American heroes to the American people, to the mothers and fathers of the dead heroes, and to the world at large.
According to the official version she approved insulting the prophet Mohammed was the problem not the terrorist onslaught that she and Obama had helped to unleash. Now we have learned that she willfully violated America’s Espionage Act, resulting in tens of thousands of her emails, classified and unclassified falling into the hands of the Russians and other adversary powers, and leading to how many future American casualties we can only guess.
This is the president that Bret Stephens and Bill Kristol and George Will think would be better for conservative values and conservative concerns than Donald Trump, a man who has raised an admirable family (a character-reflecting feat his detractors always overlook) and whose patriotism in the course of a long public life has never been in question.
Nonetheless, it is Hillary Clinton – this serial liar, this traducer of the nation’s trust, this corrupt taker of $600,000 speaking fees and multi-million dollar gifts from foreign governments while acting as Secretary of State –this wretched individual who in their eyes is “survivable” should she become president.
And what isn’t survivable? “What isn’t survivable is … a serial fabulist, an incorrigible self-mythologizer, a brash vulgarian, and, when it comes to his tax returns, a determined obfuscator.” I blush for my friend making these charges, first because they are sins common to most politicians (with admittedly less flair than Donald Trump) and second because of the reason he gives for why they should matter: “Endorsing Mr. Trump means permanently laying to rest any claim conservatives might ever again make on the character issue.”
The character issue! Oh yes, that vital conservative weapon. And how did the use of it actually work out when it was put before the entire nation?
Approaching the end of Clinton’s second term, Republicans made a political season out of his bad character and actually managed to impeach him for abusing women and lying to a grand jury. But when it was over, there wasn’t a pundit or pollster around who didn’t think that Bill Clinton would have an odds on chance of being elected to a third term in 2000 if the 22nd Amendment had allowed him to run.
This is not serious stuff, yet it is being peddled by first-rate conservative intellects and the fate of our nation may yet hang on it. The greatest obstacle to a Republican victory in November is the fratricidal war now being waged by the “Never Trump” crowd against the only person who might prevent the disaster awaiting us if the party of Obama and Kerry and Hillary and Sharpton prevails in November.
Their Trump hysteria notwithstanding, I still have the highest regard for the intellects of Bret Stephens and George Will and their comrades-in-arms. But I am hoping against hope that they come to their senses before it is too late.