Donald Trump and his candidacy are known for two main things: opposition to illegal immigration and wanting to “make America great again.” The first is something conservatives have been begging for going on ten years, the second is a slogan from the Reagan/Bush ticket of 1980. Donald Trump also has a robust tax reform plan that has been praised by the likes of Steve Forbes and Steve Moore, and he speaks a great deal about the problems of radical Islam. Just so, it turns out he is also winning the GOP nomination—taking upwards of 45% of Hispanics in Nevada and proving the ability to win not only Deep South states like Mississippi (as a Manhattanite, no less) but also in purple Michigan and deep blue Massachusetts. Yet many—a great many—conservative think tankers and journalists are excoriating him, those who support him, and those who do not join their bandwagon.
Everything I just wrote is fact. So, too, is this: Donald Trump is not a typical Republican candidate. On the positive side of his difference from our standard candidates, he is a businessman who has employed tens of thousands of people. On the negative, he can be crude in his language, even vulgar. And, some of his policy prescriptions and positions lack coherence. His position on Israel is Exhibit A: he condemns Radical Islam but claims he wants to be neutral in the Israel/Palestinian conflict. These problems, inconsistencies, and negatives are not a little concerning.
But they are also not a little over-emphasized. The candidate who wants to be neutral with Israel is not saying anything beyond President Bill Clinton, the most beloved of Presidents by the Jewish community who, just by the way, brought Yasser Arafat into the White House. But, as for Donald Trump, it is also true he helped campaign for the most hawkish Prime Minister Israel has had since Menachem Begin: Bibi Netanyahu. This is 180 degrees different from Barack Obama who has done all he could to marginalize and oust Netanyahu.
Sometimes A Flub Is Just A Flub
Yes, Donald Trump flubbed—or worse—a question about David Duke endorsing him. But he also has previously denounced David Duke. And the reason this flub simply has no legs is because nobody seriously believes Donald Trump has any truck or tolerance for David Duke. Sometimes a flub is just a flub. A man who has an Orthodox Jewish daughter and grandchildren he is very close to, and who seemingly adore him in return, is simply not a David Duke supporter or anything like one.
On the judiciary, Donald Trump has stated his model for a Supreme Court Justice is his sister, a liberal who was first nominated to the federal bench by Ronald Reagan. But he has also said his model is Antonin Scalia. He is, no question, a walking and talking tale of two cities. Yes, it’s concerning. Just as it was concerning to have a Scalia nominated by the same President who nominated Anthony Kennedy. Or a Clarence Thomas nominated by the same President who nominated David Souter.
About his ultimate potential opponent in the Democratic party we know of no such confusions or concerns: She is a tale of one city. Hers would be a presidency of higher taxes and, at best, no action on illegal immigration. On foreign and defense policy she is known for few major accomplishments but among them: ruining Libya just as it was trying to align with the United States and participating in both the ruining of Egypt and antipathy toward Israel.
As for her judicial appointments: think Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan as far as the eye can see.
Trump Wasn’t The First
Donald Trump clearly has some explaining to do. His ultimate Democratic Party opponent does not. She is clear and consistent. But who else has some explaining to do? Trump’s critics. Again, yes, Trump can be vulgar, but is it not of some irony that those who point this out the most have worked for, write for, and hold up a man—William F. Buckley, Jr.—who’s most famous line on television may very well be “Now listen, you queer, stop calling me a crypto-Nazi or I’ll sock you in the goddam face and you’ll stay plastered.” And this line in a day of much more public decorum. Imagine if you can the hue and cry from the “respectable right” had Donald Trump uttered the same words. As for family values, it very much appears Donald Trump’s relationship with his grandchildren stands much better than Mr. Buckley’s. Can we please simply dispense with the double standards? That, too, used to be a conservative cause.
But double standards are like everything else, they require the ability to distinguish. Let’s take the latest. Some are scratching their heads and criticizing the likes of William J. Bennett for condemning violent rap lyrics in the past but not being similarly exercised by Donald Trump’s statements today. Thus, the vulgarities of Donald Trump are now put on par with commercial industries and musicians who sing about the virtues of rape and cutting off heads. I’m sorry but there is, after all, a difference between the sailor’s mouth of a political candidate and the commercialization of rape and cop killing. People who cannot see that distinction see nothing. The moral and analytical nihilism taking place in our commentariat today strikes me as no better than the political incoherence of some of Donald Trump’s positions. It is perhaps worse in that these are people who claim to know better.
This problem comes to us in companion to campaigns-past as well. Was Rudy Giuliani—a pro-choice, pro-gay rights Mayor who endorsed Mario Cuomo for Governor—or Mitt Romney—a pro-choice, pro-gay rights Governor—ever put through the grinder of the conservative punditocracy the way Donald Trump has been? No—indeed, Giuliani had worse and more public marital issues while Romney had conversions of convenience that were much closer in time to his Presidential campaign than Donald Trump’s. And, yet, both Giuliani and Romney were at once supported by many in the conservative movement and, to this day, remain heroes of it.
Hillary Must Be Defeated
The anti-Trump conservative punditocracy has been over-wrought in its critique and beyond inconsistent and incoherent when compared to candidates past. To be sure, Donald Trump is far from perfect. He is far from an ideal conservative or Republican candidate for President. But the critique from his conservative critics has now morphed into some kind of Stockholm Syndrome where every label we have abjured by the Left in the past is now being thrown at Donald Trump by his own party’s self-appointed gatekeepers. The problem beyond the irony is this: the punditocracy has either not convinced, or forgot to tell, those who actually vote, and not thousands of voters, millions of them.
In the end, we conservatives have longed for a President who could talk of American exceptionalism, do something about illegal immigration, and full-throatedly condemn Radical Islam. He is here and our response is to slay him with all the arrows in our quiver. It simply makes no sense. But when you ask for governance by the first 2,000 names of a phone book, as Buckley famously did, this may very well be what you get. And it makes no sense to trade a tale of two cities that could unify into the best of times for a reality of just one city that we well-know would be the worst of them.
Seth Leibsohn is the host of The Seth Leibsohn Show, heard nightly on 960am/KKNT in Phoenix.
Connect with Seth on Twitter: @SethLeibsohn
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