That headline might be considered to be in bad faith. Then again, Dennis Prager‘s disingenuous National Review column regarding those conservatives who still occasionally criticize Pres. Trump practically begs for it.
It gives me no pleasure to write that, btw; after all, those Prager U videos are pretty good. But here we are.
While Prager claims that he’s attempting to understand former NeverTrump types and change their minds, he largely slurs them as egotistical elitists who cannot admit their mistakes. Why he seeks to enlist them to aid a man who ran against the failures of egotistical elitists — and why he thinks insults would be persuasive– are questions best left to him to answer.
The irony of Prager publishing a column at NR complaining about Trump skeptics having unrealistic standards is also rich. It is true that the sort of conservatives that follow in the tradition of NR have higher standards than Prager apparently does. NR did not endorse Ike in 1956 or Nixon in 1960. NR later suspended its support for Nixon in 1971. William F. Buckley even kept NR from endorsing Reagan in 1980 over concerns about his age.
I know most of that because Jonah Goldberg (almost certainly one of Prager’s unnamed targets) wrote about it. Prager apparently missed it, which I suppose isn’t shocking given that he decided to imagine what his target audience thinks, rather than read up on it.
Goldberg’s response to Prager identifies a number of flaws in the column in his usual cordial and gentlemanly fashion, touching only lightly on Prager’s implicit charges of bad faith. Dan McLaughlin touches more directly on them.
McLaughlin also addresses point-by-point Trump’s supposed achievements that Prager believes should bring the skeptics to his defense. This largely saves me the trouble, though I have previously argued that the excellent nomination of Neil Gorsuch to the Supreme Court is as much or more due to the pressure exerted by Trump skeptics than any interest of Trump’s or the pliant sycophancy of Trump’s biggest fans.
I tend to agree (with less hyperbole than Prager) with praising Trump’s cabinet. But I have noted the uncertainty and dangers created when Trump himself often seems to differ with his cabinet, in apparent ignorance that he differs with them.
Having easily fit Trump’s supposed accomplishments — many of which in fact are not accomplished — into a single paragraph, Prager virtually ignores the liabilities side of the ledger.
As Goldberg has noted, Trump’s penchant for drama and his Clintonesque habit of throwing suspicion on himself (make no mistake, much of it is generated by Trump) is proving to be a big league obstacle to GOP achievements. It’s not getting any better:
“For the Republicans running the government, Capitol Hill has become a workplace with extremely poor morale. The moderates fear for their careers, while the conservative true believers see little to hope for. When the liberal magazine Mother Jones credited Representative Justin Amash of Michigan with being the first Republican to raise the possibility of impeachment, the office of Representative Carlos Curbelo of Florida called to request a correction: Curbelo had gone there first.
But for the most part, his party has not openly turned on Trump. What would be the point? Behind closed doors, a longtime House Republican staffer told me, a few lawmakers still wholeheartedly defend the president; among the rest, there are differing degrees of fatalism. One group thinks it is possible to fight through the crisis, while another is resigned to ‘a long slow death,’ as this staffer put it, potentially culminating in a Democratic-controlled House beginning impeachment proceedings in 2019. ‘This is like Reservoir Dogs,” the staffer said. “Everyone ends up dead on the floor.’ “
Prager may also want to check in with Jay Cost, who provided a timely example of how Trump’s daily foolhardiness and ignorance present self-created obstacles to getting things done with respect to international issues. Cost wonders whether the result won’t be a return to power by an even more extreme cadre of left-wingers. He’s not alone.
Moreover, if Prager wants everyone to fall in behind Trump’s leadership as foot soldiers in what he believes to be a “civil war,” Prager ought to have to address what people see as his leadership abilities within his own White House:
“[F]or connected conservatives in DC, the media isn’t the only source of information about this administration. I’d venture to say that most of them have by now heard at least one or two amazing stories attesting to the emerging conventional wisdom: that the president either can’t, or refuses to, follow any kind of policy discussion for more than a few minutes; that the president will not be told no, or corrected about anything, forcing his staff to take their concerns to the media if they want to get his attention; that the infighting within the West Wing is unprecedentedly vicious, and that those sort of failures always stem from the top; and that his own hand-picked staffers ‘have no respect for him, indeed they seem to palpitate with contempt for him.’ They hear these things from conservatives, including people who were Trump supporters or at least, Trump-neutral. They know these folks. They know, to their sorrow, that these people are telling the truth.”
Prager’s “civil war” metaphor may be the most odious aspect of his piece, this recycling of the “Flight 93 election” mindset from the 2016 hit parade. He again raises the specter of a Hillary Clinton presidency, largely glossing over the tiny fact that she was not elected.
(Again, if Prager was truly interested in figuring out why some conservatives didn’t buy those histrionics during the campaign, reading Goldberg would have given him at least a half-dozen answers. For someone trying to understand others, he really seems to have put in zero effort.)
Raising the Flight 93 argument after the election, after the inauguration, after more than 100 days of the Trump administration, is even more ridiculous than it was during the campaign.
After all, most of Trump’s defenders now rail on and on and on and on and on about the hysterical intransigence of the Democrats, the so-called Resistance, the biased establishment media, and the treacherous, leaking bureaucrats of the “deep state.” That’s the “civil war.” They’re mostly right, but they’re also lacking in self-awareness.
You can certainly make the case that the Resistance (broadly defined to include all of the above) represents a political escalation. But isn’t this escalation fueled by precisely the sort of apocalyptic delirium that is at the heart of the Flight 93 mindset?
How can the people who insist that the United States of America is so feeble, so lacking in resilience that it could be irreparably broken by a careerist grifter like Hillary Clinton (using a metaphor that cast her as al Qaeda) pretend to have the moral authority to deny the Left the same level of frenzied derangement over a Trump administration?
If Hillary had won narrowly as Trump did, and America was truly doomed as a result, are Trump’s supporters saying they would have rejected attempts to de-legitimize her election? Can Trump’s supporters claim they would not have marched in the streets, rationalized the inevitable bit of street violence, filibustered her Supreme Court nominee, demonized and dragged out her other nominations, or engaged in a campaign of coordinated leaking to undermine her if they could? After all, the fate of the country for all time was at stake, wasn’t it?
Does anyone doubt Trump would have been on board for some or all of the above? Bueller?
If Prager had not started from a position of condescension toward people he did not make any effort to understand, he might have reflected on how this core pro-Trump claim was always intellectually lazy and has aged badly. He might have realized why the Flight 93 mindset is appalling, rather than appealing, to those he ostensibly sought to convince. And he might have realized how much Trump supporters think like the Resistance.
Did that go too far? I’m sorry; I heard bad faith and nihilism were “in” this season.
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