The Corner


Trump vs. Trump

Three general trends are emerging from the post-election months and the first days of the Trump administration.

One, Trump’s appointments and initial executive orders are winning praise from former conservative critics, while flummoxing the Left (e.g., how do you call Keystone an environmental disaster when the Obama State Department study saw more positive rather than adverse impact?; Who would oppose deporting illegal alien law-breakers or the neo-Confederate idea of nullifying federal law inherent in sanctuary cities?).

If Trump continues with these long overdue corrections and can unite with the Congress to push through legislation on economic reform, there will arise a sense among even some of his opponents on the left that the Obama trajectory of tribal polarization, doubling the debt, foreign-policy chaos, anemic growth, rogue federal agencies, climate-change obstructionism, etc. could not go on as it was.

Two, the media-driven, left-wing derangement is unprecedented and is undermining any serious criticism of Trump. When a Time reporter rushes to tweet a fake story about a missing MLK bust in the Oval Office at a time of racial tensions, or BuzzFeed prints a scurrilous story that was demonstrably inaccurate, then Trump is becoming immunized from media hatred — especially given the media’s prior loss of credibility through the hypocritical idolization of Obama and the collusion endemic in WikiLeaks. (Somehow those most outraged over Trump are often the most ubiquitous in WikiLeaks; BuzzFeed could print a story confirming that the planets really do revolve around the sun and no one would believe them without fact-checking their source).

Popular culture also is revealing itself not only as crude and mean-spirited, but boring and predictable. I can’t remember a week in which a Saturday Night Live writer goes after a preteen son of a president, or a comedian trashes the First Lady, or Ashley Judd recites a poem to tens of thousands in D.C. calling Trump both Hitlerian and a sexual deviate, or that Madonna dreams of blowing up the White House, presumably with the Trump family in it. We are way beyond the Michael Moore/Cindy Sheehan derangement of 2006.

And when the corruption of the federal bureaucracies is added to the anti-Trump cocktail — from a Secret Service agent boasting that she would not take a bullet for Trump or a spurned and now former CIA director, John Brennan, attacking the president-elect (this, after the mysterious leaks of a pseudo-intelligence, for-hire hit piece on Trump, and Brennan’s own dubious record of careerist flips from one administration to the next, his changing narratives about enhanced interrogation, his false assertions about drone collateral damage, his politically correct but inaccurate assertions about the nature of jihad, the strange CIA intrusion into Senate computer files, etc.), then Trump’s worries about a politicized media and bureaucracy each day become more legitimate and discredit his opposition.

Three, Trump continues to reply, sometime wildly, to irrelevant slights — not all of them, but enough to cause additional distractions from his agenda.

During the campaign, he established deterrence through his tweets and he certainly should continue using Twitter to bypass the media. But the issue is not so much even the matter of an irrelevant issue as its timing: The gleeful Left, including state-run NPR, rushed to compare relative crowd sizes on Inauguration Day, yet by the time Trump furiously replied it was old news and irrelevant.

There are lots of news stories and academic accounts that suggest voting fraud is common — fake identities, fossilized voter-registration lists, etc. And it needs to be addressed. John Fund at NRO for years has warned of the growing danger it poses to free and fair elections, as have the Pew Foundation and the Public Interest Law Foundation. In 2012 some aggregate precinct vote totals in Philadelphia were surreal (19,000+ for Obama to zero for Romney).

But for now, given the agenda ahead, the popular-vote total of 2016 is ancient history. If Trump believes that fraud was a factor in the popular vote and it affects his legitimacy and legacy, then he might quietly have assigned a small task force to investigate whether there is any basis to that suspicion — a legitimate pursuit, and far preferable to supercharging the media with unsupportable numbers of those who allegedly voted fraudulently against him.

In short, the Left is disorganized, without a counter-message, and cannibalistic, doubling-down on what destroyed the supposedly permanent Midwestern blue wall. Its only hope is that Trump, every three or four days or so, says or tweets something that is not supported by existing facts and thus can serve as headline news rather than one of his necessary and welcomed executive orders or joint congressional initiatives.

In and of itself, a dubious and tardy assertion on an irrelevancy is of no matter other than getting the White House off-topic, but the media’s hope is that these are small cuts, which after a few months, will turn into a real bleed, lower public support, and derail his reforms, which otherwise cannot be stopped legislatively or even perhaps judicially and are welcomed by a majority of the American people.

In other words, Trump’s fate is in the hands of Trump alone.

He has overcome all challenges that just two years ago were announced to be impossible to overcome; the only remaining one is the question of his own self-control and the ability to find a medium between carefully hitting back at the weekly media and left-wing outrages to ensure deterrence versus filtering out the irrelevant, while restraining his own tendency to go, sometimes half-cocked, the unnecessary extra mile after his critics. His critics say character is destiny and he cannot at 70 restrain himself from getting mired in the trivial.

But half the country is hoping that is not true, especially given his so far inspired appointments, agendas, and executive orders. If Trump wishes to help “our miners” and “our steelworkers” and “our farmers,” then the only obstacle on the horizon is playing into the hands of those who wish to destroy him.

Victor Davis Hanson — NRO contributor Victor Davis Hanson is a senior fellow at the Hoover Institution and the author, most recently, of The Second World Wars: How the First Global Conflict Was Fought and Won.

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