The Corner

Politics & Policy

Balls, Strikes, and Trump

Jay Nordlinger and David French have both written in recent days against those conservatives who “call balls and strikes,” praising and criticizing President Trump when they think each is warranted. Jay says this stance “misses the moral dimension of a presidency” and that at some point these conservatives have to declare when they think “conservatism must be disassociated from Trump and Trumpism.” David writes very similarly, saying that calling balls and strikes is a “cop-out” and that it’s “time for conservatives to remember the cultural power of the presidency.”

Before reading this article of David’s, I would have thought that “calling balls and strikes” was a pretty good description of how he has responded to this presidency. He often criticizes him and sometimes praises him, even in the same articles. There is no particular conflict between assessing particular Trump comments and policies and commenting on Trump’s overall character. Vices and virtues are, after all, revealed in actions, and commenting on those actions not infrequently means commenting on what they reveal. And I honestly don’t know who either of my colleagues have in mind. Who are these conservatives who frequently criticize Trump but refrain “from speaking the larger, more important truths”?

Jay gives these conservatives a specific challenge: Do they want to see Trump renominated in 2020 or not? My own answer is: I’d vastly prefer almost any other Republican. But I don’t begrudge other conservatives for not putting that question front and center. I haven’t given it a lot of thought myself. There are a lot of balls and strikes to call before 2020.

Ramesh Ponnuru is a senior editor for National Review, a columnist for Bloomberg Opinion, a visiting fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, and a senior fellow at the National Review Institute.