The Corner

White House

A Choice Between Rhetoric and Policy?

It is becoming increasingly common to hear conservatives argue that a choice exists between President Trump’s politically incorrect rhetoric and his, and the GOP’s, policy accomplishments.

As just one example, take Hugh Hewitt’s recently tweet, in which he argues that casting a vote in the 2016 midterm elections against the GOP amounts to “emotional venting,” while voting for Republicans is to vote in favor of “serious governance.”

This argument fails on several levels, which I go through in my latest Bloomberg Opinion column.

To start, the premise of the argument is off base. The president’s rhetoric often isn’t merely politically incorrect — instead, it is often intended to divide the nation, motivated by perceived political gain. It’s a category error to include much of the president’s rhetoric with using the wrong fork during your salad course or failing to coddle fragile college students.

Arguing for a choice between rhetoric and policy also misses the reality that there is no such thing as “just rhetoric” when it comes to the president of the United States. The president’s rhetoric can move markets. Presidential statements — even on Twitter — are more similar to policy actions than some conservatives want to admit in that they can have a significant effect on attitudes and behavior.

Finally, implicit in the policy-vs.-rhetoric argument is that the rhetoric may not be so great but the policy is terrific. And we shouldn’t dismiss the president’s policy accomplishments, including judges, tax reform, and deregulation. But when you factor in tariffs, the possibility of an all-out trade war, ballooning debt and deficits, a refusal to deal with entitlements, industrial policy, and crony capitalism — well, policy still looks better than rhetoric, but it’s far from ideal.

I flesh this out more over at Bloomberg. Whether or not you agree, your comments are welcome.

Most Popular

PC Culture

Warren Is a Fraud

Senator Elizabeth Warren (D., Mass.) has been telling a story for years. It’s a deeply romantic story about her parents and their young love, fraught with the familial bigotry of an earlier time. Here’s how she told it this week in a video she released in preparation for her 2020 run: My daddy always said he ... Read More

How Will the Senate Races Break?

How will the Senate races break? We have less public polling to go on than in recent years, so answering that question is harder than ever. But the news is more optimistic for Republicans than it was a month ago.   Waves and Breakers Four years ago, I projected in mid September that if “historical ... Read More
Politics & Policy

The Origins of Progressive Agony

What has transformed the Democratic party into an anguished progressive movement that incorporates the tactics of the street, embraces maenadism, reverts to Sixties carnival barking, and is radicalized by a new young socialist movement? Even party chairman Tom Perez concedes that there are “no moderate ... Read More

Two Minnesota Republican Candidates Assaulted

Two Republican candidates for state office in Minnesota have been physically assaulted in recent days, leading prominent Republican lawmakers to caution their Democratic colleagues against employing inflammatory rhetoric. Republican state representative Sarah Anderson was punched in the arm last week after ... Read More
Law & the Courts

A Christian Man Receives Justice

A good man’s legal ordeal is at an end. Yesterday, my friends and former colleagues at the Alliance Defending Freedom announced that former Atlanta fire chief Kelvin Cochran had reached a $1.2 million settlement, ending a case he brought after the city fired him for writing -- and distributing to a select few ... Read More