The New York Times published a column yesterday — “I Voted for Trump. And I Sorely Regret It.” — by Julius Krein, the man who last year founded a journal dedicated to advancing the intellectual case for “Trumpism.”
The column is a scathing denunciation of the president, and it reveals that there indeed exists a sort of “last straw” for at least some Trump supporters, including those who supported him very publicly through many other unpleasant episodes. On one point in particular, though, Krein notably misses the mark.
“Those of us who supported Mr. Trump were never so naïve as to expect that he would transform himself into a model of presidential decorum upon taking office,” Krein writes.
I suppose Krein must be allowed to speak for his own expectations. But to claim this of all those who supported Trump is demonstrably false. There is a veritable laundry list of prominent Trump supporters who, over the last year and a half, averred until they were blue in the face that the candidate could “pivot” and become presidential anytime he chose.
Trump himself pushed this idea heavily, giving his allies ammo to lob at anyone who accused him of being un-presidential. In the spring of 2016, just before locking up the GOP nomination, Trump told Sean Hannity, “At the right time, I will be so presidential that you’ll call me and you’ll say, ‘Donald, you have to stop that, it’s too much.’” And in a later interview Trump said, “At some point, I’m going to be so presidential that you people will be so bored.”
His promoters repeated these phony claims ad nauseam, on any of the countless occasions that they were asked about Trump’s evident lack of decorum or integrity. (Thanks to Jonah Goldberg for compiling several of these examples in a past NRO piece.)
As Trump’s senior aide, Paul Manafort told the RNC, “When he’s out on the stage . . . he’s projecting an image that’s for that purpose,” Manafort said. “You’ll start to see more depth of the person, the real person. . . . The negatives will come down. The image is going to change.”
“I think you’re going to see it. I think you’re going to see the change in tone,” Reince Priebus predicted last year, back when he was RNC president. Priebus was perhaps the biggest proponent of the “pivot” theory, repeating this promise in numerous interviews over the course of the campaign.
Republican senator Bob Corker said of Trump in June 2016: “He’s got this defining period that’s over the next two or three weeks where he could pivot, can pivot, hopefully will pivot to a place where he becomes a true general election candidate.”
“You’re going to see Trump pivoting,” Ben Carson promised on Morning Joe in March 2016.
From the New York Post’s endorsement of Trump: “Should he win the nomination, we expect Trump to pivot — not just on the issues, but in his manner. The post-pivot Trump needs to be more presidential: better informed on policy, more self-disciplined and less thin-skinned.”
These are just a tiny selection of the countless statements from Trump acolytes, insisting that a presidential man lurked somewhere beneath the New York businessman’s uncouth surface. Kudos to Krein for coming to his senses, and for doing so in such a public way. But perhaps if the proponents of the elusive Trump “pivot” had viewed the man with clear eyes a year and a half ago, we wouldn’t still be arguing over him today.