The Corner

Politics & Policy

Dennis Prager Is Answering the Wrong Question

In response to Hhhmmm

On the homepage today, Dennis Prager purports to provide an answer to a simple question — why are Never Trumpers still anti-Trump? Honestly, I find the question a bit strange. The election is over. We’re not weighing his relative merits versus any other candidate. We don’t have to make a choice between Trump, Hillary, Gary Johnson, Evan McMullin, or a write-in. We won’t have to make that choice again for several more years.

The truly relevant question is much easier to answer. How do we evaluate his words and actions as president? The honest Never Trumper evaluates Trump as we would any president. We’ll praise him when he’s right, criticize him when he’s wrong, and withhold judgment when the facts are unclear or the outcomes are murky. Then, when confronted with the sum total of his actions and his policy outcomes, we’ll once again have a chance to evaluate him against a real-live political opponent.

But Trump’s stalwart defenders, it seems, want something else. They want members of the conservative movement to act, in effect, as Trump’s defense lawyers. That means praise him when he’s right, and find the most plausible possible defense when he’s wrong. That’s completely legitimate behavior when standing at counsel table or when hired as a public-relations representative, but when your goal is not only to speak the truth but also to advance a concrete set of values that can and should endure well past any given election cycle, then the world looks very different indeed.

Against that backdrop, I have absolutely no problem cheerleading Trump’s pick of Neil Gorsuch, his long-awaited move to rewrite Obama’s contraceptive mandate, or his increased delegation of military decisions to military commanders. But I’ll never defend his dishonesty, his erratic behavior, or any re-engineering of American conservatism into a form of post-Christian populism that concedes leftist economic arguments and adopts leftist political tactics as part of an urban/rural class war where the ideological stakes are low, but the tribalism is high.

Moreover, I’ll never defend conduct from Trump’s team that I would condemn in a Democrat. It’s sad to see the reflexive defenses of Trump’s conduct in, for example, the Comey firing when we know, we know, that similar conduct from Hillary Clinton would lead to nonstop calls for impeachment from the very same voices that so zealously defend Trump today. Either approach is wrong before the facts are in. Healthy skepticism and diligent investigation are mandatory. Culture matters more than politics, and a culture that abandons truth and the rule of law for the sake of short-term partisan advantage is a culture that sentences itself to death.

I’ll end on a more positive note. Like Jonah, I also admire Dennis Prager a great deal. And the fact that men like Dennis have made strong arguments for Trump has made me carefully consider and reconsider my own opinions more than once. Only a fool believes he is always right, and when men I respect disagree with me, it’s cause for soul-searching. I appreciate Dennis’s arguments, and — more importantly — I appreciate his continued defense of vital conservative values. I just filmed an edition of Prager University on the First Amendment and government-mandated transparency (coming soon!), and we are certainly united on multiple, important cultural, political, and legal fronts. I expect that unity will continue and endure — even after Trump’s presidency is long past.

David French is a senior writer for National Review, a senior fellow at the National Review Institute, and a veteran of Operation Iraqi Freedom.

Most Popular


Put Up or Shut Up on These Accusations, Hillary

Look, one 2016 candidate being prone to wild and baseless accusations is enough. Appearing on Obama campaign manager David Plouffe’s podcast, Hillary Clinton suggested that 2016 Green Party candidate Jill Stein was a “Russian asset,” that Republicans and Russians were promoting the Green Party, and ... Read More
Politics & Policy

Elizabeth Warren Is Not Honest

If you want to run for office, political consultants will hammer away at one point: Tell stories. People respond to stories. We’ve been a story-telling species since our fur-clad ancestors gathered around campfires. Don’t cite statistics. No one can remember statistics. Make it human. Make it relatable. ... Read More
National Review


Today is my last day at National Review. It's an incredibly bittersweet moment. While I've only worked full-time since May, 2015, I've contributed posts and pieces for over fifteen years. NR was the first national platform to publish my work, and now -- thousands of posts and more than a million words later -- I ... Read More

Feminists Have Turned on Pornography

Since the sexual revolution of the 1960s, the feminist movement has sought to condemn traditional sexual ethics as repressive, misogynistic, and intolerant. As the 2010s come to a close, it might be fair to say that mainstream culture has reached the logical endpoint of this philosophy. Whereas older Americans ... Read More
White House

The Impeachment Defense That Doesn’t Work

If we’ve learned anything from the last couple of weeks, it’s that the “perfect phone call” defense of Trump and Ukraine doesn’t work. As Andy and I discussed on his podcast this week, the “perfect” defense allows the Democrats to score easy points by establishing that people in the administration ... Read More
Economy & Business

Andrew Yang, Snake Oil Salesman

Andrew Yang, the tech entrepreneur and gadfly, has definitely cleared the bar for a successful cause candidate. Not only has he exceeded expectations for his polling and fundraising, not only has he developed a cult following, not only has he got people talking about his signature idea, the universal basic ... Read More

Democrats Think They Can Win without You

A  few days ago, Ericka Anderson, an old friend of National Review, popped up in the pages of the New York Times lamenting that “the Democratic presidential field neglects abundant pools of potential Democrat converts, leaving persuadable audiences — like independents and Trump-averse, anti-abortion ... Read More
PC Culture

Defiant Dave Chappelle

When Dave Chappelle’s Netflix special Sticks & Stones came out in August, the overwhelming response from critics was that it was offensive, unacceptable garbage. Inkoo Kang of Slate declared that Chappelle’s “jokes make you wince.” Garrett Martin, in the online magazine Paste, maintained that the ... Read More