During the campaign, Donald Trump lashed out at a lot of people, including John McCain and Megyn Kelly. These two were the targets of two of his most repulsive lashings.
When Trump became president, I had it explained to me by one of his champions that Trump never criticizes anyone — unless that person has criticized him first. So, McCain had knocked the Trump campaign for its demagoguery.
And what did Trump do? Say that McCain was no war hero, because he had been captured (on his 23rd bombing raid over North Vietnam) (while Trump was taking deferments).
Megyn Kelly asked Trump some tough questions in debate — whereupon Trump said “you could see there was blood coming out of her eyes, blood coming out of her … wherever.”
I thought of this yesterday — the Trump champion’s explanation. Because Trump, curiously enough, never criticizes Vladimir Putin or the Kremlin. And he is painfully indisposed to criticize white nationalists (starting in an early stage of the 2016 campaign, when he found it almost impossible to utter a critical word about David Duke).
Is that the only criterion? Will Trump lay off you, no matter who you are, as long as you lay off him?
The mayor of New York is a far-Left Democrat — a supporter of the Castros and the Sandinistas — whose name is Bill de Blasio. Once, Trump had warm words for him. The explanation can be seen in this statement by Trump: “He actually said some very nice things about me at a recent cocktail party, I was told by somebody, and I thought that was very nice.”
“Nice.” This is an important concept to Trump. He attacked Susana Martinez, the governor of New Mexico (and a conservative Republican), and later explained, “She was not nice.”
What Martinez had done was choose not to attend a Trump rally in her state.
Trump is by no means shy. If he wants to denounce you, he will. Think of the people he has lashed out at in recent times. The mayor of London; a senator from Connecticut; his own attorney general …
And when he lashes out, he is not reliably truthful. After the London Bridge atrocity — before the corpses had turned cold — Trump said, “At least 7 dead and 48 wounded in terror attack, and Mayor of London says there is ‘no reason to be alarmed!’”
Well, yes, that’s true: The mayor said that people ought not be alarmed by the beefed-up police presence they would see, following the attack.
Why had Trump attacked the mayor, at such a grotesquely inappropriate moment? Because the mayor had previously criticized him.
So had Mika Brzezinski, and her partner, Joe Scarborough. So Trump blasted “low I.Q. Crazy Mika” and “Psycho Joe.” He said that the pair “came to mar-a-Lago 3 nights in a row around New Year’s Eve, and insisted on joining me.” He also said of Brzezinski, “She was bleeding badly from a face-lift.”
Is any of that true? Does anyone care?
Trump’s spokeswoman, Sarah Sanders, said, “This is a president who fights fire with fire.” On Fox, her father, Mike Huckabee, said that Trump had “made it clear”: If you hit him, he will “hit you back ten times harder.”
He does not hit Putin and he does not hit white nationalists. They notice, too. The white nationalists noticed it yesterday and were properly, publicly grateful.
Yesterday was a time for character in the office of the presidency. And this is my problem with the “scorecard” approach to Trump — the approach that many conservatives take to Trump. They also refer to it as “calling balls and strikes.”
Anyway, the scorecard goes something like this: “Gorsuch good, Carrier deal bad. Withdrawal from climate agreement good, a trillion in new infrastructure bad.” And so on. Little checkmarks.
But the little checkmarks — even the big ones — don’t cover the moral dimension of the presidency, which is large. No conservative would have disputed that, pre-Trump. But now many people call it “moral preening” (and worse).
When pro-Trump conservatives asked other conservatives to look away from the question of truth, decency, and honor, they asked a lot — more than they might have known. It was too much to ask, too much to accept.
If I had my way, the Republican party — starting with Trump — and the conservative movement would tell the alt-Right, or whatever it should be called, to take their frog and their torches and their buzzwords — “globalist” and all the rest – and stuff it.
I think that, if conservatism gets associated in the public mind with nationalism, populism, demagoguery, grievance, race-consciousness, and tribalism, we are cooked. And the country too.