The G-File

Politics & Policy

Pivot? What Pivot?

Rather than hold Trump to his promise to pivot, Hannity is defending Trump’s shtick.

EDITOR’S NOTE: The following is Jonah Goldberg’s weekly “news”letter, the G-File. Subscribe here to get the G-File delivered to your inbox on Fridays.

Dear Reader (including Vanilla Ice, because we now live in a world where that’s possible),

This is an honest question: Does Sean Hannity want Hillary Clinton to be president? I don’t get it.

And, to borrow a trope from President Obama, let me be clear about being clear for clarity’s sake: I’m not referring to the entirely valid, 100 percent correct, indisputably sound argument that it was batsh*t crazy to nominate this guy in the first place. What’s done is done and Sean Hannity will no doubt one day receive the Golden Hair Helmet for his Stakhanovite effort to get Donald Trump the nomination. Let no one forget his yeoman service in the cause to blow up the Republican party and empty a septic tank into the ground water of the conservative movement.

The Presidential Lie

But, again, that is not what I have in mind.

For more than a year Trump and his choir assured everyone that he would indeed “pivot” and become more presidential.

As he told 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.’”

“As I get closer and closer to the goal, it’s going to get different,” he told Greta Van Susteren in February. “I will be changing very rapidly. I’m very capable of changing to anything I want to change to.”

As I wrote last week, this was always a lie (and a ridiculous thing to say even if it weren’t). Trump can no more promise to be presidential than a leopard can promise to be a top-loading washing machine that runs on good intentions when in energy-saver mode (did I get that phrase wrong?).

But as 8 trillion eggs on Twitter keep telling me, what I think doesn’t matter. But Sean believed it. Hannity even suggested in that interview that the real Trump – the one Hannity has known for years — is the presidential one. Hannity in effect seconded Trump’s own assurance that Trump could change instantly into a mainstream, mature candidate whenever he wanted.

Many honest and decent people pocketed this IOU of presidentialness. In fact, this promise of a new, disciplined Trump seemed to be the only thing that kept Hugh Hewitt off suicide watch.

Never Mind

Since last week’s “news”letter, Trump has now stated unequivocally that he won’t change his style one bit. Either his a**hole-at-the-end-of-the-bar routine pays off or it doesn’t. “At the end, it’s either going to work or I’m going to, you know, I’m going to have a very, very nice long vacation,” Trump told CNBC. A couple days before that, he basically said the same thing to Fox Business. And, as if to underscore that point, that same day he went and made his “joke” about “Second Amendment people.”

If Trump doesn’t change he will lose. Badly. Even his fanboys know this.

When I heard that, I wanted to call Hugh’s producer Duane, and suggest that he confiscate Hugh’s belt and shoelaces.

So here’s the thing. As Hugh and other reluctant Trump backers have conceded countless times, if Trump doesn’t change he will lose. Badly. Even his fanboys know this – which is why the “stabbed in the back” tantrums against Trump opponents are intensifying.

For instance, in his most sincere “I’m really serious you guys!” voice, Sean Hannity says he will hold conservative Trump opponents “accountable” for Hillary’s victory. No really.

Maybe he can get some kind of tribunal going? “The Trial of the NeverTrumpers with Sean Hannity” would surely make for some boffo ratings.

Selling to the Sold

But here’s the thing. And I do not mean this as an insult to Sean (though if he wants to take it as one, I won’t lose too much sleep over it): No one who doesn’t already love Donald Trump is listening to Hannity (or Laura Ingraham, never mind the lower echelons of Donald Trump’s praetorian guard) about the topic of Donald Trump. No one. (Just as no one who went all-in for Cheeto Jesus is paying any attention to me either — which is fine. The Big Sort of the Trump era is useful in this regard.)

Sean’s threats and bullying are for the entertainment benefit of an audience that doesn’t need threats or bullying – they’re already in love with Trump. Except as an exercise in masochism, why would someone horrified by Trump watch Sean’s nightly Trump Hour brought to you by special guest director Roger Stone? Except maybe for the health updates on Hillary Clinton?

There are simply no gettable Trump-skeptical voters paying attention to Hannity or the other Trumpian party enforcers. The tantrums directed at the #NeverTrump crowd are for internal consumption, blame shifting, conscience-easing, and maybe to lay the groundwork for a purge of the new national-populist GOP.

But the really important point is that, the “let’s root out the kulaks” zeal enflaming the folks in Breitbart World notwithstanding, the simple fact is that Trump isn’t losing because of the #NeverTrump brigades. He’s losing because millions of people who don’t know or care about people like me don’t like the guy or are nervous about him.

The simple fact is that Trump isn’t losing because of the #NeverTrump brigades.

Bill Kristol, Jonah Goldberg, Kevin Williamson, Jim Treacher, Guy Benson, Ben Shapiro, Erick Erickson, John Podhoretz, Steve Hayes, George Will, and Peggy Noonan (on the odd-numbered weeks when she doesn’t like Trump) could endorse Trump tomorrow and he’d still be drowning with college-educated Republicans, women, minorities, et al.

Why? Because he’s making a fool of himself, daily. It’s as if he lost his car keys in his rectum and he’s looking for them face first.

I get that this is very hard for some people to hear. It’s a bit like the clichéd Jewish mother who just doesn’t understand how anyone could not love her boy. As Mrs. Seinfeld put it to Jerry, “How could anyone not like you?”

I watch Trump talking like he should be pushing a shopping cart under the West Side Highway, and think, “How can anybody take this guy seriously?” But, hey, one man’s trash is another man’s treasure.

Winning by Losing

Which brings me back to my question: Why does Hannity want Hillary to win?

Rather than hold Trump to his promise to pivot, Hannity is defending Trump’s shtick.

Hannity hosts a nightly infomercial for a product the customers have already bought. Why not expend some energy trying to change the product so that others will buy it, too? Would that be too much like asking the crowds at the Coliseum to downgrade their lust for spectacle? Do you think Trump’s hardcore supporters are so selfish that they won’t tolerate even a little sanity and sobriety from the nominee, if only to beat Hillary?

Give these people some credit for Pete’s sake. I’ve seen a bunch of interviews with attendees of Trump rallies who say they’d like to see more discipline from Trump. I know they want to defeat Hillary.

The simple fact is this: Trump will not win unless he changes. He needs to reassure the skeptics. He needs to win-over people not already won-over. He needs new, serious, material. But like an aging has-been rocker, he’d rather keep playing his greatest hits at Indian casinos and state fairs than actually put in the work and pivot.

But Hannity doesn’t seem to care. Trump is sabotaging his own campaign every single day, and yet his supporters put the blame on everyone else and cheer Trump on. They are Trump’s worst enemies because they are enabling him and by enabling him, they are sabotaging Trump’s campaign. If Hannity really loved Trump, he would play Ben Affleck to Matt Damon’s Will Hunting and tell him he owes it to himself and the country to be more than what he is.

Hannity should pull Trump aside and tell him, “The best part of my day are those few minutes every morning before I look at the newspaper or turn on the TV, when I think, ‘Hey, maybe today’s the day Donald Trump doesn’t beclown himself.’”

So, again: Why, Sean? Why? Doesn’t Trump listen to you? Didn’t you believe him when he promised you all those times that he can and will pivot? If you did, why aren’t you angry with him for lying to your face and your audience? Why are you happy to let him continue to pander to crowds that will already vote for him rather than make the slightest effort to persuade a constituency that would put him over the top?

If he can manage that I’ll reconsider my #NeverTrump position.

Do you think Trump is lying when he says he could be presidential if he wanted to? If so, isn’t that a source of concern? I mean, if he can’t act presidential for 24 hours as a candidate, are you confident he can be presidential for four years? Why not publicly ask him to try to be a serious person for a week? Let’s see if he can do that. Hey, I’ll tell you what. If he can manage that I’ll reconsider my #NeverTrump position.

Unless, the issue is that you know he can’t be presidential, so you don’t want to risk asking him to be. Or maybe you just prefer having stuff to gripe about every night to the amen corner? Or maybe, deep down, you realized just how massively you screwed up – and screwed us – by backing this guy and you’d rather pass the buck elsewhere? Or maybe you just want Hillary Clinton to win?

I’ll take my answers off the air, as they say.

Various & Sundry

I actually had a whole other G-File planned, all about Hillary Clinton’s staggering corruption (which I touch on in today’s column) but this one got away from me. And now there’s no time for anything else (which is ironic given the larger point of my column today).

That’s because I picked up my kid from camp this morning and I owe her a cheeseburger and a movie more than I owe anything to anyone, even to you, my dear readers.

I am heading home on Monday, so I’ll save you the canine updates for then, but there are a bunch of pictures here.

And, of course, the important stuff:

Debby’s Friday links

The sublime beauty of 2001: A Space Odyssey

The high-stakes life of a stolen-art retriever

One dog is particularly excited to be at the beach

And these dogs really like swimming in the pool

What does Donald Trump think dogs do?

Avant-garde poet attempts to secure his work’s immortality by encoding into extremophile microorganisms

The history of the Hawaiian shirt

1007 robots set new world record by dancing together

The sounds of Star Trek

Design your ideal New York City subway system

When museum visitors get too close to the exhibits

James Lileks interviews William Shatner

Bear cub bear hugs ranger who rescued him from a forest fire

Population of U.S. states vs. New York City’s Five Boroughs

Is Trump not always in control of his Twitter account?

Baby elephant sneezes, gets embarrassed, hides behind mother

“He who made kittens put snakes in the grass . . .”

The history of the Olympic torch

A sci-fi short film based on a script written by a robot


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