Magazine | January 22, 2018, Issue

The Trump Scale

After a full year of Trump, some views on the right have softened, like an apple left out on the counter for a few months. Others have hardened, like a can of corn in the freezer. Other views still stubbornly resist a food analogy. You just can’t say, “My dislike has lost its rigidity, like a well-spotted banana, but I maintain a hard objection to certain parts of his agenda, much like the top part that connected to the tree.”

As much as you might like to say “Trump-wise, put me in the overripe-banana category!” no one would get it. So Trump chats with friends or relatives are prefaced by an interminable procession of qualifications: “Well, I didn’t support him in the primaries, he was my last choice, but now I have his face tattooed over my face so I see him when I shave.” Or: “I was for Trump on Day One, but I can’t believe he nominated a Deep State liberal like Gorsuch.”

What we need is a clear, rigorous taxonomy of Trump Opinions on the right, so everyone knows where the other person is coming from.

10. He could shoot someone on Fifth Avenue and I’d support him. In fact, I wish he would. A lot of people would be turned off by that, but he’s a New Yorker, they shoot each other. Your establishment RINOs like Dick Cheney, they shoot someone and they’re all apologetic. Trump’s just the breath of fresh air, lightning tinged with the scent of gunpowder, that we need.

9. He was my first choice in the primaries, due to his brash, free-wheeling style, but I was a bit concerned he would cut back on the inventive nicknames once he took office. “Lyin’ Ted” was so good, and I was looking forward to “Son of a Mitch McConnell” or maybe “Susan ‘Sticky’ Rice,” but that’s about my only complaint.

8. He was my last choice in the primaries, but once he got the nomination I was all in, because I can’t stand that frumpy Marxist harpy the Dems ran. I figured anyone was better than Hillary, except maybe Jeb. I wouldn’t have voted for him. Did you vote for Trump? No? Then you might as well have voted for Hillary.

7. I’ve been pleasantly surprised by a consistent conservative agenda with some real wins on the board, and in order to maintain my happiness with the events of the last year I’ll just forget that he tweets things that make YouTube comments seem like the maxims of Rochefoucauld.

I do enjoy the perturbations of the Left, which seems to rise every morning, shampoo with butane, and touch its head to a gas burner.

6. He is what he is — an impatient bundle of certainties and insecurities, more likely to brood over a CNN hit job than spend some time with a detailed policy paper. But he’s signing the right bills and taking good advice. I still maintain my original objections were well founded, and in fact I went on about them at length the other night at a Washington cocktail party, hoping to impress a pretty young reporter from the Post.

5. Some of it’s good, some of it’s bad. I’m callin’ balls and strikes, saying “Yer out!” and making the safe-at-home gesture. I’m noting when the ball’s a home run and when it’s just a single. I am, in fact, a professional umpire, so this comes naturally to me.

4. He’s rude and boorish, an uncultured arriviste with a toddler’s sense of himself and the world. He put his presidential slogan on the presidential coin, for crying out loud — MAGA instead of E pluribus unum. If you asked him what the Latin phrase meant, he’d say he had great respect for the Latin, the Latins did tremendous things, and he got more Hispanic votes that anyone else in the history of history, but English is so important.

Love that Gorsuch, though. Glad ISIS took it in the shorts. But President Rick Perry would’ve done the same and looked like he was having the time of his life. Trump always has that expression like the nanny took away his rattle.

3. I refuse to say anything good about him, because that normalizes the destructive effect he’s having on the culture. Over the years American society has become raw, crude, and insulting, elevating celebrity over intellect, and Trump empowers these degrading trends. The president should set an example of probity and decorum, to use just two words unfamiliar to the idiots who voted for him. Sorry, but it’s true. You mention probity to those people, they think you’re talking about a colonoscopy.

2. I will always be Never Trump because I despise the man and everything he represents. Don’t talk to me about accomplishments. The man lives in a snow globe swirling with tweets and accolades of populist nationalists. Okay, he signed a tax bill. My dog signed a hydrant when we went for a walk.

1. I am so conservative that I voted for Hillary and hope the GOP loses the House and the Senate so we can start rebuilding a true, honest conservative moment guided by people who voted for Hillary.

There you have it: a scale for judging all the comments, critiques, praise, and trepidations of people on the right when it comes to the president. I don’t expect everyone in this august publication to adopt my system, and put the relevant number after their name, but just so you know when you read my pieces in 2018? Personally, I’m a D.

– Mr. Lileks blogs at

James Lileks — James Lileks writes the Athwart column for National Review magazine and is a frequent contributor to the National Review website. He is a prominent voice on Ricochet podcasts.

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