The Morning Jolt


You Should at Least Read My Column before Writing a Hit Piece

President Donald Trump talks to reporters at the White House in Washington, D.C., July 30, 2019. (Leah Millis/Reuters)

Making the click-through worthwhile: A not-so-persuasive accusation of “traveling fantastically creative routes to reach the sunny side of Trump” and a lesson from the world of comic books that probably applies to political columns; Trump orders his staff to build new border fences quickly, regardless of the consequences; and a new poll suggests that surprising Monmouth poll wasn’t at all accurate.

I Suppose This Means I’m ‘Fantastically Creative,’ in a Way

Frank Bruni of the New York Times writes, “‘Even Trump’s Supporters Are Getting Tired of His Daily Drama’ was the headline on Jim Geraghty’s Monday column in National Review, which sometimes travels fantastically creative routes to reach the sunny side of Trump.”

“Travels fantastically creative routes to reach the sunny side of Trump”? Is he referring to National Review as a whole, or me? And if he means me . . . has he read me?

If he’s referring to National Review as a whole, he realizes this is a publication that runs a variety of writers, right? We run Conrad Black and Kevin Williamson, Jay Nordlinger and David French, Victor Davis Hanson and Kat Timpf. And there are a bunch of our writers like Ramesh Ponnuru and the boss who probably should be classified somewhere in the middle, praising the president when he deserves it and criticizing him when he’s earned that, too. And we’ve got a bunch of extremely talented writers who weigh in on the president only intermittently. The cheapest, dumbest, least-accurate “you’re flip-flopping” or “you’re hypocrites” or “you’ve sold out” argument is when someone juxtaposes the “Against Trump” issue with some issue with a pro-Trump cover piece – say, “A Year of Achievement” — and insists that everyone associated with the magazine changed our minds.

Is looking at the bylines just too much effort? Or are there just a lot of numbskulls out there who believe that ever praising the president for anything he ever does somehow invalidates your criticism of him, and vice versa?

I never liked Trump’s character or how he sees the job on the presidency — talk-radio-caller-in-chief, don’t-bother-him-with-policy-details, demagogue-when-convenient — but I like some of the policies. I like almost all of the judicial nominations. I like tax cuts. I like rolling back federal regulations. I’m glad ISIS has been beaten to a pulp, if not completely eliminated. I like Right to Try for those facing terminal illnesses. I like the majority of the criminal-justice-reform legislation, particularly the anti-recidivism programs in federal prisons. I like getting rid of the individual mandate to purchase health insurance. I like keeping foreign aid money from paying for abortions. I want a secure border and concur with the Customs and Border Patrol that additional miles of barriers, or “bollard fence,” or whatever you prefer to call it is part of the solution (but not the entire solution). I like that the United States is now the world’s largest oil producer and a net natural-gas exporter, while our carbon emissions are declining slightly. I like blowing up Syrian air bases when Assad uses chemical weapons. I like NATO allies spending more on defense.

I also think that Trump only says variations of about six thingsI am the greatest, that good thing that happened was because of me, it’s not my fault, my critics are terrible people, here’s a version of history that I just made up in my head, and look at that woman’s appearance. He’s got no business lecturing anybody else about loyalty, and he’s easily fooled by sycophantic idiots; his attacks on critics cross the line into racism; he has indeed stoked xenophobic attitudes in this country, in part because he’s never contradicted his supporters’ belief that citizenship is conditional; he has the impulse control of a sugar-filled toddler; he constantly blames others for his own bad decisions; and he seems wildly naïve in his dealings with Kim Jong-un and certain other dictators.

I have an often-irritating president who gives me some of what I want — or who will at least sign some of what I want into law — up against a variety of options who pledge to give me almost nothing I want, and who are promising to repeal the things I like. I don’t particularly like this status quo, but I prefer it to a Bolshevik Revolution or turning our already-too-divided society into an endless status competition of woker-than-thou.

If I write one Corner post praising Trump for some decision, and another Corner post criticizing the president in the same day, you will often see my Twitter mentions full of people denouncing me as a racist xenophobic MAGA-head fascist Trump suck-up, alongside those denouncing me for being an elitist, out-of-touch, RINO, Acela-corridor, squishy soy-boy cuck. (I’d really love to see these people get together and hash it out amongst themselves . . . someplace far away from me.)

It is a sad state of modern political commentary that to a considerable number of readers, whatever you wrote most recently is the only thing you’ve ever written, and the only thing they ever need to read to reach dramatic conclusions about you. (Until they forget about it, and read the next thing you write, and love what you wrote because it reaffirms their pre-existing beliefs.)

I suppose I shouldn’t grumble too much. I’ve been reading a lot about the comic-book industry lately, and Jim Shooter, the editor at Marvel for many years, used to insist to writers that every issue of a comic book series was some reader’s first issue. Thus, every issue should be an “entry” point to the story, even if it was the second, third, or fourth part of a four-part story. Thus, the opening pages had to have at minimum a quick explanation of who everyone was, and ideally a reintroduction to each character, his or her goals, his or her powers, how they got to that moment, etcetera. Writers had to create a story that could be understandable to someone who had zero familiarity with the characters, setting, previous plot developments, etc. at any point.

(You see this in movies and television, too. The episode begins with the characters climbing a mountain and one asks, “why are we doing this again?” and another character explains — more to the audience than to the other character —  “because we received a mysterious letter that warned that a magic scroll was hidden in the secret temple just beyond Impassible Pass in the Ominous Mountains and that if we didn’t get to the scroll before the Brotherhood of Generic Badguys gets to it, the world will be doomed, blah blah blah . . .”)

Every column is some reader’s first. I can only imagine what someone thinks if this one is their introduction to me.

Trump: Build the Fence and Ask Questions Later

The Washington Post reports, “President Trump is so eager to complete hundreds of miles of border fence ahead of the 2020 presidential election that he has directed aides to fast-track billions of dollars’ worth of construction contracts, aggressively seize private land and disregard environmental rules, according to current and former officials involved with the project.”

In some circles, this is a critical article about the president. I suspect that Trump 2020 is tempted to send it out as a press release.

Theory: The voters who care the most about “building the wall” will be reassured by Trump’s declarations that he is building the wall and will take him at his word that he will finish the wall in his second term. The Ann Coulters and Mark Krikorians of the world, who pay attention to the details of policy and what’s actually been done, are relatively rare.

Separately, how should we count replacing fencing that is dilapidated? No, that’s not new fencing or border barriers. But it’s putting up a barrier that is either impassable or much more difficult to overcome, where previously people could climb, sneak through, or otherwise penetrate.

This Just Handed to Me, Joe Biden Is Still Ahead

Hey, remember when Monday’s Monmouth poll freaked a lot of people out and spurred some race-watches to contend that Joe Biden had lost his lead? This morning the new survey from USA Today has Biden at 32 percent, Elizabeth Warren at 14 percent, Bernie Sanders at 12 percent, Pete Buttigieg and Kamala Harris, each at 6 percent, and businessman Andrew Yang at 3 percent.

Some people get irked when you point out that a small-sample poll with a surprising result is probably an outsider.

Hey, good for Yang, right? He can legitimately argue he’s in sixth place in a 21-candidate race.

ADDENDA: In case you missed it yesterday, a Corner post that bugged a lot of people,  Kirsten Gillibrand delays the inevitable, and Bernie Sanders offers some kind words about the Chinese government.

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