by Bruce Thornton
Slithering in the sewer of anonymous gossip.
The New York Times’s just published an anonymous op-ed from a “senior official” in the Trump administration. This self-righteous combination of clichéd anti-Trump tropes and arrogant moral preening puts the QED on the proof of the NeverTrumpers’ moral idiocy.
The stalest complaints involve Trump’s personality and style, although the only difference between Trump and, say, Lyndon Johnson is that Johnson with the help of the media knew that most of his vulgarisms and epithets would never be made public until he left office. And he wasn’t monitored 24/7 by a barrage of reports and images from internet news and blogs, hundreds of cable channels, and social media.
As for crudity and vulgarity, if you insurgent White House employees want vulgarity, just look around you. We are saturated with a culture of vulgarity, self-promotion, and crude sexualization. At least Trump hasn’t besmirched the White House with Clinton-style sexual antics, or like Obama brought foul-mouthed rappers who celebrate the murder of judges to socialize in the White House. But to Anonymous, the worst of Trump’s affronts is that he, with the help of deplorable uppity citizens, has “allowed our discourse to be stripped of civility.” This charge bespeaks an ignorance of the Constitution and its founders’ understanding of human nature. Given the variety and volume of colliding “passions and interests,” “civility” was a luxury. More important was protecting political freedom by preventing factions from joining forces to increase their power.
The catalogue of Trump’s shortcomings are stale, subjective epithets from nearly two-years of Trump-hating screeds, without any awareness that in terms of actions, progressives like Barack Obama have been much worse. For example, the brave anonymous resister says Trump’s behavior is “detrimental to the health of our republic.” Exactly how have excessive Tweeting, braggadocio, or insults of rivals done more damage to the Constitution’s separation of powers than Obama’s politicizing of the IRS, the EPA, two AGs, the Department of Education, the FBI, and the DOJ?
Trump hasn’t demanded, as progressives constantly do, that the Constitution and its protections from the tyranny of the majority like the Electoral College be revised or abandoned. Did these members of the underground cabal of Platonic Guardians and Trump resistors complain about Obama’s incessant executive overreach, or the Dems’ constant attempts to undo the Constitutional order upon which “our Republic” rests, with the same level of personal invective as they spend on Trump’s rhetoric? And to speak of Trump’s “amorality” without any supporting empirical evidence of amoral actions, but based on subjective anonymous charges, is nothing but a craven smear.
Anonymous also claims Trump “has attacked” the ideals “long espoused by conservatives: free minds, free markets and free people.” Name one specific action that proves Trump has done any of these things. Even his moves on tariffs––which have not yet played out–– are supported by many economists, who also agree that the U.S. is being played for a chump by many countries. As for “free minds” and “free people,” such bombast is despicable considering the attacks on personal and political freedom that Democrats have institutionalized in universities, the media, and popular culture through cultural Marxist ideas like political correctness. How has Trump’s “enemy of the people” epithet materially damaged press freedom in this country compared to the decades of the mainstream media functioning as the Dems private public relations firm? All we hear is the press screaming night and day that they are being silenced.
Russia, of course, is the big gun in the anti-Trump arsenal. Trump has “a preference for autocrats and dictators,” another stale cliché. But what about all the actions Trump has taken against Russia, a catalogue Obama matched only with childish threats? Well, Anonymous boasts, actions like expelling diplomats and imposing sanctions only happened because the “adults in the room” from the national security apparatus somehow constrained and compelled him. Maybe they did, as have many advisors changed the minds of numerous presidents before Trump. But somehow Trump doesn’t strike me as someone who lets underlings tell him what to do. In any case, such a charge is meaningless without specific details and specific names that can corroborate it. Again, absent such evidence, absent a public airing in which those making the claim can be questioned and their arguments supported with facts, this assertion is nothing but a political smear.
Finally, like most NeverTrumpers, this critic and his co-conspirators are all about morally preening on the cheap and creating personae of brave defenders of the realm. They are Marius on the barricades, Horatio on the bridge, the “unsung heroes in and around the White House,” the “adults in the room” who “have vowed to do what we can to preserve our democratic institutions while thwarting Mr. Trump’s more misguided impulses until he is out of office.” What arrogant, self-serving, narcissistic bombast.
As such, it’s fitting that the column ends with a reprise of the elite praise for John McCain as the paragon of bipartisan virtue and civility. McCain, according to the secret guardian of the public weal, was a “lodestar for restoring honor to public life and our national dialogue. Mr. Trump may fear such honorable men, but we should revere them.” To paraphrase what I wrote recently, what was honorable about McCain’s banishing Sarah Palin, who energized McCain’s presidential campaign, from his funeral, or calling Ted Cruz a “wacko-bird,” or saying that Trump “fired up the crazies,” or spitefully voting against and spiking the Obamacare “skinny repeal,” or calling a wheel-chair bound critic of McCain-Feingold “corrupt”?
McCain was a fixture of the bipartisan elite for whom government was as much an insider’s club as a venue for serving the country. Like many Republicans, including the anonymous Fifth Columnists in the White House, he represented the misguided call for “rising above politics, reaching across the aisle and resolving to shed the labels.” First, there is no “rising above politics” when dealing with today’s Democrat Party, which politicizes everything from plastic straws to the nature of the two sexes. The two parties represent conflicting “passions and interests,” some of which can be reconciled, but many that cannot. If we don’t have politics, then all that’s left is force controlled by tyranny. Our own history illustrates this melancholy fact. Beliefs about slavery were too passionate and too bound up in interests to be resolved by politics, and had to be adjudicated by a brutal war that killed up to 700,000 Americans.
Second, the Constitution wasn’t created to foster national “bipartisan” solutions to problems, but to protect freedom. Apart from times of war, a united federal government, with power concentrated and centralized at the expense of the states and civil society, is the precondition of tyranny, whether hard or “soft.” Donald Trump has made a start at reining in Leviathan and restoring autonomy to states and individuals, though he can be faulted for not going far enough. Most important, his nominees to the federal courts and the Supreme Court promise to restore the Constitution’s authority for achieving the aims of freedom and autonomy.
Those achievements have so far made complaints of his personality and style in the teeth of major achievements just another example of NeverTrump moral idiocy. If the White House resistance has evidence that those personality traits are materially dangerous, or that Trump’s achievements are due to their own interventions; if they really want to save the Republic from Trump, then resign, go public, and start trying to persuade your fellow citizens with arguments and evidence. Relying on anonymous gossip from political poltroons will only delight the progressive choir that reads The New York Times.
Bruce Thornton is a Shillman Journalism Fellow at the Freedom Center, a Research Fellow at Stanford's Hoover Institution, and a Professor of Classics and Humanities at the California State University. He is the author of nine books and numerous essays on classical culture and its influence on Western Civilization. His most recent book, Democracy's Dangers and Discontents (Hoover Institution Press), is now available for purchase.
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