Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Religious Trumpians Suffer from Stockholm Syndrome

By Ben Shapiro
Wednesday, March 29, 2017

One of the great lies of the last election cycle didn’t come from Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump. It came from conservatives.

Specifically, the lie came from conservatives who suggested that after Trump was elected — after the Hildebeast had been defeated! — they would go back to holding Trump accountable, pushing for better public policy. Everything had to be put on hold to stop the Democrats from taking power, every heresy tolerated. But once Trump took the White House, conservatives could return to their political philosophy.


It now appears that the cognitive dissonance associated with Trump support has morphed into full-blown Stockholm syndrome, with conservatives now waiving principle not to defeat Hillary Clinton, but to back Trump down the line. Many conservatives now say that Trump’s American Health Care Act was the best available bad option. Speaker of the House Paul Ryan and President Trump had presented a crap sandwich, to be sure, but it was the best available crap sandwich. Never mind its 17 percent public-approval rating. Never mind its accelerated death spiral. Never mind its new entitlement, its maintenance of key Obamacare regulations, or its increased premiums for the next few years.

Trump wanted it; thus it was good; thus it had to be passed. It was The Best We Were Going To Do™.

Except that it wasn’t. It wasn’t the legislative process that required a bill cramdown on the president’s own party within a three-week period. It wasn’t the legislative process that offered an ultimatum to conservatives to embrace the suck. It wasn’t the legislative process that demanded conservatives sign on to all the policies they opposed when Obama promulgated them. It was Trump. And because Ryan thought that his best option involved parlaying with Trump rather than going through the rough business of policymaking, he negotiated with himself to create a one-off bill, hoping that Trump would bring the anti-establishment conservatives and that he’d bring the establishment Republicans.

It failed, in part because of Trump’s artificial deadline, in part because Trump would never have pushed a truly conservative piece of legislation that did away with preexisting-conditions regulations, and in part because Ryan decided to go along with Trump’s program in order to push through his long-awaited structural changes to Medicaid. And then, to top it off, Trump deployed famed subtle touch Steve Bannon to scream at Republicans about how they had to get their minds right or they’d spend the night in the box.

The bill was bad, and it deserved to go down in flames. The strategy was worse. Barack Obama spent 13 months hammering out Obamacare. Trump spent 17 days. But who gets blamed? The conservatives who actually took their promises about repealing Obamacare seriously. The gaddumed fools thought that it mattered whether they actually got rid of Obamacare. All they had to know was that many conservatives only cared about propping up Trump.

And so too many conservatives turned on the Freedom Caucus, which saved Republicans from passing an odious piece of legislation that would have crippled Republicans for years. They argued that Republicans had to go along with Trumpcare, because it was the “lesser of two evils.” They followed Trump’s lead, as Trump outrageously blamed the Freedom Caucus for preserving Planned Parenthood funding and Obamacare. The more to the left Trump moves, the more incompetently he governs, the more unpopular he becomes, the more his election defenders feel the need to defend him beyond the election.

There’s been a lot of talk about Never Trumpers dumping on Trump in order to prove they were right during the election cycle. There’s some truth to that — figures such as Evan McMullin seem dedicated to the proposition that everything Trump touches turns to hot garbage. But that case is overstated. Most of those who didn’t vote for Trump or Hillary have praised Trump fulsomely for conservative actions such as the nomination of Judge Gorsuch, his approach to cutting regulation, and most of his cabinet appointments.

There’s been far less talk about ardent Trump defenders who are now shifting their arguments about Trump’s supposed brilliance because they wish to avoid the non-brilliant reality of his presidency.

Remember when Trump would be a great president because he was a great negotiator? That old chestnut has been discarded in favor of “Trump got played by that Machiavellian Snidely Ryan.”

Remember when Trump would know how to work with Congress, because he wasn’t tied down to ideology? That’s been tossed out the window in favor of screaming about conservative obstructionism.

Remember when Trump would be the most conservative president ever, and this whole populist shtick would merely be a cover for a Mike Pence policy? That’s gone, and Trump’s now going to be the greatest aisle-reacher in history.

Remember when Trump would know how to fix D.C., because only he knew how corrupt it was? Now we hear that Trump didn’t understand the extent of the problem in D.C.

Remember when Trump’s toughness would mean that nobody would cross him? That argument now reads, “Trump’s so tough, he knew when to walk away.”

In other words, many conservatives have become religious Trumpians. There is nothing Trump can do to lose their love and respect. If he turns to the left, they’ll blame conservatives for failing to kowtow to leftist policy. If he gets nothing done, they’ll blame everybody else on earth for failing to support Trump properly. The god must be appeased.

And so the soul-sucking of many conservatives continues apace. This doesn’t mean that Trump won’t give conservatives some wins — he most assuredly will. And those wins deserve celebration. But the question remains: When Trump crosses conservatives, will their allegiance remain with them, or with the philosophy they supposedly sought to uphold in electing him to avoid Hillary Clinton?

Paul Ryan Is a Convenient Scapegoat

By Jonah Goldberg
Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Paul Ryan did it.

That’s the argument many of the louder voices on the right are shouting. In the story they tell, the speaker of the House is fully responsible for the GOP’s failure to pass an Obamacare repeal-and-replace bill last week. President Trump should walk across a Havana ballroom like Michael Corleone in The Godfather Part II, kiss Ryan on the mouth and say, “I know it was you, Paul. You broke my heart.”

Jeanine Pirro, host of Justice with Judge Jeanine on Fox News and an old friend of Trump’s whose support for his candidacy was about as nuanced as a horse head in your bed, suggested that Trump was beguiled and seduced by Ryan.

“Americans elected the one man they believed could do it. A complete outsider. Someone beholden to no one — but them,” Pirro said straight into the camera on her TV show.

“And Speaker Ryan, you come in, with all your swagger and experience, and you sell him a bill of goods that ends up a complete and total failure. And you allow our president, in his first 100 days, to come out of the box like that?”

“Folks,” she continued, “I want to be clear: This is not on President Trump.” (The “not,” by the way, is all-caps on her website.) “No one expected a businessman to completely understand the nuances, the complicated ins and outs of Washington and its legislative process.”

Translation: Donnie’s a good boy, he just fell in with the wrong crowd.

Over at CNN, Trump loyalist Jeffrey Lord also insisted, “This is Speaker Ryan’s fault.”

Back over at Fox (where I am a contributor), Sean Hannity read from the same hymnal: “Let me be very clear here. This is not President Trump’s failure. The president went above and beyond, did everything in his power to get this bill across the finish line.”

There are three interesting things about this new orthodoxy.

First, that’s not what Trump says. On Saturday morning, Trump placed the blame squarely on the House Freedom Caucus, the 30-odd members of Congress who reportedly kept changing their demands until it was clear they were never going to support the American Health Care Act. Nor is there a single quote from a member of Congress echoing this sentiment, even from the Freedom Caucus. The people in the room understand that Ryan, who clearly made some mistakes, nonetheless acted in good faith to move the president’s agenda.

The Pirro crowd, however, can’t endorse the effort to blame the Freedom Caucus, because it’s the heir of True Conservatism. If Trump found himself in opposition to the group, it must be because he was tricked — by Ryan’s irresistible “swagger.”

The second point: Contrary to what Pirro says, she and the other members of Trump’s amen chorus did expect him to work miracles, or at least they said as much. Indeed, during the campaign, Trump said “it will be so easy” to get rid of Obamacare. Trump and his boosters insisted there was nothing he couldn’t do with his Jedi-like negotiating skills and gift for “winning.”

So the only explanation that can rescue them from the agony of cognitive dissonance is to insist that Trump was betrayed.

That’s why Hannity’s claim that Trump did “everything in his power” to get the bill passed is an accidental admission against interest. It concedes the falsity of the idea that Trump is a modern-day, omni-competent Cincinnatus who will lay down his golf bag to save the republic.

Third: It’s a sign of things to come. Some conservatives opposed Trump in the primaries because they — we — didn’t trust him to uphold conservative principles. The Hannitys and Heritage Foundations insisted these fears were misplaced. And on some issues (Trump’s Supreme Court nominee, Cabinet appointments, etc.), they’ve been somewhat vindicated.

But now, because of the Freedom Caucus’s stubbornness, Trump is signaling that he might be happier to work with Democrats than deal with the purity caucus — an alliance that certainly would not lead to conservative policies.

Should that come to pass (a difficult task given the polarization of the parties), there will be more talk of betrayal, but the loyalists will doubtless find a way to blame anyone but Trump.

The Democrats v. Gorsuch

National Review Online
Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Judge Neil Gorsuch is a mainstream conservative judge who has earned the respect of liberals in the legal world, and this fact has caused no end of frustration to Democrats who are resolved to block a vote on his nomination to the Supreme Court. Since they do not control the Senate, they could not do what the Republicans did last year and refuse to consider the nomination of a president they oppose. Hearings took place, and Gorsuch acquitted himself well. Democrats are having to invent spurious justifications for their opposition.

They have highlighted, and distorted, three of the judge’s decisions. Cecile Richards, the head of Planned Parenthood, says that Gorsuch “believes that actually bosses should be able to decide whether or not women should be able to get birth-control coverage.” We have no evidence that he believes any such thing. He did not rule that businesses should be able to refrain from providing insurance coverage for forms of birth control to which they object; he ruled that under the religious-freedom law Congress enacted, they can refrain. (He did not rule, either, that the law allows employers to stop their employees from buying whatever coverage they like.)

Senator Al Franken (D., Minn.) says that Gorsuch “sided with” a trucking company that fired an employee who disobeyed a company directive by driving his vehicle to escape freezing conditions. But Gorsuch did not say that the company made the right decision or even that the law should have allowed it to fire the driver; he merely said that the law as it stood did allow it to fire him.

Finally, several senators have excoriated a decision in which Gorsuch ruled against the family of an autistic child who sought help beyond what the local schools were willing to provide. The Democrats claim that a Supreme Court ruling that came down during the hearings repudiated the legal standard Gorsuch applied. They neglect to mention that Gorsuch was applying a precedent of his circuit, as he was bound to do; that the Supreme Court itself mentioned that it had left the law in this area confused, something only it could resolve; and that a liberal Democratic appointee had joined in Gorsuch’s decision.

The theme running through all of these criticisms is that Democrats want Gorsuch to reach results that run counter to the law — a point that Senator Kamala Harris (D., Calif.) put with characteristic artlessness in complaining about Gorsuch’s attention to “legalisms.” These criticisms thus testify to the judge’s fitness for the Supreme Court.

When they are not distorting cases, the Democrats have been unable to mount a coherent case. Thus they say that Judge Gorsuch is simultaneously too deferential to President Trump (because he has failed to denounce the man who nominated him) and not deferential enough (because he has said that executive-branch agencies have too much leeway to apply their own interpretations of the law).

And they have complained, oh have they complained, about the Republicans’ refusal to allow President Obama’s nominee, Judge Merrick Garland, to sit on the Supreme Court. The Constitution gave the Republicans the right not to schedule hearings for Garland. It gives the Democrats the right to complain about it, and even to filibuster Gorsuch’s nomination in response. It also gives the Senate Republicans the power to end filibusters of Supreme Court nominees. Gorsuch is a good enough nominee, and the cause of getting judges committed to the rule of law is sufficiently important, that Republicans should exercise that power should it prove necessary.

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Like Ike

By Kevin D. Williamson
Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Today marks the anniversary of the death of Dwight Eisenhower on March 28, 1969. He was born in the 19th century and was one of the indispensable figures of the 20th. There were more consequential men in his generation, “consequential” being a word that is morally neutral: Adolf Hitler was born one year before him, Mao Zedong three years after.

We generally remember public figures on their birthdays rather than on the anniversaries of their deaths, with an exception for those who died in assassinations or other dramatic fashions. But there is something to be learned from Eisenhower’s death, a subject to which he gave some real consideration before the moment was forced to its crisis. He had been, during his military career, “General of the Army,” an extraordinary and temporary rank that, before its revival by Congress in 1944, had last been conferred upon Ulysses Grant, William T. Sherman, and (an honorary designation just before his death) Philip Sheridan. The only man ever to outrank Eisenhower while living was General of the Armies John Pershing, George Washington having been promoted to that rank only posthumously.

General Grant had saved the country before becoming its president; General Eisenhower, who was deeply competitive, one-upped Grant and saved the world. (Before that, he had spent 16 years as a major without being promoted.) “I hate war as only a soldier who has lived it can,” Eisenhower later said, “only as one who has seen its brutality, its stupidity.” But in Eisenhower’s army, high promotions were earned on the battlefield, and he must have secretly welcomed the opportunity for advancement. He was, like General Washington, conscious of his reputation.

And what a reputation it was. It is difficult for Americans living in 2017 to imagine a sitting American president, much less a retired one, being the most highly regarded man in the world. But Richard Nixon did not exaggerate in his eulogy of his predecessor: “Some men are considered great because they lead great armies or they lead powerful nations. For eight years now, Dwight Eisenhower has neither commanded an army nor led a nation; and yet he remained through his final days the world’s most admired and respected man, truly the first citizen of the world.”

Eisenhower hadn’t quite made like Cincinnatus, but he did retire to his farm in Pennsylvania, though he spent much of his time in sunny Palm Desert, Calif., where he golfed by day and played bridge by night. He did not go out of his way to inject himself into public life. Part of that certainly had to do with the rise of the conservative movement, which understood itself as opposed to Eisenhower-style Republicanism —“Our principles are round, and Eisenhower is square,” declared young William F. Buckley Jr. — and whose members did not share the world’s awe of Eisenhower. Like Ronald Reagan, Eisenhower had made his peace with much of Franklin D. Roosevelt’s welfare state, leading Barry Goldwater to dismiss his program as “a dime-store New Deal.”

But Eisenhower had a great deal on his agenda: He wanted to balance the budget and end the Korean War. He integrated the military, which Harry Truman had promised and failed to do. He also desegregated the District of Columbia and the federal government, and used federal funding as leverage to force desegregation elsewhere. He fought for and signed the Civil Rights Acts of 1957 and 1960. When the Democrats in Arkansas refused to comply with Brown, Eisenhower sent in the 101st Airborne. He established NASA and DARPA and signed the National Defense Education Act into law. He oversaw the revision of the Atomic Energy Act to allow for the development of civilian nuclear power. He smacked down Joseph McCarthy and, when his advisers unveiled a crackpot scheme to use nuclear weapons to save the French position at Dien Bien Phu, he replied: “You boys must be crazy.” He sent U.S. troops into Lebanon to stop a Soviet-backed revolt. He convinced Congress to pass the Formosa Resolution, obliging the United States to defend Taiwan against Communist China. He forced the withdrawal of foreign forces from Egypt during the Suez crisis. He saw to the elevation of West Germany as a full NATO member, a critical turning point in European affairs. He helped Mohammad Mosaddegh into an early retirement. He welcomed two new states into the Union.

The remarkable thing is that, while all that was going on, Eisenhower managed to convince the nation that there were no crises and nothing to worry about, that he was spending much of his time playing golf. The nation was happy to believe him.

He had waited a long time for his talents and abilities to be appreciated, but upon his election he was intent on serving only a single term. He served two, and perhaps these visual aids will shed some light on how he came to that decision:

But even though he was very much conscious of his place in the world and its history — and was not exactly immune to the temptations of vanity, or to temptation, period — he set an example, tragically abandoned, of conducting a presidential career with humility. Knowing that he would lie in state after his death, he made detailed plans for the event: He was laid out in the $80 government-issue wooden coffin that was the final resting place of thousands of ordinary soldiers, wearing an army field jacket. A soldier, David Ralph, sang “The Old Rugged Cross” at his funeral, which ended with a tape recording of “America the Beautiful.”

He governed in complicated times. Those who take to heart only his warnings about the “military-industrial complex” should bear in mind that he oversaw a military budget that was, in real GDP terms, three times larger than it is today. He sometimes called himself a “progressive conservative,” meaning that, unlike the conservatives of his time, he saw no pressing need to dismantle the welfare state — which at the time (again, in real GDP terms) was barely a quarter of the size it is today. Time has a funny way with things: The conservative movement rejected Eisenhower in the 1950s, but which libertarian, national-security conservative, or traditionalist in 2017 would be unhappy if today’s Republicans cut 75 percent of the welfare state, tripled military spending, cut taxes modestly, and balanced the budget in the process — while working under a president with an excellent record on the most pressing domestic issue of his time?

It is not 1957 anymore, and a return to Eisenhower-era policies would be neither wise nor popular. But a return to modesty, prudence, and genuine responsibility? That is something to which we ought to aspire. The great events of Eisenhower’s day went from Great War to Depression to Holocaust to Cold War, a ghastly progression, but Eisenhower remained famous for his sunny disposition and his winning smile — which was, of course, partly genuine and partly camouflage that protected others from the burdens he bore. The United States does not need a Dwight Eisenhower holiday to go along with the days set aside for men such as Washington and Lincoln. What the United States does need is 365 days in the year on which we insist that the men with whom we entrust the nation’s business endeavor to live up to the example set by men who did so much more with so much less in incomparably harder times — that they, to the extent that they have it in them, be like Ike.

An Army of Straw Men Keeps Campus Intolerance Alive

By David French
Monday, March 27, 2017

If there is one constant in the battles over free speech on campus, it’s this: Apologists for intolerance can rarely justify censorship without making stuff up. Confronted with the difficulty of justifying the actual facts of actual disruptions (and sometimes violence), they resort to defending the academy from enemies it doesn’t have, upholding standards that aren’t under attack, and creating new standards they have no intention of using to benefit anyone but their friends.

I witnessed this countless times during my legal work defending the free-association rights of Christian college students. More than 100 universities in the United States have either thrown Christian groups off campus or attempted to toss groups from campus on the grounds that it is impermissible “discrimination” for Christian groups to reserve leadership positions for Christians. But rather than justify the actual facts of the actual case in front of them, campus officials would assert that if they don’t uphold the campus nondiscrimination policy, then the university couldn’t defend its students against . . . the Ku Klux Klan. Indeed, at Vanderbilt University, administrators directly compared Christian students seeking Christian leadership to segregationists from the Jim Crow South.

Yes, in the name of protecting students from hordes of sheet-clad night riders, the university was ejecting from campus student groups known mainly for playing lots of guitar, volunteering disproportionately at urban homeless shelters, and avoiding the binge-drinking hookup culture that was and is causing its own set of campus problems.

This misdirection was especially pronounced in the aftermath of the Middlebury College affair, in which gangs of students and “outsiders” disrupted Charles Murray’s speech, chased him out to his car, physically attacked him, gave a Middlebury professor a concussion as she tried to defend him, and then tried to block Murray’s car as he left.

But to read some commentators, one would think the protesters’ main problem was that they gave “intolerance” a bad name. Writing “in praise of intolerance” at Slate, author and James Madison University professor Alan Levinovitz, argues that “the subsequent violent protests were wrong not because they were intolerant, but because they were an ineffective and immoral form of intolerance, especially in a civic space dedicated to reason and evidence.”

And what are the “effective” and “moral” forms of intolerance? Well, here come the straw men. He speaks of creationists and anti-vaxxers — two groups that are most definitely not trying to gain access to campus biology departments — and then moves on to a direct and misguided attack on religious conservatism, condemning (of all people) C. S. Lewis for advocating that “all economists and statesmen should be Christian” and rank-and-file Christians who believe that God wants men to serve as the head of the household.

But here’s the problem — Levinovitz doesn’t point to a single example where those kinds of Christian beliefs are at issue in any modern campus controversy. Even Christian professors who believe in “male headship” (a misunderstood belief that has exactly no relevance to campus politics) don’t import that belief into their English or chemistry or mathematics lectures. One gets the feeling that to weed out or block alleged “extremism” that isn’t a problem on campus, defenders of the status quo are happy limiting mainstream conservatives, especially mainstream religious conservatives.

Indeed, some writers are so entirely within their own ideological bubbles, it seems that they actually believe that the choice is a binary between the progressive monoculture and an extremist dystopia. Writing at The Ringer, a new and already-influential sports and pop-culture website, staff writer Kate Knibbs claims to have figured out what “ideological diversity” really means:

The phrase “ideological diversity” is a Trojan horse designed to help bring disparaged thought onto campuses, to the media, and into vogue. It is code for granting fringe right-wing thought more credence in communities that typically reject it, and nothing more.

This sentiment would be laughable if it weren’t so common. There’s reasonable, responsible progressivism — and then there is the howling mob of extremists. But again, where is the serious effort at grappling with genuine censorship or with the plight of the actual people campus that progressives are trying to toss from campus?

The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education maintains an active and expanding list of all known attempts to disinvite speakers from college campuses. Read it carefully. Yes, there are a few alt-right extremists on the list (there’s a heavy concentration of recent attempts to block Milo Yiannopolous from speaking), but the overwhelming majority of the disinvited are not only thoroughly mainstream, many of them are even on the mainstream Left. Is Madeline Albright too triggering for today’s students? How about Janet Napolitano?

Indeed, the very length and breadth of the list reveals the underlying intellectual bankruptcy of real-world attempts at virtuous intolerance. There is no limiting principle other than the subjective desires and (more importantly) the political power of the people making the demands. At the end of the day, it’s not about justice or standards or tolerance at all, it’s about who runs the place.

This weekend, I watched a fascinating twelve-minute documentary on the 2015 free-speech crisis at Yale. You’ll remember it as the controversy in which students melted down because a professor had the audacity to write a polite e-mail declaring that adult students should have the liberty to choose their own Halloween costumes based on their own moral judgments. The documentary features students and even administrators using an interesting word to describe their university. They called it a “home.”

But whose home is it? It’s becoming increasingly clear that the university is the place the Left calls home. And it’s not just the university. Progressive students can now leave one home in academia and immediately enter a new home in progressive corporate America. Conservatives (to the extent they exist) are the invited guests, expected to live by the host’s rules. Break those rules, and you’ll be asked to leave. And they’ll justify your eviction — no matter how kind, how intelligent, or how deferential you are — as a sad necessity. We can’t have those Christians on campus. The Klan might be next.