It is remarkable to watch conservatives scramble to defend Donald Trump from attacks by “leftists” basing their attacks on Trump’s own words. Historian Victor Davis Hanson writes that the National Review that “The attacks on Trump won’t even wait until he takes office” and that, of course, they are completely unjustified.
Hanson actually categorizes the attacks he sees coming:
- Of the personal sort, expect more “investigative” reporting and “speaking truth to power” op-eds about his tax returns, his supposed theft of the election, his purported instigation of turbulence and mayhem, his locker-room talks about women, his business conflicts of interests in office, Trump University, and so on.
- The nexus of attack will not be a dramatic scandalous revelation — it will be intended to induce bleeding from a thousand tiny nicks and cuts, all designed to reduce his moral authority and thus his ability to ratchet back the progressive decade.
- Another trope, as we are now witnessing, will be of the hysterical policy brand: Trump will cook the planet, put y’all back in chains, conduct war on women, traumatize students, destroy dreamers — all the boilerplate extremism designed to put Trump on the defensive so that he will settle for half an agenda and “reach out” to cement his respectability as a “listener” before the court of D.C. fixtures, the campuses, the foundations, the think tanks, the media, the social circles of Silicon Valley and Wall Street.
We could respond that conservatives are more than willing to throw completely fabricated scandals at Hillary Clinton, and have; we could even point out their response to the election of Barack Obama in 2008; or we could just point out some unwelcome facts to a historian who ought to know better:
- His tax returns are a problem; contrary to a practice dating back to the early ’70s, they were never released by the Republican nominee;
- His talk about women was not locker-room talk and that’s the problem;
- His business conflicts of interest are real and dangerous to national security (and let’s not forget Secretary of State frontrunner Rudy Giuliani’s business ties);
- Trump University was a fraud and a scam, as the National Review‘s own Ian Tuttle related in February;
The thought that Donald Trump has any moral authority to erode is amusing. This is a man who at the time of his election had 75 lawsuits hanging over his head; who brags about sexually assaulting women; and who lies at a rate that is nothing short of breathtaking.
He has no moral authority.
As for Trump cooking the planet, yes, the last 5 years are the hottest on record, 15 out of the last 16, and 2016 will be the new hottest year on record, and Donald Trump says global warming is a hoax concocted by the Chinese.
And Trump will have plenty of help from a party long in denial of scientific consensus. It is with good reason Noam Chomsky declared the Republican Party is the “most dangerous organization in world history.”
Hanson and other Republicans talk big about national security and a powerful military but ignore the Pentagon’s warnings about global warming being a threat to national security. So does Trump, who brags he “knows more” than the generals.
He has a “secret” plan to destroy ISIS. Maybe he has a secret plan to keep the planet from cooking us.
Most remarkable of all of Hanson’s defense of Trump is his complaint about “all the boilerplate extremism designed to put Trump on the defensive.” The thing is, all this extremism comes out of Donald Trump’s own mouth. So now Trump’s critics are being attacked for taking Trump at his word.
This isn’t the tried and true conservative practice of inventing words to come out of a Democrat’s mouth. These are actually things Trump said, things he promised to do, from banning Muslim immigration to striking down marriage equality, to loading 11 million people on trains like cattle and shipping them across the border, to surveilling people because of their religion.
This is a man who wants to use his presidential powers to intimidate the press to not criticize him; destroy corporations that supported Hillary Clinton; who wants to cancel TV shows because they make fun of him; who wants to sue women who say he did exactly what he bragged about doing to them.
There is no defense of Trump. A defense of Trump based on Trump’s own words is impossible, which is why Hanson prefers instead to just pretend Trump never said any of this, and that the left is just making things up.
Hanson says a strong showing in his first 100 days will induce “Trump’s critics will for a while [to] defer to his power,” but this is not how we talk about presidents, it is how we talk about kings and dictators. Trump is about to have power, a terrifying amount of power for a man proud of his ignorance and refusal to learn even the simplest of lessons.
“The Trump family,” writes Hanson, “has said that the campaign has changed or energized Trump,” which is genuinely funny when you take into account that Trump is already complaining about all the work he will have to do and saying he plans on working only four days a week as president.
Well, I suppose it is possible Trump is simply too lazy to persecute all those groups he promised to persecute, but laziness in a president is not exactly a virtue either and we are left wondering, as we so often are when facts are going to intrude onto conservative thinking.
It would be great if a historian could use facts to defend Donald Trump. It would be even better if he didn’t have to. But that’s on Trump, not, as Hanson complains, his critics on the left.
Hrafnkell Haraldsson, a social liberal with leanings toward centrist politics has degrees in history and philosophy. His interests include, besides history and philosophy, human rights issues, freedom of choice, religion, and the precarious dichotomy of freedom of speech and intolerance. He brings a slightly different perspective to his writing, being that he is neither a follower of an Abrahamic faith nor an atheist but a polytheist, a modern-day Heathen who follows the customs and traditions of his Norse ancestors. He maintains his own blog, A Heathen’s Day, which deals with Heathen and Pagan matters, and Mos Maiorum Foundation www.mosmaiorum.org, dedicated to ethnic religion. He has also contributed to NewsJunkiePost, GodsOwnParty and Pagan+Politics.