Herbert London: Never Trump and The Trump Presidency
For the so-called Never Trumpers, the president’s coarse cultural style is an unforgiving trait, one that undermines the dignity of the office. Never Trumpers (NTs) contend that even if there are policies President Trump embraces consistent with their philosophical suppositions, they will remain firm in their opposition.
Here is the classic contention between pragmatism and idealism. There are those who fall into a third camp believing that Trump’s coarse language is unbefitting a president, yet think his foreign policy positions as outlined in his Riyadh and Polish speeches deserve praise.
Many of Trump’s supporters like his unfiltered style, but the coarsening of public discourse does not enhance his reputation and his ability to engender support for his programs. Prior to his removal, after ten days on the job, Mr. Scaramucci, the former Communications Director, engaged in a splenetic attack on Reince Priebus, Chief of Staff, as well as the editors of The New Yorker. This outburst filled with expletives was greeted by many as a natural manifestation of Trump’s cultural stance.
While presidents have not always measured up to the standards of moral rectitude, Trump’s behavior is sui generis. In most instances presidents preferred to keep their dalliances secret, their indiscreet language within the privacy of White House quarters and the butchery of conventional grammar at a minimum.
Trump, by contrast, has had three wives in well publicized relationships prior to his presidency. He invariably cites “what the hell…” as a tough guy pose when discerning policy issues in the Oval office or at rallies. His limited vocabulary is on display when marginal success is described as “huge” or “amazing,” vacuous words for presidential programs. And, of course, he was excoriated for comments he made off the cuff about groping women.
NTs are especially resentful at the president’s callous disregard for nuance. Conditions are either awful or blissful; the world is either light or dark. His mind is not cluttered with “on the one hand, but on the other” positioning. However, vulgarity is often at his side, even in public pronouncements.
During the course of the presidential campaign, Trump was criticized for his coarse commentary. In response, Trump noted that when elected he would be “very presidential.” Yet in tweets and occasional speeches, President Trump hasn’t met his own standard. In part, this explains the low poll numbers for the president and one might contend, the adamant opposition from the NTs.
Some critics maintain Trump is his own worst enemy since his temperament is volatile and not easily altered. It is instructive that a dispassionate view of the White House yields a government in disarray caught in a cultural web of its own making. For many conservatives, this is a Shakespearean tragedy since sound policy perspectives have become the casualty of Trumpian culture.
The NTs are not likely to change their position on the president, but there are many agnostics who want to see evidence that order can be restored to the White House and Donald Trump can be restrained. Should that not occur, this presidency can be in trouble.
Hilaire Belloc noted, “We sit by and watch the barbarians… His comic inversion of our old certitudes and our fixed creed refreshes us; we laugh. But as we laugh we are watched by large and awful faces from beyond, and on these faces, there are no smiles.”
Herbert London is President of the London Center for Policy Research, a senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute and author of the book The Transformational Decade (University Press of America). You can read all of Herb London’s commentaries at www.londoncenter.org
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