Comparing David French’s watching Game of Thrones with President Donald Trump’s sleeping with a porn star is not where the state of conservative thought should be three years in to Trump’s presidency.
Yet here we are.
It’s so 2019 to have a life deconstructed down to the last HBO series, or culled tweet by tweet for the most destructive dainties in order to build a straw man ripe for the burning.
This is where we are because we’ve been pulled here by a force as inevitable as rain or a bathtub where the drain plug has been pulled. We are caught up in the vortex of a force of (human) nature: In a race to the bottom, we are all dragged into the sewer. The corollary to this is that there is no bottom.
President Trump called Pulitzer Prize-winning writer Peggy Noonan “simplistic.” As if Trump’s tweets, speeches, and public statements are dripping in nuanced academic coherence and subtle complexities.
Who would have thought that the Reagan revolution of conservative thought, led by the man who fairly singlehandedly ended the Cold War, gutted the Soviet Union, and brought about nearly two decades of economic growth in the peace dividend, would lead to a sad tweet about “past glory.”
Yet here we are.
Maybe Noonan is a bit too centrist or even liberal for radical spenders and past pro-choice supporters, and confirmed friend of the Clintons named Donald Trump. Maybe she’s a bit too on the nose writing about culture and the decline of polite society, and of the value of shame, for a man who has none.
For those who simply think Noonan is wrong, it’s not difficult to say that without being insulting. In fact, it’s easier to say it without being insulting. But the president went out of his way to make his point, and to be insulting, because that’s his way, period.
For what, many of us aren’t sure, because I don’t see how ratcheting tariffs against Mexico up to 25% will somehow force the Mexican government to stem the tide of illegal immigration through America’s southern border. As if Mexico could do that, first of all. And if it could (which it can’t, really, because Mexico is very close to being a de facto failed state, overrun by better-funded and better-armed criminal conglomerates), why would it do that when American consumers are paying the tariffs?
In fact, it could be in Mexico’s interest to let Trump max out the tariff, because we will blink before Mexico needs to. Remember, we’re also fighting a trade war with China.
But he fights. To own the libs. And Trump should know, because he used to be one.
It’s the fighting that draws conservatives in. Even God-fearing men like Sohrab Ahmari and R.R. Reno have turned the Catholic blog First Things into a “He Fights Club.” Ahmari used David French, a man who himself has fought for conservative values–and for the U.S. as an officer in the Army–for decades, to build and incinerate a straw man for Christian surrender.
Let’s be frank about orthodox (small “o”) Christian doctrine: Christians are supposed to surrender. Of course, we’re not to surrender preaching the Gospel, living charitably, or loving righteousness. The prophet Micah wrote that we are to “do justly, To love mercy, And to walk humbly with your God.” (Micah 6:8.) The verse was written in the form of a question, indicating that we (believers) should know what God expects of us. And “fight those who smear our reputation” is not on the list.
It’s easy to be radicalized into fighting when horrific debacles such as the Kavanaugh hearings occur in full public view (this is what Ahmari claims was his breaking point). It’s easy to give the president credit for not backing down on a nominee who clearly didn’t deserve to be libeled and defamed with some clearly false accusations. But it’s a lot harder to maintain a love for others, kindness in all situations, and grace toward those who genuinely hate us and what we stand for.
Those things are not David Frenchism, but they are God’s way. They are exactly what Jesus Christ taught, and what the Scriptures confirm from Genesis to Revelation. Our war is not confined to the puny arena of this planet and the short lives of men. It’s a cosmic war against spiritual enemies who have long existed and will permanently end upon Christ’s return.
And this whole “Trump fights” sideshow is a distraction for Christians of all stripes in America when others around the world so desperately need the Gospel. In Europe, Christianity as we know it here (weak as the Church is in America) is dead and gone. Less than 5 percent of Europeans go to church anymore. But many American Christians line up behind a man who glorifies sin as an exemplar of Christian virtue. What is the world supposed to think of our witness?
They think exactly what we see ourselves. We Americans like to fight, and Trump fights.
So here we are.
The more we conservatives fight, the more we see that “the libs” love to fight too. They fight just as dirty and low down, and even more so. Because in the race to the bottom, there is no bottom.
So we see the truly good reporter Maggie Haberman succumb to mountain-making from mole hills in an interview the president gave about Meghan Markle, in which he said “I didn’t know she was nasty.”
Oh yes, Trump said exactly the quote. But in context, his meaning is that he literally didn’t know Markle had been the opposite of “nice.” In the interview, Trump was told by CNN that the now Duchess of Sussex did not say nice things about him. I’m sorry but it’s not insulting to say you didn’t know someone was “nasty” (as in being nasty) when you’re told they said things that aren’t nice about you.
Unless the “you” is President Donald Trump, who denies everything he actually said, categorically, no matter if its on video, or how the context makes it fairly tame.
Because he fights.
Haberman spends half her life fact-checking Trump’s incorrect recollections, alternative facts, and outright lies. Sometimes she’s wrong because her sources have fed her bovine excrement. Sometimes she’s right. But in general, she’s after the truth.
Now the smallest statement turns into a big deal because Trump won’t let go, and she can’t let it go either. Maybe these mini-feuds only manifest on Twitter, the world’s fastest-flowing open sewer, but they do find their way onto the pages of the New York Times, and the Washington Post (among other places like on screen at CNN).
Who would think that a senior NYT writer would be arguing about “calling” someone nasty versus saying they were nasty in response to a statement that in context confirms the person was indeed being nasty? Are we back to Bill Clinton’s parsing of the meaning of “is” and “I did not have sexual relations with that woman, Miss Lewinsky” jive? Or are we playing “no it’s mine!” with four-year-olds on the preschool swing set?
I’m inclined to think it’s the latter case. Because there is no nuance with Trump. He’s the purest troll ever to inhabit the White House.
The media therefore spends its time circling the drain on which the plug has been pulled, while politicians debate impeachment, which, if they proceed, will only help the president and encourage more trolling.
The left finds ever more creative ways to squelch conservative voices, end substantive debates, disengage intellectual arguments, claim scientific hegemony, engineer the culture through entertainment and cash, and throw milkshakes at Republicans. How low can you go?
Meanwhile, conservatives find ourselves split on the issue of if we should go even lower. The answer should be as obvious as it was to the prophet Micah.
Yet here we are.