The Burkean Conservative recently provided a Facebook post arguing against an opinion editorial by Senator-elect Mitt Romney. This post is adapted from comments I left in reply to The Burkean Conservative.
Mitt Romney’s article argues a premise that seems, to me, inarguable: that President Donald Trump lacks moral character. To its credit The Burkean Conservative does not seem to argue against this premise; rather, the Burkean Conservative seems to argue that we should move on from such arguments and focus on what Trump has done in office.
In this post, I shall do just that.
On Trump and “Fake News…”
Argument, paraphrased: “Trump is doing a good job handling the fake news media.”
Rebuttal: One would think a good messenger for the idea that the media is flawed and biased would not be a serial liar and birther known for planting false stories in tabloids about himself hooking up with supermodels in the 80s, and who once claimed that Ted Cruz’s father had something to do with the JFK assassination. I’ll leave the list there, but everyone knows I could keep describing Trump’s own promotion of fake news stories for the duration of this post, and just doing that would make it longer than it is in its present form.
This is not to say that the media is not flawed and biased. It is to say that the idea that Trump is doing a great job illuminating the media’s flaws and biases is ridiculous. Absolutely no one believes that Trump has deep-seated beliefs about the need for a fair and accurate press, because he has spent decades trying to ensure that press about himself and his enemies is not that. If you ask him for the names of the best journalists working today, he will give you the names Sean Hannity and Jeanine Pirro. That is not because they are more fair and accurate than the average journalist—they are far, far less—it is because they like him. That is Trump’s only metric of fairness and accuracy: whether people are saying nice things about him.
Remember, the term “fake news” became popular as a description of Trump. He then co-opted it to describe any negative news about him, and because branding is the only thing he’s genuinely good at, the rebranding worked. This post-truth attitude of our president is much more poisonous to our nation’s collective notion of truth than anything the mainstream media has been up to for the past decade.
So no, he is not doing a great job handling the media. He bashes the media whether they are accurate or not, based entirely on whether they are telling him things he wants to hear about himself. That is not “doing a great job.”
On Trump’s moral character
Argument: “Put aside his private moral character. He was elected, and he’s doing a good job if you look at policy.”
Rebuttal: A presidential candidate’s moral character does not stop mattering once they are elected president, and the idea that it does would have been inconceivable to The Burkean Conservative before Trump. The Burkean Conservative authors have allowed Trump to lower their standards.
Obama was, overall, a man of good moral character. As was Bush. Trump is not. This matters. But even if one chose to put aside Trump’s private behavior and just focus on how he governed, it is hard to see how he has done so morally. Here are several examples elaborating on this point:
A moral administration would not even do a few of these things, let alone all of them. And this is only the corruption that directly stems from his position as POTUS. So be my guest: ignore his private behavior, his tweets, his demeaning comments, his incoherent rants at rallies. Ignore the corruption before he came into office, such as his hoax of a charity, defrauding people with Trump University, his shady business deals. Ignore the misogyny toward even many conservative women during the campaign. Just focus on what he’s done as president. That’s damning enough.
I hope these arguments are persuasive to at least some of those who insist we ignore Trump’s private behavior and focus on what he’s done as president. These are not partisan attacks, and should not be considered partisan issues. Whether you are on the right or the left, we should all be able to look at the list above and see that many of Trump’s actions as president have been objectively awful.
The Burkean Conservative, respectfully, got this one wrong. Notwithstanding, we are far closer than the substantial majority of political pundits in contemporary society.
President Trump was not elected as a hitman per se. The reasons for one’s political views or votes goes much deeper. Studies have shown that people tend to vote against something as opposed to for it. Additionally, people tend to vote for those that will tell the truth; or, who is “genuine.” This holds true even when the official has been caught in a lie. For example, Bill Clinton lied often about personal topics including the use of marijuana during his time at Oxford. Obama miraculously twisted language to the end of blatant lies, like the gender pay gap and the state of America in foreign affairs. What really strikes people as crossing a red-line is when the office is either used for personal gain; or when those, within the same faction, do not follow through on promises (i.e. the GOP establishment and spending) President Trump challenged the status quo of politics, like our Founders did in their time, because the actions that have been taken almost have never matched the rhetoric that got officials elected. He basically ran on saying, ‘I am tired of the inaction and false promises.’
President Trump can make myriad lies on one speech (or hyperbolic exaggerations) and actually grow in support as new studies have shown, because the consequences remained consistent and true to the intelligentsia of our particular faction. Now, things are intimately more complicated when it comes to governance (he could not have done anything without a GOP Congress). But, notwithstanding, the effects of his actions remain true. He said he would cut taxes, and taxes were cut. He said he would make China renegotiate on trade deals, and China has announced repeatedly that they are now open to negotiations with the President. He said North Korea would be tamed, and what we are seeing is as much progress as ever before. CNN had a very biased segment where they asked evangelicals how they could support him and said it was hypocrisy! That is not how logic works. The group of women correctly asserted “[he] was not their preacher.” If you look to the President for moral authority and guidance, then it would appear that, that particular individual is lacking both within themselves. It seems, to me, as an outsider of the evangelical circle, that the faction that supports the President, which is continuing to grow, can pierce through that illogic and see that actions at that level ought to matter more than just rhetoric. This is not to say that rhetoric doesn’t matter—it does. But, rhetoric good or bad ought not be the sufficient conditional that drives American’s decisions.
The Framers of the Constitution and Founders of the nation did not necessarily live moral lives: Ben Franklin was a womanizer; Thomas Jefferson fathered an illegitimate child; Alexander Hamilton looked down on the lower classes of people; James Madison was known for being cowardly at times and sticking to studies and argumentation; and, all were slaveholders. Okay? Therefore, in all cases whatsoever, they were not men of immense reading across disciplines and the benefits they wrought were for not? No. One must extrapolate the good, criticize the bad, and weigh the totality of the evidence. It seems this is where those that support the President (which the numbers have grown exponentially) are at even if it is unwittingly. Say that the President sleeps around. Okay? Black unemployment is the lowest it has ever been. Say he lies in speeches or misrepresents the “truth.” Okay? Obama traded five terrorists for one traitor, and the current President caught five leaders of IS and secured the return of three North Korean prisoners. Say he is a demagogue. Okay? Show me a politician that is not one. Moreover, show me a politician save for the President that would say anything to garnish as many votes as possible and then enact policies contrary to the rhetoric that garnished said votes. That would be lying as well. Its important to keep in mind the actual issues that bother the individuals.
The Enlightenment is predicated on principles and knowledge across the spectrum: science, morality, and reason. For example, is it more moral to elect one with benign rhetoric even though unemployment will remain constant or even rise; or, is it more moral to elect one who actually moves to lift people out of poverty and reassert the sovereignty of the polity? That type of inquiry, logical reasoning, and balancing is far more representative of the Enlightenment than just one of those principled elements (morality). This understanding better explains, to me, what some are calling a phenomenon. I cannot point to a campaign promise that the President has not fulfilled. When the President calls MS-13 animals and the mainstream media and almost all liberals impute their lies by twisting language and saying he was talking about all immigrants, that is the real miscarriage of truth and which leads to the appeal of the President. It seems evident that the actionable truth is more important than rather or not he lied about something superficial, and I think many are beginning to see that.