NeverTrumper Bret Stephens Demonstrates That All The Policy Achievements In The World Won’t Matter

Look at every other administration embarrassment (Scaramucci) or failure (the wall, and Mexico paying for it) or disgrace (the Charlottesville equivocation). Responsibility invariably lies with the president’s intemperance and dishonesty. That puts Republican control of Congress in play. It also risks permanently alienating a millennial generation for which the G.O.P. will forever be the party of the child-molesting sore loser and the president who endorsed him.

There are two huge problems with Stephens’s proposition here. The first is his claim that conservatives pretend Trump’s flaws don’t matter. Of course they matter. They are a source of constant discussion, and most of us think Trump could have achieved even more than he already has if he didn’t pick unnecessary fights and focused more on policy. I don’t have to agree with every personality flaw Stephens ascribes to the president, but he obviously has some and of course they matter.  I said so a month before they election, and I still think so.

But where most conservatives differ from Stephens is that, unlike him, we don’t think Trump’s positive achievements are unimportant because he has personality flaws. We acknowledge that both are important. Stephens pretends the achievements are meaningless and the flaws are everything.

The second problem for Stephens is that he thinks political news matters more than what’s happening in people’s own lives. Maybe it does for a pundit like him, but normal people pay attention to the economy and their employment prospects more than they focus on an Alabama Senate race that will soon be long past. The New York Times may never let Roy Moore fade into obscurity, but for most people he will anyway. If the tax cut gives us a booming economy, that will be Trump’s legacy, not whatever he said about John McCain or the fact that Anthony Scaramucci worked for him for a week. That is a big deal to people like Stephens. It is not a big deal to just about anyone else.

Finally, if Stephens still wishes Hillary was president, wouldn’t it make sense for him to devote at least some of his column to what would be better if she was? Yet he offers not a word along these lines. I guess that’s not so hard to understand. What could he say? That the president’s impact on culture would be even worse, and that we would have none of the policy achievements to offset the cultural harm?

This is enduring problem for conservatives who claim they voted for Hillary because of Trump’s character flaws. If you think character in a president is of utmost importance, and because of that you voted for Hillary Clinton . . . well, I think you see the problem here.


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NeverTrumper Bret Stephens demonstrates that all the policy achievements in the world won’t matter