Chlamydia, anyone? Catching a venereal disease may give you the opportunity to review the Seventh Commandment and the church’s teaching on chastity and fidelity—as well as the sheer priapic unattractiveness of Bill Clinton. That opportunity, however, hardly seems a reason to go out and get a VD.
In a recent column on Donald Trump, I described how a Trump presidency, as distinguished from Trump himself, could bring back constitutional government. I wrote, then took out, a disclaimer paragraph that said: This column should not be understood as an endorsement of Donald Trump. Why vote for someone whose behavior might be so bad it would goad a hitherto ungoadable Congress into performing its constitutional duty to control the president—and, if necessary, to impeach him—when other candidates in the race seem, at least, to revere the Constitution and the limitation it places on executive-branch authority. Exhibit A: Sen. Ted Cruz.
Why did I take out the disclaimer? Because I concluded that no one reading what I had said about Trump would take it as an endorsement of him. Big mistake.
I Wasn’t Exactly Positive about Trump
In that column I wrote that if Trump won the nomination, Republicans should be brave and see it as a crisis that should be managed, not wasted. I said it was almost assured that Trump would renege on his promise not to run as a third-party candidate if he didn’t get the nomination. I added, “That’s the kind of man he is.”
I asked: “How can Trump be trusted in any deal—the man who contracts to pay people who work for him but then welches on the deal when it comes time to pay up, so that they have to sue? He can’t be trusted.”
Those are hardly descriptions of a man anyone would endorse for president. Nevertheless, some people thought I was endorsing—or perhaps just mini-endorsing—Donald Trump. I was not.
Why endorse a candidate who would have to be spanked by Congress when there are several candidates (or at least one) who are genuine conservatives—“conservative” being understood as supporting constitutional governance and limited government, in addition to particular conservative policies (like cancelling the federal sugar program or the federal ethanol mandate).
Trump Has Grievances, But Not Solutions
There is no indication that Trump is a conservative, as the term is currently understood, although we must admit that either the term has become a bit ambiguous or its ambiguities have become a bit more apparent. There is no indication that Trump has any understanding of constitutional governance.
It is true that Trump appeals to what Angelo Codevilla has described as the “Country Party,” whose members are fed up with “America’s ruling class.” But that in itself makes him neither a conservative nor a good candidate for president, although it may explain his popularity: a popularity troubling to the traditional keepers of the conservative flame, though it is fair to ask if the conservatives of the current conservative movement have become pointy-head college professors who can’t even park a bicycle straight (in George Wallace’s memorable phrase). Some of the members of America’s ruling class are the media consultants who—you know it’s true—advise Republican candidates.
On the issues, Trump lurches and rambles. Over the years he has been inconsistent to the point of incoherence, either because he has no governing principles whatsoever or because he is opportunistically dishonest. He is certainly neither a conservative nor a man who will return us to constitutional governance. But conservatives need to ask at least themselves if that is what Americans really want.
Trump used to support abortion. He used to support the Democratic Party. He used to support the Clintons. In 1999 he proposed a one-time 14.25 percent tax on wealth. He has praised a single-payer health-care system. He has called himself a Republican, a Democrat, an Independent, and a Republican.
In 1999, he said: “I just believe the Republicans are too crazy right.” In 2001, he said: “It just seems that the economy does better under Democrats than Republicans.” He supports private-sector unions, and was a big fan of Jimmy Hoffa, who even today may be still be supporting Trump—from the concrete foundations of the Trump Tower.
A One-Night Stand with Donald Trump
Those may be positions from the past. A man is allowed to change his mind, as Ronald Reagan did on abortion. But a man who has changed a basketful of positions in the past few years, or months, is a man who probably has no positions.
He says, currently, that he would defund Planned Parenthood; that police are the most mistreated people in America; that he would eliminate the Department of Education and that he opposes Common Core; that climate change is a hoax; that we should eliminate the Environmental Protection Agency; that we should get rid of the regulations that are destroying us; that there should be no limits on guns—they save lives; that we should replace Obamacare with health savings accounts; etc., etc., etc.
Zounds! What’s not to like? That should be conservative enough for any conservative. Raise and double.
But why should anyone believe Trump will try to effect those policies if he gets elected? A case can be made for Trump, and has been by a number of people who call themselves conservatives and who have demonstrated over the years that they are conservatives (as we understand the term), on the basis of what Trump has said. The problem is his track record. The problem is that his positions are as ephemeral as a one-night stand.
I heard once that people suffering from seriously advanced chlamydia (a kind of infection—and any kind of infection can lead to death) tend, in the end stage, to lose their bearings, to lurch and ramble, and to say things that are inconsistent and incoherent. I’m not saying Donald Trump has chlamydia. I’m just raising issues.
This column should not be taken as an endorsement of catching a venereal disease.