by Victor Davis Hanson
The new post-Mueller media narrative is “weariness” and “exhaustion” with President Trump’s tweets, his cul de sac Sharpie controversy, his ideas about buying Greenland, his unorthodox art-of-the-deal foreign policy that resulted in a plan to talk to Taliban leaders in the United States, and his firing of arch-conservative John Bolton.
The Drudge Report, once a go-to site for Trumpism, now seems unapologetically anti-Trump, in its often trademark snarky style.
Are Trump supporters then weary?
The August jobs report “unexpectedly” reminds us that never have so many Americans been at work. The 3.7 percent unemployment rate continues to be the lowest peacetime unemployment figure in 50 years. Black and Hispanic unemployment remain at record lows. Workers’ wages continue to rise. Talk of recession is belied by low interest, low inflation, low unemployment, and a strong stock market. The result is that millions of Americans enjoy far better lives than they had in 2016.
When we look to alternatives, all we seem to hear is multi-trillion-dollar hare-brained schemes from radical progressives and socialists masquerading as Democrats at a time of record national debt. The Green New Deal, Medicare for All, free healthcare for illegal aliens, reparations, the abolition of $1.5 trillion in student loan debt, and free tuition for all—are the stuff of fantasies and either would have to be repudiated by any of the Democratic nominees who actually was elected, or would destroy an already indebted nation.
So, again, where exactly is the supposed dissension in the Trump ranks, given that in 2020 he will be only the alternative to the above?
Too Many Tweets?
Many seem disappointed that after the implosion of the 22-month Mueller investigation, Trump’s polls have not neared 50 percent—given the final exposure of the entire collusion/obstruction hoax and the possibility of indictments to follow for those who had staged a veritable coup against the executive branch of the United States.
But the jury is still out. We will not know until 2020 how many, if any, of the corrupt FBI, CIA, and Justice Department officials acted unlawfully in addition to unethically.
Mueller’s contribution to the progressive cause was that he extended their fantasy for 22 months right into the 2020 campaign. No sooner had his team been discredited than the media went 24/7 with new tropes of racism, recession, and impeachment. Those replacement narratives dovetail with constant attacks from the admittedly anemic Democrat field, as Senator Kamala Harris (D-Calif.), Cory Booker (D-N.J.), and former Vice President Joe Biden compete to see how Trump might be beaten up or done away with altogether.
Moreover, Trump has not ceased his Twitter storms, but serially renewed them in the old 2016 style, ridiculing “the squad,” pondering buying Greenland, belaboring whether Hurricane Dorian might have plowed into Alabama, and variously attacking his Republican would-be primary rivals in Trumpian ad hominem style.
Google the phrase “Trump weariness” or “Trump exhaustion” and dozens of progressive articles pop up suggesting that Trump’s base is worn out by Trump’s antics. Julie Kelly has summarized (and dismissed) the same phenomenon among the Never Trump bloc. Trump supporter Michael Walsh worries about the effects of “Trump trauma” on the 2020 election: Trump’s supporters are seen as tired of his detour Twitter wars, impatient that he appointed deep swampers like Christopher Wray at the FBI, and now sense a distracted Trump’s only half-heartedly pursues his appointments or MAGA agendas.
All that may be true—but only to a certain extent.
Trump certainly did not need to assume the role of a discordant weatherman at a time when the Bahamas were flattened, or kneel to spar with nutty George Conway, or remind the nation that his new transient primary rival Mark Sanford is seriously delusional. Trump can be funny, as when he did not take the media bait by saying he didn’t like the Democratic debaters, but instead had “respect” for anyone willing to undergo the ordeal of a presidential candidate (such as he had done), or, earlier, speculated what alcohol might have done to a type-A personality such as himself. More of that, and less of tweeting about Greenland and the huffy Danish ambassador of course might be wise.
A Heterodox Republican
But don’t forget that Trump is not a traditional president, defined as the head of a loyal party and an emissary of his party’s orthodoxies. He arose attacking Chamber of Commerce Republicans who sanctioned open borders.
Trump was elected on the apostate position that if China is not stopped now in its systematic destruction of the global commercial order, it will end up as a hegemony that will devour the West. To that end, no one so far has come up with a more effective lever than the rusty iron bar of tariffs. Pre-Trump, our policy was to shrug or offer a whine or two about China.
No one in the Republican party previously believed that either offshoring or outsourcing was all that bad. Republican orthodoxy was more or less to let the Midwestern out-of-work deplorables eat cake, defined as getting in their old pickups and heading to the fracking fields in between oxycontin flare ups. The market alone would adjudicate their dismal futures.
Pre-Trump, the Republican habit was often to appoint a periodic William Brennan, John Paul Stevens, David Souter, or Anthony Kennedy to the Supreme Court—and not dream of confirming 150 conservative federal judges including a quarter of all federal appeals court justices. It was to split the difference on climate change and carbon taxes, to moan that the border was open and would stay so, and to give up on curbing late-term abortion on demand.
The Left since 2000 had seen Republicans not as the loyal opposition but caricatured them as Nazis, fascists, and criminals that needed destroying, not defeating.
Remember the assassination chic that surrounded George W. Bush? Mainstream writers, columnists, and filmmakers vied to think of ways of expressing their desire for Bush to be assassinated. When national hero John Glenn stooped to insinuate that his president was a Nazi (“It’s the old Hitler business”), then the Democratic Party had reached a new low. Substitute any progressive presidential name for Bush in Jonathan Chait’s New Republic essay, “Why I hate George W. Bush,” and a crisis would have followed. Trump then was seen in 2016 as a belated antidote to all that.
So what makes Trump wearisome is that he replies to the new incarnation of the old traitor/Nazi/fascist boilerplate tit-for-tat—unlike George W. Bush, a good man, who was gentlemanly and long-suffering and by 2006 was more or less rendered as an unabashed monster by the media, entertainment, and academia.
Polls Don’t Tell the Whole Story
Trump’s style is often seen as his weakness. Again, perhaps. But for many it was his very combativeness that fueled his support, as if near lethal chemotherapy not delusional neglect is more likely to shrink cancerous tumors.
Trump’s popularity rating may be for now frozen between 43-44 percent. But, even if accurately calibrated by polls, it is not yet Bush’s 33 percent when he left office. Bush, contrary to popular invective, had a decent last year, he was quiet and philosophical not Texas combative in his final 12 months. He calmed the economy in his final 16 weeks following the disastrous September 2008 meltdown to the degree the recession ended in June 2009 just six months after he left office. And he completed a successful surge that had so secured Iraq by January 2009 that new Vice President Joe Biden thought the new calm Iraq might become one of his new administration’s “greatest achievements.” Yet he was reduced by the corporate leftist media nexus to the status of a criminal.
Long suffering is not wearying. But it does result in a total and absolute destruction of a president’s likeability.
The reason Bill Clinton survived impeachment, aside from a toady and compliant media, was that he fought back tooth-and-nail and managed to focus on a booming economy and not the fact that he was facing disbarment. I am not endorsing Clintonism, only describing how a miscreant left office with stellar popularity that suggests the proverbial people apparently liked the idea he fought back against the impeachment bloc in the House.
Trump is not just advancing an unorthodox trade, immigration, and cultural agenda that transcends his otherwise orthodox conservative deregulation, energy promotion, conservative judges, tax reform and reduction, and support for personal freedom against deep swamp overreach.
He is also waging a 360-degree, 24/7 war against a corrupt media—an assessment that most in the past accepted but were too fearful of confronting. Before Trump, CNN, despite its overt biases, was still considered a legitimate news organization; after Trump it is little more than the airport lounge equivalent of Muzak.
Ditto the New York Times and the Washington Post. They are descending into tony blogs whose reason for being has been reduced to destroying Trump, a frenzy in which the Times stooped to anti-Semitism and recruiting racists to their editorial board to publishing fake news.
Trump also warred against the international progressive order. Remember the many pronged war involving the climate change pieties of the Paris Climate Accord crowd, the statist and anti-democratic agendas of the European Union, the obfuscations of what even Obama called the “free-riders” of the NATO alliance, the mythologies of the “Palestinians” as eternal refugees, the namby-pamby 50-50 policy vis-à-vis Israel, and the idea that the United Nations, the International Criminal Court, and globe-trotting NGOs had a moral right to adjudicate American foreign policy.
Then there is the prior Republican decision not to wade into campus free speech issues, to avoid openly supporting the NRA take on the Second Amendment, and to ignore race-class-gender agendas that had turned professional sports, late night television entertainment, morning and daytime talk shows, and movies into progressive propaganda.
Unusual Times Call for Unconventional Leadership
Fighting all that can be wearying. The very thought of such disruption, acrimony, and media hysterias is why George H.W. Bush, Bob Dole, George W. Bush, John McCain, and Mitt Romney were not trench fighters but saw themselves more as sober and judicious protectors of the existing American order. Translated that meant slowing down somewhat the process of America becoming progressively Europeanized—while being polite about it.
But these are not normal times. There is (for now) no longer a Democratic Party. Instead, it is a revolutionary Jacobin movement that believes socialism is our salvation, that identity politics is our creed, that gun confiscation is our duty, that the abrupt end of fossil fuels is coming very soon, that open borders is our new demography, and that the archetypical unmarried, childless, urban hipster is our model woke citizen.
For more than two years, Hillary Clinton—via Fusion GPS, Perkins Coie, the DNC, and Christopher Steele—attempted to destroy the Trump campaign. Later the Justice Department, FBI, and CIA took up her cause and sought to sabotage the Trump transition and presidency, in a near coup attempt. I cannot remember a moment in U.S. history when a presidential candidate conspired with the intelligence community of the lame-duck administration of the same party to destroy a presidential rival.
Robert Mueller forever discredited the idea of a special counsel, given his unprofessionalism, bias, and apparent incompetence that ate up 22 months of the Trump presidency. Even in the crude post-1960s, we have never seen anything like the current assassination rhetoric of Hollywood celebrities and the boasts of doing bodily harm to the president by his political opponents.
No president—not LBJ, not JFK, not Bill Clinton—in his first term has had his prior 50 years, his family, his lifestyle, his businesses and his friends so exhaustively explored for any morsel of impeachable material.
Is it any wonder, Trump, to his own occasional detriment, obsesses with “fake news” and believes that every minor tit requires a major Trump tat?
So far more wearisome than Trump’s tweets are three years of unethical and likely illegal attempts to remove an elected president, to so warp our culture that 90 percent of media coverage is anti-Trump and dozens of grandees in the entertainment, sports, and media industries have so often publicly wished to assassinate, beat up, or otherwise physically injure the president of the United States.
After all that, the strange thing is not that Trump can be occasionally wearisome, but that he is even still breathing.
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Victor Davis Hanson is an American military historian, columnist, former classics professor, and scholar of ancient warfare.