Donald Trump, George Bush, and the press

George W. Bush is a good man. The mainstream media hammered him mercilessly and mostly unfairly for eight years. One media mainstay tried to take Bush down late in the 2004 campaign with fake news.

Yet, Bush spoke up for the embattled mainstream media today. He called it “indispensable to democracy.”

Politico portrays this as “a break from the position of his fellow Republican, President Donald Trump, who has called the press ‘the enemy of the American people’.” This may, indeed, be how Bush intended his statement to be viewed.

There is no inconsistency, though, between calling the press indispensable to democracy and labeling the press we have “the enemy of the American people.” (Note, though, that I don’t agree with President Trump’s characterization).

Trump never denied that the role of the press is central in our democracy. In fact, he implied the opposite when he said he’d be doing the American people a “tremendous disservice” if he didn’t highlight the press’ dishonesty. If the press lacked an important role to play in our democracy, it wouldn’t be much of a “disservice” for Trump to let its dishonestly slide.

Trump wasn’t disputing the vital role of the press, he was attacking its performance of that role. The way the press reports the news is what (in Trump’s view) makes it the enemy of the people.

The real question is what, if anything, Trump intends to do in response. As long he confines himself to criticism, occasional pettiness, and (in extraordinary cases) legal action consistent with the First Amendment and other applicable law, there’s no problem. If, for other than valid national security purposes, he truly interferes with the ability of the press to perform its work (whether honestly or dishonestly), then we will have a serious problem on our hands.

We don’t now, though.

Who cares about “conservatism”?

“Tom Hagen” doesn’t. He’s the author of a piece by that name in American Greatness. In form, Hagen’s argument parallels that of Michael Anton (aka Decius), discussed here.

Anton’s subject is the “liberal international order.” He argues that it is a means to ends, not an end in itself, and thus must be rated on its ability to serve core American foreign policy interests — peace, prestige, and prosperity.

Hagen argues that conservatism too is a means to ends, and must be evaluated based on its ability to deliver. But to what end? The one he focuses on is helping “the forgotten man” put bread on the table to feed his family.

Anton finds that liberal international order has largely succeeded in meeting its ends, but needs restructuring in light of changed circumstances. Hagen finds that conservatism has delivered “nothing” — not lately, anyway. Thus, who needs it?

But what is conservatism? Towards the end of his piece, Hagen says it is “best understood as a political coalition formed in the mid-1950s between ‘free-market’ libertarians and traditionalist conservatives who wanted to beat back the Soviets abroad and the New Deal bureaucracy at home.”

Why, though, did conservatives want to beat back the Soviets abroad and the New Deal at home? I think it was because conservatives believe in ordered liberty and economic freedom.

As for putting bread on the table — or serving the common good, as Hagen puts it later on — conservatives believe that this is best accomplished through the operation of free markets and free men. Has that view been rendered obsolete by events? Was its obsolescence ratified by the 2016 election? Hagen seems to think so, but makes no such showings.

How about statism, public works programs, and the erection of major barriers to trade? Has experience shown that these approaches out-deliver conservative economic policies? Hagen makes no such showing.

I agree that conservatives should be open to the possibility that particular non-conservative policies Trump has touted might out-deliver conservative alternatives. Without that openness, conservatives begin to resemble the cliche-ridden slogan-mongers Hagen portrays them as.

But there is something else to consider. Suppose that a series of statist policies could be shown to better deliver bread to the forgotten man. To be specific, suppose it could be shown to produce lower unemployment, or higher wages, or more widespread health insurance coverage.

Conservatives should still insist that any deprivation of freedom be factored into the discussion of the merits of these policies. Certainly, Obamacare’s infringement on freedom was part of the conservative critique of that statist program.

Here we come to the difference between the conservatism Hagen attacks and the liberal international order that Anton questions. The liberal international order is largely instrumental — a means to ends, just as Anton says. That’s certainly true of its organizations like the U.N. and NATO, that Anton views as residing at the core.

By contrast, for conservatives the liberty and economic freedom they seek to promote are ends, not just means to other ends.

Trumpians are right to direct our attention to the other ends. And they are right not to take it on blind faith that conservative ends will always best serve these other ends.

However, Trumpians would err grievously if, as Hagen seems to do, they dismissed conservative ends as cliches and slogans and assumed that conservatism now offers “nothing” when it comes to accomplishing material ends.

Fortunately, I do yet see President Trump taking this approach. He is committed to tax reform, regulatory reform and other conservative policies that expand freedom, and he seems to believe that such policies have much to offer the forgotten man. There are also statist components to the agenda he articulates, but hopefully not so many as will cause conservatives to be hugely aggrieved.

Deep down, Trump may feel that, in Hagen’s words, “conservatism has outlived its usefulness” as a set of ideas. Deep down, he may feel that it was never useful in that way. However, so far he is acting as if he takes conservatism, or at least the policy preference of his conservative vice president, seriously.

Perhaps this is because, however he may feel about conservatism as a set of ideas, he understands that it has not outlived its political usefulness to him.

How the Administrative State Threatens Our Liberty: VIP Live, With Howard Root

The administrative state is the #1 threat to our freedom, a fact which no one knows better than our friend Howard Root. Howard was the founder and CEO of Vascular Solutions, Inc., a successful medical products company that was set up as a victim by Barack Obama’s hyper-politicized Department of Justice. For five years, Obama’s DOJ persecuted and harassed Howard and his company with bogus claims. Thankfully, Howard Root had both the financial resources and, more important, the courage–he was facing prison time–to stand up to the DOJ’s bullies.

Ultimately, a jury acquitted Howard and Vascular Solutions on all charges. One of the jurors wrote Howard to say that what the government tried to do to him was a disgrace. Still, Howard had to leave the medical products industry, as he knew that he could continue to be a target of vengeful prosecutors, to the detriment of the company that he had led since its founding. Last month, he sold Vascular Solutions.

Howard has written a book about his ordeal called Cardiac Arrest: Five Heart-Stopping Years as a CEO On the Feds’ Hit-List. The book is sensational, not just readable but gripping, even though it deals largely with legal proceedings. Trust me: if you read Cardiac Arrest to the end, you will be on your feet, cheering for Howard Root. Howard also authored a recent Wall Street Journal column about his persecution by the federal government.

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By happy coincidence, Howard is a Minnesota resident and a friend of Scott’s and mine. On Thursday at 7:00 p.m. Central, we will host a live Power Line VIP event with Howard as our guest. If you are not already a VIP member, check out the VIP box near the upper right-hand corner of our site.

For $4 a month or $40 a year, you can become a Power Line VIP. This will eliminate most ads when you view our site. It will also entitle you to participate in live events and other perks. Most important, it is a way to support what we do here on Power Line. If you are already a VIP member, or if you sign up for VIP between now and Thursday, you will get an email with a link to a private Google hangout on YouTube. If you want to participate, you can watch the conversation live and submit questions or comments using the Google chat function.

It’s fun, it’s informative, and it is available exclusively to Power Line VIP members. Please consider joining VIP to support all that we do here!

powerline-vip

Trump Unbound, At Dinner

Donald Trump continues to bestride the world like a colossus. I can’t recall a precedent for the extent to which he monopolizes public attention and discourse. You could prove that with newspaper headlines just about every day, but here is an example of how thorough Trump’s dominance is–a list of the most-read articles on Politico that I captured at a random moment during the day:

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Is it smart for the Left media to make the news all Trump, all the time? It isn’t obvious that this is a good strategy, but they can’t help themselves.

For a completely different view of President Trump, check out this report by Benny Johnson at Independent Journal Review, titled “Inside Trump’s Secret Dinner: A Side of the President You Don’t Ever See.” It is remarkable how different a view you get when the reporter isn’t viciously hostile to Trump.

Saturday night, President Trump dodged the pool reporter, as he has been known to do. Benny Johnson got a tip that he was going to have dinner at the BLT Steakhouse inside Washington’s Trump Hotel. So he reserved a table near where he expected Trump’s party to be and arrived early. His account includes pictures and several videos. He describes the preparations for Trump’s visit by restaurant staff and the Secret Service. Coincidentally, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson was in the restaurant Saturday night too, enjoying an apparent date night with his wife, as Johnson terms it.

Johnson describes what it is like to be in a public place where the president is soon to arrive:

7:27 PM: Security becomes less discreet. Armed men in black shirts with dogs sweep the Trump table. The highly trained dogs do not bother any of the diners but sniff where pointed, furiously, in and around where Trump is to dine. Another group of Secret Service members arrive. This group is carrying very official-looking luggage, and they inspect the space. The upstairs dining area is now at full capacity. Each table of guests are beginning to take notice that this will not be a standard Saturday night dinner. I leave to use the restroom and find Secret Service sweeping the men’s bathroom on the first floor. I am wanded by polite security as I return upstairs to my table.

Forty-five minutes later, Trump arrives. The Democratic Party press wants us to think that Trump is deeply unpopular–an odd proposition, since he just won the election. But that is not what Trump experiences:

8:17 PM: Without any announcement or indication, President Trump enters the hotel lobby which bears his name, flanked on all sides by the Secret Service. Shock and astonishment fill the guests in the room. The woman next to me screams “Is it him? It’s really him! Oh my God! This is like a dream!” Trump is rushed by fans in the lobby as he makes his way to the steakhouse. Secret Service makes a barrier for him, and the President waves and shakes hands on his way. The young crew are the first in line. Also waiting in line as the President arrives is Nigel Farage.

The entire restaurant is now on its feet, cheering and applauding. Trump makes his way upstairs, waiving and stopping for a few selfies.

Trump walks over to visit with the Tillersons:

8:25 PM: The President gets up and walks across the restaurant to his Secretary of State’s table. The President kisses Tillerson’s wife Renda, and he and Tillerson make small talk. They laugh and speak jovially for a few minutes as dinner guests who had been sitting next to Tillerson look on in stunned amazement. Another woman tells Trump it’s her birthday and gets a selfie. The woman tells me emotionally afterward that she had no idea Trump would be here.

Johnson observes Trump and his party throughout the dinner:

8:45 PM: Trump is served his entree. According to a waiter, who wished to remain anonymous:

The President ordered a well-done steak. An aged New York strip. He ate it with catsup as he always does. The sides and appetizers on the table were shared. Three jumbo shrimp cocktails were delivered before the meal. At one point, the President looked at his watch and remarked “They are filming ‘Saturday Night Live’ right now. Can’t wait to see what they are gonna do to me this week.” It was hard to serve him because he is so funny and relaxed, it makes you laugh.

Trump talks jovially with his guests for the next two hours. His iconic hand motions fill the space as dinner is served.

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On his way out, Trump slips the bus boy a $100 tip:

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He is again besieged by admirers:

Benny Johnson’s report is a nice counterpoint to the anti-Trump propaganda with which we are bombarded 24/7. It is easy to understand why Trump doesn’t believe the media’s constant negativity reflects the views of most Americans.

More Soldiers, Fewer Bureaucrats

That is President Trump’s budget proposal in a nutshell. Trump’s plan will include a “whopping” $54 billion increase in defense spending, according to the Associated Press. That will take the defense budget a little more than half way to where it was when President Obama started cutting it in 2011.

The president’s budget will “impose corresponding cuts to domestic programs and foreign aid,” meaning pretty significant cuts for most federal agencies. Hence the title of this post: more soldiers, fewer bureaucrats.

The Democrats will hate it, of course. Chuck Schumer gets out the violins:

A cut this steep almost certainly means cuts to agencies that protect consumers from Wall Street excess and protect clean air and water.

But trading bureaucrats for soldiers will be popular, and shouldn’t have any trouble getting through a Republican Congress, unless the Democrats decide to filibuster and shut down the government.

Trump’s budget proposal won’t do anything about Social Security and Medicare, which is smart. Currently, the parties are playing chicken on entitlements. Everyone knows they are unsustainable, but until the collapse is closer, neither side will give much. So proposing reforms this year would be a distraction that would accomplish nothing.

Where the Trump proposal will wind up on tax reform (let alone what will get through Congress) has yet to be seen.

Academic Absurdity of the Week: It’s Whitey’s Fault—Again

One of the main argument of a certain new book that you may have heard about is that the idea of statesmanship has been abandoned in favor of “leadership studies,” which tend to be content-free when not downright stupid. Needless to say, there is an academic journal simply titled Leadership that describes its purpose thus:

Leadership is an international, peer-reviewed journal designed to provide an ongoing forum for academic researchers to exchange information, insights and knowledge based on both theoretical development and empirical research on leadership. It publishes original, high-quality articles that contribute to the advancement of the study of leadership. The journal is global in orientation and focus.

So let’t take in a recent example of what this peer-reviewed journal thinks is an “original, high quality” article:

White Knights: Leadership as the heroicisation of whiteness

Helena LiuChristopher Baker

Abstract

This article draws on critical race theory to interrogate whiteness in dominant discourses of leadership. We conducted a discourse analysis of the media representations of 12 business leaders engaged in philanthropy in Australia to demonstrate how white practices of normalisation, solipsism and ontological expansiveness underpin the construction of white leaders as speaking for society, mastering all environments and self-sacrificing for the greater good. Our analysis suggests that ‘doing leadership’ is inextricably linked to ‘doing whiteness’, while the invisible presence of whiteness in leadership discourses sustains white power and privilege. By ‘naming’ whiteness and its practices, we aspire to unhinge it from its location as transparent, dominant and ordinary, and begin theorising leadership in ways that are conducive to the goals of racial equality.

Original? Funny coincidence that all these articles seem to arrive at the same conclusion: it’s all whitey’s fault that I’m oppressed. But I think academics ought to be more careful about using the term “solipsism,” let alone “unhinge.” It makes things too easy for me. But then self-awareness is uncommon among lefty intellectuals these days. As for “ontological expansiveness,” isn’t that a misdemeanor these days, at least if you do it in front of children?

Oscar Week in Pictures: Ha Ha Land

I almost—almost—wish I had watched the Oscars last night to take in the sublime moment when the best picture award was flubbed. It was the perfect Twitter moment. La La Land blows 28-3 lead! But La La Land won the popular vote! All La La Land had to do was kick the field goal! Warren Beatty’s biggest flop since Ishtar!

Only one thing to do morningafterwise—yup, a special edition of TWIP:

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Harvey

Harvey 2

Oscar 11

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Investigate!Osdcar 10 Oscar 9 Oscar 8 Oscar 7 Oscar 6 Oscar 5 Oscar 4 Oscar 3 Oscar 2 Oscar 1

I’ll update this later perhaps as the meme generators work overtime today.