Not your father’s Gipper

I’m a fan of Victor Davis Hanson, as I’m sure many of our readers are. Hanson’s latest article has much to recommend it. He argues persuasively that “if Sanders is the Democratic nominee, the NeverSanders movement will be far larger, far wealthier, far more influential—even as it is likely far quieter—than were the vociferous but anemic NeverTrumpers of 2016.”

However, I want to take issue with some of Hanson’s statements about President Trump because I think they gloss over grievances that some conservatives — and not just “the vociferous but anemic Never-Trumpers” — have with the president.

First, Hanson writes:

Trump’s agenda, for the most part, was Reaganesque, with a few important exceptions—closing the border and enforcing immigration law, getting tough with China’s unfair trade policies, restoring assembly and manufacturing jobs to the hollowed-out interior, avoiding optional wars abroad, and trying to drain the proverbial federal swamp of its careerist bureaucrats and revolving-door apparatchiks.

Trump’s agenda is certainly more Reaganesque than non-Reaganesque. However, Hanson understates the exceptions, in my view.

For example, Trump’s non-Reaganesque trade policy isn’t limited to getting tough with China. Trump also got tough with our allies on trade. One can argue that he was right to do so, but this is an obvious and important departure from Reaganism.

Trump also supports leniency for felons. This support is the reason Congress passed “jailbreak” legislation that will cause many thousands of criminals who would otherwise be in prison to instead roam our streets.

Again, one can argue in favor of the leniency legislation. However, it is not Reaganesque. The Gipper was tough on crime and understood that this entailed being tough on criminals. Here, then, is another important departure by Trump.

Second, this statement by Hanson left me scratching my head:

Nor before or after the election could [the “emasculated” Never Trump Right] ever convince Republicans that Trump’s crassness and uncouth tweets were quite unlike the White House crudity of past presidents (e.g., Kennedy, Johnson, Clinton) rather than in part attributable to the Internet/social media age and the new tabloid media.

How much convincing does it take to see the distinction between private “White House crudity” and the almost daily barrage of “crass and uncouth” published statements by Trump — statements that are intended for mass public consumption?

Nor is this obvious difference in any meaningful way attributable to the Internet, social media, and tabloids. Trump doesn’t limit what Hanson calls his crassness to tweets. He employs it in public appearances, especially when speaking to the press. If Trump couldn’t tweet, he would employ it in public even more.

Some of Trump supporters consider this a feature rather than a bug. But let’s not confuse it with the behavior of JFK, LBJ, and Bill Clinton.

Hanson clearly hates the NeverTrump Right. Hence his use of words like “emasculated” and “anemic.”

I’m not a fan of the NeverTrump Right either. I recall using words like “pathetic” and “ridiculous” to describe Max Boot and Jennifer Rubin.

My quarrel isn’t with Hanson’s use of adjectives. It’s with the way he glosses over some what I think are President Trump’s shortcomings.

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