I did not spend that much time watching the Senate hearings on Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh. It seemed to me, barring some late night bombshell or revelation, that the judge would be confirmed, with all Republicans and perhaps a handful of Democrats voting in favor, while the mass of Democrats would be violently opposed.
Like, I suppose, most of you, I did catch the programmed outbursts of dozens of planned (the night before) protests by Senate Democrats, and then, the staged “I am Spartacus” moment acted out by New Jersey Senator Corey Booker (D), who is desperately seeking publicity to fuel his probable 2020 presidential campaign. His complaint about non-released emails and his solemn announcement that he was—drum roll please—momentously breaking storied Senate rules, fell on deaf ears when it was discovered that the night before his outburst it had been decided to go ahead and release the emails in question.
Ah, but then, why spoil a publicity stunt by an aspiring munchkin, after all he must prove himself to those raging lunatics in his increasingly Left-leaning political party. The fact that his staged stunt fell flat will be ignored by the cultural Marxist social justice warriors, who, despite its theater of the absurd nature, will nevertheless “eat it up” and see it as an example of courageous opposition not so much to the Kavanaugh or the Senate rules, as to the hated and despised President Trump. After all, they say, “Kavanaugh is his man,” and therefore, he cannot be good.
But the Kavanaugh hearing was just one story dominating headlines this past week. The other major story concerned a “senior member” of the Trump administration authoring and publishing, anonymously in the far Left New York Times, an attack on the president personally and boasting that he—and a “few mainline and reasonable Republicans within the administration,” that is, what I call “semi-Never Trumpers”—had managed to deflect and, in a sense, undermine portions of the president’s Make American Great Again agenda.
The author takes pride that he and a few others have been able to worm their way into the administration, pledging their loyalty to the president and his program, while at the very same time doing their damnedest to derail his policies, or, as they call it, “to protect the country against this man who would upset everything.” Trump for them, you see, is irrational, a bull-in-a-china shop who is overturning the tried and tested ways of doing things in Washington and, who, they say, “acts on his instincts and on impulse.” And for them the not so hidden message is that they are “saving the country from him.”
Of course, this is exactly what the sixty-one million plus voters who opted for Donald Trump wanted when they cast their ballots for him in November 2016: they—we—wanted a bull-in-a-china shop who would radically shake up things and overturn the status quo, most especially within the ossified and whorish Republican Party. For it is a party that acts too often like a “kept woman” always pining away and waiting for her latest assignment from her “john,” those leading personages, political and cultural, on the Farther Left who are always moving as the Italians say, “a la siniestra,” to the left, and who control the dialogue and discussion, and decide what can and what cannot be said.
And like those “women of the night” establishment conservatives in the GOP—“conservatism inc.”—when summoned to jump and embrace the latest leftist nonsense, they respond only, even if times a bit begrudgingly, “how high”?
Back in late 2016/early 2017 there were those of us who raised the alarm about those suddenly-converted Never Trumpers, those Neoconservatives, who had all of a sudden “found religion” and who came hat-in-hand to visit with the new president in Trump Tower, offering to “love, honor and obey ‘til death do us part.” There was the former Waffle House waitress Nikki Haley, who had cursed Donald Trump to high heaven a year earlier, all kissy-kissy—Lindsey Graham’s peace offering to the President Trump and Graham’s eyes-and-ears spy within the administration. Haley got named to the UN ambassadorship where ever since she has beat the war drums at every possible opportunity—against Russia, against Syria, against whomever her bloodthirsty Neocon handlers direct (she is, let us suggest, incapable of actually formulating her own developed ideas, but does the job of the “war hawks” on the outside of the administration).
Almost singularly the stalwart Elliott Abrams, another Never Trump firebrand, actually got shot down by the president as Rex Tillerson’s candidate for Deputy Secretary of State, but only through strenuous activity on the part of certain friends I know and those who fully comprehended the danger to the Trump agenda with Abrams within the administration.
And we all might remember that the president interviewed perennial nemesis Mitt Romney as a possible choice for…his Secretary of State! Of course, that fell through, thank the gods on Mount Olympus for small favors.
But those early signs indicated several situations that would, unless understood, continue to bedevil the Trump administration:
First, Donald Trump was a self-made businessman whose word was his bond: what you see is what you get. If a man, even someone who had been in opposition previously, now pledges loyalty and fealty, “the Donald” is apt to take him at his word.
Second, as a long-time businessman not that involved with or aware of the Lady Macbeth-style, stiletto-wielding, backstabbing environment known as our nation’s capital, Donald Trump did not fathom the political and factional intricacies and intrigues that dominate the cesspool along the Potomac. “Neocon vs. Old Right,” “Interventionist vs. Non-Interventionist.” Center for the National Interest vs. American Enterprise Institute. What was all that to him…as long as the candidate for a position (1) pledged loyalty and (2) appeared experienced and capable of doing the job?
Third, many in the Never Trump opposition after Trump’s nomination and unexpected election success had one of those “come to Jesus” moments: they could remain outside the administration, continuing as its bitter critics and foreswearing cooperation—and some have done that: Bill Kristol, Max Boot, George Will, and others, even to the point of suggesting that they will vote Democratic in the future, anything to rid them of the hated Donald.
Or, they could take their own “Road to Canossa”—in the style of 11th century Holy Roman Emperor Henry IV’s pilgrimage to Pope Gregory VII, after battling him, to make their amends and recognize his authority. The only problem is that many of those newly-minted Trumpistas have continued to profess, at least in their heart of hearts, their previous views and their determination to, as it were, bring the policies of the Trump administration “into line” with those views. And like the anonymous op-ed writer in the Times, they see it as their “moral” duty to correct the “errors” (according to them) that the president might make.
Already these Neoconservative munchkins within the White House plot another incursion into Syria, supposedly at the behest of hundreds of thousands of innocent civilians in Idlib province in the northeastern region of that country. It is the last area of the country controlled by ISIS and allied Islamic terrorist groups, and its pacification is the goal of President Bashar al-Assad and his Russian allies. Yet, despite the presence of an estimated 10,000 ISIS types, we beheld this week Neocon satrap Nikki Haley at the UN, almost foaming at the mouth, threatening the Syrian government and Russia with “dire consequences” if they proceed to reduce and defeat the Islamist rebels!
This was not the foreign policy that candidate Donald Trump advocated, yet it is what his appointed minions—those cooing and double-faced prior Trump-haters now in his administration--are pushing: a possibly major enlargement of the war in Syria, a war that the Syrian government has all but won, but which blood-thirsty Russophobes like Lindsey Graham hunger for, like rats after fetid cheese.
There is, of course, an even larger semi-Never Trump contingent outside the administration. There are such personalities as “little Ben” Shapiro and Jonah Goldberg, those much vaunted commentators on Fox who see it as their solemn duty to continually attack anyone to the right of them, in order to please the dominant opinion deciders on the Farther Left.
I’ve written about Shapiro, in particular, in the past: he’s the youngish semi-Never Trumper who appears most eager to climb the greasy pole of success, whatever it takes. And his praxis has been to vigorously attack anyone more traditional than he as a way to demonstrate his “anti-racist and anti-bigoted” credentials to his Farther Left friends and just how good a bloke he really is.
A superb example of this comes in recent attacks on Corey Stewart as the Republican candidate for US Senate in Virginia. You see Stewart accepted support from those who support Confederate statues and monuments—a definite no-no in Shapiro’s politically-correct book and an assured sign of “racism.” Shapiro is a “conservative” that Leftists truly like. Indeed, leftie Seth Stevenson in Slate magazine (January 24, 2018, “The Many Faces of Ben Shapiro,” literally loves the guy, loves his discordance with President Trump, his pro-same sex stand on gay marriage and his amenable positions on other social issues:
“…Is the enemy of my enemy my friend? Shapiro is among a dwindling cadre of Trump-averse conservatives at a time when the mainstream GOP and its media apparatus are following (and sometimes leading) our cretinous president straight into the muck. Shapiro is ascendant, with a growing media empire and a large audience who adores him. Should there arise a constitutional crisis in which this president attempts to roll his tanks (metaphorical or otherwise) over the ramparts of American democracy, I will be relying on influential right-wing figures like Ben Shapiro to help America hold the line. The question I keep asking myself is: Will he?”
And then there is National Review Senior Editor Kevin Williamson attacking Southerners (and others) who in any way stand up for their heritage. Many of us, alas, can remember many years ago when NR defended with intelligence and verve the South and when its writers wrote articles that identified with American traditions and the inherited legacy of Western Christendom, writers who demonstrated a willingness to defend those traditions.
But here is Williamson writing recently in the National Review:
“I am never quite sure whether I am really a Southerner. Texas was in the Confederacy, but West Texas is a lot more Albuquerque than it is like Birmingham. I have never felt any sympathy for the Lost Cause. If I were building monuments to figures from that era, I’d choose Frederick Douglass, Thaddeus Stevens, or, if I’m in a mood, John Brown.
I wanted to quote Williamson at length because I think his admission and declaration is a clear indication not just of his mindset about monuments honoring Confederate veterans, nor even of his brand of “conservatism,” but more, one of the deeper ideological characteristics of Neoconservatives—and, yes, many of whom have now declared like the Protestant King Henry of Navarra, that “Paris is worth a mass,” and conveniently and deceptively, have changed their spots from diehard Never Trumpers to gushing and oily “supporters” of the president…and, as inveterate globalists, are quite willing to get this nation into a shooting war in Syria, if possible, and to overturn or derail the president’s campaign promises, on which he was elected, if they can do so.
And they have their agents—agents of the Deep State—within his administration. It has been the biggest disappointment for those of us who were his stalwart supporters from the beginning. But we did understand that a larger-than-life figure like Trump, unblemished largely by the putrid muck of DC, also would be largely bereft of those sensitized political antennae that one really needs to have when going against the elites. We would have to depend on his instincts overcoming those cloying sycophants who had gotten to him and promised eternal fealty (with their fingers crossed behind their backs).
Now, as always, that has been our hope—that Donald Trump’s sound instincts, his intuitions as he expressed them on the campaign trail, would somehow triumph over the advisors that he, himself, brought in…yes, brought in honestly as he believed their professions of faith and their resumes.
And that is where I—and probably you —remain, and hope. For it may be the only current political hope we really have.
This piece was originally published on My Corner on September 8, 2018.
Boyd D. Cathey holds a doctorate in European history from the Catholic University of Navarra, Pamplona, Spain, where he was a Richard Weaver Fellow, and an MA in intellectual history from the University of Virginia (as a Jefferson Fellow). He was assistant to conservative author and philosopher the late Russell Kirk. In more recent years he served as State Registrar of the North Carolina Division of Archives and History. He has published in French, Spanish, and English, on historical subjects as well as classical music and opera. He is active in the Sons of Confederate Veterans and various historical, archival, and genealogical organizations.