Thoughts on the RNC Convention, #1
For anyone in my profession, perhaps the most poignant observation offered by any of the many speakers in Cleveland last night came from Duck Dynasty's Willie Robertson: "It's been a tough year for the media experts."
You can say that again, Willie.
And the year's only half over.
Back in March, in a column called "Between a Louse and a Flea," I made two points. Strophe:
It is often, and rightly, said that part of the essence of conservative wisdom is the melancholy appreciation of the fact that in the real world the choices we face are often not between good and better but between bad and worse. This is particularly true in the messy world of politics where compromise, self-interest, and the desire for power and prerogative insinuate themselves into the tapestry of our alternatives.
"Part of the existential superiority of the conservative view," I went on to observe, "is its immunization against the blandishments of utopian solutions." Further: "Some such consideration stands behind the principled endorsement (as distinct from the other sorts) of Donald Trump by conservatives. They survey the field and they see only Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump. Both are bad. But which is worse?"
To be honest, I am not sure we have instruments robust enough to tell. Asked who was worse, Rousseau or Voltaire, Dr. Johnson is said (at least apocryphally) to have replied: “Sir, it is not for me to apportion the degree of iniquity between a louse and a flea.” I think it’s pretty much the same regarding Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton.
"Both," I concluded, "are utterly unfit to be president of the United States. They are equally bad, though in different ways. Trump, not yet having access to the levers of power, has so far shown himself to be personally and professionally disreputable. Hillary, first as the appendage, latterly as the prop of her once-charismatic husband, has been a boil on the countenance of the public for decades. Either would be a disaster for the country."
I went on to quote the great James Brunham, who in one of "Burnham's laws" (there are ten of them) observed that "Where there is no alternative there is no problem."
Back on March 21, I believed that there was an alternative in Ted Cruz. I was wrong. The choice really is between Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton.
Back in March I thought that it was impossible to say who was worse. I was wrong about that, too. Several of my Republican friends have looked at the two standing candidates and concluded that Hillary is the lesser of two evils. I pondered the case for Hillary but, after due consideration, concluded that she is, by a significant margin, the worse candidate.
Part of what convinced me was watching a screening of Steve Bannon's Clinton Cash, a documentary based on Peter Schweitzer's devastating book of the same title.
There were also the realities behind the names Whitewater, Cattle Futures, Vince Foster, Travelgate, Bimbo Gate, Emailgate, and Benghazi. It's a sordid and, in my view, a disqualifying record.
So I conclude, not without some reluctance, that the Wall Street Journal's Bill McGurn is right: the best case for Donald Trump is this: the alternative is Hillary Clinton. "On so many issues," McGurn notes, from free trade to "his suspiciously recent embrace of the pro-life cause,"
Mr. Trump gives reasons for pause. But he still isn’t Mrs. Clinton. That’s crucial, because much of the argument for keeping Mr. Trump out of the Oval Office at all costs requires glossing over the damage a second Clinton presidency would do.
The economy? "There is zero reason to believe a Clinton administration would be any improvement over the past eight years, from taxes and spending and regulation to ObamaCare. "
Social issues? Hillary Clinton is "the candidate who touts the Planned Parenthood view of human life, who sees nothing wrong with forcing nuns to provide employees with contraceptives, and who supports the Obama administration’s bid to compel K-through-12 public schools to open girls’ bathrooms to males who identify as female."
Foreign affairs? Think the Russian "reset" (how's that working out?) Benghazi, and the "deal" with Iran.
The Supreme Court? To ask the question is to answer it.
In short, as McGurn concludes, Donald Trump "represents a huge risk." But -- and it's a large "but" -- "honesty requires that this risk be weighed against a clear-eyed look at the certainties a Hillary Clinton administration would bring."