Joseph Epstein begins his Tuesday Wall Street Journal oped, “The Only Good Thing About Donald Trump Is All His Policies,” in a manner similar to his subject — by praising a family member.
My son Mark, whose mind is more capacious, objective and generous than mine, nicely formulated the Donald Trump problem for thoughtful conservatives. “I approve of almost everything he has done,” my son remarked, “and I disapprove of almost everything he has said.”
Second the motion. I approve of the Neil Gorsuch appointment, the moving of the U.S. Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, the removal of often-strangling regulations from much commerce, the opening of the Keystone pipeline, the tax-reform law, and more.
I disapprove of the bragging tweets, the touchiness, the crude put-downs of anyone who disagrees with him (“Little Marco, ” “insecure Oprah, ” “Sloppy Steve, ” and the rest), the unrestrained vulgarity. America has had ignorant, corrupt, vain, lazy presidents before, but in Donald Trump we have the first president who is a genuine boor.
Now I must either not be a “thoughtful conservative” or have an affinity for boors (or even be one) because I disagree emphatically with the Epsteins, père et fils (French employed to differentiate me from the common horde of, well, boors). In fact, I would go so far as to say that it is Trump’s very boorishness, if you want to call it that, that has allowed him to succeed to such a degree, i. e. to the point that Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (no boor he) was able to avow “2017 was the best year for conservatives in the 30 years that I’ve been here. The best year. On all fronts.”
Trump wouldn’t have won without being a boor. We would have had President Hillary — who is even more boorish, to tell the truth. And you wouldn’t have the Democrats walking into walls, calling thousand-dollar bonuses “crumbs” as the mega-boorish Nancy Pelosi did and does. And how about cameraholic Adam Schiff when it comes to boors? And then there’s Bernie with his warmed over 1930s socialist gasbaggery. How boorish is that? Maybe we have an epidemic.
Despite all this, I’m not about to accuse Joseph Epstein of snobbery. I don’t know him and I respect his writing. Something else is going on here and we all have been living through it since Donald marched down those golden stairs.
He is our Rorschach test, our mirror. He tells us as much, if not more, about ourselves as we do about him. Those who cherish good manners and a certain measure of formality and protocol despise the man. Those who call themselves progressive and, usually, don’t pay much attention to good manners and certainly not formality (cf. pussy hats) despise him even more. They see in him what they want, like that Rorschach ink blot.
Then there are those of us who are contrarian by nature. We enjoy Donald just because he wants to shake things up. (Yes, like it or not, I have that trait.) Others like him because they feel as if they were neglected for a long time, the forgotten men and women.
Most of this is only tangentially related to policies. It’s about our personalities and our culture. That is why someone like Epstein who agrees with virtually everything Trump has done can be so squeamish.
I can identify. I used to feel somewhat that way. While covering the campaign, I wrote “Is There a Cure for Trumpophrenia?” to express my ambivalence and also to signal, I am not proud to admit, that I didn’t want to associate myself with Donald’s vulgarities.
I’ve changed about all that for some time now. I regard his tweets as a feature, not a bug. I can’t imagine a world without them at this point. Yes, he changes his mind and contradicts himself on occasion, but somehow I, and I suspect you, dear reader, have a sense of what he really means and where he’s going to end up. Even Epstein clearly agrees that the destination — what he actually does — is almost always pretty good or even excellent.
So what we get with the tweets is a look at presidential process that we rarely see. If they were read as that, instead of as “gotchas,” as the mainstream media invariably does, it could be a fascinating and even revealing journey with positive implications for the country.
But since Trump is such a Rorschach test, since he evinces such powerful emotions, that is unlikely to happen — at least not until the last months of his eighth year.
Roger L. Simon is an award-winning novelist, Academy Award-nominated screenwriter and co-founder of PJ Media. His latest book is I Know Best: How Moral Narcissism Is Destroying Our Republic, If It Hasn’t Already. He tweets @rogerlsimon.