A Response to My Conservative Critics About Trump

It is interesting that the column elicited so much attention. I feel compelled to respond to some of the disagreements.

By Dennis Prager Published on June 6, 2017

Writers never know when something they write will strike a nerve — or, in the common phrase of the internet, “go viral.”

Yet my last column, “Why Conservatives Still Attack Trump” did both. Aside from being reprinted on almost every conservative website, Newsweek published the column, and The New York Times quoted it.

More importantly, many major conservative writers responded to it, mostly in disagreement.

It is interesting that the column elicited so much attention. Maybe, like the man who bit the dog, an articulate case by a mainstream conservative in support of the president is so rare that people felt a need to publish it and respond to it.

Whatever the reason, I feel compelled to respond to some of the disagreements.

Before doing so, I want to note the respectful tone that permeated virtually every one of the disagreeing columns. We have enough cannibals on the left without conservatives eating each other up.

Maybe, like the man who bit the dog, an articulate case by a mainstream conservative in support of the president is so rare that people felt a need to publish it and respond to it.

The Critics Confirm My Thesis

After reading the responses, I feel confident in saying that they confirmed my primary thesis: Anti-Trump conservatives do not believe that Americans are fighting what I call the Second Civil War, while pro-Trump conservatives do.

Indeed, Jonah Goldberg in National Review said as much. He denied that we are in the midst of a civil war on two grounds: One is that it is not violent, and the other is that we are fighting a “culture war,” not a civil war.

Whenever I write about the subject, I almost always note that this Second Civil War is not violent. I never thought that the word “war” must always include violence. The word is frequently used in nonviolent contexts: the war against cancer, the war between the sexes, the war against tobacco, the Cold War and myriad other nonviolent wars.

Perhaps Goldberg would respond that he did not write that all wars are violent, only that all civil wars are violent. But if there are nonviolent wars, there can be nonviolent civil wars.

The left is working to undo the American Revolution. It’s very close to doing so.

Nevertheless, what most disturbs me is his second argument — articulated in various ways by most of those who disagreed with me — that there is simply no civil war. And many repeated the universal belief among Never-Trumpers that a Hillary Clinton victory would not have been a catastrophe.

“Culture War” is Too Tepid

My response is that “culture war” is much too tepid a term for what is going on now. Maybe anti-Trump conservatives are fighting a “culture war,” but the left is not. The left is working to undo the American Revolution. It’s very close to doing so.

Of all people, one would think Jonah Goldberg would understand this. He is the author of what I consider to be a modern classic, Liberal Fascism: The Secret History of the American Left, from Mussolini to the Politics of Change.

His book leads to one conclusion: We are fighting fascism. How is that not a civil war? When you fight fascism, you are not merely fighting a “culture war.”

So, shouldn’t the primary role of a conservative be to vanquish leftism? To me, that means strongly supporting the Republican president of the United States, who has staffed his Cabinet with conservatives and already won substantial conservative victories. As I suggested in my previous column, conservatives would have been thrilled if any Republican president had achieved what Trump has at this point in his administration.

Trump’s Character

“But what about Trump’s character?” nearly all my critics ask. Or, as John Podhoretz, editor of Commentary Magazine, tweeted, “For Dennis Prager, who spent 40 years advocating for a moral frame for American politics, to argue as he argued today is, may I say, ironic.”

Though I listed his moral defects in column after column during the primaries, I believe that Trump is a better man than his critics maintain.

First, I have indeed dedicated much of my life to advocating for morality — for ethical monotheism as the only way to achieve a moral world; for raising moral children (as opposed to concentrating, for example, on raising “brilliant” children); and for the uniquely great Judeo-Christian moral synthesis developed by the Founding Fathers of America.

But I have never advocated for electing moral politicians. Of course, I prefer people of good character in political office. But 30 years ago, I wrote an essay titled “Adultery and Politicians” in which I argued that what political leaders do is more important than their character. To cite but one of an endless list of examples, I would prefer an adulterous president (like John F. Kennedy) who supported Israel than a faithful family man (like Jimmy Carter) who was an anti-Zionist.

Second, as a religious Jew, I learned from the Bible that God himself chose morally compromised individuals — like King David, who had a man killed in order to cover up the adultery he committed with the man’s wife; and the prostitute Rahab, who was instrumental in helping the Jews conquer Canaan — to accomplish some greater good. (And, for the record, I am not suggesting that God chose Donald Trump.)

Trump’s character is less morally significant than defeating the left. If the left wins, America loses.

Third, though I listed his moral defects in column after column during the primaries, I believe that Trump is a better man than his critics maintain. I see no evidence, to cite one example, that he is a misogynist. His comment about famous and powerful men being able to do what they want with women was a) said in private — and we are fools if we assess people by their private comments (Harry Truman, a great president, frequently used “kike” in private comments about Jews), b) not a statement about anything he had actually done, c) not misogynistic and d) often true.

Fourth, even if he were as morally defective as his critics maintain, my response is this: Trump’s character is less morally significant than defeating the left. If the left wins, America loses. And if America loses, evil will engulf the world.

 

Dennis Prager’s latest book, The Ten Commandments: Still the Best Moral Code, was published by Regnery. He is a nationally syndicated radio show host and creator of PragerUniversity.com.

COPYRIGHT 2017 CREATORS.COM

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  • tasha63

    First, let me say I didn’t not read your original article. Perhaps I should go back and do so.

    I agree that there are strong cultural disagreements in our visions for the future of this country. I wouldn’t call it a war exactly, but we do need to talk to each other respectfully to prevent potential violence.

    I am strongly opposed to President Trump and his policies. I am not a Republican, but I can see the split in your party. It is quite apparent.

    You state: His book leads to one conclusion: We are fighting fascism. How is that not a civil war? When you fight fascism, you are not merely fighting a “culture war.” So, shouldn’t the primary role of a conservative be to vanquish leftism? To me, that means strongly supporting the Republican president of the United States, who has staffed his Cabinet with conservatives and already won substantial conservative victories. As I suggested in my previous column, conservatives would have been thrilled if any Republican president had achieved what Trump has at this point in his administration. End quote.

    Ironic that I see Trump as the fascist for many reasons including (but not limited to) his trying to silence the media, his travel ban attempts on a religious group, his dismantling of environmental protections, his tearing apart of education and health care. And on and on. I see the left as trying to support our open society and save our democracy. It is in grave peril.

    You also state: I wrote an essay titled Adultery and Politicians in which I argued that what political leaders do is more important than their character.” End quote.

    I can’t believe someone writing on a Christian site would say this. This is absolutely not okay with me. I want my politicians to be of good character and strong moral principles. To state that the very top leader of the country, the free world, could be anything less…what kind of role model is that for children? For adults? I am just stunned that you would feel this is okay. It isn’t okay with me.

    You also say: I see no evidence, to cite one example, that he is a misogynist. His comment about famous and powerful men being able to do what they want with women was a) said in private — and we are fools if we assess people by their private comments (Harry Truman, a great president, frequently used “k..e” in private comments about Jews), b) not a statement about anything he had actually done, c) not misogynistic and d) often true.”

    My response:
    a) somebody was there recording those comments and, when you run for president, your recorded comments are fair game. And, Trump has made many, many more comments of a similar nature on the Howard Stern show where he KNEW that it was not private, but very public
    b) Trump may not have acted on that statement THAT time, but he implied he has had previous successes — and we know how many women have spoken out that he groped them (or worse). Billy Bush got FIRED from his job for that conversation with Trump. Trump?? He got elected. How is there justice in that?
    c) Not misogynistic: are you kidding me? As a woman there is nothing more so.
    d) Often true: I agree with you here. But, it certainly doesn’t make it right. It is an excuse by and for men.
    “Even if he were as morally defective as his critics maintain, my response is this: Trump’s character is less morally significant than defeating the left. If the left wins, America loses. And if America loses, evil will engulf the world.”
    This is ridiculous. You are talking about more than HALF OF THE PEOPLE WHO BOTHER TO VOTE. Your fellow Americans. We aren’t some anonymous bogey people. We are real flesh and blood out here, we have feelings, hopes, dreams, values – and you just dismissed us all as ‘more evil’ than a morally defective man of dubious character. That is insulting to hundreds of thousands of people who voted their conscience. Mothers, fathers, young people, older people, blacks, hispanics, white, native Americans. You just called a whole group “evil”. That is unAmerican, unChristian, unJewish. Please reconsider your words. Your words could actually incite violence against others.

    And your mention of King David being a morally compromised man, but still chosen by God. This is what Time magazine had to say about it. I’m quoting it because I thought it was well said. “Spend enough time studying the life of King David and you start to expect that he will turn up in popular culture on a regular basis. Each time the “little guy” wins, you get comparisons of David and Goliath. When a public figure gets caught in flagrante, David and Batsheba are certain to be cited. While I was writing a biography of King David, I found many examples of David turning up in the news to explain the events of the day. None was as downright ridiculous as this statement from Jerry Falwell Jr., the president of Liberty University, endorsing Donald Trump for president:
    God called King David a man after God’s own heart even though he was an adulterer and a murderer. You have to choose the leader that would make the best king or president and not necessarily someone who would be a good pastor. We’re not voting for pastor-in-chief.
    This is an almost perfect example of using scripture to endorse the precise opposite of what the scripture teaches. The incident Falwell is referring to is David’s liaison with Batsheba. The sordid story of the adultery and murder is found in II Samuel, ch. 11. David takes a married woman to bed and, afterwards, finding she is pregnant, tries to lure her husband, Uriah, back from war to sleep with her so that his sin will not be discovered. When Uriah refuses, David arranges to have him killed in the war. Rarely has an admired figure done anything so cunning, cruel and contemptible.
    But the entire point of the story is not that power and fear went to David’s head and he did a terrible thing. He becomes a man after God’s own heart not for his sin, but for his sorrow. When confronted by the prophet Nathan with his sin, David does not do what any other ancient king would have done—call for Nathan’s head. Instead, David repents and weeps and begs forgiveness of God. The son born of the adulterous union dies despite David’s urgent and wracking pleas on his child’s behalf. In other words, if you want to make a case for a man being after God’s own heart, find a man who admit his misdeeds, can cry at his sins, and strive to be better with people and with God.
    Have mercy upon me, O God, according to thy loving kindness . . . blot out my transgressions. Wash me thoroughly from mine iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin. For I acknowledge my transgressions: and my sin is ever before me. Against thee, thee only, have I sinned, and done this evil in Thy sight . . . (Psalm 51).”

  • tasha63

    Have to tell you I tried 3x to post the comment below, but it was put “on hold” each time (meaning likely it would never appear). I tried to figure out why it was put on pending because there was no link in my comment (a frequent trigger). I finally figured out it was for ‘bad language’. When I quoted your use of the word “ki..e” from your Truman quote, I couldn’t post. Interesting that it is okay for authors at the Stream to print such a word, but commenters can’t. Just an observation.

  • tasha63

    I can’t seem to post my long comment to you or they keep deleting it. Nothing like silencing freedom of speech. I will try again above.

  • Charles Burge

    Here’s one potential disconnect: I think criticism is often perceived as an attack, especially in today’s divided, volatile culture. I’ve been a frequent critic of President Trump, and I make no apology for that. However, I see my criticism as more of the constructive variety. The president’s impulsive behavior is a demonstrable impediment to his own success. Someone, whether his advisers or his wife, needs to convince him to think before acting or speaking. I say this not because I want him to fail, but because I want him to succeed. He has the potential to do much good for our country, but every ill-conceived tweet whittles away at that potential. The book of Proverbs in the Old Testament has much to say about both wise men and fools, and President Trump’s behavior falls squarely in the camp of the latter. If he doesn’t change that behavior soon, it stands to be his undoing.

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