Do I wish that President Trump would exercise more self-restraint in what he says? Yes, indeed. Just so, as a student I wished that my garrulous mailman dad wouldn’t insist on telling “hilarious” ethnic jokes at Yale parent nights.
Republicans are burning up massive energy defending, explaining, or even mastering the facts about Trump’s free-wheeling statements. It could be better used on almost anything else. Think of all the crucial points of policy that are going unaddressed.
- The Trump White House came up with a fine executive order defending religious liberty. Then it apparently caved under pressure, and gave us the leaf without the fig.
- Trump promised to back the First Amendment Defense Act, which would have written those same protections into law. No sign of the White House pushing for it in Congress.
- Replacing Obamacare with something that’s actually better deserves many hours of time on the part of the president and his staffers. It didn’t get it.
- Defunding Planned Parenthood might happen, or it might not, depending on some backroom legislative noodling.
- The wall he promised on our country’s chaotic southern border. Will it get built? It’s anybody’s guess.
The president could use his bully pulpit and majority in two houses of Congress to make real progress on all these fronts. But he’s too busy right now disputing overblown charges that he obstructed justice by hinting that General Michael Flynn shouldn’t be prosecuted for making a harmless phone call to a Russian diplomat, then firing FBI director James Comey for a weird and changing list of reasons — all of them valid, but he really should have settled on one.
Hate Housefires? Stop Drinking Flaming Shots.
Let’s say you need to rewire your house and install a new heating system. It’s hard to focus on that when you’re too busy rushing back and forth pouring water on little housefires. But you just seem to keep on setting them, because of your habit of drinking flaming tequila shots on the couch. Aw, shucks, it happened again.
Never-Trump Republican John Podhoretz wrote a fine column in the New York Post. In it, he warns President Trump that he needs to zip his mouth and gird his loins. Or else he’ll face a presidency that history will mock as a sputtering failure. It’s written in the spirit of a boxing coach. Think of Burgess Meredith in Sly Stallone’s corner in Rocky. He’d berate the bull-headed boxer not to drop his guard or lead with his chin. Rocky didn’t see that kind of advice as hostile, and neither should Trump.
Given his real business successes, I cannot really believe that Trump is the kind of onion-skinned narcissist who demands that his fans back even his self-defeating mistakes. That’s the kind of uncritical, unconditional love that liberal Christians demand from God. They will surely be disappointed. So will any politician. This isn’t North Korea, and conservatism isn’t a cult.
Trump Is Under Attack. And Not Just By Humans.
Given the profound evils that Trump has promised to confront, from Islamic terrorism to Planned Parenthood, from the persecution of Christians to the chaos on our country’s borders, we should not be surprised that he is being assaulted. No, I don’t mean by liberals, misguided people whose policies are poorly reasoned or based in raw emotion.
I mean by principalities and powers. By the spirits who (in the words of the prayer to St. Michael the archangel) “roam the earth, seeking the ruin of souls.” If you think (and you’d better) that your soul matters enough to Satan that he will bother to send you a tempter, just imagine the horde he dispatches to batter the president. They goad him to say foolish things, make rash decisions, and most of all to cave on his core principles — then fight like a tiger over trivialities.
Our president has too much power. As conservatives, we know that. But here we are. One man has the authority to:
- Launch a nuclear holocaust;
- Invade foreign countries without Congress’s say-so;
- Issue executive edicts that distort the meaning of laws; and
- Direct an army of unaccountable bureaucrats to skew their reading of tens of thousands of regulations, crippling businesses or citizens who disagree with him.
That’s a ludicrous pile of power for one man’s shoulders. And power is what the Enemy sniffs after like a jackal who scents some bacon.
America on the Knife Edge
This is a crucial watershed in American culture and history. We are teetering on the knife edge between a normal, functioning country where the Church is permitted to preach, and something much darker and uglier: a post- and anti-Christian Leviathan.
Trump gives too much credence to people who clearly despise him and the “deplorable” voters who put him in office. He keeps trying to beat elites at their own game. What he needs to do is ignore them.
Look at the profane hysteria, the toxic boiling hatred that Trump and his voters provoked among progressives. That’s true even when they support policies to the left of President Bill Clinton’s on most crucial issues. That tells us just how far the “mainstream” has slid down the hill toward madness. You also know how divided our nation is. How fragile is public order?
Centrist speakers can’t even take a microphone at major universities, for fear that hooded militants will attack them and their audience with flagpoles. Police and firefighters get shot by racist extremists. Academic feminists sue to use the federal government to silence their colleagues on campus. College students alternate, schizophrenically, between ultra-fragile snowflakes who will crumble at untoward opinions — and hordes of brick-throwing, outraged insurgents.
Just Because the Media are Biased Doesn’t Mean Trump Isn’t Making Mistakes
Journalistic standards, never immune to liberal bias, have virtually collapsed. So we really shouldn’t be shocked when newspapers grossly distort and exaggerate the president’s behavior. When they cast him as a lawbreaker who needs to be impeached — for behaving in just the same ways that Barack Obama did (in between penning yet another auto-hagiography, and collecting a Nobel Prize simply for showing up). When they act as if normal back-and-forth and influence trading in the White House is evidence of “chaos at the top.”
We should also avoid the temptation of dismissing any criticism of the president, simply because so much of it is foolish, overheated, or grounded in evil motives. The fact that liberals will lie, or distort the truth, to harm President Trump, doesn’t mean he isn’t making some real mistakes.
Trump, Find Your Inner Coolidge
His greatest mistake, I think, is giving so much credence to people who clearly despise him. Not just him, but the millions of “deplorable” voters who put him in office. He keeps trying to beat the media and political elites at their own game by being clever on Twitter, or tweaking them in speeches. What he needs to do is find his inner Calvin Coolidge and ignore them.
He should drill down on the issues that drove voters to put him in office, and doggedly push them forward. That means building a wall, protecting religious liberty, promoting more pro-life policies, and a long list of other things that would outrage our nation’s elites, while actually accomplishing something. That means listening to people like Steve Bannon, who helped him get elected, rather than Jared Kushner, whose sister is selling U.S. visas in China.
Yes, the left will wail and gnash their teeth, but they’re doing that already. They couldn’t hate Trump any more than they already do. He needs to see how liberating that is.
What we need to do is step back from panicking over the president, or desperately defending him in futile Tweets and Facebook posts. Instead we should see the deeper stakes of the battle at hand. And that should drive us daily to pray for the president: that God grant him the virtues of temperance, justice, prudence and fortitude, for the toughest job on earth. That’s the only real power we have. It’s quite enough.