Grading on a curve, President Trump had a pretty good week last week. It began with agreement on “NAFTA 2.0” and ended with the confirmation of Supreme Court Justice Brett M. Kavanaugh. This has led to claims that the #NeverTrump movement is, as Matt Lewis wrote in the Daily Beast, “finished.” Radio host Erick Erickson, podcaster Ben Shapiro and foreign policy analyst Daniel Blumenthal are the latest conservatives to turn from Trump foes to fans.
So, is it time for Trump’s center-right critics to break out their “MAGA” hats? I can’t speak for other #NeverTrumpers — we few, we unhappy few — but my opposition to the president has not diminished one iota. I was instantly and viscerally opposed to Trump from the moment he came down the escalator at Trump Tower denouncing Mexicans as rapists and murderers — and everything that’s happened in the three-plus years since has only deepened my revulsion. I lay out the reasons why in my new book, “The Corrosion of Conservatism: Why I Left the Right.” But, publishing deadlines being what they are, I could not update the book after early August. So let’s briefly review a few of the lowlights since.
Trump withdrew a security clearance from former CIA director John Brennan to punish him for his criticism, leading a bipartisan group of former intelligence leaders to denounce Trump for this attempt to “stifle free speech.”
Trump’s former campaign manager Paul Manafort was convicted of eight felonies and pleaded guilty to two more to avoid a second trial, pledging to fully cooperate with the special counsel in the probe of possible Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election.
Trump’s former personal lawyer Michael Cohen pleaded guilty to eight felonies of his own and implicated the president in two of them — a conspiracy to violate federal campaign finance laws by paying off a porn star and a Playboy playmate.
After Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) died, Trump refused to pay tribute to an American hero. He even resisted lowering federal flags for a week until forced to do so by outcry from veterans’ groups.
Trump complained that the Justice Department should not indict two Republicans in Congress because it would jeopardize their seats. It is hard to imagine a more blatant attempt to politicize justice — unless it’s Trump’s nonstop abuse of his own attorney general for allowing a special counsel to investigate him.
Bob Woodward released a book quoting Trump’s closest aides describing him as an “idiot,” a “professional liar” and someone with the mentality of a “fifth- or sixth-grader.” That judgment was confirmed by a senior administration official who anonymously wrote a New York Times op-ed denouncing Trump for “half-baked, ill-informed and occasionally reckless decisions” that are “detrimental to the health of our republic.”
Trump denied that 3,000 people had died in Puerto Rico because of Hurricane Maria. He claimed, based on zero evidence, that the death toll was a Democratic plot against him.
In a speech to the United Nations, Trump touted his supposed achievements — and had to endure the humiliating spectacle of the world’s representatives laughing at him. He has literally (and rightly) made the United States a laughingstock.
The New York Times published a massive exposé accusing Trump and his family of defrauding the government of hundreds of millions of dollars in taxes. Trump’s professional defenders think this is no big deal — akin to fishing without a license. But Vice President Spiro Agnew had to resign office after being charged with tax evasion.
Compared to this unprecedented accumulation of egregiousness, Trump’s purported achievements fade into insignificance. His bare-knuckle renegotiation of the North American Free Trade Agreement alienated our neighbors (only 39 percent of Canadians and 32 percent of Mexicans have a favorable view of the United States) while restricting, rather than expanding, trade. The biggest difference between NAFTA, which Trump called the “worst trade deal ever,” and the USMCA (United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement), which he calls “a great deal”? The name.
As for Kavanaugh’s confirmation: Conservatives are happy, because they are convinced that he will legislate their priorities (no abortion, no affirmative action, no Obamacare) from the bench. But the cost is much too high: After his partisan, evasive confirmation performance, Kavanaugh’s ascension delegitimizes the court. Christine Blasey Ford’s allegations were no “hoax,” as Trump now claims (after previously calling her “very credible”), and his mockery of her sends a cruel message to sexual abuse victims. By claiming that anti-Kavanaugh protesters were paid agents of George Soros, Trump is embracing an anti-Semitic canard employed by tyrants such as Viktor Orban and Vladimir Putin. Oh, and Trump denounces “mob rule” while inciting his own mob to chant “lock her up” about Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.).
Trump said he is in “love” with North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un, one of the worst human-rights violators on the planet, and had little to say when Saudi Arabia was accused of murdering and dismembering Post contributor Jamal Khashoggi. The only people he thinks are “evil” are Kavanaugh critics.
So forgive me if I don’t recant my #NeverTrumpism. In fact, every day, and in nearly every way, Trump confirms my initial judgment that he is unfit to be president. Too bad ever-fewer conservatives are willing to admit what is so obvious to most Americans.