What Trump Says vs. What Trump Does

Patterico // Posted at 11:00 am on October 25, 2017

Donald J. Trump:

There is, of course, zero self-reflection there. Bob Corker’s slamming of Trump as ridiculously dishonest, whatever you think of Corker, is on the mark. He is, in fact, an utterly untruthful president. Jeff Flake’s criticism of Trump’s absurdly juvenile behavior, whatever you think of Flake, is absolutely correct. Trump is, in fact, “reckless, outrageous and undignified.” We have a jackass for a President. A nincompoop. A bonehead. An ignoramus.

Here’s the weird thing: as we sit here today, I still think he’s mostly doing OK.

I reach this conclusion by comparing what he has done, so far, to what he has said.

I had a bit of a revelation after I learned that Bill Browder’s visa waiver had been suspended, pursuant to a bogus Interpol notice by Putin. I wrote that I believed that it was likely a bureaucratic snafu, and I was right. But during the time while I was waiting to find out, I tried to visualize Trump coming out and actively supporting the decision, because of his love for Vladimir Putin. I tried to see, in my mind’s eye, Trump foisting the evil Putin-inspired fiction that Browder is a murderer upon the public, and proclaiming that maybe we needed to revisit the Magnitsky Act.

I found the prospect incredibly chilling. But I also found it very difficult to visualize. I started reviewing in my mind: what has this guy Trump actually done that makes me think he would do something that evil? Not what has he said, but what has he done, that has been that bad?

And my reaction was: eh, not much. In fact, a lot of it has been pretty good. I’ve covered some of that before: reversal of illegal and overstepping Obama-era executive orders; refusal to abide by international agreements that did not go through the treaty process; and regulation-slashing. And of course but muh Gorsuch, and an apparently rock-solid slate of judges in the lower courts.

Sure, he voices support for strongmen, but what policies have made those strongmen’s lives easier? I don’t see any. Sure, he seems to favor an authoritarian style of government, but what has he done to put that into practice? Not much that I can see.

I can already hear the Trumpers getting excited. He’s the best! He’s Reagan II! He’s a sooper-sekrit genius and you have simply misunderestimated him!!!!1!

Settle down, Sparky. Let’s not get carried away here. He hasn’t really accomplished all that much. Most of what he has gotten done can be undone by President Kamala Harris with the stroke of a pen. Entitlements, the debt, the deficit — all of this is untouched.

And then there are the words.

Here’s the thing, Trumpers. Words do matter. Our biggest danger is that Trump’s idiot mouth, rotten judgment, and chihuahua-ish attention span will get us into an avoidable war. You can tell me his foreign policy decisions are well-considered, but “Little Rocket Man” tweets do not reassure, and world leaders are just as easily able to read the diarrhea he squirts out on Twitter as his American base is.

The anti-anti-Trumpers love to ask: so, is Trump better than Hillary? As an anti-anti-anti-Trumper, my answer is: absolutely . . . so far. However, I can’t say that the country made the right choice until he’s out of office and we haven’t been nuked. Until then, the jury is out.

Moral leadership matters, too. The immoral example Trump has set for children, while nothing new in the Oval Office (hi, Richard Nixon! hi Bill Clinton!) is a negative. Few people on Earth repulse me as much as the cultists on Twitter who are so taken with Trump’s (inherited) wealth, his gold-digging wife (I’m being kind here), and other extraneous examples of “success” that they don’t care about the moral rot at the center of his soul.

Trump has also ripped the Republican party and the conservative movement in two — and although there are times when this seems like a good thing, it’s actually not. Every large party is a coalition of different interests. These factions always war with one another, but to the extent that the party stands for something that is a net good, keeping the coalition together is critical.

It’s common, and lazy, to assert that the GOP has never been good for anything. This assertion is made by the same people who compared the 2016 election to Flight 93: if we don’t elect Trump, but instead choose Clinton, our lives are basically over and the terrorists have won!!!1! The same people will tell you, in the next breath, that the GOP is basically the same as the Democrats and it doesn’t really much matter who is in office. Charles C.W. Cooke has ably rejected such silly arguments in the past, and I can’t top his efforts.

The state of the conservative movement somewhat resembles a civil war. People on one side applaud Steve Bannon saying that George W. Bush was the worst President ever — as if Barack Obama had never existed. They insult former friends, emulating their Dear Leader’s crude and hyperaggressive “Alpha Male” attitude. (The notion of the physically weak, yellow-bellied bone-spur draft-dodging wussy Donald Trump as “Alpha Male” has always confused me, but that’s another topic for another time.) They applaud when their idol gets himself into one stupid fight after another over the most trivial horse droppings.

And on the other side are the limited government conservatives, saying the same things we have always said, and being told that we have changed, man! We’ve changed!

So don’t get me wrong. I’m not minimizing the power of “just words” to set a rotten example and help rip the fabric of our society apart.

But this presidency could be a lot worse. If Donald Trump were half the actual fascist that the insane #Resist left makes him out to be, we’d be in an awful lot of trouble. But he’s not. I think he’s too intellectually lazy to be an actual effective fascist, even if that’s the way he leans.

And so, when I see the Flakes and Corkers going nuclear over Trump, part of me says: well, yeah. They’re absolutely right. And another part of me says: eh, what’s the big deal?

My own ambivalence no doubt reflects a national ambivalence about this man. This will hardly be the last word. It’s just what I am thinking today.

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