Hey National Review, What's Conservatism?

Jack Kerwick
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Posted: Jan 24, 2016 12:07 AM
Hey National Review, What's Conservatism?

That Donald Trump is no conservative is a proposition of which this conservative needs no convincing. 

On this score, the self-styled “conservative” contributors to the recent National Review symposium against Trump are correct.  It is their conservative bona fides that I challenge. 

For example, Glenn Beck suggests that Trump is no conservative because along with Barack Obama, Trump supported “the stimulus, the auto bailouts, and the bank bailouts.” 

Yet Trump had neither authority nor power to make these ideas materialize.  That distinction is enjoyed by just those politicians who Beck supported. 

For years, Beck ran cover for George W. Bush, the 43rd president who, along with such members of Congress as John McCain, who Beck also endorsed for President in 2008, brought us the bank bailouts. McCain also signed onto the auto bailouts and while he didn’t back Obama’s stimulus, he announced his own stimulusin 2008—months before the election in which he lost to Obama. 

But Beck still endorsed him.

Michael Medved was an even more enthusiastic champion of McCain than was McCain himself.  And in his critique of Trump he refers to Bush II as one of the two most “popular” of “conservative” presidents (the other being Ronald Reagan).  

Of course, Medved is not alone in his estimation of Bush II: NR and, by implication, the 22 “conservative” pundits who it invited to warn conservative voters about Trump agree wholeheartedly.  

NR, along with The Weekly Standard, Commentary, and several other Republican-friendly outfits regularly supported both the domestic and, especially, the foreign policies of Bush II—regardless of how wildly un-conservative these policies were. 

Though Beck has since come to see the Iraq War for the calamitous event that it is, he didn’t always think this way.  In 2006, Beck remarked that while the Bush administration was sincere when it insisted that Saddam Hussein had “weapons of mass destruction,” this was “just gravy.”  The “real reason” that “we went into Iraq was Iran.  We were going there to stop Iran by planting the seeds of democracy all around Iran” so as to “change the face of the Middle East.”

The invasion of Iraq was necessary, Beck insisted, in order to avoid World War III.

Bush didn’t tell us his real reasons for invading Iraq, Beck said, “because he felt, you know, [that] we just wouldn’t understand that we were in the early stages of World War III.”

Let that register.  According to Beck, not only was the invasion of Iraq a good idea; it was the only move necessary to prevent a third world war. 

And we were already in the early stages of this war.  

Beck was correct that it was indeed the agenda all along of Bush and his party to make the world—or, in this case, the Middle East—“safe for Democracy.”  Beck, Medved, NR, and all of those in the better known “conservative” media outletsalways knew that this was the objective.

The “progressive” of all progressives, Woodrow Wilson, would’ve been proud. 

Bear this in mind as you consider that Mona Charen, another contributor to NR and supporter of the Iraq War, assures us that, in contrast with Trump, who “has made a career out of egotism,” conservatism “implies a certain modesty about government.”  

However, no one who favors using the United States government as an agent by which to spread “democracy” throughout the world has any kind of modesty about government.

This prosecution of this utopian fantasy has come at the cost of trillions of dollars and the incalculable cost of tens of thousands of lives extinguished and even more ruined. 

It is not Trump on whose shoulders any of this rests, for he opposed this reckless enterprise. 

Medved assures us that Trump’s “brawling, blustery, mean-spirited public persona serves to associate conservatives with all the negative stereotypes that liberals have for decades attached to their opponents on the right.”  So, it is Trump’s style that’s bad for conservatism—not the GOP’s launching of a war that the vast majority of Americans now regard as a colossal waste of blood and treasure, a war waged upon false pretenses. 

He’s also concerned that Trump’s “much-heralded hard line on immigration discards pragmatic reform policies favored by the two most popular conservatives of the last half century, Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush.”

Reagan’s “pragmatic reform policies” regarding immigration consisted of an amnesty that he granted in 1986—and which he retrospectively judged to be the biggest mistake of his career.  Implicitly, Medved at least concedes that all of this talk of “comprehensive immigration reform” really is amnesty by another name.

As for Bush’s “conservatism,” from No Child Left Behind to the Patriot Act; from federal funding for embryonic stem cell research to Medicare Part D; from his “Home Ownership Society” (which culminated in the recession of 2008) to his nomination to the Supreme Court of John Roberts (the judge who made Obamacare the law of the land); from his efforts to grant amnesty to millions of illegals to his “War on Terror,” G.W. Bush continually proved that he was anything but a conservative. 

If Bush is a conservative president, as Medved and NR continue to maintain, then we must conclude that so too are LBJ, Jimmy Carter, and Barack Obama conservative presidents.

Medved and company at NR also endorsed, not just Bush and McCain, but Mitt Romney, a politician whose opportunism and waffling on topics from abortion to gay marriage to gun control and many issues in between are epic.  Notorious flip-flopper John Kerry seems as steady as a rock compared to Romney. 

More importantly, Romney’s socialization of healthcare in Massachusetts provided the blueprint for Obamacare.  

Given their respective records, as well as the fact that Bush II, McCain, and Romney issued in a series of electoral successes for Democrats, we must ask NR:  So, what exactly is conservatism, and why are you so worried about Trump?