The Conservative NRO Is Wrestling With the Realities of a Trump Presidency

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The National Review is a conservative paper that was created by William Buckley in 1957. It has published so many positions on a range of issues that you can take a sampling of articles to prove that it’s anywhere from a white supremacist scribe to a neoliberal outlet. They were most famous this election cycle for devoting an entire issue to opposing Donald Trump’s candidacy.

#NeverTrump conservatives find themselves in a weird spot post-election. The candidate they abhor is now the most powerful man in the world, but the conservative party is enjoying record majorities in legislatures and governorships across the country. This is a tremendous opportunity for conservatives to enact their ideas. However, Cheeto Jesus (as he's become known in some #NeverTrump circles), still must sign off on the platform, making the process murkier.

Jonah Goldberg, a fellow at the American Enterprise Institute and one of NRO's more prominent writers, published a column today about the conflict materializing at the heart of a #NeverTrump Republican like himself:

There is a weird, not quite fully baked idea out there that if you — or me — were wrong about Trump's electoral chances, that means you must be wrong about the man in full. There is no such transitive property in politics or punditry. I don't know what George Will said of Richard Nixon's electoral prospects in 1972, but even if he had predicted a McGovern landslide, that wouldn't mean he was wrong about the outrageousness of Watergate.

That said, I already feel comfortable admitting that, beyond my electoral prognosticating, I got some things wrong about what a Trump presidency will look like. Though many on the left and in the media see his cabinet appointments and policy proposals as cause for existential panic, as a conservative I find most — but by no means all — of them reassuring.

I argued frequently that Trump's conservatism was more marketing ploy than deeply held conviction. But his appointments at the departments of Education, Health and Human Services, and Labor and at the Environmental Protection Agency and elsewhere suggest a level of commitment to paring back the administrative state that heartens and surprises me.

I am also surprised by the benefits of having a political novice take over the executive branch. From his phone call with Taiwan to his ad hoc bargaining with defense contractors, there is more of an upside to Trump the Disrupter than I had anticipated.

Despite finding some pragmatic common ground with Trump, Goldberg ultimately returns to his central issue with the Donald, which has not been resolved and never will be: his temperament.

The National Review's editors wrote a column a couple weeks back that highlighted character concerns like Goldberg's over our Commander-In-Tweet, but its focus was on the Russian connection. A troubling schism is appearing on the right, and it's not a good sign for where our already woeful foreign policy discourse is headed.

The NRO’s Editors echoed this blasé attitude towards a nation who Mitt Romney correctly identified in 2012 as “the biggest geopolitical threat facing America” when they wrote:

But the Kremlin is, ultimately, not pro-Donald Trump, it is pro-Kremlin, and it will not hesitate to exploit weaknesses wherever it finds them. There is evidence that Russian hackers targeted the Republican National Committee as well as its Democratic counterpart, and if the Kremlin has information on Republican operatives, it’s entirely plausible that it is withholding it for future leverage.

Right…so the Kremlin isn’t pro-Trump, just pro-Kremlin…who the CIA said wanted to help put Trump in office…a man most people agree was and is a “weakness” …so they could possibly use the hack of the RNC for future leverage. The Kremlin’s pro-Trump motive lies right in the heart of their thesis, yet they ignore it and simply back up their assertion that the Kremlin is/was not pro-Trump by (rightly) blaming President Obama for letting the Russians walk all over the region, and then simply crying sovereignty.

Frankly—no shit. Foreign relations aren’t that simple, and alliances of convenience sprout up all the time. At the end of the day, everyone is looking out for their own interests. I highly doubt that the National Review would be this flippant if the reverse were true, and the CIA concluded that the Russians tried to help install Hillary Clinton as President.

The National Review has historically been a reasonable bellwether for conservatism—even if it has lurched much farther rightward in recent years (which does mirror the Republican Party’s movement). How they grapple with the realities of a Trump Presidency will be one of the main stories amongst the media landscape to watch in the coming years. If they fall in line like the Breitbarts of the world, America may have its own version Pravda soon enough.