Pundits execute pincer movement on Trump & GOP

E.J. Dionne, on a visit to Columbia in 2011.

E.J. Dionne, on a visit to Columbia in 2011.

They’re closing in from the left and right.

E.J. Dionne went further than he has to date in a piece headlined, “The Republican Party has lost its soul.” An excerpt:

Let’s focus on the most revealing aspect of this week’s turmoil within a party now aghast over the unstable egotist at the top of its ticket.

Trump could falsely claim that Obama was born abroad, but that wasn’t enough to disqualify him. He could call Mexican immigrants “rapists,” but that wasn’t enough to disqualify him. He could lie repeatedly — about, for example, whether he had met Vladimir Putin and whether he had opposedthe Iraq War — but that wasn’t enough to disqualify him. He could call for a ban on Muslim immigration to the United States, but that wasn’t enough to disqualify him. He could make degrading comments about women and mock people with disabilities, but that wasn’t enough to disqualify him.

No, it seems, all this and more were sufficiently within the bounds of acceptability for House Speaker Paul Ryan to tell delegates to the Republican National Convention that “only with Donald Trump and Mike Pence do we have a chance at a better way.”

So what really set off the crisis in the Republican Party this week? Trump suddenly became unacceptable because, in an interview with Philip Rucker of The Post, he refused to endorse Ryan and John McCain in their Republican primaries.

No matter what Trump said, Reince Priebus, the Republican national chairman, was willing to bow and scrape before Trump for months in trying to pull the party together behind him. Now, and only now, is Priebus reported to be “furious” and “apoplectic” at Trump. The message: Trump can say anything he wants about women, the disabled, Mexicans and Muslims, but how dare The Donald cause any trouble for Priebus’s friend Paul Ryan?

The corruption of a once-great political party is now complete….

Attacking simultaneously from the right, George Will wrote that “Trump’s shallowness runs deep.” An excerpt from that:

His speeches are, of course, syntactical train wrecks, but there might be method to his madness. He rarely finishes a sentence (“Believe me!” does not count), but perhaps he is not the scatterbrain he has so successfully contrived to appear. Maybe he actually is a sly rascal, cunningly in pursuit of immunity through profusion.

George Will

George F. Will

He seems to understand that if you produce a steady stream of sufficiently stupefying statements, there will be no time to dwell on any one of them, and the net effect on the public will be numbness and ennui. So, for example, while the nation has been considering his interesting decision to try to expand his appeal by attacking Gold Star parents, little attention has been paid to this: Vladimir Putin’s occupation of Crimea has escaped Trump’s notice.

It is, surely, somewhat noteworthy that someone aspiring to be this nation’s commander in chief has somehow not noticed the fact that for two years now a sovereign European nation has been being dismembered. But a thoroughly jaded American public, bemused by the depths of Trump’s shallowness, might have missed the following from Trump’sappearance Sunday on ABC’s “This Week.”

When host George Stephanopoulos asked, “Why did you soften the GOP platform on Ukraine?” — removing the call for providing lethal weapons for Ukraine to defend itself — Trump said: “[Putin’s] not going into Ukraine, okay? Just so you understand. He’s not going to go into Ukraine, all right? You can mark it down and you can put it down, you can take it anywhere you want.”

Stephanopoulos: “Well, he’s already there, isn’t he?”…

I deeply appreciate Will’s efforts recently to try to focus our attention on international affairs, and Trump’s utter and complete lack of preparedness or inclination to properly address them.

Sure, you can dismiss my friend E.J. as a consummate liberal, and wave away Will as a supercilious snob who doesn’t think Trump’s supporters are of the right sort.

So how about something closer to home? Check out this piece by a South Carolinian who has long admired Pat Buchanan, which is as conservative — as down-home, no-frills, paleoconservative — as anyone can get. Jeff Quinton writes:

Trump is wholly unqualified for the job of president. On top of that, his character is so fundamentally flawed that he cannot be trusted. On the character issue, I feel the same way about Hillary Clinton so I will not be voting for her either.

Jeff Quinton

Jeff Quinton

As a veteran who served as an intelligence analyst in the military, I will not vote for Trump based on national security and foreign policy issues. As a former soldier, Trump’s assurances that the troops will follow his orders, even if they are illegal ones to target civilians just because he says so are troubling. Trump’s vow to violate our treaty obligations to NATO are a major problem as well. I have concerns about Trump and his campaign manager’s connections to the Russian government—whether it was the Republican platform plank that hangs Ukraine out to dry or the Russian connections to Trump corporate finances. That doesn’t include the investigation of the DNC email leaks and where that might lead. Another foreign policy issue that bothers me relates to immigration and religious intolerance.

Trump’s immigration policies play to the basest fears in society. Whether it is his proposed Muslim ban or his criticisms of Pope Francis, it brings out the worst in his supporters online. From Ann Coulter tweeting that the Founding Fathers were right to distrust Catholics to Trump’s own proposal to keep a registry of Muslims in the country, it reminds me of one of the worst parts of American history for religious freedom—the Know Nothing era.

Trump’s appeals to the “alt-right” are nothing but a dog whistle for the fringes of the Republican Party. I have seen them get caught up in questionable conspiracy theories. They post about “false flag” theories after mass shootings that were supposedly were arranged in support of gun control. Jewish critics of Trump have been threatened and ridiculed for daring to question anything the man says. Polls show self-identifying evangelical Christians largely support him—a fact that leaves many observers scratching their heads.

As a faithful Catholic, I have also been active in the pro-life movement both locally and nationally. I do not trust Donald Trump’s pandering on pro-life issues. Being around the conservative movement in Washington for the past few years, I should not have been surprised to see so many conservatives and pro-lifers in the capital who were dead set against Trump in the primaries roll over for him as soon as he became the presumptive nominee. It is about nothing but being team players for access, power, and fundraising purposes….

And so forth. Go read the whole thing at The Daily Beast.

As a lagniappe, I’ll close with this, the first in a series of seven Tweets from Bill Kristol yesterday:

14 thoughts on “Pundits execute pincer movement on Trump & GOP

    1. Doug Ross

      If Bill Kristol was for something, I would immediately be against it. Same for George Will. E.J. Dionne is largely irrelevant outside of Manhattan and the Beltway. There is a big difference between being intelligent and being an intellectual. One is smart, the other revels in showing other people how smart he thinks he is.

      “and wave away Will as a supercilious snob”

      Don’t you think it matters that a lot of intelligent people feel that way about Will? He’s a show pony in the rarefied air of political commentary. Prancing about with his thesaurus and history book… The greatest thing about his job is he doesn’t have to be right, just prolific.

      1. Brad Warthen Post author

        I would say that I probably agreed with Will, E.J. and Bill Kristol roughly equal amounts of the time, back in the days when I read all their columns in order to choose for the op-ed page.

        My great frustration with Will wasn’t that used somewhat esoteric language — I loved that, actually. My problem was that too often, when I got to the end, I’d realize he hadn’t taken a position. The column would consist of a number of sharp, wry observations, but in the end, he’d withhold what he really, ultimately thought about the subject at hand.

        For instance… he spent some weeks in Britain before the Brexit vote. I very much enjoyed his columns from there, but the first one or two frustrated me — he said a bunch of interesting things about the issues involved, but didn’t come down clearly for stay or go.

        But then he settled down, and the rest of his columns were clearly for Brexit…

        1. Barry

          E. J. Dionne is nothing but a liberal shill.

          He’s as predictable as it gets and is nothing more than a robot supporting every liberal cause that comes down from Democratic talking points.

          Has he been out of New York City or Washington DC in the last 25 years? I can’t help but thinking the man couldn’t tell the difference between a ladder and a screw driver.

  1. Tex

    Does anyone younger than 70 years old read any of these guys? I mean besides the token intern who thinks he’s going to be the next 23 year old legislator. You know the ones… they all have the same hair style.

    1. Barry

      No- no one reads them except for people that agree with what they will write- and they know what they will write before they actually start reading their column.

      Kristol and Will might occasionally venture off a little with their opinions. I’d bet Dionne gets paid for writing what someone wants him to write. He’s nothing but a robot, writing out the talking points that were dictated to him.

      Dionne use to try to sell himself (poorly I might add) on being someone that was above partisanship – all the while fitting the very definition of partisanship.

      He’s pure phony.

      1. Brad Warthen Post author

        As I’m always saying to Doug about Lindsey Graham — no, he isn’t.

        E.J. is a friend of mine, and a really good guy. He’s about as natural, as much the opposite of phony, that you can imagine.

        I first met him in the mid-90s when I attended an idea-swapping conference of editorial folks in Reston, Va. One day, as a treat, they took us into town to have lunch with some of the folks with Washington Post Writers Group. E.J. was there along with Charles Krauthammer and Bob Samuelson. Krauthammer and Samuelson did their duty as hosts, and I had a nice chat with Samuelson after. But E.J. went above and beyond and took the time to give me a tour of the Post. He’s always been just the same, each time I’ve seen or talked to him since.

        E.J. and I don’t agree on everything. He is definitely a progressive, and he makes no bones about it, in his columns or his books. This is the way he views the world, and I assure you no one “dictates” anything to him. (Critics frequently level that charge at opinion writers, perhaps because they sense that nothing would be more insulting to us.)

        Here’s how he is “above partisanship.” He’s one of those increasingly rare people who can have a lively discussion with someone with whom he disagrees, and remain friends. It’s not personal; he doesn’t despise people who disagree with him. As you can see when he has his weekly chats with David Brooks (another pundit I admire greatly, who also seems a very congenial fellow — although I don’t know him personally) on NPR.

        The pundit world needs more like him.

          1. Brad Warthen Post author

            That’s what he does, Doug. Some people work with their hands. Some of us work with words, with ideas. We do what we can, with the gifts we’re given.

            1. Doug Ross

              Everyone has time to do more than talk. I know you do several things – giving blood, working with your church, organizing a team for the Walk for Life, for example – that are not word-based.

              I’m just interested in hearing what Dionne does in his spare time to support the progressive worldview he espouses. Does he volunteer at soup kitchens, build houses for Habitat for Humanity, write big checks to worthy charities, mentor/teach young people for free, take in foster children? Or is he just grinding out words 16 hours a day?
              His Wikipedia page and bio on the Washington Post doesn’t list anything but his columns and books.

              1. Brad Warthen Post author

                OK, now you’ve made me feel guilty — by mentioning Habitat for Humanity.

                I used to be on the local board. In fact, I chaired the local board, for two one-year terms. Back in those days I frequently went out to work on houses. Back in 1995, when we did our first Blitz Build (10 houses in a week) in Arthurtown, I took a week of vacation and worked long, full days building those houses. (I did framing, roofing and vinyl siding — the last being the most specialized skill I developed. I also learned to dig sewer lines with a small backhoe. But the job I was best at? Scrounger, like James Garner in “The Great Escape.” When you’ve got that many houses going and you’re in a hurry, sometimes this or that house will hit an obstacle due to lack of scaffolding or certain other special equipment, or basic materials. I made it my business to run around the sites until I found those things and borrowed them, keeping the process moving.)

                I did that at least one other year. And whenever we had a big project going, I tried to get out there for part of it.

                But after my second year as chair (I had been asked to stay on because we were dealing with some complex issues and the board didn’t want a transition in the middle of it), I left the board, and I don’t think I’ve swung a hammer since.

                That was well over 10 years ago now…

        1. Barry

          EJ is predictable. No reason to read his columns are even listen to his viewpoint. Name the issue- his view is obvious.

          Not that I read the guy at all anymore- just read snippets from what he wrote here and there.

          David Brooks is a liberal Republican who is really never sure what he thinks about a subject – and even then he’s not confident in that opinion at all. I can see EJ getting along perfectly with a “conservative” like that.


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