War Over Endorsement at Wall Street Journal?

by Jim Lobe

The Wall Street Journal’s editorials have been quite critical of both Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton, arguably more so of the former than the latter. But then this week, two of its regular columnists—Bret Stephens and William McGurn—took spectacularly opposite positions on the issue.

Stephens, who publishes the “Global View” column and appears to be the editorial board’s lead foreign-policy writer, was one of the very first “Never Trump” neocons. Indeed, last February, calling Trump’s candidacy “the open sewer of American conservatism,” he confided in one column, “It would be terrible to think that the left was right about the right all these years.” (This is a question that many neocons should be taking seriously to heart.) In May, when Trump’s nomination looked inevitable, he called Hillary “the conservative hope.”

Noting Trump’s recent allusions to a “global power structure” and “international banks” plotting with Hillary to destroy “U.S. sovereignty,” Stephens went a step further, arguing, as have others, that Trump—whether consciously or not—is now mouthing anti-Semitic tropes that are “manna to every Jew hater.”

Anti-Semitism isn’t just an ethnic or religious prejudice. It’s a way of thinking. If you incline to believe that the world is controlled by nefarious unseen forces, you might alight on any number of suspects: Freemasons, central bankers, the British foreign office. Somehow, the ultimate culprits usually wind up being Jews.

That’s why it’s utterly unwise for politically conservative Jews to make common cause with Mr. Trump [see below], on the theory that he’d be a tougher customer in the Middle East than Mrs. Clinton.

…[A] Trump administration would give respectability and power to the gutter voices of American politics. …American Jews shouldn’t have to re-live the 1930s in order to figure out that the ‘globalist cabal’ might mean them.

Now, on the very same page, the Journal also featured McGurn’s weekly “Main Street” column, provocatively entitled “The Cheap Moralizing of Never Trump.” McGurn, who not only was George W. Bush’s chief speechwriter but has served as the Journal’s chief editorial writer, is clearly infuriated by people like Stephens. Basically, McGurn, who fails to address the alt-right/anti-Semitism issue, argues that three out of four Republicans support Trump because they can’t stand the “contempt” Obama and Hillary show for “the things that [those Republicans] cherish: faith, patriotism, the decency of ordinary citizens and so on. Above all, they support him because they also get that the elite contempt for Donald Trump is a proxy contempt for them.”

Still, each new day brings new accusations and analogies. Like college sophomores ransacking history for the most extreme metaphors, no pejorative is too fantastic. Trump is Hitler! Trump is Mussolini! Trump is Nietzsche! Even George Will just likened the GOP convention to a ‘mini-Nuremberg.’”

As for the Never Trumpers’ denunciation of Republican leaders’ failure to “un-endorse the Republican nominee,” McGurn is beside himself.

In the end, the strongest argument for a Trump vote has always been this: The alternative is a president who lies, whose public life has been a series of scandals from cattle futures to the destruction of documents under subpoena, who would be a third term for disastrous Obama policies at home and abroad, and who has never taken a position that wasn’t done from naked political expediency…

Meanwhile, the Never Trump movement’s contribution has been to give us a word for all those who have weighed this evidence and have found the argument against a Clinton presidency persuasive: evil.

Meanwhile, on Saturday, the Journal published what has to be the most bizarre defense of Trump to date, at least by a Jewish neoconservative: Yale University computer science professor and (ironically, given Bill Kristol’s leadership in the Never Trump movement) Weekly Standard contributing editor, David Gelernter. Gelernter writes that he’ll “vote for Mr. Trump—grimly [because] there is no alternative, no shadow of a responsible alternative.”

You know that Hillary is Obama Part III. We can’t let that happen. Parts I and II have brought us close enough to catastrophe.

That is the problem for those whose integrity or nobility won’t allow them to vote for Mr. Trump despite their dislike of Mrs. Clinton. There is only one way to take part in protecting this nation from Hillary Clinton, and that is to vote for Donald Trump. A vote for anyone else or for no one might be an honest, admirable gesture in principle, but we don’t need conscientious objectors in this war for the country’s international standing and hence for the safety of the world and the American way of life.

Gelernter dismisses the notion by Never Trumpers that a Trump presidency may be dangerous, insisting that he is unable to take such concerns “seriously, either in political or psychological terms.”

Ordinary politics says that Mr. Trump will not do crazy things or go off half-cocked, because Republicans in Congress will be eager to impeach him and put Mike Pence in charge…

Impeachment is Trump-voters’ ace in the hole…

Of course, “ordinary politics” would say that Trump should not now be the Republican nominee for president either, but that doesn’t seem to affect Gelernter’s confidence that a Republican Congress can keep him in check. The party leadership has done so well at that to date. Talk about a leap of faith.

Nonetheless, this was the feature op-ed in Saturday’s Journal three weeks before the election, so someone who’s used to getting his way must have found it persuasive.

Photo: William McGurn

Jim Lobe

Jim Lobe served for some 30 years as the Washington DC bureau chief for Inter Press Service and is best known for his coverage of U.S. foreign policy and the influence of the neoconservative movement.


One Comment

  1. “American Jews shouldn’t have to re-live the 1930s in order to figure out that the ‘globalist cabal’ might mean them.”

    Since that would be dreadful for all those thousands, even millions of 90- to 120-year-old Jews who lived through the 1930s the first time, we wouldn’t want to witness them re-living them now, would we.

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