"They Built This": Media Call Out National Review's Anti-Trump Feature For Ignoring Right-Wing Media's Role In Trump's Rise
Research ››› ››› ALEX KAPLAN
Media figures are calling out National Review's feature of conservatives criticizing current GOP presidential frontrunner Donald Trump, noting that the magazine and conservative media as a whole created the conditions for Donald Trump's rise by "engendering an oppositional mode towards government," being "hostile to immigration and immigrants," and bashing "political correctness."
National Review Releases "Conservatives Against Trump" Feature
National Review Editors And 22 Conservative Pundits Reject Donald Trump's Candidacy In Comprehensive "Conservatives Against Trump" Feature. National Review produced a January 21 feature criticizing Donald Trump's candidacy with an editorial and commentary from 22 right-wing pundits including Glenn Beck, Dana Loesch, and Erick Erickson. The publication's editors denounced Trump, calling his politics "those of an averagely well-informed businessman" and dubbing him a "philosophically unmoored political opportunist":
Donald Trump leads the polls nationally and in most states in the race for the Republican presidential nomination. There are understandable reasons for his eminence, and he has shown impressive gut-level skill as a campaigner. But he is not deserving of conservative support in the caucuses and primaries. Trump is a philosophically unmoored political opportunist who would trash the broad conservative ideological consensus within the GOP in favor of a free-floating populism with strong-man overtones.
Indeed, Trump's politics are those of an averagely well-informed businessman: Washington is full of problems; I am a problem-solver; let me at them. But if you have no familiarity with the relevant details and the levers of power, and no clear principles to guide you, you will, like most tenderfeet, get rolled. Especially if you are, at least by all outward indications, the most poll-obsessed politician in all of American history.
Any candidate can promise the moon. But politicians have records of success, failure, or plain backsliding by which their promises may be judged. Trump can try to make his blankness a virtue by calling it a kind of innocence. But he is like a man with no credit history applying for a mortgage -- or, in this case, applying to manage a $3.8 trillion budget and the most fearsome military on earth. [National Review, 1/21/16]
Media Call Out National Review And Conservative Media For Building Up Conditions For Trump's Rise
CNN's Cuomo Suggests Glenn Beck, Conservatives Helped With "Birthing Donald Trump." During the January 25 edition of CNN's New Day, co-host Chris Cuomo told conservative radio host and The Blaze founder Glenn Beck, who was one of the pundits writing in National Review's anti-Trump feature, that there may be a "little bit of reap what you sow in [Trump's rise] with the GOP." Cuomo suggested that Beck, along with other conservatives, "wound up somewhat birthing Donald Trump" by "engendering an oppositional mode towards government and ratcheting up negativity as a mainline discourse":
GLENN BECK: When you have a guy who is angry and then has an enemies list and starts just to take people down over and over and over again -- if you disagree with him, he destroys you. If that's the mood of the country, we're in more trouble than I thought.
CHRIS CUOMO (HOST): Well, but here's the thing. Is there a little bit of reap what you sow in some of this with the GOP? That engendering an oppositional mode towards government and ratcheting up negativity as a mainline discourse, you wound up somewhat birthing Donald Trump? And now all, some of those people who were angry about what was going on and telling people to be angry, now they've got somebody who is harnessing the power of exactly that. And you're disappointed. [CNN, New Day, 1/25/16]
Reason Magazine's Nick Gillespie: National Review Should "At Least Acknowledge" They "Helped Create The Opportunity" For Trump's Popularity. Reason editor Nick Gillespie criticized National Review for not "at least acknowledg[ing] that they helped to create the opportunity [for Trump] in the first place." Gillespie noted on immigration, Trump "is not at odds with National Review, conservatives, or all the other Republican presidential candidates," and that Trump's rhetoric and denunciation of political correctness "are part and parcel of contemporary conservativism and National Review's identity":
These are exactly the grounds upon which Trump has seized the day in the Republican primary season, so if he is in fact "a philosophically unmoored political opportunist"--and I think that's a pretty fair description--National Review's editors might at least acknowledge that they helped to create the opportunity in the first place. After all (and whatever his past affiliation), Trump isn't running in the Democratic primaries, is he? And despite the editors' claim that since Jesse Jackson entered the 1984 Democratic race "both parties have been infested by candidates who have treated the presidency as an entry-level position," the plain fact is that it's the GOP and conservatives who regularly trot out and swoon for the likes of Donald Trump, Carly Fiorina, Ben Carson, and Herman Cain.
Let's be clear: To the extent that Trump is widely and accurately understood to be openly hostile to immigration and immigrants, especially from Mexico, he is not at odds with National Review, conservatives, or all the other Republican presidential candidates. He is completely in accord with all of them--and they are all at odds with most of the country.
Trump's appeal to Republican primary voters stems in large part from his campaign promise to "make America great again" and his willingness to denounce political correctness, which he led with in the first GOP debate (if memory serves, he identified that as the biggest problem facing America). These gestures too are part and parcel of contemporary conservativism and National Review's identity. When Obama isn't destroying the Constitution via an imperial presidency that calls to mind...George W. Bush, he is a "weak"president and the acceptance of Republican Caitlyn Jenner's transgendered self is not only a sign of "social decay" but an occasion for contributor David A. French to fret that "the response of so many social conservatives has been so timid and uncertain."
Again and again in its pages, National Review writers ascribe an unwillingness to attack "social decay" where you find it to political correctness and fear of media ostracism rather than to an honest disagreement about social issues. There remains, too, an unwillingness among National Review conservatives, who have effectively lost all the culture-war arguments they have entered, to concede that libertarians are truly distinct from conservatives. From government-enforced racial segregation (a big issue for National Review in the 1960s) to embracing pop culture (Buckley famously hated the Beatles) to gay marriage to pot legalization to abortion rights, things have consistently gone libertarian rather than conservative. Jonah Goldberg can joke that libertarians are "a bit like the Canadians you meet abroad who go to almost obsessive lengths to show everyone that they aren't American," but he can't fully let go of the conviction that, deep down, libertarians are a sub-species of conservative. [Reason, 1/25/16]
New York Magazine's Jonathan Chait: Writers In National Review Feature "Refuse To Acknowledge Their Own Reflection In [Trump]." New York magazine's Jonathan Chait noted that the writers in National Review criticizing Trump "refuse to acknowledge their own reflection in him," adding, "Trump's ability to commandeer the presidential race is no more an accident than [Sarah] Palin's brief but torrid rise to the heights of right-wing idolatry":
This week, National Review has an editorial and a cover symposium with 19 conservatives denouncing Trump as "crude," a "boor," "astoundingly ignorant of everything that to govern a powerful, complex, influential, and exceptional nation such as ours he would have to know," and so on. One of the writers, Andrew McCarthy, a National Review contributing editor, expresses astonishment that Trump could not identify such figures as Hassan Nasrallah, Ayman al-Zawahiri, and Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi. When Palin responded to a question about the Bush Doctrine with bug-eyed incomprehension, McCarthy angrily dismissed the suggestion that she did not know what it was as "nonsense."
The anti-Trump conservatives are so eager to cast him out as a heretic that they refuse to acknowledge their own reflection in him. "If Trump were to become the president, the Republican nominee, or even a failed candidate with strong conservative support," asks National Review's editorial, "what would that say about conservatives?" The editorial treats this question as rhetorical, and moves on. It needs a real answer.
Trump is not a movement conservative, and people who are have good reason to doubt that he would stick with their principles if (and when) they became inconvenient. But Trump's ability to commandeer the presidential race is no more an accident than Palin's brief but torrid rise to the heights of right-wing idolatry. Modern American conservatism is inherently vulnerable to this kind of exploitation. [New York, 1/22/16]
Salon's Bob Cecsa: Conservative Media "Built [Trump]." Salon's Bob Cesca noted that conservative media figures "built [Trump]" and wrote National Review's anti-Trump feature shows "they'll never own their wrongness, nor will they ever admit that they planted the fuzzy orange seeds that gave us the age of Trump":
Who, then, is ultimately responsible for the eras of Bush, Palin and Trump?
We only need to look as far as the latest issue of The National Review and the authors of an hilariously ironic group-article titled, "Conservatives against Trump."
But guess what? They built this.
Kristol, Erickson, Lowry and the others built Trump, and now they're scrambling over themselves to run away from the bewigged monster they themselves helped to manufacture. Indeed, without George W. Bush, Sarah Palin and the conservative entertainment complex, helmed in part by Glenn Beck, Donald Trump probably wouldn't be the GOP frontrunner today and it's unlikely he would've run in the first place. Trump is nothing if not perceptive of the national zeitgeist and he knew that if Palin could become a conservative folk hero, despite her screechy voice and unapologetic cluelessness, he'd easily be able to knock it out of the park.
Taken as a whole, operatives like Kristol skewed the trajectory of their party from being a relatively balanced mix of populism and ideology into a political outfit that's solely interested in winning at any cost, reasonable policy ideas be damned -- even if it means glaring contradictions, or nominating an empty suit like Trump, Palin or Bush, or if it means bankrupting the treasury with ill-conceived tax cuts and two horrendous wars.
Kristol's GOP is about stunt-casting and pandering to the basest human instincts of its voters, and he deserves to be held accountable for all that. As we can clearly observe in The National Review this week, they'll never own their wrongness, nor will they ever admit that they planted the fuzzy orange seeds that gave us the age of Trump. But the party of personal responsibility so rarely is, so don't hold your breath waiting for an apology. [Salon, 1/25/16]