You would never know that these rational conservative intellectuals, with their new found tender feelings for democracy and fair play, rode shotgun with the most vicious, hyper-partisan, wingnut loving administration in U.S. history prior to the advent of Trump.
Frum worked in the same White House as Dick Cheney and Karl Rove. Did he get the vapors when Cheney told Patrick Leahy to “go fuck yourself” in the well of the Senate? Where was Frum when his boss pushed the USA Patriot Act and lied us into war? Oh, yeah, he was boasting at Washington cocktail parties that he invented the term “axis of evil.” Likewise, when George W. Bush was riding high in the saddle, shocking and awing his way into historical infamy, Andrew Sullivan and David Brooks were cheering from the luxury boxes. I wonder, were their delicate sensibilities perturbed at the despicable swift-boating of John Kerry in 2004? What about Karl Rove’s smear campaign against John McCain in the South Carolina primaries in 2000, where Republicans let it be known that McCain had a little
Now David Frum and David Brooks, George Will and Andrew Sullivan, affect to be horrified by Trump and his ignorant, racist base. They wring their hands like staid Victorian ladies who've just suffered the indignity seeing a young woman's ankle and decide to cry foul. Sorry. I'm not buying. They aided and abetted the most divisive, reactionary forces in American life for decades. Now the cute little baby crocodile that they nurtured in its swamp - feeding it, coddling it, and empowering it at every turn for their own short-sighted political advantage - has grown into a twenty foot long carnivorous monstrosity that is now, surprise, surprise, biting off their hands. Forgive me if I don’t weep.
But why? There isn’t much about Trump's agenda they oppose. Cut taxes on the wealthy? Check. Gut social spending? Check. Increase military spending? Check. Hobble and immiserate the EPA, the Department of Education, and other wicked manifestations of the nanny state? Check, check, check. He’s shrinking government to the size where he can strangle it in the bathtub, just as Grover Norquist, who is one of the most influential Republican operators in the country, has preached for years. Trump is picking up where Dubya left off and getting it done. So what is it about him that turns their stomach?
In part, I suspect, it’s simply a career move. Even dim bulb David Brooks has the percipience to know that anyone too closely associated with the Trump administration is going to look very, very bad in the cold glare of history. They won’t be in the same league as Himmler, Goering or Goebbels who, if nothing else, had the virtue of being such delightfully colorful villains; no, Trump’s underlings more closely resemble the gray, toadying, supine boot-lickers and mediocrities in Stalin’s inner circle, who countenanced all manner of abuse from their bullying, uncultured boss, up to and including seeing their wives imprisoned and themselves being threatened with execution, and always came back for more, just like Paul Ryan and Lindsey Graham do.
Trump is the living, breathing, rabid, petulant, grunting, crude, sexist, racist visage of the Republican base and there is simply no ignoring it. Republican elites could deny this as long they were calling the shots in the Party and the rubes, after each election, could be safely locked back up in their pens and revival tents. This is no longer possible. With each Trump Tweet, David Frums, David Brooks, and Andrew Sullivan must confront the truth about the political party they belong to and their own complicity in birthing this nightmare.
But I think there are other, arguably more serious concerns at play. Namely, there might be deleterious social consequences for openly supporting gauche vulgarian Trump, such as having your membership at the Chevy Chase Country Club revoked or never being invited back to Cokie Robert’s house for tea and diet soda. Even though Trump was born to wealth, he still has the crass patina of the newly rich, and I think the beltway pundit’s hatred of Trump is largely based on sheer aesthetic revulsion and class snobbery. He’s just not one of them. He’s just not the right kind of people. If he had better hair and better manners, they wouldn’t make a peep.