The news that the Weekly Standard has appointed Stephen Hayes editor-in-chief has caused some to wonder if former editor and consistent Trump critic Bill Kristol all but made himself toxic for the publication’s masthead.
Whether that’s true, or not, may depend upon one’s view of all things Washington — and Trump; however, it’s difficult to see how Hayes represents much of a change in that regard given his long list of failed prognostications and analysis during the course of the 2016 presidential campaign. Take for example this gem of a Weekly Standard headline atop a Hayes’ item from July of 2016: Donald Trump Is Crazy, and So Is the GOP for Embracing Him. Wrote Hayes of Trump, “(T)his isn’t the behavior of a rational, stable individual. It should embarrass those who have endorsed him and disgrace those who have attempted to normalize him.”
As some will recall, it was the Weekly Standard that sought to undermine Trump right on through the Fall by embracing wannabe candidate Evan McMullin, who still continues to attack both Trump and the Republican Party as a whole as basically racist and corrupt.
It’s unclear how the lingering memory of exchanges like this one with Sean Hannity back in January of 2016, who called Hayes out directly for being “so consistently wrong” on Trump, will impact any potential relationship between Hayes in his role as editor and the incoming administration.
Sean Hannity calls out Stephen F. Hayes of The Weekly Standard for being consistently wrong about Donald Trump’s demise. The two argue Trump’s electability against Hillary Clinton on a special edition of FOX News’ Hannity after the FOX Business debate in Charleston, South Carolina. While Hayes concedes he has been wrong, he calls out other FOX News contributors who have been “Trump boosters.”
As late as September of this year Hayes almost looked as if he was rooting for Hillary Clinton during the presidential debate on September 26. From the article “Hayes Explains How Trump Walked Right Into Hillary’s Tax Return ‘Trap”:
“She set him up, and Trump walked right into her trap by saying that he was smart for not paying any taxes,” Hayes said.
He explained that Trump followed that admission with a series of internally contradictory responses, claiming that he couldn’t release his tax returns while he was being audited and that he would release them when Clinton released her 30,000 deleted emails.
“It was sort of this mish-mash of excuses,” Hayes said. “And rather than turning and pivoting and making an attack on her, he engaged that debate on her terms and I thought lost it badly.”
Earlier in May of 2016, Hayes appeared on Fox News pushing the notion that Trump would ban Islam and Muslims from the United States and all but withdraw the United States from world markets, while engaging in name calling of the now president-elect. Said Hayes, “If you have principles and believe we shouldn’t ban a religion? Don’t ban a religion? A country founded on freedom of religion—it’s not good idea to ban a religion. Republicans can’t just cast aside their principles, free trade, because Donald Trump comes around and this orange guy suggests that free trade is bad. We’re going to throw away 300 years of Adam Smith.”
Meanwhile, many analysts on the Right appeared to understand that Trump’s bombast was always something of a mix between setting the stage for further negotiations on policy and hyperbole to drive the daily news cycle — a strategy that obviously worked given his election to the highest office in the land. In any case, they didn’t join in the mainstream media pile on at every turn, unlike some others.
In fact, Fox News host Sean Hannity even called out Hayes and the Weekly Standard, among others, on his show more than once. Take the following exchange from January 2016 regarding the stance National Review and the Weekly Standard took against Trump’s candidacy, for instance. Hannity asked Hayes, “Where was National Review when in fact the Republicans were going back on their promise against repealing and replacing ObamaCare and using the power of the purse, or holding up the mantle of challenging a sitting president and stopping executive amnesty, which was the Republican promise in 2014?”
Hayes answered, “National Review has been leading the fight in many ways, with the Weekly Standard and others, challenging the Washington establishment and the crony capitalists here in Washington. … It’s interesting for me to see people cast National Review and these contributors as part of the Washington conservative establishment. It’s preposterous. I mean, it includes authors like Erick Erickson, like Brent Bozell. I mean, nobody’s calling these people establishment.”
Midway through, Hannity said that National Review didn’t do a special edition for any of the things he’d mentioned, to which Hayes countered that they thought Trump’s ascendancy was worth the special edition.
Many now believe the reason Trump won both the primary and national election is precisely because publications like National Review and the Weekly Standard coddled and encouraged a Republican Party that not only betrayed conservatism but turned on what was once its own base by becoming the party of Washington insiders courting favorable press from pundits exactly like Hayes.
A review of the record shows Hayes was demeaning and insulting Trump as far back as July 2015, as he did here on the radio with John Gibson.
Steve Hayes referred to Trump as a clown, adding that the president-elect was merely on “an ego trip” and that while Hayes doesn’t expect him to rise in the primary polls, Trump could possibly help elect Hillary by running third party. Hayes also called Trump a “pseudo-conservative” who doesn’t deserve much attention.
Yet, if we fast-forward to today, many Conservative agree that Trump’s cabinet picks largely appear to be far better for conservatives than might those of an establishment Republican candidate, had one won the nomination and election.
Hayes always often found himself mixing it up with Trump directly and was name-checked by the incoming President more than once, including here in February of 2016:
Trump went on to name some of network personalities of which he had favorable opinions and those that he did not regard as favorable.
“I have great respect for Fox,” Trump added. “And you and [Bill] O’Reilly, who can be a little bit rough … and Greta [Van Susteren] – so many others, Steve Doocy, ‘Fox & Friends.’ But I will tell you, you have a couple of people that shouldn’t be on. Stephen Hayes shouldn’t be on, shouldn’t be on the shows. He is so biased. Karl Rove – he still thinks Romney won. Do you remember after the election? ‘Romney won, Romney won.’ They had to pull him off the air. It ended about four hours ago. ‘I’m telling you Romney won.’ He shouldn’t be on the air.”
And that was far from the first time. Here Trump slammed Hayes from the campaign stump in December of 2015, when he pointed out how often Hayes and others had been so wrong in their analysis, or reactions to his remarks.
You have a guy named Stephen Hayes, I’ve never even heard of this guy. When my name is mentioned it’s like…he goes crazy. Now, part of the reason is they all said I was never going to run, right? And then I ran. Then they say, well, he’ll never file form A, that’s basically a single page where you sign your life away. And I went like this, ‘Uh, let’s go.’ Boom, I sign. Then they said, well, maybe he’s not as rich as everyone thinks, and he’ll never file his financials, and if he does, he’ll file them in two years from now, because you’re allowed a lot of extensions. I filed them ahead of schedule, in less than 30 days, okay?
The list goes on and on. Unfortunately for Hayes and the Weekly Standard, having been so wrong so often will likely only add to the challenges generally presented by an adjustment to new management after Kristol held the helm at the publication for over twenty years.