Almost a year into the Trump administration, some conservatives who formed part of the “Never Trump” movement during the campaign are softening — even praising the president for his successes in office.
New York Times readers on Sunday were treated to a column by conservative Ross Douthat — a frequent critic of Trump — who wrote about Trump’s underrated victory over the Islamic State. In the column, “A War Trump Won,” Douthat writes:
[I]f you had told me in late 2016 that almost a year into the Trump era the caliphate would be all-but-beaten without something far worse happening in the Middle East, I would have been surprised and gratified. So very provisionally, credit belongs where it’s due — to our soldiers and diplomats, yes, but to our president as well.
Douthat also grills the press for not mentioning the success due to it contradicting the narrative of “Trumpian disaster.” He notes that many on both the left and the Never Trump right have feared Trump’s foreign policy more than anything, and yet it has wrought success so far.
In addition to the victory over ISIS, Douthat praises Trump’s restraint in the Middle East:
In particular, Trump has avoided the temptation often afflicting Republican uber-hawks, in which we’re supposed to fight all bad actors on 16 fronts at once. Instead he’s slow-walked his hawkish instincts on Iran, tolerated Assad and avoided dialing up tensions with Russia. The last issue is of course entangled with the great collusion debate — but it’s still a good thing that our mini-cold war has remained relatively cool and we aren’t strafing each other over Syria.
Prominent “Never Trump” conservative, National Review’s David French, echoes Douthat’s sentiment on the defeat of ISIS:
This is one of the best stories of the young Trump administration. While many of the battles were fought under Obama, Trump pursued the enemy relentlessly. He delegated decision-making to commanders in the field, they fought within the laws of war, and they prevailed. Trump promised to defeat ISIS, and he has delivered a tremendous victory.
Also at the National Review — the organization that formed the brain of the “Never Trump” movement among conservatives — editor Rich Lowry has written a piece listing Trump’s accomplishments in office, which he calls a “solid record of achievement.”
“It’s hard to see how a conventional Republican president would have done much better, except if he had managed to get Obamacare repealed, which was always going to be a dicey proposition given the narrow Republican majority in the Senate,” Lowry writes.
Lowry points to three signature achievements that he believes may not have been achieved by a more “regular” Republican president.
“If any Republican would have done much of what Trump has, three acts stand out — pulling out of the Paris accords, decertifying the Iran deal, and declaring Jerusalem the capital of Israel,” he writes. “All three demonstrated an imperviousness to polite opinion that is one of Trump’s signature qualities.”
On Tuesday, Conrad Black published a piece for the same outlet, in which he gives a lengthy list of Trump’s achievements in his first term. On the economy in particular, he writes:
This year [Trump] has won over the congressional Republican party, which had almost entirely opposed him, to toil in the enactment of his program. Together they have achieved the greatest tax reform and reduction in over 30 years, largely emasculated Obamacare, put a rod on the backs of those states that elect incompetents like Jerry Brown and the Cuomos and lay the resulting state income taxes off on the whole country, repatriated trillions of dollars of corporate profit, exonerated over half the people from personal income taxes, reduced the return of 80 percent of taxpayers to a postcard, and produced conditions for 4 percent GDP growth next year. The Obama apologetics that a flatlined economy with a shrunken work force and a burgeoning multitude of Medicaid-sedated idleness was the new normal has been debunked; it is the abnormal recent past.
The Washington Examiner, a conservative outlet that has published countless opinion pieces criticizing Trump, ran an editorial declaring “Trump is on a roll.” The editorial said:
One of the narratives of 2017 has been that Trump and Republicans on Capitol Hill have failed to achieve anything substantive. This has always been untrue, but in recent weeks it has become a ridiculous fiction. Amid drama, protest, miscues, and unprecedented political vitriol, real conservative victories are being achieved for America.
Some of that praise could spell civil war among such conservatives, with some of the once-Never Trump wing becoming frustrated with the hyperventilating of commentators who refuse under any circumstances to admit that Trump could get anything right — even policies more traditional conservatives normally embrace.
One such commentator is the Washington Post’s Jennifer Rubin who, as the outlet’s token conservative commentator, writes the “Right Turn” blog at the left-wing outlet. Yet as a Never Trumper, Rubin has refused to give an inch to Trump. This has, in turn, sparked criticism from National Review Online’s Charles Cooke.
Cooke, himself a frequent Trump critic, penned a column this week in which he tears into Rubin as one of the “Trump-obsessed zealots who add nothing to our discourse” and who will change her opinion on items such as the Iran deal and the Jerusalem embassy to oppose whatever Trump is doing.
If Trump likes something, Rubin doesn’t. If he does something, she opposes it. If his agenda flits into alignment with hers—as anyone’s is wont to do from time to time—she either ignores it, or finds a way to downplay it. The result is farcical and sad; a comprehensive and self-inflicted airbrushing of the mind.
Rubin, perhaps missing the point of Cooke’s article, responded by dismissing Cooke and the NR as “enablers of Trump.”
if i had any respect for enablers of Trump or there was a cogent argument in there i'd respond. I miss the days when NR was at least witty. https://t.co/vB2UaSXcmA
— Jennifer Rubin (@JRubinBlogger) December 18, 2017
Cooke, apparently noting that Rubin was engaging in the same knee-jerk opposition he had outlined in his piece, responded: “Quod erat demonstrandum.” [And thus it was demonstrated.]
Adam Shaw is a Breitbart News politics reporter based in New York. Follow Adam on Twitter: @AdamShawNY.