WaPo’s Never Trumpers Admit They Aren’t Conservatives

Max Boot Never Trumper
Anna WebberGetty Images for The New Yorker

The Washington Post’s two leading “conservative” opinion contributors, Max Boot and Jennifer Rubin, dropped all pretense of being conservatives in the aftermath of last week’s Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC).

Boot’s admission, titled “If this is what conservatism has become, count me out,” came Sunday after years of articles in which he attacked President Donald Trump, disparaged the political Right more generally, and progressively conceded that he held a significant number of unambiguously leftist positions.

Justifying his original claim to conservatism on his affiliation with two New York-based center-right publications and his contribution to the bellicose foreign policy of three failed Republican presidential candidates, Boot writes:

In the past I would have been indignant at such attacks and eager to assert my conservative credentials. I spent years writing for conservative publications such as the Wall Street Journal editorial page and Commentary magazine and working as a foreign policy adviser for three Republican presidential campaigns. Being conservative used to be central to my identity. But now, frankly, I don’t give a damn. I prefer to think of myself as a classical liberal, because “conservative” has become practically synonymous with “Trump lackey.”

Rubin, long the Post’s resident voice for the Right despite there being no extant evidence of her identifying as a “conservative” or supporting the Republican Party before 2005, quickly endorsed Boot’s disavowal of conservatism Monday. “[I]t is essential for Democrats to take one or both houses of Congress in the midterms,” she writes.

Repeatedly referring to conservatives as “they,” Rubin describes CPAC attendees as “a mob that now flaunts its intellectual vapidity and abject racism,” because they booed Nation Review Never Trumper Mona Charen’s on-stage insult of CPAC speaker Marion Maréchal-Le Pen and her family.

Boot, like other Never Trumpers, disavowed the single successful GOP presidential campaign since 2004 and endorsed Hillary Clinton. Instead, he served as a foreign policy adviser to the John McCain, Mitt Romney, and Marco Rubio campaigns in 2008, 2012, and 2016 respectively.

All three losing campaigns espoused Boot’s signature unapologetically interventionist, stridently anti-Russian, and self-described “imperialist” foreign policy – perhaps best summed up in an aphorism he penned in 2003 as American troops mopped up the last Saddam Hussein’s Iraq and settled in for a bloody eight-year civil war in which almost 4,500 of them would perish. “It means imposing the rule of law, property rights, free speech and other guarantees, at gunpoint if need be. … we shouldn’t hesitate to impose our democratic views,” he wrote.

Boot has never renounced his wholehearted support for the Iraq War and the project of “imperialist” democratic nation-building. He, in fact, touts it as the primary proof of what he once considered his conservative bone fides. “I’m used to being vilified by the far left as a bloodthirsty neocon warmonger for the Original Sin of having supported the invasion of Iraq,” he writes, adding that he’s “surprised” to be considered a left-winger.

Fittingly, Boot’s path to Sunday’s unequivocal declaration that he is not a conservative began over these issues on Tucker Carlson’s Fox News program last summer, where Boot defended a comparison between Tucker and Nazi sympathizers because he was not sufficiently hawkish on Russia.

Still, at that point, considering himself a conservative, Boot went on to clarify that the Republican Party “deserves to die,” that he endorses the leftist doctrines of “white privilege” and “male privilege,” that he is “pro-abortion,” that he supports “transgenders” in the military, and that he believes opposing amnesty or pushing for any reduction in mass immigration is offensive.

Since being hired full-time by the Post on January 30, Boot has added that he wants a “rethink” of the Second Amendment that would ban the AR-15 – America’s most popular rifle – which he apparently believes, unlike other rifles, has an exceptional ability to make people’s body parts “explode.”

Rubin, who has spent most of her output over the last week pushing gun control, had carved out a niche for herself as one the Left’s favorite conservatives, attacking President Trump and his supporters, even when they advanced positions she herself had years earlier. She too has now formally washed her hands of the conservative movement. “Seeing the CPAC circus trample on the remnants of a serious political movement, I was struck by how the assemblage seemed terribly angry, thin-skinned and so very mean-spirited,” she writes.

Having left conservatism, Rubin will join “what Boot calls classical liberalism and what I conceive of as ‘center-right politics,'” but not before she discards that most tenuous connection to the political right – tax cuts – because this new alignment “require[s] that we toss away some stale policy canards (e.g. tax cuts for the rich are the cure to what ails us)[.]”

Rubin believes that she and Boot’s Never Trump “classical liberalism” may be powerful enough to upend “party affiliation, policy preferences, the two-party system itself.” In parting with conservatism, Rubin tells us she is “uplifted” by the prospect of being aligned with people she “admires and respects” on the Left:

There is also something uplifting in making new political alliances, shedding some mistaken assumptions about the “other side,” defending the essence of American democracy and thinking outside the rigid strictures of partisan politics. And most of all, there is joy in doing so with people you admire and respect.

At time of print, Rubin’s “Right Turn” blog still ends with the post-script that she offers “reported opinion from a conservative perspective.”


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