National Review vs. The Donald

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One of the conservative movement’s most influential magazines is taking off the gloves. National Review, the brainchild of legendary intellectual William F. Buckley, has made no secret of its editorial opposition to Donald Trump, but the magazine’s current issue dispenses with the pleasantries. In it, conservatives from all over the media have joined forces to preach a singular message: Do Not Elect This Man.

“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,” write the editors in an essay kicking off the issue.

Little of what’s said in the essay – or the issue as a whole – will be new to political gadflies. Trump has dominated the conversation for more than six months at this point; anything that can be said about the man has been said. It’s clear that the rifts forming between the establishment wing of the Republican Party, the traditional conservative movement, and the populist surge driving Trump are, at this point, irreparable.

At the same time, though, the National Review editorial board does go after Trump in a way that few of his opponents have. While the media has made much of Trump’s “racism” and “insensitivity,” the magazine largely skips those trivial concerns for deeper ones regarding the real estate mogul’s grasp of complex national and international issues.

On immigration: “Trump often makes no sense and can’t be relied upon.”

On foreign policy: “Trump knows approximately as much about national security as he does about the nuclear triad – which is to say, almost nothing.”

On conservatism: “Trump has shown no interest in limiting government, in reforming entitlements, or in the Constitution.”

The issue’s flagship essay concludes:

Some conservatives have made it their business to make excuses for Trump and duly get pats on the head from him. Count us out. Donald Trump is a menace to American conservatism who would take the work of generations and trample it underfoot in behalf of a populism as heedless and crude as the Donald himself.

Well, that’s all well and good. It certainly makes for interesting reading. It will doubtlessly enthrall the Bush supporters who keep National Review in circulation. But when the rubber meets the road, not even the esteemed writers who put their names to this magazine can explain what exactly is being “trampled underfoot” by Donald Trump’s “menace.” These guys still think it’s 1988, and the goal is to further the Reagan Doctrine. They must have slept blissfully through the last seven years of Republican betrayal.

Already, the issue has had real-world ramifications. National Review was scheduled to participate in the upcoming CNN Republican primary debate. The Republican National Committee, however, decided that their latest issue disqualified them from taking part in the event.