Wow! New York Times NeverTrump columnist Bret Stephens comes around on Trump’s brilliance

I was shocked reading this column (non-paywalled version here) appearing today in the New York Times, written by a true NeverTrump conservative, Bret Stephens. You may recall that Stephens left the Wall Street  Journal editorial board for membership on that of the New York Times, coincident with Trump’s rise and the support offered by the Journal’s editorialists for Trump.

Stephens is still far from a Trump-supporter, but he concedes ground to Trump that vitiates at least 80% of the vitriol aimed at the duly elected POTUS. He writes in a voice of alarm over his fellow Trump opponents’ failure to cope effectively with Trump’s strategic brilliance.

The first  paragraph presents the predictions of doom following the election results (Stephens diplomatically omits fellow editorial board member Paul Krugman’s embarrassing prediction that the stock market would never recover), while the following two paragraphs concede the accomplishments that make the critics look foolish. Not exactly a collective mea culpa, bit at least a willingness to let the facts speak.

After briefly excoriating Trump for running on “fear” instead of basking in his accomplishments (which contradicts the political wisdom that voters rarely vote out of gratitude), Stephens gets to the nub of his semi-confession: Trump is really smart. Of course, he has to present that revelation in disparaging terms, but it is a couple of steps better than “Trump is an idiot.”

The mystery of Donald Trump is what impels him to overturn the usual rules. Is it a dark sort of cunning or simple defects of character? Because the president’s critics tend to be educated and educated people tend to think that the only kind of smarts worth having is the kind they possess — superior powers of articulation combined with deep stores of knowledge — those critics generally assume the latter. He’s a bigot. He’s a con artist. His followers are dumb. They got lucky last time. They won’t be so lucky again.

Maybe this is even right. But as Trump’s presidency moves forward, it’s no longer smart to think it’s right. There’s more than one type of intelligence. Trump’s is feral. It strikes fast. It knows where to sink the fang into the vein.

Using the metaphor of a snake makes it pretty clear that Stephens still hates Trump. But I give him credit for his spot-on observation of intellectuals’ far too narrow and self-serving definition of intelligence.

That said, it is no mystery at all why Trump overturns the usual rules. The previously existing norms of DC politics and media empower the media to define and enforce the rules. Never forget the way that George W. Bush “played by the rules” and acted as if he were above the fray while his opponents attacked him as a chimpanzee when they were feeling charitable, and as Hitler when they were not. And it got him presidential approval ratings in the thirties, and utter lack of respect in many media and political quarters. That seems so obvious to me that a smart gut like Stephens ought to be able to see it. But then he would have to admit that Trump is correct to attack his employer and the employers of his journalistic colleagues in Manhattan.

Read on, and you get a startling confession on the “caravan” column advancing on tthe US border with the openly expressed intent of violating it:

Still, several thousand people are pushing their way to the U.S. border with the idea that they will find a way to push their way through it. If they do, tens or even hundreds of thousands more will surely follow. It’s perfectly reasonable for fair-minded voters to wonder how the U.S. will vet and then absorb even a fraction of them (though I think we easily can), and what doing so will mean for our wider immigration system.

To which the Democratic response is — what, exactly?

If it’s “compassion,” it’s a non-answer. If it’s to abolish ICE, it’s a dereliction of responsibility for governance. If it’s to open the border, it is an honest form of political suicide. If it’s more trade and foreign aid for Central America, that’s a solution for the too-long term.

The truth is that there is no easy fix to the challenge of the caravan, which is why Trump was so clever to make the issue his own and Democrats have been so remiss in letting him have it. 

I will watch with interest Stephens’s future columns, aiming to suss out what kind of reaction his reasonable words today evoke from his colleagues and bosses. (Of course, I am already scanning the heavens for aiurborne swine.) My guess is that his apostasy will make a few waves… not of the blue kind.

Photo credit: Twiter

I was shocked reading this column (non-paywalled version here) appearing today in the New York Times, written by a true NeverTrump conservative, Bret Stephens. You may recall that Stephens left the Wall Street  Journal editorial board for membership on that of the New York Times, coincident with Trump’s rise and the support offered by the Journal’s editorialists for Trump.

Stephens is still far from a Trump-supporter, but he concedes ground to Trump that vitiates at least 80% of the vitriol aimed at the duly elected POTUS. He writes in a voice of alarm over his fellow Trump opponents’ failure to cope effectively with Trump’s strategic brilliance.

The first  paragraph presents the predictions of doom following the election results (Stephens diplomatically omits fellow editorial board member Paul Krugman’s embarrassing prediction that the stock market would never recover), while the following two paragraphs concede the accomplishments that make the critics look foolish. Not exactly a collective mea culpa, bit at least a willingness to let the facts speak.

After briefly excoriating Trump for running on “fear” instead of basking in his accomplishments (which contradicts the political wisdom that voters rarely vote out of gratitude), Stephens gets to the nub of his semi-confession: Trump is really smart. Of course, he has to present that revelation in disparaging terms, but it is a couple of steps better than “Trump is an idiot.”

The mystery of Donald Trump is what impels him to overturn the usual rules. Is it a dark sort of cunning or simple defects of character? Because the president’s critics tend to be educated and educated people tend to think that the only kind of smarts worth having is the kind they possess — superior powers of articulation combined with deep stores of knowledge — those critics generally assume the latter. He’s a bigot. He’s a con artist. His followers are dumb. They got lucky last time. They won’t be so lucky again.

Maybe this is even right. But as Trump’s presidency moves forward, it’s no longer smart to think it’s right. There’s more than one type of intelligence. Trump’s is feral. It strikes fast. It knows where to sink the fang into the vein.

Using the metaphor of a snake makes it pretty clear that Stephens still hates Trump. But I give him credit for his spot-on observation of intellectuals’ far too narrow and self-serving definition of intelligence.

That said, it is no mystery at all why Trump overturns the usual rules. The previously existing norms of DC politics and media empower the media to define and enforce the rules. Never forget the way that George W. Bush “played by the rules” and acted as if he were above the fray while his opponents attacked him as a chimpanzee when they were feeling charitable, and as Hitler when they were not. And it got him presidential approval ratings in the thirties, and utter lack of respect in many media and political quarters. That seems so obvious to me that a smart gut like Stephens ought to be able to see it. But then he would have to admit that Trump is correct to attack his employer and the employers of his journalistic colleagues in Manhattan.

Read on, and you get a startling confession on the “caravan” column advancing on tthe US border with the openly expressed intent of violating it:

Still, several thousand people are pushing their way to the U.S. border with the idea that they will find a way to push their way through it. If they do, tens or even hundreds of thousands more will surely follow. It’s perfectly reasonable for fair-minded voters to wonder how the U.S. will vet and then absorb even a fraction of them (though I think we easily can), and what doing so will mean for our wider immigration system.

To which the Democratic response is — what, exactly?

If it’s “compassion,” it’s a non-answer. If it’s to abolish ICE, it’s a dereliction of responsibility for governance. If it’s to open the border, it is an honest form of political suicide. If it’s more trade and foreign aid for Central America, that’s a solution for the too-long term.

The truth is that there is no easy fix to the challenge of the caravan, which is why Trump was so clever to make the issue his own and Democrats have been so remiss in letting him have it. 

I will watch with interest Stephens’s future columns, aiming to suss out what kind of reaction his reasonable words today evoke from his colleagues and bosses. (Of course, I am already scanning the heavens for aiurborne swine.) My guess is that his apostasy will make a few waves… not of the blue kind.

Photo credit: Twiter