Editors' pick: Originally published Jan. 22.
National Review has decided to take a stand against Donald Trump. The think-magazine founded by revered conservative William F. Buckley has published an issue dedicated to bashing the Republican frontrunner.
Inside are 22 short essays by noted conservatives like Glenn Beck, Bill Kristol and John Podhoretz, explaining that he's like President Obama (Beck), conservatives should yell "stop" (Kristol), and that he's like a more political Howard Stern (Podhoretz). So far, the repercussions has been a strong Twitter rebuke from The Donald and the Republican National Committee disinviting the magazine from co-hosting a February 26 debate in Houston.
It was only last week in the most recent Republican debate that Trump invoked the magazine's founder, Buckley, in his celebrated defense of New York values against an attack by rival Ted Cruz, the senator from Texas.
"Not a lot of conservatives come out of Manhattan," Cruz said, to which Trump replied, "conservatives actually do come out of Manhattan, including William F. Buckley."
So, what's the substance behind the bluster? Here are quick summaries of what all 22 conservatives said about Trump in National Review.
According to Glenn Beck, the Tea Party was a backlash against the types of policies supported by Just Barack Obama -- policies backed by Trump, too. The conservative radio host points to the pair's support of the stimulus, the auto bailouts and the bank bailouts. "Barack Obama supported all three," he writes. "So did Donald Trump."
And in the risk of Trump's winning the GOP nomination, Beck worries not only about ensuring a path to the White House but, perhaps more importantly, "there will once again be no opposition to an ever-expanding governance."
"Alas, the only businessmen crazy enough to run for president seem to be, well, crazy," writes David Boaz, executive vice president of libertarian think tank the Cato Institute, warning that the billionaire's greatest offenses against America are his nativism and promise of one-man rule. He aligns his anti-immigrant rhetoric with segregationist George Wallace and contends Trump is vowing to be an "American Mussolini." The conclusion: Trump's campaign would have appalled Buckley, and Republican past leaders Barry Goldwater and the hallowed Ronald Reagan.
Brent Bozell III
Does he walk with us? L. Brent Bozell III thinks the answer is "no." The founder of the conservative content analysis organization Media Research Center draws parallels between Trump and other "calculating, cynical charlatans, running as one thing only to govern in a completely different direction" -- Senators Mitch McConnell, John McCain and Orrin Hatch and former Speaker of the House John Boehner.
"Trump has made a career out of egotism, while conservatism implies a certain modesty about government. The two cannot mix," writes Mona Charen, senior fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center. She also points to an issue Megyn Kelly noted in the first Republican presidential debate: Trump's problem with women.
The silver lining in Trump's popularity, writes The Federalist publisher Ben Domenech, is that it reveals President Obama's domestic-policy agenda, aimed at the working and middle-class, didn't work. The issue at hand -- the GOP needs Trump's supporters. And conservatives have far more to learn from his campaign than they want to admit.
The Resurgent editor Erick Erickson may be more comfortable with a Trump White House bid in 2020, when the billionaire real estate magnate has proven his loyalty to the conservative cause. Invoking Saint Paul and the Bible (allegedly Trump's favorite book), Erickson holds that a recent convert to conservatism must not be the carrier of the party flag.
But, if Trump wins the nomination, he'll vote for him over Hillary.
"After Obama -- after three generations of liberalism only slightly interrupted by the Reagan years -- the conservative president we desperately need requires a paradoxical combination of boldness and restraint," writes Steven F. Hayward, Ronald Reagan distinguished visiting professor at Pepperdine University. He holds that a new conservative president will have to challenge the power and reach of his branch and restore the executive restraint the Constitution calls for.
The issue at hand: Trump's not up to the task.
Mark Helprin might buy into that whole Trump-is-a-Democratic-sabotage-plot theory, suggesting that at Bill Clinton's council, the real estate magnate "has like a tapeworm invaded the schismatically weakened body of the Republican party." But even so, that's beyond the point. According to the novelist and conservative commentator, Trump rivals Mussolini, Evita and Obama as an "explosive, know-nothing demagogue," and his presidency might result in Britney Spears and Ozzy Osbourne charged with holding onto nuclear codes.
The Weekly Standard editor William Kristol has something in common with Trump: they both share respect for National Review founder Buckley. Trump invoked his name at the last presidential debate in defense of his "New York values," Kristol cited his founding statement for the publication as a reason Trump won't work for the GOP -- that conservatism "stands athwart history, yelling Stop, at a time when no one is inclined to do so, or to have much patience with those who so urge it."
Kristol hopes that soon conservatives will yell, "Stop."
Trump is like a doctor prescribing kittens to cure diabetes is essentially the takeaway from Yuval Levin's assessment of the billionaire's rise to prominence within the Republican Party. While his diagnoses of America's problems have garnered attention, his ideas reveal he doesn't quite get it.
"He poses a direct challenge to conservatism, because he embodies the empty promise of managerial leadership outside of politics," writes Yuval, editor of National Affairs and contributing editor of National Review.
"Popularity over principle -- is this the new Right?" asks Dana Loesch, radio host and commentator on Fox News. While she says she genuinely likes Trump (though he's not her presidential pick), she's not convinced he's actually a conservative. Pointing to Trump's previous positions on assault weapon bans and eminent-domain laws, she ponders why he apparently gets a pass on changing his mind while others don't. While Jeb Bush's super PAC is busy making flip-flopper videos about Marco Rubio, they haven't said the same about Trump.
Andrew C. McCarthy
Many Americans would be hard-pressed to identify Hassan Nasrallah, Ayman al-Zawahiri and Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi in a line-up -- the problem is, so would Trump, says Andrew C. McCarthy, a National Review contributing editor and former chief assistant U.S. attorney who prosecuted terrorism cases.
The global jihad is complex, he writes, and while a president doesn't have to be good with names to oppose it effectively, he has to grasp the animating ideology, power relations and goals. Trump does not have a clue.
"Trump beguiles us, defies the politically correct media, and bullies anyone who points out that the emperor has no clothes," writes David McIntosh, founder of conservative political advocacy group Club for Growth. "None of that makes him a conservative who cherishes liberty."
He pans the real estate magnate as a "liberal wannabe strongman" and invokes President Reagan, under whom he served as special assistant to attorney general and special assistant to the president for domestic affairs, who "fought for economic freedom, for reigning in government so the private sector could thrive." His conclusion: that's economic conservatism, not Donald Trump.
If Trump becomes the nominee, the GOP has no chance of winning the 2016 election. But according to Michael Medved, radio talk show host, the problem is much worse: the Republican Party and the conservative movement might not survive. Trump embodies the damaging characteristics Democrats have been ascribing to Republicans for years: he is selfish, greedy, materialistic, bullying, misogynistic, angry and intolerant. By nominating him, the party would lose all chance of capturing the White House and lose congressional and gubernatorial majorities as well.
Edwin Meese III
At the start of the current election cycle, Edwin Meese III, who served in President Reagan's gubernatorial and presidential administrations, thought the party had "one of the strongest arrays of candidates in many years." Months later, the race has now been polluted by vicious personal attacks that are by no means reminiscent of Reagan's Eleventh Commandment -- the pledge to avoid speaking ill of any fellow Republican.
Trump's attacks on things like Cruz's eligibility and Bush's lack of energy, he writes, "are a poor substitute for addressing the real issues that should be the basis for a positive campaign."
Russell Moore 16
Russell Moore's beef with Trump is an ethical one. The president of the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention points to the billionaire's previous apparent pro-choice stance on abortion, also attacking his personal life -- his three wives and past sexual history -- and his business practices -- namely, his casinos.
Michael B. Mukasey
The problem with Trump's temporary ban on Muslims until "our leaders can figure out what the hell is going on" is that many people have already figured out "what the hell is going on." The former U.S. attorney general names this as one of a number of reasons he believes Trump would imperil America's national security.
"We will need a president who summons our strength with a reality-based strategic vision, not one who summons applause with tantrums and homicidal fantasies," he writes.
Kate Pavlich, editor of Townhall, the conservative website owned by Salem Media, speaks for many traditional Republicans when she says that Trump is simply not a conservative. Rather, he's a "political con man" who has bullied and bought off politicians all to enrich himself. This race has forced Republicans to grapple with the difficult question: Do conservative principles still matter? If they do, Trump shouldn't be the GOP candidate.
John Podhoretz, the son of conservative writers Norman Podhoretz and Midge Decter, does his best Sigmund Freud impression to try to understand the rise of Trump. The editor of Commentary magazine, sees Trump as the American id, a more politicized version of Howard Stern and Andrew Dice Clay. But whereas the id is supposed to be balanced by ego and superego, Trump is an "unbalanced force." Podhoretz is mum on why today's Republican Party was so ripe for Trump to capture.
R.R. Reno can't hide his disgust as the notion that compared to Trump, "Hillary Clinton is a principled public figure."
Reno acknowledges that the party has nurtured and encouraged those who want little more than to burn down the system. Furthermore, he says GOP leaders have alienated these same voters by denouncing them as "takers" or backing Chamber of Commerce policies that cripple wages and move jobs overseas.
A former theology professor at Creighton University in Omaha, R.R. Reno laments that the Republicans' own actions opened political space for a "Strong Man who promises to knock heads and make things right again."
Thomas Sowell sees some of Barack Obama in Donald Trump, and, like Cal Thomas he doesn't like it. Why elect a "glib egomaniac" when the White House already has one, he asks. Sowell is incredulous, exasperated by a public that is using election for the "purpose of venting emotions."
Sowell fears an apocalypse, asserting that Trump, a "bombastic showoff" is not the right leader when Iran could turn U.S. cities into "radioactive ruins."
A longtime conservative pundit, Cal Thomas admits that there's a lot that he likes about Trump. He favorably compares him to Spiro Agnew, vice-president to Richard Nixon, and applauds Trump's frustration with "uncontrolled immigration," and the "establishment's failure to 'make America great'." But Thomas says Trump's tone and temperament belie a "dark side" that makes him unfit to serve as president. Isn't a narcissist what we currently have in the White House?
-- Leon Lazaroff contributed to this post