Last week, The Leader went to Europe for the G-20 summit where, among his many embarrassments to the nation (e.g., letting his daughter fill in for him at meetings, joking with journalist-killer Putin about unruly reporters, etc.), was a speech he gave in Warsaw, parts of which sounded more like something you’d hear in a Thirties Berlin rathskeller than anything an American president ever said in public, at home or abroad.
Yet many conservatives, even the dainty ones who like to pretend to be shocked by The Leader’s unpresidential antics, rushed to defend the speech — probably because the things that were weird about it were actually things they had longed to hear an American strongman say.
The Leader’s speech, delivered in front of a crowd bused in for the occasion by Poland’s authoritarian leader and waving, er, traditionalist insignia, began with the expected formalities (“We welcome stronger ties of trade and commerce as you grow your economies”) and tributes to the spirit of the Polish people, enduring despite Nazi and Soviet oppression, etc. But when he got to the money part, where a Kennedy would say “Ich bin ein Berliner” or a Reagan would say “Tear down this wall,” The Leader veered into stranger territory.
He said America was threatened by “the steady creep of government bureaucracy that drains the vitality and wealth of the people,” and this was a danger “familiar to the Poles” — explicitly tying the governmental policies of the U.S. Democratic Party to Nazism and Communism.
The Leader also called on “Americans, Poles, and the nations of Europe” to “confront forces” that came “from the South or the East….” These Southerners (Mexicans? Syrians? Immigrants, surely) and Easterners (Chinese? Koreans? I think we can rule out the Russians) “threaten over time to undermine [our] values,” the Leader went on, “and to erase the bonds of culture, faith, and tradition that make us who we are.”
If you’re wondering why The Leader wasn’t focused on defending democracy and liberty, as you would expect from the Leader of the Free World, but rather on defending the common homeland and heritage of the Northern Peoples from sun-darkened Southerners who would “sap our spirit, and weaken our will,” you’re beginning to get where The Leader is really coming from — and that what actually excites those roaring, red-faced fans at his rallies isn’t Mr. Smith Goes to Washington stuff.
This has been pointed out by many and far more serious commentators than I, from Slate to the Washington Post to The Economist. Yet conservatives didn’t see what the big deal was. In fact, they said that if you had a problem with The Leader’s speech, you must hate Western Civilization, since his speech was such a shining tribute to it.
The whipping boy for many of these was liberal writer Peter Beinart, who said at the Atlantic that “The West,” as used by The Leader, was a “racial and religious term…largely Christian (preferably Protestant or Catholic) and largely white” — a noncontroversial proposition, when you consider the kind of racial obsessives (e.g. Pat Buchanan, Pamela Geller, and the alt-rightists) who yak about the West most often.
Beinart said he preferred a Western vision like Bush’s and Obama’s, where “values are universal” and can be shared globally in the traditional lamp-beside-the-golden-door manner. What Beinart did not say was that he hated or rejected the West — a misperception you could easily have gotten from reading conservatives, who seemed to make a contest of misreading him and other Trump critics, e.g.:
“IT’S TRUE: LIBERALS HATE WESTERN CIVILIZATION” — John Hinderaker of Power Line; “Trump’s Speech Makes Liberals Oppose Western Civilization” — Scott Greer at the Daily Caller; “[The name of the Atlantic] needs to be changed because it invokes the hateful, discriminatory white nationalist concept of ‘the West,’ ” — not-at-all-racist Steve Sailer at VDare; etc.
After a few words about how he was not defending The Leader — “a crude man” who “if he embodies something Western, it is that civilization’s defects, its arrogance and avarice” — National Review’s Michael Brendan Dougherty turned his wrath on Beinart and his liberal pals, claiming they would have had The Leader “bring up the fact that some Poles collaborated with Nazis” — apologizing for the West, like Obama!
“One can’t talk about — or praise — ‘the West’ anymore without being a racist,” sighed National Review house Brit Charles C. W. Cooke. “Well, I shan’t play.” [pause to grip lapel, screw in monocle] “I like ‘the West.’ I cherish it, in fact. It’s freer, more tolerant, more open. It’s a beacon. It attracts people.” True, many of the darker ones it attracts have to be thrown out to appease The Leader’s more racist voters, but that’s what makes The West so great — supply and demand!
Cooke also claimed liberals who didn’t like The Leader’s speech didn’t like The West either (“Once upon a time, people who called themselves ‘liberals’ comprehended and loved those values…”), and thus were “off their bloody trolleys,” what what?
At the American Conservative, Rod Dreher declared Beinart and other liberals “Really Do Despise Their Civilization.” Dreher on the other hand loves the West, not so much for its freedoms — he’s not into freedom as such, because “it enthrones the choosing Self over God” — as because it gives him a correctly color-coded side to take in the Clash of Civilizations; in fact, he thanked God that “the deracinated, de-Christianized EU elite plan to integrate Turkey into the European Union did not work. And if I were a Turk, I would thank Allah for preserving my Islamic country from that fate too. Elites in both countries wish to deny the religious basis of their respective cultures, and pretend that we’re all a bunch of universalists. We’re not, and never will be.” Get ready for Battle of Vienna II! Lockheed Martin’s gonna make a mint — and hello Trump jobs boom!
In an article at Commentary titled “Swelling the Enemy’s Ranks,” Noah Rothman claimed “the progressive left treated itself to an orgiastic display of self-destruction” by dissing — pause for catch-in-throat here — “the most classically liberal and historically erudite speech that Donald Trump has ever made.” The “progressive wing of the party” was not only being mean to The Leader and the Western Civilization he represents, said Rothman; it also “appears determined to swell the ranks of their opposition, if only by defining their opposition in absurdly broad terms. If the progressive left was actively trying to alienate its potential supporters and marginalize itself, what would it do differently?” Why, in short, my liberal friends, are you hitting yourselves?
When not posing as Pericles, The Leader behaved in the manner to which we have become accustomed: Last week, his lawyer, for example, asked a court to ignore his vicious statements against women who had accused him of sexual assault — for which one of those women is now suing him — on the grounds that The Leader was running for president at the time and couldn’t be expected to tell the truth.
Conservatives tell us to look past such scumbaggery and recognize that The Leader’s positions have nothing to do with his scumbag nature. Maybe some of them even believe that. What’s more likely is, they know his policies — not only the ethnonationalism of his speech, but also his plan to strip health insurance from millions of Americans, his evisceration of the State Department and other federal entities, his apparent attempt to purge voter rolls of opponents under color of “voter reform,” etc. — are, like his personality, chaotic and destructive. But conservative pundits been conditioned by decades of drown-government-in-a-bathtub talk to believe such destruction would be good for the country, or at least for themselves and their employers. But, as the Republican health care plan polls show, they can’t put it over if people are paying attention — which is why they get so angry when you point it out.
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on July 10, 2017