Jonah Goldberg’s opening metaphor isn’t quite the failed one David Brooks tried to get away with on Tuesday, but it’s a failed metaphor regardless, not so much for its incompetence as its incompleteness (“Trump is taking the Bannon Way, and it will end in disaster,” LA Times, 1/31/17):
The Trump White House is engulfed in a firestorm that it ignited. The Democrats and the media supplied the gasoline.
This has all the makings of prime Goldberg: Provocative lede mixed with a little bit ‘o Both-Siderism, a dash of marginal acknowledgment of objective reality (Trump is a mess), topped with a claim he never substantiates (Dems + media are at fault).
Really, though, it’s that second sentence I wonder about. Trump self-immolating because of his own incompetence—or, more likely, doing it because he got mixed up in a ‘duck season/rabbit season’ argument and instructing those around him to shoot him in the face, Cheney-style—is what’s happening. But saying the Democrats and media supplied the gasoline suggests Trump could have somehow avoided his own self-inflicted injuries. So, uh, any indication in this piece as to how Democrats and media are equally culpable for the clusterfuck of Trump’s not even first two weeks?
If Trump had given agency professionals 30 days to review his order on refugees, he could have avoided the confusion at airports, not to mention the media hysteria and the protests. And if his communications team had been given time, they could have preempted some of the wild claims made by Democratic detractors.
Aaaand that’s about it. There are some “wild claims” by Democratic detractors. Had Trump used the entirety of the tools available to him, he could have avoided “media hysteria and the protests.” Which sounds more like Trump is supplying his own gasoline with which, if I’m being generous to Jonah’s attempted metaphor, the Democrats and media have set him ablaze.
Instead of trying to clear up in what capacity he thinks Dems are dousing the president in gasoline—when in reality Schumer and Pelosi are more like kids in plastic firefighter helmets lobbing Dixie cups of water at the inferno before it gets too big—Jonah pivots to blame Steve Bannon as the true arsonist, and that his “shoot from the hip” style of governance, with all its anti-globalism and (though Jonah doesn’t mention it) white supremacy and general far-right paranoia is pretty dangerous:
The Bannon way might work on the campaign trail, but it doesn’t translate into good governance. It’s possible — and one must hope — that Trump can learn this fact on the job.
But what if he doesn’t? He could put the country in serious peril.
What kind of peril does Jonah imagine? Well, a war with Russia, potentially:
Consider Russia. In a normal time, the signals being sent by the Trump team would be interpreted as an invitation to Russian aggression. The president waves off concerns about Russia’s annexation of Crimea, talks of NATO’s obsolescence and hails Vladimir Putin’s heroic leadership. During the campaign, Trump surrogate Newt Gingrich belittled Estonia — a NATO ally — as being “in the suburbs of St. Petersburg.” (At its closest point, it’s 85 miles away, the same distance as Finland.)
Putin might well decide to act on Trump’s hints. But I don’t think Trump would actually welcome an attack on Estonia or another NATO ally. Indeed, I suspect he would feel betrayed by such a move.
Then what? Who backs down? Do we abandon Estonia, or do we go to war?
Is this the first time Jonah’s entertained the idea that Trump is an unstable idiot who could potentially blow up the world? Or did he miss the part where six months ago Trump considered (and may still consider) leaving NATO allies susceptible to Russian invasion because they weren’t “paying their bills”?
Remember, Jonah just couldn’t find it in himself to suggest people should vote for Clinton, even though he didn’t think it was totally crazy that Trump posed a very real threat to the existence of the republic. But like every other Principled Conservative©, he believes stupid shit like this:
I think in the short term there is a very good argument that Hillary would be worse for America than Trump. My chief worry, among many, is that Trump would be worse in the long term because he threatens to destroy modern American conservatism.
Meaning that even having recognized that “his kind of conservatism” got its clock thoroughly cleaned in the primaries—a big fat refutation from his party’s own voter base against the conservatism Goldberg peddles—he still thinks there’s a place for it, and would rather take the chance at Trump becoming president and ruining the country beyond repair because Hillary might not be too kind to the way he likes things. Ideology before country, after all.
So when Jonah says stuff like this:
He could put the country in serious peril.
All I can think is, uh, yeah. We’ve been saying that for months. But I guess I should just be thankful that Goldberg finally understands there’s more at stake than the reputation of his philosophy, right?
At least we’ll have the embers of the White House to keep us warm.