What follows below is an abbreviated commentary on Donald Trump that may be found in an upcoming issue of National Review. All the commentators are credible conservatives. A full throated version may be found here.
Glenn Beck is a nationally syndicated radio host, the founder of TheBlaze, and a best-selling author.
Over the years, there have been endless fractures in the façade of individual freedom, but three policies provided the fuel that lit the tea-party fire: the stimulus, the auto bailouts, and the bank bailouts. Barack Obama supported all three. So did Donald Trump.
David Boaz is the executive vice president of the Cato Institute and the author of The Libertarian Mind.
From a libertarian point of view — and I think serious conservatives and liberals would share this view—Trump’s greatest offenses against American tradition and our founding principles are his nativism and his promise of one-man rule.
L. Brent Bozell III is the chairman of ForAmerica and the president of the Media Research Center. He has endorsed Ted Cruz for president.
The GOP base is clearly disgusted and looking for new leadership. Enter Donald Trump, not just with policy prescriptions that challenge the cynical GOP leadership but with an attitude of disdain for that leadership—precisely in line with the sentiment of the base. Many conservatives are relishing this, but ah, the rub. Trump might be the greatest charlatan of them all.
Mona Charen is a senior fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center.
Put aside for a moment Trump’s countless past departures from conservative principle on defense, racial quotas, abortion, taxes, single-payer health care, and immigration. (That’s right: In 2012, he derided Mitt Romney for being too aggressive on the question, and he’s made extensive use of illegal-immigrant labor in his serially bankrupt businesses.) The man has demonstrated an emotional immaturity bordering on personality disorder, and it ought to disqualify him from being a mayor, to say nothing of a commander-in-chief. Trump has made a career out of egotism, while conservatism implies a certain modesty about government. The two cannot mix.
Ben Domenech is the publisher of the Federalist.
The case for constitutional limited government is the case against Donald Trump. To the degree we take him at his word — understanding that Trump is a negotiator whose positions are often purposefully deceptive — what he advocates is a rejection of our Madisonian inheritance and an embrace of Barack Obama’s authoritarianism.
Erick Erickson is the editor of The Resurgent and an Atlanta-based talk-radio host.
In October 2011, when many of the other Republican candidates were fighting Barack Obama, Donald Trump told Sean Hannity, “I was [Obama’s] biggest cheerleader.” Trump donated to both the Clinton Foundation and Hillary Clinton’s Senate campaign, as well to Nancy Pelosi, Harry Reid, Chuck Schumer, and other Democrats. In 2011, according to the website OpenSecrets.org, “the largest recipient [of Donald Trump’s political spending] has been the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee with $116,000.” GET FREE EXCLUSIVE NR CONTENT In a 60 Minutes interview with Scott Pelly, Trump aggressively supported universal health-care, saying, “This is an un-Republican thing for me to say. . . . I’m going to take care of everybody. . . . The government’s gonna pay for it.” He supported the prosecution of hate crimes. He favored wealth-confiscation policies. He supported abortion rights. On all these things, Donald Trump now says he has changed his mind. Like the angels in heaven who rejoice for every new believer, we should rejoice for Donald Trump’s conversion to conservatism.
Steven F. Hayward is the Ronald Reagan Distinguished Visiting Professor at Pepperdine University.
The president will need to be bold in challenging the runaway power and reach of his own branch, against the fury of the bureaucracy itself, its client groups, and the media. This boldness is necessary to restore the restraint that a republican executive should have in our constitutional order. Trump exhibits no awareness of this supreme constitutional task. His facially worthy challenge to political correctness is not a sufficient governing platform. Worse, his inclination to understand our problems as being managerial rather than political suggests he might well set back the conservative cause if he is elected, if not make the problems of runaway executive power even worse. Restraint is clearly not in his vocabulary or his character.
Mark Helprin is a celebrated novelist. Among his best-known works are Winter’s Tale and A Soldier of the Great War.
He doesn’t know the Constitution, history, law, political philosophy, nuclear strategy, diplomacy, defense, economics beyond real estate, or even, despite his low-level-mafioso comportment, how ordinary people live. But trumping all this is a greater flaw presented as his chief strength. Governing a great nation in parlous times is far more than making “deals.”
William Kristol is the editor of The Weekly Standard.
Isn’t Trumpism a two-bit Caesarism of a kind that American conservatives have always disdained? Isn’t the task of conservatives today to stand athwart Trumpism, yelling Stop?
Yuval Levin, a contributing editor of National Review, is the editor of National Affairs.
Conservatives incline to take the weakness of our elite institutions as an argument for recovering constitutional principles — and so for limiting the power of those institutions, reversing their centralization of authority, and recovering a vision of American life in which the chief purpose of the federal government is protective and not managerial. Trump, on the contrary, offers himself as the alternative to our weak and foolish leaders, the guarantee of American superiority, and the cure for all that ails our society; and when pressed about how he will succeed in these ways, his answer pretty much amounts to: “great management.”
Dana Loesch is the host of a nationally syndicated radio program and of Dana on TheBlaze. She also appears regularly on Fox News. Her second Book, Flyover Nation, will be published this spring.
Popularity over principle — is this the new Right?
Andrew C. McCarthy, a contributing editor of National Review, is a former chief assistant U.S. attorney who prosecuted terrorism cases.
The presidency’s most crucial duty is the protection of American national security. Yet, interviewed by Hugh Hewitt months into his campaign, Donald Trump did not know the key leaders of the global jihad. The man who would be commander-in-chief was unfamiliar with Hassan Nasrallah, the Hezbollah leader who has been murdering Americans for over 30 years; Ayman al-Zawahiri, Osama bin Laden’s longtime deputy who has quite notoriously commanded al-Qaeda since the network’s leader was killed by U.S. forces in 2011; and Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, self-proclaimed caliph of the Islamic State (ISIS) and a jihadist so globally notorious that many teenagers are aware of him. Of course a man who wants to be president should make it his business to know such things. But even the casual fan who does not know the players without a scorecard at least knows who the teams are and why they are competing. Trump failed even that basic test, confusing the Kurds (a minority ethnic group beleaguered by ISIS) with the Quds Force (the elite operatives of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps).
David McIntosh is the president of The Club for Growth.
For decades, Trump has argued for big government. About health care he has said: “Everybody’s got to be covered” and “The government’s gonna pay for it.” He has called for boycotts of American companies he doesn’t like, told bureaucrats to use eminent domain to get him better deals on property he wanted to develop, and proudly proposed the largest tax increase in American history. Trump has also promised to use tariffs to punish companies that incur his disfavor. He offers grand plans for massive new spending but no serious proposals for spending cuts or entitlement reforms. These are not the ideas of a small-government conservative who understands markets. They are, instead, the ramblings of a liberal wannabe strongman who will use and abuse the power of the federal government to impose his ideas on the country. My old boss, Ronald Reagan, once said, “The Founding Fathers knew a government can’t control the economy without controlling people.” Reagan fought for economic freedom, for reining in government so the private sector could thrive. That’s economic conservatism. It is not Donald Trump.
Michael Medved hosts a daily radio talk show heard on more than 300 stations across the country.
Worst of all, Trump’s brawling, blustery, mean-spirited public persona serves to associate conservatives with all the negative stereotypes that liberals have for decades attached to their opponents on the right. According to conventional caricature, conservatives are selfish, greedy, materialistic, bullying, misogynistic, angry, and intolerant. They are, we’re told, privileged and pampered elitists who revel in the advantages of inherited wealth while displaying only cruel contempt for the less fortunate and the less powerful. The Left tried to smear Ronald Reagan in such terms but failed miserably because he displayed none of the stereotypical traits. In contrast, Trump is the living, breathing, bellowing personification of all the nasty characteristics Democrats routinely ascribe to Republicans.
Russell Moore is the president of the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention and the author of Onward: Engaging the Culture without Losing the Gospel.
Trump can win only in the sort of celebrity-focused mobocracy that Neil Postman warned us about years ago, in which sound moral judgments are displaced by a narcissistic pursuit of power combined with promises of “winning” for the masses. Social and religious conservatives have always seen this tendency as decadent and deviant. For them to view it any other way now would be for them to lose their soul.
Katie Pavlich is the editor of Townhall and a best-selling author.
Trump has made a living out of preying on and bullying society’s most vulnerable, with the help of government. He isn’t an outsider, but rather an unelected politician of the worst kind. He admits that he’s bought off elected officials in order get his way and to openly abuse the system.
John Podhoretz is the editor of Commentary.
The cultural signposts Trump brandished in the years preceding his presidential bid are all manifestations of the American id—his steak business, his casino business, his green-marble-and-chrome architecture, his love life minutely detailed in the columns of Cindy Adams, his involvement with Vince McMahon’s wrestling empire, and his reality-TV persona as the immensely rich guy who treats people like garbage but has no fancy airs. This id found its truest voice in his repellent assertion that the first black president needed to prove to Trump’s satisfaction that he was actually an American.
R. R. Reno is the editor of First Things.
He presents himself as a Strong Man who promises to knock heads and make things right again. In this, he has a lot more in common with South American populist demagogues than with our tradition of political leaders. But I suppose that’s the reason for his popularity. The middle-class consensus in America has collapsed. This is the most important political and social earthquake since World War II. The conservative movement’s leadership isn’t up to the challenge, and a good number of voters are willing to gamble on Trump’s bluster. Bad bet.
Thomas Sowell is a senior fellow at the Hoover Institution, Stanford University.
After the disastrous nuclear deal with Iran, we are entering an era when people alive at this moment may live to see a day when American cities are left in radioactive ruins. We need all the wisdom, courage, and dedication in the next president — and his or her successors — to save us and our children from such a catastrophe. A shoot-from-the-hip, bombastic showoff is the last thing we need or can afford.
Laura Ingraham's dissent may be found here: National Review’s Unwise TrumpExcommunication.
My own objection to Mr. Trump should be obvious to any student of “Connecticut Commentary: Red Notes From A Blue State” who has followed either the blog or the columns printed in Connecticut newspapers over a 35 year period.
Pesci on Trump: “One Lowell Weicker in a lifetime is one too many.”