Writers at major newspapers do not write the headlines on their stories, nor do they choose the photos that run with them. But it has to be more than a coincidence that, on Michael Gerson’s Washington Post column, the headline reads: “The single greatest thing Republicans need right now” and the photo is of John Kasich.
It has long been a tactic of mainstream media to hire columnists to “balance” its op-ed page who have some long-ago credential into the Republican club but no allegiance to or even understanding of the ideas that underpin the conservative outlook Republicans represent.
David Brooks and Bret Stephens play this role for the New York Times. Michael Gerson is its best-known practitioner at the Post.
Gerson spent most of George W. Bush’s two terms writing speeches that ceded the high ground to Democrats in the name of comity and a commitment to “governing,” by which he/they mean taking money from one group of people and spending it on another.
On Friday, Gerson began talking about how Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.), who recently announced he would not run again because he questions the “stability” and “competence” of President Trump and how White House Chief of Staff John Kelly, Defense Secretary James Mattis and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson are “the people that help separate our country from chaos.”
Gerson loves these pieces – establishment Republicans tut-tutting about the dangerous speed of the Trump train as it rolls over 30 years of GOP inaction. He has a regular but shrinking roster of NeverTrumpers to quote on a seemingly endless loop – Corker and Kasich, among others.
To Gerson, it’s about the party and keeping its banner clean. “If the party can’t be fixed, then I’m not going to be able to support the party, period,” he quotes Kasich as saying.
But no, John, don’t leave, Gerson says, even though leaving “might be the natural instinct of a serious and centered politician.”
Gerson seems not to understand or refuses to acknowledge how we got to the point of electing Donald Trump president and the role Republicans acting as he suggests played in that. “Republican reconstruction will involve a new policy agenda, focused particularly on mitigating painful adjustments brought on by globalization and technological change,” Gerson wrote. “But Trumpism has succeeded as a political movement in the total absence of serious policy, and it’s unlikely to be defeated by avenging wonks.”
“Republican reconstruction will involve a new policy agenda, focused particularly on mitigating painful adjustments brought on by globalization and technological change,” Gerson wrote. “But Trumpism has succeeded as a political movement in the total absence of serious policy, and it’s unlikely to be defeated by avenging wonks.”
It’s not that Trump lacks serious policy, it’s that Trump advocates for the policies Republicans thought they were voting for but which Gerson’s crowd thought it prudent not to push.
He did bomb a Syrian airstrip upon evidence it had gassed its own citizens. He did confront leaders of Middle Eastern countries about their financing of terrorism – and with what is beginning to look like solid results. He did face the harmful, job-killing regulations emanating from the EPA, and he has thoroughly flummoxed North Korea.
Gerson liked the old way, where “Giving up on an occasional economic principle, or making a compromise on social policy, is an uncomfortable but unavoidable part of public life.” He says Republicans “eventually will be judged not so much for what they have believed but for what many have tolerated.”
The “Republican renovation project will need to show some moral outrage that American politics have been hijacked by blind partisans and those who make a living through inciting division,” he says.
Actually, the Republican renovation project is well underway. It is being led by Trump, who whipped 17 people – all of whom were closer to Gerson’s brand of perfect – because he did have a direction, he did show moral outrage that American politics had been hijacked by blind partisans.