PRIMETIME SNICKERING

The Smart Set Sneers as Donald Trump Taps Republicans to Serve in His Administration

The commentariat has now reached the fixed idea that to be a diligent Republican in the 21st century is to be criminally suspect.

Lucas Jackson / Reuters,© Lucas Jackson / Reuters

My colleagues in the commentariat have already lowered the expectations for the Trump administration to a degree such that any achievement, no matter how trite, will appear miraculous in 2017.

The chosen tool for this disrespect is off-the-shelf ad hominem enhanced by the trendiness of the politically correct.

For example, it is presumed disqualifying to be associated with religious worship, hydrocarbon economics, Wall Street prosperity, or smaller government. It is received wisdom in significant newsrooms that such plain-spoken Republicanism will always be shameful in the eyes of the well-informed.

The bottom of the disregard came on Christmas Eve, when The Washington Post reported President-elect and Mrs. Trump attended services in the chapel where they were married, Bethesda-by-the Sea Episcopal Church in Palm Beach, Florida.

Illustrating this small anecdote was a file photograph from 2005 of the now chastised TV personality Billy Bush taping a Today show segment outside of the chapel in anticipation of the Trump wedding.

Only a pointed rudeness and the swarming, back-slapping fraternity of journalism can explain this juxtaposition.

Was there no gentleman in The Washington Post room to remind the pranksters, “But this is Christmas”?

Comparable disregard for the president-elect’s choices reads like a warrant for four years of primetime snickering.

Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt, nominated to become the EPA administrator, is presented as an anti-science villain who will deny climate change while ignoring the poisoning of the nation with mercury, arsenic, “and other toxins.”

Evidence of this condemnation is that Pruitt is one of two dozen Republican state attorneys general arguing before the D.C. Appeals Court that the Obama administration’s EPA has overreached with its Clean Power Plan to delimit and even punish hydrocarbon-based economies—such as those on six of the seven continents.

The education secretary nominee, Betsy DeVos, is defamed as a plutocrat who aims to dismantle America’s public school system while permitting ignorance, poverty, segregation, and superstitious cant to flourish in charter schools.

Proof of this denunciation is that DeVos and her husband, Rick DeVos, are well-to-do Calvinist-Christian philanthropists who support charter schools in Michigan—and that DeVos once remarked that “it is critically important that we have believers involved in public life.”

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The nominee for the Department of Energy, Rick Perry, three times governor of Texas, is portrayed as a “brain-frozen” jackanape who, during a 2012 presidential debate, forgot on stage that energy was one of the cabinet posts he proposed to demote as president. The governor’s current sin is that he will soon be in a position to execute his promised ambition.

Some of the derision is directed at my longtime colleagues. Larry Kudlow, said to be under consideration for the chairmanship of Council of Economic Advisors, is dismissed as not an academic. John Bolton, mentioned as possibly in State Department leadership, is painted as a war-monger. Peter Navarro, named to the new National Council on Industrial Policy, is tossed aside as impolitic. Monica Crowley, named as deputy National Security Adviser for Strategic Communications, is mocked as a conspiracy fan. National Security Adviser Michael Flynn, whom I have met socially, is penciled in as intemperate.

Even my trusted correspondent Michael Ledeen, who co-authored a bestseller with Michael Flynn, Field of Fight, is suddenly branded as a “radical.”

The drum roll of derogations continues with a confident formula. A name is advanced. A search is launched for anything that can be presented as scandalous in a trendy headline. The item is illustrated with a file photograph over a contentious caption. A summary is flogged on social media. The verdict is guilty. The sentence is banishment from civil society.

What may not be immediately obvious is that the reason this formula is so reliable is that the names under review are most often self-confessed Republicans.

It is not hyperbole to observe that the commentariat has now reached the fixed idea that to be a diligent Republican in the 21st century is to be criminally suspect.

For one to hope for a lighter tax burden, or for stronger GDP growth, or for a faith-based leadership, or for a foreign policy that rewards allies and costs adversaries, is to stand denounced as a shirking, plundering, witch-hunting merchant of death.

Rather than elaborate on how American debate has reached this strange turn that criminalizes a political party—an oft-told tale—it is amiably worthwhile, here at the start of a new presidency, to declare some certainties, such as that Republicanism is a success.

The Republican Party has achieved its status with an adherence over five generations to the sweetly simple idea of liberty, as in, “Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness.”

The Republican Party is a congregation of modest Americans, the great balance of whom are polite, respectful, pleasant, and grateful.

And finally, the Republican Party would be regarded more routinely as commonsensical if there were a Republican or so included in the editorial meetings of the moment—a modest proposal.