Politics & Media
Jun 01, 2023, 06:29AM

He’s Afraid of Americans

David French ought to come clean, for the good of his soul.

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Last Sunday I had a spirited political conversation with my 85-year-old mother-in-law—unlike President 31 Flavors, she doesn’t miss a beat—and was a bit surprised, but pleased, that this longtime conservative and two-time Trump voter has turned on the presumptive front-runner (if you believe the daily polls, which is a stretch) and won’t support him again because he’s a “liar and crook, just like most of them.” She lives in California and has plenty to say about that state’s oily Gov. Gavin Newsom (nothing good), but wasn’t ready to line up behind one of Trump’s rivals. Join the club! What struck me was this: although using the internet for commercial reasons, she doesn’t touch social media, yet still had opinions that one associates with online commentators. “The country is broken,” she said, “it’s just a dirty, violent mess.” We went back and forth, convivially, and I pointed out that crime in, say, New York City, was worse in the Koch-Dinkins years than today, and that as she well remembers the late-1960s was also a time when people feared “the end of democracy,” although that phrase wasn’t yet one you heard every single day.

She was wistful about the end-times of conventional newspapers—she still gets home delivery of the Los Angeles Times and reads it daily—chalking it up, understandably, to the unassailable fact that “people don’t read anymore, and when they do it’s just an exercise in validating their own views.” If I had the time, I’d have asked what op-ed columnists she likes and dislikes, but I was hogging the conversation and turned the phone over to my wife so she could catch up with her mom.

Coincidentally, I’d just read a David French column in The New York Times—the putative conservative hired at the beginning of this year to supposedly pair with Ross Douthat and Bret Stephens in the paper’s deceitful show of presenting “opposing views”—and was left with one overriding impression: Why can’t commentators who command a large online audience just tell the truth about what’s on their mind? It’s not a fear of “cancellation,” at least at the Times, where no one who “attracts eyeballs” is ever fired. Perhaps it’s simpler: someone like French has a large social and intellectual circle and I’d guess he craves approval.

French’s May 25 column, “Will DeSantis Destroy Conservatism as We Know It?" was a particularly strange one. He writes: “For conservatives like me who want both to defeat Trump and to begin a restoration of the fusionist policies that once defined the G.O.P., DeSantis presents a dilemma. As I’ve written before, I disagree with DeSantis on many things, but I see Trump as an entirely different order of threat—one who is demonstrably willing to help precipitate mob violence to sustain his hold on power… But whom DeSantis attacks is ultimately less important than how he does it. Republicans, after all, have long fought the left, but DeSantis does it differently, in part by abandoning fusionist commitments to free speech and limited government.” French might’ve added, as a “conservative,” that he’s concerned about the Democrats’ current aversion to free speech, but I’ll let that slide.

French is a Biden supporter, which is fine, but he ought to admit it. I read him on occasion because I’m curious about who the #NeverTrump neocons are hoping will return their side to power. But French doesn’t mention a single Republican he’d prefer to Trump and DeSantis. No Tim Scott, no Mike Pence (a fellow Evangelical), no Chris Christie, no Nikki Haley, no Chris Sununu, no Asa Hutchinson, no Glenn Youngkin, and so on. I wouldn’t support Trump and DeSantis is increasingly crazy with his anti-immigration vitriol and weird embrace of the six-week abortion ban—as if he could ever win a general election endorsing that position—so I’m up a tree. But as a self-proclaimed conservative, you’d think French (and his doing-penance-for-past-transgressions counterpart Max Boot at The Washington Post), given his “platform” would advance or suggest the candidacy of a Republican who meets his criteria. That would interest me, but no dice. Given that, wouldn’t it be honest for French to say that he’s flipped his political allegiance? Perhaps my Splice Today colleague Ken Silber, who’s also embraced the Frum/Kristol/French cabal, can help me out.

Like his Times colleagues, French can’t outright admit he’d prefer Trump as the Republican candidate, figuring (maybe myopic, maybe not) that he’d be the easiest for Biden—again, with the caveat that Biden really does run, which a sane person would say is up for debate—to defeat. In a three-byline story in the Times on May 28, the paper reported that the widening of the GOP primary field is playing into Trump’s hands. From the triumvirate: “The rapidly ballooning field, combined with Mr. Trump’s seemingly unbreakable core of support, represents a grave threat to Mr. DeSantis, impairing his ability to consolidate the non-Trump vote, and could mirror the dynamics that powered Mr. Trump’s takeover of the party in 2016.”

As noted above, I’m no DeSantis cheerleader, but at the beginning of June, 2023 how can any setback be considered “grave”? As the Times knows, many of these candidates will have withdrawn by the Iowa caucuses—such as Vivek Ramaswamy, whose proposal that the voting age be increased to 25, eliminates him, as well as Christie, an attention-hog like Trump, whom he shamelessly sucked up to before the former president’s slights mounted up. Also, the “dynamics” from 2016 don’t remotely resemble those of today.  

—Follow Russ Smith on Twitter: @MUGGER2023

  • If I were given an NYT column, I'd give my order of preference from worst to best: Trump Moloch DeSantis AOC Most Republicans, various Democrats Nikki Haley Kamala Harris Tim Scott Biden Cory Booker Jared Polis Mitch Daniels

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  • No true conservative, in any meaningful sense, is going to write for The NY Times. They are chimera tokens whose principle role is bad-mouthing what is this supposedly their "side," which of course is music to many NY Times readers. They are conviction-confirming puppets for the Times audience. Every "conservative" who suddenly appears there is already on his way to Timesville. The most right you can be is "moderate," in some cases, like Stephens, but otherwise these guys bring nothing to the table in terms of major following, nor for that matter much beyond Tom Friedman level intellect. It's been a long time since there was any serious conservative voice there- maybe Arthur Krock, or ironically C.L. Sulzberger. Almost any conservative, or former Republican official, etc. who appears gives the Times a legitimacy they no longer deserve and are in right-wing exit mode anyway. There are many who are less devoted to principle than the advancement and affirmation of themselves. They do so because they perceive the Times as a force controlling the narrative, and for that matter history, as well as money. It is less and less true today, but still present because lazy "journalists" in the Manhattan media don't actually do any legwork or reporting on their own; they simply pick up their news and stories from the Times, accepting it as gospel. That, more than anything IMO is the dirty little secret of the Manhattan media. I’ve seen it first hand. It is that influence with a rotten elite that is so detrimental to the country. I think you are a little too hard on DeSantis. He is very bright, but more importantly, competent, and as he says he does have a record. He also deserves a little slack considering the path he has to follow to get the nomination, and there is hardly anything new about politicians subsequently deviating from prior positions. In fact the only one who actually kept his promises was Trump, loathing of whom is based not on his policies but his personality. Yes the abortion thing was stupid and disastrous for Republicans, but when you say “anti-immigrant vitriol” you sound like the Times and the left, which consciously and deliberately confuse being anti-illegal migrant lawbreakers with being anti-immigration, which is simply not true. In connection with the above I invite you to take a look at a couple of pages I came across when researching something and came to the Brookings Institution site, not to be informed as it is mostly Democrat wishful thinking and statistical bullshit, but because of how the survey results are derived. https://www.brookings.edu/blog/fixgov/2023/04/24/generational-change-divides-gop-unites-democrats/. Just give it a glance and then go down to the bottom and see how preposterously the questions were posed with leading questions that largely predetermine responses. That’s “scholarship.” Then there’s reporting as viewed by pompous journalist Marvin Kalb: https://www.brookings.edu/blog/fixgov/2023/05/18/a-roadmap-for-tv-coverage-of-the-2024-presidential-campaign/ Here he flat out suggests the the primary role of the media is to stop, and even undermine Donald Trump (again). No matter how you may hate Trump or anyone else that is simply NOT what “journalism” is supposed to be. How about detachment, objectivity, etc. etc. Here is revealed the supposed “professionalism” of the media cartel. Of course there is also the self-reverential mythology about Murrow and McCarthy, when in fact by the time Murrow supposedly “exposed” him he was already well on his way out mostly due to Republicans, yet Kalb then suggests they are all of the same right-wing horror show.

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  • I may soon finally write my Political Manifesto.

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  • Then again, it occurs to me that if the complaint against Frum, Kristof and French is that they won't acknowledge they're no longer loyal to the Republican Party, I"m not really in a category with them.

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  • Kristol, of course.

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