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On his radio show last Thursday, Dennis Prager articulated a perspective that will no doubt be shared by many conservatives. You can listen to the audio here. Trump was Prager’s last choice in the Republican primaries but he strongly supported him in the general election against Hillary Clinton.
I was wrong. My opposition to Donald Trump was wrong, in retrospect. I was wrong. I had friends who supported him, and I didn’t understand them. I said, “Are you not aware of what he said about John McCain? Isn’t that enough to disqualify the guy?” They perceived in him what I did not perceive in him, that these over-the-top statements – as objectionable as the statements themselves may be, and none of them defended the statements – nevertheless, what they perceived was accurate: a man who doesn’t give a damn about what the press says about him. That is the only way to govern. It is the only way to advance the principles of conservatism in the United States is to not give a damn.
Prager said “a president’s actions are a more important metric of presidential success than a president’s demeanor” and “concerns with a president’s demeanor should be secondary to broader analyses of a president’s impact”:
Would I like Donald Trump to have Mitt Romney’s temperament, or for that matter Barack Obama’s temperament? Yeah. So what? I would like a whole host of things. People are packages. What a president does is more important to me than a president’s demeanor. He is so much better a president than Mitt Romney would’ve made. Mitt Romney would’ve awakened every day to read The New York Times editorial page to see how he’s covered. Mitt Romney gave us Romneycare in Massachusetts. I campaigned for Mitt Romney, he would’ve been a better president [than Barack Obama]. Any Republican is better than any Democrat, that’s just the way it is. Having said that, Romney would’ve been a tepid president. Nothing comparably conservative compared to Donald Trump.
He has turned out to be a great president with big communication flaws, in the way he tweets and some of the things he says and his temperament. My temperament is the opposite. I love dignity. I love understatement. Okay, so be it. So what? I’m not sure I’d be as good a president as he. How do you like that? That’s how good he’s been.
Prager wonders if conservatives appreciate Trump as much as they should:
Do conservatives — or non-leftists, for that matter — appreciate just how terrific Donald Trump has been as president? And how lucky we are that he won the presidency?
What I do know is that they ought to be deeply appreciative of him, and deeply grateful for luck or providence, and certainly for Trump himself, that he was elected president. First, it is unlikely that any other Republican would have defeated Hillary Clinton. Second, he has not only surpassed many of our expectations but also thus far governed in a manner more consistent with conservative principles than any president since Ronald Reagan, and arguably Calvin Coolidge.
For myself, I don’t think there’s any question that Donald Trump is a very imperfect vessel and that everyone wishes he did many things differently. And I think Trump’s election was just as much, if not more, about Barak Obama’s left-wing overreach and Hilary Clinton’s spectacular flaws, as it was about Trump’s skill in articulating the dramatic change that resonated with middle America. I am thankful that his campaign found a path to victory, and I think, policywise, he is on his way to becoming one of our greatest presidents.
Peter Zeller is Director of Operations at Center of the American Experiment.