Photo: George Weigel
I recently came across a column by Dr. John Crosby, titled “Trump: On Counting the Cost,” in which he shared his perspective of the election particularly as a challenge to Catholic supporters of Mr. Trump. Other prominent Catholic writers such as George Weigel and Dr. Robert George raised similar concerns in the past. While Dr. Crosby raised some legitimate observations regarding the now President-Elect, I found his presentation to be incomplete in several areas.
First, Dr. Crosby inadequately represented the position of Catholic Trump supporters as mere hoping for “possible pro-life judicial appointments” due to Mr. Trump’s “half-hearted indications of making” such nominations. But is this an accurate presentation of either Mr. Trump’s commitments, or the broader reasons he was supported by so many conservatives?
To the contrary, Mr. Trump explicitly committed to choosing Supreme Court nominees “only” from his “definitive” list of outstanding pro-life judges. He also released a letter in September listing his pro-life commitments including “Defunding Planned Parenthood” and making the Hyde Amendment the permanent law of the land. In the third debate, he expressed his expectation that his nominees would overturn Roe vs. Wade while also condemning Hillary Clinton for believing it is acceptable to “rip the baby out of the womb of the mother.”
What major party presidential nominee has ever even approached making any of these commitments or providing this level of candor on abortion? And further, why didn’t Dr. Crosby present this full picture of Mr. Trump’s commitments on these issues? Why did he choose to argue against a “half-hearted” straw-man?
The Cost of a Clinton Nominee to the Supremes
And in addition to fortifying Roe vs. Wade for several decades, what were the other costs to even one Hillary Clinton nominee (much less 3 or 4) being confirmed to the Supreme Court? Constitutional law professor Hugh Hewitt—no fan of Donald Trump— stated that it would have turned “the court in a hard left, almost certainly irreversible direction” and this point “isn’t really debatable.” Going down a list of several court decisions which were decided by only one vote, he showed that the results would have included an end to Second Amendment rights, that First Amendment “speech rights of the non-favored, non-elites” would have followed, and, indeed, “the very structure of the Constitution… not just the First Amendment and the Second Amendment and the Tenth Amendment, but federalism and religious liberty” would have gotten “swept away… And that’s forever. That’s not for four years” (my emphasis).
Furthermore, Hewitt pointed out that merely one such Clinton appointment would have impacted Supreme Court redistricting cases in such a way that would have placed “the party of Lincoln in permanent minority status,” beginning in 2022 (my emphasis). Thus, he warned that conservatives must “Vote now through November like your party’s future, and all that it stands for, depends on this election. Because it does. This isn’t hyperbole.”
Did Dr. Crosby and other Catholic #NeverTrumpers accurately consider these costs in their deliberations? From his column, it doesn’t appear to be the case.
On Trump’s Character
But of course at the heart of Dr. Crosby’s objections lied Mr. Trump’s well known character questions which, due to indefensible elements of his past, raised legitimate concerns. Dr. Crosby asserts (with certitude) that under Trump, “The White House would be dragged into the gutter of celebrity scandals and tabloids. This is Trump’s element … our public life would be constantly destabilized by some new outrage committed by the president. Four years of Trump’s trashiness and debauchery would besmirch and degrade the presidency; it would be like dragging the flag through the gutter.”
In looking at the broader picture, however, is it reasonable to presume these outcomes are even likely, much less certain? Did Mr. Trump, who is now almost a 70 year-old husband, father and grandfather show any such tendencies toward “debauchery” during the campaign? Is “Trump-Force-One” a flying playboy mansion? Is there any evidence for these behaviors in recent years? It doesn’t appear to be so. Thus, does not concluding such scandals were are even likely to happen, much less certain, bear a heavy stretch of credulity?
And, like it or not, there were only two options before the voters. If it was the “besmirching and degrading of the presidency” that we wished to avoid, how might a second President Clinton who was previously under criminal investigation and facing a possible indictment, and whose (at least) close associates are involved in the occult have impacted the presidency? And was this not highly certain?
Secondly, if we are going to be fair to Mr. Trump and provide an adequate analysis of his character, why not discuss his virtues, including sobriety (he doesn’t drink alcohol, ever), exemplary diligence, staggering magnanimity, courage, and obvious patriotism? Why this single-minded focus on sins of the flesh many years ago? Is this a fair means of assessing the overall character of the man and how it will impact the country for good or for ill? I think not.
On other matters
Dr. Crosby also appears to fall short of giving Mr. Trump the benefit of the doubt regarding the statement he made about Vladimir Putin. Despite his revealing an insufficient understanding of the crisis in Ukraine, Dr. Crosby took issue with Mr. Trump’s good-will statement toward the Russian president. Mr. Trump has indicated throughout the campaign that he would hope for good relations with Christian Russia as a counter distinction to Hillary Clinton whose desire for a no-fly-zone over Syria would have likely provoked a war against this nuclear power. Trump’s statement of good will in this matter is rightly understood as a gesture for peace by those who wish to receive it in good faith.
An even broader picture
Finally, while all of these considerations were more than sufficient in themselves to ensure a compelling commitment to support a Trump presidency, close observers have for years recognized a network of financial, ideological, media and political interests which have dominated the entire political landscape for decades. This network wields the big money necessary for political success, defines the parameters of acceptable debate—leaving most Catholic issues outside the periphery—and ensures politicians are quite compliant with their agenda including: perpetual wars, domestic totalitarian advances with regard to healthcare, debilitating trade deals which extract our nation’s jobs and wealth, unsecured borders, a fatal and growing $20 Trillion national debt, and continued unrestricted preborn child slaughter (with the help of GOP Supreme Court nominations of O’Connor, Kennedy, Souter and Roberts).
The only legitimate option Americans had to successfully challenge this network of interests, this bi-partisan “establishment,” was a tough, celebrity billionaire who had a knack for garnering media attention and was willing to spend more than $100 million on his own campaign. Given the financial and publicity requirements involved in running for office, how could we ever expect to have a non-establishment-controlled candidate ever emerge again? And even in the unlikely instance such a candidate does come along, based on Hugh Hewitt’s analysis above, would it not have been far too late?
Mr. Trump committed to reversing the establishment agenda on virtually every point: repealing Obamacare, straightening out our trade deals, sealing the border, pulling back from perpetual wars and “nation building,” paying off of the fatal national debt, localizing education, and defending religious liberty. And he meant it. Which is why the big donor oligarchs wouldn’t support him.
Given this larger picture and rightly recognizing the opportunity before the voters to accomplish many agenda items of significance in service to the common good, the dramatic and permanent costs of a Clinton presidency, and a fair and more comprehensive assessment of GOP candidate’s character, a Catholic conscience was rightly compelled to support and vote for Mr. Donald J. Trump on November 8th.