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The Washington Post might want to roll out a new motto in 2018. Instead of “Democracy Dies in Darkness” perhaps the paper should try, “Conservatism Dies in Bitterness.”
Since Donald Trump’s election, the Post has become an asylum—er, home—for conservative sore-losers who cannot get over the fact that Trump won the presidency over their erudite objections. One-time conservative heroes such as George Will and Kathleen Parker serve up red-meat rants against Trump to curry favor with the Post’s liberal readership. It’s a shrewd, if not cynical, tactic by columnists with waning influence to stay relevant in the age of Trump, and a calculated move by the paper to refute charges of bias by featuring allegedly conservative columnists.
But in its zeal to add another drummer to the paper’s anti-Trump conservative garage band, the Post has dug up some interesting characters. On Wednesday, the Post published a column by Jay Kaganoff, who urged his “fellow conservatives” to call on Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas to resign. Kaganoff wrote a solemn plea—complete with a scummy reference to Thomas’s alleged appetite for pornography—for “conservatives [to] seriously reconsider our continued support for Thomas in light of his past.”
Taking a cue from liberals who are now conveniently condemning Bill Clinton 20 years later, Kaganoff said this:
I believe Anita Hill. I believe that Clarence Thomas abused his authority to sexually harass a woman who worked for him. And lied about it. And smeared his accuser. As painful as it is to repudiate a man I respected, I believe Thomas should never have been confirmed and should resign.
So, who is this conservative crusader whose call to remove a sitting Supreme Court justice we real conservatives should heed? Kaganoff’s byline claims he has “written for National Review Online and Commentary Magazine, among others.” As a National Review Online contributor, I have never heard his name, nor read anything he has written. On Facebook, National Review publisher emeritus Jack Fowler wrote: “The guy who penned it claims an NR pedigree. Fact: He wrote for NR twice under a pseudonym. Maybe he thinks he’s Mark Twain.” Naturally, Commentary’s archive came up empty and a Google search of his name doesn’t produce much of anything. But despite his thin, questionable résumé, the Post gave Kaganoff 1,100-words worth of prime real estate on its op-ed pages to demand Thomas’s ouster. Why? To crib a famous line from “The Brady Bunch,” because he fit the suit.
Kaganoff was obviously auditioning to join the Post, whose key anti-Trump “conservative” is Jennifer Rubin. She writes the paper’s “Right Turn” blog and purportedly gives her “take from a conservative perspective.” Rubin landed the Post gig in 2010 and was a harsh critic of the Obama administration—particularly its failed leadership in the Middle East and listless economic policies—a fierce defender of Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan, and an adherent to conservative fiscal tenets such as growth, debt reduction, and tax cuts.
Then along came Trump.
Since 2015, Rubin has not only berated Trump, his family, his advisors, and his voters, she has demonstrably flipped her conservative views to fit her anti-Trump persona. It’s odd because back in 2013, Rubin was practically begging for a Trump-like hero to rescue conservatism:
Conservatives have come to deplore the role of personality in politics, scoffing at celebrity candidates. This is deeply misguided. Of course, we don’t want blank-slate politicians, but we do need standard-bearers who can instigate a conservative revival. Limited government, not small government, must be the aim. And it acknowledges that the electorate expects government to solve problems, not merely stand aside.
She went on:
In forging a worldview that is economically and politically sustainable, Republicans must align foreign policy with America’s self-interest, demonstrating that a world devoid of U.S. leadership is more dangerous, less prosperous and more repellant in its disregard for human rights.
But Rubin backed Marco Rubio in the primary, and she used her Post platform to regularly blast Trump. In December 2015, a Twitter spat erupted between Trump and Rubin, with the presidential candidate calling her a “dummy” with a “low IQ.” Since then, Rubin has sold out her principles and squandered her once-credible conservative voice, to troll the president and get attention for herself.
In 2016, Rubin backed Clinton (after declaring the year before that Hillary was not entitled to a promotion due to her record that was “strewn with failures”) and actively promoted the Trump-Russia election conspiracy.
Rubin cranks out several columns each week, and sounds more like Dana Milbank than a serious conservative influencer. She seems disturbingly obsessed with the Mueller investigation, convinced it will lead to Trump’s impeachment, and has pivoted to liberal talking points on issues such as climate change (she calls EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt a “denier”), Obamacare, and the role of the federal government.
Here are a few of Rubin’s greatest hits.
On tax cuts
2012 Rubin: “Now the Democrats are back to their old tricks. It’s more important to tax the rich than to prevent the entire economy from going over the fiscal cliff, they say. The philosophy is based on resentment toward wealth and ignorance about how it is created.”
2013 Rubin: “You will not get robust economic growth and significant job creation with the world’s highest corporate tax rate, Obamacare and other regulatory weights on business, huge debt and undeveloped energy resources.”
2017 Rubin: “There is no economic argument right now for a tax cut. However, if they wanted a tax cut, Republicans didn’t need to pass this moral and economic monstrosity. We can bleed the treasury dry to enrich the wealthy and big corporations, but when it comes to the safety net’s beneficiaries, we need to get tough!”
On energy policy
2014 Rubin: “Senate Democrats in red states who face the voters this November must wonder, ‘What will President Obama do to us next?’ Why of course! Let’s kill the coal industry! As has been reported, the Environmental Protection Agency has continued its war on coal, issuing regulations to cut emissions 30 percent in 15 years. Already reeling from the painful effects of Obamacare, the American people are now being told they have to shoulder the burdens of the President’s latest ‘solution’ in the form of higher costs, fewer jobs, and a less reliable energy grid.”
2017 Rubin: “In the minds of Trump and his allies, coal jobs are coming back. Nope. While they accuse ‘elites’ of being out of touch, the GOP climate-change deniers and non-college-educated voters are increasingly oblivious to the world outside their ideological bubble. Rather than level with voters, their GOP representatives cater to their ignorance and mislead them about the state of science and of our economy. Even educated right-wing pundits resort to ad hominem attacks on Hollywood stars and flat-out untruths about the Paris deal.”
On overreaching government
2013 Rubin: “There is a bigger problem at the heart of liberalism, however: It doesn’t work. That is, the welfare state it imagines is not sustainable and is incompatible with a high-growth, dynamic economy.”
2014 Rubin: “Truth be told, we need government to be better at what it does, not be disqualified from performing essential functions that Americans And that, conservatives should argue, is virtually impossible when you create huge centralized bureaucracies and mountains of regulations for far-flung areas of life, many of which can be handled by other levels of government or eliminated altogether.”
2017 Rubin: “Conservative lawmakers were reminded this week that you need to spend money, maybe a lot of money, to help out the vulnerable. If they want to promote self-sufficiency, work, life-long learning and job training, mobility (physical and economic), and innovation, then they need policies to match, including legal immigration reform, new trade deals and investment in infrastructure and human capital.”
You get the drift.
The schtick is working for Rubin, who is now a regular guest on MSNBC, and she doesn’t disappoint that Trump-hating audience. Last month, Rubin told Joy Reid there is a “special place in hell” for Kellyanne Conway for her “despicable” endorsement of Roy Moore.
So, while the Post is making sure to shine a light on our dying democracy, it might want to find a floodlight to search out some actual conservatives who can write more than petulant, bitter rants against the president and the Republican Party. Happy to help them find a few.