Now that Donald Trump has had what is, by many accounts, an astonishingly successful first year—according to the Heritage Foundation, at any rate, an even more successful year than the one enjoyed by sainted Ronald Reagan—it is worth looking back on just how spectacularly wrong were some of the president’s “conservative” critics.
This is a crucial exercise for at least two reasons.
First, voters accustomed to identifying as “conservative” need to recognize that many of the commentators to whom they’ve turned in the past are scarcely the gurus they once may have seemed.
Second, in attending carefully, especially in hindsight, to the words of self-avowed “conservative” talking heads, it’s a bit easier to see that perhaps their ideas of what it means to be “conservative” aren’t all they’re cracked up to be. In fact, it becomes increasingly difficult in some cases to discern any significant differences between these “conservatives” and those on the left against whom they rail.
Radio host and “conservative” columnist Michael Medved is a classic case in point.
Medved has been a NeverTrumper from day one. According to his friend and colleague, Mike Gallagher, with whom Medved had a debate of sorts recently, it sounds as if Medved has had something of a change of heart on Trump. Still, unlike his other colleague, Dennis Prager, Medved has yet to admit, unequivocally, that he had been disastrously wrong about the president. If he wants to be taken seriously going forward, he should.
Why? Because some remarks are harder to forget than others. Here are some examples:
After Trump put Ted Cruz out to pasture and secured his party’s nomination, Medved remarked:.
I actually believe that Trump represents the very, very worst elements of our politics and would be very threatening and damaging for the future for my kids, the Republic, our economy and our national security.
He insisted further that, “more than any other candidate in my lifetime, [Trump]“represents a threat to the viability of the United States of America.”
Wow. Let that sink in: Medved argued that more than any other candidate in his 70 or so years, Donald Trump would all but spell the ruination of all that is good with the country.
Lyndon Baines Johnson launched the War on Poverty and plunged us into the Vietnam War. Richard Nixon had to resign due to Watergate. Jimmy Carter presided over a recession, astronomical inflation, and the Iranian hostage crisis. Bill Clinton was impeached. George W. Bush, on false pretenses, embarked America on two wars that, in varying degrees, continue until this day. And Barack Obama—well, this speaks for itself for a whole host of reasons.
And yet, it is Trump who Medved predicted would prove to be dramatically worse than them all.
“On all of the issues, the core issues that make people conservative, Trump is wrong. He is on the other side,” Medved said.
It isn’t just that Trump is “on the other side” of what Medved understands when he says conservatism. Regarding “the issues that matter most to conservatives,” Trump “is probably worse…than Hillary [Clinton],” Medved claimed.
Be clear: Medved, a “conservative” commentator, confessed to suspecting that Hillary Clinton would prove to be a better president, from a conservative standpoint, than a President Trump.
Medved forecasted that Republicans would “get wiped out” in 2016. “I think this [Trump’s alleged unpopularity] means we get wiped out in the next election.”
Medved also said that Trump could increase his chances of prevailing over Clinton only if he selected Oprah Winfrey as his running mate.
“The one candidate he would pick, it would horrify me but probably help him, would be Oprah.”
Trump did, once, publicly entertain the possibility of selecting Oprah as a running mate. Medved explained why he thought that only Oprah could salvage the Donald’s candidacy.
“Who would be, of these celebrity candidates, more qualified and more effective? Oprah is a better communicator than he is. She is more beloved. She does have a spiritual core. She has a more inspiring story. She worked her way up from great difficulty.”
Medved concludes: “In every capacity, she is more qualified to run for president than he is”.
To be fair, Medved denied that he would vote for Clinton. Rather, he was giving consideration to voting for the Libertarian candidate, Gary Johnson. This is particularly ironic, for Medved spent many years on the air blasting Libertarians as “losertarians” for failing to realize that third parties in the American political system simply aren’t viable.
This, at any rate, is the tune he whistled as long as his listeners had problems with his candidates of choice: the Bushes, the McCains, and the Romneys.
Medved always urged those who were disenchanted with the GOP to seek to change it from within. Of course, once they proceeded to do just that by rallying behind the outsider Trump, Medved decided to follow exactly the counsel he had castigated so many of his listeners for following in previous elections. If Medved and other “conservatives” are coming around and beginning to see our political situation a little more clearly that is, of course, a development to be cheered and—even—appreciated. But forgiveness shouldn’t mean forgetting in this instance. Fine people can have bad political judgment. And when it is revealed, as it was in so many instances in 2016 among the NeverTrump “conservatives,” the rest of us must never forget.