When the New York Times hired columnist Bret Stephens away from the Wall Street Journal one year ago, the paper thought it would be getting a blue-chip, Pulitzer-winning, anti-Trump “conservative” to bash the president and his orbit on a bi-weekly basis. Little did The Gray Lady know it would simply be the vessel for Stephens’ nonstop vanity project.
Stephens is a proud NeverTrumper who wishes Hillary Clinton were president, as he wrote here. He has flipped on many of his previous positions (let’s call it being “Rubinesque,” as in Jennifer Rubin) to please his new masters on the Left and to agitate his pro-Trump detractors. He even supports repealing the Second Amendment, like, you know, all solid conservatives do.
Stephens’ columns at the WSJ—before the Trump era—were forceful, fact-based and issue-oriented. But his columns now reflect the worst tendencies of the NeverTrump punditry clique: In a futile effort to restore their credibility after predicting Trump would lose, and mocking as fools those of us who voted for him, NeverTrumpers like Stephens go overboard in their narcissistic fantasies about their pretend relevance in a political class where they are basically wallflowers. Their commentary is nothing more than mental masturbation, an exercise in self-pleasure to stroke their enormous egos or to release pent-up frustration because the rest of the world isn’t as intellectual or as invaluable as they are. (Also applies to others such as Bill Kristol, Tom Nichols, Jonah Goldberg.)
See, for example, Stephens’ column this week about Paul Ryan, the Republican Party, democracy, and Garry Kasparov just to name a few of its random subjects. But this passage is the most pointless, and the most laughable:
Among Republicans, Ohio’s John Kasich, Nebraska’s Ben Sasse, and Arizona’s Jeff Flake and John McCain have sought in different ways to offer one [an alternative to Trumpism], without immediate success but with integrity, honor, and a sense of the long view. In a party of Petains they are the conservative de Gaulles.
Now, that sentence means nothing. It isn’t accurate or clever or thought-provoking. Stephens’ only purpose is to arouse himself about his own historical prowess at the expense of the reader. (He also compared NeverTrumpers like himself to Czech dissident Vaclav Havel.) He is amused knowing that most people had to look up “Petain.” (Yes, I did and I’m not ashamed.)
Just beware when you read Stephens and Friends that it’s not about you or Trump or the country: It’s about them. You’re just a voyeur.