Quick Takes on the News: 43 vs. 45

AP Photo/Matt Rourke
Add to Briefcase
Tom DeFrank and Harrison Cramer
March 5, 2018, 8 p.m.

Bush 43: Trump “sorta makes me look pretty good”

It’s hardly a secret that the Bush clan has little use for President Trump—but like his dad, President George W. Bush refrains from criticizing Trump frontally.

That doesn’t mean he thinks Trump is doing well. He doesn’t. And when chatter at Republican gatherings, social events, or Bush’s under-the-radar speeches touches on Trump’s troubles, a quiet satisfaction sometimes creeps into 43’s official neutrality.

Without chiming in with the Trump critics, Bush is often heard to remark, unable to stifle his trademark smirk: “Sorta makes me look pretty good, doesn’t it?”

“He’s shaking his head like everyone else wondering why they can’t get their act together,” a Republican official closely allied with the current White House told National Journal. “He wants the guy to succeed but thinks a lot of his problems are self-inflicted.”

Another top party strategist who has seen Bush lately said the ex-president agrees with millions of his fellow Americans that Trump’s tweets are ill-advised, especially when commenting on foreign policy. He also believes Trump’s hard-line immigration policies have alienated Hispanic voters that the GOP will need this year and that his broadsides against the media are needlessly divisive and counterproductive.

“He’s quite open about his shock and surprise Trump is so unpresidential,” the strategist added.

—Tom DeFrank

Younger conservatives see Buckley as social-media model

Would William F. Buckley tweet? That was one of the questions that conservative columnists pondered at a National Review panel Thursday commemorating the 10th anniversary of the magazine founder’s passing.

The National Review Institute’s Buckley Legacy Project is amassing Buckley’s writings and promoting them on social media, aiming to honor his legacy by making his most persuasive work accessible in the digital age.

“What he sought to do, ultimately, was persuade,” said Stephen Hayes, the editor-in-chief of The Weekly Standard. Buckley was an inspiration to him when he was starting out in political journalism at National Journal’s Hotline.

“[Buckley] was making an argument, marshaling facts, logic, and reason, and saying, ‘Come on, believe what I believe,’” he said. “He was trying to win converts.”

Hayes believes that contemporary conservatives don’t proselytize like Buckley did. “I think to a certain extent …” he told the audience, “too many conservative outlets seek affirmation. They want to get people nodding along, rather than trying to marshal arguments to persuade people.”

Washington Free Beacon editor-in-chief Matthew Continetti said that Buckley is a “lodestar” whom contemporary conservatives “might want to, as he would say, asymptotically approximate.”

Harrison Cramer


Welcome to National Journal!

You are currently accessing National Journal from IP access. Please login to access this feature. If you have any questions, please contact your Dedicated Advisor.