Max Boot’s latest — This wouldn’t have happened if Hillary Clinton had won—is right and true and deeply moving. There is a bravery that those few like Boot on the Right have shown, consistently and repeatedly, even as they come to see that in this world, at least with this architecture for media, there’s little hope of recognition, let alone vindication, at least among their former friends.
But he ends with this paragraph, at once unfairly critical and not critical enough:
I knew he would be a bad president — but even I didn’t expect him to be Herbert Hoover-level bad. In a way, you almost can’t blame Trump for his epic incompetence: He is who he is. He didn’t deceive anyone. I blame the voters who elected him — and the senators who refused to impeach him. They should have known better. Because they didn’t, we will all pay a fearful price.
First, this is wildly unfair to Hoover. Hoover was not incompetent or lazy or authoritarian or heartless. Hoover was mistaken. An engineer who had risen to national prominence running incredibly successful food relief programs both during the First World War and after, he was a powerful and effective Secretary of Commerce under Harding and then Coolidge. (My favorite Hoover quote, talking about the rise of commercial radio: “It is inconceivable that we should allow so great a possibility for service to be drowned in advertising chatter.” Oh well.) Yet after the Depression landed squarely in the middle of his first year as President, Hoover was stuck. A confused mix of principles and beliefs about economics led him to resist federal intervention and broad-based stimulus to revive the failed economy. This was not simple heartlessness or incompetence (as it is with Trump), it was an ignorance shared broadly at the time. When FDR ran against Hoover in 1932, promising the same kind of idiotic fiscal restraint — balanced budgets—to address a depression. Keynes had not yet crashed onto the scene. They were wrong, but they were not Trump-level bad.
Yet this paragraph is also not sufficiently critical of those who have enabled Trump, especially the Senators who have spinelessly refused to stand up to him—Rubio, Cruz, Alexander, Collins, and most importantly, McConnell. These are not people who “should have known better” but “didn’t.” These are people who knew perfectly well the disaster that Trump is, and yet, party over country, they either did nothing to resist him (Cruz/Rubio) or actively encouraged and defended him (Collins/Alexander/McConnell).
They knew, and they did nothing. That makes them unlike the Max Boots, or Bill Kristols, or Richard Painters, or Joe Scarboroughs or George Wills or
Steve Schmidts or Jennifer Rubins — or even, at times, Mitt Romneys — of our time. It makes them cowards.
Or to borrow from the title of Jesse Eisinger’s great book (itself drawn from a speech by another reluctant non-coward, James Comey), it makes them the latest members of America’s “Chickenshit Club.”