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Conscience of conservatism steps up the rhetoric in denouncing Trump and his enablers

McConnell, Trump
REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst
President Donald Trump listening to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell during a signing ceremony for the $2.2 trillion coronavirus aid package bill on March 27.

A long-time famous columnist with a large vocabulary lost his you-know-what with the latest – what’s the word, antics? lies? degradations? or depredations? or both, or all of the above? — committed by the current occupant of the Oval Office and the famous columnist wrote these three paragraphs which some (not me) might view as intemperate:

The president’s provocations — his coarsening of public discourse that lowers the threshold for acting out by people as mentally crippled as he — do not excuse the violent few. They must be punished. He must be removed. …

This unraveling presidency began with the Crybaby-in-Chief banging his spoon on his highchair tray to protest a photograph — a photograph — showing that his inauguration crowd the day before had been smaller than the one four years previous.

And, soon after in the same column:

 This weak person’s idea of a strong person, this chest-pounding advertisement of his own gnawing insecurities, this low-rent Lear raging on his Twitter-heath has proven that the phrase malignant buffoon is not an oxymoron.

Which squishy liberal said this about Donald John Trump? I won’t drag it out any longer. It was columnist George F. Will of the Washington Post, a long-time leader of American conservatism who still sets the standard for conservative thought and argumentation among those who haven’t traded in their lifelong principles for Trumpian lies, insults and other expostulations.

George F’ing Will wrote the above. Pardon me while I collect my jaw off the floor. I was aware that Will disapproved of Trump, but didn’t realize he was in the running for demolisher-in-chief.

George Will
REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst
George Will
Will has not been a rider on the Trump Train. But he has grown ever stronger in his denunciations, and the last few days of Trumpian offenses against many traits and ideas that Will holds dear led him to write the paragraphs above, and he went further, urging voters to vote out all members of Congress who have been riding on said train. Or, as Will put it, right-thinking voters must: 

dispatch his congressional enablers, especially the senators who still gambol around his ankles with a canine hunger for petting.

Senate Republicans must be routed, as condign punishment for their Vichyite collaboration, leaving the Republican remnant to wonder: Was it sensible to sacrifice dignity, such as it ever was, and to shed principles, if convictions so easily jettisoned could be dignified as principles, for … what? Praying people should pray, and all others should hope: May I never crave anything as much as these people crave membership in the world’s most risible deliberative body.

I’ve seen the word “condign,” but never used it. To be sure, my online dictionary elucidates that it refers specifically to a deserved punishment, appropriate to the crime or wrongdoing.

I suspect I’ve read a few thousand George Will columns in my many days. I don’t recall ever seeing him this angry, disgusted nor calling for a rout of Republicans who, although Will didn’t mention it explicitly, would likely be replaced by members of some other party.

Will, a highly literary fellow, still in the same column, worked his way around to a few final nouns and adjectives describing some combination of Trump and his Republican enablers, and then to an excerpt from a famous T.S. Eliot poem titled “The Hollow Men.” Thus:

A political party’s primary function is to bestow its imprimatur on candidates, thereby proclaiming: This is who we are. 

In 2016, the Republican Party gave its principal nomination to a vulgarian and then toiled to elect him. And to stock Congress with invertebrates whose unswerving abjectness has enabled his institutional vandalism, who have voiced no serious objections to his Niagara of lies, and whom T.S. Eliot anticipated:

“We are the hollow men . . .

Our dried voices, when

We whisper together

Are quiet and meaningless

As wind in dry grass

or rats’ feet over broken glass’ . . .”

I mention this one last time: The above-referenced columns is from George Will, the high falutin’, bow-tie wearing,  bespectacled guy you’ve read and seen on TV all these years as the voice and conscience of principled conservatism.

Here’s the link to the full column. (the part you haven’t read above aren’t any better, for Trump).

Comments (46)

  1. Submitted by RB Holbrook on 06/03/2020 - 10:09 am.

    Wow. It’s going to take a lot of effort for any pundit to come even close to “low-rent Lear raging on his Twitter-heath.”

    • Submitted by Ray Schoch on 06/03/2020 - 10:32 am.

      Agreed, but a close second would be the sentences addressing the Republican members of the current U.S. Senate, the enablers “…gambol[ing] around his ankles with a canine hunger for petting.”

  2. Submitted by Jon Kingstad on 06/03/2020 - 10:23 am.

    Who knew there are conservative principles? I wonder what they are?

  3. Submitted by Pat Terry on 06/03/2020 - 11:03 am.

    Man, I haven’t thought about George Will in about 25 years. No idea he was still around.

  4. Submitted by Charles Holtman on 06/03/2020 - 11:06 am.

    We on the left welcome Republicans, or former Republicans, who at long last are joining forces with those of us trying to divert the nation’s path from aspiring democracy to authoritarian dystopia. We also gently note that what they now offer as principled epiphany is simply that about which we on the left have sounded the tocsin for 40 years, and that Mr. Will has endeavored through his lifetime, well-remunerated sesquipedalian sinecure to deflect.

    • Submitted by Erik Granse on 06/03/2020 - 11:18 am.


    • Submitted by Don Casey on 06/03/2020 - 11:58 am.

      There are tens of thousands (f not millions) of Republicans who disapprove of Trump.

      The problem: In our two-party system, the only alternative is the candidate of a Democratic party moving progressively further left. It is a party with an agenda in sharp contrast with mainline Republican political philosophy.

      The nation badly needs a viable third — moderate — party.

      • Submitted by Harris Goldstein on 06/03/2020 - 05:18 pm.

        Maybe. But they sure are silent.

      • Submitted by Karen Sandness on 06/06/2020 - 12:01 pm.

        I guess Fox News and AM radio are pushing the notion that the Democrats are “far left,” but for those of us whose memories date back to the Eisenhower administration, that is an absurd notion.

        By any objective standards, the Democrats were at best weak, and at worst complicit, during the gradual takeover by economic libertarians, militaristic interventionists, and civil authoritarians.

        If you take an objective look at the most powerful figures in the present-day Democratic Party, you will see people who are somewhere in Nixon territory in terms of ideology. Nixon established the Environmental Protection Agency, resumed peaceful relations with China, negotiated treaties with the Soviet Union, and started the program popularly known as “food stamps.” If you don’t believe me, the internet will provide you with all kinds of reputable sources.

        Given the way present-day Republicans hate both environmental laws and food stamps, if Nixon were running for office today, he would have to run as a Democrat, and his Republican opponent would refer to him as a “far-left Marxist.”

    • Submitted by Henk Tobias on 06/03/2020 - 12:23 pm.

      Call me cynical, but I have sneaking suspicion that they are thinking more in terms of after-Trump than having any real epiphany about Donald’s ineffective “leadership.” If they hadn’t noticed by the time impeached rolled around they should have seen it then, but apparently didn’t.

      Now that Donald’s fortunes are shrinking, his inability to handle crisis is clear to everyone but the cultist, these Rightwingers are looking at their career prospects after Donald is voted out. They want to be on the I told you so side and personally I see absolutely no reason to let them get away with it.

      • Submitted by Karen Sandness on 06/06/2020 - 12:11 pm.

        Yes, they were cheerleading all the way through deregulation of businesses and hobbling of labor unions, tax cuts for the wealthy, the Patriot Act, the Iraq War, more tax cuts for the wealthy, the hypocritical appeals to fundamentalist “Christians,” and the pandering to gun worshippers.

        We were treated to endless claims that those of us who opposed Trump were “in a bubble.” (Right, I’ve lived in the Midwest and on both coasts in major cities, suburbs, and small towns, and in a foreign country. I have been an academic, a temp worker in both clerical and industrial settings for three years, and now a self-employed professional for 26 years. Until the virus upended everything, I attended a church that has formed an alliance with the Northside Achievement Zone and a gym whose demographics reflect those of Minneapolis. So I’m in a bubble, and some person who has never left their rural county and is afraid to visit a city, isn’t in a bubble?)

        I agree that these criticisms of Trump sound too much like hopping off one bandwagon and onto another.

    • Submitted by Bob Petersen on 06/03/2020 - 12:45 pm.

      Republicans and more independents would join Dems if they stopped moving further and further to the left as well as stop promoting loonies like Bernie, Hillary, and AOC.
      Just remember, we got Trump more because of Hillary and the rigged Dem primary than anything else.

      • Submitted by Frank Phelan on 06/03/2020 - 08:41 pm.

        No, thanks. We’ll keep moving the party left. No need to continue nonsense like dismantling Glass-Stegal or standing by watching the middle class go down the drain.

      • Submitted by Pat Terry on 06/04/2020 - 05:41 pm.

        What an absurd comment.

        The idea that Clinton rigged the primaries is an utter falsehood. She won the nomination because she received millions more votes. That statement just erases your credibility.

        The absurd part is that you describe Sanders – the candidate who Clinton defeated – as loony as well. It doesn’t make any sense.

      • Submitted by Jon Kingstad on 06/05/2020 - 10:22 am.

        “. . . Rigged Dem primary.” There was no primary for the Presidential candidacy in Minnesota anyway. Bernie won a large number of Minnesota delegates at the Democratic caucuses which were very well attended by many Democrats. The Democratic candidate for President was nominated through the same process in the Republican Party that got the current President nominated. But it was the Democrats who nominated “loonies”?

    • Submitted by Richard Owens on 06/03/2020 - 01:18 pm.

      Well satirized Charles!

      [This GEM] “…Mr. Will has endeavored through his lifetime, well-remunerated sesquipedalian sinecure to deflect.”

      David Brooks, not too dissimilar, still tries to find a “conservative” voice, but he and Frum and Gerson haven’t quite decided that Republicanism was (and is) a total lie to cover up financial and political crimes against the American people on the behalf of 1%.

      Trump said the quiet part out loud too many times. There is no principle, no public issue, no righteous national goal for the Republican party.

      And there probably never was. These long-suffering speech writers have nothing left in their verbiage that can justify the farce of (R).

    • Submitted by RB Holbrook on 06/03/2020 - 03:45 pm.

      Well played! Or should I say “Will played?”

  5. Submitted by Dennis Wagner on 06/03/2020 - 11:24 am.

    I think Mr. Will is suggesting that some folks have their priorities mixed up big time, the top should be more like country, constitution, ethics, values , not Trump, Trump, Trump, Trump! Truly a sad day when these supposed great leaders have traded their integrity for a cheap conman’s temper tantrum, I think history will not treat them well, and they will be remembered as traitorous to their sworn constitutional oaths.

  6. Submitted by Brian Simon on 06/03/2020 - 11:59 am.

    Clearly conservatives, in the traditional use of the word, are not Republicans. To be sure, President Trump & the others whom Will is criticizing call themselves conservatives, but that does not mean their words and actions are consistent with a conservative ideology. In other words, the only people who care what George Will thinks are the people who’ve already found Trump, et al deficient & derelict in their duties.

  7. Submitted by Tom Christensen on 06/03/2020 - 12:02 pm.

    Trump’s enablers are nothing but political cowards. Political cowards do not deserve to be re-elected!

  8. Submitted by Dan Landherr on 06/03/2020 - 12:55 pm.

    I feel pretty certain that the people Will intends as his audience – Republican party insiders – lack the vocabulary to understand his essay. I am confident he is trying to persuade the party and not the public with this essay because I am certain that George Will doesn’t really care about the general public and would consider it beneath himself to address the “rabble”. He is very easy to discredit as “elitist” and ignore.

  9. Submitted by Bob Barnes on 06/03/2020 - 01:22 pm.

    George Will is about as conservative as Barney Frank. He is and always has been a big govt lover, as long as it’s his flavor of big govt. He made himself irrelevant with his unhinged rants.

    You can always tell by looking at their past…Will said nothing when Bush43 went to war over in Iraq etc without any evidence they were involved in 9/11. Just like Rush, Hannity, Levin et al were never heard saying anything negative about Bush. Same on the left…not a peep about Obama droning a US citizen without first having his citizenship revoked (even tho he was a terrorist, we still have laws we need to follow). Or fast and furious or his invasion of Libya for no good reason. Or even his spying on Trump. How many here would be livid if Trump did the exact same things to Biden???? Well guess what, precedent has been set because the left refused to hold Obama accountable. Now Trump has every right to use the agencies of the US govt against his opponent.

    If you blame one side but not the other when both do the same things then you’re a hypocrite and have zero credibility.

    • Submitted by Eric Snyder on 06/03/2020 - 03:21 pm.

      I hate to bring this up, but since you’re going there anyway–what about that Harvard study you referenced that supposedly claimed that social distancing had no effect? Care to provide a citation? And, I (and others) must ask–did you just make this claim up?

    • Submitted by kurt nelson on 06/03/2020 - 04:37 pm.

      That citizen you care so deeply about relinquished his constitutional protections the minute he took up arms against this country – so no due process needed.

    • Submitted by RB Holbrook on 06/04/2020 - 09:52 am.

      Hypocrite? What do you call a President who says he approves of peaceful protests, and who then has peaceful protesters cleared out by violent means so he can stand in front of a church whose central teaching he rejects, and whose whole life has been spent in opposition to the teachings of that church, while brandishing a Bible?

      And please remember to be civil in your ringing denunciations of this hypocrisy.

    • Submitted by ian wade on 06/04/2020 - 03:50 pm.

      “Whataboutism” only works when the counter argument is supported by facts and not the usual fantasy drivel of imagined crimes that Obama supposedly committed. Everything that Trump has done is verifiable.

    • Submitted by Pat Terry on 06/04/2020 - 05:44 pm.

      Your entire argument is based on outright falsehoods. The idea that Obama abused his power in the manner that Trump has is just a bald-faced lie.

    • Submitted by Robert Lilly on 06/06/2020 - 10:01 am.

      If Biden’s team continually meets with foreign operatives under surveillance and then lies to the FBI about those contacts. Absolutely, that needs to be investigated.

  10. Submitted by Betsy Larey on 06/03/2020 - 01:34 pm.

    For this Independent, the hope is a new party rises out of the ashes left over from what once was a reasonable party. AOC and the Bernie peeps are not representative of anything I would want to vote for.
    The majority of Americans ( by far ) do not want a revolution. They want to work with what we have and make the middle class functional again. This can be done through the tax code, and getting manufacturing to relocate factories to the US. ( thru the tax code and tariffs – only thing I agreed with Trump on ) Democrats would be wise to rule closer to the middle than the far left. I think Biden will do just that.
    If Democrats were to veer to the far left platform, they risk once again getting someone like Trump elected. Do we need changes? Absolutely. We need better paying jobs and more affordable housing. Those are attainable goals.
    But the winners from this disaster will be those who make the middle class once again something people aspire to .

    • Submitted by William Duncan on 06/03/2020 - 03:50 pm.

      If both parties continue to ignore the needs of working class and working poor, as they pretty much have since the late 70’s, then the troubles we have seen this past week are likely to get much worse over time.

      You might not like much of what Bernie and AOC have to say, but they are some of the only people in either party talking to hourly wage earners, and really listening.

  11. Submitted by Mike Chrun on 06/03/2020 - 03:14 pm.

    George Will’s views on Trump are going to have as much of an effect on Senate Republicans as mine will. Mitch and the other psychophants are going to risk Trump’s ire because George Will quotes T.S. Eliot? The only way their supposed consciences and ethics will appear again is if the great leader’s poll numbers start taking a significant drop. And that, sadly, won’t be happening as the 40% has no problem supporting the cowardly, third-world type despot who now has positioned himself as the guy who will restore law and order.

  12. Submitted by William Duncan on 06/03/2020 - 03:37 pm.

    When I was a young man I admired George Will for his erudition.

    After 2008, reading his writing was like reading a continuing apologia for all things anti-democratic ruling class, while so much of America was ground down by the Great Recession.

    By 2016, I saw his arrogance and elitism and his objection to Trump as just another of the reasons Trump won.

    Now I don’t read his stuff at all, mostly because it is behind the paywall at WaPo, and writing for WaPo is akin to excusing all things Jeff Bezos, monopoly, corporatism and imperialism. So frankly, who cares?

    • Submitted by Constance Sullivan on 06/04/2020 - 09:48 am.

      Mr. Duncan,

      Don’t be too cheap to pay for good reporting of the news! Don’t continue to use aggregators, who are ike leeches on the skin of our free press–free, in the sense of uninhibited in its reporting, not some free handout or an aggregator of other peoples’ hard work.

      Pay for a subscription to the Washington Post, for once! You’d be surprised at how uich great news coverage there is in it–and Jeff Bezos isn’t even on the staff or reporters or editors.

      Bezos isn’t even the Boogeyman, you know.

      • Submitted by William Duncan on 06/04/2020 - 02:54 pm.

        Ms Sullivan,

        WaPo is great reporting, if I want unquestioning support for eternal war, monopoly/oligarch control of the “free market”, if I think ever expanding income inequality is a great thing, if I think Russia and Putin are pulling every evil string on earth, if I love living in a Neo-aristocracy as opposed to genuine democracy, if I want to take as gospel whatever the banks, billionaires, corporations, the industrial war machine and the CIA/FBI/NSA tell me is the TRUTH!, if I think working people and the poor don’t really need a voice (except when it sells), if I think the only thing wrong with the health of the global ecosystem is too much carbon, if I generally like to feel like I am being manipulated, and if I think Bezos deserves everything he has achieved and controls and owns without limits.

        I donate more to Minnpost, btw, than WaPo is asking, because Minnpost has solid local reporting.

        • Submitted by Pat Terry on 06/04/2020 - 05:46 pm.

          Yeah, you really gotta stop reading Infowars.

        • Submitted by Richard Owens on 06/04/2020 - 08:37 pm.

          I appreciate any generosity you may bestow upon the independent media.

          But I also question your “both-sides-ism” and until you explain it to me as some direction or comfort or coherent strategy, you simply discredit everyone.

          Again I wonder: What is your intent with your reluctance to value any side?

          • Submitted by William Duncan on 06/05/2020 - 02:14 pm.

            Both parties supported neoliberal, global corporate trade since 1980. That emptied out black neighborhoods of good paying jobs (and opened up a constant flow of invasive insects ect that have helped destroy ecosystems.) So the result? Mass economic despair. Both parties supported the increase in policing, putting many millions of people in jail and preventing them from success. Both parties have supported eternal war. Both parties have supported the corporate and bank takeover of food production, leading to the destruction of rural economies. Both parties have turned Health Care into a mining of the people for money. I could go on and on, but I don’t know it there is a point….

            • Submitted by Charles Holtman on 06/05/2020 - 07:02 pm.

              William – I don’t wish to intrude, but what you do not respond to, which I take as the crux of Richard’s question, is what you offer as “direction or comfort or coherent strategy.” I have asked you the same question more than once in the past, and I’ve not seen you reply to it. The issue is not whether the Democratic establishment advances the general welfare. The issue is whether there is any path toward a decent society and, if there is, is it advanced by putting Republicans in office, or by putting Democrats in office (that’s it for the present options, unfortunately).

              I don’t know if there is such a path, but if there is, I can say with 100% certainty that it involves putting Democrats in office (and then working like heck to push the Democratic party in the proper direction). Perhaps every comment you’ve written just says a pox on both houses, and that’s all – i.e., that there is no path, and therefore no point in even thinking about what it might be. Is that your view?

              • Submitted by William Duncan on 06/06/2020 - 11:14 am.


                Do not feel you are intruding. I appreciate you calling me back to some new path, as opposed to me getting sucked into pointing out the both parties have supported pretty much the same policies on economics and war the past 40 years. It might be because when I call out the Democratic Party I get all kinds of negative commentary, but when I do offer up a different path I am usually met with silence.

                My first option would be the bailouts of the last 40 years, including this Corona one. If this is a free market, why do both parties fall over themselves to bailout corporations and banks that have made bad decisions culminating over time? That simply reinforces the idea that they can compound on bad decisions. Boeing right now is the poster child, but there are hundreds of corporations who maxed out debt to buy back shares and now are getting bailed out. I would let them fail, and turn over ownership to the EMPLOYEES.

                I would say then stop taxing individual income on production, and start taxing pollution, consolidation, automation and rentier money.

                I would say then start incentivizing an essential economy, particularly focused on food, such that food production is focused on health and expanding biodiversity, building a broad, functioning economy around food and health, not just for people but for pollinators, the land and water.

                Deregulate small business, meaning 50 people or less, as most of the push to deregulate has been about expanding opportunities for consolidation and monopoly, while regulations have been vastly expanded for small business. Like most things in this economy, it should be inverted.

                I could go on but I will leave it at that for now.

                • Submitted by Charles Holtman on 06/07/2020 - 01:11 pm.

                  Good day, William.

                  Those are all sound policy prescriptions, and of course we could articulate many others. But my question is different – not about a policy strategy, but about a political strategy. We can only enact the needed laws and policies, and advance their normalization, thru a political structure where those with authority will champion those actions.

                  My proposition to you (I don’t claim it as insight – it seems obvious) is that for each election between a Republican and a Democrat, putting the Democrat in office is a marginal advance toward being able to effect needed laws and policies. It marginally shifts political power toward the party that at least formally continues to recognize democracy, allows within its ranks those who do have commitments to the general welfare, and does not foreclose a positive evolution of its platform. Therefore, with the present binary choice being either Republicans or Democrats, putting Democrats in office is the clear temporizing choice while we work toward a Democratic party that is committed at a party level to advance the general welfare, work toward a viable third party, and pursue the many other strategies to rescue the hope of democracy.

                  So when you respond to every criticism of Republican governance by saying the Democratic establishment is also terrible, to me that may be true, but it’s a non sequitur. The question is which party we give power to, while we are working toward something better. And the answer, again, seems obvious.

                  • Submitted by William Duncan on 06/08/2020 - 10:11 am.


                    Perhaps it is as you say, however I am not convinced, after three years chasing phantoms trying to build a kind of new Cold War and seeing Russian conspiracies hidden behind every bush, that the Democratic Party is capable of effective governance. In fact, I expect the very first thing Biden would do as president would be to revive TPP/TISA/TTIP trade agreements, which issue caused a lot of working class Obama voters to vote Trump. If I suspect that is the case at election time, I will not vote for Biden, though I might well vote for other democrats if they are not corporate, bank and billionaire sellouts, which is what TPP et al is.

  13. Submitted by Constance Sullivan on 06/03/2020 - 05:57 pm.

    I hope that voters like Betsy start paying better attention to our 2020 election.

    None of the Horrible Leftist Revolutionaries she’s so afraid of–AOC, Bernie, etc.–are in the running for President. A moderate is! Joe Biden represents a moderate, sane, and experienced voice and agenda. He’s a member of the Democraatic Party, sure, but lots of us are, and most of us are not AoC!

    Don’t be afraid, Betsy! We don’t have to continue to have Donald Trump, and you don’t have to rant about how horrendous Hillary Clinton is, either. She’s part of history, and we’ve all moved on, Be calm, and vote for the Democrat!

  14. Submitted by BK Anderson on 06/05/2020 - 08:46 am.

    As Mr Chrun notes, Will’s denunciation of Herr Trump will no effect on a single elected Repub. They have hitched the wagon to Trump because the 63 million “conservative” oxen (that worthies like Will spent decades creating) are eager to drag the wannabe dictator around–and if it means dragging the nation over the cliff, so be it. “We had to destroy the village in order to save it…”

    The venerable Will is now writing for posterity, and a grand public pronouncement of his rejection of Trumpism is seen as a necessary aspect of Will’s “legacy”. Unfortunately Trumpism is what “conservatism” has become, so in a way it is a final self-denunciation by our great public “intellectual”…

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