A bit more than a decade ago, I worked at a nightmarish place for nearly three years. Although I had been quite the outspoken type for many decades since my youth, my subsequent quarter-century of maturation included learning for several years at a great seminary for rabbinical ordination, earning a graduate degree in American history, ten years in the pulpit, thereafter studying at a great law school, serving as Chief Articles Editor of law review, then clerking for a brilliant and dignified United States federal appeals court judge, and next litigating for more than a decade in big-firm law practice at two of the nation’s firms that demand the highest standards of excellence and professional comportment. In other words, I had matured, cooled off, calmed down, and moderated my temperament. In particular, the legal training and those second-career professional experiences changed me dramatically, as did the humbling experience of my first marriage of twenty-five years ending and the further calming effect of proceeding a year later to meet and marry the love of my life, my true life partner of these past eighteen years. I had dramatically moderated my style. I evolved to a new credo: Avoid making enemies. Stake out positions, but don’t push envelopes. Strive to be liked by everyone.
And then came those three jolting years. That vicious and despicable experience was so jarring, so disruptive to my core, my soul, and my essence — and also to my wife and my still-innocent then-adolescent son, both of whom personally were subjected directly to behavior that only G-d could punish — that I have not been the same person since. In public settings, I remain externally as properly restrained, jokey and good-humored, and as temperamentally dignified as anyone would expect from any seriously stationed rabbi of three decades or law professor of two. But my inner core is transmogrified. I no longer am moderated by a desire to be liked by everyone. I tried that, and I never ever will do that again. In short, the persecution and sustained three years of public efforts to destroy me — even to ruin my family — actually resulted in the opposite: they liberated me, and they persuaded me that there is no compromise with evil. Be true to your soul. The wounds have healed, but the scars remain. I am a Survivor. If they are going to war against you, at least know that you fought true to the last ounce of your core. Forget about getting them to like you. The heck with them. Just stand for what you know is right.
The Donald J. Trump who initially campaigned for President in 2016, escalator stuff and all, was quite unrestrained on the issue of borders and immigration from Day One. But at the beginning of that campaign, one of the great unknowns was whether Mr. Trump truly would prove to be a consistently and reliably conservative Republican President — or whether he would float and shift towards being a populist ready to adopt even Democrat liberal positions for the “art of the deal.” Yes, he talked tough on China and on business regulations, but he also initially sent several very mixed signals on a wide range of social and foreign policy issues.
For example, Trump was mixed on Planned Parenthood. He forthrightly had supported abortion, legalizing drugs, and soaking the rich with a 14.5% surtax. He met with Obama in the White House and left unclear how determined he would be really to extirpate Obamacare. In an interview with Larry King, he said he liked the idea of universal healthcare. He had donated major bucks to the Clintons and to other Democrats, at least $100,000 to the Clinton Foundation. Indeed, he had been a registered Democrat. He said the right things about the disastrous Iran Deal, about the need to move America’s Israel embassy to Jerusalem, about fixing the economy, but he also initially surrounded himself with a braintrust of RINO insiders. He did not immediately nix the Iran Deal at his first opportunity. He initially paused on moving the Tel Aviv embassy to Jerusalem, signing a waiver to delay. He named Rex Tillerson, a good man and accomplished businessman, for Secretary of State — but Secretary Tillerson was more a Bush-type oil man, a pragmatist, the classic Republican insider. He even flirted with naming Romney. He named Sean Spicer as press spokesman — again, a good soul, honest and decent, but more a Reince Priebus/Paul Ryan acolyte from within the GOP Establishment. Even Reince Priebus as Chief of Staff — an honorable, decent guy and team player who had helped Trump gain GOP acceptability — but no Gen. John Kelly. All RINO-friendly, Republican insiders. In his worst gaffe, he named Jeff Sessions his Attorney-General, the disastrous mistake of historic proportions that has derailed so much and that also would cost the Republicans the Alabama U.S. Senate seat. He initially appointed an Obama holdover to the VA and hesitated at his peril immediately to drain the swamp. So he opted to keep James Comey as his FBI director and failed to fire Rod Rosenstein at Day One.
The early Trump arrived in Washington hoping to “make great deals.” He thereby inadvertently fed red meat to the Never Trumpers. Yes, time has demonstrated that the Never Trumpers would have opposed him anyway. But Trump initially fed the Never Trumpers’ narrative, leaving unclear whether he ultimately would govern as a rock-ribbed conservative, a liberal on some issues, a populist refusing to be loyal to any party. Would he even campaign for Republican candidates? These once were real uncertainties. When he perceived the growing unease among conservatives and Christian leaders whom he needed as his base, he finally brilliantly formulated with the Federalist Society that amazing list of judicial preferences. It certainly helped win over Tea Party conservatives like me.
In time, President Trump has proven to be stronger and more consistently conservative than even Ronald Reagan himself. Reagan made bad deals on border enforcement and extending amnesty to millions of illegal aliens. He never moved the embassy in Israel, and he even condemned Israel for blowing to smithereens Saddam Hussein’s nuclear reactor in Iraq. Reagan was wonderful and broke the Soviet Union, but he also made deals that actually saw America covertly buying the cooperation of the mullahs in Iran. He never opened ANWR for oil exploration. He was mixed on social policy. While he named the truly conservative Antonin Scalia to the United States Supreme Court, he also named decidedly non-conservative centrists like Sandra O’Connor and Anthony Kennedy to the other two seats he filled, resulting in decades of painfully lost conservative opportunities that set back a generation. And — in Reagan’s most egregious error, a catastrophic blunder of historic proportions — he selected George H.W. Bush, who had attacked the most sound of conservative Reagan economic principles as “Voodoo economics,” as his Vice President. That cataclysmic error condemned so much of Reagan’s conservatism to be reversed rapidly as soon as his eight years were up. The “kinder, gentler” RINOs catapulted back into the driver’s seats from which we had ousted them when we elected Reagan. So we ended up with the party dominated once again by Bushes and Doles and McCains and Romneys — and the literati whose colors would emerge on full display once Trump got the nomination. Yes, Reagan was conservative in his heart and gut, was obstructed by a hostile Congress, and governed before the dominant emergence of conservative media that a conservative President needs to balance public opinion — like Fox News, talk radio, and online conservative publications. But, for whatever the reason, Donald Trump’s conservative legacy is shaping up to be stronger than Reagan’s.
How and why did the populist Trump become more conservative than even Ronald Reagan? I believe the Democrats and their unyielding, hateful “Resistance” inadvertently prodded Trump into becoming the pure and unabashed conservative he has become. It took Schumer and Pelosi. The Resistance. Jim Acosta and CNN vying to outflank MSNBC on the Left, CNN firing Jeffrey Lord and turning over their airwaves to a Left-dominated hate-Trump lineup, led by the Anderson Coopers and Don Lemons, and peppered by so-called “Republican strategists” of the Bush era who both hate Trump and reveal finally how the Bushes destroyed what Reagan had wrought. The nonstop Resistance sabotage from Trump’s Day One in office, sabotage of his press conferences, sabotage at the Spicer briefing room, lies that he had removed a bust of Martin Luther King from the White House, cheap shots aimed at his crowd sizes, endless calls for his impeachment, Deep State Democrats within the FBI’s highest echelons conspiring to bring him down with leaks to the New York Times and an internal “insurance policy,” and FISA warrants based on phony dossiers built on fabrications and lying to courts, culminating in launching a full-court-press Special Counsel qua Special Prosecutor focused on imprisoning virtually anyone associated with Trump’s campaign. A former CIA head calling him “treasonous.” President Trump never got the honeymoon that every President gets. In the manner of Nancy Pelosi — “first let’s pass Obamacare; then we can read it and find out what’s in the bill” — Maxine Waters was chanting “Impeach 45” before she even could identify a high crime or misdemeanor to allege. So, first let’s just impeach him; then we can figure out the reason afterwards. Similarly, The Resistance would not even let him have his darned cabinet, a common courtesy that every President gets, would not let him fill basic government vacancies. They tied up and gummed every aspect of the Senate and House procedures from Day One. Truly — The Resistance.
I believe they messed with a guy who would have been remarkably open to making any “Deal” — always about “making the deal” — and who would have compromised on core Republican conservative beliefs, and they got him so disgusted that he decided to himself (in stronger language than this): “The heck with the Democrats and their fake-news media stooges. They will not relent until they destroy me. And RINOs like Flake and Corker and McCain (may G-d rest his soul) will sabotage me at every turn. Why should I compromise with people who will not compromise with me? So the heck with all of them.” I truly believe the viciousness of the Democrat Resistance changed and radicalized someone ready to compromise and to work across the aisles with everyone — remember how famously he initially got along with Joe Scarborough and Mika Brzezinski? They all hit him with their most vicious shots repeatedly, and he survived them. And he is a boxer who punches back. The Resistance transmogrified Donald Trump into a true conservative whom many of us now honor more than we do Ronald Reagan. Forget about getting them to like you. The heck with them. Just stand for what you know is right.
3. Clarence Thomas
No need to repeat in detail what we never will forget: the Anita Hill gambit. The high-tech lynching of Clarence Thomas. The Democrats’ goal was not merely to prevent his ascent to the United States Supreme Court from the D.C. Court of Appeals but utterly to destroy the African-American conservative jurist who threatened the media myth that all blacks are liberal Democrats. We did not believe her then, and a quarter-century later we snicker at her very name.
Ted Kennedy had character-assassinated Robert Bork, and now Joe Biden undertook to destroy Thomas. The effort almost worked. The Judiciary Committee deadlocked. The Senate barely passed him 52-48. But history now demonstrates what that vicious high-tech lynching accomplished: they took a brilliant low-key man with conservative leanings, and they transmogrified him into one of the most consistent unyielding conservative jurists in the history of the United States Supreme Court. I do believe that the very intensity of the liberals’ viciousness, the Democrats’ calumny, the unbridled defamation of a dignified black man changed him at his core. He was conservative at the outset, but they turned him into Justice Scalia’s most certain and reliable teammate. Justice Thomas had emerged wounded and scarred badly, and he now knew that, having survived that, nothing worse ever again could be leveled at him. He no longer would have any reason to entertain compromising with such people. Forget about getting them to like you. The heck with them. Just stand for what you know is right.
I believe that Brett and Ashley Kavanaugh never will be the same. He is wounded, but he is not wounded for life. However, he now is scarred for life. Wounds heal. Many scars never go away. And we tend to remember always how we got each scar.
I published a strong endorsement of President Trump’s naming Judge Kavanaugh at the time of the nomination. Many core conservatives like me were hopeful he would prove to be a reliably conservative Justice, not another Republican-nomination disaster like William Brennan, Harry Blackmun, John Paul Stevens or David Souter (or Harriet Miers, if she had not been torpedoed). But many, even supporters like me, also were concerned. We had the sense that Brett Kavanaugh was not the most conservative option that President Trump could have chosen from among his Federalist Society list. Kavanaugh had spent too many years inside the Bush community. He seemed merely the most conservative option that the President felt he could get through a 50-49 Republican Senate in the Age of The Resistance, having just lost the Alabama seat and knowing that then-Senator McCain probably would not be able physically to fly to Washington to vote.
There now is reason to hope that the Democrat Left, having once again overplayed its hand, has pushed Justice Brett M. Kavanaugh to forge his closest long-term Supreme Court friendship and professional alliance with Justice Clarence Thomas. Justice Kavanaugh will find that Justice Thomas alone knows — from unspeakable personal experience — what few but he knows. Like President Trump in his way, even like me in my way, these two men are Survivors. Survivors bond. I have seen it with Holocaust Survivors. I know it first-hand among Survivors in the clergy of all faiths. Survivors of the falsehoods and violations of our social contract, survivors of character assassination and campaigns of outright lies. Call the gambit “Anita Hill” or “Christine Ford,” but it is the same. As among the nine justices, Clarence Thomas and Brett Kavanaugh uniquely will bond as Survivors.
The man The Resistance targeted for destruction had worked closely with hundreds of women for decades upon decades, and he had had ample opportunity to speak improperly and with sexual innuendo in front of female law clerks who were subordinate to his superior authority, at his mercy professionally, to touch them inappropriately, to abuse his station to be creepy. Creeps and perverts never stop at one. Yet, here instead, 65 women who knew Brett Kavanaugh over the decades signed a letter attesting to his decency. His female law clerks attested to his decency. Even two of his former girlfriends, ladies most potentially inclined perhaps to bear mixed feelings, came forth to state that he always was decent and a gentleman with women.
These two Survivors, Justices Clarence Thomas and Brett Kavanaugh, can contemplate: Would a woman ever conceivably fabricate an allegation of this sort? Well, the woman at the University of Virginia did. The woman who attended the event held by the Duke University lacrosse team did. Remember Al Sharpton and Tawana Brawley? Just google: “false rape claims” See also: “See Also.”
But would a more prominent woman fabricate? Lena Dunham did. Same with hate crimes. Would a professor fabricate an imaginary narrative? A Claremont McKenna professor fabricated an incident claiming a hate crime. Remember the NAACP Caucasian woman fabricating that she was black?
Brett Kavanaugh’s wounds will heal, but his Survivor scars never ever will go away. As a Survivor, I know. And we conservatives who were concerned that he might prove to be another borderline RINO disaster of a Republican Supreme Court appointment may well find that the Democrats did to him what they did to Clarence Thomas and to Donald Trump. The Resistance liberated them both and him by pummeling him with their most vicious shots repeatedly, and he proved his mettle, defiantly refusing to back down. He no longer will have reason to fear liberal reprobation nor to strive for liberal acceptance because they already are calling for his impeachment. A good prediction is that, in his first year on the Supreme Court, he indeed will shy away from making waves, concurring more with others on the controversial opinions rather than leading the way. But the Survivor scars will remain. And once he settles in, catches his breath, gets to know the other eight SCOTUS justices, sees and hears behind closed doors how politically rigid and extremist and prejudiced Ruth Bader Ginsburg is, how intemperate and politically biased she is, he will follow Justice Thomas’s lead with increasingly emboldened confidence. If she won’t recuse — even after calling President Trump a “faker” and saying that, with him as President, people would be better off moving to New Zealand — then neither will he.
Thereafter, when President Trump gets to name his third Supreme Court justice, Brett Kavanaugh’s strict Constitutionalist conservatism will seem downright moderate — because President Trump, too, is a Survivor. He has learned that there is no love to be won across the aisle by nominating a more moderate Bush acolyte. So next time he may as well give The Resistance the unbridled conservative they deserve. Just forget about getting The Resistance to like you. The heck with them. Just stand for what you know is right.