For well over a year now, I’ve noticed a strange and disturbing phenomenon: Almost without exception, leading writers and analysts who are not fans of Donald Trump may come down harshly on Trump, but not on his supporters, and indeed often make clear that they are specifically not intending to cast aspersions on Trump’s supporters — but Trump fans do not reciprocate the respect. Instead, Trump fans attack Trump critics personally, questioning their motives, integrity, or character, or otherwise directly insulting them rather than just taking issue with their viewpoint.
Alas, George Neumayr’s recent attack on George Will here at TAS falls into that category. The attack is utterly unwarranted.
According to Neumayr, Will’s “insults” of Trump are “desperate,” they are “gasped,” and they show “intemperance.” More insultingly — and, frankly, beneath the level of discourse that should apply here at TAS — Neumayr calls the venerable Will “a ninny and snob to the end,” with “delicate” ears. He then completely mischaracterizes Will’s complaint about Trump’s inaugural speech, asserting that Will’s lament about the lack of a sense of decorum was somehow indicative of a desire for Trump to “kiss the ring of Washington’s power brokers.”
If there is anything worse than snobbishness, it is a reverse-snobbishness that asserts that anybody who disagrees is merely an establishment hack. (If there is anybody who has consistently refused to kiss the establishment ring, by the way, it is George Will. It would be rather easy to come up with literally hundreds, if not thousands, of examples of Will directly opposing Washington’s zeitgeist.)
But Neumayr was merely warming up his personal-insult machine, substituting invective for constructive debate. According to Neumayr, Willis “the faltering voice of official Washington,” demonstrating the “snobbery” of “the chattering classes.” He then again claims to be able to read Will’s secret mind, asserting (based on what — some sort of amateur psychologizing?) that Will’s call for “enlightened statesmen” is actually a paean to “the D.C. ruling class.”
Neumayr then finally moved on from trashing one of the most effective conservative voices of the past half-century to belittling everybody who opposes Trump.
If there is anybody demonstrating sneering contempt for those who disagree with him, it is Neumayr.
Memo to Neumayr: Will was far from the only conservative — including solid conservatives, movement conservatives, people who have fought and bled for conservatism — who thought Trump’s inaugural speech was dreadful. We think it painted an utterly false picture of an American dystopia, that it was ungracious, that it sounded a bit authoritarian, that the economic approach it outlined is not just wrongheaded but dangerous, and that it showed very little appreciation for the substance of what makes the United States exceptional and far too little attention to the bedrock principle of liberty.
Those aren’t insults; they are critiques. Other people, such as Neumayr, are free to be impressed by Trump’s new nationalism — and I can respect that. It doesn’t mean Neumayr is some snazzle-toothed vulgarian; it just means his sensibilities are different.
It would be nice if he would actually explain why he liked the speech, rather than cast nasty aspersions at a conservative hero.
Sure, there probably isn’t a conservative alive who hasn’t found several reasons during the past 45 years or so to disagree with Will on one issue or another. But that doesn’t make Will any less of a stalwart conservative consistently promoting Madisonian understandings of government, culture, and human nature. Without Will’s voice for all these years, the country surely would be in significantly worse shape than it is.