It was March 8, 1983.
The speech, delivered at the height of the Cold War and focusing on the protests from the Left in both America and globally for a nuclear freeze as opposed to a military build-up designed to defeat the Soviet Communists outright, became one of the most famous of the many speeches ever delivered by President Ronald Reagan. The most noted lines Reagan delivered were these, bold print supplied:
So, in your discussions of the nuclear freeze proposals, I urge you to beware the temptation of pride — the temptation of blithely declaring yourselves above it all and label both sides equally at fault, to ignore the facts of history and the aggressive impulses of an evil empire, to simply call the arms race a giant misunderstanding and thereby remove yourself from the struggle between right and wrong and good and evil.
Say again, the relevant line for today’s moment, as if Reagan himself were speaking through the mists of time to the Never Trumpers, is this: “I urge you to beware the temptation of pride — the temptation of blithely declaring yourselves above it all and label both sides equally at fault…”
Not to put too fine a point on this?
The dwindling band of Never Trumpers, epitomized by so many including, in the words of Sean Hannity, “NRO, WSJ, Romney Folks, Kristol, Kasich, Cruz and Jeb” (and I would add others) are now the living, breathing example of exactly what Reagan warned against: moral equivalence. In today’s case it isn’t about the Cold War and America versus the Soviets. In today’s world of American politics the stakes are Trump versus Hillary and everything that implies, from appointing Supreme Court Justices to repealing Obamacare to cutting taxes, stopping illegal immigration and defeating ISIS. And yet there are all these Never Trumpers, real or nominal conservatives one and all, practically boasting about their version of what Reagan warned against: “the temptation of pride” declaring “both sides equally at fault.”
The other day, Mark Levin — who like myself worked for Ronald Reagan — announced his endorsement of Donald Trump. And like clockwork, he was instantly assaulted by Never Trumpers.
Let me be clear. My friend Mark is a conservative’s conservative, and has been preaching the conservative gospel since he was approximately thirteen years old. I myself first met Mark when we both worked for Ronald Reagan, Mark questioning me on the conservative bona fides of a suggested Reagan/Meese Justice Department appointee on the grounds that said prospective appointee was a Bushie. When I countered that George H.W. Bush was Reagan’s Vice President the floodgates opened and, in the style of hundreds of popular radio shows to come decades later, I was treated to my own personal Levin monologue on the lack of conservatism to be found in any Bushie and oh by the way, they knew nothing about the Constitution either. Hence, said the then chief of staff to the conservative Attorney General of the United States, this suggested Bush-leaning appointee would never see inside the front door of the Reagan/Meese Justice Department, much less get an actual appointment.
In all the years since, Mark Levin has not changed a wit on these matters. Hence, with all the predictability of the sun rising in the East, there was no question that he would endorse Ted Cruz. (Whom I also like and repeatedly urged as a Trump VP pick. Alas.) And, even more to the point, for anyone who has never had the privilege of knowing him as a friend not to mention ever spend a nanosecond listening to Mark’s show or reading his books, there could be no doubt that he would look more than a little askance at Donald Trump and say so up front in the bluntest of terms.
There’s no point in rehashing the primaries. They are gone with the wind. And as mentioned, choices made by millions — many on the GOP side who are conservatives — have resulted in a Trump-Clinton race. Thus it comes as no surprise that confronted with that binary choice, Mark Levin would instinctively follow Ronald Reagan’s wisdom:
I urge you to beware the temptation of pride — the temptation of blithely declaring yourselves above it all and label both sides equally at fault, ….and thereby remove yourself from the struggle between right and wrong and good and evil.
The day will never come when Mark Levin will ignore Reagan’s wisdom and succumb to “the temptation of pride — the temptation of blithely declaring yourselves above it all and label both sides equally at fault.” Hell will freeze over before Mark Levin removes himself “from the struggle between right and wrong and good and evil.”
And so, this understood, Mark endorsed Donald Trump.
With this in mind I want to answer the instant and to-be-expected criticism of Mark from the Never Trump side. A perfect example being this piece over at Mediaite by Never Trumper John Ziegler. The headline:
What the ‘We Hate Trump, But We’re Voting for Him’ Crowd Doesn’t Seem to Get
But now I guess Mark has decided that he wants back on the “list.” As someone who has always thought Levin is one of the smartest and most principled radio talk show hosts, I can understand his rationale. In short, he thinks that Trump is horrible, but that Hillary Clinton is way worse and that we have an obligation to vote for the lesser of two evils.
As a radio host myself, I am suspicious that the ratings pressure to get on the Trump Train, and the difficultly of doing a conservative show where you are constantly bashing the GOP presidential nominee who is facing a despised rival, may have played a role in Levin finally giving in (wanting to maintain his close relationship with Sean Hannity and Rush Limbaugh may have also been a factor).
Allow me a moment to wax Lloyd Bentsen-esque. To wit: I know Mark Levin, Mark Levin is a friend of mine, and there is no way in hell Mark Levin would ever do anything that he feels sells out his conservative principles. It isn’t going to happen. Not to mention that Ziegler seems to have overlooked this small detail about Mark’s radio show:
Westwood One Announces Lifetime Extension for The Mark Levin Show
NEW YORK, NY, February 11, 2016 – Westwood One announces that Mark Levin will continue his eponymous talk show for many years to come, as The Mark Levin Show has now been extended through 2025.
In other words? In other words a show that has been extended until 2025 is hardly worried about 60 days of audience before an election in 2016. To suggest, as Ziegler does, that Mark is endorsing Trump out of fear of damaging his show is ignorance of Mark Levin at best or a pernicious jab from a fellow radio talker at worst. No one — radio show or not — is going to convince Mark Levin to abandon principle.
I don’t doubt for a second that Ziegler “loathes” Hillary Clinton. But he then goes on to write:
However, as the conservative Dallas Morning News pointed out while endorsing her, I do think that she at least knows the basics of the job and would be unlikely to get the country into a real crisis out of complete incompetence or a simple lack of discipline.
Trump, on the other hand, is someone whom literally all bets are off if he became president. I honestly have no idea what he would try to do policy wise and I would fear that all sorts of catastrophes could be created because he simply has no idea what he is doing (the idea he is relying on “I’ll hire the very best people” while hiring a D-list campaign team is laughable) and lacks the proper temperament for such a pressure-filled job.…
My sense of Hillary is that she is actually a fairly moderate (by today’s standards) Democrat who has shifted over the years purely to get nominated, despite never having accomplished anything significant in her career. My sense of Trump is that he has no beliefs at all and is uniquely unqualified for the position.
Neither is remotely acceptable for the “Leader of the Free World” and I will not be voting for either of them.
And there it is. Conservative John Ziegler violating exactly Reagan’s wisdom, rejecting precisely the urge to beware the temptation of pride while quite publicly succumbing to the temptation of blithely declaring himself above it all and labeling both sides — Trump supporters and Clinton supporters — of being equally at fault. In a blink removing himself and the Never Trumpers from the struggle between right and wrong and good and evil.
Sorry. What John Ziegler and all those Never Trumpers castigating Sean Hannity and others are about is the politics of moral equivalence. To borrow Reagan’s words, Ziegler and all the rest are blithely declaring themselves above it all.
But not Mark Levin. Three cheers for him.