Vain, But Not Supercilious 2016!

Two months ago I had a blog-post exchange with the Journal of American Greatness that I promised to get back to when time permitted, which it never did until now, when the point of dispute between us in that particular post has mostly faded.

I consider my point basically to have carried, since my view there and here was that Trump is not much of a vehicle for the Greatness agenda of those bloggers, and in multiple posts since, they've conceded this-- to the point of repeatedly disavowing him in many respects, to wit in the latest post

TRUMP HAS BEEN CONSISTENTLY BOORISH on the secondary matters of personal interaction and campaign style—using insult widely, indulging the temptations of vanity, and eschewing usual requirements of media politesse. This Journal holds no brief for those aspects of the Trump campaign, nor for anything other than the Agenda of American Greatness as we have outlined it.
Or in this one:
[Jonah Goldberg's] overarching argument is that many of the weak spots in official conservatism that Trump, or Trumpism, or supporters of either, have identified do not lead in a clear line back to Donald Trump.  We agree with that, for the most part, and thought or hoped we’d been sufficiently clear on that point.  We began by separating Trumpism from Trump.  As our enterprise progressed, we replaced Trumpism with the Greatness Agenda.  

Fine. As long as we're agreed that Trump isn't "the Declaration candidate"  or the new Lincoln, and are just talking about where we go from here, I don't have much to fight about -- although I still dispute one of JAG's core premises about Trump. They repeatedly argue Trump's the one who made it "safe" to talk about immigration policy. I say the real heavy lifting on that issue was all accomplished long beforehand by the American people themselves before Trump arrived on the scene. Do we not recall that Bush's comprehensive immigration reform act of 2007 never made it to the Senate floor for a vote? That Obama hasn't been able to do anything on the matter, either -- at least not legally-- because it's impossible to get the approval of the people on these questions?  The "elites" supposedly all favor open borders, but few dare cast a vote for them -- and those that do, pay. Have we forgotten that supporting immigration reform stalled out Marco Rubio's political career? Perhaps you scorn Rubio, but long before anyone had declared for the presidency, I heard him say repeatedly in interviews that what he'd learned from the immigration reform debates is that the American people want border security, and they will be unwilling to talk about immigration policy until they get it, because they are tired of being lied to by politicians about it.  I think that's exactly right and voters managed to send that message loud and clear repeatedly without Trump. I don't see Trump as the champion of that cause, but as a salesman riding a wave. The only thing I do see in Trump, as I've said before, is a certain inchoate patriotism-- I think he really does want America to do better and thinks he can help in trade policy.

I'm not sure why it's so hard to understand that Trump is what he presents himself to be: a businessman who knows the "art of the deal." That means everything he says is a bid in a negotiation -- including the wall, we must understand.  Have you ever been in negotiations with a salesman over a car or replacement windows or some relatively hefty purchase and got to talking about some point of politics or religion or culture? And the salesman leads with the safe, popular, majority position, but then picks up that you don't agree, so switches sides immediately? He's not willing to risk the sale -- his true object-- over the tangential matter of policy, which is in the moment just talk.  That's Trump. 

So, with due respect to JAG and its latest post on Trump's rhetoric  (which is really about elite corruption), I think Byron York's take is simpler and more compelling: we're in the middle of a negotiation. And just so we're clear, there is likely never going to be a wall. The wall is an opening bid to get the kind of border security that would make Marco Rubio happy. 
"Let me just tell you, the word compromise is not a bad word to me," Trump replied. "I like the word compromise. We need compromise, there is nothing wrong with compromise, but it's always good to compromise and win. Meaning, let's compromise and win."Then Trump got to the heart of the matter. "The word compromise is absolutely fine. But if you are going to compromise, ask for about three times more than you want. You understand? So when you compromise, you get what you want."
JAG notices rightly that for Trump everything is negotiable except two core issues: immigration and trade, which he pursues seriously.  I think that's probably fair, although, as I say, I think he's following, not leading, on the immigration issue. 

This is a wonderful and insightful line, though, regarding why middle America hears Trump differently than the media elites. This one line could have stood in for the entire post: 

Trump may be vain, but he is not supercilious.
What I wish JAG would consider (and maybe they have, I should go scrolling through posts because I'm behind), is whether the low personal character of a President has any effect on the Republic that we ought to consider.

Among those not merely being prissy, the objection to Trump is not his insulting rhetoric per se, but  the fear that his rhetoric indicates low character. I would argue that Bill Clinton, thanks to the Gingrich Congress, ended up not being the worst president in the world, policy-wise. But he personally is responsible for a massive coarsening of culture and lowering of morals because of his sexual abuse of an intern and questioning the meaning of the word "is."  Does character not count for anything? Does virtue mean nothing? Ought Conservatives simply give up their pathetic clinging to virtue and character along with their guns and religion?