During the past week or so, President Trump repeatedly set himself at odds with candidate Trump, frankly acknowledging that his campaign rhetoric was out of touch with reality. In every instance, the reversal brought him more into line with the Democrat/RINO left-leaning political culture he made a “huge” show of adamantly opposing during his run for the Presidency. Of course, his decision to attack Syria was chief among these reversals, winning him praise from his most virulent critics, including the likes of Nancy Pelosi.
None of these reversals (I would call them “reversions to type”) give much comfort to the conservatives his anti-establishment pose conned out of their votes. All of them contradicted the anti-internationalist, anti-interventionist, go-it-alone “America-first” temperament he used to appeal to their resentment against the GOP’s elitist faction leaders. Add the clear signs of surrender to the LGBTQ agenda, (at the urging of his daughter Ivanka and her husband, but in line with Trump’s lifelong cultural disposition), and it has clearly been “cold shower” time for self-professed conservatives who said he could be trusted, including early bellwethers like Anne Coulter and Pat Buchanan.
True conservatives, committed to preserving our nation’s basis in God-endowed right, and the Constitution constructed upon it, ought indeed to be deeply troubled by President Trump’s steady retreat from his forward positions on issues of fundamental principle and constitutional integrity. Such issues include everything that has to do with the notion that enforceable “rights” attach to the growing list of sexual identities rooted in the shifting sands of personal self-perception and appetite. The abandonment of the God-endowed standard of right, arising from the obligations inherent in the information by which our Creator serves and preserves the existence of humanity, poses an existential threat to our decent liberty and the decent way of life that liberty allows us to pursue.
President Trump’s in-your-face posturing, in disrespect to the rest of the world, appeals to the justifiable anger of Americans who resented the continual betrayals perpetrated by the Obama/Clinton/GOP quisling leaders. But it did nothing to conserve the sense of America’s special vocation for humanity—a sense consistently served and conserved by all the greatest American statesmen in our history. From Washington to Lincoln to Reagan they knew that, as a people we derived our claim of self-government from rights of nature dependent on God’s authority. So, as a people, we must show the decent respect for the rights of humankind His rule requires.
They also knew that we had to do so with prudent care, and not just for reasons of material power. Even when our relative power was at its peak, the character informed by our reverence for God’s rule for human nature led us to think first of the duty we owed to humanity, not the global dominance our unchallenged superiority of power placed within our reach. As Reagan said of our post WWII aims:
We used our power and wealth to rebuild the war-ravaged economies of the world, both East and West, including those nations who had been our enemies. We took the initiative in creating such international institutions as this United Nations, where leaders of good will could come together to build bridges for peace and prosperity.
…Our commitment to self-determination, freedom, and peace is the very soul of America.
With the heritage of such statecraft in mind, it could be a good thing that President Trump is frankly willing to repair the impression, false to America’s vocation, that we now see ourselves as a nation narrowly conceived, with a national soul bereft of the commitment to God’s benevolent will for human goodness and right, as well as the way of life—abundantly blessed by His provision—that the right exercise of human freedom (which we call ‘liberty’) allows.
It will be tragic, however, if his apparent reversion to America’s type is coming about because he has surrendered control of our foreign and national security policy to unprincipled elitist faction globalists. Their inclination to assert American power is rooted in purely materialistic pragmatism, with little or no regard for the challenges involved in pursuing America’s unique vocation. Power is their rubric of right, not humanity’s responsibility to our Creator. I know first, hand that they scoff at the notion that our nation is, as it were, the flaming beacon from which people of good will in all the nations we have come to represent, may enkindle the light of liberty.
As Reagan saw, this sense of dedication to respecting God’s rule for human nature is what motivated our well-intentioned effort to establish that rule as the standard of conduct for all the nations of the earth. When Americans dedicated to our nations principles are at the helm, our participation in the United Nations and other such international venues has allowed us to encourage the construction of a framework for mutual accountability and cooperation among nations informed, at least in principle, by the sense of human right and justice that is the ground of our existence as a nation.
In the aftermath of Europe’s devastating flirtation with oligarchic totalitarianism, our postwar encouragement of democratic republican, constitutional self-government was the heart of our effort to extend its benefits to the whole of humanity. NATO was the heart of that heart. Though wholly imperfect, it was nonetheless perfectible, precisely because it arose in the shadow of oligarchic, totalitarian dictatorship. NATO’s existence gave Western Europe the confidence to prosper. It helped the United States and its core allies maintain cohesion, which in turn helped bring about the default of the Soviet Empire, and the still ongoing transformation of the nations that comprised it. It’s hard to imagine that any of this would have taken place in NATO’s absence.
President Trump faults the NATO countries for not bearing their share of its material costs. But the disparity he rightly observes allowed us to presume upon a position of influence that could be decisive, even if we had to be careful in using it. (Nations, too, have their pride.) But it was not the pride of others that mainly contributed to NATO’s unsteady drift as the shadow of Soviet hostility receded. It was our own abandonment of purpose and principle, as the union of spirit and God-revering conscience forged by our Founders gave way to materialist ideologies. Obsessed with power and its results, they offer nothing of substance to sustain our common will, our common heart, our common soul.
Frankly, unlike the great Presidents of our founding era; or the later ones like Jackson, Lincoln, and Reagan, Donald Trump shows no sign that he has spent much time pondering the task of nourishing these essential elements of our identity as a people. I pray for Donald Trump—that he will soon be driven to do so. Else it will not be just his own promises he abandons, but the promising destiny of our country.