Good news from a Trump defender

The world according to Marc Thiessen

3 minute read
John Wilkes Booth would be remembered as a great actor, if only... (Image via Wikimedia Commons.)
John Wilkes Booth would be remembered as a great actor, if only... (Image via Wikimedia Commons.)

Here’s exciting news from the conservative columnist Marc A. Thiessen. “In his second year in office,” Thiessen informed his readers last week, “the list of extraordinary things Donald Trump has done, for good and ill, continued to grow. Today, I offer my annual list of the ten best things Trump has done in office.”

The Constitution’s injunction against cruel and unusual punishment prevents me from disseminating Thiessen’s complete list. (If you must read it, click here. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.)

But let’s cut to the chase. What, in Thiessen’s opinion, was Trump’s number-one best presidential achievement in 2018?

“He stood by Brett Kavanaugh and even in the worst moments never wavered.”

From Manafort to Rumsfeld to Bush

Now, reasonable people may differ about Justice Kavanaugh’s fitness for the Supreme Court. Reasonable people may also differ about Marc Thiessen’s credentials as a public-affairs pundit.

His résumé is — how can I say this gently? — limited in its exposure to diverse viewpoints. Thiessen launched his D.C. career by spending five years at Paul Manafort’s lobbying firm — yes, the same Paul Manafort who subsequently (after his pro-Russian client was driven from the Ukrainian presidency) offered his services gratis to Donald Trump’s presidential campaign and last year was convicted of eight charges of tax and bank fraud. Thiessen served as chief speechwriter for President George W. Bush as well as Bush’s defense secretary, Donald Rumsfeld, neither of whose rhetoric has ever been mistaken for Winston Churchill’s. Thiessen's one book is a defense of the torture memos and "enhanced interrogation methods" used by the CIA during Bush’s administration. He prepared for his current residency at the American Enterprise Institute, a conservative think tank, by serving as a visiting fellow at the Hoover Institution, another conservative think tank.

(The term “think tank” is itself a misnomer. Most think tanks — liberal as well as conservative — are actually "belief tanks" dedicated to promoting their members’ preconceived notions.)

But surely liberals and conservatives alike can agree that Marc Thiessen is a dedicated champion of conservative Republican principles. And here’s my point: In his celebration of President Trump’s top ten achievements over the past twelve months, the best triumph this devoted apologist for the president could come up with was… Brett Kavanaugh? With friends like Thiessen, does Trump need enemies?

Trump’s blunders

Presumably in the interest of balance, Thiessen resurfaced this week with his catalogue of Trump’s worst blunders of 2018. This inventory of errors failed to dent Thiessen’s loyalty to his hero.

“With the exception of troop withdrawals and family separations,” Thiessen concludes, “most of the items on this list were transgressions of style rather than substance. With the mute button on, the Trump presidency is pretty good from a conservative policy perspective.”

He’s got a point there. If only Mussolini hadn’t made demagogic speeches from balconies, he would have been a superb chief executive. If only John Wilkes Booth had checked his trigger finger, he’d be remembered today as a great actor. If only tigers were vegetarians, they’d make really interesting pets.

A mute button for Trump! Why didn’t I think of that solution? Maybe because I lack exposure to the cross-pollination of ideas that all think-tank fellows absorb by osmosis?

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