Date: 21:35:06 on Thursday, July 13, 2017
Name: Looneytoons
Subject: Conclusion to the Interview (part 2)...

(part two)

David French -- Here's the thing: I think that there has been and there still is the possibility to win individual legislative victories, and I think individual legislative victories should be pursued. But I donít think they should be pursued at the expense of the other part of the legislative branch's job, which is holding the executive branch accountable.

This is something that I think is particularly pernicious here, because as we all know, Trump, like every politician, places a premium on loyalty, but with Trump I think that goes to 11, to borrow the phrase from Spinal Tap. Trump doesnít understand compromise and he doesnít hire or work with people who arenít loyal to him. And if he detects wavering or disloyalty, he goes on the warpath.

Sean Illing -- I hear you, but thatís an incredibly weak defense of the moral cowardice on display. At some point, this is about more than legislative victories. Trump could be stopped if the Republicans in Congress decided, in concert, to stop him.

David French -- I agree. What GOP legislators are confronting is a situation in which they want to get X done and realize that in order to get X done they need the cooperation of the administration, and if her perceives disloyalty, heíll undermine everything they try to do. This isnít a defense of what theyíre doing so much as an observation of the strategic logic.

But thereís no doubt this has created a very unhealthy dynamic in which people are afraid to do both parts of their legislative job ó pursue purposeful legislation and maintain oversight and accountability of the executive branch in a rigorous way ó because they feel like doing one will mean they can't do the other.

Sean Illing -- In the short term, the Republican Congress has gotten one or two wins, like the Gorsuch appointment, and maybe theyíll score some more legislative victories, though that seems unlikely at this point. But what price will they pay in the long-run for this capitulation?

David French -- All other things being equal, I think you pay a high price for corruption. The example I point Republicans to is Hillary Clinton. I say, "Look, Hillary Clinton lost to Donald Trump." There's an awful lot of people say, "Well, the Clintons always got away with their own personal corruptions. The Clintons always got away with their scandals. They always beat their opponents."

But, actually, no. Actually, it's very plausible to argue that one of the reasons why Al Gore lost a very, very winnable election in 2000 was Clinton scandal fatigue, even though Gore wasn't a part of the Clinton scandals. Clinton scandal fatigue impacted her '08 run as well, and it certainly impacted the 2016 run.

The problem is, you can win short-term political victories, but you also create a larger fatigue, a larger disillusionment, a larger cynicism, because the fact of the matter is the majority of Americans are not base Republican voters. That has political blow-back over time. Even if you're not persuaded by the moral argument of, "This is just not how we should behave," even if you're just focused on ends justify the means, well, there's still blow-back.

Sean Illing -- I think it makes sense to assume that Republicans wonít easily shake the stench of Trump, but negative partisanship being what it is, are we really sure of that? If people are cocooned in their information bubbles, as they seem to be, almost any bullshit narrative can take hold.

David French -- I agree with you. We have to realize it's not just our bubbles. We also have a high degree of voter ignorance. Yeah, the activist bases of both parties are more hyper-engaged and hyper-aware than they've ever been, but, perversely, that insulates them against the less active engagement of their fellow citizens. They're running around and assuming that everyone follows everything, but I can tell you, even with folks who are active in their communities in the middle of Trump country, civically minded citizens who read the news, you can bring up five Trump scandals and they may have heard of one.

Those of us who are on Twitter, those of us who are engaging in the Facebook wars or writing think pieces and all of that, just because of the world we live in we often seriously overestimate everyone else's engagement. That's another reason why I think Trump's support is holding steady, is the level of awareness of the various controversies that have beset his administration is really pretty low, outside of, again, the core base that's fighting the daily Twitter battle.

Sean Illing -- Do you think thatís true as it relates to the Russian collusion scandal? This is a huge story that everyone is more or less aware of. You even wrote in the National Review that this isnít a witch hunt but a ďnational necessity.Ē The investigation is ongoing and, eventually, it will conclude. Given what we already know, itís hard to believe that it wonít be damning. Will Republicans get away with ignoring it forever?

David French -- Can I be cynical?

Sean Illing -- Of course.

David French -- I think it'll depend a lot on the perceived political health of the president at the time. I have often had this interesting counterfactual in my mind: Would there have been more bipartisan revulsion at Bill Clintonís misconduct if growth in the United States was, say, at 1 percent at that time rather than 3 percent? I think there probably would've been. There would've been less good will towards him from Democrats. There would've been less of a sense in the Democratic Party that he was a successful president.

I think that that's going to be the $64,000 question moving forward: When these investigations wind down and when these reports are issued, what is going to be the rest of the state of play in this country and what is going to be the health of the Republican regard for Trump? If it's very, very strong, if the economy's growing, if unemployment continues to fall, if there is a perception that the #Resistance is unhinged, then you're going to see a circle of wagons. I think you'd see a circle of wagons even if there were a string of indictments, if you will forgive me for being extremely cynical.

But if Trump is appearing otherwise politically weak and House majorities are in danger because of loyalty to Trump, you will see people, "elder statesmen" in the party, rediscovering their virtue. A lot depends on the prevailing circumstances.

Sean Illing

I donít disagree with what youíre saying, but I want to be clear about what it means: Youíre basically saying that the Republican Party is so bereft of principles at this point that it doesn't matter if the Trump campaign colluded with a hostile foreign power, or if members of the Trump campaign and family lined their own pockets at the expense of American prestige and interests, that none of these things will be part of the political calculus for Republican leaders. Thatís a pretty staggering indictment, wouldnít you say?

David French -- I will say that there will be some brave voices, and they will likely be some of the same voices that we've heard from ó you mentioned a few of them earlier. They will say what they believe and they will act on their beliefs. I don't want to indict all Republicans. Goodness knows my colleagues at National Review and colleagues in the conservative movement world, many of us will react to this kind of news appropriately and rightly, but I just have to tell you, after watching months and months and months of Trump saying and doing things that, if they had been said by a Democrat, if they had been done by a Democrat, I know beyond a shadow of a doubt that not just would there be nonstop outrage, but there would be real serious talk of impeachment. Against that backdrop, the predominant move is either to ignore or to defend. I have to have evidence that I'm wrong before I'm going to start to believe that I'm wrong.

Sean Illing -- I know weíre just about out of time, so let me ask you this final question: You came close to running for president as a third-party candidate. Is that, ultimately, whatís needed ó a third party for actual conservatives?

David French -- You know, I think leadership really, really matters. I think what's needed now is compelling, bold leadership to help repair a rotting political infrastructure. That's one thing that, frankly, the Republicans lacked in 2016 as a response to Donald Trump, just flat out lacked it.

But I see hope for the future here, I really do. I speak to young conservative evangelicals all the time (because thatís the part of the conservative movement I come from) and there is absolutely a generational divide on this. These young conservatives tell me all the time that this is not the conservative movement they signed up for.

The ironic thing about it all is the younger conservatives grew up in the world that the older conservatives created, in the sense that the older conservatives created institutions like Young America's Foundation and others that are out there educating young people that conservatism is about a set of principles and ideals, about preserving cultural traditions and values. Thereís been a huge amount of whiplash amongst that generation over the past 18 months or so, and that whiplash hasn't stopped.

So I do think there is hope for the future of the conservative movement, because there are an awful lot of people who said, "Wait, this is not the conservative movement I was brought up to be a part of." But right now it lacks leadership. There isn't a coherent movement. There isn't a leader to coalesce behind. There isn't a movement that really exists.

It's just an awful lot of people with an awful lot of discomfort.

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