The Beclowning of the American Right Continues

Victor Davis Hanson, the favorite historian of American conservatives, continues the magic thinking of the MAGA cult’s educated minority, which finds ever more imaginative ways of persuading itself and its lobotomized audience (the MAGA majority) that Donald Trump is somehow the solution to all the problems he causes. 

The key to this magic thinking is the not-so-subtle art of obscuring or denying the unavoidable premise that would reveal all their arguments as the illogical fan-serving absurdities that they are. Hanson offers a stunning example of this willful blindness in his recent remarks about the precarious state of the world today, and Trump’s relation to it.

Being interviewed by the friendliest possible host, Nigel Farage — that is, by a host entirely willing to play the game of denying the obvious in the name of sidling up to the Trump cult — Hanson warns that the world is facing the “most dangerous time” since the 1930s, due primarily to Vladimir Putin’s aggression in Europe. This is quite true, and to the extent that Hanson’s object in this interview is to highlight American culpability in fomenting the crisis, one would expect him, were one imagining him still to be a real historian rather than a partisan hack, to risk the rancor of most of his potential readers and admirers by at least including Donald Trump among those American political leaders guilty of precipitating this situation through his presidency’s unprecedented ignorance and lack of seriousness. 

But no, needless to say Hanson’s take is quite the contrary. Not only is Trump not on his list of weak presidents vis-à-vis Putin, but in fact he has the gall to argue that Putin was particularly subdued by Trump’s “Jacksonian policy.” 

It was the only administration of the last four that Putin did not cross an international border to attack a neighbour. He did that during Bush. He did that during Obama. He did that during Biden.

Astounding. Hanson’s explanation for this (alleged) fact is, in effect, that Trump was so strong and assertive that Putin would never have dared to incur the great leader’s wrath. “Putin knew that he shouldn’t go in anywhere,” he claims, suggesting a Russian leader biting his nails in fear at the prospect of disappointing the most infamously cowardly and tyrant-kowtowing president in American history.

The missing premise, without which Hanson’s blather looks vaguely like a rational argument, but with which it would immediately appear as the ludicrousness that it is:

Trump, in addition to being (supposedly) the only U.S. president of the past four during whose presidency Putin “did not cross an international border to attack a neighbour,” is also the only U.S. president of the past four who was directly campaigned for by Vladimir Putin; who openly praised and stood up for Putin on the world stage throughout his presidency; who belittled and threatened NATO and Europe in general in precisely the ways that Putin could only have dreamt of prior to the rise of the orange useful-idiot-in-chief; who handed America’s fight in Syria over to Putin’s brutal stewardship, thus handing Putin a strategic and military victory which would have been unthinkable without Trump’s direct gift (aka surrender), thus annihilating the key premise of Hanson’s argument in the most direct and humiliating way — Putin not only “crossed a border” during Trump’s presidency, but did it thanks to Trump’s direct and abject submission to his will; who fought on Putin’s behalf to normalize the latter’s invasion of Crimea by insisting that the occupation was old news and a done deal, and further by demanding that Putin be invited to the G7 summit over the heads of the other members who were standing united against Putin’s military aggression; who was consistently lavished with talking points of praise and admiration by Putin’s state-run media throughout his presidency, and continues to be lauded as America’s only true leader in the Kremlin-controlled media today; and who has publicly refused to this day to openly condemn Putin’s Ukrainian war, but has rather boasted that he alone could end the war in one day, by which he could only mean cutting off aid to Ukraine should he become president again, a meaning directly confirmed by Putin ally Viktor Orban after his recent meeting with Trump.

In short, Hanson’s premise that Putin was cowed by Trump’s strength is utterly contradicted by the missing premise that every known fact of the past eight years adds up to, namely that Putin has been assuming all along that he owns Trump, and Trump has done, and continues to do, everything humanly possible to verify that assumption.

Add that premise — that is, the essential facts of Trump’s “leadership” as regards Vladimir Putin — to Hanson’s fluff about Jacksonian policy, and you see what Hanson has become. Or rather, if I may conjecture slightly based on plentiful precedent, you see what Hanson always was, although like many other (and lesser) individuals unmasked by the Trump era, it took the financial and reputational challenge of standing up against an irrationally aggressive populist personality cult to expose his true character. Victor Davis Hanson is and was nothing but a mouthpiece of Republican Party orthodoxy at the end of the day. When faced with the reality of that sad party’s usurpation by a hot-air mob and its puff-ball idol, he chose, like oh-so-many others, to save his career and keep his reader numbers up, rather than to do what any ordinary self-respecting man, back when ordinary self-respecting men were still the norm in America and on this Earth, would have done: walk away.

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