The doc­tor is IN

Make room for us on the couch

Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette - - EDITORIAL PAGE -

IT’S BEEN years, Doc, but you haven’t changed much. Maybe a lit­tle grayer around the ears. But you still have that same shirt, the same of­fice, the same smell. The of­fice, that is, not you.

Well, since you ask, we haven’t re­ally needed you for a while. Healthy peo­ple don’t have to visit the doc­tor ex­cept for check­ups and blood­work. But who vis­its a shrink for check­ups?

Yes, there’s a first for ev­ery­thing, we sup­pose.

It was all eas­ier the past eight years. The guy in the Oval Of­fice was a pro­gres­sive lib­eral, and when he did pro­gres­sive lib­eral things we stomped the floor so hard the folks down in ad­ver­tis­ing com­plained. How do you draw a red line on the use of chem­i­cal weapons and not en­force it when your bluff is called? The stim­u­lus didn’t stim­u­late, the debt climbed to nearly $20 tril­lion, Oba­macare was the first ma­jor en­ti­tle­ment to be shoved down our throats by one party, Amer­ica stood by while the Arab Spring sprung into dis­as­ter in Libya and Syria, and the coun­try re­mains as di­vided as ever. All we had to do was point to wrong and call it wrong. And right. Cer­tainly the last pres­i­dent did a few things right. Give us a minute and we’ll think of one.

But when the cur­rent pres­i­dent does some­thing off-the-wall, if we call him on it, we’re called (shud­der) lib­er­als.

Hon­est, Doc. The other day we got a phone call, and the man said crit­i­ciz­ing the pres­i­dent of the United States was un-Amer­i­can. Where this guy was the last eight years, we’re sure we don’t know. But it seems that crit­i­ciz­ing the pres­i­dent is the most Amer­i­can thing an edi­to­rial writer—or any Amer­i­can—can do.

Many folks are treat­ing pol­i­tics th­ese days like sports, Doc. My team comes from my home town, your team comes from your home town. And we root, root, root for the home team. When the home team messes up, we wuz robbed! And when the op­pos­ing team scores, they were cheat­ing, the umps blew the call and your mama dresses you funny! Heaven help the St. Louis Car­di­nals fan who mum­bles “good play” when a Cub­bie turns an im­pos­si­ble dou­ble-play.

But pol­i­tics ain’t sports. Or shouldn’t be.

Come on, Doc, spare us the democ­racy-ain’t-easy speech. We don’t mind char­ac­ters in high of­fice. We live in Ar-kin-saw! We were raised on char­ac­ters in high of­fice. Need we go through the lists of the Tommy Robin­sons, Jay Dick­eys, Jim John­sons, Mon­roe Sch­war­zloses and the whole pa­rade of Clin­tons, Rock­e­fellers and Pry­ors? Take the Longs out of the equa­tion, and Louisiana ain’t got nuthin’ on us for char­ac­ters in of­fice.

Bradley Gitz—an­other Ar­kan­sas char­ac­ter—de­voted his col­umn the other week to ask­ing whether con­ser­va­tives must sup­port the pres­i­dent, as some­body sug­gested. But why should they? This pres­i­dent isn’t a con­ser­va­tive. For Hoover’s sakes, he’s only been a Repub­li­can for about 18 months.

Maybe it boils down to this: He’s play­ing first base and bat­ting cleanup for our team th­ese days. He’s wear­ing the right col­ored uni­form. So boo­ing him from the stands is a good way to get a beer poured over our heads.

So when Charles Krautham­mer or Ge­orge Will or Bret Stephens write a col­umn crit­i­ciz­ing Don­ald Trump, are they be­ing un-Amer­i­can, un-con­ser­va­tive, un-Repub­li­can? Thomas Sow­ell was such a Never Trumper that he re­tired soon after the elec­tion. (Cor­re­la­tion does not im­ply cau­sa­tion, but come on, Doc.) Th­ese are the cur­rent lead­ers of the con­ser­va­tive move­ment in Amer­ica. Don­ald Trump is not.

Did you see his tweet the other day? No, not that one. No, not that one, ei­ther. Some­thing about a lady an­chor on a cable news show and crit­i­ciz­ing her sup­posed face work and so un­pres­i­den­tially on. We don’t re­mem­ber Rea­gan pour­ing per­sonal in­sults into the news like this, even when he was per­son­ally in­sulted. The cur­rent pres­i­dent has good ideas on tax cuts and gov­ern­ment spend­ing, but no­body’s talk­ing about all that be­cause he can’t keep off his phone.

This pres­i­dent is a pop­ulist. And if it’s pop­u­lar to do a con­ser­va­tive thing, like nom­i­nate a Neil Gor­such to the Supreme Court or pull out of the Paris Ac­cords, he’ll do it. But if it’s pop­u­lar to do a lib­eral thing, like guar­an­tee­ing six weeks of ma­ter­nity leave to new moms, he’ll do that, too.

We’re look­ing for an an­swer, Doc. What’s a con­ser­va­tive to do when his party is in charge but not his ideas?

WELL, YES, Doc, we did pledge to give the new pres­i­dent a chance. Every­body did. Even those on the left-ish end of pol­i­tics. Well, yes, Doc, some of us meant it. At least we did.

Uh, six months, Doc. This is July, right? He’s been in of­fice six months, al­most.

Yes, well, still, be­ing new on the job doesn’t ex­plain all the tweets and non­sense and loy­alty pledges and thin-skinned crit­i­cisms of small-time play­ers. Why does he send his peo­ple out to say one thing to the me­dia, then con­tra­dict them a few min­utes later in in­ter­views? Why is he un­der­min­ing his own le­gal team be­fore the Supreme Court? The only thing more con­fus­ing than be­ing on his le­gal team might be a per­son in his me­dia shop.

What’s that? Sure, he’s done good things. The Cab­i­net, for best ex­am­ple. There’s no way a Pres­i­dent Ka­sich or Pres­i­dent Ru­bio or Pres­i­dent Bush III would have had the guts to choose those peo­ple. DeVos, Mat­tis, Tiller­son, Car­son, Kelly, Ha­ley . . . . This might be the best Cab­i­net since Pres­i­dent Rea­gan sur­rounded him­self with the Bak­ers, Ben­netts, Kirk­patricks, Haigs and Shultzes.

Yes, the Paris Ac­cords were a sham. And if he nominates an­other jus­tice— or two—for the Supreme Court in the mold of Neil Gor­such, that would put Amer­ica on the right path for decades.

So . . . . Praise the man when he de­serves it? And crit­i­cize him when he needs it? Sure, maybe we should wait to see how the sum­mer plays out, to see if he can learn on the job. Maybe his kids can have an in­ter­ven­tion on the whole Twit­ter/phone thing.

That’s a good idea, Doc. One day at a time. And stick with our prin­ci­ples, which is al­ways good ad­vice.

Thank you, Doc. You know, you’d make a good edi­to­rial writer. You cer­tainly have the smell for it.

Doc, can you sched­ule us for an­other visit, maybe mid-De­cem­ber? Thanks.

And you’d bet­ter make it an hour next time. Doubt­less we’ll have more to talk about.

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