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Diplomacy in Action

Covering Issues Important to Conservatives

Ramesh Ponnuru, Senior Editor, National Review; and Jeremy Carl, Research Fellow, Hoover Institution
Cleveland, OH
July 20, 2016

Date: 07/20/2016 Location: Cleveland, OH Description: Ramesh Ponnuru and Jeremy Carl talk to journalists about covering issues important to conservatives. - State Dept Image

3:00 P.M. EDT


MODERATOR: -- from National Review. Ramesh Ponnuru and Jeremy Carl. Ramesh is a Senior Editor at National Review. He’s a columnist for Bloomberg View and a Visiting Fellow at the American Enterprise Institute. He has published articles in various newspapers ranging from the New York Times to the Wall Street Journal, and he is the author of The Party of Death: The Democrats, the Media, the Courts, and the Disregard for Human Life. Jeremy is also a Research Fellow at the Hoover Institution and he focuses on politics and energy policy. He’s served as a policy advisor for many national political figures on a variety of issues ranging from energy policy to electoral strategy. So I’m going to hand it over now to Jeremy to kick us off.

MR CARL: Thanks very much. And I should add, I’m here in a personal capacity and shouldn’t be seen representing Hoover Institution as a whole or National Review as a whole. It’s my personal opinion. I may not even represent myself as a whole, depending on what I say.

What can I say in brief, in first, about 2016? Well, it worked just exactly how I sort of expected it to at the beginning. I mean it was obvious to me that Donald Trump was clearly going to be the nominee from the beginning. I obviously say that with a little bit of sarcasm and with appropriate humility, because even for folks like myself who had urged other candidates to really take a more populist line for the party, a more nationalist line in certain respects because I saw some of the frustration out there among GOP voters. I would have never dreamed at the start of this cycle that we were going to wind up with an answer to that particular set of issues that was Donald Trump.

So I think for a lot of us in the conservative policy sphere, in the conservative journalism sphere, this election has been an education as all elections are to varying degrees, but certainly I think it’s upset a lot of priors. There’s been a lot of talk about where does the party go from here? Is this a one-off? And obviously that will depend a lot on what happens in November.

I will note parenthetically, I think one thing that’s interesting is I still think that in many ways, despite the fact that here we are and now we’ve just nominated Donald Trump in the GOP, Donald Trump is still being underestimated electorally. By that I mean the following. I wrote an article today for National Review on their web site about Mike Pence, who will be nominated for Vice President tonight, or will be speakingtonight rather, I should say. And in doing some research for that I discovered that if you look at the 538.commodel, which I don’t know if you guys are familiar with this, but this is one of the better quantitative models that sort of assesses the chances of winning the presidency. It’s been quite accurate in the last couple election cycles that it’s been used, Donald Trump is not only well ahead of where Mitt Romney was at this stage in 2012, but he is basically rated as high as Mitt Romney ever was. In other words, the model right now quantitatively has a 38.3 percent chance that Donald Trump is going to win, and I think Romney had a very very brief peak of 38.9 percent. That was as high as he ever got, and then it went quickly down from there.

Now you can argue to me that maybe it should be 48 percent, maybe it should be 28 percent. But I think still, even among mainstream journalists and conservative journalists and pundits, there’s a kind of tendency to be sort of saying well, you know, really that ought to be closer to zero in a lot of people’s minds. And I just don’t think, if this election has taught us anything, that that’s really an accurate read on things. I think there’s a real hunger and frustration that Donald Trump for all of his gaffs and foibles has successfully tapped into and it’s inverted a lot of policy certainty on the right.

And I guess I’d maybe just add one quick thing as a final opening remark before I turn things over to Ramesh. One thing that’s kind of perversely exciting about this as a policy guy is that a lot of times in the past as a conservative policy person you’d be trying to get a candidate to do something that you thought was the right thing to do and they might say well, I think this is the right thing but in some cases, I can’t do there politically because it’s just not going to be possible. What Trump has shown is that with a certain type of attitude [almost], policy got tossed out the window on 50 percent of things. And while obviously at some level as conservatives that’s upsetting to us, it also opens up a world of possibility for folks to hopefully be a little bit more experimental in the future in terms of the sorts of things they’re going to try.

I think this is a candidate who broke all the rules and has managed to get away with it. So I think that’s really obviously the story of 2016 at this point and we’ll see how that story plays out over the next few months.

So that’s my opening remarks and I’ll turn things over to you, Ramesh.

MR PONNURU: So I think that this is one of the many many ways in which this is an unusual election is that there’s still a lot of confusion, disagreement and misunderstanding about how Trump came to be the Republican nominee in the first place. There are competing theories and a lot of them are pretty lightly empirically grounded. You know, and I think the fact is, there’s a multi-causal explanation here and it certainly has something to do with the clouding of the field which is celebrity status, which is a flair for drama, and capacity to attract the media attention. But I think there are a number of other factors.

One is that there was a market for let’s call it immigration restrictionism that was being underserved. At one point, really before Trump got in you had the prospect that there would be 16 Republican candidates, and 15 of those candidates would be people who wanted an increased level of legal immigration -- something that has the support of about 7 percent of Republican voters; and 15 of those 16 would be for some kind of legal status for illegal immigrants, which has the support of a larger fraction of Republican voters, but also has a fair amount of skepticism within the party. So nature abhors a vacuum, and if the politicians were not willing to represent those people, then somebody else it turned out was willing to do so.

And then connected to that, the Republican economic agenda, which has really been kind of set in stone in the late ‘70s and early 1980s, had become less and less relevant to a lot of voters’ lives. I think you saw that in the 2012 election with respect to swing voters who didn’t feel the appeal of the Romney economic agenda. But this time you saw that crop up in the Republican primaries as well, where the old message of free trade and entitlement reform and tax cuts centered on high earners, just didn’t move Republican voters.

So I think one of the things going ahead, you know, if the conventional wisdom turns out to be right and Trump does end up losing, part of stitching the party back together I think is going to have to involve rethinking that whole economic.

On the general question of his chances, my one thought on that is just, I guess it’s kind of a banal thought but hey, I’ve got the podium. I was looking at the Washington Post/ABC numbers on who do you think is qualified to be president, and Mrs., Secretary Clinton I should say, was viewed as qualified by 51 percent of Americans in their latest poll from this month; 41 percent say she’s not qualified. For Donald Trump it was 37 percent say he’s qualified, and 60 percent say he’s unqualified. Moreover, those numbers are exactly identical to his qualified and unqualified numbers from September of 2015. This run has not convinced any new people that he is qualified to be president, so far.

Maybe it’s old fashioned to me, maybe all the rules have changed but I think that’s kind of a problem in a presidential election, if most people don’t think you’re qualified for the job that you’re seeking. And the fact that he must be getting votes in the polls from people who think he is not qualified to be president and that a good chunk of undecided voters must be people who currently think that she is qualified and that he is not. So just that there is a potent line of attack that Clinton can deploy between now and November, it seems to me that it’s just the obvious line of attack, that it would be the central theme of an intelligent Democratic campaign and that there’s room for that to grow. That’s one reason why I remain pretty pessimistic about Mr. Trump’s chances.

MODERATOR: Great, thank you. Now we’ll open it up for questions. Again, please remember to state your name and the outlet you represent. Thank you.

QUESTION: Thank you, and thank you for doing this. I’m Ole Nyeng. I’m a journalist from Copenhagen, the Danish weekly Weekendavisen.

I would like to ask you, you’re both known as proponents of the Grand Old Party, and your paper is also. Is it an advantage of this reform process that Mr. Trump will lose in November?

MR PONNURU: Interesting question. I suppose to the extent that if he wins, the direction of the party becomes really about whatever happens to pop into his head on any given day and that would tend to reduce the influence of reform conservative ideas. I guess that is right.

I think, my own approach has been to say look, we’ve kind of got a small group of people who are talking about ideas that we think should shape the future of conservatism and we’re not really going to affect the outcome of this election, so let’s let that happen as it does and argue for what we think is in the national interest.

MR CARL: I should add. I’m certainly to some degree a reformacon, but I also probably have a good dash of reaction in there like any good conservative. So I should admit my own biases out front.

I’m not sure whether it’s better for conservatism if Trump wins or loses. I think obviously to the extent that Trumpism became identified as conservatism, that would definitely be extremely problematic. I don’t think that that’s necessarily going to happen even if he does win, but maybe that’s a slight bit of naiveté on my part.

I’m actually slightly more concerned about the reverse, which is if we have a steady state, just given what the demographics of this country are, I think Romney lost by 7, is that about right? 53 to 46 or 52 to 47?


MR CARL: But it would be about a 7-point margin because the demographics of voters have changed.

My concern is there are a number of people in the party with their own agendas, not necessarily shared with me, that are going to use any Trump defeat to kind of go back to doing the same old stuff that they were doing. That’s what they would like to do in my view. I do not want to see that happening. I’m almost more worried about that than I am about Trumpism being identified with conservatism, per se. I mean I think we really do need to learn some lesson that I think Ramesh elucidated on, both immigration and some of the economic issues, that we need to really have some different approaches than what the party has been doing, and National Review has frankly been saying this on its editorial line for quite some time.

MR PONNURU: If I can just pop up two more thoughts that came to mind.

One is, it does seem to me that the most destructive scenario for conservatism and for the Republican Party would be a narrow Trump defeat. Because that’s something that just leads to endless back-biting and vicious recrimination where it just becomes, the pro-Trump people say well, it was the anti-Trump conservatives’ fault for Hillary Clinton and if there is to be a loss it’s probably more productive for it to be a bigger loss rather than a smaller one.

The second one, on the idea of going back to business as usual for the Republican party after a Trump defeat. I can certainly see how there would be a tendency to say that. Write this off as a fluke, say it was because he was a celebrity and it was a crowded field, and so on and so forth. But I’ve been struck in talking to people, Republicans here, including anti-Trump Republicans, how many people are saying things to me like you know, we need to change the way we’ve approached trade. We need to rethink our commitment to free trade agreements. Now that’s not where I am personally, that’s not what I think is the right way to go on policy, but it does suggest that people are trying to think through anew what Republicans should stand for.

QUESTION: Thank you very much for the insight for that comment. My name is Frank Rossavik. I’m from the Norwegian newspaper Aftenposten.

My question is, how do you think Donald Trump would act as a president? Will he become more careful, more eager not to become a fiasco? Or would he carry on like does?

MR CARL: That’s the $64,000 question. I think there was definitely a school of thought as to whether kind of Trump’s behavior in the primaries had been more crazy like a fox or crazy, and I think there was honestly some of both. There were definitely some things that he did that looked crazy to a lot of the commentators that actually accomplished exactly what Donald Trump wanted to accomplish. And then I think there were times he just kind of lost it.

I think you see what Donald Trump is. I mean he is who he is. I don’t think you’re going to see a dramatic change in that. I think the question is ultimately, the presidency really is more than one person. It’s an entire staff. It’s a vice president, and I think Mike Pence is getting written about far too little because I think he can be quite significant. I think there’s a whole group of people. And I think the notion that Donald Trump as a singular force, as somebody who frankly seems to be a little bit more interested in being president than the actual details of governing, is going to sort of start huge sea changes just on a whim of U.S. policy, is overall not likely. He may through his kind of general temperament get us involved in some things that we’d rather not get involved with. He may also take a tougher line on certain things that we should be taking tougher lines on. So I think it’s hard to tell. I think that unpredictability about Trump is part of the thing that makes a lot of people nervous.

MR PONNURU: He’s 70 years old. He’s not going to change. He likes who he is. He has been rewarded for being who he is. I’m not sure anybody is going to be able to tell him now you need to change everything and be listened to. So if you like what you’re getting in this package then you’re going to vote for him, and if not, you won’t.

QUESTION: My name is Weifeng Ni from the BBC’s World Service.

How do you make of those immigrants who are showing support to Donald Trump? I have seen quite a lot of especially, you know, that group of Chinese immigrants showing support to Donald Trump. And they do not fall into the category of you know, whiter Americans, et cetera. How do you make of this phenomenon? Thank you.

MR CARL: That’s a great question. I’m really glad you asked that, because there’s a lot of frankly, I mean it’s not a secret at least to conservatives that the media in America is quite left wing overall, the so-called mainstream media, and they like to put certain frame around things, and for various reasons, I mean there’s certainly some reality to an element of tribal white identification for a certain group of voters around Trump. But you can also find a number of voters who do not answer to that description, many of whom are very enthusiastic about Trump, and myself, I live in California. I live in an area that’s about 40 percent Caucasian and 60 percent Other, and certainly when I went to the Republican state convention, there were plenty of very enthusiastic Trump supporters of all different hues.

I think for some people that personal style, that confidence, that sort of rhetoric is very appealing. He’s a very decisive, very Alpha kind of guy. I think also if you’re coming from a political system that is not necessarily the U.S. political system, that may be a more comfortable fit for you if you haven’t watched 15 or even 5 U.S. presidential candidates and sort of had a sense of how things are done here. Certainly, you can go watch very raucous parliamentary debates throughout Asia, for example, and many other places. So he may not stick out as much of an outlier. But he’s certainly a strong, decisive figure, and I think that does appeal to people beyond the kind of racial issues that I think while they’re certainly there, are also sometimes blown up to more than they are by a media that kind of has its own agenda to sort of push that line.

MR PONNURU: The press is yes, left wing; but the press also has a tendency, we all have a tendency to kind of erase complexity, to simplify these matters. I saw a poll recently which had Trump getting 14 percent of Hispanics. That’s a pretty disastrous number. It’s significantly worse than Romney’s apparent 27 percent of Hispanics in 2012. 14 percent of Hispanics in America is a lot of people. People are complicated, and there are going to be immigrants who just like the Republican positions on taxes, and the right to life, and there are going to be legal immigrants who resent illegal immigrants because they went through this whole complicated process, this arduous process, and they obeyed the rules, and they don’t like the fact that other people are flaunting those rules.

So I think overall, there are good reasons to think that the Republican party’s demographic problems with non-whites are going to get worse in this election, but you are always going to have Hispanics and gays and gay Hispanics who are for Donald Trump because it’s a huge country.

MR CARL: As part of that, just in my area, there is a gay Hispanic Donald Trump delegate who I know. There is an Indian American Stanford professor who I know who’s a Trump delegate. So it’s not all just this kind of cartoon caricature that the media paints it. But even I was surprised. I talked to this one person I knew, but I was surprised she was so enthusiastic about Trump. So I think he’s upending a lot of certainties.

QUESTION: My name is Varghese George. I write for an Indian newspaper called The Hindu.

The main criticism that conservatives have with the candidate, they said he’s not conservative enough. He has himself described in one of the debates that he’s a common sense conservative because he does not subscribe to conservative principles that are not working.

The question is, is conservatism how you say, is it becoming a dogma like communism became? It might sound very good in theory, but it’s not working and it is not popular.

MR PONNURU: Well, conservatism has always resisted a precise formal definition. This was William F. Buckley when he was, you know, he founded National Review and really founded modern American conservatism, and he was never really able to come up with one.

I would say that there are certain conservative dispositions that are rooted in a basic philosophy of what people are like and how they get along, and they include a preference for free markets, respect for tradition, that kind of thing. But the program that you used to apply those preferences has to change over time in response to changing circumstances. So 1980, while Reagan is elected, you’ve got a top tax rate of 70 percent, and a lot of people are paying the income tax, and you’ve got high inflation, and people are going into higher and higher tax brackets when they’re really staying in place in their real economic circumstances. At that point, getting that tax rate down from 70 is vitally important.

I do think that there has been a kind of calcification of a lot of conservative thought where the theory is it is just as important to get that top tax rate down from 39 percent as though it were 1979.

So that is I think kind of the way I view the dogmatic side of conservatism.

The most optimistic gloss I can put on Trump is that he has blown that up by showing that you just can’t have this message that is completely divorced from the context of the society you’re attempting to govern.

MR CARL: I’d echo a lot of what Ramesh said. I’d also point out that there were a lot of conservatives, myself included, who were actually quite critical of the party during particularly the Bush years in terms of deviations. I mean that not in some sort of theoretical way, but that kind of conservatism became defined as, and this just happens in politics. It’s the nature of politics which is ultimately tribalized. Whatever the Bush administration happened to be doing, well then various people are going to declare that it’s conservative, even if it really sort of broke from a type of small government, William F. Buckley type orthodoxy or at least theory of governing.

So I think in many ways that’s what the Tea Party movement was about, was an internal, in my view, a very healthy phenomenon on the right, again mischaracterized largely by the U.S. media, that was really challenging the way in which conservatism had become calcified in certain ways. And I think one of the problems with that is that we did get this divorce between what conservative policy people wanted to do and what politicians were. And Ramesh, I can’t remember whether this was on the record, so I’ll just say we were talking to a significant presidential candidate yesterday who observed from the 2016 cycle that if you were to put the 20 priorities for GOP voters on kind of a white board, and then you were to put the 20 priorities of lobbyists and what we call K Street on the white board, there would be almost no overlap between those two. Maybe just one or two things. And that the Republican office holders’ priorities looked a lot more like what was of interest to lobbyists rather than to voters. So I think in some ways that critique is overdue.

QUESTION: Thomas Gorguissia, Al Tahrir, Egypt.

My first question is regarding this if you consider it [inaudible], it’s up to you. That the GOP’s became or is becoming or will be the party of Trump instead of Trump being representative of GOP. Whether you agree or not, please explain to me.

The second question, the second part. As we know and it was published, the main, the wise guys of the foreign policy decided not to be with Trump. How do you explain that? If they are wise or not wise? If they are, if what’s going on with the foreign policy establishment regarding a GOP president if it’s coming, who is going to rely on whom to make these policies?

MR PONNURU: I have my own views on that, because that’s a world really that I think Jeremy knows better than I do.

MR CARL: I’ll take a shot. On the policy element, I think it’s a mixture of wise and less wise folks, and I think what is interesting is that there was a fair bit of breadth of ideological space between all the GOP foreign policy folks who weren’t too happy with Trump. I mean there were some neo-conservatives on there, there were some realists. I think there were a lot of people who just sort of felt that his kind of temperament was maybe going to be particularly unsuccessful in the field of international relations. That’s not unreasonable to think.

I do think that there are maybe some ways in which his toughness might actually be helpful in ways that I particularly think the Obama administration has not been as assertive about American prerogatives, but one can debate that.

I do think ultimately, look, if Trump becomes president, to some significant degree he’s going to shape what people think of us as the Republican party and what people think of as conservatism. Having said that, the level of resistance to him among kind of conservative policy types and even just whether it’s evangelicals or you name it, is an order of magnitude higher than anybody else. I mean we always have our fights in primaries and we kind of kiss and make up to varying degrees at the end, and maybe you don’t support the nominee but you’re not out trashing them. A lot of people have burned their boats on Donald Trump. They have landed and burned their ships and said we are not coming back, including many of our colleagues at National Review. I can’t really see that changing. So it could lead to a realignment. I think a lot of those folks are not going to find a home in a party of Trumpism. I am not a never-Trumper. I’m a sort of wait and see person. It’s not that I have any illusions about Donald Trump, but I also don’t have any illusion bout Hillary. But many of my colleagues are absolutely never, under any circumstances. And that’s not something we’ve ever seen before.

MR PONNURU: One more thought on the foreign policy hawkish conservatives. They think of, a lot of them are favoring her over him because they think she is more stable and less impulsive. They also think that her views are closer to theirs. And they don’t always think that her views are closer to theirs than Trump’s are. They think that her views are closer to theirs than Obama’s are. So they think that they are going to get a, what from their point of view is a better foreign policy under her than the one we’ve had the last eight years, let alone what you would get under President Trump.

MODERATOR: Next question?

QUESTION: Hi, thanks for doing this. Just two quick questions. David Brooks of La Jornada newspaper in Mexico.

The first one is an obvious one from a Mexican journalist, the overwhelming attack that’s been over the last year against Mexico in general terms. I don’t think we’ve ever seen this performance, and now it’s crystalized in the platform as well, although it’s kind of schizophrenic because we’re sort of praised in one part and then called one of the greatest threats on earth on the other one.

So just your comments on what you think about the focus on Mexico.

The second question is an internal political one. We’re trying to interpret what’s going on in this country. One thing that’s been surprising is that some prominent people have been using the F word -- fascism. And Robert Kaplan of the Brookings Institution recently in the New Yorker. It’s usually a word that’s used by the extreme left. This time it’s an establishment word. And just some sense of, I think some veteran GOP Senator actually used the word “brown shirts” just recently this week.

What do you make of that, and how real is--?

MR CARL: Good questions. I think in terms of the fascism bit, particularly in the media. And again, it’s not that Trump is not a little bit of a different type of character, but there was a fellow conservative journalist who sort of said every Republican presidential candidate is the next Hitler in the media. This one will be the first Hitler to not be able to call his daughter on Shabbat, the Sabbath, his daughter being an Orthodox Jew. I think that sort of crystallized, as much as Trump is kind of an excessive figure, how sometimes in my view the critique of him gets equally excessive as being just so far outside of anything that we could have ever seen before.

Certainly if you’re a student of 19th century political history, for example, in the U.S., or even the early 20thcentury, Donald Trump is mild and meek compared to some of the things. Not that we’ve had recently, but in our not so distant past in the U.S..

On the issue of Mexico, I think if you could administer truth serum to Donald Trump which would be a fascinating sort of thing to do just in general, I think he would probably acknowledge that the murders and rapists comment was not helpful and something that he could take, wishes that he could take back simply because I think he would like to make an argument for a wall, for a strong border policy, but that characterizing an entire demographic group, and he wasn’t really necessarily doing that, but at least he left himself open to that interpretation by being so rhetorically sloppy. But to do that in that way was not helpful for anything that was his actual goal. It might have been cathartic for some of his more extreme supporters out there, but not really useful.

But look, again, if he wins first of all I’d love to see him and President Fox kind of do a mano-a-mano, just given some of the things that went back and forth between them. But there’s going to be some alteration. I think if you could count on anything politically from a President Trump is that we will have a more strict immigration policy, and that’s going to have an effect on U.S.-Mexico relations. There’s no question. I think it’s hard to determine exactly what that effect would be until we see this campaign play out.

QUESTION: Ole Nyeng from Denmark once again.

Could you outline your ideas of how the Republican Party could adapt to the new mood among the conservative voters? Can you hear me?

MR PONNURU: I’ll repeat. He’s asking what our thoughts are on how the Republican Party should adapt to the new mood of conservative voters.

I think that the key thing is to take seriously the concerns of those voters. The foot knows best where the shoe pinches is a valid democratic maxim that Republicans have too often forgotten, and they start with what they’re interested in and tell you why you should be interested in it, rather than listening to their voters, figuring out what their concerns are, and then trying to come up with a conservative program rooted in our philosophy about how to address those concerns.

And in particular, I guess I would do two things. One can expand on this greatly and I have in various places. Then there’s immigration. I do think that if you pay attention to what the sentiment of conservative voters is, you would have to say one, there is no demand, there’s no popular demand for substantial increases in legal immigration, particularly low-skilled immigration. And two, that people are not going to trust Washington to enforce the immigration laws until it actually does enforce it at the border and at the work place. And only once that trust has been restored is it going to be possible to extend any kind of legal status to a lot of illegal immigrants. So I think it has to be sequential rather than comprehensive.

And second, beyond immigration I think there has to be a broader economic agenda. I think that there has to be some willingness to address issue like wage stagnation, the affordability of college, of health insurance. I think there are good conservative solutions to those issues, but if you start out by thinking those are things that liberals care about and our voters don’t, you’re not going to get there.

MR CARL: I’ll be very brief because I agree with Ramesh largely. I’d just add, I think there has been, even some National Review writers I think have made this mistake in kind of positing a dichotomy between a nationalism that Trump represents and conservatism. Do they need to intersect? But I consider myself a nationalist conservative. I’ve been long quite hawkish on immigration. I have some of the same economic concerns that Ramesh has alluded to. But I think how you do it and the sort of language you use is very important, and that’s been one of the things that’s been very dismaying to somebody like me about Trump because these are very sensitive issues in many cases, they’re very [frayed] issues, and therefore the way that we talk about them and the mood in which we talk about them really matters. So I think that’s something that we’ve got to pay attention to going forward.

MODERATOR: We’re going to close out with one additional question right here, so we can have some time for one-on-ones.

QUESTION: Hi, I’m Anna from Brazil. [Folha de Sao Paolo].

I’m just thinking about the Trump from the ‘90s who wasn’t very conservative at all. So I’m wondering how does his past positions contradict with his current right wing platform? And will this matter at all?

MR PONNURU: Well, his non-conservative past is certainly one of the things that have made conservatives suspicious and skeptical of him. They don’t trust his sincerity on a lot of these issues. But conservatives have accepted converts in the past who didn’t agree with them for their entire career. Mitt Romney, the previous nominee, was a pro-choice, self-identified moderate Republican who became a pro-life conservative Republican, and there were criticisms of him for that reason as well. But basically, we’ve had such a long practice at saying we accept converts that it ultimately wasn’t decisive. And then of course some of the things that he converted on turned out not to be all that important to conservative voters anyway.

I do think there’s a new precedent here in that Romney, for example, had some conservative views even when he was a pro-choice moderate and he’d done some conservative things. He was running on some conservative issues in his 1994 face against Ted Kennedy, for example. Whereas in the case of Trump, there’s no, there’s essentially no history previous to this presidential election establishing that he’s a conservative on anything, so I think that we overlooked the difference of degree that it was so big that it was really a difference in kind.

MR CARL: I’d just add to that, National Review, our publication we write for itself was founded by, many of the former founding editors were former Marxists. So people can see the light. Bill Buckley was a lifelong conservative, but guys like James Burnham was one of the leading Trotskyites in the entire world before he became converted to the side of truth and justice. So people can change. Obviously Trump’s record is thin.

I would go back and say, I mean I think there are genuine things that I would consider conservative maybe more nationalist conservative that Trump clearly believes. Law and order, you can go back to plenty of GOP platforms. I think Trump is not just pandering on law and order. Trump is a law and order guy. Now you can argue that the way he’s doing that is either effective or not effective or counter-productive or productive, but I think he genuinely believes that.

I think his sense of American greatness is genuine. I’ve heard even a lot of people who are quite skeptical of Trump say, you know, he really does sort of love America in this kind of naïve way, at least in their view and that’s probably true.

So at least attitudinally, I think there are a lot of things. I mean Trump is just not a guy who’s given to philosophical musings in the way that folks like Ramesh and I might be. But I think he certainly does have some, I think, fundamental instincts that are conservative. I just don’t think that those are in any way, he’s not in any way a comprehensive conservative that the conservative movement feels like they can just trust and bless, so that’s really what it comes down to.

MR PONNURU: Modern conservatism has had, not every conservatism has been equally devoted to small government, but it’s been a pretty important part of modern American conservatism and that is something that I just don’t think there’s a single bone in his body that believes in that. He just doesn’t care about that at all. You know, if you bring up the Constitution he tends to be glib and dismissive.

MODERATOR: I want to thank Ramesh and Jeremy for coming and briefing us today. We have about 15 minutes if any of you have one-on-one questions for them. Please feel free to come up. Otherwise, this is the end of the briefing. Thank you.

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