Hugh Hewitt is a good man. Given his reprising role as a CNN debate co-host, I did not bemoan his strict neutrality in the GOP presidential primary. Frankly, I wish that CNN had given him more airtime during the debates in which he served; there is something about a nationally prominent Republican grilling the GOP’s would-be Commanders-in-Chief that feels a lot better than when Wolf Blitzer or Dana Bash tries to do it. I am unfortunately not quite close enough with Hugh to call him a friend, but we are Twitter buddies, and he is always very generous with me. The night that Ted Cruz won the Iowa caucuses, I was flattered to be singled out by Hugh as a notable pro-Cruz online warrior.
— Hugh Hewitt (@hughhewitt) February 2, 2016
Throughout the primary process, Hugh was one of the most prominent proponents of a hardcore “will support the nominee whomever he/she is” position. Fair enough, I suppose; as someone who did not become avowedly #NeverTrump until early March, I can understand that. But only eight days ago, Erick wrote here about how Hugh appeared to change his mind and endorse the #FreeTheDelegates nuclear option on his syndicated radio show. Erick explained why this was a big deal, at the time:
Where I’m more likely than not to disagree with the party, Hewitt holds the party line more often than not. But even Hugh Hewitt is now saying the Republican delegates should replace Donald Trump as the nominee…
Hewitt is willing to go down with the ship if Republican delegates decide to scuttle the party by keeping Trump. But he at least recognizes the iceberg ahead.
It is precisely for that reason that I was very upset to see that Hugh had flipped back this morning, and is no longer endorsing that GOP delegates free themselves in Cleveland and reject the monstrously unfit for office orange-hued clown. You can read Hugh’s full explanation here, but the change in heart from only eight days ago boils down to what Hugh perceives as (1) pro-religious liberty remarks Trump delivered last weekend to the Faith & Freedom Coalition’s annual “Road to Majority” conference, and (2) Trump’s post-Orlando remarks as evincing “he understands the magnitude of the [radical Islam/jihadi] crisis.” He thinks that anti-Trump Republicans would be better served attempting to exert influence over Trump and pulling him closer to sanity than they would be in trying to stage a Cleveland coup.
Here is Hugh’s peroration:
For the good of the country, Republicans have to be clear about the binary choice in front of us, close ranks around Trump and encourage him to eschew the frivolous and move ahead with a serious message.
To be clear, I care a great deal about religious liberty (which is one of the reasons I cannot, in good conscience, vote for Gary Johnson this fall), and I care a great deal about taking the jihad seriously. But to impute a sincerely held pro-religious liberty belief into some remarks the “Two Corinthians“/”my little cracker“/”ban all Muslims”/”Jewish journalist ‘provoked‘ anti-Semitic pushback”/anti-North Carolina transgender law-citing narcissistic vulgarian delivered via teleprompter is, quite simply, to delude oneself. And to believe that Donald Trump, who mendaciously shills for the Code Pink nut jobs with the “Bush lied and people died” calumny, who brags about his ability to jam war crime orders down the throats of honorably serving military men, who rejects NATO and the post-World War II global order it symbolizes, who gets ripped on by former Defense Secretary (and Republican) Robert Gates for having no idea at all what he is doing, whose anti-ISIS battle plan amounts to sending in ExxonMobil to fetch some jihadi-held oil, and who laments the “false song of globalism” in order to promote a “fortress America” approach that would make Charles Lindbergh proud, has any intrinsic will or resolve to defeat the jihadi threat is exceedingly idealistic and not at all borne out by any evidence we have accumulated so far. Yes, border security is national security; but no, shouting “ban all Muslims!” a coherent anti-jihad game plan doth not make.
Here is Leon Wolf, over at RedState:
…Hewitt and the rest still do not get it. Trump is what he is. He will never be what you want him to be. This hope that he’s capable of becoming a respectable candidate is a fantasy that people are clinging to in spite of an increasing mountain of evidence that it will not happen and it’s just not capable of happening.
There is no general election “pivot” coming, people. Trump, the erstwhile reality TV star, is fundamentally incapable of serious political discourse, and also of taking his campaign seriously. Seriously, how much more of a track record do we need here? Trump is more at home writing for fringe conspiracist websites like InfoWars than he is leading the United States Armed Forces in a concerted effort to defeat the global jihad. Here was Erick, this morning:
Trump is to the left of the GOP on gun issues, transgender rights, and healthcare. He is on the fringe of conspiracy theorists on 9/11 trutherism, the President’s allegiance to Islam and ISIS, and whether Ted Cruz’s father helped assassinate John F. Kennedy.
Yes, I appreciate Trump’s teleprompter remarks to Faith & Freedom Coalition’s annual conference. Yes, I appreciate the fact that he condemns our hopelessly clueless president on his categorical inability to properly identify the enemy for who it is. But to ignore the man’s track record—and yes, what you see is what you get, at this point—and change one’s position based on what has happened over the past eight days is nothing short of delusional. Are we just going to forget about the whole Judge Curiel carnival act, and all its toxic racism? Or, for that matter, Trump’s astounding reaction to being called out by his own campaign for his demagoguery on Curiel? What about the recent polling that clearly shows the GOP is headed for electoral disaster this fall with such a catastrophically unfit man as Donald Trump at the top of the ticket? Are we really going to ignore all of this for a teleprompter speech and some remarks (properly) identifying the West’s 21st-century geopolitical enemy as the global jihad that is the peculiar offshoot of a genocidal radical Islamism?
I will not do so. And Hugh Hewitt and other influential conservative opinion makers should not do so, either. GOP delegates, nominate a qualified conservative by freeing yourselves in Cleveland and sparing us the November carnage that would otherwise promptly follow. The choice is necessarily only “binary,” as Hugh writes that it is, if you yourselves accept that narrative.