SPRINGFIELD, Ill., Aug. 11, 2016 — Instead of aiming at Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton, conservative columnist Bret Stephens is publicly attacking conservative commentator Sean Hannity.
That’s right. The brightest newspaper in all of conservatism, the Wall Street Journal, has a columnist waging war on one of conservatism’s best radio spokesmen ever.
To quote Vince Lombardi, who knew a thing or five about winning, “What the hell is going on around here?”
Bret Stephens of the Wall Street Journal is part of the #NeverTrump crowd. Fox News Channel’s Sean Hannity is one of Donald Trump’s staunchest supporters. Their conflict stems from Stephens belief that Trump would be the death knell for conservatism.
Stephens believes that, if Trump were to lose in a Barry Goldwater-type landslide, it would discredit the Trump movement and force Republicans to nominate a traditional conservative like Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, or Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker who are all closer to traditional Republicanism than Trump.
With the presidential election only three months away, conservative Republicans continue to act like Charlie Brown trying to kick the football. They are determined to lose an election to the most beatable nominee the Democrats could have offered.
With Hillary Clinton poised to completely ruin America, conservative Republicans are locked in a circular firing squad. As Col. Allen West recently noted, in circular firing squads, “everybody dies.” Unfortunately for conservatives everywhere, the conflict between Stephens and Hannity has deteriorated from a battle of ideas to name-calling worthy of liberal Democrats.
Stephens and Hannity must be sent to neutral corners. Neither man is blameless, but their sins are far from equal.
Stephens is right on policy, if one describes “right” as what real conservatism must be. If the platinum standard for policy intellect comes from Dr. Charles Krauthammer and Dr. Thomas Sowell, then the Wall Street Journal editorial pages are at least gold. Trump was against the Iraq War and blames free trade deals such as NAFTA for hurting our economy. Anyone backing Trump for president is accepting positions straight out of the Pat Buchanan platform. That is not conservatism. As for Stephens, few people have been as dogged about pursuing the truth about Benghazi as he has.
Stephens is also right that Hannity’s attacks on House Speaker Paul Ryan are misdirected. Ryan is an intellectual heavyweight, a policy genius and a fantastic representative of what the face of the GOP should look like.
Hannity and many Trump supporters believe the GOP Congress betrayed them by not standing up to President Barack Obama.
Stephens is correct when he incredulously asks what Congress could have done differently. Should they have had Obama arrested?
The sad reality is that there was no way the first black president was going to be impeached. Obama was above the law solely because of his race, and he acted accordingly. To paraphrase Huey Long, Obama could have been caught with a dead girl and a live boy in his bed, and the media would have found a way to blame George W. Bush for that.
Obama had absolute power. Ryan and company did everything they could to block Obama as best as they could whenever they could.
Where Stephens goes horribly wrong is by taking serious policy disagreements among bright people and getting personal. Hannity expressed frustration with Ryan, but Stephens resorted to school playground childishness toward Hannity and his supporters.
He used language that would be appropriate if leveled at Nancy Pelosi and Debbie Wasserman-Schultz, a clear violation of Ronald Reagan’s 11th Commandment.
Stephens referred to Hannity as a “media munchkin” who was either “stupid or dishonest.” He even compared Hannity to Al Sharpton. The last time anyone checked, Hannity did not start anti-Semitic riots that led to the murder of an innocent Jew.
Hannity also pays his taxes. Stephens totally crossed the line, and his rhetoric is beneath the dignity of the Wall Street Journal. Hannity is not some media hack or radio blowhard. Like Stephens, Hannity is also a sober policy guy who frequently offers serious solutions to vexing problems.
Many conservative politicians have praised his penny plan as a way to deal with the spiraling national debt.
After being on the receiving end of undeserved insults, Hannity fired back by calling Stephens dumb. Stephens then returned equal fire. This was certainly not a debate between Abraham Lincoln and Stephen Douglas or even William F. Buckley on “Firing Line.” Hannity was goaded into a debate that is beneath him, but it was Stephens who clearly started this useless nonsense.
Most importantly, it is Stephens who is fundamentally wrong on the biggest issue tearing conservatism apart.
A Donald Trump defeat would not be good for conservatism. It would be the death of conservatism. Hillary Clinton is the worst human being to ever seek the White House. She despises anyone who disagrees with her and would use presidential power in a way that would make Lord Acton blush. Reagan used to say that supporting Democrats was like feeding your friend to the alligator in the hope that he eats you last. When Stephens writes his first column critical of President Hillary Clinton, she will continue President Barack Obama’s tradition of using the IRS to targeting political enemies. Expect Stephens to be audited.
Hillary Clinton is as corrupt as it gets. She left people to die in Benghazi and imprisoned an innocent film-maker. She supported the disastrous Iran deal that Stephens hates and Trump vows to rip up. She compromised national security by using a private server that has probably been repeatedly hacked. She is probably already at risk for being blackmailed by foreign governments for this. On top of all of that, her domestic policies are the antithesis of everything the Wall Street Journal stands for. Trump is a capitalist. Hillary is a statist.
Stephens and all Never Trump conservatives should look to Steve Moore of the Heritage Foundation as their role model. This intellectual titan comes from the same Wall Street Journal as Stephens. Moore is an ardent supporter of free trade, but he is also a top economic adviser to Trump. He knows Hillary must be defeated, so he is working with Trump from inside rather than trying to blow him up from outside. Moore understands the Reagan maxim that Stephens at this moment clearly does not. An 80 percent friend is not an enemy. For traditional conservative purists, vice presidential nominee Mike Pence is as solid and doctrinaire an ideological conservative as it gets.
Last, Stephens may never get his chance to fix America if Clinton wins. Hillary Clinton will import so many illegal immigrants and Islamist refugees that Republicans may never win another election ever again. It is difficult to revitalize a Republican Party when a large portion of the country detests American values. Just because Jimmy Carter brought about Ronald Reagan does not mean we gamble on Hillary Clinton. The Carter years were painful, and Clinton would be far more destructive than Obama, much less Carter. Stephens is waxing poetic about the long game, but Hannity understands that America and the world are burning right now.
Defeating Hillary Clinton is vital to save America as we know it from those who wish to make America a failed European social welfare state turned Islamist caliphate.
The solution to this conflict between conservatives supporting Trump and those opposing him is simple. Hannity offered the advice to Trump, and it was sound advice. Every Republican and conservative must stay on message. Trump must spend every waking minute excoriating the failed records of Obama and Clinton and contrast that with his own successful record.
Hannity needs to move on from Paul Ryan, who won his primary re-election in a landslide. The voters spoke. Ryan won. That battle is over. Hannity needs to focus every moment of this election on Obama and Clinton. Hannity’s history shows him to be a disciplined man who clearly gets this.
Conversely, Stephens needs to stop griping about Trump. He also won his primary. That battle is over. Focus every moment on Obama and Clinton. Stop bashing Hannity, who has dedicated his life to spreading conservatism. Stop the childish insults. Stop bashing Trump and focus on Obama and Hillary. If Stephens is unable or unwilling to do this, then he needs to just stop period.
You don’t hoist a Lombardi Trophy by armchair quarterbacking against your own quarterback. You don’t advance a movement by losing an election.
Conservative on conservative violence must stop before President Hillary Clinton removes Sean Hannity from the airwaves and Bret Stephens from his column. She can do this. She will try to do this. She must be stopped. So must this conservative circular firing squad. Now.