National Review contributing editor Andrew McCarthy says that even though President Donald Trump’s behavior can be at times maddening, we’re still better off with Trump rather than Hillary Clinton.
“While I was not a Trump person in the primaries, I was a Cruz person, I was always Never Hillary,” McCarthy said. “Even though I find some President Trump’s antics maddening, I still think we’re better off than had we been – by far – if Hillary Clinton were president.”
McCarthy is in Wisconsin to speak Wednesday evening at the Fall Forum at Wisconsin Lutheran College, sponsored by the Wisconsin Institute for Law & Liberty (WILL) and the National Review Institute. Rick Graber, President, Bradley Foundation, will be the moderator as a panel discusses “the most pressing public policy questions being debated in Washington D.C., Madison, and throughout our great nation.” Joining McCarthy on the panel is WILL President Rick Esenberg; Karla Jones, Director of the American Legislative Exchange Council’s Federalism and International Relations Task Force; and Ryan Owens, a professor of Political Science at UW-Madison.
McCarthy cautioned Trump supporters about talking about thwarting the president’s agenda.
“When they talk about moving the president’s agenda, I think they ought to bear in mind he is a president that won with a minority of the popular vote,” McCarthy said. “He won fair and square. But more people, substantially more people, voted against him, supported the other candidate.”
“Even within the tens of millions of people who voted for him, a goodly slice of them were more antagonistic towards his opponent than enthusiastic about him,” McCarthy said.
But McCarthy said conservatives were better off because they were not enthusiastic backers of Trump during the primaries, so they don’t “own” him.
“So I think we do what we’ve been doing, which is support him when does the right things and try to encourage him to do the right things,” McCarthy said. “And we can feel perfectly free to oppose him when he does, you know, when he strays.”
“I haven’t found life under Trump difficult at all from that regard,” McCarthy said. “I’m sure I might feel differently about it if I held elective office, because that’s when you have the complications of party discipline, but that’s not my problem so I haven’t found it too difficult.”
McCarthy said the Bowe Bergdahl case was an example of how Trump could be so frustrating. Bergdahl was the soldier who deserted his post in Afghanistan in 2009 and spent five years with the Taliban before being released as part of a controversial exchange for five members of the Taliban from Guantanamo Bay. Bergdahl was given a dishonorable discharge and a fine for deserting his post, not the prison sentence requested by prosecution.
McCarthy, a former federal prosecutor in New York, believes that Trump’s comments on the case caused the judge to be so lenient.
“The court had actually ruled in favor of the government, the executive branch and ultimately Trump when the defense moved to get the case thrown out on the grounds that candidate Trump’s demagogic remarks on the campaign trail were indicative of unlawful command influence,” McCarthy said.
The judge had indicated that the issue would be different if Trump had made the remarks while President of the United States, McCarthy said, so it was a clear warning to the Trump Administration not to make similar statements about the case.
“And yet, knowing that, he comes out and gratuitously reaffirms what he said on the campaign trail,” McCarthy said.
The judge was put in a bad spot by Trump’s actions. “And then, naturally, the judge turns around and gives the guy, who should have gotten some significant prison sentence, no jail time,” McCarthy said. “And I’m convinced that a large part of why he did that was because he was rightfully afraid that any legitimate jail sentence would be overturned on appeal.”
“It’s not just a situation where Trump did something that was the wrong thing,” McCarthy said. “It was situation where did something that was the wrong thing after he had been warned in no uncertain terms not to do what he did. That’s why we find him so frustrating.”
McCarthy said that similar behavior by Trump is why there is now a special counsel looking into collusion between the Trump campaign and the Russian government. He said Trump should’ve removed former FBI Director James Comey at the beginning of his administration rather than waiting because then it would have been perceived as the new administration cleaning house. After that point, the removal of Comey was bound to raise suspicions that it was interference in the investigation.
“But the last thing to do was to fire Comey the way he fired him,” McCarthy said. “He has the Justice Department do this memo which turns out not to be the real reason that he was fired. Then when the bad publicity starts, he tries, after saying that he relied on the recommendations of the Justice Department, to say, ‘No, no, no, it was my decision.'”
McCarthy said having Russian diplomats at the White House and telling them that the pressure of the investigation had been released with Comey’s firing was “colossally stupid.”
“I was against the special counsel, and I still think the Justice Department didn’t comply with the regulation,” McCarthy said. “But Trump created a situation where the pressure was ratcheted up on the Justice Department to do what was done.”
McCarthy said that the charges that have been brought in the investigation show that there is no evidence of collusion between the high levels of the Trump campaign and the Russian government. “And the evidence of the collusion they have is not a crime,” McCarthy said.
“I’ve always thought from the beginning of this that collusion may make for a very effective political narrative but as law enforcement it’s nonsense,” McCarthy said. “Because prosecutors don’t care about collusion, they care about conspiracy.”
“What prosecutors focus on is if there is a conspiracy to violate the law,” McCarthy said. “I don’t think Mueller’s got that.”
McCarthy said that in the plea deal with Trump campaign associate George Papadopoulos there is, “collusion pouring off of every page.”
“And yet, what does he have Papadopoulos plead guilty to? He pleads guilty to a process crime of lying to an FBI agent,” McCarthy said.
The forum begins with hors d’oeuvres at 5:30 PM, and the panel discussion is at 6:30 PM. You can register online to attend. The cost is $10.