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Founder and Editor in Chief of the Weekly Standard, Bill Kristol, gave an exclusive interview on this week’s NRO’s War on Trump edition of the Harvard Lunch Club Political Podcast with hosts Todd Feinburg and your humble correspondent. Last week, Bill participated with 21 other distinguished conservatives in an issue of the National Review (a rival publication to the Weekly Standard), dedicated to criticizing Donald Trump’s status as a conservative or, indeed, as a worthwhile candidate for conservative voters. Having a deep interest in the subject myself (cf., my recent column in American Thinker) I was interested in hearing Bill’s take on the NR issue and on Donald Trump in general. To no surprise, we were not disappointed.
Bill Kristol began the interview by describing how the pundits have gone wrong in underestimating Trump.
I’ve been a skeptic about Donald Trump but he’s proven me wrong so far. I guess I remain a skeptic, I just don’t think he’ll be the Republican nominee. I think there are too many objections to him – legitimate objections by Republicans both in terms of character and … soundness in general. And then also is he really a conservative? But as I say I thought he would fall apart earlier and he’s clearly in it to stay. Those of us who’ve claimed we could say what was going to happen in this last year have certainly been wrong more often than not.
Kristol gave an interesting diagnosis of why the Trump phenomena proved to be so great a surprise – suggesting that the Obama Presidency could take a lot of the blame (or the credit):
I guess the degree of disillusionment with the political class including the Republican political leadership, the populism out there, the sense of the ineffectuality of Republicans [is responsible for Trump’s appeal]. I think Obama really did more damage in a way [to what] Republicans and conservatives face in pursuing normal political and Constitutional purposes with frankly normal political leaders. And so, there’s a real appetite for someone like Trump who has a certain contempt for all these normal, political means and who presents himself as a Republican version of a kind of strongman.
Obama used extra-Constitutional means and Trump seems to have no particular concern about limited government or Constitutional government and not a deep attachment I would even say to the rule of law. I think that’s an unfortunate effect of Obama on a fair number of Republicans and conservatives.
In addition, Kristol discusses with us various other angles on the current political landscape, including why Jeb Bush was destined to fail, how the conservative movement needs to be “updated and revised and reformed” and how Trump really did “hit a chord” on the national frustration over the illegal immigration issue, regarding which Kristol claims to be a hawk. He also gives us some insight on the origin of the anti-Trump National Review issue and who did (and who probably did not) instigate it.
Finally, the talk turns to Hillary: Would Bill Kristol support Hillary Clinton over Trump if it came to that? His answer on that was really interesting, insightful and funny … revealing even!
Here’s where you can go to hear it.