A Response to Jonah Goldberg on His Mistaken Claim of My Pauline Conversions on the Road to a Trump Presidency

 

TrumpMy friend Jonah Goldberg has written a column entitled “Conservative Purists Are Capitulating with Support of Trump.” In this piece, Jonah goes after me and Stephen Moore for allegedly giving up our free-market principles for what he calls “purely consequentialist reasons.” I am not sure of the full meaning of this phrase, but it sounds like we’ve changed our beliefs because Trump is the leading candidate in the GOP presidential race.

Jonah is an old and valued friend, and I respect and admire him enormously. In fact, I wish I could write as well as he does — even when he comes after me. But I want to set the record straight on a number of points where I think Jonah gets it wrong.

First, Steve Moore and I continue to oppose Donald Trump’s trade policies. Even if his 45 percent tariff threat on China is simply a negotiating card, as Trump told me in recent interviews, we still think that’s the wrong way to go.

Speaking for myself, I believe China is a major trade violator. The Chinese break all the rules. They counterfeit our goods, steal our international property rights, and cyber-hack our industries and government. Something must be done about it.

But a 45 percent tariff would be a major tax on American consumers and businesses. It would probably do more damage to the US economy than to China’s.

Now, I think we need a very strong US president to enforce current trading laws between the US, China, and the World Trade Organization. And perhaps some targeted economic sanctions on Chinese companies could work. For example, the US has decided to sanction Chinese telecom giant ZTE for trade violations with Iran. This is a more precise response to trade violations than a 45 percent tax.

Trump may well have the presidential leadership skills to solve the China problem without resorting to economy-wrecking tariffs. But at the moment Steve Moore and I disagree with him on this topic.

Second, Jonah argues that I have moved markedly in Trump’s direction on immigration. Here are the facts: I wrote a piece in mid-December where I announced a much tougher position on immigration — a big change in my thinking. But this had nothing to do with Trump. It was all about the war against ISIS.

The full title: “I’ve Changed. This Is War. Seal the Borders. Stop the Visas.” I argued for a wartime moratorium on new visas and new immigrants because of the substantial danger of ISIS terrorists infiltrating our system. The piece was written just after the horrific attacks in Paris and San Bernardino. I argued that until FBI director James Comey gives a green light to new visas, and not until we completely reform the vetting process for new foreign visitors, that the borders should be sealed.

War brought me to this position. My only mention of Trump was when I disagreed with him for singling out Muslims. My proposal was not based on religion, but on the threat of ISIS infiltration into the United States. There was nothing “consequentialist” about it.

Finally, I have for many months endorsed Trump’s tax-cut plan. In particular, I like his business-tax-cut strategy, which includes a 15 percent rate for large C-corps and small S-corps along with easier repatriation and cash-expensing write-offs for new business investment. I think it’s an excellent plan that would substantially grow the American economy and bring trillions of dollars in overseas capital back to the U.S., which in turn would foster millions of new jobs and faster growth.

What’s more, a number of think tanks believe the biggest beneficiaries of a significant corporate tax cut would be middle- and lower-middle-income wage earners. They, by the way, have not had a raise since 2000, which is probably why they’re opposed to trade deals, and illegal immigrants too.

In the Michigan Republican primary exit poll, 33 percent said trade expansion would create more US jobs while 54 percent said it would take away US jobs. But I prefer an economic-growth solution to this middle-class angst, not a protectionist program. And I think Trump’s business-tax-cut package would lessen trade fears by providing wage earners with a significant pay boost.

So, yes. I have endorsed Trump’s tax-cut plan.

On the other hand, I have not endorsed any GOP candidate. As a commentator on this race, I think it would be inappropriate to do so at this time.

So, in answer to my friend Jonah Goldberg, I believe I am sticking to my pro-growth, supply-side strategies of lower tax rates and free-trade. Regarding immigration, where I have changed my view, that’s all about the war against ISIS.

I want to assure my friend Jonah that I have not experienced any “Pauline conversions on the road to a Trump presidency.”

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  1. RyanM Member
    RyanM
    @RyanM

    I agree with your last paragraph, as Paul at least converted to something good.  As for your support of Trump, Larry, it renders me unable to take you seriously in other regards; the arguments you made on the Ricochet podcast were self-contradictory and seemingly opportunistic.  I hope, along the lines of what Jonah has said, that this is a passing fad for so many conservatives I used to respect.

    • #1
  2. Sash Member
    Sash
    @Sash

    So, yes. I have endorsed Trump’s tax-cut plan.

    On the other hand, I have not endorsed any GOP candidate. As a commentator on this race, I think it would be inappropriate to do so at this time.


    A person of your standing should be very careful saying anything good about Trump, because, he counts his own business failures as the kind of winning we can expect.  Anything that can be spun, will be spun.

    I am so ashamed of America and their lack of understanding what Trump is about.  I had no idea we had so many dupes in our party.

    It also makes me question ever listening to a word some of them have ever said.  If they can’t see this obvious con man for what he is, they certainly have no business being on any talk show, they know nothing.

    • #2
  3. Grosseteste Thatcher
    Grosseteste
    @Grosseteste

    I really appreciate your response here, thank you.

    • #3
  4. A-Squared Inactive
    A-Squared
    @ASquared

    I’m totally out of the loop.  I’ve been seeing numerous Club For Growth ads attacking Trump, I didn’t realize Stephen Moore was no longer with them.

    As for Mr. Kudlow, I’ve listened to his arguments for Trump on some of the podcast, and while far from convincing, they have given me some comfort that Trump won’t be the horrendous President I fear he will be.

    Trump’s tax plan is great, but it has no chance of being implemented, so it shouldn’t matter for much.  If you read the health care plan from his website, it seems like a decent enough plan, but it doesn’t match what he’s said in public about endorsing the individual mandate.

    I accept that Mr. Kudlow knows Trump far better than I ever will, but I believe the real Trump is one that wants to sue newspapers, ban assault weapons, and use the government to manage the economy including forcing people to buy products the government thinks they should have.

    Even I didn’t, I think bragging about the size of your genitalia and insulting anyone that disagrees with you are character traits I think a US President should have, however useful those traits are in modern business.

    • #4
  5. Tennessee Patriot Member
    Tennessee Patriot
    @TennesseePatriot

    You are playing with fire and should not be seen supporting Trump or giving him credence. He is a liberal and is anti- 1st Amendment, among other grave shortcomings. (Such as, should we have a vulgarian as president whom you would not let your children watch on TV?)

    • #5
  6. RyanM Member
    RyanM
    @RyanM

    Tennessee Patriot:You are playing with fire and should not be seen supporting Trump or giving him credence. He is a liberal and is anti- 1st Amendment, among other grave shortcomings. (Such as, should we have a vulgarian as president whom you would not let your children watch on TV?)

    As I see it, there are 4 types of trump supporters, with some overlap.  There are the poor angry neglected, who feel that they have nothing to lose (and are likely mistaken about that, as many Russians learned in 1914).  There are the wealthy elite, who feel as if they can afford the gamble, and are speculating opportunistically in order to get in good with an unhinged madman who promises big payoffs (this is Larry Kudlow, it seems).  There are the undereducated or willfully ignorant who actually buy the snake-oil and think that “make american great again” actually means something tangible (these are the nice people we all know, but who none of us can convince).  Lastly, there are the people who are actually convinced that the GOP is satan-incarnate and believe that it needs to be burned to the ground (they know Trump is a con-man, but relish the thought of him taking others down with him).

    All 4 types of people are propelling Trump and are going to be the death of this formerly-great country.  No, I do not find it amusing.  Type 2 – sorry Larry – makes me especially sick, as this is the very sort of person that Trump (the myth, not the man) is purportedly out to stop.  They love snake-oil salesmen, because they want to get in on the act.

    • #6
  7. A-Squared Inactive
    A-Squared
    @ASquared

    RyanM: As I see it, there are 4 types of trump supporters, with some overlap.

    I see a fifth type, people who want a rich outsider who can’t be bought that will do what is right for the country and believe Trump is that person.

    I don’t think he is that person, he’s been far deeply ingrained in crony capitalism his entire career to be that person for me, but the point is, I’m not convinced every Trump supporter falls into your four buckets.

    Having said that, far too many Trump supporters openly fall into your fourth bucket for my comfort.

    • #7
  8. BThompson Inactive
    BThompson
    @BThompson

    Any so called conservative that ultimately backs Trump is dead to me.

    • #8
  9. Paul A. Rahe Contributor
    Paul A. Rahe
    @PaulARahe

    There is a danger here, and I have fallen prey to it on occasion myself. It is called wishful thinking. Maybe, just maybe, Trump is better than we fear. But there are things about him that are apt to be worse than we now know. What we do know is bad enough.

    • #9
  10. BrentB67 Inactive
    BrentB67
    @BrentB67

    Very well written article.

    • #10
  11. TKC1101 Inactive
    TKC1101
    @TKC1101

    Mr Kudlow, you continue to have my respect. I do hope you use your influence to advise Mr Trump should he attain the White House.

    It seems  Mr Goldberg is becoming one of his usual parodies I enjoy.

    • #11
  12. TKC1101 Inactive
    TKC1101
    @TKC1101

    BThompson: Any so called conservative that ultimately backs Trymp is dead to me

    There was this movie with the line “I see dead people”…..

    • #12
  13. TKC1101 Inactive
    TKC1101
    @TKC1101

    RyanM: As I see it, there are 4 types of trump supporters, with some overlap

    I suggest you read some Oscar Wilde.

    “There are only two kinds of people in the world. Those who divide people into two types and those who do not.”

    • #13
  14. A-Squared Inactive
    A-Squared
    @ASquared

    TKC1101:I suggest you read some Oscar Wilde.

    “There are only two kinds of people in the world. Those who divide people into two types and those who do not.”

    Is that actually a Wilde quote.  A quick google search didn’t return a hit that indicated it was, but I didn’t persist because I found this quote

    There are two types of people in this world: people who think the government is looking out for their best interest & people who think.

    There-are-two-types-of-people-in-this-world-people-who-think-the-government

    My problem is, far too many Trump supporters seem to think he will make government look out for you.

    • #14
  15. Flizzo Stizzo Member
    Flizzo Stizzo
    @FlizzoStizzo

    TKC1101:

    RyanM: As I see it, there are 4 types of trump supporters, with some overlap

    I suggest you read some Oscar Wilde.

    “There are only two kinds of people in the world. Those who divide people into two types and those who do not.”

    The Picture of Dorian Gray is a good one.

    • #15
  16. Pencilvania Inactive
    Pencilvania
    @Pencilvania

    Thanks for a well-written and tempered response, Mr. Kudlow.

    • #16
  17. Z in MT Member
    Z in MT
    @ZinMT

    A-Squared – your fifth type is type 3.

    • #17
  18. Z in MT Member
    Z in MT
    @ZinMT

    Larry Kudlow: On the other hand, I have not endorsed any GOP candidate.

    You could have fooled me.

    • #18
  19. Nick Stuart Inactive
    Nick Stuart
    @NickStuart

    Anyone who seriously thinks Trump would be worse for the country should vote for Hillary Clinton.

    • #19
  20. Jim Kearney Contributor
    Jim Kearney
    @JimKearney

    Larry Kudlow has the mix of independence and support which Trump could find helpful in a Secretary of the Treasury. Still, I can see where The Donald might want to deny those forthcoming corporate tax cuts to any business which moves a significant number of jobs abroad.

    Strange of Jonah to reference purists. That’s been NR’s brand identity from it’s founding until the night before last, when Trump called them “a bunch of eggheads.”

    Hey, any publicity is good, right? Perhaps the one time journal of influence should embrace the insult and do a cover with Rich, Jonah, Mona, etc.’s portraits Photoshopped onto a carton of eggs. Donald Trump called us eggheads! We embrace it!

    Hope they’re also readying a white flag cover, and not planning to stand athwart a Republican victory in November. Sins of impurity are forgivable. President Hillary isn’t.

    • #20
  21. RyanM Member
    RyanM
    @RyanM

    A-Squared:

    RyanM: As I see it, there are 4 types of trump supporters, with some overlap.

    I see a fifth type, people who want a rich outsider who can’t be bought that will do what is right for the country and believe Trump is that person.

    I don’t think he is that person, he’s been far deeply ingrained in crony capitalism his entire career to be that person for me, but the point is, I’m not convinced every Trump supporter falls into your four buckets.

    Having said that, far too many Trump supporters openly fall into your fourth bucket for my comfort.

    I’ve avoided mentioning that type because I cannot comprehend a rational person coming to that conclusion.  There are people I know and respect who have bought into similar cons; but it does not speak well for them.

    • #21
  22. Rodin Member
    Rodin
    @Rodin

    Two things can be equally true: (1) Kudlow agrees with Trump on taxes, believes that Trump probably would not be a disaster as President, and does not endorse him, and (2) the first two phrases in (1) will be seen/spun as an endorsement. The fear of #NeverTrump is that only a highly disciplined and concerted effort will avoid a Trump nomination. In that context an intellectually honest Kudlow is unhelpful as the only way that #NeverTrump succeeds is to bring as much oppositional energy to bear to stop Trump’s momentum. Intellectual honesty is a leak in the dike.

    I find Trump not credible, so my problem is less with what he says he would do (libel law revision excepted) than my expectation that I have no idea what he would actually do. That, and “limited government” does not appear to be a phrase in his verbal toolkit.

    • #22
  23. Saint Augustine Member
    Saint Augustine
    @SaintAugustine

    RyanM:I agree with your last paragraph, as Paul at least converted to something good. As for your support of Trump, Larry, it renders me unable to take you seriously in other regards; the arguments you made on the Ricochet podcast were self-contradictory and seemingly opportunistic. I hope, along the lines of what Jonah has said, that this is a passing fad for so many conservatives I used to respect.

    Has Kudlow supported Trump?  It seems to me he’s supported him in some respects, opposed him in others, and remained neutral overall.  I’ve done the first two of those things myself.

    I don’t think there has been a Pauline conversion or any other sort.

    Undue optimism about Trump?  Maybe so.  But even there I read Kudlow as an economist very charitably.  Endorsement of one policy and opposition to another, both in his area of expertise, and silence on all else.

    Is silence on all else appropriate at this dark hour?  On this point I tend to think Mr. Kudlow may indeed have erred; it is not the time to not oppose Trump–even if his economic policy contains a lot of good.

    • #23
  24. Pencilvania Inactive
    Pencilvania
    @Pencilvania

    If I remember correctly Larry said in the flagship a few weeks ago that as a member of an organization that includes himself, Rudi G. & Art Laffer, they consult & advise candidates but do not do formal endorsements.

    • #24
  25. SpiritO'78 Inactive
    SpiritO'78
    @SpiritO78

    Paul A. Rahe:There is a danger here, and I have fallen prey to it on occasion myself. It is called wishful thinking. Maybe, just maybe, Trump is better than we fear. But there are things about him that are apt to be worse than we now know. What we do know is bad enough.

    Well said Paul. Trump may in fact surround himself with veteran diplomats and Conservative thinkers. The danger is that he doesn’t; that could mean anything.

    • #25
  26. RyanM Member
    RyanM
    @RyanM

    Pencilvania:If I remember correctly Larry said in the flagship a few weeks ago that as a member of an organization that includes himself, Rudi G. & Art Laffer, they consult & advise candidates but do not do formal endorsements.

    True, it was about as formal an endorsement a person could give while saying that he doesn’t endorse…

    But that’s not what I disliked about it.  The praise of Trump was almost an exact parallel of what many liberals said about Obama in 2008.  That praise always seemed to ring about as hollow, like someone who listened to a speech with chills running down his leg, but retained…  well, what was there to be retained?

    “So what do you like about Trump’s policy proposals do you like?”

    “I love what he says about making America great again; that’s exactly what we need to do, we need to make America great.  And the wall, he’s right about the wall, it needs to be built.”

    etc… etc…

    From someone being interviewed on a late-night gag program like “jaywalking,” that’s fine.  But this is someone who asks us to believe he knows what he’s saying.  Worse, he’s someone people actually listen to.  Listening to him talk about Trump, what I heard was a guy pushing for a job.  There’s nothing wrong with that, but at best, that puts him on the exact same plane as any other non pundit job-seeker.  At worst, I question his motivations and wonder what else he wouldn’t tell people in order to get ahead.

    • #26
  27. The Cloaked Gaijin Member
    The Cloaked Gaijin
    @TheCloakedGaijin

    Larry Kudlow:I have moved markedly in Trump’s direction on immigration. Here are the facts: I wrote a piece in mid-December where I announced a much tougher position on immigration — a big change in my thinking. But this had nothing to do with Trump. It was all about the war against ISIS.  The full title: “I’ve Changed. This Is War. Seal the Borders. Stop the Visas.” I argued for a wartime moratorium on new visas and new immigrants because of the substantial danger of ISIS terrorists infiltrating our system…

    I think there many, many other reasons to be very skeptical of various forms of immigration.  I hope you will keep thinking about the issue from all angles.

    You do say that the corporate income rate is also a piece of the puzzle.  However, that is something that most immigration skeptics tend to ignore or forget about.

    I defended you against Jonah, Larry.  (And that goes against my usual instinct as Jonah is usually funnier.)  Glad you guys are still friends.

    http://ricochet.com/jonah-goldberg-article-conservatives-capitulate-to-trump-but-doesnt-that-also-mean-that-anti-trump-conservatives-capitulate-to-hillary/

    • #27
  28. Dr.Guido Member
    Dr.Guido
    @DrGuido

    I’ve been a Financial Advisor since 1975. We’ve never met but I would doubt that you’ve got a bigger admirer than I….and I do not understand the embrace of Trump. He’s been a 1 man show in his business for also almost 40 years. What about THAT creates the skill set that, for example, a Reagan developed as a union head and then as Governor? I’m delighted you disagree on trade and the threat of a Smoot-Hawley replay borders on the catastrophic but his tax plan does not add up and his unwillingness and/or inability to discuss entitlements with anything more specific than’Trust me…it’s gonna happen”  is right there with his Mexico will-build-the-wall fantasy. His crude, loutish, nasty, mean-spirited bully-boy tactics are also ‘off-putting’ to be kind…and have we not had enough Presidential genitalia stories? Really? In a Nation of 325Million to think we’ve been reduced to The Donald vs. The Wannabe Socialists is might depressing…(Psst–someone PLEASE tell him what the Nuclear TRIAD is—he wants to be CinC !!)

    • #28
  29. Bob Williamson Member
    Bob Williamson
    @

    During this simultaneously silly and frightening election season, I have frequently been gobsmacked at the lengths to which people will go to excuse the inexcusable.

    For example, Mr Trump bloviates about setting 45% tariffs on Chinese exports. When the inevitable firestorm ensues, Mr. Kudlow defends him by saying that Mr. Trump told him that he was only using the threat for negotiating leverage. And Mr. Trump has himself said much the same thing in his own defense.

    But wait a minute. Does Mr. Trump think there are no members of the Chinese government who speak English? Because he and Mr. Kudlow have just destroyed any “leverage” he might have hoped to exercise by publicly announcing that it was all just a bluff, an empty threat!

    Mr. Trump claims to be a terrific negotiator. But he reminds me of my granddaughter at the age of 5, who when she played cards with me, kept showing me her hand. I never took advantage. Perhaps Mr. Trump thinks the Chinese won’t either.

    • #29
  30. Red Fish, Blue Fish Inactive
    Red Fish, Blue Fish
    @RedFishBlueFish

    Bob Williamson: But wait a minute. Does Mr. Trump think there are no members of the Chinese government who speak English? Because he and Mr. Kudlow have just destroyed any “leverage” he might have hoped to exercise by publicly announcing that it was all just a bluff, an empty threat!

    He is not currently negotiating with the Chinese.  He is selling his character to the American public so he lets them in on the real strategy.  When it comes to China negotiations, the actual threat will be something different and credible, something he would follow through with like a sanction or anti-dumping penalties.  Do you honestly believe that a commentator on Ricochet “gets it” while someone in his position is oblivious to how announcing it is undermining his position?  Do we really all think he is that stupid?  Come on now.  Come on.

    I am really disappointed in so many of us these days who simply cannot see how Trump is playing this game.  We are analyzing this like some sort of college seminar where we read the words on the paper and draw logic conclusions.  We are fooled by the Queens accent and crass language (the former being genuine, the latter being an intentional election tactic).  But he is selling a style of leadership that resonates with people.  Neither he nor his supporters care about a 45% tariff on China.  They care about getting something out of them and threatening them to get there.  They care about the exercise of American strength.  The 45% tariff is best understood as an election year parable; it’s meant to signal values while the actual details are not relevant.

    Meanwhile, we all sit here and discuss the merits of a 45% tariff on China.  We are the ones being fooled.

    • #30

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