Victor Davis Hanson Private Papers

11/06/2017

From An Angry Reader:

Professor Davis,

 

In your recent article “The Method to Trump’s Madness”, you claim Trump’s insults are retaliation to those who have said things against him. Even if that is (partially) true, that does not justify Trump’s immaturity and cruelty.

 

In many instances, Trump’s name-calling was unprovoked. During the early primaries, Ted Cruz was going out of his way to be nice to Trump. Despite this, Trump called Cruz a liar (without indicating what his lies were), cast Heidi Cruz as unattractive (by showing a photo where she had an angry expression) and claimed Cruz’s father was complicit in the JFK assassination (!).

 

Further, Trump insulted Carly Fiorina’s looks, Marco Rubin’s stature, Jeb Bush’s perceived lack of energy, the list goes on. And I haven’t yet mentioned Trumps mocking the disabled reporter.

 

Even if these people disagreed with Trump on an issue or criticized his (abysmal) behavior, poking fun at others physical features is never justified.

 

I was shocked at your attempt to justify this unacceptable juvenile behavior on the part of a now president.

 

I much preferred your writing during the primaries when you saw Trump for the swamp creature he was (and continues to be) and urged your readers not to vote for him in the primaries.

 

I realize that in the general election there was no choice. Despite major misgivings I voted for Trump over Hillary and am glad that he and not she is president. However to defend behavior that is indefensible is far beneath you.

 

Sincerely,

 

Arlene Ross

New York, NY

 

___________________________________________

Victor Davis Hanson’s Reply:

Dear Arlene Ross,

 

The title of my essay was “the method to” not “approval of” Trump’s Madness. It sought to explain why Trump’s madness so far has worked; it did not condone it as ethically admirable. In other words, I reviewed the logic of his outbursts and tweets and why so far that they have not eroded his base of support. Try to read more carefully so as not to confuse efficacy and utility with morality.

 

You write that you were “shocked” that I tried to “justify” Trump’s behavior? But after listing all of his sins in the primary, you yourself voted for him in the general election? Do you seek medieval exemption by confession and penance to justify your help in seeing someone so crude elected?

 

More likely, I fear you again were confused in reading why Trump has not turned off 40% of the electorate by his tweets and jibes—and unfortunately conflated my analysis of his effectiveness with a desire on your part for me to damn it as unethical or improper—perhaps a topic for another column. Again, I wrote about utility, not morality.

 

In sum, Arlene, your own statements are illogical: you praise me for suggesting that we shouldn’t have voted for Trump as long as we had viable alternatives to Hillary Clinton, but then fault me for urging conservatives to vote in the general election for Trump when we had no other alternative to the Obama-Clinton 16-year regnum—and then confess that you did exactly the same thing as did I! Furthermore, you, like I, so far are still glad that he is president and not Clinton.

 

So I suppose your position by default is: “I finally voted for Trump but I didn’t enjoy doing so given his comportment”—which was the very topic of my column: why did voters like Arlene support (and perhaps still do [you use the present tense “I am glad”]?) Trump despite his often outrageous behavior.

 

A more interesting philosophical question is why someone so outwardly outrageous is pushing through a far more conservative and needed agenda than prior Republican presidents, who were more sober and judicious. And why did Trump at least profess to care about workers, miners, vets, farmers, and the unemployed in a manner his better informed and experienced rivals did not? That is a tricky moral question that no one has yet answered (other than scream “demagogue!”). Trump did not write off half the electorate as deplorables nor did he, as Romney, a far more ethical man, write off 47% of Americans as dependents. Nor did he as John McCain write off Trump voters as “crazies.” There was a callousness and insensitivity to voters in other candidates that the otherwise insensitive Trump at least did not display about voters.

 

Sincerely,

 

Professor Davis (Hanson)

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About Victor Davis Hanson

Victor Davis Hanson is the Martin and Illie Anderson Senior Fellow in Residence in Classics and Military History at the Hoover Institution, Stanford University, a professor of Classics Emeritus at California State University, Fresno, and a nationally syndicated columnist for Tribune Media Services. He is also the Wayne & Marcia Buske Distinguished Fellow in History, Hillsdale College, where he teaches each fall semester courses in military history and classical culture.

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