Victor Davis Hanson Private Papers

11/27/2017

From an Angry Reader:

 

Rarely have I read such infuriating nonsense as intellectual outlier Victor Davis Hanson spouts in his thoroughly delusional commentary about Trump. I know he’s been a blind Trumpeter since the con artist’s campaign began, and he remains steadfast in defending the indefensible. His pack of fraudulent claims, gross exaggerations, evasions and bizarre compliments should make us wonder what kind of mind is needed to get into a “think tank” these days. A mind with the ability to think clearly, marshal cogent arguments and use critical faculties would be excluded, I take it.

 

Even the part about Trump having superior “bare-knuckle” skills is laughable both in fact and in analogy. I guess what he means is the narcissistic blowhard and rank vulgarian has become adept over the years at using crude forms of bullying, belligerence, intimidation and insults in an attempt to cow the opponent. We see how much good those professed negotiating skills have been for him. No significant legislative accomplishments in his first year, despite him bragging that he’d do many big things quickly and all by himself.

 

What he has supported in the way of legislation was almost entirely devoid of the content he promised—healthcare that would cover everyone for less and be “easy” to accomplish–and he clearly didn’t know a thing about the bills a Republican congress fashioned to fulfill Trump’s exaggerated boasts. The man is an ignorant, incompetent, reckless and deranged demagogue, but Hanson remains a rube on the bandwagon sucking dry turnips. Such is the blissful state of “winners”.

 

Victor Davis Hanson’s Reply:

Dear Angry Reader TR Jahns,

 

On a scale of angry reader absurdities, yours ranks a 9 out of 10. The key to criticism is the avoidance of emotional jargon (nonsense, laughable, gross, delusional, etc.) that always appears in lieu of an argument. And imagery and metaphors must be consistent, not incoherent and mixed: what exactly does a “rube on a bandwagon sucking dry turnips” mean exactly?

 

Nonetheless here goes the refutation of your meltdown.

 

1) I was not a “blind Trumpeter” since the time Trump ran for office; check the record before making unsubstantiated accusations. In fact, I opposed Trump in the early primaries.

 

2) Instead of citations, you use inflated phraseology like “fraudulent claims, gross exaggerations, evasions and bizarre compliments”; specify rather than allege what bothers you about Trump; e.g., Is he more divisive than was Obama? Does he comment too much about ongoing court cases? Is he without basic knowledge such as the number of states or the correct pronunciation of corpsman? Are his IRS, GSA, VA, Secret Service, and EPA riddled with scandal? We need detail, not redundant exclamations.

 

3) You equate “first-class mind” with anti-Trump fervor, but then fail to demonstrate (rather than rail about) why this is so.

 

4) I was empirical and thus not always laudatory about Trump’s skills; yet he dismantled a quite qualified field of 16 more experienced and sometimes better funded Republican rivals, and often outdebated those with far more experience and rhetorical training. To deny that is to let emotions get the better of logic.

 

5) In fact, Trump’s team has passed lots of legislation, even as we hear only of stalled Obamacare and tax reform. At six months Trump had signed over 50 legislative bills, comparable to or greater than the record of the first half year of previous presidents.

 

Given the Obama precedent, he also issued a flurry of executive orders that, like it or not, have redefined energy production, regulations, immigration, and the administrative state. The furor at Trump from the Left is not that he is stalled and impotent, but that he is in a variety of ways reversing the Obama legacy. Does your anger arise because as a supposed incompetent Trump has done nothing and is merely idling on the job? Or that as a liberal partisan, you are furious that in breakneck fashion he is reversing the Obama agenda, from illegal immigration to deterrence abroad to EPA regulations at home?

 

6) Trump cannot be faulted for failing to enact health care or tax reform—given that his proposals are still stalled before the Congress and await either congressional ratification or recalibration or rejection. He still may get both tax and health care reform by the end of 2018.

 

7) You misrepresent, of course, what I wrote. My argument in the Los Angeles Times was that despite his often-alienating tweets and controversies, Trump remains about as popular as he was on Election Day (46% approval in the November 13th Rasmussen poll). And I noted that his success hinges on avoiding what are seen as costly optional wars and restoring economic growth. Should he do either he will be reelected; if not, he won’t.

 

8) I think part of your anger is not because Trump has failed (you wish him, after all, to fail), but because in some ways he is succeeding to your chagrin—record stock market levels, 6 months of 3% GDP growth, low unemployment, improving labor participation, near record consumer and business confidence, record coal/gas/oil production, upswings in manufacturing and service industries, etc.

 

In terms of foreign policy, Haley, Mattis, McMaster, Pompeo, and Tillerson are slowly restoring deterrence and reassuring allies in the Middle East that Iran, and in Asia, that North Korea and China, are not the predestined new hegemonies.

 

9) If a writer is to ascend from letter-to-the editor harangues to analytical commentary, then the key is to avoid hyperbole, remain capable of detecting the mistakes of friends and successes of enemies, and try to cite examples rather than offer bluster.

 

Unfortunately, you fail on all these counts and thus cannot be taken too seriously. Again, you score 9.0/10.0 on our newly inaugurated Angry Reader Emotional Harangue scale.

 

V.D. 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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