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The Donald Trump Dilemma: Victory on Roe, Disaster on Jan. 6

Donald Trump
Former President of the United States Donald Trump speaking with attendees at the "Rally to Protect Our Elections" hosted by Turning Point Action at Arizona Federal Theatre in Phoenix, Arizona. Image by Gage Skidmore.

Less than a week separated the reversal of Roe v. Wade and the most dramatic hearing yet by the Jan. 6 committee. It’s a juxtaposition of the Republicans’ 2024 dilemma about former President Donald Trump.

The Never Trumpers on the right made two arguments against him in 2015-16. One was that Donald Trump was unfit for office because of his temperament and personal character, echoing the conservative case against Bill Clinton in the 1990s. The second was that the thrice-married, twice-divorced, personally libertine, formerly “very pro-choice” Trump was a Trojan horse liberal, a New Yorker who had never demonstrated any serious commitment to conservatism, especially of the social variety. 

Roe falling thanks in no small part to the comfortable conservative Supreme Court majority Trump built is the biggest argument against the Never Trump position, at least among authentic conservatives. Jan. 6 remains the most powerful argument for it.

That’s because half the Never Trump argument was clearly and unambiguously wrong, while the other was arguably correct. Trump did not govern as a secret liberal. To the extent that these reflect his inward convictions, he kept his commitments to social conservatives and their constitutionalist allies, especially. Even though Trump broke from conservative orthodoxy, he had been transparent during the campaign about his deviationism.

Trump had been talking about trade protectionism, for example, since the 1980s. Some conservatives in good standing came to agree. He nevertheless staffed his administration with movement conservatives and in many respects governed like one.

Yet Trump’s temperament is, at a minimum, a problem.

Not only was he often petulant and prone to wrath, vengeful, spiteful, and constitutionally incapable of ever being the bigger person in a quarrel; but he also had difficulty separating his personal and political interests from the public interest. It got him impeached twice.

Cassidy Hutchinson, the former aide to Donald Trump’s last White House chief of staff, Mark Meadows, was a powerful witness, if not always an entirely persuasive one. There has been pushback against her most dramatic (though often second-hand) testimony and questions about whether the Jan. 6 committee, an alliance of Democrats and two Never Trump Republicans with no adversarial voices, did its due diligence. 

Nevertheless, if you are not wedded to the committee’s narrative that this was a well-thought-out coup attempt culminating in Trump’s foiled plot to lead armed supporters in a march on the Capitol, the facts of Jan. 6 are bad enough. Donald Trump believed or professed to believe, some not very well-supported claims about the 2020 election. He pushed them past the point of any legally viable options. He whipped up his supporters into a frenzy, then did little to stop them once they attacked the Capitol.

As was the case with Russia and a thousand other Donald Trump controversies, that may not be enough for the Democrats and hair-on-fire Never Trumpers. But it ought to be. If Trump wanted bigger crowds and was simply indifferent to whether the rabble was armed, that negligence is better than a conscious desire to lead an armed revolt. But it is not much of an endorsement for giving him back the nuclear football.

Still, it won’t do to pretend Trump had nothing to do with Roe being overturned on the grounds that he simply nominated the same Supreme Court justices that any other Republican president would have. Ronald Reagan’s nominees went two for four on overturning Roe in Casey v. Planned Parenthood in 1992. George H.W. Bush’s went one of two. Even George W. Bush’s picks went one of two in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Center. And he wouldn’t have nominated Samuel Alito, the author of the Dobbs opinion, if conservatives hadn’t forced the withdrawal of Harriet Miers.

Trump’s appointees went three for three. Yes, it was part of a conservative learning process dating back to the Reagan years. Trump nemesis Mitch McConnell also deserves considerable credit. But Trump stood by Brett Kavanaugh and resisted the urge to put up a consensus nominee to replace Ruth Bader Ginsburg rather than Amy Coney Barrett, things Jeb Bush might not have done. And it’s an open question whether the other 2016 Republicans could have beaten Hillary Clinton in the Rust Belt, as Trump did.

Like it or not, the 45th president was decisive here. To conservatives, especially pro-lifers, that matters.

In reshaping the Supreme Court, Donald Trump was aided by some of the brightest minds in the GOP working in pursuit of principle. On Jan. 6, he was aligned with a ragtag band engaged in primal scream therapy as election law. It’s not an accident which ended in victory versus disaster. 

Unfortunately for Never Trumpers, Dobbs happened. Unfortunately for the rest of us, Jan. 6 did too.

Now a 1945 Contributing Editor, W. James Antle III is the Washington Examiner’s politics editor. He was previously managing editor of the Daily Caller, associate editor of the American Spectator, and senior writer for the American Conservative. He is the author of Devouring Freedom: Can Big Government Ever Be Stopped? You can follow home on Twitter: @Jimantle.

Written By

W. James Antle III is the Washington Examiner's politics editor. He was previously managing editor of the Daily Caller, associate editor of the American Spectator, and senior writer for the American Conservative. He is the author of Devouring Freedom: Can Big Government Ever Be Stopped?

15 Comments

15 Comments

  1. Ghost Tomahawk

    July 1, 2022 at 5:11 pm

    The “Jan 6 hearings” arent hearings at all. They are nothing more than partisan attacks using cherry picked information and hearsay “witnesses”. A hearing has cross examination and witnesses for the accused. All we are observing is one sided smears by the opposition party that is mortified they will have to try and defeat Trump in another election after they have failed i nthe agenda completely and lost in the mid terms with no viable candidate to oppose him.

    Trump did not orchestrate anything. Were the elections stolen? Yes. Because if they werent the democrats and RINOs would have had no problems with an audit due to the massive scope of a mail in campaign. They would have jumped at the opportunity to rub it in his nose on the world stage. Instead they deflected and hurried to the finish line. The “dont look in the closet” defense applies directly and appropriately here. Trump is the antithesis of what the establishment oligarchs want. So to disparage him and smear him they are running this out NOW to give their weak defeated base some energy after theyve watched unmitigated disasters unroll from the border to energy to the lap top cover up to the payoffs, to covid botch, to afghanistan debaucle to Russia and Ukraine to inflation to the recession……..they need a cheap win and a made for TV event with scripted “witnesses” and ignored facts left in the dark fits the bill. The media is more than willing to participate so they dont continue to look like the imbiciles they are and have been. Smearing Trump boosts their ratings especially because the geriatic in chief is a disaster even on queue cards. Its unwatchable and an embarrassment on the best day for Biden and a save away from the Easter Bunny from being a national disgrace.

    • Ghost of Kyiv

      July 1, 2022 at 8:32 pm

      Is it physically painful to be so stupid?

      • Exnavynuke

        July 2, 2022 at 1:06 am

        I dunno; your nom-de-internet has proven to be a propaganda lie, so why don’t you tell us?

      • Jimmy

        July 2, 2022 at 7:29 am

        Cope

        • Eric-ji

          July 2, 2022 at 10:01 am

          Hearings on January 6 events could also be called “the empire (or swamp) strikes back”.

          Objective historians (if there is such a thing) may have different takes on those events & the 2020 election, other than the current popular narratives.

    • Jim Higgins

      July 2, 2022 at 8:42 am

      Ghost Tomahawk you are quite correct. If CNN ([C]ommunist [N]ews [N]etwork) said it then it MUST be a lie. Never Trumpers fear the mid-term elections.

  2. Chiron

    July 1, 2022 at 10:15 pm

    It’s going down. Downtown, to China town. Oh, yeah…

  3. Him

    July 2, 2022 at 7:44 am

    Reading this article is like listening to CNN’s commentary. Half the people think that’s a compliment. Half realise what I mean.

  4. Rich

    July 2, 2022 at 9:47 am

    Ghost Tomahawk is right on…no need to add anything. The “other” Ghost is obviously well equipped to answer his own question.

  5. PS11B10

    July 2, 2022 at 1:09 pm

    I don’t have a problem with the J6 hearings. Except that they aren’t impartial, refused to staff an equal number of Republicans (adding two recommended by the House Minority Whip), are showing partial recordings and testimony (much out of context), refusing to show *ANY* exculpatory evidence, and presenting a fait accompli. No, this isn’t a courtroom except that it *is* being presented to the Public as a de facto trial with witnesses who face no cross-examination or consequences for perjury. Even if they are lying to Congress, the Committee won’t prosecute them because they’re part of the narrative.

  6. hyrdr

    July 3, 2022 at 1:49 pm

    The elephant in the room is completely responsible for the fuel the commierats use which, without, non of the last 5 years would be possible.

    The media cartel must be broken up. The anti-trust examples were never clearer. Broadcaster’s and editors parroting the leftists agenda is the obvious winner for control of the country. Soviet style brainwashing 101.

    It would not matter who the Republicans run or who would have won in 2016 with a “R” behind their name. The treatment would have been the same. Most would have run with their tails between their legs. Not Trump and it freaked out the left.. Their brainwashing machine was supercharged and took down the minds of so many, so low, we are in danger of a civil war. All due to the media cartel. Not because of Trump. It’s treason by all who prticipate in any way to stop Trump.

  7. Omega 13

    July 4, 2022 at 10:41 am

    “January 6th” was a protest that got out of hand. That’s it. Nothing more, nothing less. To say it was more is a lie.

  8. Mario DeLosa

    July 5, 2022 at 8:05 am

    Donald Jennifer tRump is totally unfit to be in the White House. He has proven that time and time again with his mendacity, pettiness, grift, spitefulness, laziness, bigotry, xenophobia and so much more. That fat ass conman damn near spent a year of his tenure playing golf after swearing that he would be too busy working, just for openers. And who could forget his weak kneed kowtows to Putin and Kim Jong Un. Don’t get me wrong, Moscow Mitch McConnel is far more insidious than Cadet Bonespurs by virtue of being more strategic, calculating and undoubtedly smarter. Nonetheless, it was was the Artful Draft Dodger that came dangerously close to carrying out a coupe-d’etat, because that was what happened January 6, 2020. Yes, I am a never, bloody ever tRumper! As far as I am concerned he would do the country a favor by marching into the nether with his bucket of KFC, sooner rather than later. Regrettably, the damage that Don wrought will be with us for decades.

    • Omega 13

      July 5, 2022 at 9:10 am

      Nice kneepads, Mario.

  9. Robert Stein

    July 6, 2022 at 3:12 pm

    How can you call the J6 hearings, “hearings”. There is no one present to contradict anything that is said. They are certainly not duly constituted congressional hearings. Kevin McCarthy (R) minority leader, was not allowed to name anyone to the Committee. To suggest in this article that anything about them is close to reality is offensive. You minimize the extent to which the information presented is thoroughly distorted and in the case of Ms. Hutchinson verifiably false. Secret service agents have openly denied her statements, but of course they were not invited to testify publicly. Nothing about the “committee” is normal. This includes refusing to release all kinds of testimony that doesn’t fit the chosen narrative. You should have included a statement to the effect that “many have suggested the hearings are a star chamber or kangaroo court” if you wanted to be balanced. Obviously, you do not want to do that.

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