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October 5, 2016 7:35 am

Bret Stephens’ Brilliant — Unwitting — Defense of Donald Trump

avatar by Ruthie Blum

Email a copy of "Bret Stephens’ Brilliant — Unwitting — Defense of Donald Trump" to a friend
Donald Trump at the presidential debate. Photo: Screenshot.

Donald Trump at the presidential debate. Photo: Screenshot.

The Wall Street Journal’s Bret Stephens is such an adept wordsmith that he has inadvertently succeeded in defending the presidential candidate he vehemently opposes and has warned others against supporting.

In his “Global View” column on Monday, Stephens – a prominent conservative, who announced in May that he was backing Hillary Clinton, because, “The stain of a Trump administration would cripple the conservative cause for a generation” – turned a parody of a speech that The Donald supposedly would be delivering in Arizona into a powerful argument in favor of the candidate.

Either because of — or despite – his genuine brilliance as a writer, Stephens perplexed readers on all sides of the Republican spectrum. Those who were angry with him for spitting in the tent were shocked by what amounted to a stunning celebration of the nominee; others, who had been pleased with him for having taken a moral stand against Trump, were confused by Stephens’ apparent about-face; and the rest – those who never comprehend intellectual subtlety – filled the comments section below the article with statements indicating that they hadn’t been paying attention to Stephens’ previous explanations and have no clue what he’s on about now.

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Stephens prefaced the Twitter post of his column as follows: “To Trumpkins who accuse me of not getting it, I get it. (I just don’t buy it.)”

Stephens can be believed when he says he “gets it.” There is little he doesn’t grasp, as anyone who knows and reads him can bear witness. In addition, his artful ability to craft and sustain an argument is pretty nigh unparalleled. Indeed, like a masterful debating champion, Stephens has always been capable of articulating any side of an issue, even those he does not personally hold.

Ironically, then, in an attempt to illustrate his keen awareness of why “Clinton isn’t ahead by 50 points,” he spelled out a clear and sensible justification for voting for Trump – no matter how much of a clown one considers him to be. In fact, Stephens did a great job of making Trump sound like anything but a buffoon.

He accomplished this by knocking down each policy of the Obama administration with a clever stroke, in “Trump’s” voice.

First, Stephens-as-Trump said that “pollsters have no clue…who the electorate is…[or] of what’s going on in America.” To back up this assertion, he pointed to the referendum in Colombia on the “terrible deal” made by Santos with the “terrorists of the FARC… [who have] killed tens of thousands of people… [and have] been terrorizing Colombians for 50 years.”

The polls, he said, predicted a landslide victory for the deal. But, he wrote, “The Colombians… weren’t going to let killers get away with their crimes. The only deal they want with the FARC is the same deal Reagan got from Russia: We win, they lose.”

Then, Stephens – as Trump – moved on to Brexit: “All the polls said the Brits wouldn’t vote to leave the European Union. They did. All the experts said the sky would fall if the Brits voted to go. It didn’t. These geniuses said that Britain was too small to be the master of its own destiny. The British people believe otherwise, and I’m with them!”

He continued: “We’re sick of hearing ObamaCare is working… We’re sick of hearing how great the economy is when it’s floating on a big wave of cheap credit that benefits Wall Street at the expense of savers. We’re sick of hearing how great the Iran deal is, then watching our sailors being humiliated while we secretly fork over pallets of cash.”

Excellent point.

“You know what we’re also sick of? Liberal hypocrites.”

True.

“I’m not supposed to say the name I’m about to say. Well, two words: Alicia. Machado. Who is this Alicia Machado, other than a political prop for Hillary? She was a beauty queen for a business I helped run called ‘Miss Universe.’ The business of beauty queens is to be beautiful, just like it’s the business of athletes to be fit. Duh! And when she gained some weight, I insisted she lose it. Did I call her ‘Miss Piggy?’ Boo hoo. Get over it.”

Right on.

“…So spare me the sensitivity lectures. Spare me the business lectures, too. Those tax returns someone stole and the New York Times published? The ones that showed I once lost nearly a billion dollars and used every legal trick in the book to stage a comeback? All of you here understand this is how business is done in America. Some years you make money. Some years you lose. You take advantage of every tax break you can because the government is trying to screw you every other way.”

Yes.

“That’s the real world. It’s only in the unreal world that Hillary lives in that you can make a fortune by being a failed secretary of state and then cash in on obscene speaking fees, or arrange for Bill to get an $18 million salary to be ‘honorary chancellor’ at a for-profit college while the Obama administration destroys every other for-profit. That’s called corruption, no matter whether it’s legal or not.”

Neither the real Trump nor his speechwriters could have illuminated any of this better. But then, unlike Stephens, the one thing they are never accused of is being too clever by half.

Ruthie Blum is the managing editor of The Algemeiner.

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  • ReformSchool

    If Bret Stephens is brilliant, Ruthie Blum must be positively, blindingly-bright!

  • henrytobias

    Interesting. I’d like to see Stephen’s answer to Ruthie Blum. Please publish his reply if there is one.

  • BRUCERUBIN

    When Trump at first was ripping up his opponents it was funny and pure politics. Race baiting and blaming poor illegal aliens who do the worst jobs no one else wants for America’s economic problems is not acceptable and basically ludicrous. Nobody wants to pay taxes however your not getting 19 trillion dollar debt out of a rock and if they start gutting Social Security and Medicare to pay it I suspect an overwhelming portion of this Nation’s population in many states may think twice about the purpose and personal value to a Federal Government!!!

  • aj nitzberg

    the fact that hillary clinton is financially corrupt is a problem for me and i do not understand why it is not a problem for the democratic party and the media.

  • Great. Lovely. I’m convinced…

  • VladtheImpala

    I still don’t understand what Stephens was trying to do here. In his attempt to ridicule, he ended up arguing in favor for the opposite side.

    Perhaps this is a typical case of relying on a sense of obviousness to make your argument. This is something many writers and political commentators are doing lately. They don’t make an argument, they simply state some information without any attempt to provide a narrative or an argument to hash out exactly what they are saying, they simply imply certain things, or bring up certain information without tying that information to any specific interpretation, and simply expect the reader fill in the blanks that they intentionally left unfilled. The reader’s job is then to plug the information and implications made by the author into the reader’s own worldview and then rely on a sense of obviousness to conclude something.

    This is a sleazy trick because the author never has to spend any time hashing out the exact narrative they are attempting to argue in favor of, or to pick a side. The tactic leaves the author a certain amount of plausible deniability, so that they are able to say “I never said that” when their argument is paraphrased. That’s exactly the trick – you mention certain pieces of information without elaborating on how those pieces of information fit into a narrative, and the reader fills in the blanks. Like a horoscope entry, the writer’s output is inherently ambiguous because the writer is intentionally allowing the reader to do half of the work.

    This looks like an attempt at such a trick that simply backfired as hard as it possibly could.

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