At a time when American conservatism is said to have lost its way as a principled force, a careful reexamination seems necessary, for those who claim this and those who disagree. Either camp would profit from taking a fresh look at the long, much-admired career of the conservative movement’s reputed founder. A Man and His Presidents: The Political Odyssey of William F. Buckley Jr. is worth reading for anyone who wishes to become acquainted with him, or reacquainted.
After President-Elect Trump announced that he would separate himself from his business, the tweeter feed of the Office of Government Ethics (OGE) went berserk. It praised Trump for agreeing to divest himself of the ownership of his companies, a position which he had not announced. OGE’s multiple twitter comments were often sarcastic, ending with exclamation points obviously intended to mock Trump’s own style.
To say that these comments were inappropriate is an understatement. OGE lacks jurisdiction over Trump because the President and Vice-President are not covered by the conflict of interest rules on which OGE advises. And OGE helps presidential appointees with conflicts problems confidentially, reserving twitter for announcing new rules. Unless the director of OGE can get control of his agency, he should resign.
But OGE’s actions show what may be in store for the Trump administration from the federal bureaucracy: not only hostility but contempt. There are three problems President Trump faces. One confronts any Republican President: the bureaucracy leans left. Indeed, the average bureaucrat is not only more left-wing than the median Republican but also the median Democrat.
But Trump faces two additional problems.
US Marines withdraw from the Camp Bastion-Leatherneck complex at Lashkar Gah in Helmand province on October 26, 2014. (WAKIL KOHSAR/AFP/Getty Images)
During the 1990s, victory in the Cold War seemed more than just a triumph over the Soviet Union.
Washington forgives many things, from Oval Office indiscretions to executive abuses. But neither laughter nor defeat makes the pardonable cut, and George H.W. Bush has endured both, in each case for precisely the quality that most commends him: prudence.
Edmund Burke, mobilizer of theoretical resistance to the French Revolution in the face of all odds, pursuer of Warren Hastings in the face of certain defeat, lived a political life so seemingly incautious that by its end he had to ask to be buried in an anonymous grave lest the Jacobins, on their inevitable march across his beloved island, exhume and violate his bones. Yet he described prudence as “the first of all virtues.”