At CPAC this year, President Donald Trump received such a rousing hero’s welcome that you’d think Ronald Reagan’s ghost appeared on the stage. In fact, Fox News’ Laura Ingraham compared Trump to The Gipper, telling the crowd: “This is how it was in the 1980s.” Attendees apparently agreed, giving the president a 93 percent approval rating in their annual straw poll.
Which made it curious when, a week later, the president came out in support of a gun control package that would have made even Barack Obama blush. Sitting next to Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), one of the more fierce gun control advocates in the Senate, Trump offered support for an assault weapons ban, raising the purchase age for some rifles, and the government seizure of guns in cases where the owner is accused of being unstable. “Take the guns first,” he declared, “go through due process second.” For good measure, he told Sen. Pat Toomey (R-PA), a Republican lawmaker who actually was willing to buck the gun lobby in 2013, that he—Toomey—was afraid of the National Rifle Association.
Afterwards, the NRA released a tepid statement of disapproval of the “bad policy” recommended by Trump while Sen. Ben Sasses (R-NE) registered his alarm that anyone, let alone the president, would trample on an individual’s constitutional right to due process so cavalierly.
And…. that was about it.
The same conservative establishment that would have seethed at Obama had he backed such a set of policies was basically silent. Fox News’ Sean Hannity did an entire segment on the gathering that ignored basically everything Trump said, save his call for arming school teachers. “The president is so right,” Hannity added for good measure. Ingraham, for her part, said Trump’s remarks were “not cool.” But others dismissed the meeting entirely as merely a brainstorming session. There were remarkable few howls of anger or discontent.
This is but the latest case in the conservative establishment’s Trump Apologist Syndrome— the acute onset of forgiveness or amnesia by formerly conservative voices when responding to Donald Trump. They are willing to instantly forgive flaws that would have outraged them under Obama, Hillary Clinton or even George W. Bush.
Just imagine the reaction from “conservative” leaders to the following headlines had Hillary Clinton been elected president:
President Clinton Sends Congress $4.4 Trillion Spending Plan That Features Soaring Deficits
Friday Will Be The One Year Anniversary of Hillary's First, Last and Only Formal White House Press Conference
Clinton Attacks FBI Director, Denies Asking Him Who He Voted for President
Clinton’s Fiscal Stimulus Could be Bigger Than Obama’s
Thirty to 40 White House Officials and Administration Political Appointees Are Still Operating Without Full Security Clearances, Including President Clinton’s Son-in-Law
Clinton Lawyer Used Private Company, Pseudonyms to Pay Porn Star
Clinton Blocks Release of Republican Russia Memo
FBI Director Contradicts Hillary Clinton’s Timeline on [Senior Aide’s] Abuse Probe
How Clinton Is Making Money in The White House, And Why Nobody Will Stop Her
Hillary Clinton Goes Golfing During Funerals for Shooting Victims
Former Clinton Aide Pleads Guilty; Agrees to Testify Against Other Clinton Aide
These are all very real stories about President Trump from just the past six weeks.
I didn’t even include “Trump amnesty to cover 1.8 million Dreamers, triple Obama’s DACA program” because I’m hopeful he actually signs something that embraces this formerly-RINO position on Dreamers.
But just imagine a world in which those headlines were reality? The speeches attacking President Hillary Clinton at CPAC would practically write themselves. Try hard enough, and you could even conjure up the image of Trump, fresh off his 2016 defeat, delivering a blistering indictment of Clinton himself from the dais.
But we don’t live in that world. We live in a world in which Trump’s fans on Twitter find forgiveness for him to be all too easy. He’s playing 4D chess, they insist. He’s putting country over party, they stress. Heck, some probably changed their positions with him.
Maybe judicial appointments, or tax cuts, or reversing some regulations are enough to rationalize the see nothing, say nothing reactions. But that feels like a pretty cheap price given the other side of the ledger. Or maybe they trust he’ll change his mind (again) on whatever the latest transgression is.
Or perhaps the dissatisfaction of liberals has become the only rallying principle of the conservative movement.
Trump has done a lot in 2018 alone to cause conservative backlash. That it hasn’t come leads one to believe it never will. The far right told me if I didn’t vote for Trump that we’d end up with a scandal-plagued, gun-grabbing White House that spends like sailors and offers amnesty to millions. They were right! They just didn’t tell me they wouldn’t care.