WSJ's Bret Stephens: "Hillary Clinton, As Awful As I Find Her, Is A Survivable Event. I'm Not So Sure About Trump"


Wall Street Journal deputy editorial page editor Bret Stephens reiterated his view that Donald Trump will be destructive to the United States. However, he said a Clinton presidency would be a "survivable event."

Last month Stephens said Trump needs to lose decisively so that Republican voters "learn their lesson."

From Stephens' interview with nationally syndicated radio host Hugh Hewitt on Friday:

HUGH HEWITT: He is 12 points behind by the Reuters/Ipsos poll, and he does have to make changes, and I have laid them out. But let me put the question to you, Bret, as I’ll put it to everyone. If there is no mutiny, and there isn’t going to be a mutiny, because Mitch McConnell and Paul Ryan aren’t leading one, and do you agree with me, absent McConnell and Ryan, there is not going to be a mutiny?

BRET STEPHENS, WSJ: Well, yeah, I think it would take Ryan. I don’t know if McConnell has the standing in the party. But you know, just quickly, Hugh, you know, politically, first of all, this should not be a time to politicize this event the way it has been. But there, you have the President blaming Christians, Republicans and everyone except…

HH: Yup.

BS: …radical Islamists for this attack. But this should have been a strong week for Donald Trump just to showcase the weakness of this administration and its first Secretary of State when it comes to fighting terrorists. Instead, he’s falling farther behind. So in a week that should have gone his way, he’s just committing such political malpractice, that it’s hard to see how he turns it around.

HH: I agree with that, and I am going to dedicate myself to trying to get him to turn it around. But Bret, if the choice is Clinton versus Trump, who is Bret Stephens going to vote for?

BS: Probably none of the above. I will never vote for Donald Trump. I have a very, very hard time voting for Mrs. Clinton. I have been, I have been writing about Hillary Clinton, I just actually looked this up, since 1998 when she was busy standing by when Suha Arafat was launching anti-Semitic tirades against Israel and the Jews. And Hillary Clinton’s record in office is dreadful. Her ideas are dreadful. They will make us less safe. So, but there is no way I’m going to vote for a guy who is just totally uninformed, un-presidential as Donald Trump is.

HH: So he brings along, let me make an argument to you, and I look forward to reading when you think and write through this, because I think you’re so influential that it will matter. He brings 3,000 people with him, a vice president, a secretary of Defense, a secretary of State, a head of the national intelligence community, a CIA director, etc., etc., He can keep Joe Dunford in, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, who is widely regarded as the best in a long time, etc., etc. And so we elect 3,000 people, not just one. And it seems to me that as a civilian, this is Hugh Hewitt talking, not Bret, I owe the people who are on the front end of the spear, the people on the front line, the best commander-in-chief of the two. I owe them my informed judgment as to who will do the best by America. I can’t sit it out, because they can’t sit it out. They’re taking bullets and incoming. So how do you respond to that argument about having to make the choice? And if you’re obliged to make the choice upon pondering that, who would the choice be?

BS: Well, you’re asking me the same question twice. My answer is the same. The only person who counts in the administration is the president of the United States, Hugh. That’s the only person who counts. When George W. Bush decided to save the American position in Iraq by going against the advice of all of his wise men, of Jim Baker and the whole Iraq Study Group, and 90% of his administration, that was George W. Bush’s decision. So we have to bear in mind that this isn’t an administration we’re electing. It’s a person that we are electing. Who knows better than you what it means to have a commander-in-chief who lived his entire life, who lived throughout the entire Cold War, and doesn’t know what the nuclear triad is? It’s absolutely astonishing. And so it’s terrific to have Joe Dunford and you know, perhaps John Bolton and other people in positions of trust. But you have to have a president who bothered over the last 70 years to gain a cursory understanding of how the world works. And on so many issues, Hugh, on so many issues, I know not all of the issue, but on so many issues, this guy is just the antithesis of what I’d want a Republican president to be on foreign policy. When it comes to trade, when it comes to standing up to countries like North Korea, when it comes to standing up to guys like Vladimir Putin, Donald Trump is not a conservative. If you put…

HH: Bret, you don’t have to, I agree with you on all of that. I know the critique. Nevertheless, what about my argument that civilians owe people who are fighting the war the best of the two candidates for commander-in-chief. We don’t have the option to be conscientious objectors in the one part of the war that is part of our job, which is to pick a commander-in-chief.

BS: Listen, I think that for the United States, Hillary Clinton, as awful as I find her, is a survivable event. I’m not so sure about Donald Trump.

HH: Wow.

BS: And let me tell you why. Let me add one more point to that, Hugh. The United States survives so long as at least one of its major parties is politically and intellectually healthy. I don’t think the Republican Party, or I should say the Republican Party as the vehicle for modern American conservative ideas, survives with Donald Trump. I think a Donald Trump presidency sets up an Elizabeth Warren ascendancy. And it not Elizabeth Warren, someone of her ilk. And I think that’s dreadful. I think a Donald Trump presidency raises a new kind of version of conservatism which more closely resembles a kind of Father Coughlin, America first populism and nativism and isolationism, than the confident, modern, cosmopolitan, thoughtful, engaged conservatism of Ronald Reagan and Paul Ryan.

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