Conservative columnist and icon George Will has left the Republican Party in light of the presumptive nomination of Donald Trump and his announcement triggered another juvenile response from Trump on Twitter — followed by a reply from Will that may be one of the best put downs that I have read in years.
Will said on Sunday that he had “left the Republican Party for the same reason he joined it” and said that he no longer believed in the Party after it handed the nomination to Donald Trump. It was a defining moment for the Party from a man who is viewed by many as one of the true intellectual forces behind the conservative movement since Reagan.
Earlier Will wrote in a column that “Events already have called his bluff about funding himself and thereby being uniquely his own man. His wealth is insufficient. Only he knows what he is hiding by being the first presidential nominee in two generations not to release his tax returns. It is reasonable to assume that the returns would refute many of his assertions about his net worth, his charitableness and his supposed business wizardry.”
There is no question that Will is hunting for Trump in his column and comments, but he is raising concerns over well-founded criteria for the presidency from temperament to transparency to trustworthiness. While one would have expected Trump to issue a measured response to combat the image of a loose cannon, he responded in his signature fashion: “George Will, one of the most overrated political pundits (who lost his way long ago), has left the Republican Party. He’s made many bad calls.” Trump also stated “You know he looks smart because he wears those little glasses. If you take those glasses away from him, he’s a dummy.”
Yea, it is the glasses.
Trump’s playground taunt led to a classic Will line: “He has an advantage on me because he can say everything he knows about any subject in 140 characters and I can’t.”
I honestly do not know why someone like Trump seems intent on proving his critics right about his alleged lack of maturity and self-control. He is not a stupid person. We all have had the urges to say taunting or juvenile things and somethings the urge gets the better of us. However, Trump appears to have no resistance to such urges, which can be a troubling characteristic for a chief executive. It is also highly counterproductive at this stage in the campaign. There is no question that the personal attacks played well with his base in the primary but polls now suggest that he will fall considerably short in the general if this trend continues and furthermore it seems likely that, if he flames out in November, he will hand Clinton not only the White House but the Senate. It is an ironic moment. He is up against the single weakest modern Democratic candidate since Ed Muskie — a person with record negatives. Yet, he cannot resist reducing every dispute to name calling and taunts.
For the record, I have known George Will for years and consider him a friend. I have had the pleasure of meeting with him over lunches where we have discussed everything from economic game theory to contemporary politics. We both also share a deep love for the Chicago Cubs.
George graduated from Trinity College in 1962 and then studied Philosophy, Politics, and Economics at Magdalen College, Oxford where he received a BA and a masters. He also received MA and PhD degrees in politics from Princeton University. His 1968 PhD dissertation was entitled Beyond the Reach of Majorities: Closed Questions in the Open Society. He also taught political philosophy at the James Madison College of Michigan State University, the University of Toronto, and Harvard University.
In other words, it really is not the glasses.
There are a few truly transcendent intellectuals in this city and George Will is one of them. In a city of shallow spins and trite slogans, George Will routinely brings depth and insight into contemporary issues. His loss to the Republican Party should concentrate the minds of all of its continuing members. More importantly, calling Will names only serves to prove his point about the dangerous turn of our politics and his former party.