Dennis Prager recently argued that America was in a state of civil war and urged conservative Trump critics to join the fight. “Trump, with all his flaws, is our general,” Prager wrote. “If this general is going to win, he needs the best fighters. But too many of them, some of the best minds of the conservative movement, are AWOL.”
Jonah Goldberg of National Review responded that the Never Trumpers “do not believe that America is engaged in a civil war, with the survival of America as we know it at stake.” And “Donald Trump is literally no one’s general.”
Clearly, the president is up against the kind of conservative that, as David Horowitz said in Big Agenda, fails to understand that they are in a battle, and that to prevail they must want to win. Trump also faces a dynamic that was not an issue in the 2016 election but helps explain the ongoing establishment animus, particularly from the “Never Trump” conservatives.
In Secrets of the Tomb: Skull and Bones, the Ivy League, and the Hidden Paths of Power, Yale alum Alexandra Robbins charts the founding of the Order of Skull and Bones in the 1830s. More than 150 years later, Robbins explains. “This tiny club has set up networks that have thrust three members into the most powerful position in the world.”
President William Howard Taft, 1909-1914, who also put in a stint as Chief Justice, was a Bonesman. So was President George Herbert Walker Bush, 1988-1992, who was accused by Pat Buchanan of running a “Skull and Bones presidency.” The most recent Skull and Bones alum in the White House is George W. Bush, who in 2004 prevailed against fellow Bonesman John Kerry in 2004.
It was the first time two Bonesmen battled for the nation’s highest office. Prominent Bonesmen include Henry Luce, Archibald MacLeish, McGeorge Bundy, Averill Harriman, Henry Stimson, Potter Stewart, William Sloan Coffin, and National Review founder William F. Buckley.
As one Bonesman explained, “the biggest benefit of Skull and Bones is the networking,” and Robbins finds plenty of that. The Reagan-Bush administration, for example, appointed Bonesmen Winston Lord as ambassador to China, and James Buckley to the US. Court of Appeals.
President George H. W. Bush named Bonesman Richard Anthony Moore as ambassador to Ireland and Bonesman Paul Lambert, who had no diplomatic experience, as ambassador to Ecuador. The pick for secretary of labor was George Ball, with fellow Bonesmen James Hemphill in the department of the interior and Edwin Dale at management and budget. Head speechwriter was Christopher Buckley, son of William F. Buckley and like his daddy a Bonesman.
President George W. Bush chose fellow Bonesman William H. Donaldson to head the Securities and Exchange Commission. Skull and Bones vet Edward McNally got the call as general counsel for Homeland Security, and senior associate counsel to the president for national security. Bonesman Robert D. McCallum was the pick for assistant attorney general in the civil-rights division of the DOJ, and Bonesman Evan G. Galbraith became a defense representative in Europe and adviser to NATO.
Observers could be forgiven for thinking that the primary consideration for these selections was not competence and experience but membership in Skull and Bones. The ultimate old boys network also owns Deer Island in the St. Lawrence River, and Robbins helpfully provides a map.
The 44th president, formerly known as Barry Soetoro, is a Harvard man but duly chose Bonesman John Kerry as Secretary of State and Skull and Bones member Austan Goolsbee as chairman of the Council of Economic Advisors. Like everybody in that administration, Goolsbee is hardly a conservative but he did not become the target of choice for big guns on the right.
By contrast, in the run-up to the 2016 election, Donald Trump took some of his hardest shots from William F. Buckley’s National Review. The publication arrayed prominent writers “Against Trump” and called the candidate “a menace to American conservatism who would take the work of generations and trample it underfoot on behalf of a populism as heedless and crude as The Donald himself.”
For a perspective on crudity, the Never Trumpers might consult Robbins’ chapter on Skull and Bones initiation rites. But as the Bonesmen say of non-members, Trump is a “barbarian,” and not even a Yale or Harvard man.
Besides the Deep State reactionaries and fake media, Donald Trump is a target of elitist establishment types who look down their nose at working people. That is very much the style of Yale law school alum Hillary Clinton, the congenital liar and “vast right-wing conspiracy” theorist the Never Trumpers preferred in the 2016 contest. If Donald Trump, as Jeb Bush said, is “not a conservative,” then what is Crooked Hillary?
It was working people, not establishment elitists, who elected Donald Trump president. With all his faults, he is doing his best to fight their battles and win. The Never Trumpers would do well to “report for duty,” as Dennis Prager said, but right now, the president is on a winning streak without them.