Christopher Tremoglie, presently a “Commentary Fellow” at the Washington Examiner, used his column on Monday to reassure the MAGA horde that Donald Trump’s presidential prospects for 2024 have not been meaningfully damaged by the scandal revolving around his theft of highly classified documents. Tremoglie was once an Intercollegiate Studies Institute (ISI) intern at the National Review. Here’s some information about ISI.
Our graduates become leaders in their communities, in their states, and on the national and global stages. Thousands of thoughtful, principled leaders have come through ISI’s programs, including Supreme Court justices Neil Gorsuch and Samuel Alito, PayPal cofounder Peter Thiel, Reason magazine editor Katherine Mangu-Ward, Hillsdale College president Larry Arnn, and Heritage Foundation founder Ed Feulner.
Former trustees include notable right-wing nuts Edwin Meese III, Holland H. Coors, Richard DeVos Sr. of Amway fame. The ISI was founded in 1953 and its first president was William F. Buckley. It’s primarily concerned with promoting or defending conservative thought in academia, and it helps promote “a ‘collegiate network’ of over fifty student-run newspapers promoting right-leaning politics on college campuses. These newspapers include Dartmouth Review, the UPenn Statesman, the Lone Conservative, and the Claremont Independent.”
That might sound like a legitimate, respectable enterprise. But the current ISI president, John A. Burtka IV, previously served as the executive director of the American Conservative, a paleoconservative magazine founded by the famously anti-Semitic and white nationalist Patrick Buchanan. The Anti-Defamation League is clear on this point, writing in 2017:
In his role as a political commentator for the mainstream media, former Presidential candidate Pat Buchanan has increasingly advanced an anti-Semitic, racist, and anti-immigrant ideology. Many of the views he holds are identical to those of self-declared “white nationalists.” Buchanan repeatedly demonizes Jews and minorities and openly affiliates with white supremacists.
We can debate the degrees of separation between William F. Buckley and Pat Buchanan’s style of conservatism, but I think we can agree that the ISI can no longer be considered a benign influence that is simply concerned with balancing the liberal bias of higher education.
The Washington Examiner was founded in 2005 by Phil Anschutz, a Colorado billionaire who made his first fortune drilling for oil in Wyoming. You may know him as a co-founder of Major League Soccer or the owner of the NHL’s Los Angeles Kings. He’s known for his anti-gay and anti-choice activism, which he backs with his considerable pocketbook. He personally lobbied the latter Bush administration to put Neil Gorsuch on the Supreme Court but had to wait until the Trump administration to see that dream come to fruition.
There may once have been a distinction between the more traditional conservative Republican politics pursued by Buckley and Anschutz and the naked fascism of Pat Buchanan, but the presidency of Trump seems to have obliterated it.
The New York Times reports that a split does remain in the Republican Party between those who will defend Trump at any cost and those who do not want to see the FBI and the Department of Justice senselessly and dishonestly demonized. But the Washington Examiner is most definitely in the former camp.
Tremoglie makes this obvious:
Thinking the raid [executive of a search warrant at Mar-a-Lago] will have any lingering effect by 2024 is an incredibly imprudent opinion. Quite possibly, it might matter if the election was this year. However, by 2024, the emotions from the raid will primarily be an afterthought. Any political benefit Trump may have gained from this raid will have evaporated.
People are angry today, and they should be. By all the information available so far, it seems like vast government overreach and a weaponized Department of Justice looking to eliminate the future political prospects of Trump. Unfortunately, today’s anger will not last until November 2024.
You have to begrudgingly admire the psychological jujitsu employed here. Tremoglie’s unsophisticated readership has been primed to believe that the FBI search will be hugely beneficial to Trump’s political prospects, precisely because it is illegitimate. Tremoglie knows that any benefit to Trump is transitory and in fact the controversy could be lethal to disgraced ex-president’s chances. The true purpose of the piece is to buck up more sophisticated readers and demonstrate continuing fealty to Trump’s cause to potential donors to the magazine.
So, he talks to both audiences at once. Sure, he argues, the search of Mar-a-Lago rallied people around Trump, but that passion will wane before 2024 (and not because of any possible legitimacy to the search that leads to criminal penalties). He’s giving them a dose of reality in the only way he believes they can receive it.
But the larger message is that both the positives and the negatives will have worn off by 2024 and Trump still has a chance to be president again. In effect, he’s telling the concerned donors, who know Trump is in deep shit, both that the dream is not dead and that the Examiner is still on board the Trump train.
The problem is that the money is still with Trump. More precisely, there’s no money in turning on Trump. That’s why the only strong opinion Tremoglie actually voices is that the search “by all the information available so far…seems like vast government overreach and a weaponized Department of Justice looking to eliminate the future political prospects of Trump.”
Of course, Tremoglie is not an idiot and he knows that the evidence so far suggest Trump is in a world of pain. He knows the FBI was completely justified and that Trump has committed easily demonstrable and extremely serious crimes. He’s not really trying to convince anyone otherwise, even though it appears that is his purpose. His true purpose is to earn his paycheck by playing his assigned role.
He and the Examiner will continue be good soldiers in the fascist movement, so please keep the money flowing.