30 Jul 2017

A Pleasure to Read

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Michael Thau comes to Donald Trump’s defense, in the process totally demolishing that exquisite twit Rod Dreher.

Last week, the American Conservative published a headline that, with the addition of a little profanity, would fit right in on the bathroom wall of some Leftist dive: “Donald Trump, Treacherous Loon.” But the piece isn’t by an antifa graffiti artist seeking mainstream attention; its author is one of the site’s senior editors, Rod Dreher.

If you haven’t yet heard of Dreher or his recent book, The Benedict Option, it’s definitely not his fault. You probably never visit The American Conservative, where he’s used his perch as senior editor to write 17 posts plugging the book in the last four weeks alone. That’s on top of the thousands upon thousands of words he’s written about the book since its publication in March.

For those unfamiliar with his work, Dreher became prominent in the early 2000s as a writer for National Review. His most famous NR piece begins, “One day this summer, I told a colleague I had to leave early to pick up my weekly fresh vegetables from the organic food co-op to which my wife and I belong.”

Legions of men, in Dreher’s circumstances, have courageously told their wives that buying food labeled “organic” is a waste of both time and money; legions more have capitulated in silence. But it takes a truly self-absorbed man to publicly rationalize his capitulation into a heretofore undetected strain of conservative thought; and a hopelessly twee one to label it “crunchy conservativism.” Monetization quickly followed rationalization, and a book with a title as lengthy as it is nauseating was born: Crunchy Cons: How Birkenstocked Burkeans, Gun-Loving Organic Gardeners, Evangelical Free-Range Farmers, Hip Homeschooling Mamas, Right-Wing Nature Lovers, and Their Diverse Tribe of Countercultural Conservatives Plan to Save America (or At Least the Republican Party).

Besides sucking up to liberal elites, Dreher also showed his flair for self-promotion in his NR days. He got them to run, as lone dissenter Jonah Goldberg called it, “a blog entirely dedicated to [his book], in which most of the contributors seem committed to finding new and exciting ways to illustrate the genius of the book and the insights of its author.” …

Dreher’s penchant for turning self-absorption into self-promotion reached almost artistic levels in a later essay explaining his conversion from Roman Catholicism to Eastern Orthodoxy. His reason involves the gravest of matters: disillusionment by the Catholic Church’s sexual abuse scandals. But, his essay reads like Dostoyevsky’s caricature of Turgenev’s account of a ship wreck. …

When Dreher summarizes his remarks, the actual victims of abuse get pushed aside to make room for the true subject of interest: “I have talked about how the Church itself failed me in all this . . .” Dreher’s mania for self-promotion also manifests itself; he refers to his book twice; indeed, the very title of this allegedly serious piece about religious depravity and conversion is, almost unbelievably, “Crunchy Con’s Conversion Crisis.” He’s even so immodest as to brag of his modesty: “you won’t see me ballyhoo my conversion to Orthodoxy as I did with my conversion to Catholicism.” Nope, no ballyhooing here at all. And the above is just a taste of the unseemly narcissism exuded by Dreher’s story.

So, as you can probably tell, Dreher isn’t just a simple Christian. Christianity is an essential part of his commercial brand and, hence, the Eucharist isn’t the only kind of bread the Lord provides. Thus, his self-absorption notwithstanding, it’s surprising to hear a man who lauds the “Amish example of forgiveness and detachment from anger” call the president a treacherous loon. My first thought was that maybe hurling abuse is, like vulgar egotism, a habit for which he hasn’t yet managed to follow Christ’s example and break. So, I searched for some headlines about President Obama that were equally nasty. But, the closest I could find was “Obama Disses Chaput,” which only the most fanatical admirer of both Obama and the Archbishop would find at all offensive.

So, what had Donald Trump done to deserve the appellation of “treacherous loon”? Surely, he must have exceeded Obama’s many transgressions. Had Trump sold guns to Mexican drug lords? Had he used the IRS to target his enemies? Did he secretly send billions of dollars in cash to Iran? Perhaps, like Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, he lost track of $6 billion in government money or used a charitable organization as a pay-for-play service.

No, in fact, the president hadn’t done anything. Dreher’s crude insult had nothing to do with Trump’s actions. The fuss was, rather, about something he said; namely, that if he knew Jeff Sessions was going to recuse himself from the Russia probe, he wouldn’t have appointed him attorney general.

Now, at worst, the president’s remark is a perfect example of Michael Kinsley’s famous definition: “A gaffe is when a politician tells the truth—some obvious truth he isn’t supposed to say.”

RTWT

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