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The Secret to Making Liberal Argument Sound Dumb: Pretending Trump Doesn’t Exist

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02.05.2020

Conservative intellectuals caught between a president who has turned the idea of having any intellectual basis at all for one’s ideas into a dada joke, and an audience that demands fealty to him, have found refuge in anti-anti-Trumpism. The art of anti-anti-Trumpism often lies more in that which goes unsaid than that which is said. It consists largely of tightly narrowing one’s focus to Trump’s critics, whose actions can be analyzed as if Trump himself did not exist. The attraction of this technique is that it permits relative fealty to the facts without offending the Trumpian base.

The trouble is that the facts, even if true, must omit the context in which they make any sense. Imagine a history of the Pacific theater in World War II, which begins with the Doolittle raid and ends with the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, skipping Pearl Harbor, etc., and you have a sense of how the method works.

National Review editor Rich Lowry has a column that is a perfect specimen of the genre. Lowry’s theme is that science alone is not a guide to managing the coronavirus pandemic. His launching-off point is a series of pro-science quotes — “Joe Biden has urged President Trump, “Follow the science, listen to the experts, do what they tell you.” — which Lowry rebuts by arguing that science doesn’t have every answer: “Once you are outside a lab........

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