I have always rather liked George Will, a columnist for The Washington Post. At one time, he was a regular on This Week with George Stephanopoulos, and since I was a regular viewer, I saw and heard him frequently. I used to read his column occasionally, and though I disagreed with his ideology much of the time, I respected his style as a writer and the fact that he was never brash, always thoughtful and respectful — more centered than far right extremist. But, for the past year-and-a-half, I have been so inundated with news about first, the train-wreck that we called the 2016 election, and then the transition and ultimately the presidency of Trump, that I have neglected some of the columnists I used to read, including Will. And so it was that I did not know George Will had left the Republican party! In June 2016 – eight months ago! So much for me being right on top of the news, huh?
Will, a committed conservative, did not go so far as to join the Democratic party, but announced he was switching from the Republican party to ‘unaffiliated’. Will, apparently, is not a fan of Donald Trump, saying, “This is not my party”. He also urged fellow conservatives not to vote for Trump, but to “Make sure he loses. Grit their teeth for four years and win the White House.” This may be the biggest surprise I have had since Trump actually won the election!
Part of the reason for his departure, says Will, was Paul Ryan’s endorsement of Trump. He stated that a Trump presidency unchecked by a Republican-led Congress would be worse than a Hillary Clinton presidency with a Republican-led Congress. Trump, naturally, had something to tweet about this:
“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”
As I said, I have always respected and rather liked Will, but now I like him even more! And the latest news is that Will is also leaving Fox News, though apparently not voluntarily. Will left ABC News in 2013 and joined Fox News, primarily as a commentator on Chris Wallace’s Sunday show as well as on Bret Baier’s “Special Report” on weekday nights. His reason for leaving ABC News after a 32-year stint was not ideological differences, but rather logistical. Since Stephanopoulos was hosting Good Morning America in New York during the week, the Sunday show, long based in Washington, D.C., began taping mostly in New York, and in the capital only about once every four weeks. Will, who lives in the D.C. area, informed ABC News that traveling several weekends a month was becoming tougher for him, according to a spokesman. At the time, he was 72 years old, so I certainly understand.
His reason for leaving Fox is simply that they informed him they would not be renewing his contract. Will does not seem too upset over it, saying only, “They just said that they weren’t going to renew. They didn’t say, and I didn’t ask … it’s their toy.” Now almost 76 years of age, perhaps he is ready to slow down a bit at any rate.
Will has not been kind to Trump in his recent columns. In a column about Trump’s inaugural address, Will begins:
“Twenty minutes into his presidency, Donald Trump, who is always claiming to have made, or to be about to make, astonishing history, had done so. Living down to expectations, he had delivered the most dreadful inaugural address in history.
Kellyanne Conway, Trump’s White House counselor, had promised that the speech would be “elegant.” This is not the adjective that came to mind as he described “American carnage.” That was a phrase the likes of which has never hitherto been spoken at an inauguration.”
And he ends by saying
“[James] Madison anticipated and as the nation was reminded on Friday, “Enlightened statesmen will not always be at the helm.”
Truer words were never spoken.
While remaining a conservative ideologist and thinker, Will is, nonetheless, a man of good sense and intelligence and he, like David Brooks, Elliot Cohen and David Frum, understand that there is a difference between true conservative thinking and the radical no-holds-barred policies of Trump and his administration. If we are ever to begin to heal the divisiveness of the present, we need more voices like these to bring both sides back to the table, more toward the center where they can at least speak to one another in a civil manner. Voices like Sean Hannity, Ann Coulter, and the Breitbart team can only push the two sides further into the great divide that will lead us all over the chasm.
In a recent column in The Atlantic, writer Peter Beinart sums up the difference between what I refer to as the sensible conservatives like Will, Brooks, et al, vs. the radical elitists:
“For them, conservatism is about prudence, inherited wisdom, and a government that first does no harm; they see none of those virtues in Trump. They see themselves as the inheritors of a rich conservative intellectual tradition; Trump’s ignorance embarrasses them. And they believe America should stand for ideals that transcend race, religion and geography; they fear white Christian identity politics in their bones. They are, to my mind, highly admirable.”
Ever since the ‘tea party’ movement began in 2009, the divide between conservative and liberal political ideology has widened. As conservatives moved further to the right of center, the center shifted and liberals maintained the balance by moving further to the left, leaving an almost insurmountable chasm in the middle. As writers, journalists and politicians finally begin to understand, and respond to, what is happening, there is hope that some, like Will, will refuse to become entrenched in party ideologies and move back toward the center line.
We The People must rely on the media for our news, and to a large extent we form our opinions based on the news and what those we respect in the media say. Though George Will and I will always be ideologically opposed in many areas of policy, I respect him for being a thinker, for not allowing the rhetoric spewing from his former party to sway him, and for standing for his beliefs. We need more writers and journalists to take a stand for what is right, rather than merely feeding the hysteria of the masses.