Weekly Standard Editor Bill Kristol still does not think Donald Trump will be the Republican presidential nominee and insisted the billionaire will disappoint conservatives if he wins the White House.
Kristol stuck by his anti-Trump posture despite the fact that Trump continues to lead virtually every poll. He did, however, credit radio host Laura Ingraham with recognizing Trump’s appeal early.
“Analytically, you are more right than I’ve been in the sense that you saw the depths of discontent and, therefore, you were right in predicting that Trump would be stronger, and I kept thinking he would fade,” Kristol said Tuesday on “The Laura Ingraham Show.”
But Kristol said Trump cannot be trusted to carry out a conservative agenda beyond his signature issue of immigration. The Standard editor pointed out that Trump’s two biggest rivals — Sens. Ted Cruz of Texas and Marco Rubio of Florida — both have been more consistent in their opposition to the Affordable Care Act. He said Trump, who is accustomed to cutting deals, is less likely to scrap the health plan widely known as Obamacare.
“Donald Trump would bring less change to Washington than Ted Cruz, Marco Rubio or (New Jersey Gov.) Chris Christie, not more,” he said. “Donald Trump’s history is getting along with the people in power. When has he ever challenged power?”
“If he’s the nominee, if he’s president, I very much hope conservatives influence him.”
Kristol participated in the Trump pile-on organized by the National Review, which devoted an entire issue last week to stopping the real estate mogul from capturing the GOP nomination. Kristol’s own publication, the Weekly Standard, also has been a consistent critic of Trump.
Kristol suggested over the summer that he would support a third-party candidate over Trump. On Tuesday, he said he hopes that Trump is receptive to conservative ideals.
“If he’s the nominee, if he’s president, I very much hope conservatives influence him,” he said.
Kristol lamented that the Republican Party has been too “timid” in confronting challenges facing the middle class and called for a more substantive policy debate. He said immigration should be curbed, for instance, to reverse downward pressure on wages. But, he added, that plays only a small role in the stagnation of American wages.
The problem with a knee-jerk reaction to the desperation and frustration of voters, Kristol said, is that “desperation and frustration can also lead you to do very foolish things.”
Kristol conceded that the economic policies of former President George W. Bush did not work well during his second term. But he suggested the Bush deserves credit to at least trying to deal with economic stagnation. He noted that Bush pushed polices to increase homeownership — even if those policies may be contributed to the housing collapse that wrecked the economy.
Caution, he said, should be the watchword of conservatives.
“The idea that the government can magically snap its fingers and solve the problems of the working class and middle class is also something that conservatives should resist,” Kristol said.