The ‘No Guardrails’ Presidency

How did the conservative movement come to embrace vulgarity?

Comments: 210

  1. Was it this paragon that won out?

    A paranoid fellow, the Don,
    Not the chap to depend upon,
    Mercurial, crazy,
    His knowledge is hazy,
    His one talent, running the Con.

    Not known as especially wise
    An addict of seven foot ties,
    Small vocabulary
    The constabulary
    He views as his personal guys.

    An addictive tweeter is he
    With grandiose words always free,
    To "bigly" is partial
    Pretends to be martial
    With five deferments quite happy.

  2. Bravo!

    @Larry...thank you for making my day!

  3. This is a wondrous poem among an ocean of wonderful poems, all written by you. Thank you, sir.

  4. Covfefe!

  5. Actually, I've been hearing a lot of vulgarity for the entirety of this new administration. Some of the things I heard were were so vile and stomach-turning that I nearly blanched. Many of the gratuitous and tasteless comments were simply disgusting.

    Admittedly, I heard most of it in my living room as I was watching the news, since it was coming from me. But still, there's no excuse.

  6. Always the best. Thanks.

  7. Our president is a game show host. I don't mind vulgarities. I cuss like a sailor, and like you, gemli, I cuss a lot at the news. But the difference between my salty language and the language of our current administration is that I don't use it to demean other people. I don't use it to be mean. I don't use it to bully. I use it to be colorful or silly or absurd. I don't use it during an interview or a public talk. I don't use it in front of my mother. I use it when I know it will be understood for what it is. The TRUMP crowd use it as a weapon. And they use it in totally inappropriate situations. They have no manners and they are downright mean. My parents would have grounded me for life if I'd even thought the kind of things this crowd says in public.

  8. Sometimes, gemli, it's like you're inside my head.

  9. Interesting comparison, but of course the main difference between the 1960s and 2017 is that the voices of anarchy in the 60s were those on the political fringes, while the vile, anti-establishment voices of the present day are coming from the highest ranks of our government. Witnessing the desecration of civic and moral values by our political leaders is far more distressing than anything the Yippies did.

  10. I can answer the proposed question. It was Fox News. It was Newt Gingrich. It was Rush Limbaugh. Lee Atwater got the ball rolling but he was the JV squad.

    What these people did was to bankrupt the truth. It didn't matter what was said, or how it was said, just as long as you won. Just as long as the money kept rolling in. This type of behavior reaches beyond the bounds of morality. Good or bad does not exist in their world. Only winning exists.

    To accomplish their goals of greed and power, they invented a culture where words can mean anything. If words can mean anything then words mean nothing. They created a world where facts truly don't matter. Kellyanne Conway called them "alternative facts". That was probably the truest, most accurate thing she has ever said. If facts don't matter, then truth is whatever you want it to be. Isn't that convenient?

    That is exactly what we have now. The Mooch, with his gutter mouth is just the next iteration of the words don't matter crowd. He just introduced extreme vulgarity into the conversation. Why not? Words don't matter.

    Trump follows directly from this devolution. If there is no truth and words don't matter, then the actions that follow from those meaningless words don't matter either. That my friends is Donald Trump. He lies constantly. He contradicts himself from one minute to the next. Is he nuts? Probably. But what is much worse is that Trump's behavior is not only tolerated, it is celebrated.

  11. Humpty-Dumpty was right: The problem with definitions was not a problem. The question was/is: "WHO IS TO BE MASTER!?"
    I would date the decline of America with the lies used to justify the Tongkin incident and going to Vietnam, dito for WMD and Iraq and a generous helping of Ayn Rand, and, until recently, the editorial pages of the WSJ (Stephens' former employer) and, yes, horrible dictu: the NYT. (This is thankfully past history: most of the NYT is now on high alert). Another factor: the 'end' of the cold war ca. 1992.
    Finally: those who call themselves conservatives are really reactionaries, and, even though they are ideologically 180° from leftists, they are, in their methods, similar if not identical. The extremes touch each other.

  12. Tolerated, celebrated and soon to be emulated

  13. I'm no defender of the circus troupe you call out, but they're not where words started to mean anything, and nothing. That would fall to Derrida and his ilk. Read some of the postmodern deconstructionists. You may be surprised to find that "alternative facts," were first synthesized by the left, and long before they were fully weaponized by the right.

  14. This all reminds me how very old-fashioned I am, though I pass the litmus test for liberal positions on most issues. Maybe it's an unrealistic yearning for some age of enlightenment and good talking that has never existed.

    I've always been disappointed, not to say disturbed, by White House memoirs and Bob Woodward books that reveal the men (I use the word advisedly) at the highest levels of government indulging in the other kind of locker-room language: the metaphors of sports. Nothing that involves the sacrifice of human lives, or even their basic well-being, should be spoken of as a "slam-dunk" or a "Hail Mary pass" or the knocking of something "out of the park".

    No doubt that kind of language is economical among men who understand it, but such understanding is superficial and evasive. I want them to pin their meanings down in starkly accurate terms before reaching their decisions.

    No doubt this is one of various ways in which governance will improve when we have a female president. That will be a welcome change, but I must add that the Making of the First Woman President -- or the second or third -- should never be our main concern. In that, I prefer litmus-free liberalism.

  15. In 1968 there was indeed a culture of excess, excuses and permission. It was that of "the brightest and best" responsible for U.S. foreign policy and racial segration, who flouted our country's own norms of racial equality, human rights and national self-determination in continuing racial segration at home and an Imperialist aggression overseas. And when the anti-War and civil rights movements had the audacity to point out this elite's selective application of the United States' own principles of democracy, national self-determination, racial equality and human rights, and were so unmannerly as to engage in civil disobedience to demand that our nation's practice live up to its principles, they were denounced by the likes of Stephens as lacking "modesty, responsibility and restraint," that is, a lack of due deference to their superiors, who knew better about the realities of power and the folly of youthful idealism.

  16. Thank you for setting the record straight here!!! It works every time: when you do not want to face the truth of content (as you point out the inhumanity of the Viet Nam war and racism) you blame process (excess, lack of restraint) or vice-versa.
    I wish there were more comments like yours!

  17. Just review McConnell's speech after losing his attempt to deny 20 Million Americans of health insurance/care. 150% hypocrisy. His pastor or priest should have his mouth washed with a detergent.

  18. The "concepts of honor, service, integrity, independence, compromise and statesmanship" were well represented by Barack Obama for eight years, far more so than by Sarah Palin running for VP.

    The GOP ended up running Trump because it told itself nonsense like this about the clown car full of "candidates" it offered other than Trump. They started with Bush III and ended in desperate support of Ted Cruz, whom they all hated.

    The GOP did this not just by Trump, but by all the rest it did leading up to Trump.

  19. I wouldn't blame the GOP; rather the voters who gave Trump the nomination. Truth be told, if we still had the old smoke filled room system for picking nominees, Trump wouldn't have made it past the door. Vox populi.

  20. I remember that WSJ editorial. It impressed me back then, although I admit I thought differently than I do about the phrase.

    If the editorialists thought the country had jumped its rails because of the excesses of the previous two decades, I wonder what they'd say today about this presidency.

    It's been compared to The Hunger Games and Lord of the Flies. But I think you nailed it with your choice of the word contempt.

    That someone so contemptible is driven by his own contempt for time-honored institutions simply baffles me. It's not as if Trump came from the counter-culture, where giving the finger to authority figures was a given.

    No, I think Trump got the way he is because there were virtually no obstacles to his actions. For most of his life, he was treated as an oddity, and a ruthless real estate tycoon, but nobody took him down a peg when he skirted the law. I read an excellent post yesterday from (I think) Socrates who said Trump's biggest problem and the source of his rage is that he can't call in a fixer like Roy Cohn to get him out of trouble.

    If he's mad, it probably never occurs to him that we are too--albeit for different reasons. For someone who professes such deep, abiding love for America, we find it baffling he seems to derive such pleasure from tearing it apart.

  21. Trump loves money and fame. Period.

  22. Back in 1992 I bought my first modem card, and began interacting with other people all over the U.S. through the "bulletin board" system. An early version of email software allowed you to transmit and recieve mail packets categorized by what would later be called chat rooms. It was in these early forums that I discovered there was a whole bunch of people in my country who were dismissive of the rule of law - and they would argue and dissemble and lie and use all the tools of the debater's art to further their ideology. I was aghast to find myself a minority of one when the subject of torture came up. They were all for it. I was sickened and disheartened as I had no idea there were such barbarians living amongst us. It was a giant wake up call, and now as I look back I see there were future Trump supporters burgeoning and multiplying in cyberspace.

  23. What's with the comment that McCain's defeat in 2008 could potentially be some sort of moral turning point? Whether you liked his policies or not, Obama was one of the most dignified, moral, and respectable politicians that we've had in a very long time, and much more so than any of current crop of GOP congressman. And however admirable he had been before, McCain took his defeat hard, and became a grumpy old obstructionist Republican for a long time after.

  24. And he sacrificed his dignity and commitment to service when he acquiesced in running with Sarah Palin--the first person chosen in our lifetimes who was completely incompetent and unsuitable to wear the mantle of the Presidency--to be a potential heartbeat away from very old president.

  25. @BG: There was a direct line from Palin to Trump. The Republicans put our nation in peril by running two grossly incompetent, unqualified people for positions of great power. This marked a sickening turning point for one of our two major political parties. In the pursuit of temporary power, the GOP showed complete contempt for our democracy and a complete lack of concern for the well-being and safety of the American people.

  26. Right, Larry. I read Bret to see how he'll weave in "It's the Democrats' fault!
    in his otherwise incisive critiques of Trump et al.

  27. What drove the protesters of Chicago to violence? The political decision to send our youth to fight a useless, ideological war.

    Old men who thought they knew best in sending young men off to danger.

    Does it have a familiar ring? How about the whole process of the repeal of the ACA? Hubris by "leadership" in the name of ideology and political expediency.

  28. Sending people to war on the grounds of the domino theory and requiring them to make provision to pay for future medical care which they will in all probability require at some point are pretty far from equivalency, both in effects on the individual and in robustness of the underlying theory.

  29. But in both cases people die who would not otherwise have to.

  30. Trumps amoral zombies are equivalent to the Anti Viet Nam War movement? The "coarsening" of America wasn't by the hippies, it was by the vulture capitalists of Wall St. as they jettisoned the 99% they no longer required to make bank. They brought the worldwide bullying that failed in SE Asia home and sliced the US into a 3rd World cake, with all the icing on the 1% sliver.

  31. Well said!

  32. And we should also remember that the counterculture of the 60s/70s valued and validated and made common cause with traditional skills and worldviews. The Foxfire books? Learn to raise goats and weave, build boats, farm sustainably.

  33. Simply great! Well put.

  34. I am exhausted. Daily chaos, sniping, undermining, blaming, threatening, bullying, humiliating. The revolving cover-ups and lies, self promotion and disregard for our history and our government.

    I am exhausted and worried. How did we get here and how can we ever make things right again.

  35. Keep doing what you are doing....speaking out against what is so obviously wrong. Write/call Ryan and McConnell and any other GOP congressman/woman who excuses Trump's outrageous behaviors as just "concerning" or "unorthodox".

  36. I often feel that the only thread connecting me to something like sanity is the comments section of the Times op ed page. Write on!

  37. Sir, you are absolutely correct. How do we get out of this mess?

  38. It is particularly obtuse to construct a moral equivalency between those who justified the "mobs" (protesters) who found themselves under attack by Chicago police, an event judged to be a police riot, where the policemen severely beat and gassed the demonstrators, as well as newsmen and doctors who had come to help, with those who have justified boundless trashing of norms by the Trump administration. Mr. Stephens needs more thought experiments: e.g., are justifications for legal protests, brutally squelched, the same sort of thing as justifications for Trump's admissions of sexual assault, backed up by more than a dozen assaulted women? He seems to be hanging his entire equivalency argument on unartful descriptions used by those who justify the acts rather than zeroing in on the morality of the acts themselves.

  39. In 1968, there were two kinds of public intellectuals. The first kind offered apologetics for the U.S. invasion of Vietnam. It was right, in their minds, to destroy villages in order to save them, to assassinate elected leaders in defense of democracy.

    The second kind of public intellectual could see that this was wrong. And so could plenty of other people faced with the reality of draft cards and smug apologists.

    In the words of Winston Churchill: men ordered to their deaths have the right to a plan as well as a cause.

    And in the equally sound words of Dwight Eisenhower: Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired signifies, in the final sense, a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and not clothed. This world in arms is not spending money alone. It is spending the sweat of its laborers, the genius of its scientists, the hopes of its children. This is not a way of life at all in any true sense. Under the cloud of threatening war, it is humanity hanging from a cross of iron.

    If adherence to the wisdom of true leaders led to some screaming in the streets... Well, perhaps it's the duty of true intellectuals to acknowledge this and get it into proper academic terms.

    The apologists have cashed their checks and been forgotten. Almost.

  40. Let me clue you in, Bret. Your party professes family and Christian values while pursuing an increasingly misanthropic agenda. That agenda used to be cloaked in language designed to make it sound altruistic. Now the party's mouth is catching up with where its mind has been for quite a while now.

  41. While generally agreeing with your comments about the Trump administration, the conclusions in the Wall Street Journal editorial (re. 1968) about the blame for the loss of guardrails are one-sided and flawed. The editorial (to which you conclude "Agreed") has a very different take on the blame for the 1968 riots than I had living in the mid-west at the time. Roughly 15,000 of our service men had by then died in Vietnam and we had done untold damage to the Vietnamese population and countryside. Many Americans were deeply troubled by this. If you have ~10 minutes to learn what contribution some governmental officials and some members of the law enforcement community made to the disappearance of the guardrails in the late 1960's please view: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0XBmEMIzyqY which is a short summary of the University of Wisconsin Madison protest of Dow Chemical's recruiting visit to the campus in the fall of 1967. At ~ 7:25 of the video clip a City of Madison police officer who was involved in the conflict says with respect to his making sure a student did not return to protest again, "if that meant breaking his kneecap, that's what you did."
    That seems like a rather un-guardrailed way to deal with peaceful protestors.
    Finally, while frequently disagreeing with the conclusions of your editorials, you often make an effort to include facts and logic in your discussion. That is appreciated.

  42. "The fish rots from the head". Yes, very much. I like that Eric and Donald Jr. are conducting business on The American Dime. Alone -one Eric Trump's Uruguay trip cost taxpayers $97,830 in hotel bills. So Yea. Seems the only reason Trump became President is to conduct free travel business and increase contacts. Surely not to run a top notch Administration judging from revolving door antics.

  43. These expenses are totally unacceptable and why are taxpayers footing the t
    Trump family businesse's travel bill? Also all the extra costs for Melanie and Baron who are still not living in DC and their travel & security are unnecessary expenses.

  44. I take issue of Mr. Stephens comparison between the 1968 movement and the present failed administration, in particular regarding public decency and proper civil discourse.

    The 1968's leftist movement was fighting a lie: that the Vietnam War was winnable and worth its price in blood. Nixon pushed this lie unto the public until the bitter end. The veneer of "decency and order" of the governing class soon was off: we saw the lie outright. Without the dogged effort and the "impropriety" of the Left in 1968 and beyond the Right would have lied through and through. Blood would have flowed many more years.

    Today's Conservative movement might not have the fake civility of yesteryear, but its goals are still bloody, despotic and oppressive.

    What is more "improper" and "uncivil" than covering blood with lies (see the health care debate as presented by the Right)?

    We all need real decency, based on truth, objective reality and the pursuit of justice for all.

  45. In 1968 the American war in Vietnam was winnable. In fact, it took an extraordinary confluence of morally bankrupt political leadership after Nov 22nd, 1963; some wrongheaded and rigid American generalship; and a generation of overindulged young Americans enabled by intellectual and entertainment elites in combination to lead to American exhaustion now accepted as defeat. If that (my) generation had been so utterly lacking in simple citizenship as they (I) were, Europe and the Far East today would be unrecognizable.

    We threw an enormous national adolescent hissy fit in Chicago 1968.

  46. Respectfully, I suggest you read the books "A Bright and Shining Lie" by Neil Sheehan and "The Best and the Brightest" by David Halberstam.

    And yes, I've read (and respect) Max Boot, I find his arguments specious at best.

  47. The war in Vietnam was "winnable" to about the extent, and for about the underlying reasons, that the USSR's war in Afghanistan was "winnable" .

    Or, to look at it another way, in our own context, how long would the inhabitants of rural Kentucky have continued to resist a Russian attempt to impose a "People's Republic" upon them?

    My guess is that the answer is measured in generations, and that right up to day of defeat the Russian media would have been full of accounts of ongoing victories.

    And that afterwards, the same commentators would be arguing that the war in Kentucky was winnable "but for an extraordinary confluence of morally bankrupt political leadership, wrongheaded and rigid generalship; and a generation of overindulged young Russians."

  48. FIrst of all - "conservative intelligentsia?" The fact is that the right stopped having any credible intellectual presence once it embraced the anti-intellectualism of the fundamentalist white Christian church. The right has always had issues with authoritarianism - Trump just represents the culmination of that tendency (and the white people's frustration with their declining influence and privilege as dictated by the increasing racial and cultural diversity of America). The intellectual capital of the right has been subsumed in its cultural anxiety - with fiscal conservatism morphing into pro-oligarchic policies and what feel like increasing punitive treatment of the poor and middle class. Trump and his thuggish family are what racism has made America and the GOP susceptible to. The right's intellectual branch (to which Mr. Stephens apparently believes he belongs) needs to step outside of their comfort zone, where "white" and "normal" are equivalent, and search for ways to talk about valuable conservative ideals (like hard work, and thoughtful fiscal policy, and accountability) in a context that recognizes historical injustice and a (still) tilted playing field. Until that happens, conservatism will simply further devolve into the reactionary, prejudiced, and nearly incoherent anger that Trump's speeches and tweets exemplify.

  49. "Faith" is antithetical to reason.

  50. Your argument would have more strength if you didn't lump all "white" people together. We don't all think alike any more than all minorities think alike. I tire of both racial extremes.

  51. I find today's GOP to be rabidly anti-intellectual....sad there is no William F. Buckley today. They have no ideas and are rigid in their views and intolerant of those who do not agree w/ their particular POV.

  52. The conservative movement didn't come to embrace vulgarity any more than the progressive movement came to embrace "free stuff". There are the vulgar and scatologically contemptuous on both sides, some conservatives believe in Christian veils and chastity belts, some liberals believe in unlimited free cheese and Band-Aids. We learned that Richard Nixon, decades ago, used extremely salty language in private and we know from survivors that LBJ did as well, although he had the sense not to have it recorded on HIS tapes.

    The temptation is to tar an entire political culture by unrefined language that is caught much more often today because there are so many ways to catch it and so few fifty years ago. We shouldn't cave to the temptation, because it doesn't reflect reality.

    The visceral public reaction to Scaramucci's crass philippic is sufficient proof that "guardrails" still exist, in our political culture as well as the presidency; as his shame is evident in apologizing for it. If guardrails were absent, there wouldn't have been an apology.

    Twenty years ago and more, a president STILL is claimed to have assaulted a women in the Oval Office, or nearby, and some still turn a blind eye to such behavior claiming that, hey, he was our FIRST "black" president. Abbie Hoffman might have said in 1968 that “The first duty of a revolutionist is to get away with it,” but it was much more recently that a U.S. president said "It depends upon what the meaning of the word 'is' is ".

  53. Our culture evolves, and the presidency with it. The guardrails don't disappear, they merely are painted a different color -- absurdly excessive political correctness and "safe zones" on our campuses, for example.

    Bret gives every indication of finally ... growing old: today's guardrails aren't the guardrails of HIS youth.

  54. RL, I think you make the serious mistake Bret identifies by giving the current administration "a patina of intellectual respectability and moral seriousness that Trump has done nothing to earn". This is not the an evolution of the presidency it's an anomaly. And the failings of previous presidents do not normalise or excuse the flailing Trump with the damage he's unleashing. It's certainly not a great purge or reset of the divisiveness that defines Washington and geopolitics... just the opposite in fact. Trump is the blunt instrument manipulated by the power brokers that surround him to advance their own narrow vision of America and the world. Do not try this at home...no guardrails included.

  55. There was no apology. What on earth are you talking about?

  56. As long as I can remember the editorial staff at the WSJ has found a way to twist the facts, and place the onus for some liberal social movement on those socialistic professors, and thinkers. Movements by the people in protesting repressive government actions, sending people to die for some feared result such as the Dulles Brothers Domino Theory have been called mistaken liberal movements.

    In 1959 I watched an anti Vietnam protest march beginning in Berkeley down Telegraph Ave blocked by the Oakland police at Ashby Ave. It was a peaceful march, the cops were in riot gear, had backup vehicles, and had heavy arms.

    This was a classic example of conservative resistance to peoples right to protest and make a difference. We saw the same thing with their treatment of the Black Panthers who's action was to provide breakfast to hungry children in what had become ghettos due to the San Francisco Redevelopment Agency of the Western Addition forcing an overcrowding of West Oakland and West Berkeley.
    The WSJ found the liberal Berkeley establishment responsible.

    Your old paper continues its revision of facts today, telling us how rightful the conservative movement is, while supporting a documented liar and swindler. It has created a following that believes news about this pox on society is
    false, aided by your friend Peggy Noonan,the master of the ad hominem. He appeals to those who do not seem to have the common politeness and decorum the many of us grew up with.

  57. I was in the streets of Chicago in August 1968 with thousands of other peace activists--not street fighters. Mr. Stephens, like many others who were not there, seem to confuse those peace activists, who were peaceful and got gassed for their trouble, with the much smaller bunch who returned (or came for the first time) to Chicago several weeks later, for something called "Days of Rage." That lunch broke windows. Are, on the other hand were shoved through windows by Daley's police. All you need to do to assess our actions, it seems to me, is to review the tapes--particularly, Cronkite's comments.

  58. "... like many others who were not there, seem to confuse those peace activists, who were peaceful and got gassed for their trouble ..."

    Maybe that was your experience, but writer John Schultz was also in Chicago in August 1968, and he reports numerous violent incidents, mostly perpetrated by the Chicago police, according to him:

    '"The cops were beating a kid there, and the first camera was broken right beside me. A newspaper photographer was taking the picture, and a nightstick came down, and he said, 'They got my lens,' astonished. They had a kid across a car here; there were beatings, clubbings, screaming everywhere."'

    However, 'Sometimes rocks were thrown'.

    28-Year-Old Snapshots Are Still Vivid, and Still Violent
    By JOHN KIFNER
    AUG. 26, 1996
    http://www.nytimes.com/1996/08/26/us/28-year-old-snapshots-are-still-viv...

    See, also, Schultz's book, "No One Was Killed".

  59. Agreed. Brett is simply lying to cover up the failings of the "conservative" movement he champions. This is just a cheap attempt to pass the buck for something he and his ilk are solely responsible for.

  60. Brett Stephens concept is flawed because '68 cannot be reduced to the days of rage.

  61. That is right. There was a tremendous injustice people on the left were trying to remedy - acquiring civil rights for African Americans. That can hardly be equated with today's coarseness based on the ravings of a narcissist who can't be bothered to read and learn about issues, backed by followers who also can't be bothered to read and educate themselves about different points of view.

  62. It is true that American society is coarser. Everyone has a hand in it. Adult language and entertainment is broadcast widely. People wear vulgar sayings on T-shirts. Politicians speak freely, discourteously, and obscenely and no longer sound out of place. People who prefer modesty and propriety are mocked as old-fashioned. The toothpaste can't be put back in the tube. It's hard to say what's been lost if many or even most people don't care about it. Obscene words once were powerful, expressing strong anger, lust, contempt, and had the capacity to shock and tittilate. No more. In the mouths of people like "the Mooch" they are meaningless vocalizations, verbal filler. So sad.

  63. And today we have a President who endorses police brutality.
    Whatever "conservative" honor was left has now been obliterated by this man they elevated to lead our country -- to ruin.
    Unless and until the Republicans can quickly reorganize themselves into a party of dignity and compassion, it will disappear. Not without a monumental civil disruption, but it will lose in the end.

  64. Yes, there were those who deliberately broke the enforced norms art, fashion, and speech as part of a movement to uproot what they saw as rot and oppression. They studied politics, economics, and philosophy from a variety of cultures and points in history. Teach-ins were common and encouraged. Many young people felt threatened by the institutions they were being forced to serve and uphold and they spoke out with emotion and passion.

    Contrast that to today. We have a president who struggles to speak in coherent sentences and refuses read more than a few lines about the complex issues over which he presides (traits common to 3 of the last 4 GOP presidents). Taking the time for deep learning and thought is scoffed at by the inner circle at the White House and a majority of those citizens who voted them into power. The passion flares frequently, but the subjects that give rise to violently course language tend to be people who are scorned as being less than human, rather than institutions and ideas that are being debunked.

    Ranting and chanting can be effective means of bonding amateur activists to a cause before getting down to the work of planning and implementing social change. Swearing, blaming, and "breaking things" is not a good look for those leading powerful, professional institutions. Day after day, it only gets worse. They are in over their heads and have left themselves no safe exit. I am tempted to swear myself when I witness their ineptitude.

  65. All of these "analyses" are flawed because they are based on a false assumption: that this past election was legitimate.

    As we are discovering on a daily basis, it was not.

    #Nullify this fraud.
    #REVOTE.

  66. or,
    "The Russians are Coming...
    The Russians are Coming..."

  67. The 60s generation was hit with three deaths that created an internal trauma. I believe the lost of Kennedy, King, and Kennedy broke the spirit of that decade where protests and rebellion surfaced. Chicago was part of that as was Earth Day, that wonderful communist plot to dethrone democracy, but out of that came civil rights, women's rights, Native American rights, an environmental awareness and true, a sense of upward mobility. I do not believe it was just Chicago but what it represented. We need to reflect on the roots of change that led to this presidency and the threat it poses to our democracy. Looking back is one way. Looking as David Brooks has done at the cultural setting of our times is another. Yet we have to understand that we reached a threshold for some by electing a president that did not fit the mold. Trump questioned his legitimacy. Those in congress wanted him to fail. The passion to replace Obamacare without substantive ideas was the pinnacle of that passion of hate. Look at how many people hated Obamacare until it was about to be lost.

    I feel we are facing a crisis of power in our day. Democracy is not reaching across some isle to work for the good of America. We have an administration dismantling the protections we built over decades from lessons we learned. We have a president who does not study the basis of issues but listens to mouths who feed him whatever. We need more editorials like this to challenge us to think.

  68. With all due respect, this editorial is not challenging anyone to think. It's a shameless effort to absolve that which is to blame for our current predicament: the American conservative movement.

  69. The secret of the old American ethic of modesty, responsibility, and restraint was revealed in the Nixon tapes. The secret of modesty was sexual repression and women kept in their places, and the secret of restraint was an interior that had to be rigorously restrained because it was full of paranoia, racism, antisemitism, and a refusal to understand those who saw things differently. Responsibility included hatred and contempt for those who embodied irresponsibility (for many, blacks, but also white trash, hillbillies, and also bohemians and atheists).

    The old American ethic was an ethic of conformity and hypocrisy, of people fitting outwardly into the few acceptable patterns and keeping the interior reality hidden when it did not match. It was not just priestly pederasty but also the coverup of priestly pederasty. It was actually believing that blacks needed Communist agitators to tell them they should be upset that the game was rigged against them.

    The culture of excess, excuses, and permission was a culture of creativity and risk-taking, inspired by the establishment hypocrisy and incompetence evidenced in Vietnam and civil rights, and by new, vital forms of music. The moral chaos was an attempt to fix the moral authoritarian regimentation and the ugly realities it was designed to hide and preserve.

    Trump is just a new expression of the old morality that no longer hides its reality behind a facade of respectability. Evangelicals understand this.

  70. sdavidc9, thank you. An eloquent summary.

  71. What angered me most as a child living under the strictures of the Jim Crow South was to listen to segregationists' attempts to discredit the Civil Rights Movement by claiming outside agitators were at fault for the protests.

    A community under siege ultimately responds to the every day realities of brutality and injustice. Outside agitation was not required.

  72. Yes, the haters and bigots have always been there. They were just marginalized. Now, thanks to the repeal of the fairness doctrine, the consolidation of radio ownership and the explosion of the internet, they have become a constituency which can be pandered to. The Trump administration is the consequence.

  73. "How did so many of the same people who spent the past 50 years bemoaning the decline of morality and decorum become the agents and enablers of the most morally grotesque administration in American history?"

    I see no contradiction. Conservatism aims to conserve the wealth and political power of the moneyed elites. And that's about it (the other so-called values are essentially pretense and can be abandoned if it might bring gains).

    "“The first duty of a revolutionist is to get away with it,” Abbie Hoffman said in Chicago in 1968. "

    Conservatives have adhered faithfully to that principle since the late 1700s.

  74. Mr. Stephens suggests that the conservative embrace of vulgarity is ultimately the fault of Democrats, because conservatives were titillated by President Clinton or took hard President Obama's defeat of Sen. McCain. This is an insidious attempt to shift blame.

    Conservatives have no one to blame for their debased standards than themselves. What passes for a conservative movement in recent years is the artificial construct of self-serving businessmen, ambitious and greedy clergy, and hyperventilating media personalities. They replaced classic conservatism with hysteria and lies about things like Planned Parenthood and bathrooms. An artificial movement built on a twisted version of reality can only sustain itself by ever-growing tolerance for allies of any stripe. Conservatives have now accepted the vulgar, the violent and even the Putin apologists into their fold, condoning their actions at the expense of integrity.

    The twisted version of reality finds expression on the editorial pages of the Wall Street Journal. I am dismayed to find those writings cited here as if they carried authority. Let's not be misled. The cultural changes of 1968 were not the product of professors. They were generated by youthful idealists and people of faith inspired by the civil rights experience, the draft, and by JFK, RFK, MLKJr and Eugene McCarthy. It is true that the social change of the 60's enjoyed wide support among intellectuals. A comparable conservative intelligentsia does not exist.

  75. You forget the nose in the air Buckley conservatism. I used to enjoy young Bill`s ability to put two words together but it wasn`t a sugar coated dissertation but was one usually dripping with acid. This is what taught me the mean and corrosive nature of Consertativism.

  76. It is tiresome to read from a sanctimonious conservative pundit that the liberals are to blame for the loss of 'American ethic of modesty, responsibility, and restraint'. It is even more exhausting to read further and discover that the author reaches back to the Vietnam era to place blame.

    Why do conservatives think that they are the authority on the human condition? At least the conclusion of this article realizes the irony that they are in no position to champion any cause of the moral high ground with the current state of affairs in the conservative administration.

  77. The segregated South was the quintessential chaotic system -- a system whose outside and self-image was totally out of synch with its true, inner reality. The worst moral chaos is found where a system conceals its chaos beneath a calm and serene exterior. A respected man beats his wife and she tells everyone that she slipped on the stairs; her friends suspect the truth but do not say anything (except behind her back), respecting her privacy. Appearances are preserved and the real chaos is successfully concealed.

    Thomas Jefferson wrote the Declaration of Independence and owned slaves. He condemned political rumor-mongering while being one of the best practitioners of it. He has a memorial in Washington, and we admire him -- and not as a flawed, all-too-human human being.

    The Wall Street Journal defends the morality of Wall Street, a morality that uses the facade of propriety to take suckers to the cleaners. Disagreements with brokers are settled by arbitration rather than lawsuits, and somehow the brokers almost always win (since their firms pick the arbitration firms who will make their decisions so as to be picked for future business). If the barriers of acceptable political and personal conduct are in the wrong place, then fixing them will appear as lowering them rather than the first step towards making them what they should be.

  78. Whoa Brett, referencing a grievously flawed 1993 editorial from the "Wall Street Journal", indicting liberals for the chaotic turmoil of the Annus Horribilis, 1968, and comparing it to the egregious conduct of Donald Trump, and the unceasing turmoil and incompetence of his administration, is a glaring false equivalency. The protests of 1968 were a legitimate response to the corrupt nature of American society, not the " guard rails coming off". The causal factor was societal NOT individual. The TET offensive exposed the serial lies and falsehoods by the American government about our "winning" in Vietnam. The riots in American cities were a response to institutional racism, rampant police brutality, and the assassinations of Martin Luther King and Bobby Kennedy. The anti-war demonstrations were a correct response to a senseless and corrupt war. The chaos at the Chicago convention was determined by a national commission to be a "police riot". The clenched fist salute at the Olympics by John Carlos and Tommie Smith was appropriate, when even after the passage of the Voting Rights Act in 1965, blacks still were prevented from voting in parts of the American South.

  79. Thank you, Don. The false equivalencies in the article are breathtaking. I marched in Chicago--marched with tears running down my face. My heroes had been murdered. Beloved classmates died in Vietnam. Marching in Chicago was serious business for people whose personal patriotism required that we stand for right against murderous wrongs being perpetuated by our government then. And now?

  80. Agreed. Brett has an agenda here, but it has nothing to do with the ostensible message of this piece. He's merely trying to absolve the Republican Party, and the American conservative movement in general(of which he is a part), of full and total responsibility for the trainwreck we're now witnessing. It won't work, Brett. You and your ideological cohort own this.

  81. And when they're not being shot by cops, blacks are still being prevented from voting in 2017, despite Trumped-up claims of Democratic voter fraud.

  82. Trump is the cheerleader of a third political party that has been bubbling up since Ross Perot and now hides under the Republican banner. That's the American form of parliamentary interparty allegiance: nebulous third parties co-opt a declining party's brand. "Honorable" conservatives repelled by the Administration's behavior haven't recognized this new reality. They're correct when they say it's not their Party any more. If the Party continues to ignore it, Buckley/Reagan/Goldwater conservatism will become the obsolete third party and the Administration's base will supplant the Republican Party.

  83. Behind this ugliness are power, greed, and hate. Musing otherwise enables excuses.

  84. @walterhett

    Traits that have been part of humanity for as long as we have walked on Earth.
    Darkest of traits that are primarily driven by the male of our species.

  85. It is gratifying to conservatives to go back to the '60s to rationalize their turn to the vulgarians a half-century later, but that's too much of a stretch (and Mr. Stephens, who use police overreaction to non-violent protest as his primary example, offers no compelling causal-relationship, only a generic assertion).

    Aside from the expletives, the vulgarity arose and was allowed to flourish due to the repeal of the Fairness Doctrine in 1987. This gave rise of partisan use of broadcasting as a propaganda tool without balance. Instead of pushing back against the extremism and demagoguery of the vulgarians, it gave them an amplifier. The lineal antecedent of Donald Trump isn't Abbie Hoffman, it's Rush Limbaugh.

  86. Spot on, Chris!.....from a native Chicagoan, 15 YO glued to the big old b/w TV during the convention in 1968.
    Ironic as it may be, I grew up in a solidly middle class family, in the wealthiest, most conservative county in Illinois.....DuPage, just west of the city. We had the best schools, not just in the state, but in the country. I had already tested out of basic requirements, and was taking college courses at 15. By the time I graduated HS I also had a college degree. This saved my life. Seriously......I was the most unlikely looking but seriously dedicated juvenile delinquent .....I was bored to death w/"ordinary" school.....I was saved by a controversial program.....It also meant I hung out with much older people.....college-aged.....so I was very tuned in to what was happening downtown.....after all, I'd been cutting classes, jumping the train and heading downtown for a few years.....while still maintaining a 4.0 and earning scholarships to further my education.
    What dismays me most is that I was able to thrive in a marvelous public school system supported by "conservatives" of the day.....sadly, under Betsy deVos.....I no longer see this as even remotely possible.
    And I am appalled at the ignorance of any history that my younger friends (who are smart and educated) display.....dumbing down, indeed....
    Thanks for your comment.

  87. I just don't recognize the world Bret describes - it seems so unnecessarily superficial, for starters - we all know the evil that existed in our society in the fifties and sixties - Dr. Strangelove and the Tet offensive, Nixon, the McCarthy hearings - is this a part of our history that Bret for some reason is forgetting?
    Evil lying and vulgarity have always been part of the world.
    What is the purpose of placing some sort of arbitrary demarcation point in the sixties? Of blaming academics and liberal ideals? It just makes no sense to me, unless you need to have some sort of manichean world view before you at all times.
    for me, the world is way more complex - vulgarity did not start in the nineties or when John McCain lost his bid for the presidency.(what?? weird idea). Vulgarity crosses party lines and resides in hearts of darkness. It is always with us, always will be. I think what is more worthwhile to analyze is the actual laws and actions people make and take. And for that you start with Hammurabi.

  88. The loss of honorable conservatism also started in 1968 when the conservatives embraced the Southern strategy to gain power. Conservatives knew what they were getting in the bargain. They thought they control it. They were wrong.

  89. Interesting allusion to some sort of historical progression. That allusion is perhaps an illusion. We should look at what the disappeared "guardrails" were/are. For example, but not exclusively, the 60's phenomenon were a reaction to conservatism that perpetuated a culture of racism, sexism, corporate greed and an autocratic tone embodied by people like Nixon. Today, the disregarded guard rails are the ones put in place by those earlier movements pushing toward progress and inclusion. Trump is the embodiment of resentments harbored by those who were the historic losers in the culture wars, attempting to turn-back the hands of time to the more romantic periods of American Constitutional malpractice.

  90. The greatest danger posed by Trump's presidency is the destruction of public faith in our government. Other nation's have Constitutions comparable to ours. Dictatorships and corruption flourish in these "democracies."

    The difference has been that Americans believe and obey the norms of our government. We trust that our leaders will have the integrity to play by the rules. Trump's flaunting of these norms and his willingness to ignore ethical boundaries corrode that faith.

    Trump's followers seem unconcerned about these ethical violations. Unless something is done to curb Trump's self-serving personal finances, nepotism and despotic behavior, the rest of us will come to believe we too now live in a Banana Republic. From there, our slide downward is inevitable.

  91. Let me hazard a partial answer to your question, "how did conservatives of all people let this happen?"

    It's because they are American conservatives, something that has always been self-contradictory. America was born in a revolution and was devoted from the beginning to capitalism (the most disruptive and revolutionary principle in world history). Its distinctive culture was formed in the rough-and-tumble world of the frontier, where life was tough and manners correspondingly rough.

    Its religion was Christian, to be sure, but less the civilizing love-your-neighbor brand than the fiery Old-Testament version that allowed every Bible reader to substitute the word money for God if they were so inclined. It was religion, after all, born in "protest" and committed to the proposition that salvation is for individuals and not for communities or whole peoples.

    Where in any of this was there something moderating and formative to "conserve"? America was always a proudly vulgar land, where the real principle of law and order is understood as the right to carry a gun.

    As for conservative intellectuals of late, they have primarily been students of Leo Strauss who made it clear that a conservative is one who believes in Macchiavell and Hobbes while pretending to believe in Plato and Christ.

    So why expect anything more than what we finally got, the empowerment of what has always been the ugly side of the national character?

  92. Your perspective is one I share and have longed believed exposes the American narrative of exceptionalism as an unsustainable myth.

  93. Precisely. Any expression of surprise at a supposed contradiction in conservatives' embrace of open crudeness is either naive or disingenuous.

  94. @ Joseph P Lawerence, thank you for a cogent perspective.

    Brothers and sisters of the World please keep contributing your perspective on the USA's dire situation. Your words are helpful and confirming for millions and millions of us in the US that we are not crazy. Thank you

  95. Bret:
    Although I agree with your assessment of the current administration and the general morphing of our culture into vulgarity, it's inception is in dispute. My recollection of the sixties, although a time of tremendous upheaval, was not the precursor to our current state of chaos. That era was born of sociological turmoil brought on by long brewing forces. Viet Nam, the civil rights movement, women's rights, environmental concerns, a questioning of our corporate ethics, assassinations of King and the Kennedys etc, were major all protagonists. You seem to imply that college intellectuals were at the root as articulated by the WSJ OpEd. They were only symptoms of the remarkable social changes already imploding.
    As for Trump and the conservative movement, they were incubated by cable news, talk radio and undoubtedly by economic forces changing the nature of work in our society. It's easy to fan the flames of despair and create straw men as the culprit when people are hurting. That is what the conservative movement has become. An opposition movement to anything.

  96. I admire the use of "Antinomians." Beyond that, it's mildly heartening to read two right wingers, Stephens and Douthat, bash Trump within 24 hours of each other. One sour note, Brett. What makes you think Trump supporters can engage in thought exercises?

  97. Mr. Stephens, your attempt to blame the current profane language and behavior of Mr. Trump and his minions is a most bizarre attempt at false equivalency.

    The protests of the 1960's were a legitimate effort to get the government to listen to the people. The Viet Nam War and desegregation were valid and worthwhile goals, supported by a significant portion of the populace, both young and old.

    Almost all of the violence that occurred as a result of these protests were either initiated by the establishment or due to extreme frustration with the establishment's failure to address the problems.

    At the 1968 Democratic Convention, it was the police that created the conditions for violence and initiated much of it.

    At Kent State, the National Guard actually killed two protesters. Shot them. Dead. For protesting an indefensible war.

    Martin Luther King, who preached nonviolence, was assassinated by a white supremacist.

    The protests were generally civil. Most were nonviolent. It was the behavior of the establishment that was profane.

    On the other hand, the profanity emanating from Trump and those around him is astonishing in its nastiness and offensiveness.

    And yes, the so-called Republican intelligentsia (an oxymoron if there ever was one) stands by silently. Republican politicians, pundits, journalists all make excuses. While Trump unravels all that America stands for.

    Place the blame where it is due.

    Look in the mirror.

    Then resist everything Trump.

    Please.

  98. At Kent State 4 students were killed.

  99. Oh, please! On Election Day, we all had a choice between Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton. Many conservatives chose Trump-some of us eagerly and some of us holding our noses. There was no vote for "vulgarity" as Mr. Stephens so dramatically puts it. Statements like that seem childish and naive. One must choose the least bad option and that was definitely Donald Trump.

    Trump has given us Justice Neil Gorsuch, strong and effective immigration enforcement, certainty in Second Amendment protections, and a move away from self-defeating global agreements such as the Paris Accord. If there's some chaos and vulgarity mixed in there, oh well. Had HRC been elected, conservatives would have none of the above. None. You keep carping and looking for Mr. or Ms. perfect. Meanwhile, I'll be shouting 'four more years' in a few years' time.

  100. 'Vulgar' is generally assumed, as it is in this piece, to imply something like 'offensive', especially when swearing is involved. But the Latin root signifies 'of the people'. Put them both together, and I think the Trump phenomenon does become a little more legible.

  101. Vulgarity and obscenity are unleashed and protected by that most cherished pillar of American civilization -- the First Amendment. Yes, you can say anything you want and get away with it because it's almost a sacred act. But allowances on paper still have to be respected in practice. They aren't. Trump isn't the cause of the betrayal of the First Amendment. He's the culmination. This is why people have to be the guardians of civil discourse -- not simply amendments.

  102. The constaints on vulgarity cannot be made by government. It must be made by us by what we allow or disallow in our daily lives.

  103. These are well articulated and fair points, but the author has forgotten the underlying fact that we are making America great again. What kind of "great" you ask?

    America has never been greater at embarrassing herself on the world stage.

    America has never been greater at finger pointing.

    America has never been greater at exposing her midriff, much to the chagrin of the decent folks duped into thinking a gilded billionaire from New York cares about them - even a little.

    Please let me know when making excuses and burying our heads in sand will right this ship.

  104. We no longer strive to strive toward such things as make us proud of our government, our democracy. Equality for all, fairness in taxation, freedom for others, voting for all. At best these are rallying cries for political advantage, but they are not advanced in our politics. So often Trump said the right thing, and smiled as he saw the lie swallowed whole. We would strive for goodness again, but our leader and his staff thrive only in a locker room filled with the viagra of their own performance.

  105. It strikes me as perverse to equate the civil rights protesters and opponents of the Vietnam war with the Trumpistas. Some members of that earlier generation did violate the principles they claimed to champion, but their extremism still originated in a deep hostility to racism and militarism. Many of those who lost touch with the goals of the protest movement eventually reconciled with their society and went on to lead productive lives.

    Those Trumpistas, on the other hand, who identify with the vicious outlook of their leader, subscribe to values that are incompatible with the inclusive democratic principles that most Americans revere. In Trump, this segment of the coalition who supported him see a man who represents a stunted vision of America as a country unconcerned with the fate of the rest of the world and contemptuous of its own history as a nation of immigrants.

    Some of the radicals of the 60s lost their way, at least temporarily, because they adhered to an extreme version of the democratic ideals on which the country was founded. But the true believers among Trump's followers have not lost their way. They see the world as a hostile place, in which ethnic and religious minorities threaten to displace them from their legitimate position of dominance. Trump panders to their insecurities, and so they mistake this consummate charlatan for their great white hope.

  106. May I propose the end of the 60s zeitgeist (anti-business and anti-authoritarian) and the concurrent rise of Business as the dominant social/cultural ideology, circa end of 70's and thereafter. The predominance of Business as an all encompassing social philosophy (when did the weekend gross of the latest Hollywood offering become as important as the film?) has (mis)shaped our values and led to a worship money and power, the acquisition of which seems to suffer little real ethical examination.

  107. IMHO, you are so right.

  108. I agree to some extent with Mr. Stephens to a large degree and admit to being part of the problem.
    In 1968 when people were out protesting against the war in Vietnam we felt we are up against "The Establishment". Perhaps in my case it was just adolescent rebellion of a spoiled white kid against his parents and anyone else who I saw as authority. One of the weapons we used in this ridiculous charade was language. Using words that shocked and horrified my parents and vice-princpal felt like I was scoring points.
    From a perspective of fifty years it was all nonsense , but using foul language becomes habitual and it became more widespread so as my generation became the "establishment" we brought our foul mouths with us.
    Now I think about what words I use, and if foul language is the lexicon of the world of Trump I do not want any part of it going forward.
    in the immortal words of Pogo " We have met the enemy and he is us"

  109. About four fifths of evangelical Christians voted for trump. By all accounts I've read they seem to approve (or certainly accept) the trump attitude exemplified by the Scarimucci rant, which is universally emblematic of trump and his attitude toward those he deems "weak".
    In the past, evangelicals at least tried to present some moral conviction -- but not anymore.
    Either evangelical Christianity in America understands nothing of the New Testament, or evangelical Christianity has completely shed any pretense of being anything but a political and cultural movement.
    Of course both can be true ...

    I'm disgusted and unwilling any longer to allow anybody call me a Christian, lest I be conflated with this bunch. My faith has been stolen.

    Much, much worse than sad.

  110. The evangelicals don't want their children to be like Scaramucci. They want vouchers so their children won't be schooled with the vulgar mob.

  111. In my mind, the vulgarity and disregard of truth that epitomizes Trump and his base are the fruits of a Republican Party hijacked by nihilism. It is not a Conservative party, but simply has adopted certain pro business policy positions that allow it to remain in its oligarchic power. I fancy myself to be a true conservative because I believe that the most important job of our country is to raise virtuous citizens. This requires many things but one important requirement is a country filled with strong local economies. Republicans claim they care about virtue because they want to keep people from government dependency, but in fact they don't oppose dependency at all. They simply wish to substitute the dependency to their donors in the form of dependency on global corporations for jobs and allowing big corporations to invade every community. They do nothing and care nothing about doing what it would take to make independent, prudent and strong citizens. It's not even on their radar. So the blame for the most vulgar and unvirtuous president imaginable can't be placed solely on "the summer of love" or an indecent entertainment industry. Two scoops of blame goes to the conservatives for creating the conditions that allowed vulgarity to reign.

  112. The Wall Street Journal editorial is nonsensical, though it does have the virtue of locating a turning point. In 1968, the racial voting patterns of the modern US were set. Before, then, white Americans tended to vote Republican or Democrat equally. By 1968, and in the wake of various race riots and other signs that African Americans were pushing back against their abuse, white Americans began voting GOP en masse. The subsequent "southern strategy," the idolization of "small government" and "low taxes" that were rooted in racial politics, set the groundwork for the disintegration of the GOP into a party of know-nothings and fanatics who are driven more by brainless ideology and resentment more than anything else. Trump is a know-nothing who feeds on resentment; interestingly, he advocates some policies that break with the GOP established party line, though he is so incompetent that he is really just doing what the establishment wants and doing very little to pursue his own incoherent agenda. But Trump is the product of a process of dumbing down and feeding resentment that started in 1968 with white Americans. It has nothing to do with "losing virtues" that never existed or which were used to oppress others. And the WSJ's effort to blame intellectuals for American decline is bizarre. If anything, the move to the radical right in American politics has shown that intellectuals have relatively little influence in the country.

  113. If 1968 marked a turn toward lasting "moral chaos," it wasn't protesters or professors who should bear the greatest blame, but the cynical and, yes, immoral leaders who prosecuted the Vietnam War. Next came Richard M. Nixon, and the tapes that captured his true character, giving Americans their first clear idea of who our leaders might be when they are really being themselves. Nor does Mr. Stephens mention how cocaine, amphetamines and opiates have plagued the nation since the 1970s. The addiction spiral has coincided with economic polices that undermine many, if not most, families by denying them a fair share in America's prosperity. Meanwhile, increasingly out-of-touch leaders generally have used the stock market, GNP, and their donors' interests as the North Stars of domestic policy, rather than trying to fulfill their constitutional mandate to "promote the general welfare." This piece would have been much stronger had it reckoned with Vietnam, Nixon, drugs and economic schism as morally corrosive forces. Also, in a column lamenting the state of our collective character, it's odd not to have credited Barack and Michelle Obama with upholding a truly presidential tone of public grace and dignity. What Obama got in return from his most influential opponents was hysterical disparagement and personal villification. That's the surest evidence that "moral chaos," or at least a shameful lack of comity and respect, now define public life in America.

  114. The generals lied to LBJ and LBJ lied to us.

  115. I could not agree more that the Trump administration is "the most morally grotesque . . . in American history." But to my jaundiced eye, Stephens' theories are based on false premises.

    Conservatives have no corner on vulgar language. Listen in to any private conversation of either conservatives or liberals and you may well hear it flowing like water. The difference is that we have a president who, along with his new mini-me sidekick, has no compunction against letting it out in public and that a big swath of the American population finds that "authentic." Whether by design or just dumb luck, Trump tapped into the mindset of a larger group of our citizenry than I ever dreamed existed--those who apparently believe everyone is a Lord of the Flies schoolboy at heart and who resent the "elite" for trying to cover it up.

    Stephens also presupposes that those on the right who have bemoaned the decline of moral values actually have moral spines. I will grant you that many do, but as one born, raised and steeped in Southern Baptist hypocrisy, I know that for every one of the truly upright, there are at least two who wear their self-righteousness as a cover for deep-seated bigotry.

    So the question for me is not how a supposedly "moral" party embraced the immorality of Donald Trump, but rather whether there are any grownups out there who can rescue our country from the screaming schoolboys now their basest instincts have been "presidentially" validated.

  116. Really, conservatives make me laugh. No matter what they mess up, no matter how many decades go by, the problem is always "1968." What's the problem? Richard Nixon was elected in 1968. Since then you've had Ford, Reagan, Bushes I-II. In the 50 years since 1968, Republicans have held the White House for 30 of those years.
    No, the basic problem is increasingly egregious Republican violations of social and political norms ever since 1968. Norm violations include Nixon's people and their break-ins and cover-ups; Reagan's encouraging people to believe that greed is good and government is bad; Lee Atwater's ads for Bush I; a war based on misinformation (Bush II); Gingrich/Tea Party gridlock; Wall Street Reaganomics types handing themselves big bonuses a few weeks after taxpayers bailed them out; and the McConnell-led Republicans' unconscionable, Constitution-busting refusal to meet with Merrick Garland. All of these violations of norms paved the way for what you see before you now. To blame what you see before you now on VietNam war protesters is just an exercise in the surreal.

  117. ps overthe rainbow, you are sooooo right! I am 76, and I totally agree with everything you wrote! Now that we are in such a dangerous mess, the good citizens of America must hit this guy like a swarm of bees over his conduct, and we must force our right-wing media back towards decency and away from lies, rudeness and brainwashing. If only Walter Cronkite and Huntley and Brinkley were still around, they would be attacking these media brainwashers with all they could muster!

  118. I am thinking of the picture that was circulating not so long ago, of
    conservative "Christian" leaders "praying" over DJT. DJT reportedly loves Scaramucci's behavior. Do those "religious" leaders feel any qualms at all for selling their values, morals, and principles so cheaply? Do they quail, even just a little, at the vile, vicious, corrupt behavior they have embraced and condoned? My own conservative religious Trump-supporting friends are very quiet right now. They have not disavowed him; but surely their hypocrisy is tasting very sour in their mouths now.

  119. The religious right reeks of hypocrisy. Sanctimony has been a marketing tool for viewed racism. hatred and a viciousness that permeates the right. We are are divided country and democracy is likely to be doomed.

  120. Those conservative Christian leaders have no values. They don't care about health care unless it involves unborn fetuses or the already dead kept alive on "life" support.
    They don't care about the handicapped, the poor, the hungry, the homeless, even though Jesus talks about these people in the gospel of Matthew and Luke. Simply those conservative Christian leaders and NOT Christian.

  121. Martin Luther King Jr. once wrote that ends can never justify means, because the means you employ invariably shape the ends you choose to seek. Conservative evangelicals have long since made their faustian bargain in order to gain access to the levers of political power. They forget that the original rendering of the tale ends with Faust being irredeemably corrupted and carried off to hell.

  122. What's beginning to bother me the most about this' No Guardrails' Presidency is how comfortable Trump appears these days, compared to when he first took office. Time is on his side and he knows this, coupled with the notion his presidency is a work in progress. And it appears he's figuring things out, which buttons to push, and he's getting pretty good at timing things. For example, in just a few days this week, he's managed to keep the media from mentioning Russian Collusion, Donald Jr.'s damaging e-mails, and son-in-law Kushner's hearing testimony. This guy's no fool. And as I've Commented several times before, Be careful of things that go Trump in the night.

  123. Good column. Interesting parallel. The difference, the media. The media, major outlets, came to support the revolutionaries. Oppose the war and so on. Today, except for Fox and a few radio shows, the entire media is focused on over throwing this new band of insurgents. The unfairness of this media will make the forces of reaction more bitter, more intractable. So, it isn't gonna get better. And, if the media succeeds in toppling Trump........

  124. If the media succeeds in toppling Trump....oh, dear God, I can only hope and pray!!!!! The press is all we have protecting this country right now, and I sure do not mean FOX and Friends!

  125. Stephens' comparison of the 1968 Convention and the Republican adoption of Donald Trump is a case of profound historical ignorance.

    After 1964 US escalations of US involvement became better known, understood, and criticized by the American people. The Gulf of Tonkin incidents which precipitated the Resolution which expanded the War never happened. It was a big lie by President Johnson. Johnson launched a full scale war on this phony basis. It wasn't known at the time that he had lied about the attacks, but people had a basis for not trusting him and they didn't. The US was known by President Johnson to be incapable of winning the war, yet it went on and on. The US was killing thousands and thousands of the "enemy" who did not threaten us, as the US wrecked the country of Vietnam. Yes, the 68 convention was violent. The government had suffered a loss of credibility far worse than what happened in 2016 during the Obama Administration, where the President was an honest and modest and capable man obstructed once again by evil Republicans.

  126. The problem with Trump is not so much Trump himself, in spite of how disgusting and unfit he is.

    The problem with Trump is the people who support him. They make it OK for him to be disgusting and to be in office despite being unfit. And they will keep holding America back for decades to come.

  127. Trump alone is not a Constitutional crisis. The acceptance and support of his illegal bad behavior by Republicans in Congress (and the mob that elects them and Trump), THAT is a Constitutional crisis.

  128. Right on target. Seen from Europe, it is a disaster. As usual, the wave should reach us soon. Democracy and respect for democracy are in jeopardy worldwide because of those postures.

  129. During the primaries a great many Republicans voiced strong displeasure with Trump's crudeness and immoral, irreligious behavior.

    There's been so much water under the bridge since then that it's hard to remember that but think back to things like Trump's insulting of Cruz's wife.

    He obviously has his supporters and they were able to push him through, much to the chagrin of many in the GOP. But now that his presence in the White House is a fact, they are prepared to make the most of the situation and use the power to push through as much of their agenda as they can. I'm sure a lot of them would be perfectly happy to see Trump fade away and have Pence in his place.

  130. An interesting parallel. So it was the original sin of the Vietnam War protesters that have enabled a political culture that would feel at home in Dante's inferno. To think what a president Hubert Humphrey would have been...

  131. Not a small part of the incident in Chicago falls on the mayor of Chicago at the time: Daley.

  132. Or, what a president Gene McCarthy or Robert Kennedy would have been!

  133. not so much embraced as inured...standards do not maintain themselves, they are maintained by those who value them (just as they are subverted by those who benefit from the confusion and division that comes from the disorder/disorientation attendant)...maintenance is often more demanding than mere objection...there is risk, certainly of attack and pressures created by conflict, but if the risks are not taken, the decline is, in effect, endorsed...better to keep silent than to risk ridicule or censure from going against a tide.

    bottom line: we resist (no, throwing bricks is not resistance its vandalism, more decline) or we adjust, and adjustment, past a point, is concession, and, lo, there we are...our tasks over the last decades, civil rights, tax reform, the very health of the nation, medically and politically, obscured or made more difficult by the distractions of increasingly uncivil exchange (debate nullified) and the catalog of alienating side effects that follow.

    remedy? maybe a little less gotcha and a little more reflection, critical thought...those who dismissed "the clown" had as much to do with his election (and the inevitable ascendance of vulgarity, now, with the scaramucci screeds, clear even to the clueless) as those who voted for him, just as those who went along with the political assassination of bernie by debbie and the DNC are complicit in "lowering the barriers of acceptable political and personal conduct."

    if you hear/see something say something.

  134. It is not just the vulgarities being employed today, it is the utter lack of respect in evidence within every corner of society. And the media is contributing in no small way by publishing it. Surely there are some limits. Start by beeping out unacceptable words and phrases and perhaps, just perhaps the users of such language will get the message.

  135. Mariposa841: mostly I agree with you, but the public had to know exactly what Mini Me was thinking and those words conveyed it completely.

  136. Reporting the exact language of "The Mooch" and publishing it in a general interest newspaper was an act of courage. You can't clean up a pile of dog poop by covering it with whipped cream.

    Long ago, many in the nation were shocked by what was then considered depressive vulgarity of the Nixon administration. The transcripts of tapes provoked a nation to ask, "Does a president really speak this way?" Nixon's attorney general, John Mitchell, said the publisher of the Washington Post would have her breast "in a wringer" if the paper persisted in publishing stories about the Watergate cover-up.

    How quaint. Nixon's attorney general sounds like a Boy Scout compared to the gutter vulgarity and ugly imagery contained in Scaramucci's spontaneously combustive interview with the New Yorker. This language and the thoughts behind it are disturbing, but we must know the bare truth.

    I hope all the evangelical ministers who are sitting on the Trump bandwagon will go before their congregations this Sunday and explain why they still support Trump and Trumpism. If they can't explain and encapsulate these events into their belief in Trump, they make themselves into phony symbols who can't face what they have encouraged the nation to become.

  137. Mariposa841
    I disagree.
    trump and the "mooch" will not get this or any other message because they are simply not concerned with what others think.
    trump and the "mooch" should be quoted in full each and every time no matter what foul and disgusting language they use.
    Their words should not be "sanitized."
    The world must see and hear exactly who they are and what they stand for.
    Those who supported trump must be challenged by using those quotes and asking whether this is what they voted for and do they still support this man.
    A man who has no ethics, no honor and no decency and hasn't any ideas on how to govern.

  138. Much of what we saw in 1968 was outrage due to an unwinnable war that was continued through lies (another 20,000 young draftees and victory is in sight). I am not defending all the actions of all the demonstrators but I can understand their anger at a system driving an unpopular and immoral war. In my opinion, history (and McNamara's memoirs) has proven them to be on the right side.

    What is reason behind the current Republican outrage? Health care being provided to the less fortunate? The desire for a lower tax rate for the donor class (while their current tax rate on investment income is well below the tax rate the middle class pays)? The belief that Christians should have the right to impose their beliefs on the entire country and discriminate against those who don't believe what they do? The press catching the president in lies? Someone in the White House who wants a transparent government is talking to the press? That seems to the source of their outrage that justifies this behavior. As Donald would say - Sad.

  139. Thank you, Jan Winters! So very well put.

  140. I think November 1980 was the the date when we officially lost our way. We replaced a God-fearing, hard-working, bright, moderate Democrat President who asked us to make sacrifices with a President who told us that "government was the problem" and promised us prosperity without any requirement that we give back to others. Mr. Trump is the endgame for the GOP's anti-government platform that was launched in 1964 and animated in 1980. Until we are willing to make sacrifices to help each other and accept "government guardrails" we should expect more leaders like Mr. Trump.

  141. I will back Gerson's opinion and add some specifics. A study of protestant religious magazines and newspapers found that until 1979 the most common social theme was that you should never trust, accept socially, or vote for someone who had been divorced. In 1979 those articles stopped as a divorced serial liar who pandered to racism ran for President. The editors simply realized that Reagan was where their bread got buttered. Same with Trump, whose wives and mistresses (and his grabbing of unwilling women's private parts) some commentators had naively thought would make him less popular with the "religious" right. Millions of them, men and women, do not abhor such behavior. They aspire to it.
    Not unrelated is that Scaramucci's wife has filed for divorce and not for vague "irreconcilable differences". He actually claims publicly to be a Roman Catholic but to hear his wife tell it he's another Trump.

  142. Do you have a citation for the article you reference? The publications included and the data collected for the study would be interesting.

  143. The righteous right puts up with Trump because, in part, they think it will end abortion in America and bring back prayer in school.

  144. Our framework of the Constitution and separated powers and the strong Judiciary will not save us from a break from conventions at the highest levels. These are dangerous times. Policies can be reversed but the bar of respect for the law can be lowered easily by someone who cares more for themselves than the country and are difficult or impossible to raise. The Trump movement I'm afraid will permanently damage this country.

  145. After the election, a woman I know looked me in the eye and said, "Donald Trump is a great leader and he will make America great again."
    Her sincerity was undeniable. As this administration has evolved, I wonder what she is thinking now.
    Trump is not, and never has been, conservative as the word is generally understood. Some people who should have known better voted for him to "shake things up." Why they would trust a person who lied and appealed to fear and hatred while making impossible promises to shake things up has always boggled the mind.
    Nixon's downfall because of the Watergate coverup contributed to the distrust of government that Republicans have been selling. Trump is making that worse.
    In the 1960s, I wrote a letter to Nixon saying that I had been silent, but he was mistaken if he thought I was part of his Silent Majority. When less than 40% of voters approve of a president, there is a silent majority out there that could be mobilized to set things right. They need to do a lot more than try to restore rules that govern political behavior.

  146. What the Wall Street Journal forgot in writing about 1968 is that the mess in Chicago back then was a "police riot" provoked by the mayor's determination not to allow free speech outside the Democratic convention. How convenient. Let's cook up a story that everything was the fault of the long haired hippies and they, and their liberal excuse makers, let loose on the land an era of relentless, unregulated expression and vulgarity.

    How convenient. The youth movement of that time period had been marginalized politically quite throughly anyway. This effort was helped greatly when Nixon's men hired construction workers in New York to go beat up on anti-war demonstrators, giving the nation the impression, never fully challenged, that demonstrators were un-American, misfits who believed in disruption, nothing else.

    Many who now serve in Congress were children or young adults in that era. On the Republican side, many sat out the era of social protest and were deeply resentful that others got to be "cool" by going out by the thousands to protest a futile, unpopular war. I can easily picture Mitch McConnell, now 70, at college age boiling over with resentment and equally certain that he was right not to protest and "they" were wrong, unpatriotic.

    The right wing in America is having its own version of social/cultural protest now in the halls of Congress. They missed out then but they get to participate fully now by trying to turn back the tide of change. No action seems too extreme.

  147. Thank you! And I think that is what concerns me - How far do I go in my own outrage? What is justifiable? But to all my conservative family and evangelical friends - if you were not outraged by the President's speech to the Boy Scouts, I am not sure what will cause you to change direction. Kids should be off-limits!

  148. Of all the groups guilty of enabling the election of Donald Trump, the "intellectual" class, as you very vaguely put it, is surely the very least to blame. Even the vast majority of Conservative intellectuals, already few and far between, were appalled by him, except for a few on the altest of rights who were not at the time acknowledged as anyone's "intellectual class".

    No: this is not a plausible populist argument, though it tries to be. For Donald Trump we can only thank the great American people, who got exactly the man they wanted, forged in their own anti-intellectual image.

  149. Very well said.

  150. Mike--No, they did not get the "man they wanted." He lost the vote by almost 3,000,000. That's just part of the problem--WE didn't elect him. He was appointed by an electoral college. What nonsense.

  151. Don't blame all American voters. The majority solidly rejected Trump. Blame the Electors in the Electoral College. Were they thinking? And if so, what?

  152. I'm a fan of Stephens, but I don't agree with his premise (via the Wall Street Journal) of how we got here. Comity and civility didn't die in 1968 in Chicago. I lived through that time and I think the excess, which occurred on both sides, was a function of the reality that America for the first time tried to fight a war based on a lie. The American government lost the trust of its people one lie at a time, and the lies didn't start in the 60's. The founders of this country were well aware of the fragility of human morality and tried to design a system that accounted for it by limiting the concentration of power. Certainly many of them were leery of pure democracy and they agreed on a Republic that had mechanisms to cool the passions of the mob. To find the genesis of our current disgrace we are going to have to look deeply into ourselves, and the obligations we owe to each other and to that system.

  153. The US poisoned itself with religion. Giving credence to anyone's delusions relating to a purportedly necessary eternal personality of nature in legislation invites the worst psychopaths to seek public offices.

  154. Mr. Stephens refers to some kind of conservative intellectual class that has tolerated, excused, or somehow helped create Trumpism. I do not know of such a group.

    Trump and his voters are products of the Republican political class and its media arms. Don't waste your time looking for intellectuals in that bunch.

    This is just another attempt at the false parallel that we see so often from the rational conservative voice who can't come terms with the disease at the core of his party.

    The fish rots from the head down. But the Republican Party rots from the inside out.

  155. Well there may not be any intellectuals in this bunch, but this does not say too much for the "intellects" of the left, right and center.

    So based on your assemesnet a bunch of vulgar idiots out smarted the refined, compassionate intellects....

    Hmmm....results matter

  156. As was witnessed, most recently, by the entire "healthcare" vote. It wasn't healthcare, it was genocide of 22+ million fellow Americans by malign neglect, without the cost of building and staffing facilities, roundups, and transport which was incurred in murdering six million Jews...and others..in Europe.
    It was two female GOP senators who called the "skinny" what it really was, and have gotten bashed for it by GOP "men."
    Senators Murkowski and Collins are more "man" than they'll ever be, and more woman than they're likely to get.

  157. Is he in the minds of republicans still better than Hillary?

  158. Wait, seriously, the body of the fish doesn't all decay at the same rat ? That seems to defy physiology.

  159. Two observations:

    When you gave been losing for awhile, the chance to get back on top is so enticing all caution is thrown away. After 8 years of hate propelled by racism against an inexperienced black president, those appalled by this symbol of a world in which they had no bearings was too much. Of course it was appalling and inappropriate. It was rank desperation, and a wound cynically poked at by the right.

    The second point was the backdrop. Since Nixon/Agnew, in order to promote an essentially white migration from the New Deal coalition that ruled politics for 30 years, anger and resentment became the choice of party elites. Civil rights legislation and hippies getting pounded on while Daley cheered made that convention not just a catalyst for the left, but even moreso for the right. "Law and order" trumped your union, your ability to have a good job with a pension and common sense. It all gave birth to eventually Fox News and the worst income inequality since the 1920's. Despite all this, they still vote anger over common sense and self-interest. Doing the same thing hoping for a different result. The definition of insanity embodied in the clown who now leads us.

  160. 1968 didn't spring from the head of Zeus; it happened in a context--the context of body counts and dishonest accounting and ideological zeal sending soldiers upon soldiers to die in Vietnam. It sickens me to see the same thing happening all over again in Afghanistan (and I'm not speaking metaphorically when I say "sickens": I lost a family member there, in 2012, long after we should have brought the last service member home from Afghanistan).
    It's true, though, that the intelligentsia enables, then and now, on both the left and the right. I teach at a college; I've seen ideological positions trump critical thinking. Both left and right assault science: the right says climate change and evolution are arguable; the left says biological sex is merely a social construct.
    The best thing in this op-ed is the paragraph about McCain ("Did it come with...").

  161. At least the GOP has largely stopped calling itself the "family values" center of America. The message is more honest now - go back to 1950 minus the high income taxes.

  162. Franklin Graham, Jerry Falwell Jr., Pat Robertson and a large swath of the evangelical community faun over a man who has made his mark by touting envy, greed, gluttony, wrath, pride, sloth and lust.
    Their souls sold for a Supreme Court appointment, the supporters of Trump have turned their backs on decency and integrity.
    By the parameters of their own doctrine, this is not going to end well and they are not on the team they presume to have chosen.

  163. So the antiwar protestors in Chicago in 1968 are the people who made Trump possible? This seems like a very superficial and wrongheaded analysis to me. Decorum was always something practiced within the ruling class only; we were hardly decorous when we exterminated the native population, or enslaved Africans, or bombed the people of a tiny country in Asia. Trump is the product of the decline of white, middle class America, but he is simply the demon within coming to the fore.

    The America of 1968 was a grotesquerie. But it was created by the American establishment, which despite its outer decorum was capable of almost any crime at home and abroad. We shouldn't blind ourselves to that fact. We were and are simply no better than the average run of humanity -- better than some, worse than others.

  164. What has happened cannot be explained as a removal of "guardrails," let alone that 60s liberal thinkers were the ones who removed them.

    There have long been corrupt and vulgar operatives in American life; it's just that the most venal leaders knew to conform *outwardly* to codes of decorum. Nixon was more intelligent and less politically cruel than Trump, but he was more racist and just as nasty. Many of the Mad Men executives of the 50s were just as foul-mouthed as Scaramucci and as dishonorable as the cheating Enron execs. Is what possible way could Nixon and Enron be the fault of liberal intelligentsia?

    Yes, the 60s ushered in a dubious ethos of personal authenticity and anti-hypocrisy that gave people the license to disregard norms of civility without paying a high cost. So some folks flaunt decorum. But all the evidence is against Stephens's claim that liberals opened the floodgates to our current immersion in cruelty and indecency––especially when all the foulest characters, beginning with Trump, have found themselves in the GOP. It is the GOP where vicious behavior and belief (anti-semitism, contempt for women, alt-right and KKK ideologies) are at best tolerated and at worst actively encouraged.

  165. Brett, you're not at the Wall Street Journal any longer. Lobbing casual blame for trump at anti-Viet Nam and pro-civil rights protesters from 50 years ago is guaranteed to elicit protest here, as you've seen.

  166. If you are looking for the source of GOP corruption and amoral motives, look no further than Reagan.

  167. The Judeo-Christian values that the USA is alleged to be founded upon are clearly as dead as the moon's surface in this current administration. Tiresome though it may be, comparisons to the Nazis are much more apt, because they ruled on the oft-repeated principle of "absolute obedience upward, absolute authority downward" that Hitler's adherents thrived on. More than recent analogies hold: one has to revisit one's acquaintance with the classics and look to the despotisms of Tiberius Caesar, whose modus was stated as "after me, let fire the earth confound." And of course to those demonic entities, mentioned by name in the Christian gospels, Caligula and Nero, whose capricious excesses included the ultimate obscenity, torture and death. How far are we away from that absolute exercise of tyranny by this clearly insane and/or drug-abusing brat we have to call president?

  168. American conservatism is not conservatism and it has always been amoral. It was amoral before America was born, it was amoral when Jonathan Swift wrote about American style "conservatism in A Modest Proposal. American style" conservatism was amoral in 1845-1852 when 20% of Ireland's population was starved to death or exile in a country whose economy was based on food exports. Ireland's food export economy boomed as millions went hungry. It was 100 years ago that Mexico said Mexico's oil belonged to Mexico and William F. Buckley Sr failed to get the State Department to declare war on Mexico and moved Buckley Oil to Caracas where a fascist regime kept Venezuelans subjugated until 1958 and it was only in 1998 that the natives won power.
    There is no reason for millions to die prematurely for lack medical prevention and diagnosis in the world's richest country.
    That people who are amoral become vulgar is no surprise. The surprise is that people of good conscience can stand just by and watch the moral outrages of racism, sexism, economic terrorism and a justice system designed for the privileged.
    Donald Trump is the god American "conservatism" has forged for over a century. When Donald Trump tells you that is the way businessmen talk believe him. The men who run America's corporations are not businessmen they are managers. Maybe short fingered vulgarian has nothing to do with size. Trump is a businessman and 10 out of eleven businesses fail. Real business is exciting not secure.

  169. '“Certain rules that for a long time had governed behavior also became devalued,” the editorial noted. “Whatever else was going on here, we were repeatedly lowering the barriers of acceptable political and personal conduct.”'

    Let's see what some of those pre-1968 rules included: Jim Crow laws, regular lynchings of blacks that southern whites put their Sunday best on to watch as a family outing, routine and perfectly normal sexual harassment and assault of women in the workplace - bosses like Trump were the norm, starting a carpet bombing and Napalm war that would eventually kill a million Vietnamese, CIA regularly deposing democratic leaders around the world so we cannot back dictators as part of the Cold War. A very partial list. The good old days that Bret and his sane (non-Trump) conservatives miss so much.

    Listen to Nixon tapes for WH vulgarity in '70s. Clinton had a record of sexual assault and women's groups and liberals gave him a pass in the '90s. And now Trump has lowered bar to levels of indecency, vulgarity and depravity that are unimaginable. His supporters will support him even if he shoots someone on 5th Avenue.

  170. I'm 70. I was 16 when JFK was murdered, followed by the murders of MLK and RFK. I was in a barracks in Officers Training School at Lackland AFB in Texas when I heard the news: Kent State, four dead in O-hi-o. That's where the government lost me for good. Republican governor James Rhodes and the Ohio National Guard showed no modesty, responsibility and restraint. My bumper sticker became "Question Authority." In doing so over the decades, I have found that Wall Street and the Republican Party are corrupt beyond all redemption. As usual, Republicans pick on the low-hanging fruit... the poor and the middle class... blaming them for social disruption. I am thankful I came of age during the Sixties. A dozen major social changes came about and the conservatives lost control. Republicans and conservatives have yet to recover from being stripped naked in the town square.

  171. I imagine it won't be long before young people begin bombing and shooting at people like Trump and his supporters because they are betraying the constitution, betraying the American people. It's been a long time since we've had a revolution, but it's coming because Trump is leading us to a dictatorship, just waiting to declare a national emergency/martial law and to suspend our civil rights.

  172. You'll have to wait interminably. The young people are all preoccupied with their SMS texting, their electronic toys, their tats and their vaping. They don't know about the Constitution, it's a very rare one who does, and then only to profit from their knowledge as they profit from a superficial display of unfelt courtesy to older people.

  173. I agree with your analysis, but would add the rise of Sarah Pailin as another critical element. Perhaps McCain is attempting to compensate for that mistake.

  174. Funny about that WSJ article on '68, as that year RFK and MLK were publicly assassinated, just 5 years after we saw JFK go down. The WSJ trying to blame liberal academics for upheavals by young people ignores the endless lies of the Viet Nam war, the firehoses & police dogs turned on black people in the south during civil rights movement and the clampdown on "hippies" by J. Edgar that led to Chicago convention protests.
    Much of what we protested Trump-Sessions would like to return to under rubric of Law & Order, even while DT laughs at the rule of law re himself/family.
    No amount of vulgarity in behavior or language will get white men in trouble while trying to make America white (& white Christian) again.

  175. Please leave 1960's liberals out of it. Besides the fact that they were protesting an unjust and unnecessary war that cost many lives, not throwing a tantrum to protect a disgraceful president - there's also the small fact that 1960's liberals have absolutely nothing to do with what's happening right now.

    If you want to accept your portion of responsibility for this disaster, start by acknowledging that faults are not equal, and that your faction created it.

  176. Thank you, NYT, for printing it out all in black and white. Let's all have the courage to show the administration for what it really is.

  177. It can't be the defeat of John McCain in 2008 as his opponent Barack Obama is the very epitome of honor, service, integrity, independence, compromise and statesmanship. Must be racism.

  178. Racism, intolerance, fear and denial are the traits of Trump supporters. The Trump administration is a disaster. There is no plan and there are no leaders and the only real agenda is deregulation and tax breaks for millionaires. And yet, his supporters as well as the people of Alabama still love him...as in today, right now.

    Fox News and hate radio are a plague that is growing. We must fund advertisements on their airwaves that tell the truth. We need a communication plan to battle the falsehoods and we need to mobilize the electorate to vote..

    Or I need to move to Canada..

  179. The right has been a party of fear and greed for many years. The conclusion in
    the comparison made between the Vietnam war era and Trumpism is not valid. The main problem during the Vietnam era was fear. Fear of a communist takeover of countries like Vietnam, eventually leading to the entire world. This takeover did not come to pass and probably would not have even if we had not staked out our war in Vietnam. People in high place, both right and moderate left were afraid. The USSR was a definite threat to freedom around the world. We did not and do not have to give in to the fear being promulgated by Trumpism.

    As for greed, it is currently at a high point in our history. People are making money in un-godly amounts. While others are just eking by or starving. We have always had people with a selfish center that blinded them. Why do some people have no moral compass? Trump is the prime example. He lies with impunity and apologizes for nothing. He has found lying to be profitable over the years. He gained an undeserved reputation for business success. He ran for president based on this lie. He told people lies about his fantastic plans for America, for destroying ISIS, rebuilding our country, draining the swamp, etc. It is quite obvious that he had no actual plans for any of these things.

    My hope is the Mueller investigation will get all the records and testimony it needs to get this lying con man out of the White House soon.

  180. I read that "famous" Wall Street Journal editorial differently than Bret Stephens. The Wall Street Journal, ever ready to ridicule "political correctness," was applying it's own political correctness.
    The Journal sowed the wind, and now it's reaping the whirlwind.

  181. There is no "conservative movement".

  182. The identification of John McCain´s defeat in 2008 with the defeat of America´s most signal virtues is a sham. Mr. McCain chose as his running mate a vicious reactionary who passed off nescience as courage and who, day in and day out, blew the dog whistle of white supremacy. The electorate did not see in the senior senator from Arizona a paragon of civic virtue but rather an elderly man whose health was just a bit shaky. In those circumstances, millions of voters breathed the words "President Palin" and voted for Barack Obama.

  183. You omitted a key force: the Koch brothers and their network that gave America the tea party, Citizens United, a successful campaign to make Americans distrust and dislike their own government , and a gerrymander success. The founder of an angry decline

  184. 1968? All Bret Stephens remembers about 1968 is a culture of "excess, excuses, and permission?" What about the murders of Robert Kennedy and Martin Luther King, Jr.? What about a war raging in Vietnam? What about assaults on African-Americans? He sounds like King George,III, who surely defined the colonists as people for whom "certain rules that for a long time ha governed behavior...became devalued."

  185. I agree with everything you wrote, but I offer a caveat. At a dinner party I said to conservative Republican friend of mine, "Your party has betrayed its moral foundation through the embrace of crude jingoism, racist messaging, thoughtless reaction, and the embrace of the lowest instincts of the electorate." That dinner party I attended occurred in 1991.

  186. I think it's about authoritarianism. Conservatives love, and need, hierarchy and order. When there's turbulence and uncertainty, they need it even more. Which is to say, authority trumps morality. Morality is worn on the sleeve because it feels better, and sells better, but I think ultimately the strong-man thing has more power for a lot of conservatives, even if it's an inept strong man.

  187. Not too early to talk about impeachment.

  188. Stephen's column is an example of the myopic thought of most "conservatives". They can recognize symptoms but are clueless as to causes. Trump and the Mooch are almost perfect examples of an Ayn Rand hero-objectivism personified as their own "happiness" is their only goal. They are Id unleashed, their gross appetites must be fed. The Koch brothers libertarianism is more the cause of Trump than the 60s. Only people like Stephens who did not live through the 60s can come to the conclusions that he does. I am no fan of Bernie Sanders but he could fairly be said to be an outcome of the "60s." Trump and his gross materialism is the opposite of what was valued in the "60s".

  189. Trump orange is the new bleak.

  190. The GOP surrendered to anti-intellectualism and the ideologues took over, starting with Reagan. Trumpism is the logical consequence of Reaganism. As for vulgarities, the hate-filled, under-educated masses don't follow dog whistles nowadays, they feed on vulgarities.

  191. To me, the thing that sent the country off the rails was the meeting between Mitch McConnell and Eric Cantor the night before Barak Obama was inaugurated. They decided that the Republican Party would no longer honor the judgment of the American people if we elected a black man to the presidency.

    From that one evening, based entirely on the presumption that all Americans are NOT created equal, we have been dragged ever deeper into malfeasance, into greater and greater disregard for the average American-- black or white-- both in congress and on Wall Street.

    And now, in the White House itself.

  192. Thank you for so eloquently pointing out the real elephant in the room. Few are willing to admit that the idea of a Black President with a Black First Lady and Black children living in the White House offended many Americans (especially in the South) in a fundamental way that they could not express. The Republican leadership understood this (Southern Strategy anyone?) and exploited it.
    Now we have Trump.

  193. No question the fish now rots. But blaming the '68 Chicago Police Riot is ludicrous. Might as well blame the 1863 Civil War draft riots. Or the 1792 Whiskey Rebellion.

  194. Yours is a case, Mr. Stephens, of having your cake and eating it. You rightly condemn the crudeness and irresponsibility of the conservatives who voted Trump into office and continue to support him. But rather than accept the full political implications of that recognition -- that the political class led by Paul Ryan, Mitch McConnell and the rest is rotten to the core and always had been -- you repeat the absurd, conservative bromide that "the generation of '68" brought on decades of moral decay. In fact, the protesters of those years waged a righteous struggle against racism, imperial war, and poverty. Unfortunately, they were crushed by two terms of Nixon, the FBI, COINTELPRO, Reagan, the Bushes and the rest of the apparatus of the Neo-liberal state. Now the moral decay of modern conservatism is exposed for all to see. It's time, Mr. Stephens, to fully recognize it, without blinkers or diversions.

  195. Whoa! While I agree with most of what you say...the"crushing" part, not at all.

    The Boomers who protested Vietnam, etc were but a small segment of that generation. Lets get it right. Like not everyone who claims to have been at Woodstock, was there - the same holds true for the war protests and civil rights marches. Many were bystanders, in agreement perhaps, but unwilling to risk their safety, or face arrest. Mant were willing to experiment with drugs and of course sex...but most were not willing to go out on a limb for the "cause."

    Boomers have done a good job of self-aggrandizing their generation as being all rebels and social justice seekers. But the truth is MOST had some good times in college, then went on to jobs in the vilified Corporate world and eventually became what they bemoaned. They shed their store-bought "hippy" look, and adopted the 9-5, attire and attitudes they insulted their parents about. And eventually became the ones who turned us into a 24/7 consumption driven culture.

    Very few of those "righteous protestors" stayed true to the cause and continued on. Most faded out or drifted back in. Why? They never really bought in!

    Those in the system, who might have been there in 67,68, 69...eagerly drank from the well of the "Greed is Good" culture that they led from their cubes and offices.

    Lets face it, Boomers (those over 60) opened a lot of gates -that needed opening - but never took the responsibility to put any constraints on what was let loose.

  196. Stephens: 'In 1993 The Wall Street Journal published a famous editorial called “No Guardrails,” ...'

    The "guardrail" metaphor is not applicable to the Trump administration. A guardrail protects drivers from accidents and from their own mistakes. Everything that Trump and his minions do seems to be INTENTIONAL, so they don't need or want guardrails.

    BTW, the WSJ has a hard paywall, so linking to the WSJ editorial is useless for anyone who is not a WSJ subscriber.

  197. Trump is a disaster. And it's only been six months. Can you imagine what he'll do to the country in four years?

  198. Stephens' nonsense -- 1968 is to blame ?

    This reactionary viewpoint has struggled to hold back the tide ever since and given us a 'conservative movement', the pun of which says it all.

    We can only hope that we can survive getting it out of our system.

  199. Blame it on 1968 if you like, but you might as well blame it on the 1980s and "Greed is good." So no, the blame does not fall on liberals.
    The blame falls on the Boomer generation, young in 1968 and nearing full control in the 1980s.
    Anti-war protesters were but a small slice of the Boomer generation in 1968. The great majority kept their heads down and beavered away at whatever they were doing to get on with life. Some went to Vietnam.
    It was in 1980 that the true face of the Boomers showed, with the election of Ronald Reagan. You see, the Vietnam protests were all about selfish self-preservation, and it came to full flower with the "Greed is Good" decade and the adoption of the economic philosophy that no tax is a good tax, welfare cheats, and trickle down. Oh, and the destruction of labor unions.
    Bill Clinton was a conservative Democrat, and once Gingrich and the Contract for America folks took power, Clinton's more liberal instincts faced extinction.
    Bush we needn't talk about.
    With Obama, it was obstruction 24/7 fueled by gerrymandering.
    So what do we see here? The Boomer generation, fundamentally conservative and mostly wanting to feather their own nests, is to blame. I don't mean to tar everyone with the same brush. Speaking in broad generalities here. And maybe it isn't "Boomers" per se who are responsible, but simple human nature. I'm not sure the millennials are going to turn out any better. Time will tell.

  200. When you say you are speaking in "broad generalities", I must say - you certainly are! I think your statement that the boomer generation is "fundamentally" conservative is wrong. I am a "boomer" (born in 1949) and the majority of my friends of the same age are unabashedly NOT conservatives. On the day after the inauguration, I attended a local women's march with about 2,000 other people. The crowd that day was predominately people my age - old boomers.

    You know, there is an alternative theory that says that it is the children of the Boomers who have become more conservative as an act of rebellion against their parents' more liberal ideas (ala the Alex P. Keaton character in "Family Ties".) But, lets face it, while we may be influenced by a peer group, we are all individuals who have to decide for ourselves where we stand.

  201. More generational nonsense. People are born every day, not in twenty year batches. Do you think boomers somehow got together nation wide in the wee hours of the night to conspire on how to "get theirs" and disenfranchise their own elders and children? Generational differences are media fictions and something to blame for whatever you may lack.
    I used to joke with my late father that it was all the fault of the "Greatest Generation" for having so much sex after WWII.

  202. Agree! Boomers, pretty much wrecked this nations finer aspects. In their quest for their "cool",which evolved into buying it off the shelf. Being cool was the thing that Boomers most yearned for, and most of them could not on their own be cool. So they figured out they could purchase it. And so began the Era of excessive consumption in order to buy ones cool. To buy ones persona, world-mask. Linked to clothes with brand names, gadgets and toys, and over-done houses - and of course cars. The American obsession with the automobile and how it allegedly tells the world how awesome the driver is.

    All of which of course they passed on to their children. Buy your personality, go to the mall and adopt a look, or as many as you wish, and that will be how we evaluate you. By what you wear, drive and the things you carry. (reference to a great book on Vietnam)

    But I disagree about your Vietnam protests being all about self-preservation. Yes, in part, and why not? Going to that mess, with no clear end-game, to likely die or come home broken, who would want that? But it was also the most direct way to defy the Establishment and their so-called patriotic ways. The WW2 gen at the time saw service as a duty. Most older Americans, till they saw the disgrace of our actions in Vietnam, thought it was a good fight and a winnable one. They were raised on the win of WW2, and the youth of the Vietnam era wanted some of that, but many saw thru the sham. Recognized we were being lied to. Like now

  203. Very thought provoking Mr Stephens. I am hopeful that all citizens can try to find some space in their world views for more empathy for their neighbors and more real dialog about how best to move our democracy forward.

    Thanks for your leadership and for asking all of us to think harder and feel more deeply.

  204. The "culture of excess, excuses, and permission" of 1968 have now been supplanted by the culture of selfishness, entitlement, and intolerance. Having guardrails implies that we travel a shared road in a defined direction. Not so today, where direction is determined only by what is personally expedient in meeting our self-interests. And isn't that Donald Trump in a nutshell?

  205. You make interesting observations. The line from 1968 to 2016 includes the 2000 republican primary when the Bush campaign accused McCain of fathering a child of color when the child was actually adopted. Where was the responsibility, restraint, respect, and traditional family values then?

  206. Not to mention the virtual theft of the Presidency in 2000 by collusion between Florida's government, led by Jeb Bush, and the US Supreme Court, dominated by nominees whose agenda is to roll back the law and empower Republicans. Then we got the official lies that enable Bush and Cheney to take us into war in Iraq. George Bush looked like an upstanding man but his administration made many deeply immoral decisions, as did Ronald Reagan's. Starting with Newt Gingrich, Republican leaders now don't feel any imperative even to seem like decent, truthful men.

  207. Interesting that is fundamentalist Christians who believe that they and they alone are right and it is their way or the highway. Maybe the preaching they are hearing--which frankly is a far cry from the New Testament teachings--are encouraging this mindset.

  208. Oh there is plenty of them who think DT is gift from their god. Not that he's a true man of god, but rather that a crude and evil man is being used as an instrument by their god to help them. This is part of their belief system...that their god will use any means, any tool - no matter how rusty and dull to further his plans and bring his people to paradise.

    Adhering to the texts is for others, not for the true believers. The American brand of Xtianity - Fundy Evangelicals- is bereft of morality for the adherents - because its everyone else who is the problem. Its everyone else who must conform in order for them to be better at their faith. "The World" is the cause of their failings...and once the world gets in line, they can reach their rightful place.

    So its suiting that an evil man would be used to fix an evil world. For them...

  209. There are still guardrails and instances that are not acceptable in decorum, attitude and verbiage; the only thing is that the last part has changed. That's it.

    I stress again ( have repeatedly ) that we would not be having these particular conversations at all if 77k votes across 3 states went the other way. ( and without help\collusion from a foreign entity that is to be determined, and might reverse all of the above )

    The press and especially the voters\excuse makers for this administration have and will put up with misogyny, boorish and neophyte behavior by this President. ( dropping poll numbers notwithstanding) . However there are still some cultural taboos like calling someone the ''N'' word. ( although every other code word has been used in lieu )

    Indeed, more and more in the inner circle are using those code words and demagoguing any and all political opponents, which continues the cycle of calling everything and anything fake and so on.

    We still have the power to change at a moment's notice ( every 2\4 years ) , and most likely will use that right for good.

    It is just a matter if the press ( the official arbitrators ) are going to be those guardrails or not, from now until then.

  210. Which message is more of a campaign slogan and which one is more on a slogan for an online dating site?

    1) "I'm With Her"
    2) "Make America Great Again"