Trump’s announcement was greeted with withering scorn from political commentators. Most withering was my old National Review colleague, Kevin Williamson.Kevin let Trump have it with both barrels. He called him a, quote, “witless ape.” He mocked the several bankruptcies in Trump’s business portfolio. He mocked Trump’s rich-boy upbringing, and insulted his father, quote:“The self-made man who started with nothing but a modest portfolio of 27,000 New York City properties acquired by his millionaire slumlord father …”End quote. And so on.This is all good fun. One of my personal heroes, the late British journalist Auberon Waugh, defined opinion journalism to be, quote: “the vituperative arts.” In the timid, mealy-mouthed world of modern commentary, I’m always glad to see someone pick up that definition and run with it.I’m also fond of Kevin as a person. He’s smart, a good writer, a diligent researcher, and a delightful and witty dinner companion.This piece, though, cries out for some rebuttal.First off, when you have as many items in your business portfolio as Trump, it’s not unusual for one or two of them to be in bankruptcy. Bankruptcy is a business arrangement—a common recourse, not necessarily evidence of incompetence or moral turpitude. Harry Truman avoided business bankruptcy only by the skin of his teeth, and no-one held that against him when he ran for President. I don’t personally think Truman was a great President, but he wasn’t a sensationally bad one. We’ve had worse. We have worse.And then, what’s wrong with starting out in life on inherited wealth? Is National Review now opposed to inherited wealth? I wonder what Bill Buckley would have said about that.And, excuse me, “millionaire slumlord father”? Here’s a quote from the New York Times obituary for Trump’s Dad, June 1999. Quote — and please remember this is the New York Times. Quote:The whole podcast is archived here.
“Mr. Trump … helped change the face of Brooklyn and Queens with thousands of homes for the middle class in plain but sturdy brick rental towers, clustered together in immaculately groomed parks.”End quote. Trump Senior’s tenants were the post-WW2 young working- and lower-middle classes, who needed cheap, decent city accommodation while they built up wealth to move to the suburbs. By the New York Times’ account, Trump Senior was a benefactor of humanity.But apparently National Review is now to the left of the New York Times on the subject of building and owning private rental property for let to willing tenants.