Jonah Goldberg makes a good point that conservatives should not defend everything Donald Trump does and says. He is right. We are a political party, not a cult. Trump is the President, not our Messiah. To the extent we treat Trump as Messiah instead of as President, we betray everything this great nation was founded to be.
On broad policy matters, Trump has done well, conservatives are mostly pleased with him (I certainly have been) and conservatives can defend him in good conscience. When he goes off the rails, behaves in a childish and petulant manner, or is dishonest, it is difficult to defend him – and we should not defend him. The reason Trump feels empowered to behave childishly is because he has too many people defending him for every single thing he does, treating him like the Branch Davidians treated David Koresh.
This is not conservatism. This is wicked idolatry and those doing it must repent.
Now, to a certain extent, I like Trump’s style. I was thrilled when he threatened to take away federal funds from UC Berkeley after they bowed to violent radicals who were rioting in response to a homosexual Jewish immigrant being allowed to speak on campus. I cannot imagine Mitt Romney, john McCain, George W. Bush or Bob Dole having the intestinal fortitude to eschew establishment norms and take it to the Left the way Trump did. Trump is notoriously thin-skinned, but he is a counter-puncher and millions upon millions of conservatives have been longing for a counter-puncher for decades.
The problem is that Trump is undisciplined and unfocused. If he would channel his personality in a more productive way, it would be easier to defend him, and he will pick up many more defenders. Instead of smacking everyone, be a little more restrained and save your fire for when it will be more productive. Conservatives already like what he is doing on policy, broadly speaking. I want to defend him more often, but I refuse to defend childish and petulant tantrums, especially from someone who occupies an office that needs a steady hand and a mature temperament. I want Trump to be that kind of leader, and I believe he can be. The question is whether he wants to be that kind of leader.