It takes a special kind of man to admit, quite publicly, that he was wrong. So it’s with nothing but respect that we read this week’s nationally-published op-ed from Gary Varvel, the political cartoonist for the Indianapolis Star. Varvel was publishing NeverTrump cartoons and columns from the earliest days of the 2016 campaign, likening the unlikely candidate as a clown and worse. Like most NeverTrump Republicans, Varvel was turned off by Trump’s brash manner, his loose approach to conservative values, and his history of aligning himself with the Democratic Party. And even as Trump won the nomination and became the only choice, other than Hillary Clinton, Varvel – like so many misguided conservatives – stuck to his original assessment: This guy shouldn’t be president.
Now, he finally admits, he had that assessment all wrong.
In an op-ed published in both the Indianapolis Star and USA Today, Varvel said that Trump did something with the first year and a half of his presidency that dramatically changed his opinion: He kept his promises to the American people.
“After taking office, Trump began to reverse President Barack Obama’s executive orders and burdensome regulations on businesses,” Varvel wrote. “He approved the Keystone XL pipeline. He cut taxes and the economy picked up steam. Again, I supported these decisions.
“Sure, he failed to repeal Obamacare, but its individual mandate was repealed in the tax-cut bill,” he continued.
“Trump has proven to be pro-religious liberty, pro-life and pro-Israel. He moved the American embassy to Jerusalem, pulled out of the Paris climate agreement and the Trans-Pacific Partnership, and began negotiations to denuclearize North Korea. I support all of these policies,” he wrote.
But Varvel said that nothing changed his view of Trump more than the president’s approach to the judiciary.
“Here’s the dominating reason I’ve changed my mind about Trump’s ability to lead: judges. I support his picks of Justice Neil Gorsuch, his new U.S. Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh and the host of conservative federal judges that Trump has gotten confirmed,” he wrote. “I shudder to think of the activist judges that a President Hillary Clinton would have picked.”
It would be unseemly to kick a man who is admitting his mistakes, but here’s what we’ve never been able to understand about NeverTrump conservatives who came around once he started nominating judges: What the hell did you THINK was going to happen? The man came out with a list of proven conservative judges and promised he would pick ONLY from that list when replacing Scalia. That wasn’t enough for you? Did you think there was any way on Earth he would pick a worse judge than Hillary would have? It just doesn’t make any sense.
But then, there are still some NeverTrumpers out there who HAVEN’T come around. So while we may wonder about what people like Varvel were thinking, we can at least be confident that they are thinking. That’s more than we can say for some.