John Feehery: Speaking Engagements


Breitbart is lying. I was never #NeverTrump.

Posted on December 9, 2016

Breitbart is lying. I was never #NeverTrump.

I was for Trump before being for Trump was cool.

And I acknowledge that being for Trump in some quarters is still not cool.

I write this column because my friends at Breitbart published a story that included a so-called “blacklist” of so-called #NeverTrumpers.

The list included me and some notable names that were actually #NeverTrumpers.

The story was factually wrong. I was never #NeverTrump. I never worked for Eric Cantor (although I like him a lot). I never worked for Steve Scalise (although I like him too).

I talked to the reporter, Neil McCabe, after tweeting at him that his story was wrong. We had a pleasant conversation. He asked me what I thought Trump should do in the first hundred days. I told him that I was pro-Trump back in May of this year, about how I never worked for Cantor or Scalise. I asked him to run a retraction.

They never did.

My friends at Politico ran a correction of the story, pointing out that I had been pro-Trump for at least six months, that I never worked for Scalise or Cantor and making several other factual errors.

It had a quote from me that Breitbart is not really journalism, which is true. It’s not.

I thought that the Politico story would put to rest the Breitbart story, but a lie travels halfway around the world before the truth even puts on a its shoes, as Mark Twain once said.

I don’t know why Breitbart published its lie about me.

I know some elements within it don’t like establishment figures like me and perhaps they see me as dangerous because I was so actively in the Trump camp.

Don’t worry folks. I don’t want to go back into government service. I have bills to pay.

I hear good things about Steve Bannon from people who know him, but I must admit, I wasn’t too excited to hear that he was Trump’s top strategist in the White House. Maybe Bannon didn’t like to hear that I had concerns about the guy who once said that he was building a platform for the Alt Right.

Before August of this year, I didn’t even know what the Alt Right was. They seem pretty extreme to me.

In any event, let’s review where I stood on Trump.

On March 3rd of this year, I wrote:
“It would be a mistake to diminish Donald Trump’s appeal to working class workers because of this philosophical inconsistency or just chalk it up to his dog whistle border-line racist statements. Trump is offering working class voters something unique. He is offering to use crony capitalist skills on their behalf.”

On March 21, I wrote in The Hill the six reasons why I would support Trump if he got the nomination:
1) He won, fair and square. Say what you will about Trump’s campaign, but he has done it the old-fashioned way, through dominating the conversation and connecting with voters in a visceral way. He might not be the choice of the establishment, but I guess that is precisely the point.

2) A divided party delivers the White House to Clinton. I don’t think Hillary Clinton will do a good job as president. She did a terrible job as secretary of State. She brings all the baggage of the last Clinton White House back to Washington. And she offers nothing new as far as vision or ideas. We can do better than Clinton. Trump will do better than Clinton.

3) Trump will not hurt Republicans in most Senate races. That is true especially for Ohio, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, Iowa and New Hampshire. I think Trump will actually bring more Republican voters to the polls in those states than somebody like Ted Cruz, who will be a disaster.

4) His presidency will strengthen the legislative branch. Trump is not beholden to Congress, and Congress is also not beholden to him. The national legislature has been hopelessly paralyzed by partisan gridlock. Trump, should he become president, could unite the Congress in ways that we haven’t seen in a century, sometimes to support his agenda and sometimes to stop him when he over-reaches.

5) Trump will not be beholden to ideological special interests. If you look at those who are arrayed against the Donald, the most vociferous are groups funded by billionaires who want to fight purely for ideological purity. The Club for Growth, FreedomWorks, Americans for Prosperity and the Heritage Foundation all have come out against Trump. But they are also the groups that have been most responsible for the legislative gridlock that has paralyzed the GOP. Trump won’t kowtow to those interests, which might give Republicans enough cover to actually put some accomplishments on the board.

6) Trump could actually win the White House. My first choice for the nomination would be John Kasich. I think the Ohio governor would easily beat the Hillary machine. But Trump could also beat Clinton. Cruz will not beat Clinton if he gets the nod. Trump matches up pretty nicely against her in the industrial Midwest. Where Clinton has been the strongest in the Democratic primary, the South, Trump will win in a cakewalk. Trump is unpredictable, and that unpredictability could land him in the Oval Office.

On March 24th, I supported his comments on NATO:
“Donald Trump said earlier this week that we had to take another look at NATO. He believes that we are spending too much on the alliance and that our allies are not spending enough. He’s right.”

On March 28, Bill Kristol attacked me in the Weekly Standard for being a Trump supporter.

The next day, I attacked him back, because that’s what I do.

On May 5th, I published in the Wall Street Journal’s Think Tank, the five reasons to support Trump.
1. I am a Republican and will support the Republican candidate. A presidential campaign is bigger than any one person. I am a Republican in part because I believe that the free market is better than socialism, that governance is best with some deference to local and state sensibilities, and that taxpayers should be respected and their tax dollars spent wisely. A Trump administration would be chock-full of Republicans who share my values, far more so than a Hillary Clinton administration, which will be under exceptionally strong pressure from the Bernie Sanders crowd to appoint like-minded socialists.

2. I believe Washington needs to change. In more than 25 years here, I have never seen things worse. Mr. Trump offers to change the ideological culture, something I think is sorely needed. The Republican Party and the conservative movement are self-destructing. I can see no other conclusion when a faction of Republicans repeatedly attacks the Chamber of Commerce or even The Wall Street Journal editorial board for not being philosophically pure enough. The Republican Party needs fewer battles over ideology and more accomplishments. As Mr. Trump put it: Sure, I am a conservative but this country needs help.

3. I like that he is politically incorrect. Recent initiatives and restrictions on college campuses illustrate the contortions this country is making regarding free speech, and these efforts trouble many of us. Democracy can’t survive when people aren’t permitted to tell others what they think or how they feel. I am uncomfortable with some things Donald Trump has said, but I will defend his right to say them. And I believe that Mr. Trump is saying what a lot of people think. That’s why he won primary after primary, even after he said things that I consider stupid or offensive.

4. He’s not holier-than-thou. Some of my conservative friends are horrified that Mr. Trump has been married three times. I sympathize with those struggling to explain this to their children. I also respect that he hasn’t hidden his past and that he isn’t a hypocrite. He wouldn’t be the first presidential nominee, or president, to have had a wandering eye. That hasn’t stopped many from respecting those past presidents. Our society seems to put politicians on pedestals only to cheer when they fall. Maybe we should be more realistic about the humans we put in public office.

5. The country needs a leader who understands business and the business of politics. After nearly eight years of Barack Obama, whose work in academia does not, to my mind, count as the private sector, the economy has just stumbled along. Hillary Clinton has similarly dedicated her life to government (also not counting the Clinton Foundation as the private sector). Wouldn’t it be nice to have a president who has a track record of running a business? Mr. Trump is no stranger to how politics works either, having been on the other side, trying to influence the process. If we want to create private-sector jobs in this country, we should put in charge somebody who has some experience doing it.

On June 5th, I called on the #NeverTrumpers to quit their opposition:
“I am not of the opinion that the Republic would fail if the voters select somebody like Trump and if Trump turns out to be half as bad as some conservative pundits would have you believe, there are plenty of legal mechanisms to either contain his worse impulses (the Congress and the Supreme Court, for example) or remove him from office should his transgressions become too toxic.

But I don’t think Trump is going to be that bad. I think he says many things for effect. I think he likes to get a rise out of his political opponents. The fact that he is so clearly a non-politician is his greatest strength and his greatest weakness.

One thing is certain. If Trump wins, the #NeverTrumpians become completely irrelevant. Maybe that’s a good thing. But maybe it isn’t. I know a lot of good folks who can’t bring themselves to vote for Trump and that’s their constitutional right. But many of these folks could play an important role in making the government work better for the American people, even in a Trump Administration. Which may or may not become a reality.”

On May 4th, Brian Baker, who works for the Ricketts family, attacked me on Twitter for supporting Trump, commenting that I should shut up because I once worked for Denny Hastert.
if we are judging on your standards-shut up: your old boss is a pedophile 1/3

— Brian Baker (@BriCBaker) May 4, 2016

I responded with this article.

A couple of weeks before KellyAnne Conway jumped to the Trump campaign, we appeared on Hardball together.

She was a Ted Cruz surrogate. I wasn’t a Trump surrogate, but I was clearly on the Trump side of the equation. We agreed for more than we disagreed, and I had the sense that she was going to join the Trump train.

In June, I wrote for Political Storm:
“This is a change election. Which candidate best represents change and which candidate embodies the status quo? Donald Trump, despite all of his flaws, is an agent of change. Hillary Clinton is a Washington fixture, a former First Lady, Senator and Secretary of State who has made her career and millions of dollars by living and working in this city. Her career is what the forces of change most want changed. The American people are sick and tired of the political class self-dealing itself all the best cards while leaving them out in the cold.”

At the Republican Convention, I was an event hosted by the Hill, along with three very respected Republican campaign strategists. I predicted that Trump would win. I was almost laughed out of the room. At the Republican convention. Here is the video if you don’t believe me.

Two weeks before the election, I did a panel at a local high school, along with E.J. Dionne, Ruth Marcus, Ashley Parker and Matt Bai, where we talked about the campaign. I predicted that Trump would win. Dionne laughed at me like I was an idiot. He’s not laughing now.

The point of this long post is pretty simple.

I supported Trump for pretty much the entire year.

I didn’t support everything he said or did. And I urged him to change some of his policy proposals, which he seems to be doing as we speak.

I say this not because I want a job in the Trump Administration.

But I do want to set the record straight.

Breitbart is lying about me, and I don’t like it. Not one bit. I hope the truth catches up to the lie and I hope it does it quickly.