Trompe l’oeil. Trompe l’oreille.

What you see is not what you’ll get.
What you hear is noise, not signal.

John Kluge would like a word with you about Donald Trump, and I’d like to annotate.

An Open Letter to the Conservative Media Explaining Why I Have Left the Movement

“[I]t doesn’t appear to me that conservatives calling on people to reject Trump have any idea what it actually means to be a “conservative.” The word seems to have become a brand that some people attach to a set of partisan policy preferences, rather than the set of underlying principles about government and society it once was…

This strain of conservatism believed in the free market and capitalism but did not fetishize them the way so many libertarians do. This strain understood that a situation where every country in the world but the US acts in its own interests on matters of international trade and engages in all kinds of skulduggery in support of their interests is not free trade by any rational definition. This strain understood that a government’s first loyalty was to its citizens and the national interest. And also understood that the preservation of our culture and our civil institutions was a necessity.

All of this seems to have been lost.”

I guarantee that Mr. Trump hasn’t been the one to find it. I’d be very surprised if he even knew it was missing.

Conservatives believe the Constitution of the United States is fundamentally important. Donald Trump does not. That many Republicans don’t either doesn’t get any points for Trump, especially compared to Cruz – the only person running who’s been immersed in Babylon on the Potomac and still rejects it.

Regarding policy preferences, they arise from and depend on a set of underlying principles. We could stop judging candidates’ principles by their policy preferences, and since they often lie about preferences to obfuscate principles, skepticism is a minimum requirement. However, a complete lack of discernible principle demands ultimate skepticism.

Donald Trump explicitly rejects the free market and is anything but a capitalist. Maybe Mr. Kluge should revisit the meaning of that word.

However, let’s assume your reasons for supporting Trump are as described by Mr. Kluge: You reject free trade and you’re concerned about national defense, particularly illegal immigration, which bleeds into the erosion of our culture and decline of civil institutions.

Free trade would require some further definition. I’m not prepared to throw Adam Smith away just yet. I agree that we should reject mercantilism, but it’s also true that we cheat. Our tariffs on Brazilian sugar for example, support the crony-capitalist American sugar producers and protect Iowa corn farmers from ethanol feedstock competition: a Big Government, Corporatist Whorehouse.

And, while I agree that TPP is a bad idea, it wasn’t a Republican initiative. I do admit some purported conservatives let it get through. I think NAFTA was a good idea. Mr. Kluge, I’m guessing, would oppose both.

In any case, a trade war with China should not be your preference. Mr. Trump says he’ll start one. You don’t get much more mercantilist than a 45% tariff. Look up Smoot-Hawley to see where that leads. Consider how nervous our stock market gets about China’s economic condition. Ask yourself why we keep trying to devalue the dollar. That screws you far more than the Chinese do.

On national defense and immigration Mr. Trump projects a strong image. However, he admits his immigration stance is flexible. He actually favors a deport and re-admit policy and has flipped on H1Bs. On national defense he proposes nothing much different than others. Ted Cruz, certainly, rejects “nation building.” As with immigration, we don’t really know where Mr. Trump will end up.

“The lowest moment of the election was when Trump said what everyone in the country knows: that invading Iraq was a mistake.”

Well, yes. But not for the reasons Mr. Kluge implies. Mr. Trump’s aversion to invading Iraq came after the invasion, not before, when he was providing lukewarm support. As President, had he been presented with “slam dunk” evidence of WMDs from the CIA and confirming information from foreign intelligence agencies, and documented connections between al-Qaeda and Saddam, I do not believe his decision would have been different than Dubya’s. Nor should it have been. Bush, contra Trump, did not lie about Iraqi WMD.

“Over the last 15 years, I have watched the then-chairman of the DNC say the idea that President Bush knew about 9/11 and let it happen was a “serious position held by many people”.”

Mr. Trump has said repeatedly that Bush had advance warning of the 9/11 attacks. I agree that Trump’s Truther flirtation is a low blow. It’s also destructive of culture and civil institutions. Just as Trump’s approval of the ChiCom crackdown in Tiananmen Square was detrimental to our cultural respect for Liberty and showed a disregard for our civil institutions surrounding civil rights.

As to erosion of our culture, Mr. Trump should be served with a crass action suit. Mr. Kluge disagrees,

“I really do not care that Donald Trump is vulgar, combative, and uncivil and I would encourage you not to care as well. I would love to have our political discourse be what it was even thirty years ago and something better than what it is today. But the fact is the Democratic Party is never going to return to that and there isn’t anything anyone can do about it…

[Y]ou tell me that I should reject Trump because he is uncivil and mean to his opponents? Is that some kind of a joke? This is not the time for civility or to worry about it in our candidates.”

No, that’s not why most people are telling you to reject Trump, Mr. Kluge, though it might figure into why you should reconsider Ted Cruz. Using other people’s objections to Trump’s vulgarity as justification for giving up some of that which “has been lost,” and because Democrats serve up tripe, is quite a feat. You’ve declared no candidate acceptable to you can possibly have the slightest impact on culture. Maybe that was before the penis joke during the debate. I can see how that would contribute to restoring our culture if he did it at the UN, but in any serious forum… Jeez.

Never mind it took the left decades to pollute and degrade our culture, we shouldn’t bother resisting any further. You seem to say the ideas that arise from the left don’t underpin the long decline in civil institutions. Never mind Trump’s bragging about adultery or what the Democrats will do with that. Just never mind.

As to decline of civil institutions, restoring them requires considerably more respect for the Constitution, the Presidency and other people than Mr. Trump has demonstrated.

You urge us to vote Trump. Ignore Cruz. But, Cruz frightens the Quisling-Conservatives even more than Trump. Cruz demonstrated his anger on the Senate floor. What makes Trump preferable?

“[I]t is unclear whether he [Cruz] could resist the temptations of nation building and wouldn’t get bullied into trying it again. And as much as I like Cruz on many areas he, like all of them except Trump, seems totally unwilling to admit that the government has a responsibility to act in the nation’s interests on trade policy and do something besides let every country in the world take advantage of us in the name of “free trade.””

Ted Cruz is the guy who filibustered Obamacare funding, earning the enmity of his own party. Who’s going to bully him? He’s not afraid of Democrats and he’s said to have no Republican friends.

This dismissal of Cruz is a pretense that the blank slate of Donald Trump would resist nation building – on no evidence. I can’t find where Mr. Cruz would “let every country in the world take advantage of us.” It doesn’t seem in character, either.

On the merits, Mr. Trump’s penchant for “Deals” makes him more likely to trade building a nation or two for Democrat votes.

“I do not care that Donald Trump is in favor of big government.”

Fine, but limited government is one of the most important of the underlying principles you regret has been lost. I guess we’re just supposed to give up our own principles because some people have a corrupt view of them. Could we not a least favor someone who isn’t bound and determined to institute ‘Yuuge’ government. There is such a person running.

In short, Mr. Kluge, your reasons for voting for Trump fit Cruz better, and the polls show Cruz does better against Hillary.

“I will vote for virtually anyone to keep the left out of power and not because I thought them to be the best or even really a conservative choice.”

I guess not.

Mr. Kluge, you are ticked off at Conservative media and faux-Conservative politicians. Me too, but I’m not cutting my face up to spite my nose. You are projecting your preferences on the Trumpian blank slate, not selecting a candidate who shares them. Whether this is successful depends on a Yuuge assumption: You can believe what Trump says.

In my experience, Trump supporters adore Trump for “telling it like it is,” while simultaneously explaining away his gaffes as “not what he meant.”

Please be sure you’re not doing that.