‘Psychologically unfit to be president’: Conservative activist Peter Wehner explains why Trumpism has put him ‘at odds with the GOP’

‘Psychologically unfit to be president’: Conservative activist Peter Wehner explains why Trumpism has put him ‘at odds with the GOP’
Donald Trump/Shutterstock
Donald Trump/Shutterstock

Many well-known conservatives, from journalists George Will and Max Boot to MSNBC’s Joe Scarborough to Steve Schmidt (a senior advisor for the late Sen. John McCain’s 2008 presidential campaign) have left the Republican Party to express their disdain for Donald Trump’s presidency. And in a new piece for The Atlantic, conservative Peter Wehner (a senior fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center—a right-wing think tank) offers a long list of reasons why Trumpism has inspired him to leave the GOP.

The ex-Republican opens the article by discussing his own political history: he worked in the administrations of President Ronald Reagan and President George H.W. Bush in the 1980s and went on to become a senior advisor for President George W. Bush for seven years. But since “the political rise of Donald Trump,” Wehner writes, he has found himself “deeply disappointed and now often at odds with the GOP.”

“The party of Reagan has been fundamentally transformed,” Wehner laments. “It’s now Donald Trump’s party, through and through. That’s turned out to be quite a problem for me, because from the moment he announced his run for the presidency, I believed that Trump was intellectually, temperamentally and psychologically unfit to be president.”

Wehner explains that he was criticizing Trump’s xenophobic views long before he ran for president. The writer recalls, “I warned the GOP about Trump back in 2011, when I wrote an op-ed in the Wall Street Journal decrying his claim that Barack Obama was not born in America. From time to time, people emerge who are peddlers of paranoia and who violate unwritten codes that are vital to a self-governing society.”

Much to his dismay, Wehner writes, peddler of paranoia Trump achieved great prominence in the GOP after announcing his presidential run in 2015.

“Trump has shown himself to be a pathological liar engaged in an all-out assault on objective facts—on reality and truth—concepts on which self-government depends,” Wehner asserts. “The president is also cruel and dehumanizes his opponents. He’s volatile and emotionally unstable. He relishes dividing Americans along racial and ethnic lines. He crashes through norms like a drunk driver crashes through guardrails.”

Wehner complains that in 2019, the GOP “is both shrinking and getting more Trumpified.” Nonetheless, he describes himself as a “politically homeless person” who has no desire to become a Democrat.

Wehner complains, “The modern-day Democratic Party, lurching farther and farther to the left, doesn’t have room for me…. It wasn’t that long ago that referring to a Democratic Party politician as a democratic socialist was viewed as a libel; today, democratic socialists like Bernie Sanders and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez galvanize the party’s base.”

The former Republican concludes his piece by saying that he hasn’t totally given up on the idea of returning to the GOP someday if its rejects Trumpism.

“If I’m one day able to return,” Wehner writes, “I hope that I’ll bring the compensating gifts of greater insight and critical distance back with me. And if I don’t, I like to think that the things I’ve gained still outweigh the things I’ve lost.”


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