Old video: If Trump's the nominee then I'll vote for Donald Trump, says ... David French

This 14-second clip is suddenly making the rounds among Trumpers, designed to blow up the new conservative independent candidate on the launchpad.

A fair cop? Watch the full interview with HuffPo, which was recorded on January 22nd after National Review’s “Against Trump” issue appeared, below and judge for yourself. French is critical of Trump throughout. The question about whether to support him as nominee comes at the end as a counterpoint to French’s disdain for him. Is he so objectionable, the host is asking, that you wouldn’t vote for him even against Hillary Clinton? Well, no, French concedes. I’d grudgingly vote for him in that case.

But the timeline is important here. On March 2nd, one day after Trump’s strong showing on Super Tuesday and just 39 days after the HuffPo interview, French published a piece in NRO titled, “Why I Changed My Mind and Joined the #NeverTrump Movement.” Sample quote:

Let me begin by saying that I was wrong. Weeks ago I said on a number of radio interviews that while I opposed Trump in the primary, I’d back him if he won the GOP nomination. I hadn’t yet seen — or had been unwilling to believe — the full extent of his contempt for the truth, his fondness for far-left conspiracy theories, and his sheer malice. When I saw Trump in full, my decision was easy: Never Trump…

Last night, even in his alleged “uniter” mode, Trump went out of his way to once again praise the nation’s largest abortionist — the killer of millions of children — and call his critics “so-called conservatives.”…

While my own military service can’t compare to the sacrifices and courage of the true American heroes of the Iraq War, I didn’t leave my home and risk my life in the fight against the world’s worst jihadists to vote for a man who apparently believes that I was little more than the stooge of a vast conspiracy to lie our way into war. Moreover, I cannot abide the notion of voting for a man whose “war strategy” is a child-killing war crime and who said out loud that more bombs plus two months of Exxon will defeat ISIS…

In an era where fidelity and integrity are in increasingly short supply — with the breakdown of faith and family the chief factors in the struggles among America’s most vulnerable citizens — how can I responsibly cast a vote to give one of the nation’s foremost cultural platforms to a man who has openly, loudly, and unrepentantly bragged of his adulterous sexual conquests? How can I support a man who demonstrates such a breathtaking level of malice and cruelty in his treatment of his fellow citizens? Our nation can survive lost elections, but over the long term it cannot survive a decayed culture. And by God I won’t vote for a man who takes a wrecking ball to the core values I hold dear.

French isn’t being a hypocrite. He’s not suddenly and conveniently changing his posture to #NeverTrump now that there’s some money in it for him to run for president. He had a sincere change of heart months ago and explained it at length publicly. Says David Harsanyi, summing up the pissy reactions to the tweet above by Trumpers, “[F]rench can’t change his mind on one thing — but [T]rump can change his mind on all things.” Pretty much. I will say, though, having re-read French’s #NeverTrump declaration from March this afternoon, I’m not clear on what finally tipped him over. None of the criticisms he makes of Trump in the piece were based on new developments; Trump’s warm words for Planned Parenthood seem to have been the main trigger but Trump’s true position on abortion has always been suspicious to social conservatives. I assume the sheer cumulative psychological weight of potentially having to defend this guy every day as a prospective nominee finally became too heavy for French, although offhand the only other commentator I can think of who started off lukewarm to him and then grew into a more rigid opposition is Erick Erickson. With Trump, you tend to either love him immediately and forgive all of his sins as they pile up or you recoil immediately and nothing can bring you back in. I think it’s noteworthy that French ever contemplated voting for him, especially when presented with exactly the sort of “Trump or Hillary?” choice he soon might be in a position to influence. Noteworthy but not, as I say, hypocritical.

As further reading on David French the person, I recommend this piece at the Standard recounting how he came to enlist in the military in the middle of the Iraq war despite the fact that he was well into his 30s. “Think about that wounded officer,” he wrote of his decision after reading a news story about an American soldier. “Did he love his wife less than I loved my wife? Did he love his kids less than I love my kids? Yet he was risking everything, and I was risking nothing.” I also recommend Ken White’s tribute to French at Popehat. White and French were law-school classmates and White, a libertarian, admits that he disagrees sharply with French on some social issues and foreign policy. But he’s voting for him anyway because French is just that honorable and admirable a man. If you’re feeling a “character deficit” with Trump as nominee and looking to support someone you can be proud of, he’s a fine choice.

On the other hand, read this account of other #NeverTrump conservatives lambasting French and Kristol for undertaking an independent candidacy that has virtually no chance of affecting the race. Sample quote: “This is like flipping open the phone book and picking someone on page 325.” Oof.