Why Simonetti is wrong to slander David French
Acton Institute Powerblog

Why Simonetti is wrong to slander David French

We live in a strange age when good Christian men are slandered in defense of men of low character. Still, I would have never suspected to see such calumny on the Acton PowerBlog. Unfortunately, my new colleague Silvio Simonetti has used our site to assassinate the character of my friend—and Acton ally—David French.

Simonetti says that French is “One of the most outspoken instigators of conspiratorial theories about the collusion between Vladimir Putin and Trump. . .” Perhaps if Simonetti had read the Mueller Report rather than relying on second-hand summaries from talk radio he’d know that the Trump campaign had indeed attempted to “collude” with Russia but that collusion is not a “term of art in federal criminal law.” What Muller found was not that there was no collusions (the president has made it clear he’d happily collude with foreign government’s interfering in our elections) but rather that there was not enough evidence for a charge of criminal conspiracy.

Simonetti then goes on to say that,

David French always make it clear just how good a person he is. Reading his articles, we can hear the sermons of a true disciple of Christ and find out just how heroic his performance was in Iraq or that he has an adoptive daughter. A real contrast to the sinner Trump and his followers.

The reality is that French is indeed a good man, while Trump is not. French is a man of unimpeachable integrity while the evidence over a lifetime in the public view shows that the president is a man of low moral character. While I disagree with Simonetti about whether French is virtue-signaling, French at least has some virtue to signal; Trump does not.

Simonetti also claims that, “French, who sells himself as pro-life conservative, sees no problem in going to left-leaning pro-abortion media outlets to bash Trump and point out the president’s alleged lack of morality.” Perhaps Simonetti isn’t aware that Trump was a lifelong abortion supporter (and even supported forms of infanticide) before he decided to run for president. In fact, Trump came out in support of partial-birth abortion on a “left-leaning pro-abortion media” network that owns the channel Simonetti is complaining about.

The conclusion of this bizarre string of thoughts ends with, “Therefore, I think there is nothing strange about Ahmari calling French ‘pastor’ because he doubtless sees himself as one. And in the Church in which French is the clergy, Anti-Trumpism is the catechism. According to this strange theology, to quote the Parti Communiste Français, there are no enemies on the Left.”

In an attempt to be clever, Simonetti reveals his incoherence. How can there be “no enemies on the Left” when President Trump is far to the left of French on both economic and social issues? While there may be some on the right who still support the president, Trump himself is not a man of the right. Admittedly, Trump will concede to generic Republic standards when it’s an issue he doesn’t care about, like judges or abortion. But on the issues that he feels strongly about, our president—who was still a registered Democrat when Obama was in office—resorts to his old leftist-statist ways, such as when he opposes freedom of the press or free trade.

If you’ve read his work on our blog before, you know that Simonetti cannot post without throwing shade on “neoconservatives.” His latest post is no exception. I have no idea what he means by the term, though, because he seems to use in reference to any conservatives he doesn’t like. For example, he bashes a publication that was foundational to the conservative movement, National Review, by claiming they are neocons and that “they are Trotskyist after all.”

Simonetti says that, “In many ways, Trump became the antagonist of the three main dogmas of the Church of National Review and mainstream Conservatism: uncontrolled immigration, politically correct ideology, and interventionism abroad.” The best I can say about this is that it’s the kind of silly critique that could only be made by people that don’t read National Review. Is Mark Krikorian an open-borders advocate? Is Michael Brendan Dougherty an interventionist?

Unfortunately, this is part of a larger pattern. Because he is from Brazil, Simonetti can be excused for not understanding American conservatism. But that doesn’t excuse the fact that he thinks Trump is a conservative while the writers (and readers) of National Review are not. Simonetti claims, “The National Review and its allies failed to understand the Trump phenomenon because, in truth, they are not conservatives but a modern version of the Pietism of the twentieth century.” The reality is that it is Simonetti and other Trumpists are the ones who are not conservatives. Some Trump supporters (NB: I’m talking about current supporters, not just those who held their nose and voted for him) are populists, some are nationalists, but most are merely Machiavellians who think Trump is a empty vessel that can be used to promote their agenda.

When is Simonetti’s agenda? I honestly have no idea, except perhaps to complain about those to his political right. But if he’s against freedom-championing, virtue-promoting, conservative Christians like David French, then I’m not sure how his agenda aligns with the mission of the Acton Institute.

Joe Carter

Joe Carter is a Senior Editor at the Acton Institute. Joe also serves as an editor at the The Gospel Coalition, a communications specialist for the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention, and as an adjunct professor of journalism at Patrick Henry College. He is the editor of the NIV Lifehacks Bible and co-author of How to Argue like Jesus: Learning Persuasion from History's Greatest Communicator (Crossway).