What in God’s Name Happened to Rex Murphy?

Rex Murphy is a national treasure. I’ve loved him for decades. I’ve been reading and watching his columns and commentaries my entire adult life. No living (Mordecai Richler is sadly no longer with us) Canadian writer or commentator can match his unique combination of eloquence, intelligence, and wit. Though he has never been a partisan commentator, his views have generally been right of center, and he has always been a strident opponent of political correctness. In recent years it seems as if he has been drifting a little more to the right, particularly with his increasingly vocal skepticism of threat of climate change.

I assumed that his climate change skepticism was less about climate change and more about an aversion to what he perceived was overzealousness and hysteria on the part of the most fervent environmentalists. I always assumed he was the same old Rex, the brilliant man who remained an independent thinker no matter the prevailing opinions of the day. Then I watched the worst inaugural address in the history of the United States. Then I read Rex Murphy’s more or less positive review of it in the National Post.

I’ve often looked at Rex Murphy as a wittier, less politically ideological version of George Will, the Pulitzer Prize winning columnist. Mr. Will is an openly conservative commentator and a decades-long supporter of the Republican Party. Shortly after the inaugural address, the conservative Mr. Will wrote a column in the Washington Post titled “A Most Dreadful Inaugural Address”. As you might guess from the title, the column was scathing, no more so than when he wrote “Living down to expectations, he had delivered the most dreadful inaugural address in history.” He also wrote that Mr. Trump “vindicated his severest critics by serving up reheated campaign rhetoric”. By contrast, Mr. Murphy wrote that Mr. Trump’s address “amounted to a noble, though forgotten, truism. The purpose of a government is to serve the people of that country whose government it is”.

There are some things to admire about Donald Trump. I can see why some people find his candor and off the cuff style refreshing. In an era when politicians have staffers sending out bland tweets and press releases on their behalf, I get why some people kind of like a politician who thinks nothing of ripping on Saturday Night Live or Meryl Streep’s Golden Globe speech in the middle of the night. I think Mr. Trump could probably make a great mayor or even governor, but the idea of him being in command of the world’s largest nuclear arsenal should be frightening to all intelligent people no matter their political persuasion. He literally said that protection is the key to prosperity. Every respected economist in the world will tell you that protectionism is actually a recipe for global financial disaster. I understand why Rex Murphy would admire some things about President Trump, but I am shocked that he is not at least a little concerned about some of the havoc that the newly elected President can wreak on the world.

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