Mindszenty the Man by Joseph Vecsey as Told to Phyllis Schlafly. Cardinal Mindszenty Foundation, 1972.
Phyllis Schlafly, Ed Martin, and Brett M. Decker. The Conservative Case for Trump. Regnery, 2016.
A. Mindszenty the Man was written in 1972. During the 1960’s and 1970’s, Phyllis Schlafly headed the Cardinal Mindszenty Foundation. The foundation was a Catholic anti-Communist organization, the Catholic version of Dr. Fred Schwartz’s Christian Anti-Communism Crusade. Who was Cardinal Mindszenty? He was a Cardinal in Hungary who stood up against that country’s Communist regime, resisting pressure to compromise with or accommodate it. As a result, he was imprisoned and tortured. When an uprising occurred against the regime in 1956, Cardinal Mindszenty gained some respite, but then the Soviets crushed the uprising. Mindszenty managed to survive.
B. Why was Mindszenty against Communism? The Communists took over the country against the wishes of the people. They were atheistic yet sought to coopt religion for their purposes, allowing it to exist so long as it did not resist Stalinist collectivization efforts. Mindszenty believed that Christianity should stand above the state and critique when it was wrong it rather than be subordinate to it. He also opposed the Communists taking people’s property in their collectivization efforts.
C. Mindszenty had also resisted Hitler. His name originally was not Mindszenty but his family adopted it when Hitler pressured people of German descent in Hungary to adopt German names. Instead, Mindszenty named himself after the city where he lived. This detail stood out to me due to what it said about Hitler. World War II revisionists present Hitler as a champion of the Germans in neighboring countries, as Hitler sought to protect them from persecution (as in Poland). Maybe there is something to that narrative, but this book presents another side to the story. Hitler was also seeking to pressure “Germans” who had little emotional connection with their German ancestry.
D. Mindszenty’s mother appears frequently in this book, as she was a source of continual support for her son. Aspects of Mindszenty’s personal life are discussed: Mindszenty’s mother wished that her son had stayed at home and helped out on the farm rather than become a priest, but the book is clear that Mindszenty came home and helped his siblings whenever they needed it. The book also details Mindszenty’s charitable activities and notes the irony that his priestly superiors criticized him for not being extroverted enough to help the poor. That is a burden many introverts face: doing good that does not always get noticed.
E. Moving on to The Conservative Case for Trump. This book came out during the 2016 Republican primaries. Republicans were struggling with Trump. Was he conservative enough? What about his disparaging comments about religion, or his immoral sexual history? Schlafly, a matron of the modern conservative movement, came forward and endorsed him for President. Her argument was that Trump was what the country needs because of his stances on crucial issues: illegal immigration, trade, political correctness, the judiciary, government regulation, religious freedom, education, national defense, foreign wars, and Social Security. Schlafly was disappointed with how the GOP establishment had handled these issues, particularly illegal immigration and trade. They were soft on keeping the border secure, allowing illegal immigrants to come in, take advantage of America’s welfare state, commit violent crimes, and lower wages by doing the jobs that Americans were perfectly willing to do; there was also the national security issue, as un-vetted refugees and anti-American Muslims were allowed to come into the country. Trade deals shipped jobs overseas and undermined American manufacturing and sovereignty. Schlafly also defended Trump’s conservative credentials, religious stance, and family life. Trump offered a heartfelt account in 2011 about why he changed from being pro-choice to pro-life. Schlafly ignores the self-sufficiency rhetoric of Trump when he talked about religion, focusing instead on his positive recollections about attending Norman Vincent Peale’s church as well as his comments about the role of faith in his life. His relationship with Melania is loving, as he consulted her about whether to run for President and genuinely valued her response. He also works with his children. Schlafly also notes examples of Trump’s business successes and can-do attitude in arguing that he would make a good President.
F. A question that has been frequently asked since 2016 is “How will Trump get Mexico to pay for the border wall?” The impression that one gets from the media is that Trump had no idea then later came up with weak, ad hoc solutions when he was President. This book shows that, as early as 2016, Trump had ideas about how to get Mexico to pay for the border wall. Pages 4-5: “He proposes that the cost can be covered by increasing existing border fees, raising the price for temporary visas, impounding remittance payments from illegal immigrants, cutting our foreign aid to Mexico, levying tariffs on Mexican products coming into our country, or by convincing the Mexican government that their paying for the wall is a condition of continuing to maintain good relations with the United States.”
G. Trump comes across as eloquent and as intelligent in this book. Each chapter is introduced by an eloquent quote by Trump about some area of public policy. The appendices include speeches by Trump, and Trump presents hard-hitting, yet documented, defenses of his policies and attacks on Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama. In defending the Keystone Pipeline, he notes that Obama’s own administration declared it was safer than other pipelines. In arguing against the claim that Islamic terrorists in the U.S. were not immigrants but were born in the U.S., Trump observes that many of their parents were immigrants, some of them with radical (i.e., pro-Taliban) sympathies. Trump is like Reagan in that he is bold and eloquent, more so than his competitors.
H. The book has its share of ironies, if you want to call them that. Schlafly is against nation-building, yet she overlaps with the anti-radical Islam and anti-Iran deal views of neoconservatives. Many paleoconservatives are sympathetic towards Putin, yet Schlafly appears rather negative about Putin and criticizes the Obama-Hillary “reset” with him. Schlafly opposes homosexuality, yet one of Trump’s speeches included in the book criticizes radical Muslims for opposing the freedom of homosexuals to love. And Schlafly robustly defends Social Security against libertarians; she believes that a strong economy can safeguard the program. The book also includes a list of potential Trump nominees for the judiciary, and it is noteworthy that Gorsuch and Kavanaugh were not on the list.
I. This passage from a Trump speech on page 181 stood out to me: “We’ll solve real environmental problems in our communities like the need for clean and safe drinking water. President Obama actually tried to cut the funding for our drinking water infrastructure—-even as he pushed to increase funding for his EPA bureaucrats.” Trump, as President, has been criticized for rolling back Obama’s clean-water regulations. But this passage stood out to me, for two reasons. First, I like when conservatives offer solutions to the problems that liberals harp on (albeit without the cucking and guilt-tripping). Second, it reminds me of something my brother, who has worked on environmental issues, said to me: that Obama’s administration was focused on climate change to the detriment of clean air and water.