Rich Lowry Calls Out GOP Strategist for Flip-Flopping to Trump After ‘Your Donors Wouldn’t Go With You’

Near the tail end of a debate on Sunday during ABC’s This Week over the anti-Donald Trump issue of National Review, National Review editor in chief Rich Lowry blasted Republican strategist Alex Castellanos for coming out as someone who’d accept Trump as the GOP nominee after his attempts to seek alternatives (i.e. a moderate, establishment candidate) failed and “your donors wouldn't go with you.”

When initially asked by co-anchor Martha Raddatz to explain why his publication made the decision to release this special issue, Lowry explained that along with highlighting how “Trump is not a conservative,” it also wanted to make clear that “we wanted to make the point that it's not the so-called establishment, necessarily, that's opposing Trump” but rather “elements of the political establishment [are] figuring out how they can possibly co-opt or deal with Donald Trump.”

Raddatz followed up by wondering if Trump has already sealed up the nomination, but Lowry shot back that it’s far from over and mentioned how the magazine’s late founder William F. Buckley derided Trump in 2000:

We knew Donald Trump would call us a loser, but I think it's particularly rich that Donald Trump invoked William F. Buckley and said Buckley — excuse me — would be ashamed of what we have done when actually, Bill Buckley wrote about Donald Trump in 2000. He called him a narcissist and a demagogue and nothing has changed in the last 15 years.

When it was Castellanos’s turn, the co-founder of Purple Strategies complained that National Review has “shown up at the war long after the last shot's been fired here” and the party should embrace Trump instead of Cruz because the Texas Senator angers too many people (i.e. folks like him):

The choices we've been left with, it appears, are Ted Cruz, who's thrown the conservative cause under the bus for his own political gain many times, and Donald Trump, who some voters, I think, are beginning to see as, well, he's not Ronald Reagan, he's not the long-term future of the Republican Party, but maybe he's the turn-around CEO, the interim leader[.]

Castellanos further chided Lowry for publishing an entire issue on something that’s “not news” and lamented that he tried “to try to find alternatives” to Trump but “[w]e don’t have any.”

Of course, he took none of the blame for this and instead pinned it on Lowry and “the conservative intellectual leadership of America that you see in this issue of National Review that failed to rally younger and more diverse faces to the party. 

When Raddatz gave Lowry the chance to respond, he excoriated Castellanos for selling out to Trump only because he wasn’t doing what his donors wanted him to do:

I would just urge Alex to reject his fatalism. No one has voted yet. There are good conservatives in this contest. Don't surrender to Alex — Alex, to Trump just because — just because you couldn't muster these Republican donors to go with you, because they were too gutless and feckless to stand up. Conservatives are going to stand up, Alex. We are going to stand up. Just because your donors wouldn't go with you doesn't mean you have to surrender to Donald Trump before a shot has been fired.

Tell the Truth 2016

The relevant portions of the transcript from ABC’s This Week on January 24 can be found below.

ABC’s This Week
January 24, 2016
10:26 a.m. Eastern

MARTHA RADDATZ: Rich, let me start with you. Is Ted Cruz correct there? You saw that interview with George. Has Donald Trump become the establishment candidate?

RICH LOWRY: Yeah, the reason, Martha, we did this issue, we wanted to make two points. One, Donald Trump is not a conservative. He's shown no interest, really, in a limited government, liberty, the Constitution, these animating causes of conservatism and two, we wanted to make the point that it's not the so-called establishment, necessarily, that's opposing Trump. In fact, as we speak, you have elements of the political establishment among Republicans hiding under their desk, figuring out how they can possibly co-opt or deal with Donald Trump. We wanted to make the point that it's principled conservatives who oppose Trump. We want to win this election. We want to do it with a conservative and we think we can.

RADDATZ: And Rich, you wrote in Politico this morning that this is what National Review exists to do, to plant the flag for conservatism without fear of favor, but have you missed your chance? Has Trump led for too long? Is he going to be the nominee?

LOWRY: No, I reject the notion, just because he's at 30 percent in the polls before anyone has actually voted in a caucus or a primary, this thing is effectively over and look, we knew we'd get a lot of blowback from this issue. We knew Donald Trump would call us a loser, but I think it's particularly rich that Donald Trump invoked William F. Buckley and said Buckley — excuse me — would be ashamed of what we have done when actually, Bill Buckley wrote about Donald Trump in 2000. He called him a narcissist and a demagogue and nothing has changed in the last 15 years.

RADDATZ: And Alex, you have a different take. At the beginning of the month, you tried to get an anti-Trump campaign thing going together and you had no takers. You've said it's too late. Is the GOP going to have to live with a Trump nominee? Is Rich wrong?

ALEX CASTELLANOS: Well, I think as much as I love National Review and thank it for making me the conservative I am today, I think they've shown up at the war long after the last shot's been fired here. They — they're telling the Republican Party to pull its rip cord long after we've hit the ground and gone splat. It’s seven days to go before the Iowa caucus and National Review is saying we should be the party of Ronald Reagan, not Donald Trump. Well, that's great, but I checked and Reagan is not on the ballot. The choices we've been left with, it appears, are Ted Cruz, who's thrown the conservative cause under the bus for his own political gain many times, and Donald Trump, who some voters, I think, are beginning to see as, well, he's not Ronald Reagan, he's not the long-term future of the Republican Party, but maybe he's the turn-around CEO, the interim leader who can clean up our books, keep the country from going bankrupt and stop the Russians from kicking sand in our face.

(....)

CASTELLANOS: I mean what Rich is saying in National Review is not news. I wrote Trump is a strongman we don't need August of last year and since then, have worked to try to find alternatives. Guess what? We don't have any. And whose fault is that? I think a lot of the fault, actually, belongs to the conservative intellectual leadership of America that you see in this issue of National Review with the conservative cause that animates the Republican Party, we don't appeal to young people, we don't appeal to millennials, we don't appeal to young women, we don't appeal to minorities. We appeal to only cranky old white guys like me who are voting for Donald Trump.

RADDATZ: Alex, you cranky old white guy, we're running out of time —

CASTELLANOS: Yes.

RADDATZ: — here, but I want to ask both of you quickly, Alex, who's the nominee going to be on the Republican side?

CASTELLANOS: Who's the nominee going to be right now? It looks like it's going to be Donald Trump and, by the way, if he is against Hillary Clinton, I'd probably support him.

RADDATZ: And Rich?

LOWRY: I have no idea. I hope it won't be Donald Trump and I would just urge Alex to reject his fatalism. No one has voted yet. There are good conservatives in this contest. Don't surrender to Alex — Alex, to Trump just because —

CASTELLANOS: They're at 3 percent —

LOWRY: — just because you couldn't muster these Republican donors to go with you, because they were too gutless —

CASTELLANOS: I wish they'd shown up earlier, Rich.

LOWRY: — and feckless to stand up. Conservatives are going to stand up, Alex. We are going to stand up. Just because your donors wouldn't go with you doesn't mean you have to surrender to —

CASTELLANOS: No.

LOWRY: — Donald Trump before a shot has been fired.

Curtis Houck
Curtis Houck
Curtis Houck is the Managing Editor of NewsBusters for the Media Research Center