STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:
Now, normally, President Trump spends a part of his weekend talking to the world on Twitter. This past weekend, he called up his favorite TV network instead. Talking with Jeanine Pirro of Fox, he pushed back against the investigation of Russia's involvement in his election.
(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, "JUSTICE WITH JUDGE JEANINE")
PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: You have all these committees. Everybody is looking. There is no collusion. No phone calls - I had no phone calls, no meetings, no nothing. There is no collusion. I say it all the time. Anybody that asks, there's no collusion.
INSKEEP: The president also talked gun control, which may be a major issue of the week now beginning, which we'll set up here with Jonah Goldberg of National Review, who's come by once again. Jonah, good morning, sir.
JONAH GOLDBERG: It's great to be here.
INSKEEP: Glad you came by. Do you accept the president's assertion that there's no evidence of collusion on the part of his campaign with Russia?
GOLDBERG: Well, to be honest, I've always been quite a skeptic about the possibility of there being collusion that goes all the way to the top. I mean, I think - I've thought for a long time that this story ends with Paul Manafort in manacles. But that's a different issue.
INSKEEP: The president's campaign chairman or former campaign chairman.
GOLDBERG: Right, who faces many years in prison if he doesn't...
INSKEEP: Money laundering and other things.
GOLDBERG: Right. But I've also always thought that President Trump might have other reasons for not wanting a special counsel poking around. And so he feels sort of unfairly accused, in his mind, of the collusion stuff, but he wants the investigation to go away, and so he hammers on that. And there's really no better place to call in and make that case than Jeanine Pirro's show because...
INSKEEP: She's a fan.
GOLDBERG: She's a fan. She's a loyal fan. She's a bit of a Baghdad Bob. And you could have picked a clip from any of his other appearances or even his non-appearances on the - on her show and gotten similar soundbites.
INSKEEP: So is this an answer then? You're wondering if there are other secrets the president has that a special counsel might find. Does this explain why even though there's so much evidence of Russian meddling the president has not gotten around to any full-throated denunciation of Russia for meddling?
GOLDBERG: Yeah. I can't quite go spelunking into his id and tell you exactly why he does certain things, you know...
INSKEEP: Although, that'll be a good title for your next book, "Spelunking In The Id."
GOLDBERG: Yeah. But, look, for all I know, it could be just simply that he doesn't want the world to find out he's not as rich as he claims or it could be something else. I do think he also had his hackles up about just this whole - he thinks that the whole collusion thing is trumped up, so to speak, to deny him the credit for his victory. I think - and I think he sincerely believes that. And he also is very famous - not just on this but on lots of issues - of refusing ever to apologize or admit he was wrong. And so while every single other member - relevant member - of his Cabinet says Russia massively meddled in our elections, he just can't bring himself to say it.
INSKEEP: So, Jonah, the Conservative Political Action Conference concluded over the weekend. We'll note for people who don't know, you're conservative. Lots of people who have been conservative for years, or some people, let's say, who have been conservative for years, are increasingly uncomfortable. Political headline - Politico headline - "Trump's Takeover Of Conservatism Is Complete And Total." Max Boot, who had considered himself a conservative for many years, writes an article headlined "If This Is What Conservatism Has Become, Count Me Out." And he goes on to say on Twitter (reading) today's high-profile conservatives do this - say anything to trigger the libtards and snowflakes - his words - the dumber and more offensive the better - Max Boot.
Is there still room for you to be a conservative?
GOLDBERG: Well, yeah. Look, I mean, people ask me what it feels like to be ideologically homeless, and I say, I'm not ideologically homeless. I have - I've actually never been more ideologically grounded in my life. What I am is sort of politically homeless. My views haven't changed. And I think one of the things you'll notice - National Review, The Weekly Standard, most of our writers - I mean, some writers are sincerely more sympathetic to Trump and some aren't. But the real holdouts among conservatives sort of - some of them - some of us feel like Japanese soldiers in the '50s still fighting World War II. But they haven't let go because part of being a conservative writer for a living is actually thinking through your positions and saying what you believe to be true. I do think that the ranks of lobbyists, political hacks, the GOP machinery, has gone fully Trumpy either on policy or psychologically in terms of the - feeling the need to sort of buy in to the whole cult of personality.
INSKEEP: So Trump's takeover of conservatism is almost complete and total - would you revise the headline a bit?
GOLDBERG: I would say his takeover of conservatism inc. is almost completely total. I would say his takeover of the actual intellectual movement that has been known as conservatism since William F. Buckley created it in the 1950s is actually alive and well and kind of thriving. There is this wonderful sort of Bohemian, you know, Renaissance among conservative writers who feel like we don't have to defend the GOP anymore on anything. And that's actually quite liberating.
INSKEEP: It can be fun to be on the outside.
INSKEEP: Jonah, thanks very much as always, appreciate it.
GOLDBERG: Great to be here, thank you.
INSKEEP: That's Jonah Goldberg. He writes for the National Review and also for the Los Angeles Times.
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