Former sports columnist Rick Reilly is out with a new book. The book’s is titled “Commander in Cheat: How Golf Explains Trump.” It explores Donald Trump’s behavior on the golf course as well as his claims about his golfing skill. As one could probably guess from the book’s title, it does not paint the president in a very flattering light.
Given Reilly’s history, it isn’t surprising that he has a strong dislike for Trump. But a recent exchange with sportswriter Bryan Curtis is especially curious. Curtis describes Reilly’s experience on the night of the 2016 election as a “familiar nightmare.” At a bar in Charleston, SC, Reilly and a former colleague of his had expected Hillary Clinton to win (as so many did). He then describes himself as feeling “light-headed and nauseous” as the inevitability of Trump’s victory sets in.
The curious part of this account comes in how vehemently opposed Reilly once was of the Iraq War. In a 2005 article he titled “The Hero and the Unknown Soldier,” he recounts the death of former NFL player turned US Army Ranger Pat Tillman as well as a lesser known serviceman named Todd Bates who was also killed in action. Reilly closes the column saying:
“Be proud that sports produce men like this. But I, for one, am furious that these wars keep taking them.”
The inconsistency on the part of Reilly comes in his dread and sickness as a result of Trump beating Clinton. Trump rose victoriously through the Republican primary calling the Iraq War “a disaster.” His beating of more hawkish opponents showed that Republican voters were willing to accept that war as being a mistake. You would think someone who was as against that war as Reilly would at least see some virtue in the party that lead that invasion nominating someone who was so strongly opposed to it.
In addition, why was Reilly so saddened upon the defeat of Hillary Clinton given her past support for the war in Iraq and several other overseas military actions? After all, if he were consistently against operations OEF and OIF, then shouldn’t he oppose all politicians who voted for them? If this were the case, Reilly’s nightmare should have begun when the Democrats chose to make Clinton their candidate rather than when she lost the general election. Having to choose between Clinton and Trump could have been his nightmare (it was for many), but there should have been no love lost for the former first lady for anyone claiming to favor peace.
Certainly someone’s support or opposition for a candidate can depend on many factors outside of foreign policy. But Reilly so emphatically objected to George W. Bush’s invasion and occupation of Iraq that it’s hard to see how he could just disregard one politician’s war-mongering past and lambaste a president who proved that you could object to that war and still find favor within the Republican Party. The conclusion that makes the most sense is that Reilly turns a blind eye when it comes to war to those he happens to agree with politically. Clinton voted in the affirmative for a war that Reilly claims he hated. But since he has more in common with her politically, that fact is swept under the rug. Conversely, Trump becomes the embodiment of all evil despite his harsh criticism of the same war. Even though Reilly was never a political writer, it would be nice to see some intellectual consistency in his politics.