Vice Pres­ident Mike Pence addresses the Hillsdale College class of 2018 at com­mencement cer­emony. Col­legian // Brooke Conrad

Conor Frieder­sdorf is a pro­fes­sional Trump hater. A quick scroll through his Twitter feed quickly proves that he spends quite a bit of time crit­i­cizing the Pres­ident. His recent articles in the Atlantic are variant screeds against Donald Trump and his agenda. And now he has turned his obsessive atten­tions to Hillsdale College for the audacity of having Vice Pres­ident Mike Pence speak at com­mencement in May.

His new article carries a ten­den­tious title: “Is Hillsdale College Gaining The World And Losing Its Soul?” Its argument is wholly uno­riginal. Imagine, for a moment, if you took the article and replaced every ref­erence to Hillsdale with the words “Trump’s evan­gelical base” — that piece has been written at least a hundred times. It reads more like the squeals of a high school spat than serious jour­nalism: Trump is “obvi­ously prideful, avowedly greedy, famously lustful, some­times wrathful.”

In sum: Frieder­sdorf argues that Donald Trump has not lived his life in alignment with Christian values, Mike Pence has enabled and empowered him, and asso­ciates of Hillsdale College are hyp­ocrites for openly sup­porting the pres­ident and inviting Pence to speak at com­mencement. It’s nothing new. Some Beltway pundit puts out a “hard-hitting” piece like this almost every week. Boring!

Not one of the argu­ments con­trived against Trump’s char­acter can be applied to Mike Pence. As a man, Pence is per­fectly unob­jec­tionable. After the initial leftist outrage, his per­sonal policy of dining only with his wife seems more and more pre­scient in the #MeToo era. And, to the good-natured chagrin of some of the campus fra­ter­nities, he opts for an ice-cold O’Doul’s non-alco­holic beer over a Busch Light when trying to unwind on a Friday evening. Pence lives a life of faith, evident throughout his career as a prominent con­ser­v­ative con­gressman, gov­ernor, and now vice pres­ident.

But like Shakespeare’s Lear, Pence is subject to gross ingrat­itude — truly, a man “more sinned against than sinning.” His only con­ceivable fault is his asso­ci­ation with the pres­ident, and thus we arrive at the whole point of the Atlantic piece: Trump is a bad man, those who enable him are bad people, and Chris­tians who support him are hyp­ocrites.

Of course, Donald Trump was not Hillsdale College’s 2018 com­mencement speaker. Mike Pence was. As Coper­nicus saw the sun rather than the Earth as the center of the uni­verse, today’s Wash­ington, D.C., jour­nalists see Donald Trump. Anyone and any­thing remotely tied to the pres­ident becomes its own headline.

The problem is that Frieder­sdorf does not even try to hide his political bias, as a good reporter does in the interest of objec­tivity. At times, he is probing a sup­posed tension between Hillsdale College’s simul­ta­neous dis­sem­i­nation of Christian prin­ciples and asso­ci­ation with the Trump admin­is­tration. But else­where in the article, he makes explicitly political, rather than moral, claims: Mike Pence “works on behalf of a pres­ident who extols author­i­tarians” and “[under­mines] NATO.” This is why Friedersdorf’s argument is so insidious: He flows back and forth between his own crit­i­cisms of policies and charges of moral hypocrisy against the college. But yes, by all means, let’s pretend this is an honest inquiry into Hillsdale College and not a polit­i­cally-moti­vated hit job.

Frieder­sdorf goes on to label Trump “a man with no credible reli­gious con­vic­tions.” This may very well be true and cer­tainly seems to be the case in light of Trump’s past. I do not know Trump as a man, and I don’t know his soul any more than Frieder­sdorf does. What we do know is that a number of prominent Christian leaders have met with Trump and tes­tified to his “born again” con­version. But whether Trump has any reli­gious con­vic­tions is irrel­evant and even ignores the argument at hand; the “irre­li­gious” Trump has done more to assert Christian values in pol­itics than all the pious GOP mouth­pieces have in decades.

(As an aside, I will note that I am glad to see The Atlantic’s sudden concern with a sexual ethic. After all, it was not long ago they were pub­lishing articles alarm­ingly char­i­table towards pedophilia. But now, they rank among the Puritans on sexual mores — the culture war must be going better than I thought!)

The pro-Trump argument has never been that Trump was a model Christian. Even his most ardent sup­porters — myself included — readily acknowledge his short­comings. The pro-Trump argument is that Trump has tremendous political instincts and the right stances on the most pressing issues of the day. In short, Trump is a man of pru­dence — and after all, the Ancients teach us that pru­dence, not chastity, is the virtue of the statesman. What he lacks in per­sonal virtue, he makes up for with tremendous political courage.

Fallen men can espouse timeless truths, and perhaps more impor­tantly, apply those truths to the tests of today. Statesmen are revered for applying per­manent prin­ciples to changing cir­cum­stances in times of exi­gency, and in this sense, Trump has delivered.

His record is as con­ser­v­ative and pro-Christian as it gets. He has nom­i­nated two cham­pions of reli­gious liberty for the Supreme Court and filled the Circuit Courts at a rate unprece­dented in history. He has eased Johnson Amendment restric­tions on political speech from the pulpit and rein­stated the Mexico City Policy to ensure that American tax dollars don’t go overseas to non-gov­ern­mental orga­ni­za­tions that promote abortion. He was the first pres­ident to speak to the March for Life, and just recently, he has slapped sanc­tions on Turkey for impris­oning a Christian pastor. The list goes on.

It used to be heresy to even mention the words “Trump” and “con­ser­v­ative” in the same sen­tence, and to some it still is. Whatever. Trump enjoys the highest in-party pres­i­dential approval rating at the 500-day mark since World War II (with the exception of George W. Bush imme­di­ately after 9/11). I don’t even know what “con­ser­v­ative” means anymore, and frankly, I don’t care. But “con­ser­v­ative” or not, Trump is uni­fying the GOP around his agenda. This is a debate long settled in the minds of the Repub­lican voter base, although it lives on in a small few.

Sup­posedly, Hillsdale College Pres­ident Larry Arnn sold the soul of the college in a sort of Faustian bargain by per­sonally sup­porting Donald Trump. I remember an instance in which an inquirer posed the question: “Dr. Arnn, you, sir, are a scholar of the great Winston Churchill — how can you support a man as crude as Donald Trump?” Arnn’s eye twinkled and, betraying himself with ever-so-slight a grin, he simply replied, “I didn’t know Churchill was running.” Arnn (like most Trump sup­porters) acknowl­edges that Trump is imperfect but under­stands that he remains the best political option nonetheless.

Hillsdale posits itself as the inheritor of the American political tra­dition, the tra­dition of the Founding Fathers. If it’s hyp­o­critical to invite a man in such prox­imity to an adul­terer as Mike Pence to campus, then what does that say about America’s founders them­selves?  Are Hillsdale’s statues of George Wash­ington and Thomas Jef­ferson so tainted by the stench of slavery that they need to be imme­di­ately torn down? Ought the wisdom of Alexander Hamilton and Ben­jamin Franklin be scrubbed from the American Her­itage readers because of their adul­terous affairs? I suspect the reply will be, “Well, that’s dif­ferent.”

Frieder­sdorf implies that Hillsdale asso­ciates shouldn’t have cheered when Mike Pence said during his com­mencement speech: “Faith in America is rising once again” — because Pence said it, and Pence is asso­ciated with Trump, and Trump is bad. Herein lies as flawless a syl­logism as one can con­struct.

If Frieder­sdorf were ever to visit Hillsdale he might learn some­thing. He’d be able to probe the minds of the great men who have thought deeply about his claims, rather than simply solic­iting emails from dis­gruntled alumni and stu­dents (and even those who aren’t stu­dents yet!). Even the con­clusion to his piece reads more like an accu­sation than a question: “Do I have any of this wrong, Hillsdale stu­dents, alumni, and faculty? Do you see any­thing dis­sonant about Mike Pence’s words and his actions, or between his actions and the values that Hillsdale pur­ports to value?”

No, I don’t see any dis­so­nance. I see an excellent college led by excellent people who seek to pursue truth and defend liberty. And I see an asinine jour­nalist reck­lessly impugning the char­acter of good men.

You can quote me on that.