From the Senate in the 1970s to the presidential campaign trail in 2020, Joe Biden has a long record of going where political pressures push him—and right now they’re pushing him aggressively leftward
Mollie Hemingway in her mid-40s has emerged as a leading defender of Donald Trump on Fox News and a thoughtful analyst in her role as senior editor of The Federalist, a well-read online magazine. She earned a degree in economics at the University of Colorado and is a member of the Lutheran Church–Missouri Synod. Here are edited excerpts of our Q&A in Washington, D.C., on the morning after January’s March for Life.
Newspaper monopolies ruled most cities late in the 20th century, but you grew up in Denver, which had both The Rocky Mountain News and The Denver Post.
I remember reading both at a young age. They were different enough that you could realize how what gets written depends not necessarily on what happened but the person writing it. You would see differences in how they wrote about anything related to the sanctity of human life. The language they used was coded, intended to help one side over another. I thought people should be fairer, so abortion coverage greatly influenced my going into journalism.
You’ve been both pro-life and realistic, so what do you think is the likelihood of a Roe v. Wade overturn?
It’s difficult to overturn Roe v. Wade in part because in a way it has already been both overturned and strengthened. People knew the ruling was horribly thought-out, so those who care a lot about inventing a right to abortion in the Constitution have already come up with other rulings that helped shore it up. If abortion law were returned to the states, it would be healthy for people to engage in that process—having a legislature of nine people is obviously very corrosive to the body politic—but a lot of states have abortion laws that don’t protect women and children, so an end to Roe v. Wade is not some magical cure.
There’s more openness to people saying they’re pro-life, and many young women in Washington are.
Do young female reporters in the Washington media tend to be more or less pro-abortion than their older counterparts?
You don’t see the strident, unnuanced take on abortion that you saw with some older women who became reporters because they were radical feminists. Since we know more about the science of unborn human life, it’s difficult to be as extreme as some in the previous generation were. There’s more openness to people saying they’re pro-life, and many young women in Washington are.
You’ve particularly covered two stories during the past several years: the Trump-Russia collusion narrative, which you early on showed was false, and the Brett Kavanaugh confirmation hearing. On the first, is it amusing that Democrats have complained so vociferously about purported ties to Russia? When conservative Republicans did that about real ties in the 1950s, didn’t liberals call that “McCarthy era” the worst of times?
It would be amusing if people were self-aware enough to think about it. Part of the reason the Russia narrative got legs was that people were leaking classified information nonstop. A lot of people worked together to set up this false narrative. I hope we’ll get more information about that.
And Kavanaugh? You co-wrote Justice on Trial, a book on the hearing and the court: How do you think he’ll rule on some of the abortion cases coming up?
That is the million-dollar question.
Right. That’s why I’m asking you.
Kavanaugh is extremely even-tempered. He has been consistent in his opinions for a long time. He writes not in a flashy way but in a very logical and reasoned way. He is conservative by nature: He doesn’t want to do anything radical with the law. He is an originalist and has been modest in his opinions related to abortion. He will go for the least change necessary while remaining faithful as an originalist. He likes to build coalitions.
People who vote are much savvier than a lot of people give them credit for: They understand that the courts have become too powerful.
That team-building emphasis also seems to characterize John Roberts.
A lot of conservatives are frustrated by Roberts, but on social issues he’s been pretty good. He usually rules as a constitutionalist. Kavanaugh clerked for Anthony Kennedy, and when you read Kavanaugh’s opinions during his 12 years on that federal court, you can almost see him writing to Anthony Kennedy. Now he has replaced Kennedy, so there’s no Kennedy to write for—but there is a Chief Justice Roberts.
You used to write more about theology, but now you’re writing more about politics. Is that out of necessity?
Absolutely necessity, and I don’t love it. But everything we’re talking about has religious undertones, so it’s very important to me at The Federalist to show how religious motivation is a part of everything we do, including education and family life.
You’ve become a very strong defender of Donald Trump.
People have struggled for four years to come to terms with how Donald Trump could rise in the Republican Party, much less become president. A lot of people still cannot wrap their heads around it. Trump voters need advocacy and defense as they are almost unrepresented in much of our major media. That means tens of millions of people have no voice, no representation, nobody who even understands them or can explain what they’re thinking.
So you are representing them?
If you were to ask for my personal views on a lot of things, they might be more nuanced than I get to be on television. On television you have to pick one thing to say: It makes for bad television unless you do that. I wish people got their news through reading long, comprehensive articles where you can explore nuances, but most people get their news through television, and so you have to work within those confines.
I like his judicial appointments and his pro-life statements, but I’m troubled by his policy on refugees. With what Trump policies do you disagree?
Refugee policy is very complicated, and I don’t think it’s as easy as people at both extremes want to say, but that’s a great example of something I am concerned about. We should be a country that welcomes refugees. I wish more was being done on abortion. He has been the most pro-life president we’ve had, but it’s not enough. And I wish rhetorically he would be a better role model. People learn how to treat each other by how their leaders talk about each other. I wish he respected human life more in his rhetoric: Talking about terrorists or MS-13 as animals is something I don’t like. I do like his criminal justice reform and am glad he seems to be turning more attention to racial issues: He seems to want to get more black votes, and that is affecting some of the ways he talks about racial issues.
How have your Trump views changed during the past four years?
I worked very hard in 2016 to understand how he was gaining popularity. I was personally very upset because I am so pro-life, and wondered how could it be that the GOP was about to be taken over by someone who wasn’t. The Susan B. Anthony List was not going to endorse him unless he signed off on their demands. Trump wasn’t signing it, and they kept on saying we need to make a decision. Finally he returned the statement: He had signed it, strengthened it, and added to it. So pro-lifers took a huge risk and were nervous about it, but it worked out well.
Those wanting a change in federal judges also took a risk.
They didn’t even have a contact in the Trump campaign at first. Then they worked with the campaign and realized at some point Trump was more serious about judges than many of the other campaigns are. That’s paid off very well for them. One in 4 Trump voters voted for him because of the Supreme Court vacancy. People who vote are much savvier than a lot of people give them credit for: They understand that the courts have become too powerful.
So President Trump has surpassed many conservative expectations.
One of the things that was so hard for me in 2016 was him openly bragging about sexual conquests. I just was appalled. I couldn’t believe that this would even be happening. But he also has unbelievable virtues that we hadn’t seen. He has a willingness to fight for some things. A lot of politicians present on a public stage as incredibly lovely people, and you meet them in their private lives and realize they’re much less that way. And Donald Trump in private—or so far as a reporter can understand how he is in private—is very similar to how he is publicly, except he’s deferential and gracious and polite and all these things you don’t see on stage where he’s being like a stand-up comic.
What do you tell your two girls, 12 and 10, about the president?
They asked why we would not let them watch him on television—because I could not trust that he wouldn’t cuss in a speech or say things that are inappropriate. But I have been letting them—they’re interested in politics—see for themselves that he says things we do not believe should be said.
A complex figure?
In 2016 people were trying to compare him to King David, which I just found so offensive. What we really remember about King David is his repentance, and that is not something you have seen from Donald Trump. He has publicly said he doesn’t need to apologize, he’s not a sinner. I pray that he would understand not just that he is a sinner but he needs forgiveness and receives forgiveness.