The truly relevant question is much easier to answer. How do we evaluate his words and actions as president? The honest Never Trumper evaluates Trump as we would any president. We’ll praise him when he’s right, criticize him when he’s wrong, and withhold judgment when the facts are unclear or the outcomes are murky. Then, when confronted with the sum total of his actions and his policy outcomes, we’ll once again have a chance to evaluate him against a real-live political opponent.
But Trump’s stalwart defenders, it seems, want something else. They want members of the conservative movement to act, in effect, as Trump’s defense lawyers. That means praise him when he’s right, and find the most plausible possible defense when he’s wrong. That’s completely legitimate behavior when standing at counsel table or when hired as a public-relations representative, but when your goal is not only to speak the truth but also to advance a concrete set of values that can and should endure well past any given election cycle, then the world looks very different indeed.