Peter Wehner is an American writer and Senior Fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center (EPPC), a conservative think tank. Wehner "writes widely on political, cultural, religious, and national-security issues."
Early life and education
Wehner served in three Republican presidential administrations (Ronald Reagan, George H. W. Bush, George W. Bush). Wehner was a speechwriter for Secretary of Education William (Bill) Bennett before becoming Special Assistant to the Director at the Office of National Drug Control Policy. Wehner was then Executive Director for Policy for Empower America, a Conservative group that was founded by Bennett.
He served George W. Bush as Deputy Director of Speechwriting in 2001 and became the head of the White House Office of Strategic Initiatives in 2002. After leaving the Bush White House in 2007, Wehner joined EPPC as a Senior Fellow. In 2012, Wehner served as senior adviser to the Mitt Romney presidential campaign.
Wehner is the co-author of two books: City of Man: Religion and Politics in a New Era (with Michael J. Gerson) and Wealth and Justice: The Morality of Democratic Capitalism (with Arthur C. Brooks). In City of Man, published by American Enterprise Institute Press, Wehner and Gerson argue that the free market and capitalism, when properly functioning, act "as a civilizing agent" that improves society's moral condition in key ways by prizing "thrift, savings, and investment" and discouraging "bribery, corruption, and lawlessness." The title of the work was suggested by Yuval Levin.
Wehner's work has appeared in Commentary, Christianity Today, the Financial Times, National Affairs, Politico, Time, The Wall Street Journal, The Washington Post, and The Weekly Standard. Wehner has also appeared on cable news channels, C-SPAN, and talk radio. Wehner became a contributing op-ed writer for The New York Times in 2015.
Views and positions
According to the Institute for Policy Studies, Wehner's work usually centers on "domestic policy and Christian ethics", although he is "a reliable hawk on foreign affairs and he tends to view foreign policy through the prism of moralism." Wehner rejects the idea of pacifism and believes that "self-defense and violence in response to attack—violence even in an effort to promote justice and human dignity and human flourishing—can be justified."
He has called the President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR)—which allocated $15 billion to promote prevention and treatment of HIV/AIDS and malaria in Africa—as "one of the great achievements of the [George W.] Bush administration."
He opposes the view that "the Sermon on the Mount is a political philosophy" and says that "often Christians make the mistake of assuming the words of Christ and the individual commands, or commands that apply to individuals, apply to governments as well."
Wehner has criticized the "tone and spirit" of Christian right leaders such as Pat Robertson and Jerry Falwell, criticizing them for using "apocalyptic language" in the political arena and making "theological errors" (such as blaming the September 11 attacks on abortion and the ACLU). Wehner has praised Rick Warren and Tim Keller, saying that their "mode of argumentation and mode of conversation" is better than that which "Falwell and Robertson embodied" because it is characterized by a willingness to engage with people of differing views, a "kind of civility and a certain high-mindedness," and a "very solid, I think, philosophical as well as theological foundation."
Wehner is a staunch critic of Donald Trump and has joined many Republican figures who announced that they would not vote for Trump. In a January 2016 column in The New York Times entitled "Why I Will Never Vote for Donald Trump", Wehner wrote that, if Trump was the Republican nominee and Hillary Clinton the Democratic nominee, "I would prefer to vote for a responsible third-party alternative; absent that option, I would simply not cast a ballot for President. A lot of Republicans, I suspect, would do the same." In another Times op-ed in July 2016, Wehner wrote that Trump "embodies a Nietzschean morality rather than a Christian one", writing that Trump is "characterized by indifference to objective truth (there are no facts, only interpretations), the repudiation of Christian concern for the poor and the weak, and disdain for the powerless." He also wrote:
"it is fair to say that there existed in the Republican Party repulsive elements, people who were attracted to racial and ethnic politics and moved by resentment and intolerance rather than a vision of the good. This group was larger than I ever imagined, and at important moments the Republican Party either overlooked them or played to them. Some may have been hoping to appeal to these elements while also containing and moderating them, to sand off the rough edges, to keep them within the coalition but not allow them to become dominant. But the opposite happened. The party guests took over the party."
A day after Trump was inaugurated as president, Wehner authored a column in The New York Times in which he expressed doubt that Trump would govern well, a prediction that he claims came true, in a column he wrote a day after Trump fired FBI Director James Comey after Comey asked for additional resources in investigating the Russian interference into the 2016 U.S. elections. In July 2017, Wehner wrote, "Republican voters and politicians rallied around Mr. Trump in 2016, believing he was anti-establishment when in fact he was anti-order. He turns out to be an institutional arsonist. It is an irony of American history that the Republican Party, which has historically valued order and institutions, has become the conduit of chaos." By February 2019, Wehner lamented that the Republican Party is "now Donald Trump’s party, through and through."
- Peter Wehner, Senior Fellow, Ethics and Public Policy Center (accessed July 6, 2016).
- Arena Profile: Peter Wehner, Politico Arena (accessed July 6, 2016).
- Wehner, Peter, RightWeb, Institute for Policy Studies (last updated January 14, 2016).
- Wealth & Justice: The Morality of Democratic Capitalism, AEI Press (October 31, 2010).
- Gayle Trotter, Peter Wehner Discusses the City of Man: Religion and Politics in a New Era, First Things (February 28, 2011).
- Wehner, Peter. "Seeing Trump Through a Glass, Darkly." New York Times. 7 October 2017. 8 October 2017.
- Peter Wehner, Why I Will Never Vote for Donald Trump, New York Times (January 14, 2016).
- Peter Wehner, "The Theology of Donald Trump, New York Times (5 July 2016).
- Wehner, Peter (July 16, 2016). "Can We Find Our Way Back to Lincoln?". The New York Times. Archived from the original on March 4, 2018. Retrieved March 4, 2018.CS1 maint: BOT: original-url status unknown (link)
- Wehner, Peter. "Why I Cannot Fall in Line Behind Trump." New York Times (January 21, 2017)
- Wehner. "Don’t Be Complicit, Republicans." New York Times. 10 May 2017. 10 May 2017.
- Wehner. "Declaration of Disruption." New York Times. 4 July 2017. 9 July 2017.
- Wehner. "Peter Wehner: I Left the GOP ...." The Atlantic. 6 February 2019. 6 February 2019.