Peter Wehner

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Peter Wehner
BornPeter Hermann Wehner
(1961-02-10) February 10, 1961 (age 61)
Dallas, Texas
OccupationAuthor, essayist, former speech writer
Alma materUniversity of Washington
Notable worksThe Death of Politics
City of Man
Wealth and Justice
SpouseCindy Wehner

Peter Hermann Wehner (born February 10, 1961) is an American writer and former speechwriter for the administrations of three U.S. presidents. He is a vice president and senior fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center (EPPC), a conservative think tank, and a fellow at the Trinity Forum, a nonprofit Christian organization. Wehner is a contributing opinion writer for The New York Times, a contributing editor at The Atlantic, and the author of The Death of Politics.[1][2]

Early life and education[edit]

Wehner was born in Dallas, Texas, to Ingeborg and Alfred Wehner. He is the youngest of his siblings.[3] Wehner grew up in Richland, Washington,[4] and attended Hanford High School.

Wehner earned a degree from the University of Washington.[4]


Wehner served in three Republican administrations, those of Ronald Reagan, George H. W. Bush, and George W. Bush.[5] He was a speechwriter for Secretary of Education William Bennett before becoming special assistant to the director at the Office of National Drug Control Policy.[4] Wehner was then executive director for policy for Empower America, a conservative group[4] that Bennett, Jack Kemp, and Jeane Kirkpatrick founded.[6]

Wehner 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.[4][5] After leaving the White House in 2007, Wehner joined EPPC as a senior fellow.[6] He has also served as an advisor to several presidential campaigns.[5]

Wehner is the author or the co-author of three books: The Death of Politics: How to Heal Our Frayed Republic After Trump,[7] 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).[5] He is considered a leading conservative critic of Donald Trump.[citation needed]

The Death of Politics serves as a "spirited defense of politics" while providing a path toward recovery.[7] In Wealth and Justice, published by American Enterprise Institute Press, Wehner and Brooks argue that the free market and capitalism, when properly functioning, act "as a civilizing agent" that improves the moral condition of society by prizing "thrift, savings, and investment" and discouraging "bribery, corruption, and lawlessness".[8]

Wehner's work has appeared in The New York Times, The Atlantic, Commentary, Christianity Today, the Financial Times, National Affairs, Politico, Time, The Wall Street Journal, The Washington Post, and The Weekly Standard. Wehner also has appeared on many cable news channels, C-SPAN, and talk radio.[5][4] He became a contributing editor at The Atlantic and contributing op-ed writer at The New York Times in 2015.[5]

Views and positions[edit]

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".[6] 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".[9]

Wehner opposes abortion.[9]

Wehner supported the U.S. invasion of Iraq in 2003, but later criticized the subsequent U.S. war strategy.[10]

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."[9]

Wehner was a "vocal critic of the Obama administration", contending that President Barack Obama has "undermined America's moral self-confidence".[6]

Wehner believes that young evangelicals ought to support Israel based on its record of "human rights, social justice, the advancement of human flourishing, [and] a government that is accountable and based on the rule of law. ... Young evangelicals whose understanding of Israel is dominated by a narrative of Israeli misdeeds ought to be told the story of Palestinian misconduct, ethical transgressions, authoritarian rule, and horrifying anti-Semitism—and told it in a way that increases the chances they will hear it."[11] Wehner blames Palestinian leadership for what he sees as its betrayal of its own people and for making "anti-Semitism a central, organizing principle of Palestine life—more central, even, than Palestinian statehood."[11]


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".[9]

Wehner has criticized the "tone and spirit" of Christian right leaders such as Pat Robertson and Jerry Falwell, criticizing them for "apocalyptic language" in the political arena and making "theological errors" (such as blaming the September 11 attacks on abortion and the ACLU).[9] He has praised Rick Warren and Tim Keller, saying that their "mode of argumentation and mode of conversation" is better than what "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 "philosophical as well as theological foundation".[9] Wehner argues that evangelicals' "support for Trump comes at a high cost for Christian witness".[12]

Donald Trump[edit]

Wehner is a staunch critic of Trump.[13] He joined many Republican figures who announced that they would not vote for Trump. In a January 2016 column in The New York Times titled "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."[6][14] 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".[15] 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.[16]

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.[17] In a column he wrote a day after Trump fired FBI Director James Comey, which came after Comey asked for additional resources in investigating Russian interference in the 2016 U.S. elections, Wehner wrote that his prediction had been accurate.[18] 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."[19] By February 2019, Wehner lamented that the Republican Party is "now Donald Trump’s party, through and through".[20] Following Trump's defeat in the 2020 presidential election, Wehner wrote that "Trump’s most enduring legacy [may be] a nihilistic political culture, one that is tribalistic, distrustful, and sometimes delusional, swimming in conspiracy theories".[21] After reports emerged that Trump was considering imposing martial law to overturn the election and that he might appoint conspiracy theorist Sidney Powell as a special counsel, Wehner wrote that Trump has "begun to lose his mind" and "has become even more destabilizing and dangerous"; he laments that much of the Republican Party has followed Trump's lead and been "radicalized."[22]

Following the removal of Liz Cheney from the House leadership, Wehner was quoted in The Atlantic's electronic newsletter of May 12, 2021, as having said, "The Trump presidency might have been the first act in a longer and even darker political drama, in which the Republican Party is becoming more radicalized" in a section headed "The new GOP is a threat to American democracy".[23]

Personal life[edit]

Wehner and his wife Cindy live in McLean, Virginia; they have three children: John Paul, Christine, and David.[4] He attends McLean Presbyterian Church.[citation needed]


  • (with Michael J. Gerson) City of Man: Religion and Politics in a New Era Chicago : Moody Publishers, 2010. ISBN 9780802458575, OCLC 505420332
  • (with Arthur C. Brooks) Wealth and Justice: The Morality of Democratic Capitalism Washington, DC AEI Press, 2010. ISBN 9780844743776, OCLC 837668483
  • The Death of Politics: How to Heal Our Frayed Republic After Trump, New York, NY : HarperOne, 2019. ISBN 9780062820792, OCLC 1097366455[24][25][26]
  • The Deepening Crisis in Evangelical Christianity; Support for Trump comes at a high cost for Christian witness. July 5, 2019, The Atlantic


  1. ^ "Peter Wehner". The New York Times. 2019-06-19. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2019-06-24.
  2. ^ Peter Wehner. "Peter Wehner". The Atlantic. Retrieved 2019-06-24.
  3. ^ "Alfred Wehner obit".
  4. ^ a b c d e f g Arena Profile: Peter Wehner, Politico Arena (accessed July 6, 2016),
  5. ^ a b c d e f Peter Wehner, Senior Fellow, Ethics and Public Policy Center (accessed July 6, 2016).
  6. ^ a b c d e Wehner, Peter, RightWeb, Institute for Policy Studies (last updated January 14, 2016).
  7. ^ a b Wehner, Peter. "The Death of Politics" (Hardcover). HarperCollins Publishers. Retrieved 2019-06-24.
  8. ^ Wealth & Justice: The Morality of Democratic Capitalism, AEI Press (October 31, 2010).
  9. ^ a b c d e f Gayle Trotter, Peter Wehner Discusses the City of Man: Religion and Politics in a New Era, First Things (February 28, 2011).
  10. ^ Wehner, Peter. "Seeing Trump Through a Glass, Darkly." Opinion. New York Times. 7 October 2017. 8 October 2017.
  11. ^ a b Wehner. "Why It Matters That Support for Israel Among Young Evangelicals Is Falling." The Bulwark. 25 January 2022. 1 February 2022.
  12. ^ Wehner, Peter (5 July 2019). "The Deepening Crisis in Evangelical Christianity". The Atlantic.
  13. ^ Wehner, Peter (March 3, 2018). "Trump's White House Is a Black Hole". Opinion. The New York Times. Archived from the original on March 4, 2018. Retrieved September 11, 2019.
  14. ^ Peter Wehner, Why I Will Never Vote for Donald Trump, Opinion. New York Times (January 14, 2016).
  15. ^ Peter Wehner, "The Theology of Donald Trump, Opinion. New York Times (5 July 2016).
  16. ^ Wehner, Peter (July 16, 2016). "Can We Find Our Way Back to Lincoln?". Opinion. The New York Times. Archived from the original on March 4, 2018. Retrieved March 4, 2018.
  17. ^ Wehner, Peter. "Why I Cannot Fall in Line Behind Trump." Opinion. New York Times (January 21, 2017)
  18. ^ Wehner. "Don’t Be Complicit, Republicans." Opinion. New York Times. 10 May 2017. 10 May 2017.
  19. ^ Wehner. "Declaration of Disruption." Opinion. New York Times. 4 July 2017. 9 July 2017.
  20. ^ Wehner. "Peter Wehner: I Left the GOP ...." The Atlantic. 6 February 2019. 6 February 2019.
  21. ^ Wehner. "Peter Wehner: Trump’s Most Malicious Legacy" The Atlantic. 7 December 2020.
  22. ^ Wehner. "Trump Is Losing His Mind" The Atlantic. 20 Dec 2020
  23. ^ Nyce, Caroline Mimbs, "On Capitol Hill", The Atlantic Daily, Wednesday, May 12, 2021
  24. ^ Garrett, Lynn (January 25, 2019). "Books to Mend a Divided America". Publishers Weekly. Retrieved September 11, 2019.
  25. ^ Wehner, Peter (June 1, 2019). "Politics Is Not Total War". Opinion. The New York Times. Retrieved September 11, 2019.
  26. ^ Lopez, Kathryn Jean (June 3, 2019). "Civility Is an Essential, First-Tier Political Value". National Review. Retrieved September 11, 2019 – via Yahoo!.

Further reading[edit]