The Unwisdom of Crowds

by Jonah Goldberg
The heroic unit in the American political tradition is the individual, not the mob.

EDITOR’S NOTE: The following is Jonah Goldberg’s weekly “news”letter, the G-File. Subscribe here to get the G-File delivered to your inbox on Fridays.

Treasured Peruser (including those who will brook no innovations in the “Dear Reader” gag),

I am writing this before Donald Trump’s inaugural address, which is a weird thing to write. I expect I’ll have reactions to the address itself up in the Corner.

I didn’t go down to the Mall today, but it’s not because I was “boycotting” Trump. A team of scientists could harvest the DNA of Abe Lincoln, Calvin Coolidge, Ronald Reagan, Phil Gramm, William F. Buckley, Winston Churchill, and Rowdy Roddy Piper and create some sort of super president with laser vision and a Kung Fu grip and I still wouldn’t want to go down to the Mall, get bumped by other people, and stand in the cold for hours only to hear a speech in the rain.

There’s something that people don’t know about me — and they never will because I never used my real name and then I burned that motel down to the ground.

But there’s something else people don’t know about me. I’m not a big fan of enthusiasm, particularly among large numbers of people. When large numbers of people get really into something, I tend to go the opposite direction.

I guess the one place it doesn’t bother me is sports. As you know, I’m not a big sports guy, but I am a guy and I get the appeal of going all in for your squad out on the diamond and shouting, “Acquire more points!”

But beyond that, I’ve never much liked events where spectators get too into anything. I like music, but I find concerts where everyone is all agog vaguely creepy. I sometimes feel like everyone else has been hypnotized and I’m expected to play along. Or sort of like I’m the only stoned one in the crowd (when it’s actually closer to the other way around). I don’t mean this as a smug thing. I wish I could get more into things like that. It certainly looks fun and, back in the day, the chicks seemed to dig it.

SLIDESHOW: Donald Trump Inauguration

I think the fact that I’m a “don’t just do something, sit there” type of guy informs a lot of my politics. It’s certainly a huge part of why I’ve never liked youth politics and think so little of young people who take so much pride in being young: a) You didn’t do anything, everyone who has ever lived past, say, 21 accomplished “being young,” too; b) there is no ideological content to youth politics; c) if the best thing you’ve got going for you is that you can boast you were born later than other people, you’ve really got nothing going for you; d) shut up kid, you’re bothering me; e) Grumble!; and f) Harrumph!

The Unwisdom of Crowds

But the realm where crowds and enthusiasm bother me the most is politics. The cult-like adoration for Obama made me feel vaguely unsafe, like when someone a bit too chatty opts for the urinal next to yours after walking past ten empty ones. Okay, that’s not exactly the right analogy, but that makes me feel unsafe, too.

And so did stuff like this:

Look, I like kids. But crap like that makes me want to run through the room in a bloody clown suit while revving up a chain saw. (Don’t worry: Even in my darkest thoughts I wouldn’t hurt anyone — but I would like to see them scurry.)

Similarly, I am a big fan of volunteerism so most of this is harmless even if it makes me uncomfortable.

But when Demi Moore ends this thing by pledging to be a “servant of our president” it makes me want to peel off my face like the plastic film on the screen of a new iPhone. (Though I do think it would be fun to make Charlie Cooke watch it using the Ludovico technique just to see how long it took before he turned green, grew out of his restraints, and started shouting in that fake accent of his, “British Hulk shall smash neo-feudalism in my new country!”)

I bring this up for several reasons. First, because I couldn’t think of anything else to write about this morning. Second, because I think it’s a relevant point lost on some Trump fans. Even if he were my first choice in the primaries, I would never have gone all in with the MAGA hysteria. And that’s not just because I have ideological problems with Trump’s nationalism. If Jeb had been my first choice (he wasn’t), I still wouldn’t have been out there waving my big foam finger, shouting “Jeb’s No. 1!” and putting mayo on everything. If George Pataki were my first choice, I’d sue my dentist for accidentally lobotomizing me with his drill because that’s the only scenario where I could see that happening. In short, Trump could be Calvin Coolidge (re)incarnate, and I still wouldn’t wear flair because I don’t do flair.

The Politics of Transcendence

I guess my point is that I don’t like crowds. I don’t trust them. Good things rarely come from them. Not all crowds are mobs, but all mobs start as crowds, and I’m a little allergic to the vibrations within in them. The heroic unit in the American political tradition is the individual, not the mob. The crowd is what makes the cult of personality a thing. Without the crowd, it’s just a person.

I ran across this quote recently from the pastor and author Eugene Peterson.

Classically, there are three ways in which humans try to find transcendence — religious meaning — apart from God as revealed through the cross of Jesus: through the ecstasy of alcohol and drugs, through the ecstasy of recreational sex, through the ecstasy of crowds. Church leaders frequently warn against the drugs and the sex, but at least, in America, almost never against the crowds.

I think this is a fantastic insight. That feeling I don’t like at concerts is, I think, related to this quest for transcendence by the crowd. I didn’t like it in Obama’s new-age revivalism and I didn’t like it in Trump’s old-timey revivalism.

The old cliché about how politicians campaign in poetry but govern in prose gets at the same point.

Now you can disagree with me about crowds and you can think Peterson is all wet. That’s fine. But there’s an important political point here. Elias Canetti notes in his book Crowds and Power that inside the crowd, “distinctions are thrown off and all become equal. It is for the sake of this blessed moment, when no one is greater or better than another, that people become a crowd.”

“But,” Canetti adds, “the crowd, as such, disintegrates. It has a presentiment of this and fears it. . . . Only the growth of the crowd prevents those who belong to it from creeping back under their private burdens.”

In other words, bubbles pop. The sort of aesthetic or transcendent enthusiasm of the crowd is by definition unsustainable. The concert must end, the rally must stop. The old cliché about how politicians campaign in poetry but govern in prose gets at the same point. Barack Obama nearly destroyed the Democratic party by thinking he could translate the transcendence of the crowd into a governing style. Donald Trump would do well to learn from Obama’s mistake.

Waiting for Calvin

Speaking of Calvin Coolidge, he’s been on my mind ever since Amity Shlaes pointed out on Twitter that Coolidge’s “inaugural” remark upon learning he inherited the presidency was, “I believe I can swing it.”

Coolidge wasn’t my jelly, he was my jam as some annoying person might say. Longtime readers of the G-File might recall some of my favorite Coolidge lines. When asked to summarize the record of his administration, Coolidge replied, “Perhaps one of the most important accomplishments of my administration has been minding my own business.” The point wasn’t that he was lazy, the point was that it takes work to stop government from doing stupid things. “It is much more important to kill bad bills than to pass good ones,” he once remarked.

When Coolidge said, “When you see ten problems rolling down the road, if you don’t do anything, nine of them will roll into a ditch before they get to you.” Again, the point wasn’t laziness, it was confidence in the ability of society — a.k.a. the people — to figure things out for themselves. For every ten big problems our society faces, nine of them aren’t the government’s problem. Liberals think not only that all ten are the government’s problem, but that ten is an insanely low tally of the big problems the government is supposed to be dealing with. And fewer and fewer conservatives would endorse the Coolidge Ratio.

I’m increasingly convinced we’ll never have another one like him. My point isn’t that we don’t produce people like Coolidge anymore — though that’s more than a little true, too. It’s not that a Coolidge couldn’t get elected today either, though who could argue with that? It’s that even if we somehow produced a Coolidge and got him or her elected, the nature of the state is such that even Coolidge couldn’t really be Coolidge.

One of the tasks Mephistopheles has assigned me as I continue to burn in Book Hell is dancing the Lambada with Helen Thomas, our naked bodies bonded together as one with Saran Wrap. Oh wait, that’s real Hell.

No, in Book Hell, I’ve been reading a lot about the administrative state. We don’t need to get too deep into those weeds now, but one of the things I’ve come to believe is that the administrative state is unlawful and another is that it is the enemy of civil society.

Even if we somehow produced a Coolidge and got him or her elected, the nature of the state is such that even Coolidge couldn’t really be Coolidge.

I kind of think of civil society as coastal wetlands. For years, people overlooked wetlands as the kind of ugly, swampy places that served no great purpose. It turned out that wetlands are hugely important. They absorb bad runoff from reaching the ocean, they buffer the coast from soil and beach erosion, and they offer a diverse ecosystem a habitat they can’t find anywhere else. If you think of the government — particularly the administrative state — as an ocean, civil society is the wetlands that keep the ocean from eroding everything. They’re a buffer that blunts the impact of the state. Conversely, they are what stop the nine out of ten problems Coolidge talked about. Without the wetlands, all ten just roll straight into the state’s ocean-sized lap.

Now, I know what you’re thinking, “Man that analogy has some holes in it.” And my answer to that is: Considering the price you paid for this “news”letter, you should count yourself lucky I didn’t go with the women’s-prison-movie analogy that I wanted to run with.

The reason we can’t have a Coolidge today is that government has gotten involved in so much he would have to be an activist just to unwind a fraction of it. C. S. Lewis says somewhere that if you took a wrong fork in the road, it’s not progress to keep walking in the wrong direction. It’s progress to turn around and find the right road.

As I’ve written several times now, I feel more and more like I’ll be in the Nockian remnant for a good while. But today is not the day to rehash old arguments about Donald Trump. That day will come soon enough. Today is a day to wish him well and hope for the best.

I’m reminded of H. L. Mencken’s obituary for Coolidge, a president he first scorned but later came to appreciate. “Should the day ever dawn,” Mencken said, “when Jefferson’s warnings are heeded at last, and we reduce government to its simplest terms, it may very well happen that Calvin’s bones now resting inconspicuously in the Vermont granite will come to be revered as those of a man who really did the nation some service.”

I’m not a big fan of the slogan “Make America Great Again.” And I’m not sure what Donald Trump meant last night when he said we’re going to do things we haven’t done in “many, many, decades.” But if he can get us back to the right fork in the road, and to a place where he could be replaced by a Coolidge, or at least to a place where his bones might be revered, he will have made America greater yet — and he’ll have my gratitude.

Here’s hoping.

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Various & Sundry

Canine Update: So, things have been weird around here. First of all, neither dog seems as interested in eating as they once did and Pippa appears to be scared to come into the kitchen at dinnertime for fear that the Dingo will attack her, which she hasn’t done (to our knowledge) for a very long time. More troubling, Zoë’s wild, stubborn side is coming back. She’s just been a bad girl lately. She jumped out of the car window the other day. On Wednesday night, she got loose from my wife around 6:30 at night. She refused to come in the house until midnight. She just sits on the lawn and runs away from you if you try to get close. She pretends like it’s a game.

At first, we thought it was just the cold weather, which does seem to fill her full of beans. That seems to be part of it. But the other problem, we think, is that our neighborhood in D.C. has seen a population explosion of rabbits. Dogs may believe that “squirrels are tennis balls thrown by God” but Zoë believes that rabbits are squirrels done right. First of all, they are so hoppy and she finds the hoppiness irresistible. Second of all, and this is the really important part, they cannot climb those infernal trees. Anyway, Zoë is constantly looking for them, sniffing for them, chasing them. She’ll wait for hours with dingo-patience for a sign that one has emerged from its carrot-strewn bunkers, and then she’s off. And then there was yesterday. Perhaps in an attempt to get some olfactory camouflage, she rolled in some foulness the likes of which you’d only expect to find in Sid Blumenthal’s secret basement. The Fair Jessica gave Zoë a double bath and yet hours later she still smelled, uh, bad.

My first column this week: Why national unity is so elusive.

Friday’s column: “Anti-liberal” does not equal “anti-intellectual.”

And now, the weird stuff. (“And I thought this G-File was already weird enough!” — The Couch)

Debby’s Friday links

A real-life Westworld

A photo of Lincoln’s first inauguration

SMOD failed to destroy Earth, but this space rock could destroy Earth’s economy

The door to Hell

How many of us can hear flashes of light?

Beware the Slenderman

Is Cthulhu still calling?

What the first European visitors to Hawaii thought of surfers

Why is this lake pink?

Can humans hibernate?

What do we really know about pirates?

The most overused sound in trailers today

How to Help Trump Win

by Jonah Goldberg
For Donald Trump to have a successful conservative presidency, the Trump Tribe needs to grapple with how popular Trump actually is.

EDITOR’S NOTE: The following is Jonah Goldberg’s weekly “news”letter, the G-File. Subscribe here to get the G-File delivered to your inbox on Fridays.

Dear Reader (including the good cat, which for some reason is opposed to my daughter getting an education),

I should just say it clearly: I will never fall in love with Donald Trump. For most of you, this is not a big surprise. But for some, it’s a kind of betrayal. In much the same way the Left gets furious when you just don’t care enough about its priorities, many of Trump’s biggest supporters get bizarrely angry at the fact that I am not emotionally correct when it comes to the new president.

Monsieur Google tells me that “emotional correctness” is a term that’s been used before including by — ack! — the constantly self-parodying Sally Kohn. But fortunately, I don’t mean it the way she does. In fact, I think I mean something close to the opposite.

There’s a lot of tribalism and romanticism in the water these days. By tribalism I mean the idea that loyalty to one’s side comes first and arguments come later, and when they do, they must be bent to fit the needs of one’s side. By romanticism, I mean the primacy of feelings over facts.

Epistemic Closure for Thee, But Not for Me

The vexing thing is that a lot of liberals agree with this observation when it’s framed as a criticism of conservatives. That’s Obama’s whole shtick these days, decrying “bubbles” and the lack of a “common baseline of fact.” And by “these days,” I really mean his entire presidency. Obama has always argued that anyone who disagrees with him is doing so from a deficit of facts and surplus of partisanship and ideology. Even when Elizabeth Warren disagreed with him, he resorted to this lazy arrogance.

But Obama is hardly alone. This has been a theme in progressivism going back a century, from the progressive obsession with “disinterestedness” to JFK’s insistence that “political labels and ideological approaches are irrelevant to the solution” of modern challenges. “Most of the problems . . . that we now face, are technical problems, are administrative problems,” he insisted, and these problems “deal with questions which are now beyond the comprehension of most men.”

The whole ludicrous and yet somehow quaint “epistemic closure” panic of the last decade and the rise of “explanatory journalism” illustrated the extent to which liberals believe that confirmation bias is a uniquely conservative failure. Paul Krugman cut to the epistemological chase with his claim that “facts have a liberal bias.” Neil deGrasse Tyson’s fantasies of creating a utopian world called “Rationalia” is in one sense a great punchline to a joke, but it’s also a perfect example of how liberal tribalism uses scientism to discredit perspectives it doesn’t like.

Care, Damn It

All of that is annoying, but it can’t hold a candle to the ugliness of emotional correctness. In recent years, we’ve seen how the real crime isn’t conservative intellectual or ideological dissent but conservative emotional dissent. Mozilla’s Brendan Eich being pelted from his job, the perfidious treason of the wedding-cake bakers, the assaults on Hobby Lobby and Chick-fil-A, the bonfires of asininity lit every day on college campuses: These have so much less to do with an ideological argument and more to do with the new unwritten and unspoken fatwah: “You will be made to care.”

During that idiotic Halloween controversy at Yale, one student captured the moment beautifully when she complained that an administrator’s attempts to discuss, explain, and debate the issue were beside the point. “He doesn’t get it,” she wrote. “And I don’t want to debate. I want to talk about my pain.” The truth is she didn’t just want to talk about her pain, she wanted her pain validated and even celebrated.

In the Soviet Union and other totalitarian societies, displaying overt signs of “insufficient enthusiasm” is a crime:

“Now, if a North Korean university professor is suspected of insufficient enthusiasm for the system, they will be gone without a trace very quickly,” Andrei Lankov has written of the Hermit Kingdom. “Even the memory of the unlucky victim would likely disappear.”

The other day an NPR reporter tweeted:

Marilyn Geewax surely can’t think that Tom Price, a doctor, is against curing cancer. But she clearly thinks that there’s some serious problem with Price for not applauding an entirely debatable and typical rhetorical bauble in a State of the Union Address. My point isn’t to single out Geewax. I’m sure she’s a perfectly nice person.

My point is simply that in this moment of cultural and ideological polarization, the refusal to share one’s passions is a sign of disloyalty.

The Trump Tribe

And that is true on the right as well. In fairness, it’s surely always been true on the right to one extent or another, because the phenomenon I’m talking about is a product of human nature not ideology. The coalitional instinct is a universal human trait that causes people to link up in tribal bonds. The great evolutionary psychologist John Tooby explains that the coalitional instinct “explains a number of otherwise puzzling phenomena.”

For example, ancestrally, if you had no coalition you were nakedly at the mercy of everyone else, so the instinct to belong to a coalition has urgency, pre-existing and superseding any policy-driven basis for membership. This is why group beliefs are free to be so weird.

I’m writing about this at considerable length in my book, so I won’t cannibalize myself here. But the coalitional instinct is an important concept to keep in mind these days.

It certainly helps me understand the barrages of invective and utterly bizarre psychoanalyzing I’m subjected to every day. For instance, last night I was on Bret Baier’s Special Report. On the show, I praised Trump’s appointments and offered a plausibly favorable interpretation of his disagreements with his cabinet officials. I also defended Trump’s tweets supporting LL Bean, but I criticized others. The response, as usual, from the Trump Tribe was an irrational miasma of rage and projection.

When you cut through the trollery, the basic complaint is simply that I am guilty of insufficient enthusiasm for Donald Trump. I keep getting asked in various ways, “When will you get over your Never Trump obsession?” As I’ve written countless times now, as far as I’m concerned, Never Trump isn’t a thing anymore. Trump won, he’ll be the next president, so there’s nothing to be “never” about.

As far as I’m concerned, Never Trump isn’t a thing anymore. Trump won, he’ll be the next president, so there’s nothing to be ‘never’ about.

The problem is that “Never Trump” has morphed in the minds of both liberals and conservatives to mean something very different. For liberals, it means one must never defend anything Trump does or even nod to his legitimacy in the slightest way — lest one be guilty of some form of hypocrisy (this is just another manifestation of the ancient practice of liberals telling conservatives the right way to be conservative).

On the right, Never Trump has become a convenient psychological crutch for dismissing inconvenient arguments. Like the ever-metastasizing phrase “fake news,” it’s waved like a magic wand to make any threatening claim disappear without having to deal with it on the merits. Marxists used to use the term “false consciousness” in much the same way: to head-off threatening facts or arguments by attacking motives. When I point out that until a few months ago Republicans and conservatives despised crony capitalism or “picking winners and losers,” the instant reply amounts to: “When are you going to get over your Never Trump obsessions?”

The upshot of all of these responses is “Get with the program,” “Get on board the Trump Train,” or “Get on the right side of history.” I’ve spent the last two decades decrying this form of argumentation from liberals — twice at book length. I don’t see why I should abandon that position now. Indeed, the only logically consistent argument for why I should (and one often whispered or hinted at behind the scenes) is that it’s the safe play for my career and my income — to which I say, “Meh.”

How to Help Trump Win

But I’ve dilated on all that many times in this space, so let me make a different point. I very much want Trump to be a successful conservative president — which is to say, I don’t want him to be a successful statist president. I understand all-too-well that many of Trump’s fans do want him to be a successful statist president. They don’t use the word “statist,” preferring the rough synonym “nationalist.” They either sincerely think, or convincingly pretend to think, that there’s a meaningful difference between a statist and a nationalist. There isn’t.

That’s a worthwhile argument to have, and there will be many opportunities to have it down the road.

But if Trump is going to be a successful conservative president, I think his biggest fans will have to recognize their own tribalism. I’ll give you two examples. Last night I got these responses to my appearance on Special Report:

And

Put aside how much these tweets exemplify the points I made above.

The most relevant point is the claim that “the voters want him to tweet.” Trump’s spinners make similar claims ten times a day, insisting that “the American people” support whatever it is he’s doing at a given moment.

Donald Trump’s approval ratings are the lowest for any incoming president in history, by a very, very wide margin. Obama went into his inauguration with a net favorability rating of +71. George W. Bush and Clinton had +36 and +50, respectively. Trump? Negative seven (-7). He’s dropped 13 points in the last month. Quinnipiac has his favorability rating at 37 percent, a marked drop since November. The internals are worse. He’s lost ground in almost every category since the election. Only 12 percent of Americans say they think he will be a “great president.” Oh, and Americans think by a 2–1 margin (64 to 32) that he should stop tweeting.

Looking at these numbers, it is very difficult to see how the Trump Tribe can claim he has the support of the American people for his behavior since the election, unless you define “the American people” as the Americans who unabashedly support Trump. And it seems that a lot of people in the Always Trump camp believe exactly that.

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Various & Sundry

Yes, yes, I know this was not a particularly — or even remotely — jocular G-File. Sometimes that’s the way things break. For those who’ve come to expect that every week, I apologize. My muse for this “news”letter is always unapologetic self-indulgence, and sometimes I just don’t have the pull-my-finger jokes in me. I’m still deep in Book Hell and have a slew of big-time hassles in my private life I’m trying to deal with. I also woke up to discover I made a stupid mistake in my column today, which always puts me in a foul mood. Tune in next week, maybe we’ll both have better luck.

Canine Update: The beasts are doing well, though Pippa had a scary incident with the dogwalker in which she fell through some ice. She emerged a bit like George Bailey after he’s shown the light in It’s a Wonderful Life. Pippa greeted everyone, including some dogs she’s normally afraid of like Spock after he realized Captain Kirk wasn’t dead. And since this “news”letter has been deficient in Vitamin J (for jocularity), I’ll recount a somewhat off-color tale from this morning.

While I was getting dressed for our pre-dawn perambulations, Pippa and Zoë were doing their usual celebratory wrestling and mutual face-licking. At one point, as she is wont to do, the Dingo was biting the scruff of Pippa’s neck when she, uh, well farted. It was surprisingly audible and seemed to take Zoë more by surprise than anyone else. She wheeled around to see what the Hell happened in steerage on the HMS Dingo. At first, she seemed shocked that she didn’t find a squirrel with a Woopee cushion. But then she caught the scent and followed it out of the room like one of those Loony Tunes dogs that smells a roast beef from far away. Perhaps that’s why she seemed so keen to enjoy the fresh air this morning.

ICYMI:

Has the New York Times given up on stopping Jeff Sessions’s confirmation?

Should Trump’s appointees fear his Twitter account?

The new Ricochet GLoP podcast discusses Meryl Streep and the Golden Globes, the culture wars, Rogue One, and more.

Obama’s farewell address was a campaign rally in disguise (corrected version).

And now, the weird stuff.

Debby’s Friday links

Picasso’s life in self-portraits

A map of global superstitions

Why not? Scientists blast antimatter atoms with a laser for the first time

Taxpayers foot the bill for Doggie Hamlet

Brits send meat-and-potato pie into space

How many basset hounds can fit on a couch?

Behold what lurks in the sea’s dark depths

Moon sits atop castle

Is Cthulhu calling?

Salvador Dali sells chocolate

Orson Welles sells wine

Ricardo Montalban sells cars

James Brown sells noodles

How do you poop in Antarctica?

Rescuers save stray pregnant dog

Dogs, in one gif

Behold: Spider lives underwater

Behold: Spider eats snake

Science: Conservatives really are better-looking

Science: Revenge really is sweet

The world’s saddest destinations

NASA has a plan to destroy Earth-threatening asteroids, but SMOD turned out to be a liar like every other politician, so we won’t need it

Scientists are building an animal-fart database

Watch a Furby burn

Peanut Truthers and the ‘Lost Friends Theory’

by Jonah Goldberg
Political correctness is a kind of civilizational autoimmune disorder.

EDITOR’S NOTE: The following is Jonah Goldberg’s weekly “news”letter, the G-File. Subscribe here to get the G-File delivered to your inbox on Fridays.

Dear Reader (and all the ships at sea),

As Bill Clinton said, as he rapidly flipped through the dog-eared pages of the October 1987 issue of Juggs, “I think I need some new material.”

For starters, I think I need to start picking on someone other than Bill Clinton for my cheap letch jokes (he’s still good for some of my more upscale letch jokes, of course). More broadly, I think I need some new old gags, if I’m going to keep pecking out this “news”letter.

I’ve run into this problem before. For years, when I was speaking to a particularly friendly crowd, I would begin my talk, “I’m happier than Helen Thomas at a Hamas rally to be here tonight.”

First off, it was funny because it was true.

Second, like telling Michael Moore there’s a free Happy Meal in the middle of a frozen Lake Michigan, it was a good way to break the ice.

But Thomas went off to collect her 72 virgins, and the joke not only got stale, but it also became clear that some folks couldn’t immediately remember who Helen Thomas was. Was she one of the Golden Girls? Danny Thomas’s Mother? (“Was that the lawyer who helped those terrorists?” one lady asked me after a speech. I replied, “No, but that’s a good guess.”)

And if the audience can’t catch the reference right away, the joke doesn’t work as well. That’s one of the reasons I’ve had to shelve all those jokes about Milton Berle and Forest Tucker walking into a bar in Nantucket.

So, I’m still searching for a “Happier than . . . ” line that works. So far none really sing. Happier than . . . Elizabeth Warren at a sweat lodge, than Harry Reid watching an orphanage fire, than Donald Trump when Arnold Schwarzenegger gets bad ratings on The Apprentice?

Oh, then there’s that problem. There’s a kind of détente between me and a big swath of my “news”letter readership these days. They’ll tolerate my wait-and-see attitude toward Trump, they’ll applaud my attacks on the Left, and — oh yes — they’ll keep coming back for the dog pics. But if I make fun of Trump, suddenly a rightwing form of P.C. humorlessness kicks in. Like the old joke,

Q: “How many feminists does it take to screw in a lightbulb?”

A: “THAT’S NOT FUNNY!!!”

Making light of the notorious DJT is now somehow beyond the pale for many on the right. That’s gonna get old in a hurry. Sad!

Anyway, as Bill Clinton said to the Vietnamese masseuse when she ended her personal phone call, let’s get back to the issue at hand. I think this “news”letter could use some new gags, maybe some new personalities (“What the Holy Hell, does that mean?” — The Couch), and some new obsessions in 2017.

But that day isn’t today.

Hey, You Got Your Cultural Marxism in My Peanut Butter

So, finally, science caught up to my wife (there’s a Stepford Wives or Westworld joke in there somewhere, but I ain’t looking for it). She’s been on a tear about the zero-tolerance for peanuts thing since my daughter was born. No, she’s not a peanut truther; she knows that some kids really do have bad allergies. But the spike in nut allergies is, uh, nuts. And, like with so many things, she blames the parents.

Well, now the new National Institutes of Health guidelines back her up. Fear of an allergic reaction to peanuts causes parents to delay exposing their kids to peanuts. That delay increases the chance that the kids will be allergic to peanuts. Early exposure, in other words, essentially inoculates you to peanut allergies:

“There is this magic window of opportunity, where you can introduce peanut-containing foods,” David Stukus, a pediatric allergist who coauthored the new guidelines, told Stat News. When “we introduce peanut-containing foods early, the immune system can get used to it.” Up is down, down is up, peanut products are for babies.

Now, this doesn’t surprise me at all. We’ve known for years that kids who grow up on farms or with dogs are less likely to get asthma when they grow up. Kids who grow up in sterile environments are more likely to get allergies than kids who’re allowed to get messy. This is commonly called the “hygiene hypothesis.” (Though I just learned from Professor Wikipedia that it’s also called the “lost friends theory,” which may be one of the saddest medical terms ever. Even “ass cancer” sounds funny.)

I think there’s a great analogy here.

I’ve been arguing for years, that political correctness is a kind of civilizational autoimmune disorder. As I put in 2013,

My point is that the institutions — the organs of the body politic — that are the most obsessed with eradicating bigotry (as liberals define it) tend to be the places that have to worry about it the least. The Democratic party is consumed with institutionalized angst about prejudice, intolerance, and bigotry in America. But the odds are that relatively few of these people (particularly those under the age of 50) have been exposed to much real racism or intolerance. The same goes for the mainstream media. In fact, many major media outlets have explicit policies dedicated to hiring and promoting minorities, women, gays, etc. Like the Democratic party, some have very strict hiring quotas in this regard. The well-paid executives and managers of these institutions come from social backgrounds where the tolerance for anything smacking of overt bigotry is not just zero, but in the negative range; they bend over backwards to celebrate members of the officially recognized coalition of the oppressed. (Of course, this coalition doesn’t include traditional-minded Christians, but that’s a subject for another column.)

And again last year in a G-File about people getting ill, or “microaggressed,” by positive statements about America or Western Civilization:

Now, if you suffer heart palpitations, feel light-headed, or in some other way manifest symptoms of panic because you hear that “America is the land of opportunity” or “there is only one race, the human race” you have an allergy to America and its ideals.

Kevin Williamson had a great piece yesterday about the hilarious brouhaha over pick-up trucks and the question of where the “real America” is. He writes:

Farming America is, indeed, part of the real America. But so is Broadway. So is Wall Street. So is Hollywood and Malibu and glorious Big Sur, and Chicago and Detroit and Miami and all the weird old places in America that don’t even feel like America at all, like New Orleans and Aroostook County, Maine. So is Muleshoe, Texas, and the campus of Harvard. America is a big, splendid place. . . . 

Russell Kirk, describing his “canons of conservative thought,” argued that to be a conservative is to appreciate genuine diversity, “the proliferating variety and mystery of human existence, as opposed to the narrowing uniformity, egalitarianism, and utilitarian aims of most radical systems.” The Left is living up to Kirk’s expectations: The increasingly sneering attitude of coastal elites toward the more conservative interior, particularly for the poor communities there, is as undeniable as it is distasteful. But conservatives are not immune to these Kulturkampf tendencies, either. No, the whole country does not need to be Williamsburg, Brooklyn. It doesn’t need to be Lubbock, Texas, either.

I agree with this entirely. I’ve quoted that line from Kirk many times in my rants — written and verbal (and on one occasion in Mexico, interpretative dance) — about the glories of federalism. College kids usually just stare blankly at me when I invoke Kirk or the Founders, suspecting that if a cape-wearing fuddy-duddy with a sword cane — never mind those horrible Pale Penis People who founded this country — liked something, then it can’t be good.

But you know what sets off a little “Aha!” flash in their otherwise dead, soulless eyes (like a doll’s eyes)? When I say that federalism would make this a “much more interesting country to drive across.”

A lot of elite kids think they’re well-travelled because they’ve been to New York City, L.A., and London. But they also tend to notice that these places are all pretty similar, with the same clothing stores and coffee chains. They’d get a more authentically “foreign” experience if they simply took the bus to a working-class neighborhood in their own cities. Still, these kids genuinely love the idea that different places can be different. It’s only when you activate their ideological subroutines that they become leftwing culture warriors Hell-bent on imposing their corporatized version of “social justice” everywhere.

I’d also point out that that this is nothing new. I’m running out of room here, but I wrote about this at length in my last book:

The Nation ran a whole series of articles under the heading “In These United States” purporting to reveal that Manhattan was an island of sophistication in a vast wasteland of American backwardness. This was the era when it became an article of faith that the artist must hate the society in which he lives, that he must be “a public enemy” in the words of H. L. Mencken, and that the “vox populi is, to him, the bray of an ass.” The writers for the Nation ridiculed what is today called “fly-over country” — which back then was really “train-through country” or perhaps “cruise around country” — with relentless condescension. Chronicling his impressions of Minnesota, Sinclair Lewis lamented that the “Scandinavians Americanize only too quickly!” Perhaps not surprisingly, the South was an object of particular scorn. One writer believed that Mississippi could only be saved by an invasion of civilizing, cultured, missionaries from the North. Another scratched his head to ask what, if anything, Alabama had ever contributed to humanity.

Last, I think one reason why the cultural polarization in America has gotten so pronounced of late has a lot to do with “The Big Sort.” Charles Murray points out in Coming Apart that communities used to be more vertically integrated. What I mean is that there used to be more cultural and economic elites living in and alongside middle- and lower-class communities. Sure, the rich had nicer houses in a better part of town, but they also mingled at social functions — sports events, school functions, the grocery store — with people outside their “bubble.” That’s less the case today. This makes it harder for people to understand, well, other people. Say what you will for the draft, it did force a lot of men from diverse backgrounds to get to know one another.

And I’ll say this for Donald Trump. One of the keys to his success as a politician is that, despite the fact he’s a celebrity billionaire who hobnobs with the rich and powerful, he has the manner and personality of someone who can talk to the plumber or the janitor about last night’s football game. Michael Bloomberg or John Kerry meanwhile, seem like the kind of guys who would explain to Eddie Murphy that you might find bacon on a bacon, lettuce, and tomato sandwich.

I have no great solutions to these problems, and in some cases, I get nervous when people call some of these things “problems” because we live an age where too many people think there’s no principled limit to what kind of problems the government should try to solve.

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Canine Update: There’s not too much to report this week. The girls have been generally well-behaved. Though there is the issue of the centipede. When I left town last week, I left the housesitter/dogwalker a bunch of new toys for the dogs and, yes, cats. I will admit, like millions of Americans, the Goldbergs get their animals Christmas presents — but, unlike millions of Americans, we do not wrap them! We got the cats an orange rubber centipede. It’s a bit slimy and sticky (sort of like those rubber things you throw at the window and it creepily crawls down). Anyway, when we got home, we discovered that Zoë had taken possession of this thing.

She doesn’t do anything with it. But she acts like it’s a ham bone or a necklace of squirrel heads. If any mammal — human, canine, feline — gets near it, she growls, yipes, and gets in a protective crouch. She’ll then grab it and run to a different part of the house. We can’t figure out the attraction, though my best guess is that there’s something about it that triggers the swamp dog in our Carolina Swamp Dog. Still, the look of contempt on the good cat’s face when she sees Zoë panic when she merely walks past the thing is kind of priceless. I keep shouting at the Dingo, “No one wants your slimy centipede! Relax!”

Still, she’s a good girl.

ICYMI: My Conversation with Bill Kristol, recorded in the secret neocon lair.

My first column of the week was on how Obama’s last-minute foreign-policy decisions hurt his party.

I also wondered how the new intellectual journal of Trumpism will fare.

And complained about reporters’ treatment of Twitter in the news.

And appeared on Special Report with Bret Baier.

And noted the partisan shift on Julian Assange.

And now, the weird stuff.

Debby’s Friday links

This is pretty funny

God made a dog

Shelter dogs get beds

Dog struggles to understand glass

Dog struggles to understand rainbows

Dog thwarts Roomba uprising

And for the cat people: Aliens promo shoots of Sigourney Weaver and Jones the cat

Artist wants to sculpt your laughter, send it into space

Science: Chimpanzees recognize butts like people recognize faces

Science: Hand sanitizer can cause a breathalyzer false positive

Is the speed of light slower than it used to be?

Finally: Snotty sea blob rediscovered

Brave New World alert: Sofia Vergara sued by her own embryos

Not sure if Bespin or Dubai

Behold: The multifaceted transformations of Cheetos

Behold: A KFC Fried Chicken–scented candle

When will America be worthy of the donut Whopper?

A two-year-old’s solution to the Trolley Problem

The evolution of Disney animation

Behold: The shotgun guitar

The history of zero

Just who are Internet commenters anyway?

Cookie Monster, reversed

Why do dwarves sound Scottish and elves sound like royalty?

Listen to a piano older than Haydn, Mozart, and Beethoven

A map of the entire Internet (as of 1973)

The U.N. vs. Israel

by Jonah Goldberg
Why do so many people believe the United Nations to be a tribune of virtue?

EDITOR’S NOTE: The following is Jonah Goldberg’s weekly “news”letter, the G-File. Subscribe here to get the G-File delivered to your inbox on Fridays.

Dear Reader (including all the dudes in this coffee shop with man-buns),

As Michael Moore’s proctologist says at every appointment, “I’d really rather not do this today, but it’s my job.”

I’m in Dallas, killing myself to “finish” my book. I put “finish” in air quotes (while I put actual Finnish people in a pit in my basement, “It puts the herring in the basket or it gets the hose again”) not just because there’s so much left to do and so little time to do it in, but because even after I’m “done” my editor is going to walk around this enormous pile of paper staring at it like a farmer slowly circling a meteorite that landed in his wheat field, incapable of processing why it looks like a smoking, irradiated replica of Dom DeLouise in a sailor suit.

Why Dallas you ask? Because the Cowboys rule!

I’m not actually a Cowboys fan, but I’ve learned that when in doubt about how to deal with the locals, shouting “Cowboys rule!” solves a lot of problems.

I’m in Dallas because the Goldbergs planned to be on a family vacation right now. But then again I also planned to have this book done by now (“Bahahahahahahahahhaha!” — The Couch). So we had a dogsitter/housesitter already reserved. My wife took the kidlet to a warm beach with her parents. And I got out of town, borrowing a buddy’s pad in the Greenville section of Dallas. If you have trouble with Texan accents, “Greenville” is how they pronounce “B-R-O-O-K-L-Y-N” here.

If I sound like I’m avoiding getting to the substance of this “news”letter, there’s a reason for that. I haven’t been following the news as closely as I normally would because I’m so deep in the weeds on the thing that rhymes with “nook” that I feel like doing that thing that rhymes with “mowing my drains pout.” (I didn’t even write a syndicated column yesterday.) But I skipped last week’s “news”letter — and since I vowed over the bloody corpse of my partner all those years ago in Laredo that I’d never miss two G-Files in a row, here we are.

Israeli Idiotic

There isn’t much new to say about Barack Obama’s United Nations fiasco. I just reread my post from last Friday, right after the news broke and I haven’t heard anything that changes my initial take.

But as Bill Clinton said about his marriage vows, I won’t let that stop me.

Because I have the most Jewy name this side of Shlomo Abromowitz, lots of people think I know a lot about Israel. Sometimes it’s funny. I’ve even had people refer to me as an “expert” on Israel. (It’s devilishly fun to ask them, “Why do you think that?”)

I’m not an expert on Israel. I’ve been to Israel exactly once. I’ve been to France a half dozen times, and even wrote and produced a documentary on Notre Dame Cathedral. Still, I’m not an expert on France either. Yet, almost every day some troll on Twitter or in an e-mail (or snail mail) insinuates that I am, or accuses me of being, obsessed by, or in the employ of, Israel. I write about the place maybe once or twice a year in the normal run of things. My rule of thumb is that if you think I’m obsessed with Israel, it’s because you’re obsessed with Israel and/or The Joooooooz.

RELATED: Defund the United Nations

But what’s amusing to me is the way some people assume my Goldbergness is what drives me to support Israel. It’s really not the case. I’m with Israel because Israel is in the right and it’s our ally. By no means do I think that Israel is a flawless country. I’m no fan of the politics of the ultra-orthodox crowd in Israel, I find a lot of Israelis rude (at least the ones in New York), and I think the Knesset makes the Galactic Senate of the Republic in Star Wars seem efficient and functional. There are things I like, even love, about it, too. The shawarma is amazing. The women are both tough and beautiful. And, most of all, Israelis persevere.

Still, I find arguments about Israel incredibly tedious. What I mean is my position on Israel is pretty close to my position on, say, Great Britain, Japan, or Australia. It’s a democratic country. It respects the rule of law. It’s a strategic ally. And, that’s sort of about it. It’s not complicated. Yes, yes, Israel’s historic and religious status as the only Jewish homeland and all that has emotional power for me — and a lot of other people.

Also, because I find so many anti-Israeli arguments and politics so fundamentally dishonest, flawed, and — quite often — repugnant, it’s easy to get really worked up on the topic.

But in a very straightforward way, that’s all a distraction. If Britain were somehow surrounded and besieged by existential enemies my position — and I hope America’s position — would be: “We’re with the Brits.” That doesn’t mean we’d automatically send troops or start a war and all that. Those are prudential, tactical, questions to be worked out with our allies, etc. But the principle couldn’t be simpler.

My position on Israel is pretty close to my position on, say, Great Britain, Japan, or Australia.

Now, unlike my position, the situation surely is complicated. Israel is surrounded by enemies and a few paper “allies.” I love how Israel’s critics make such a fuss about Israel’s military superiority as if it has nothing to worry about. If you’re walking into a saloon where everybody wants to kill you, you might walk in better armed than everybody else. If Israel loses a single war, it loses everything. America hasn’t been in a war like that since the Revolution. Even if we “lost” WWII, the idea that the Germans or Japanese would or could conquer North America is highly debatable. I would like to think that our culture could stay as free and democratic as Israel’s if we were under constant threat of military annihilation.

Whenever Israel is attacked, her critics bemoan the heavy-handedness of its military responses. Even in the bad cases, I tend to marvel at Israel’s restraint. Israel is a perfect example of how lefties shout “Violence never solves anything!” only when the good guys use violence.

It may seem a trite debating point given how often it’s made, but if Mexicans or Canadians (stop laughing) were launching rockets into our cities for years, while insisting that the U.S. has no right to exist whatsoever, I very much doubt Americans would tolerate anything like the military and political shackles Israel puts on itself. Nor am I sure that it would be a good thing if we did.

The U.N. vs. Israel

One last point regarding the Security Council vote. It needs to be remembered that the U.N. hates Israel because it is in the political interests of member states, particularly Arab states, which use Palestinians as a distraction from their own despotisms, to hate Israel. Think of all the horrors and crimes committed by evil governments around the world. Now think about the fact that from 2006 to 2015 alone the U.N. has condemned Israel 62 times. All of the other nations combined have received 55 condemnations. Iran? Five. The genocidal Sudanese? Zero. Anarchic Somalia? Zero. Saudi Arabia? Zero. Pakistan? Zero. China? Zero. Russia? Zero.

The U.N., more than any other player save the Palestinian leadership itself, is responsible for the horrible plight of the Palestinians because it is in its institutional interest to keep the issue alive. After World War II, there were untold millions of refugees all around the world; they all found homes and settled down — except for the Palestinians.

The Global God State

So I’m working on this book. More on that later. But yesterday I was writing about an argument Steve Hayward shared with me. In the 18th century, liberals — Locke, the Founders, etc. — finally overthrew the Divine Right of Kings. Then in the 19th century, the progressives — borrowing from Hegel — established the Divine Right of the State to replace the Divine Right of Kings. (Hegel, recall, argued that “the State is the Divine idea as it exists on earth”). As I’ve written many, many times, psychologically for many progressives the State plays the role they think God would play if God existed.

Anyway, we can return to all that another time.

The only criteria for membership in the U.N. is existence. This is literally the lowest standard possible.

But the reason I bring this up is that I think, for a lot of people, the U.N. occupies a similar place in their brains. Some people just love the idea of the U.N. so much they are blind to the reality of it. For reasons that have always baffled me, the promise of a “Parliament of Man” — an explicitly utopian concept — is just incredibly seductive for some people. So they invest in the U.N. magical properties that are utterly absent from Turtle Bay.

Yes, the U.N. does some good things. But the assumption that, if the United Nations didn’t exist, those good things wouldn’t get done is ridiculous. It’s like saying that if government didn’t pick up your garbage, garbage would never get collected. Meanwhile, the U.N. does all manner of terrible things, that wouldn’t be done if it didn’t exist.

Given how much I roll my eyes after someone tells me that the U.N. voted on this or that, I sometimes worry that I’ll have to blindly crawl around the floor looking for my eyeballs because they’ll roll right out of my head. The only criteria for membership in the U.N. is existence. This is literally the lowest standard possible. More to the point, a great many of the countries that vote in both the General Assembly and the Security Council are what social scientists call “crappy dictatorships.” So when, say, North Korea casts its vote, it has all the moral force of a wet fart as far as I’m concerned. Here’s how I put it 14 years ago in a G-File:

I can’t tell you how many people I’ve met who’ve tried to use the fact that the U.N. voted on something as proof that the U.N. is right. College kids will shriek the word as if it drips with self-evident authority: “It voted against the United States!” “Don’t you understand? It voted!”

Well, voting, in and of itself, has as much to do with democracy as disrobing has to do with sex. Both are often necessary, neither are ever sufficient.

I always think of “the Commission” when I want to illustrate this point. That’s what the Mafia called its confabs of the major mob families. Think of that scene in The Godfather where Don Corleone arranges for the return of Michael from Sicily (and subsequently realizes that all along it was Barzini, not that pimp Barzini, who outfoxed Santino). The Commission was democratic. It took votes on where and when to install drug dealers, bribe judges, and exterminate cops. Now, just because it took a vote, does that make its decisions any more noble or just? Well, the U.N. is a forum for tyrants and dictators who check the returns on their Swiss bank accounts — and not the needs or voices of their own people — for guidance on how to vote. The fact that Robert Mugabe, Bashar Assad, Kim Jong-Il, Hassan al-Bashir, Fidel Castro, et al., condemn the United States from time to time is a badge of honor. And the fact that we, and other decent peoples, feel the need to curry their favor and approval is a badge of shame.

It’s kind of funny. We’ve spent the last six weeks hearing how eeeeeeevill the Electoral College is because it represents the votes of states — American states — rather than the popular vote. “White supremacy! Eeek!” and all that nonsense. But a great many of the same people have no problem with a U.N. Security Council vote that currently includes the governments of China, Russia, Egypt, and Senegal. I’ll confess to not knowing too much about Senegal’s commitment to democracy (I know, you’re shocked. If only I had a Senegalese name . . . ), so let’s put them aside. But please don’t expect me to keep a straight face when you try to tell me that the Electoral College is undemocratic but the votes of Vladimir Putin, Xi Jinping, Abdel al-Sisi, and Nicolás Maduro are authentic representations of the people.

Indeed, the very structure of the U.N. Security Council with the Great Powers getting permanent seats and veto power is nothing more than the institutionalization of the concept that might makes right. I’m open to the argument that, as a matter of realpolitik, this arrangement is necessary. But by definition realpolitik is statecraft minus morality or idealism.

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Various & Sundry

In my first only column of the week, I wondered whether I need forgiveness for my political sins (Spoiler: Nope).

Canine Update: As I’ve been gone, I don’t have too much to report. Word from home is the beasts are doing just fine. I deep fried a turkey for Christmas (I’m now a total convert), and the dogsitter tells me Zoë spends an inordinate amount of time licking the grease stain in the backyard. If you go here and scroll down, you can at least find a lot of pictures of my beasts (and the turkey-frying) who I miss terribly (both the fried turkey and the beasts).

On Sunday, I’m told my latest conversation — recorded about a month ago, I think — with Bill Kristol will be posted. I’m told it took this long to get up because it takes a lot of time to bleep out all the f-bombs.

And now, the weird stuff, 2016 retrospective edition.

Debby’s Friday links

Merriam-Webster’s 2016 word of the year is . . . 

2016 will be exactly one second longer than expected

2016 National Geographic nature photographer of the year contest winners

2016’s most-googled items

2016 in celebrity deaths

Artist recreates Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band cover with celebrities who died in 2016

2016 in memes

2016 in internet slang

2016 in volcanic activity

2016 in images of Earth

2016 . . . IN SPACE

2016 in discoveries

2016 in extinctions

2016 in top-ten lists

2016 in truck spills

2016 in news bloopers

Never Trump Nevermore

by Jonah Goldberg
The Never Trump movement is over, but that doesn’t mean I’m going to stop criticizing Trump when he deserves it.

EDITOR’S NOTE: The following is Jonah Goldberg’s weekly “news”letter, the G-File. Subscribe here to get the G-File delivered to your inbox on Fridays.

Dear Reader (including those of you who are struggling to muster the requisite Yuletide mirth),

On Wednesday, I went to National Review HQ in New York for the first time in years. Whenever I enter the building, what with all the lasers and retina scanners and pressure-sensitive floors, the music from Get Smart plays in my head. If you don’t know what Get Smart is/was then you probably aren’t a middle-aged dude who watched too much TV after school (“In other words, ‘Your base’” — The Couch).

Anyway, it was good to see so many folks from the old days as well as the young’ns populating the place. Several of the Buckley Fellows looked like someone granted George Will his wish to be 15 years old again. I finally met Mark Antonio Wright, the young man who retrieves this “news”letter from the pneumatic tube like a hungry homeless guy with an untwisted wire hanger trying to get a wet, discarded raisin bagel out of the storm drain.

“Ugh, those aren’t raisins.”

Still, while it was good to see Cooke, French, Williamson, and even that ol’ debil Lowry, I really wanted the trip to be more like Alec Baldwin’s pep-talk in Glengarry Glen Ross. “The writer with the most unique visitors gets the good story assignments. The writer with the second most, gets a set of steak knives . . . where are you going, Ms. Timpf?”

“I’m getting more wine!”

“Wine is for closers only.”

Never Trump Nevermore

Speaking of Cooke and French, they should do a podcast together called “French Cooke.” Also, speaking of those guys, they’ve done most of the heavy lifting on this notion that the Never Trump conservatives have “surrendered” to Trump. But I would like to throw in my two or three cents, as I get grief from the Left and the Right everyday about this stuff. From the Left, I’m told that if I don’t crap out my spleen in panic every 20 minutes begging the Electoral College to “stop Trump” (by asking the House of Representatives to elect Trump), it means I have surrendered entirely and that I was never really “never Trump” in the first place.

This is nonsense. Liberals love to play this game where they define conservative principles for conservatives and then say that if you don’t adhere to them as liberals want, you’re a hypocrite. This was the essence of about 65 percent of Michael Kinsley’s “If conservatives were serious . . . ” punditry.

I’ll say it again: I’m going to call ’em like I see ’em and wait and see if I was wrong about Trump.

From the Right, any time I say anything — and I mean anything — critical of Trump, I’m told it’s proof that I’m “bitter” or “biased” and that I can’t admit I was wrong about him, etc. I can go on TV and say that Trump has been brilliant at x and y but I’m still concerned about z, and all I’ll hear is the whistle of incoming ALL CAPS arrows: GET OVER IT! HE WON! GO AWAY NEVER TRUMPERS! HOW DO I TURN OFF CAPLOCK!!!111! Etc.

The thing is: Never Trump is over. Never Trump was about the GOP primary and the general election, not the presidency. The Left wants to claim it must be a permanent movement, denying the legitimacy of Trump’s election forever, or we were never serious. Well, that’s not what we — or at least I — signed up for.

But you know what is alive and well? Always Trump. These are the folks who think Trump must be defended and celebrated no matter what he does or says. In fairness, some of these people are still auditioning for jobs in the administration and know they must follow the rhetorical principle of “not one step backward.” But others are just normal Americans who love Trump and think that I’m somehow duty-bound to say I love him too, no matter what he does. Well, I didn’t sign up for that either.

Whenever I say this, someone shrieks at me about my “arrogance” or “hubris” — for reasons I truly cannot fathom. But I’ll say it again: I’m going to call ’em like I see ’em and wait and see if I was wrong about Trump. So far, I’ve said that most of his cabinet picks have been a pleasant and welcome surprise. But he’s also done plenty of things that make me feel like I had him pegged all along. We only have one president at a time — and the guy isn’t even president yet. I’ll give him a chance. But I won’t lie for him either.

For Russia, With Love

So, the other week a friend of mine — another columnist type — pointed something out to me. There are already plenty of opportunities to say “I told you so” about Trump, the problem is people don’t care. I’ve been writing for over a year about how conservatism is getting corrupted by populism and nationalism, but when everybody is a populist nationalist who do I get to say “I told you so” to?

As Charlie Sykes notes today, all of the “it’s a binary choice!” talk during the election forced Republicans not just to forgive Trump’s personal shortcomings and ideological deviations, but to embrace them. The hope was that after November 8, the same logic that forced people to embrace the lesser of two evils would also force them to recognize that the lesser of two evils is not great. That hasn’t happened. Instead, we get Mike Pence throwing shade at the free market and the supposed defenders of conservative orthodoxy defending industrial policy.

And now it’s Russia. Support for Putin among Republicans has grown by more than threefold since 2014. I wonder why? Do you think 37 percent of Republicans have studied the geopolitical situation closely and decided that Putin really isn’t such a bad sort? Is Russia Today, the Kremlin-funded cable-TV channel, really that persuasive?

Using 2012 Romney to beat up 2016 Obama is fine, but it’s not a killer argument to do that while implicitly agreeing with 2012 Obama.

Frankly, I resent the fact that I even feel the need to explain how Putin is a bad guy, doing bad things, so I’m just going to skip that part and assert it. What’s particularly galling, though, is to listen to the Always Trump pundits spin themselves into a Gordian knot trying to defend Trump’s bromantic putinphilia. Here’s a typical defense I’ve heard from many Always Trump pundits (that I’ll keep nameless, as I may see them at Fox’s Christmas party soon).

It usually starts with the charge of hypocrisy:

“First of all, wasn’t it President Obama who mocked Mitt Romney for calling Russia our No. 1 geopolitical foe?”

This is a fair, clean shot. Obama did beclown himself with his sick burn of Romney. And so did his defenders. But they can at least argue that events changed and so did their opinions. In other words, Obama & Co. are not necessarily hypocrites when they denounce Russia now, they’re merely implicitly conceding they were naïve partisan asses when they thought Russia was the bees knees for so long.

But then, often in the same breath, the Always Trumper pivots, saying there’s no evidence Russia did anything wrong and there’s nothing amiss whatsoever with Trump’s fondness for Putin.

Waitaminute.

Which is it? Were Obama & Co. wrong for mocking Romney or was Romney wrong for calling out Russia?

Trump and Romney fundamentally disagree about Russia. Using 2012 Romney to beat up 2016 Obama is fine, but it’s not a killer argument to do that while implicitly agreeing with 2012 Obama.

The Perils of Whataboutism

Since it’s so close to Festivus, I will continue to air personal grievances. There has been a riot of whataboutism these days.

I suppose I should back up and explain what “whataboutism” is.

In layman’s terms, whataboutism is the practice of deflecting a criticism of you or your side by pointing to the flaws of the critic and his or her side.

Apparently, American Cold Warriors coined the term to describe the favorite propaganda techniques of the Soviet Union. As The Economist magazine put it in 2008, “Any criticism of the Soviet Union (Afghanistan, martial law in Poland, imprisonment of dissidents, censorship) was met with a ‘What about . . . ’ (apartheid South Africa, jailed trade-unionists, the Contras in Nicaragua, and so forth).”

We saw a poignant resurgence in this classical form of whataboutism in the wake of the long overdue demise of Cuban dictator Fidel Castro. “You think Cuba is bad on human rights, what about America, where [fill-in-the-blank with left-wing clichés about how terrible America is].”

But while the term “whataboutism” is of a relatively recent vintage, the practice itself is ancient and formally goes by the technical term “tu quoque,” meaning in Latin, “you also.” It’s one of the more famous logical fallacies (a derivative of the appeal to hypocrisy), and it works like this: Your doctor tells you that you need to lose some weight or you’ll have heart attack. You respond, “Oh yeah, doc, you’re not exactly a runway model either.”

Now it may be true that your doctor is just as fat as you. But that has no bearing on the legitimacy of the diagnosis. If I say you’re a slob, you might respond, “You have no right to judge” given my own messy habits. Whatever you may think of the right to judge per se (personally, I think it keeps much of civilization afloat), that doesn’t change the underlying facts. My penchant for gluttony doesn’t make me wrong when I say you’re a glutton, even if it might make me a hypocrite. As the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy puts it, “The value of advice is not wholly dependent on the integrity of the advisor.”

So, you can see how whataboutism is closely related to the vacuous and ubiquitous catchphrase “you have no right to judge.” But, regardless, as a way to change the subject, distract the audience, and generally muddy-up important distinctions and facts, whataboutism is invaluable. It’s a way of making a moral-equivalence argument while sounding like you’re making high-minded moral distinctions.

As a way to change the subject, distract the audience, and generally muddy-up important distinctions and facts, whataboutism is invaluable.

And I should say, Trump does it all the time. When Joe Scarborough pointed out to him that Putin murders dissidents and journalists, Trump responded, “Well, I think our country does a lot of killing too, Joe.” Last summer, when the New York Times asked Trump what he thought of the brutal crackdown in Turkey that led to over 50,000 people thrown in jail, he responded. “I think right now when it comes to civil liberties, our country has a lot of problems . . . 

That said, Barack Obama may still be the world champion. His insistence that Americans have no right to get on their “high horse” about ISIS’s atrocities because of the misdeeds of Christians a thousand years ago remains the ne plus ultra of whataboutist asininity.

Now, I don’t really mind whataboutist arguments across ideological lines. That is actually what a lot of intellectual fights should be about: holding the other side — and your own — to expressed principles when partisan winds change. There’s nothing wrong with holding Obama to the standards he leveled against Bush when it comes to things like the national debt or the toppling of Moammar Qaddafi. That’s the good kind of whataboutism.

For example, Charlie Cooke noted last week that liberals have been flirting with illiberalism for years and they didn’t care because they were winning. Liberals shot back that Charlie was a “Whataboutist!” trying to deflect from Trump’s singular, democracy-destroying, concentrated, and sui generis evil.

Sorry, I don’t buy that. Charlie is critical of Trump and Obama. His point is that progressives don’t mind illiberalism when illiberalism advances their aims. (If only I’d written a book or two that touched on this.) Similarly, I criticized Barack Obama’s hostility to the free market and fondness for picking winners and losers. I don’t see why I should suddenly embrace those policies when/if Trump does it.

We are in a moment of peak whataboutism on the right. As a columnist, I get it. I even partake in it from time to time. For instance, I have more than once pointed out that the very same Democrats who hied to their fainting couches over Donald Trump’s denigration of the democratic system are now hell-bent on denigrating it even more. But I was critical when Trump did it too, so my consistency is secure.

And this brings me to my grievance. What drives me crazy is when conservatives tell me I must use Obama or Hillary Clinton as the metric by which I judge Donald Trump. If I note that Trump said something stupid (no really, it happens sometimes), the retort comes back, “Well, he didn’t refer to 57 states!” or “At least Trump didn’t pronounce it ‘corpse’ man!”

Well, okay . . . ? I criticized Obama about those things, too. What’s your point?

I mildly criticized Trump’s Taiwan call on its messaging and planning, but agreed with it in principle. The immediate response was: “What about what Obama did in Cuba!?” Sure as shinola, someone will respond to the above stuff about Putin, by saying, “What about Hillary’s ‘reset’!?” or, “Don’t you remember when Obama said he’d be more flexible after the election? Did you criticize that!?!”

And my answer is: “Uh, yeah.”

During the election, the case against Hillary was the case for Trump for a lot of people and for wholly legitimate reasons. But the election is over. On the post-election National Review cruise, I was on a panel with a respected conservative who said that we should measure every Trump policy against the yardstick of “What would Hillary Clinton have done?” I’m grateful Hillary lost, of course, but that’s crazy. It’s also an invitation for my greatest pre-election worries to come true. “At least he’s better than Hillary” was a perfectly valid standard for conservatives in the voting booth. It is a suicidal standard for the conservative movement during a Trump presidency.

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Various & Sundry

Some very exciting news:

Steve Hayes has been named the editor-in-chief of the Weekly Standard. Some may quibble that a guy recently on the terror watchlist probably shouldn’t get that job, but not me. I am too eager for the annual Summer Reading issue to be replaced with the annual Beer & Brats edition. The Fall Reading issue will obviously be all about the Packers and the glory of tailgating. “Less Iraqi Kurds, More Cheese Curds!” “Ken Starr? Meh! Bart Starr, Man.” Of course, I’m kidding: Steve and Richard Starr (the editor) will do a fantastic job. But we should also congratulate Bill Kristol on more than two decades of success in building an influential and important new magazine at a time when a lot of old magazines went the way of the Dodo.

‘Less Iraqi Kurds, More Cheese Curds!’

I take particular joy from the announcement because a) Steve is a friend, and b) I’ve spent the last two years hearing from gleeful trolls (and others) that people like Steve and me were committing career suicide by not becoming cheerleaders for Trump. So, it’s nice to see the trend lines go the other way.

On that note, I’d also like to announce that I’ve renewed my contract with Fox News and I “earned” the title of Best Conservative Columnist over at Rightwing News. In a particularly brutal blow to some alt-righters, Ben Shapiro came in second (I await the Downfall video). Anyway, I’ve been a contender many times, and I generally think such lists are problematic. In any random week, there are dozens columnists (including several of my colleagues) who do a better job than I do. But given the year I’ve had, and the fact it will annoy all the right people, I’ll take it with gratitude.

Canine Update: I’ve been travelling a bunch, so I haven’t spent too much time with the beasts. I’m embarrassed to say that there’s growing evidence I’m being played by the canines. When I’m home, Zoë always tries to wake me up around 5:00 a.m., as if her bladder could be used as a paint gun. This sets off Pippa who starts crying and whining, which gets Zoë even more worked up. “We gotta go!” they shout. But, when I’m out of town, my wife usually wakes the docile and patient hounds around 6:45 and doesn’t take them out until after 7:30.

Earlier this week, I got a call from the Fair Jessica asking me if I could come home from the office because the dingo got out (as in leapt out of the car window as she was pulling into the driveway) and would not come back in.

Usually we can bribe Zoë with a car ride or meat products. But no. She put her nose under her tail like a sled dog in the snow, and refused to budge. Unless you try to catch her. And then she springs up and runs away from you. (Despite the impression of almost ninja-like lithe nimbleness I give off, I cannot catch a dog that catches squirrels if she doesn’t want to be caught.) So, I drove home to deal with a “family emergency.” I pulled up to the front yard and acted all excited to see her. She rolled on her back and let me rub her tummy. Then we just walked into the house. Apparently, she just missed her daddy.

My first column of the week was on the terrible-all-around Russia-hacking situation.

One, perhaps two, cheers for Ayn Rand.

What to make of the plutocrats in Trump’s midst.

If you haven’t listened to the Russ Roberts interview with Thomas Leonard, author of Illiberal Reformers: Race, Eugenics, and American Economics in the Progressive Era, you really should. It’s fantastic (if you’re into this stuff). I had a very wide range of responses to the discussion. I wrote hundreds of words in reaction to it, and then decided better of it because it sounded too much like special pleading or griping from me because so much of this was covered in Liberal Fascism. Still, Roberts, who is much, much, better read than I am was — to my real surprise — shocked to learn that Woodrow Wilson was a bad guy. If anything, Leonard goes very soft on Wilson (yes, he was a racist, but he was awful in other ways too).

Roberts was also shocked about Richard Ely, and in a way that surprised me even more. Roberts is of a libertarian bent and he knows where the bodies are buried in that world. And yet, he was caught off guard by how despicable (and yet typical) Ely was. Get that man some Murray Rothbard (or Arnold Kling!). Anyway, it’s kind of asinine to be all, “You didn’t know that!?” to a guy who is much better educated and smarter than me. But it was a shock all the same.

It is unlikely I will be filing this “news”letter next week as the full-on this-plane-is-out-of-coffee panic is setting in in my effort to finish my book. I will be in an undisclosed location writing furiously or making simulacrums of Devil’s Tower with mashed potatoes.

And now, the weird stuff, Christmas-themed.

Debby’s Friday Links

Santa Claus grants final wish to dying child

How A Charlie Brown Christmas almost wasn’t

A history of Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer

Lonely child stuck on a train on Christmas gets a surprise (directed by Wes Anderson)

How to appease the household gods this holiday season

The Night Before Christmas read in 27 celebrity impressions

Harvesting Christmas Trees by helicopter

Nick Offerman drinks whiskey in front of a roaring holiday fire for 45 minutes

Arizona’s Tumbleweed Christmas Tree

A very Rube Goldberg Christmas

A (real) Jimi Hendrix Christmas medley

A (fake, but cool) Led Zeppelin Christmas medley

A (real, but awful) Pink Floyd Christmas song

Shane Black and Christmas

A Wax Royal Family, in ugly Christmas sweaters

Awkward family Christmas photos

Dominos (unsuccessfully) trains reindeer to deliver Pizza in Japan

Crashed Enterprise is a gingerbread masterpiece

Creepy Victorian Christmas cards

Why kids are unreasonably terrified of Santa Claus

But they are all-too-reasonably terrified of Krampus

America’s most common Christmas-related injuries

Horrifying snowmen

A Christmas nightmare: 100 Christmas songs played simultaneously

But at least it’s not as creepy as this AI’s attempt to write a Christmas song

Millennials ruin Christmas

Venezuela’s socialist government is stealing Christmas toys

Democrats’ Dumbest Complaint

by Jonah Goldberg
The essence of progressivism is to be hostile to any external restraints on progressivism.

EDITOR’S NOTE: The following is Jonah Goldberg’s weekly “news”letter, the G-File. Subscribe here to get the G-File delivered to your inbox on Fridays.

Dear Reader (unless you’re too busy to read this because you’re in the middle of corgi-mopping),

I know exactly what you’re thinking. You’re saying to yourself, “Self, I like this ‘news’letter thing just fine. But what it really needs are more old-timey swear words, consarn it!”

Well, by saint Boogar, and all the saints at the backside of the door of purgatory, I’m gonna fix that.

I’m in a cussing mood this morning because well, I just am bejabbers (I don’t have to tell you everything, no matter how much it may seem otherwise).

In my last book — last as in most recent, not final (alas) — I wrote:

According to legend, when George Will signed up to become a syndicated columnist in the 1970s, he asked his friend William F. Buckley, Jr. — the founder of National Review and a columnist himself — “How will I ever write two columns a week?” Buckley responded (I’m paraphrasing), “Oh it will be easy. At least two things a week will annoy you, and you’ll write about them.”

Buckley was right. Annoyance is an inspiration, aggravation a muse. That which gets your blood up, also gets the ink — or these, days, pixels — flowing. Show me an author without passion for what he holds to be the truth and I will show you either a boring writer or someone who misses a lot of deadlines, or both. Nothing writes itself, and what gets the writer to push that boulder uphill is more often than not irritation with those saying wrong things righteously.

That’s all true — which is why I wrote it, dad-sizzle! — but one occasional problem is that some of the things that annoy me during a given week may not be suitable for a syndicated column. The Dallas Morning News is probably not going to run a column on how I can’t stand goat cheese (it tastes like curdled death) or how I hate the way everyone in the King Kong movies makes a huge deal about finding a giant gorilla, but seems to think it’s no big thing that they found dinosaurs. I mean I get that the giant gorilla is really cool and interesting, but it’s not like we all have T-Rex rummaging through our garbage cans.

This seems like an implausible scene for a book or movie:

Person A: “I found a giant gorilla!”

The crowd goes wild: “Wow! Cool! Great horn spoon! That’s awesome!”

Todd: “Well, I found a tyrannosaurus rex!”

The crowd stares blankly. A man in the back shouts, “So?” Another says, “Shut up, Todd!”

Todd: “Well, I think it’s cool. I don’t care what you think. Besides, ‘Person A’ is a really dumb first name.”

The nice thing about this fully operational “news”letter is that I can vent about these things as I see fit. Nobody puts baby in a corner and nobody can tell me what to write from my bunker.

If you’re still not happy, I’ll give you a 100 percent refund of the subscription price of this ‘news’letter (minus shipping and handling).

I bring this up because (a) I can, and (b) a number of hecklers, mopes, roués, rakes, vagabonds, ingrates, moperers, tinkers, lazzarone, and rantallions have been complaining about the self-indulgence, verbosity, and length of this 100 percent free “news”letter. (It’s particularly ironic that rantallions would be complaining about length, if you know what I mean). I find these complaints so annoying, I decided to write about it. It’s sort of like the Chicago way, but pretty much entirely different. You come at me with a complaint about the sesquipedalian loquaciousness of this “news”letter and I’ll come back at you with an anomalistic paroxysm of gasconading logorrhea and coruscant garrulousness that makes verbosity the very cynosure of my epistle. Excogitate on that the next time you feel like whining about my lexicological ebullience. And if you’re still not happy, I’ll give you a 100 percent refund of the subscription price of this “news”letter (minus shipping and handling).

The Dumbest Complaint

By now, articles about the Left’s freakout over Donald Trump are getting a little stale. Oh sure, I still chuckle whenever I hear liberals explain that the Electoral College is an institution of white privilege, racism, and bigotry. As Charlie Cooke first pointed out to me, these are the same people who, for over a year, strutted like peacocks about the “blue wall” — i.e., their inherent and, they thought, permanent advantage in the Electoral College. In other words, the Democratic party’s structural advantage stemmed from the fact that an evil antediluvian bulwark of racist oppression favored them. As the rantallion said when the super model walked in on him changing out of his cold bathing suit, “Awkward.”

But defenses of the Electoral College — while all right and good — are a dime a dozen these days. And complaints about the Electoral College — while wrong and often tendentious — are based in a legitimate perspective. I don’t want presidents elected by the national popular vote (I’d prefer if they were picked via trial by combat using gardening tools. “Look out, Ted Cruz has a rake!”). But it’s not an inherently ridiculous or sinister argument, either. It’s just wrong.

Meanwhile, there’s another argument going around, that would need a jetpack or a huge bundle of helium balloons to rise to the level of mere wrongness. A bunch of people are claiming it’s somehow unfair, unjust, or undemocratic that the Republicans control the Senate because, in total, Democratic Senate candidates received more votes than Republican Senate candidates. This “argument” is dumber than using Cracker Jack boxes to distribute hypodermic needles and razor blades. “Mommy, I got a prize! Gah! My finger!”

When I see this argument made with a straight face, I feel like my dog let loose at the buffet table at Fogo de Chao: I just have no idea where to begin.

First, the reason why the Democrats racked up more votes for the Senate is entirely attributable to the fact that California — a very large state, you could look it up — did not have a Republican on the ballot. So, 8 million Democrats voted for a Democrat while the Republican candidate got zero votes — because there was no Republican candidate.

Take California out of the picture and the Republicans, collectively, drew 1.88 million more votes than the Democrats.

But the important point is that none of that matters, at all.

Imagine trying to tell Chuck Schumer that he can’t be a senator even though he won his race in New York because more people voted for Republican senators in Texas. He would be in his rights to ask you how you managed to get out of your restraints in the psychiatric ward.

The Senate is the chamber of Congress that represents the states in our federal system, by the double-barreled jumping jimmenty! That’s why each state gets the same number of senators. The House represents the people in those states, which is why states with more people get more representatives. I know this is a dumbed down way of explaining it, but by the High Heels of St. Patrick, it’s apparently not dumbed-down enough for some people. Maybe I need to use puppets?

The Infernal Constitution

All of this is downstream of the real problem. As I’ve written dozens of times, “Call Brenda for a good time.” No, sorry. That’s my bathroom-wall thing.

As I’ve written many times, the essence of progressivism is to be hostile to any external restraints on progressivism. From an old G-File:

The story of the progressive movement can best be understood as activists going wherever the field is open. If the people are on your side, expand democracy. If the people are against you, use the courts. If the courts are against you, run down the field with the bureaucrats, or the Congress, or the presidency. Procedural niceties — the filibuster, precedent, the law, custom, the Constitution, truth — only matter if they can be enlisted to advance the cause. If they can’t, they suddenly become outdated, irrelevant, vestigial organs of racism, elitism, sexism, whatever. Obstruction, or even inconvenience in the path of progressive ends is prima facie proof of illegitimacy. The river of history must carry forward. If History hits a rock, the rock must be swept up with the current or be circumvented. Nothing can hold back the Hegelian tide, no one may Stand Athwart History. If you’re not part of the solution, you’re part of the problem. This is the liberal gleichschaltung; get with the program or be flattened by it.

And this brings me to my column today in which I bang my spoon on my high chair for the umpteenth time about the wonder and glory of federalism. I recount a great scene from A Man for All Seasons, in which Thomas More is debating William Roper:

Roper: “So now you’d give the Devil benefit of law!”

More: “Yes. What would you do? Cut a great road through the law to get after the Devil?”

Roper: “I’d cut down every law in England to do that!”

More: “Oh? And when the last law was down, and the Devil turned ’round on you, where would you hide, Roper, the laws all being flat? This country’s planted thick with laws from coast to coast — man’s laws, not God’s — and if you cut them down — and you’re just the man to do it — do you really think you could stand upright in the winds that would blow then? Yes, I’d give the Devil benefit of law for my own safety’s sake.”

The whole point of the Constitution is to prevent the concentration of power. The Founders understood that the only thing that can reliably check power is power. If too much power is held by any institution or branch of government, then the other institutions and branches will not be able to stop them. The problem with concentrated power is that it leads inexorably to what Edmund Burke and the Founders called “arbitrary power.” Arbitrary power — the rule of whim rather than the rule of law — threatens liberty for all the obvious reasons. Chief among them: It allows one person — or group of people — to dictate how another person should live. Democracy is a sideshow in this equation. The Founders feared “elective despotism” every bit as much as they feared every other kind of despotism. That’s why they put some questions out of reach (or nearly out of reach) of voters by settling them in things like the Bill of Rights.

Federalism, as enshrined in the Ninth and Tenth Amendments, is an essential bulwark against despotism. In America, we don’t usually talk about “collective rights” and for good reason. But it’s important to understand that we have them. Blacks, Jews, Hispanics, gays, or whites (sorry alt-right), etc. don’t have collective rights — but communities do. Specifically, the states.

Vermonters have the right to live the way they want to live, so long as they don’t violate the constitutional rights of the Americans who live there. So, no slavery or Jim Crow (again, sorry alt-right). But that still leaves an enormous amount of wiggle room for Vermont to do things the people running the federal government at any given time may or may not like. And that’s good, because states, and the communities that make them up, have a better idea of how they want to live — and what will work for them — than people in Washington do. This is why federalism, within constitutional restraints, is the greatest system ever conceived of for maximizing human happiness.

Most readers can probably surmise that I think liberals have good reason to worry that Donald Trump’s fidelity to the Constitution is at best rhetorical. And even here the commitment is flimsy. Trump prefers to think in Nietzschean terms — Strength! Winning! — than in Lockean terms. But it’s worth bearing in mind that if the Constitution is an afterthought for Trump, it is a dangerous relic for most Democratic politicians.

It’s worth bearing in mind that if the Constitution is an afterthought for Trump, it is a dangerous relic for most Democratic politicians.

As I’ve written often, the only times the Democrats ever celebrate the Constitution is when the Constitution is — allegedly — on their side. When Republicans proposed revoking birthright citizenship, Representative Raúl Grijalva (D., Ariz.) cried out, “I think it’s horribly dangerous to open up the Constitution, to tamper with the Constitution.” In 2000, when the GOP introduced a constitutional amendment establishing “victims rights,” Chuck Schumer proclaimed, “We should not mess with the Constitution. We should not tamper with the Constitution.” A balanced-budget amendment? “I respect the wisdom of the Founders to uphold the Constitution, which has served this nation so well for the last 223 years,” Senator Pat Leahy thundered.

But when Hillary Clinton proposed amending the Constitution so her political opponents could be more easily silenced during elections?

Crickets.

But it’s worse than that. Liberals believe in “the living Constitution” a doctrine which holds that the Constitution must mean whatever they want it to mean at a given moment. They hate it when conservatives propose formally changing the Constitution through amendments, but they have no problem changing the Constitution through the arbitrary whims of the Court. That’s why the Obama administration argued before the Supreme Court that the government could ban books during election season.

Not only do liberals believe this stuff, they think it’s wicked smaht.

And since I’ve got chowder-head accents in mind, it would indeed be fun to watch Donald Trump pull that scene from Good Will Hunting and slam his own version of the living Constitution against the restaurant window and scream, “Do you like apples? Well, how do you like them apples?

But the fun would wear off. I get the desire for tit-for-tat, and if I have to choose between a “conservative” despotism and a progressive despotism, I’ll choose the former. But I don’t have to make that choice — and it is a horrible choice. This is a crucial moment for liberals. They can quintuple down on their hysterical whining, effete condescension, and identity politics, or they can grapple with and accept the fact that the real meaning of the word liberal has nothing to do with steamrolling people in the culture war and treating the Constitution like either a weapon of convenience or a ridiculous bit of bric-a-brac from the attic of some dead white men.

And for the same reason, it’s a crucial moment for conservatives. Many of Trump’s intellectual supporters are among the foremost champions of constitutionalism in America today. During the campaign, they claimed that Trump would be a flawed champion in the struggle to restore our constitutional structure and tear down the citadel of unrepresentative and arbitrary power: the administrative state. Well, Donald Trump won.

To borrow an image from Thomas More, now is the time for them to get busy replanting the forest of constitutionalism, because if there is anything certain about the future of American politics, the progressives will have their own devil in the White House soon enough.

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Various & Sundry

You should take my first column of the week seriously and literally.

You should also read Ramesh’s follow-up post.

Speaking of Ramesh, we did a fun event at AEI on the future of conservatism and celebrating his 20+ years at National Review. The video is here.

And speaking of National Review, if you’re like me, you prefer sour cream or ranch dressing to blue cheese on your buffalo wings. But that’s not important right now. If you like National Review Online — and I’d like to think the readers of this thing are more inclined to like it than the average person — you may want it to succeed. You may also be frustrated at times when the website operates like our Amish IT guys aren’t entirely up to the task. I share your frustration. Just the other day I tried to call up NRO on my iPad and it gave me a Diet Orange Fanta instead.

Well, Charlie Cooke — the poobah of NRO these days — wants to fix it. He wants all new pneumatic tubes, fresh and shiny water wheels, and state-of-the-art levers and pulleys. But the dilithium crystals required to power all of that cost money. And that’s why Jack Fowler, National Review’s Publisher and Head Suit, asked me to appeal to you folks for help. You can read his request here. Let me just add that as the founding editor of National Review Online and someone who loves taking credit for the incredible work done by my colleagues, this is really important to me too. When I started NRO, I promised to make it the Mobutu Sese Seko Kuku Ngbendu waza Banga (“The all-powerful warrior [or in some translations, rooster] who, because of his endurance and inflexible will to win, goes from conquest to conquest, leaving fire in his wake”) of the World Wide Web. I think we did that, but that title isn’t like a Super Bowl ring. It’s something you have to re-earn every day. And that’s why we need your support.

My thoughts on fake news.

And on Trump’s Boeing tweet.

And, again, Thomas More’s federalism lesson for liberals.

And now, the weird stuff, now with thrice the flatulence!

Canine Update: Not much to report this week. The spaniel has been particularly spanielly and the Dingo could not be other than dingo-y. She did partake of an especially disgusting repast of deer carcass the other day. But other than some regrettable olfactory consequences she was fine. She remains vigilant as ever.

Debby’s Friday links

Which world religions would best adapt to the discovery of extraterrestrial life?

Infant miraculously survives car crash

The ghost who helped solve her own murder

The foods responsible for the smelliest farts

How a fart killed 10,000 people

New device helps determine which foods make you gassy

A dramatic escape from Tennessee wildfires

Science vs. Cinema: Arrival

Rescue workers save woman and her dog from collapsed building in South Dakota

Golden retriever traps boy with his tail

College student’s dog still waits for her to get off her old bus every day

Australian man punches kangaroo to save his dog

Dog confused by magic trick

Minority Report alert?

There are hundreds of secret underground WWII bases hidden in British forests

The tree on the lake

Friendly otter jumps onto kayak, joins birthday celebration

Paging Ben Sasse and his fellow Cornhuskers: Is this a mortal sin in Nebraska?

Cruel and unusual punishment?

What the year 1967 thought the year 1999 would be like

When the machines rise up, humanity will have to answer for this video in Robot Hague

Receiving Communion . . . IN SPACE!!!

Furbies disemboweled (cathartic for ’90s parents and their kids)

Fake snow, a desert waterslide, dousing wildfires, and more in The Atlantic’s photos of the week

The end of the world, according to movies

What the Carrier Intervention Portends

by Jonah Goldberg
The economic impact of Trump’s Carrier deal is insignificant, but the signal it sends is hugely important.

EDITOR’S NOTE: The following is Jonah Goldberg’s weekly “news”letter, the G-File. Subscribe here to get the G-File delivered to your inbox on Fridays.

Dear Reader (including those of you who put the lime in the coconut and shake it all up),

Let’s borrow a page from television and do the epistolary version of one of those show recaps. You know, like, “Previously on MacGuyver . . . ” (my favorite was how the TV version of Fargo sometimes began their episode recaps “Erstwhile on Fargo . . . ”). So, “Previously in the G-File . . . ”

In September of 2015, I wrote a G-File on how Trump’s popularity was corrupting conservatism. Then, almost exactly a year ago, I wrote a “news”letter arguing that Donald Trump’s cult of personality is corrupting conservatism. It was titled, “Trump’s Cult of Personality Is Corrupting Conservatism.” Then last March, I wrote about how many lifelong conservatives seemed like pod-people in the Invasion of the Body Snatchers, changing positions and attitudes almost overnight as Trump gained in popularity. The more traction Trump got, the weaker the grip traditional conservative ideology had on quite a few famous ideologues.

(Then, last May, I managed to fit 78 Cheetos in my mouth at one time. But that’s not important right now. Though, who knows? It may be super relevant for the series finale! This is actually one of the reasons I dislike show recaps — they telegraph what the writers want you to know, making a show more predictable).

Taking these positions made a lot of people, including friends, mad. I understand that. I’m not going to rehash all the old arguments, but I will say my conscience is clear. Indeed, on the recent National Review cruise a good number of people, flush with the joy of seeing the Fall of House Clinton, told me that they “forgive” me for taking the positions I did. I appreciate the sentiment, as it was clearly sincere and offered with magnanimity and friendship.

But you can keep your forgiveness. I don’t want it, at least not for this. I have plenty to be sorry for (“The shoddy quality of this ‘news’letter seems a good place to start” — The Couch) but my stance in 2016 isn’t one of them.

More to the point, when you seek forgiveness for a misdeed, it is morally obligatory to try to correct your behavior. If I ask for your forgiveness for drinking all your beer without permission, I probably shouldn’t express my gratitude for your forgiveness by cracking open one of your beers and burping out a “thanks, <bwaaaaaarrpp> bro.”

This was always an underappreciated angle to Bill Clinton’s perfidious sleaze. He’d apologize for doing something when caught, and then go back to doing it the moment he was in the clear. How many times do you think he apologized for his “past indiscretions,” on his way to the pharmacy to load up on Cialis and Tetracycline?

Well, I’m not going to play that game. It would be weird for me to apologize for telling the truth as I see it about Trump — and then continuing to do it.

The Golden Ticket

Oh, that reminds me: I have a theory about the furor over the possibility that Mitt Romney might get the secretary of state job. You see, I’m willing to wait to discover what Trump’s motivations are. Maybe he really likes the idea of forming some kind of unity government. Maybe he thinks Mitt is the right man for the job. Or maybe he wants to show the world he can make the author of No Apology apologize. Anything’s possible.

No, I’m referring to the rage the Romney flirtation has elicited among many in Trump’s inner circle. Clearly part of it is that Huckabee and Gingrich just don’t like the guy. That much is pretty well known. But the list of politicians they personally dislike must be fairly long, and they haven’t mounted public campaigns against them. Something else is going on.

Listen to Gingrich on Laura Ingraham’s show excoriating Romney for “sucking up” to Donald Trump. Now, I like Newt, so I’ll refrain from hammering the point that he has not exactly been reserved in his praise for Donald Trump. But I can’t let this bit go:

I am confident that he thinks now that he and Donald Trump are the best of friends, they have so many things in common. That they’re both such wise, brilliant people. And I’m sure last night at an elegant three-star restaurant, he was happy to share his version of populism, which involve a little foie gras, a certain amount of superb cooking, but put that in a populist happy manner.

He goes on a bit more, childishly putting stink on the fact that Romney speaks French, for example. But two things stand out here. First, it’s not like Newt is a stranger to fancy restaurants. Mike Huckabee and Newt Gingrich don’t behave like Jake and Ellwood throwing shrimp cocktail into each other’s mouths and trying to buy the womenfolk at the next table. Newt had a half-million dollar revolving line of credit at Tiffany’s and wrote his dissertation on education reform in the Belgian Congo. Spare me the boob-bait-for-bubbas rhetoric.

Second, it’s clear that Gingrich, Huckabee et al. are kind of freaked out by the possibility that Trump isn’t quite the Henry the Fifth they hoped he would be.

Consider the following thought experiment.

So that brings me to my theory (shared by Josh Barro, who beat me to the punch on this): Trump’s magnanimity is a threat to the loyalists.

Consider the following thought experiment. A very rich guy makes you an offer: “If you eat this bowl of sh**, I will grant you a wish.” You think about it for a minute or two, and then you grab a wooden spoon and start to dig in, when the rich guy says, “Hold on. You’ve got to do it publicly.”

Well, you figure, “What’s the difference? Once I get my wish it will be worth it.” So, you head on over to a television studio with your plastic bib and your spoon, and you tuck into the steaming bowl like Mikey in the old Life cereal commercials.

Then the rich guy says, “Sorry, one more thing: I can only give you a coupon for your wish. But, I promise to honor it once I get the job of genie. Just keep eating.”

What to do? You’ve already acquired a reputation for coprophagia and no one else is offering wish-coupons, so you stick it out. Besides, you’re not alone. A bunch of other folks have been promised similar coupons and you’ve formed a tightknit group. You spend a lot of time talking about how smart you are for agreeing to this arrangement. You fantasize about what you’ll do with your wishes and how sorry the naysayers will be.

Then, the rich guy gets the job of genie. Woo-hoo!

Naturally, you want to redeem your coupon. But all of a sudden, the rich guy starts playing coy. He’s honoring the coupon for some people, but not you. That would be fine — one coupon at a time and all. But then you learn that the genie-elect is giving out coupons to people who didn’t partake of the fecal feast. Uh oh.

And then you see news reports that the big man is not only giving out wishes to people who never earned a coupon, but he’s considering granting a wish to the foremost guy who criticized the big man and tried to keep him from being able to grant wishes at all!

In many respects, for the hardcore Trumpers, the best days may be behind them.

Okay, this is getting belabored. But you get the point. If Trump remains the loyalist, Gingrich, Huckabee et al. have golden tickets. The last thing they want is Willie Wonka Trump letting just anybody into the chocolate factory.

I don’t blame them for being pissed. They put up with a huge amount of grief inch-worming like Andy Dufresne out of Shawshank Prison for Trump and, in some cases, were forced to leave behind prized positions to fit in the sewer pipe. That’s what comes across most palpably to me in that Gingrich interview: resentment over the fact his golden ticket has been devalued.

This illuminates a point I’ve made before. The more “presidential” Trump gets, the more pissed off many of his fans will get and the more popular he will become. In many respects, for the hardcore Trumpers, the best days may be behind them. He’s already, rhetorically at least, thrown the racists under the bus. Heck, as someone joked on Twitter, when they ate those frog legs, they might as well have been eating Pepe.

Carrier on My Wayward GOP

If the only casualties of a Trump presidency were the opportunists, courtiers, and comment-section trolls, I’d be pretty giddy. But this Carrier decision shows that the damage will not be nearly so surgical. The rot is already setting in. (You knew the recap thing at the beginning of this “news”letter meant I would return to the subject of corruption, right?)

As a political act, it is very, very easy to exaggerate the economic importance of the Carrier intervention. It’s less than a thousand jobs. Save for the workers and families directly involved, it’s all symbolism.

And while the politics of this are great for the incoming Trump administration, they are absolutely terrible for free-market conservatives. The former president of AEI and a veteran of the Reagan administration, Christopher DeMuth, used to argue that perhaps the most important thing Ronald Reagan did was fire the air traffic controllers. In isolation, it was not that big a deal. But the message it sent was hugely important at a time when Eurosclerosis was spreading in America. Reagan let it be known that the public-sector unions no longer had the whip hand and the government couldn’t be extorted.

Trump’s Carrier intervention may just send an equally loud, but nearly opposite signal: that the White House is going to pick winners and losers, that it can be rolled, that industrial policy is back, that Trump cares more about seeming like a savior than sticking to clear and universal rules, and that there is now no major political party in America that rejects crony capitalism as a matter of principle. After all, don’t expect the GOP to recycle the language it used for the bailouts, Cash for Clunkers, Solyndra, etc., when it comes to Carrier. The RNC belongs to Trump.

I’m not going to get into the weeds explaining the bad economics here, but I suggest you look at my AEI colleague Ben Zycher’s critique — or National Review’s own editorial (or the Examiner’s). My point is that I shouldn’t have to!

This is from Friday’s New York Times:

“I don’t want them moving out of the country without consequences,” Mr. Trump said, even if that means angering the free-market-oriented Republicans he beat in the primaries but will have to work with on Capitol Hill.

“The free market has been sorting it out and America’s been losing,” Mr. Pence added, as Mr. Trump interjected, “Every time, every time.”

I don’t begrudge Trump his distrust and/or ignorance of the free market. He ran on dirigisme, protectionism, and a cult-of-personality approach to issues of public policy (“I alone can fix it!” and all that B.S.). He has spent his entire professional life working, bribing, and cajoling politicians for special deals — and he’s been honest about it.

But Mike Pence is supposed to be one of us. He’s supposed to be, if not the chief ideologist of the Trump administration, at least the mainstream right’s ambassador and emissary in the West Wing. And here he is casually throwing the “free market” under the bus in order to elevate crony capitalism, industrial policy, and rule of man over rule of law. Does Pence really believe that America loses in the free market every time? Really?

Does Mike Pence really believe that America loses in the free market every time? Really?

Last night on Fox News’s Special Report, our friend Matt Schlapp — the head of the American Conservative Union (!) — could not muster a single reservation about Trump’s embrace of corporatism. What. The. Hell?

I spent a year hearing that Trump was like Margaret Thatcher, Winston Churchill, and Ronald Reagan. And for eight years Paul Ryan, Mike Pence, and nearly every major conservative critic of the Obama administration has, as a matter of routine, denounced the way the Obama administration picked winners and losers in the economy. Apparently, the hierophants of capitalism have discovered a new Apocrypha to the holy books: The free market is great — unless Donald Trump feels otherwise.

Again, one can over-interpret this one event. Reagan imposed protective tariffs to help save Harley Davidson. But you knew that the decision was a political necessity and the sort of exception that proved the rule. No one doubted that Reagan was a free-market guy in his heart. But Trump has made it abundantly clear that he is beholden to no core ideological program. He’s a “pragmatist” who goes by his gut (after all, he only intervened with Carrier because he saw a story on the news). But I’ve been to too many tea-party rallies and GOP rubber-chicken dinners to let the rest of them off the hook. You cannot simultaneously spout off about F. A. Hayek, Milton Friedman, and Adam Smith and the superiority of the market economy, limited government, and the Constitution and have no problem whatsoever with what Trump did here.

It’s unclear as of right now how many of these former mystagogues of the market were lying then or whether they’re lying now. I like to think that this is mostly about the petty corruption that is inherent to politics and that Pence et al. don’t actually believe what they are saying now. But that is hardly an argument for trusting them later.

Various & Sundry

The reason this “news”letter is so tardy is that I’ve had to write it on a plane and now in the Denver airport and neither is particularly conducive to such things. And now I must go find my connecting flight to Caspar, Wyo. (Don’t ask).

I don’t have much by way of a canine update this week as I’ve been travelling and working like a crazy man (gotta get this frick’n book done) and we were out of town for Thanksgiving (without our beasts) and Zoë was stuck in the Cone of Shame. I asked The Fair Jessica if she had anything to report for the canine update. And she sent me these pictures. When you own hyper dogs, there are few things more satisfying than knowing they’ve been successfully exhausted. Of course, Zoë is always ready to muster the energy to fight the enemy.

Oh, that does remind me. For a while now people have been complaining that I don’t tweet pictures of Zoë in her trademark pose in the back of the car anymore. The reason for that is she stopped doing it for like six months. I have no idea why. But just this week, she decided to start doing it again.

If that’s not enough canine updating, you can try and spot the beasts here.

Now, here’s some stuff I wrote:

The semi-comical spectacle of Trump’s transition.

My first column of the week danced on Castro’s grave.

In the newest GLoP Culture podcast, John Podhoretz tells a whippersnapper to get off his lawn.

Bears will eat your face.

And now, the weird stuff.

Debby’s Friday links

Gun-toting granny foils armed robbery

The birth of crystals

Cross-country runner hit by deer during race

(Different) runner amputates leg so that he can run again

Classy insults from Latin and Greek

Tiny hamster wears cast to help heal his tiny broken arm

A movie accent expert on the best (and worst) movie accents

Why dogs stick their heads out of car windows

Is cheese the key to a longer life?

And also . . . ?

Chinese robot rises up against humanity?

Amityville Horror house finds a buyer

Pet monkey sparks tribal fight in Libya

The best mannequin challenge?

The art of the Hollywood backdrop

Disney World’s singing runway

Behold: The Cthuken

Behold: The bun that holds both a hamburger and a hotdog simultaneously

Colorless rainbow spotted in Scotland

Why do books smell the way they do?

The dreamlike landscape of Iceland

The Fall of House Clinton

by Jonah Goldberg
This time, I think the Clintons might really be finished.

EDITOR’S NOTE: The following is Jonah Goldberg’s weekly “news”letter, the G-File. Subscribe here to get the G-File delivered to your inbox on Fridays.

Dear Reader (and all ships at sea),

Last night was the traditional National Review smoker on our splendid post-election cruise. This is an ancient tradition, the origins of which stretch back into the mists before time and the stories of a young solo sailor by the name of William F. Buckley Jr. — sweat, sea water, and shark blood glistening off his chest — who settled in to enjoy a relaxing cigar after killing the great white beast with his bare hands.

I bring this up for two reasons. First, to alert the reader that I am feeling a bit hungover from both smoke and spirit alike (so please, stop reading so loudly!); second, because I think I must say goodbye to another great white beast: Bill Clinton — and his remora bride, Hillary.

This is a good time to do it. The feeding frenzy atmosphere around the Trump transition is bananas given that there’s so little to say about it. My position on Trump remains unchanged from last week’s G-File: Like Bill Clinton after taking a blood test, I am entirely in wait-and-see mode.

Meanwhile, if I wait too long to give the Clintons a send-off, it will seem not only gratuitous — which would be fine, that’s what I’m going for — but also stale. The bad taste of the Clintons lingers on enough, though — like the acidic after-burp from my lunch in Mexico yesterday — that it still seems a bit relevant.

It Takes a Heart of Stone Not To Laugh

I feel a little like a hungry Sid Blumenthal looking down at a box full of live, white mice: Where to begin?

Well schadenfreude is always a good way to get your day going. The stories about Hillary measuring the drapes are all over Washington. They literally popped champagne on the campaign plane on Election Day.

I like to imagine Bill Clinton going through binders full of women — and not the Romney kind — picking out the “deputies” he’d like to work with in the White House and Sid Blumenthal letting his fingers wander over an assortment of fine Italian leather riding crops pondering his return to power.

Someone recently told me that the Bill Clinton Presidential Library is built off-center on its campus in anticipation of the day that Hillary’s presidential library would go along side it. I can’t find any corroboration of this, save for the fact that if you look at these pictures, it certainly seems plausible.

The Clinton Restoration That Wasn’t

It also seems plausible because the Clintons always planned on Hillary becoming president. It was the logical corollary for the “two for the price of one” nonsense Bill peddled from the beginning. The Clintons burrowed into the brain stem of the Democratic party, like one of those ear-tunneling scorpion things in Star Trek II, and they never left. In the process, they hollowed out the party. Barack Obama helped of course (see my recent column on that), but the Clintons didn’t mind too much because they knew if the bench was cleared of competition, Obama would have to hand the keys to Hillary.

The Clintons burrowed into the brain stem of the Democratic party, like one of those ear-tunneling scorpion things in Star Trek II.

It’s also plausible because there’s really no other explanation for why Hillary would stay married to Bill — even on paper — not only enduring the constant humiliation but actually working assiduously to discredit the inconvenient members of Bill’s harem. Clinton defenders love to righteously justify their partnership on the grounds that no one has a right to judge someone else’s marriage. Logically, I’ve always thought “no right to judge” arguments were a little ridiculous. But in the case of the Clintons, they’re so absurd they fall into the category of gaslighting. The Clintons always boasted about their marriage — that was the whole point of the two-for-the-price-of-one argument. At the Democratic convention, Bill gave one of the oddest testimonials to a wife by a husband ever given, making it sound like he fell in love with her because she’d make a great chief of staff. “She’s a changemaker! A changemaker!” he insisted, sounding like she knew how to give four quarters for a dollar better than any teenager at a video arcade.

But if you dared enlist inconvenient facts in your own judgment of their nuptial endeavors, you were violating some sacred rule. In other words, their marriage was relevant but we were only allowed to subscribe to their interpretation of it. Our lying eyes were illegitimate.

The Tornado

I know it seems impossible given the nigh-upon Swiss precision and focus of this “news”letter, but I rarely do much prep for this thing. I wake up, drink a dozen raw eggs, and start typing. But since I’m in book-writing Hell and on the high seas, I figured that maybe I should get ahead of the game.

So, a few days ago, I asked my research assistant, Jack “Not the Belt! Please Not the Belt!” Butler, to pull together a Clinton Greatest Hits file.

“What specifically are you looking for?” he asked, his flinching fear dripping from the e-mail.

“Everything.”

“Everything?”

“E-V-E-R-Y-T-H-I-N-G!” [In my best Gary Oldman from The Professional voice.]

Jack did a fine job, thus avoiding getting the hose again. The ship’s antediluvian WiFi groaned downloading the document, like Michael Moore at Walmart trying not to stand up in his scooter as he strains to grab a family-sized tub of SpaghettiOs from a high shelf. The Travel Office, the commodities futures, the Rose Law Firm billing records, the Lincoln Bedroom, on and on it went. A great feeling of dread came over me.

You see, the retromingent trail of House Clinton stretches so far back and coats so much of our lives, even pondering the question gives me a queasy feeling, like contemplating using one of those black lights to find the carpet and cushion stains on Jeffrey Epstein’s plane.

As I looked over the document, reading all those names associated with all those scandals, legal, moral, and ethical — Webb Hubbel, Charlie Trie, Lanny Davis, Sid Blumenthal, et al. — I tried to get myself psyched up to wade back into it. I felt a bit like Bill Murray in Meatballs trying to get Fink excited about the eating contest to come: “Look at all those steaming weenies.”

But the truth is that stuff is a bit sad and tedious. Don’t get me wrong, as it says in the Torah, it is always good to mock Sid Blumenthal. But so many of the people around the Clintons are also victims. James McDougal, Bill’s former business partner, once said that the Clintons “are really sort of like tornadoes moving through people’s lives. I’m just one of the people left in the wake of their passing by.” McDougal died of a heart attack in prison in 1998.

The Devil’s in the Details

More to the point, my problems with the Clintons never had that much to do with the scandals. Oh sure, I was infuriated when Hillary brought her Medicis of the Ozarks tactics to Washington and had the staff of the White House Travel Office carted off in handcuffs just so she could give some Hollywood friends a business opportunity. And, sure, I was disgusted by Bill’s Baron-and-the-Milkmaid games with a White House intern.

James McDougal, Bill’s former business partner, once said that the Clintons ‘are really sort of like tornadoes moving through people’s lives.’

But it was the little things that made me detest them so. Remember when Clinton went to Ron Brown’s funeral and was yucking it up with a pal only to realize television cameras were rolling? He suddenly started to weep for his dear friend. It was this kind of manipulation of the public — and the way the press and his fans (but I repeat myself) fell for it, that so disgusted me. In 1999, when Hillary was preparing to run for the Senate as the heroic martyr of her own marriage, The New York Times Magazine was brought in to start the roll out. In order to convey that she wasn’t just a policy polymath (who just happened to help deliver a Republican Congress because of her disastrous health-care scheme) but also a super-mom, they set up a display of Chelsea’s collection of Beanie Babies. Never mind that Beanie Babies had only just come on the market and Chelsea was in her second year of college at Stanford, Beanie Babies focus-grouped well.

Which, of course, brings me to the issue of their cynicism. Of course, one could run through the greatest hits from their catalog: the renting of the Lincoln Bedroom, the pardon-selling, and all that. But again, it was the little things. When Bill was down in the polls, he wanted to go on vacation in Martha’s Vineyard to do what he likes best (not counting conducting impromptu Lyme disease tick-checks at Hooters): schmooze with celebrities and play golf. But Dick Morris, his psephological haruspex, had butchered a goat and found that the entrails foretold this would poll poorly. So they all went camping in Yellowstone instead. If only Bill had poll tested his affair with Monica before he pole tested her.

And don’t even get me started with the lying. Bill was one of the most impressive liars in American history. Yes, yes, all politicians lie. But Bill was a savant, a priapistic prodigy of prevarication in which he portrayed himself as a paladin of principle (that was a plug for my spoken word album, Alliteration is my Bag, Baby). “I have vivid and painful memories of black churches being burned in my own state when I was a child.” There were none. “Since I was a little boy, I’ve heard about the Iowa caucuses. That’s why I would really like to do well in them.” The Iowa caucuses started in 1972, when he was at Oxford. In Israel, he said he had met with Palestinian children earlier that day who expressed their love of Israel. He never met with them. He lied about big things too, of course. But, again, it’s the little things.

Among Hillary’s greatest problems wasn’t that she was a liar, but that she was so bad at it. When Bill lied, it was like watching a jazz impresario scat. You could pull him off an intern, slap him in the face with a half-frozen flounder, and he could, without missing a beat, plausibly explain that he was just a gentleman trying to help push the young lady over a fence.

But when Hillary lied, which was often, it was like watching a member of the Politburo explain to a hungry mob of peasants that food-production targets exceeded expectations. Hillary never seemed to fully grasp that Bill’s lying skills did not become community property when they got married along with his collection of back issues of Juggs and that shoe box full of used pregnancy tests. There was music to Bill’s lying while Hillary deceived the way Helen Keller played the piano.

Goodbye to All That

And now they’re gone. Oh sure, they’ll pop up from time to time, the way Bill’s cold sore would keep coming back. But they’re now part of history, not the future. And the best thing about this is it means the gaslighting is over. For virtually my entire adult life, the Clintons have corrupted the apparatchiks of the Democratic party, in and out of the media, by forcing them to go along with the charade. They did it in part because people feared their vindictiveness, to be sure. But their vindictiveness was itself a byproduct of their perceived power.

In 2008, people would ask me if we were finally done with the Clintons and I would respond, “Haven’t you seen any horror movies?” Freddy Krueger and Jason always came back. But now, I think they’re really gone.

Freddy Krueger and Jason always came back. But now, I think they’re really gone.

And with them goes the infatuation — along with the fear. People forget the cult of personality, the willful suspension of credulity, that was integral to these gaslighting grifters. When Bill Clinton congratulated Dan Rather and Connie Chung for their softball interview of the first couple, Rather responded: “If we could be one-hundredth as great as you and Hillary Rodham Clinton have been together in the White House, we’d take it right now and walk away winners.”

Well, now they’re all just walking away.

Various & Sundry

Contrary to lots of speculation, the National Review post-election cruise is going swimmingly. Some feared that it would go literally swimmingly, as the angry mob made many of us walk the plank. Not so. There’s definitely a variety of opinions, but, for the most part, nearly everyone understands where NR was coming from during the election and appreciates that we did right as we saw it. It’s a great bunch of people. Tonight, we’re doing a Night Owl session which originally supposed to be a GLoP podcast. But Rob Long had to cancel at the last minute, so instead we’re doing a special mash-up podcast with me and John Podhoretz versus the cast of Mad Dogs and Englishmen (Charlie Cooke, a.k.a. British Shaggy, and Kevin D. Williamson). Look for it on Ricochet.

Canine Update: As I am at sea (“Not just literally,” — The Couch), I don’t have much to report. The Fair Jessica tells me, however, that the beasts have mostly been on their best behavior. The Dingo did escape once and refused to leave the front yard, despite all attempts at bribery with meat products and promised adventures (usually, if you get in the car with Pippa, she will believe that a squirrel sortie is in the offing. Not this time). I like to think that she was waiting on the front lawn for me to arrive.

I contributed to a Los Angeles Times conservative symposium on the meaning of Trump’s win.

I responded to the appointment of Steve Bannon. But I think Ian Tuttle had the best response.

My Wednesday column was on people who think everything is racist.

Friday’s column was on the “normalization” of Trump.

On November 29, Ramesh and I (and maybe Rich) will be putting on an event on the future of conservatism at AEI in our new super-swanky headquarters. If you’re in town, stop by.

And now, the weird stuff.

Debby’s Friday links

Supermoon around the world

The case against cats (except for my good cat)

Awkward touch escalator prank

Twenty-foot snake drops out of restaurant ceiling

Colorized photographs of women in Tsarist Russia

Cinematic space trips

Don’t be too worried about this colony of herpes-infected monkeys in Florida

Superior gives up one of her dead

The Spielberg face

The broken technology of ghost hunting

SMOD tied with Satan in DeKalb County, Ga.

The 2017 NYC taxi-driver calendar will really rev your engine

Orphan goat raised by two St. Bernards

Hundreds of strangers join man for his last walk with his dying dog

Polar bear pets dog

Mother pup reunited with her litter at animal shelter

“Meet” the zeptosecond, the smallest slice of time yet recorded

Hmmm . . . blood from human teens rejuvenates the body and brains of old mice

(Simpsons did it)

Pilot calms down political argument on his plane

Australian man fined after using drone to bring sausage to his hot tub

Bob Dylan not interested in flying to Sweden for his Nobel Prize

The Election Is Over — Now, Trump Must Govern

Predictions and the Test of Time

The Impossible Weirdness of 2016

Bursting ‘Beltway Bubbles’

‘Operation Destroy the GOP’

The Consequences of Overpromising on Obamacare

If Candidate Trump Can’t Be Managed, What Makes You Think President Trump Could Be?

The Adventures of Superwoman

Is This a ‘Flight 93’ Election?

On Naming Names

The Clintonian Gaslighting Never Ends

by Jonah Goldberg
If the Clinton Foundation was a high-minded charity, what was Sid Blumenthal doing working there?

EDITOR’S NOTE: The following is Jonah Goldberg’s weekly “news”letter, the G-File. Subscribe here to get the G-File delivered to your inbox on Fridays.

Dear Reader (including Matt Labash reading this in his unmarked white van),

I have questions. So many questions. And I really don’t know where to begin. But these are some of the things I want to know:

Does Nancy Grace realize that when they have her play herself in all of these TV shows and movies she’s being asked to play a horrible person?

Producer: And for the Nancy Grace character, we really need someone who can sell lugubrious, sanctimonious, parasitical opportunism and innuendo in just a few words . . . 

Casting Director: Hmmm. That is tough. Hey I have an idea. How about Nancy Grace!?

Producer: She’d be perfect! But do you really think she’d prostitute herself that way just for a little more fame and money?

[Long silence] Bahahahahaha!

But I have more questions. Such as, I wonder if the CEO of BleachBit is popping the champagne? I mean he’s just gotten the greatest celebrity endorsement of a data-deletion product ever. They should cut an ad immediately. The CEO could say straight into the camera, “BleachBit: It’s so effective, it’s what the Clintons use to hide their ‘Yoga’ e-mails.” (But he would really need to hit the air quotes around “Yoga.”)

Cut to Trey Gowdy: “It’s so good, even God can’t read them!”

Oh, a moment ago I was saying something about lugubrious parasites, or something like that, which of course calls to mind Sidney Blumenthal. Now, my understanding is that Blumenthal doesn’t in fact have bones so much as a quasi-skeleton made out of highly flexible cartilage, allowing him to get his head further up the rectum of anyone surnamed Clinton far more effectively than a normal human might.

That’s not important right now — but it does remind me to again ask, “If the Clinton Foundation is purely a wonderful and glorious charity, why on earth would Sid Blumenthal be working there?”

I think it was Diogenes who first observed that no charity can claim to be truly noble if you can find Blumenthal’s retromingent trail greasing its corridors, his taffy-like saliva cobwebbing the corners like in an Alien movie. It’s like saying, “This Church does God’s work, not counting the pimp who turned the last three pews into an office and stable for his ladies.” I mean some of the most horrible people in the world, after doing dark and unspeakable things in Tijuana that even the mule would prefer not to talk about, reassure themselves by saying, “Well, at least I’m not Sid Blumenthal.”

In 2009, Hillary Clinton wanted Blumenthal to set up one of his mucus-drenched egg-sack nests at the State Department. Even Rahm Emanuel was like, “Are you high?” So when Clinton was told she couldn’t have her very own wormtongue working for her out of the State Department, what did she do? She gave him a job at her other office — the Clinton Foundation. His job description there was “highlighting the legacy of Clinton’s presidency.”

Let’s pause there for a moment. The other day James Carville said people will go to Hell for criticizing the Clinton Foundation. Children will die. The Seventh Seal will be broken, the CHUDs released, and a second all-ladies Ghostbusters will be made.

James Carville said people will go to Hell for criticizing the Clinton Foundation. Children will die. The Seventh Seal will be broken.

The Clinton Foundation, in Carville’s words, takes money from rich people and gives it to poor people. Yeah, okay, sometimes they do that. But on Carville’s own terms, every dime they take from rich people is for the stated purpose of giving it to poor people (or spending it on their behalf). Did the Clinton Foundation tell donors who thought that they were helping fight AIDS in Africa, “Oh, by the way, we’re gonna take $10,000 a month off the top and give it to Sidney Blumenthal so he can work as a presidential legacy-fluffer?”

Of course, Blumenthal didn’t do much of that because that “job” was his cover (Christopher Moltisanti didn’t spend a lot of his time at Webistics doing market research either). Rather, he spent his days running an off-book intelligence and consulting service, sending Clinton memos on her Libyan adventure and the like.

Look: Hillary Clinton said that she would “avoid even the appearance of conflict” between her work at State and her foundation. But one of the first things she did when she became secretary was have her foundation put Blumenthal on the payroll of her foundation so he could do the job she wanted him to do at State.

Just last June, Clinton said: “There is absolutely no connection between anything that I did as secretary of state and the Clinton Foundation.”

But we’ve spent all week reading e-mails and hearing about all of the phone messages back and forth from the Clinton Foundation and Hillary’s top aides. And yet the press keeps talking about the need for a f***ing smoking gun.

If The Gun Does Not Emit, You Must Acquit

I’m not going to get all worked up about this smoking-gun insanity again, just half-worked-up.

But it’s really as if people don’t understand that a smoking gun is a very high evidentiary bar that most prosecutors — or journalists — never have to meet. Imagine a cop answers a call and comes to a bar where a guy named Jack Butler is caked in the blood of a dozen victims. One of the victims actually wrote, in his own blood, “Butler did it,” which was ironic because the victim was also a big fan of 1930s detective novels. A waitress who hid behind the juke box points at Butler and says, “He did it!” Butler himself says, “You got me.”

But the cop, going by the standards of Beltway clichés says, “Damn, there’s nothing I can do. I don’t see any smoke coming out of his gun.”

Everyone wants proof of a quid pro quo from one of these mega donors in the e-mails. Bless your heart — as if the Clintons would ever put something like that in writing. And if one of their aides did so by accident, well, bust out the BleachBit baby! Use it like fraternity brothers use Febreze on the morning before Parents Visiting Day.

As I write in my column today, you don’t need to look for a quid pro quo in the meetings, the meetings are the quo!

Being able to say to business partners, creditors, local politicians, etc., “When I met with Secretary of State Clinton last week . . . ” is a gift. In America and even more so abroad, possessing a reputation for having friends in the highest places is a priceless asset.

All campaigns understand this. Donors could always just send the check by mail. But politicians understand that one of the things a donor is “buying” is the ability to strut like an insider and dine out on your political connections.

When Bill Clinton rented out the Lincoln Bedroom in the White House to big donors, the donors didn’t get to keep the furniture, but they did get to begin sentences, “The last time I stayed at the White House . . . ”

In Jerry Maguire, Cuba Gooding Jr.’s character gives the great speech about The Quan. It’s his made-up word for not just having money, but also love, respect, the whole package. There are lots of very rich people in search of the Quan, as they define it. Being rich isn’t good enough. They want to be important (I wrote a whole mediocre “news”letter about this point last week). For some of them, just being on the “inside” of politics gets them that much closer to the Quan. Writing a check to a campaign, or to the Clinton Foundation, is a small amount of quid for the quo of the Quan.

Do you think Justin Timberlake spent a small fortune hosting a fundraiser for Hillary Clinton this week because he’s got a pressing business concern that requires a presidential favor? Of course not. Having her at his house was the payoff.

Anyway, Clinton may have sold more than just face time and bragging rights — I’m fairly confident she did. But the point is you don’t need to prove any of that to understand that this whole thing is a farce.

I know, I know: Saying Clinton is a liar has lost all of its oomph, because it has been so obviously true for so long. But it’s so easy to feel like they put crazy pills in the water supply these days.

The Gaslighting Never Ends

In his deposition during the Lewinsky investigation, Blumenthal claimed that Bill had confided in him: “I feel like a character in a novel,” the president allegedly said. “I feel like somebody who is surrounded by an oppressive force that is creating a lie about me and I can’t get the truth out. I feel like the character in the novel Darkness at Noon.” Assuming that Blumenthal wasn’t lying about the conversation taking place, this always struck me as a great example of Bill Clinton’s gift for gaslighting. Not only was he denying the truth of the matter, he was proclaiming that the entire system was paranoid and deluded, that he was in effect the last sane man.

Never mind that Clinton was using Blumenthal to transmit a lie to his wife. Never mind that he was the commander-in-chief and not some dissident intellectual caught in the switches of Stalinism. I still know the feeling that Clinton, or really Arthur Koestler (the author of Darkness at Noon), was trying to conjure. I sometimes sit, watching the TV, and ask, “Am I the crazy one?”

Then the Couch responds, “The question answers itself, no?”

And There You Have It

Now, I know I’m not the last sane man. I know way too many people who feel the same way I do. I write a lot, so it’s always interesting to hear which pieces stick with people. More people have brought up the “news”letter I wrote on the Bodysnatching of the Right than any other since I wrote it last March. We don’t need to get into all of that again.

But this week was rather amazing. For a year or so, a bunch of us have been saying that Trump is conning his fans. The con took many forms, of course. But the most successful bill of goods Trump ever sold certainly wasn’t his steaks or cologne, it was his belching word-salads on immigration. Some of us said he doesn’t really intend to deport 11 million people. Others said he does intend that but he won’t be able to get it done or that he will flip-flop on it down the road. A great many believed that Trump didn’t mean anything in particular, and was just making it all up as he went along. Since it was full-spectrum B.S., some picked one band of the bullsh*t rainbow, others another.

Trump is like the creators of Lost — he sucked everyone in with his crazy story, but had no idea how to wrap it up.

Trump supporters didn’t believe any of the skepticism. But more than that, they insisted anyone who doubted, criticized, or scoffed at Trump’s promises was for “open borders.” When Ted Cruz demurred from the idea of a “deportation force” — a phrase, I believe Trump learned for the first time from Mika Brzezinski — it was suddenly agreed that Cruz, too, was “weak, weak” on immigration.

But when Trump “softened” his position, thanks to his Monty Hall–style consulting with the Greek chorus that is Sean Hannity’s studio audience, he was essentially admitting he not only was conning you, but also that he had no idea how the con was supposed to end. He’s like the creators of Lost — he sucked everyone in with his crazy story, but had no idea how to wrap it up.

When asked on CNN whether he will deport non-criminal illegal immigrants Trump responded — and I am not making this up — “There is a very good chance the answer could be yes.”

This is the guy people rallied to with rapturous testimony about his Strength! Will! Leadership! Decisiveness!

Perhaps the only silver lining in any of this is watching Ann Coulter grapple with this calamity. If Tom Wolfe had written a novel where the Coulter character was defenestrated like this on the night of her book party at Breitbart HQ, the editor would have said, “C’mon, Tom.”

And yet Ann is sticking with her guy. I spent much of the last year writing how Trump was corrupting conservatism by forcing so many Republicans and conservatives to jettison their principles in order to get on the right side of a popular demagogue who would ultimately lead the GOP to catastrophic defeat at the hands of a corrupt and untalented Democratic candidate. There is a kind of pyrrhic schadenfreude, a tragic fremschämen, to watching the demagogues get corrupted too as their idol morphs into Jeb Bush before our eyes.

I’ll give this to Trump, he’s managed to turn Karl Marx on his head. It was his campaign that began as farce and ended in tragedy.

Various & Sundry

Canine Update: Perhaps the biggest change in my neighborhood over the last year — at least from a canine perspective — is the explosion of rabbits. In the nearly 15 years I’ve lived here, I don’t think I ever saw a rabbit until last year. Now they’re all over the place. This presents a real challenge. To say that Zoë loves rabbits is an understatement on par with saying Steve Hayes loves chicken wings.

If she could talk, she’d describe rabbits the way Jack Black talks about Evil Dead 2 in High Fidelity. “Why are you obsessed with bunnies Zoë?” I’d ask. “Because they’re so hoppy and tasty and they can’t climb trees like those rotten squirrels and I can dig huge holes in lawns to get them and they mock me with their bunny ways and I am descended from a great line of rabbit conquerors and I must live up the traditions of my ancestors and they need to be punished for their hoppiness . . . maaaaawwrrrrr BUNNIES!” [Dingoes aren’t big on punctuation]. It’s a problem because if she sees a bunny and she’s off-leash she takes off so fast all you’ll see is that cartoon curlicue of air distortion after she vanishes. She’s jumped out of the car window to get them. Once she has the scent of one there’s no reasoning with her. I walk her on leash around the neighborhood because she doesn’t think any other dog has a right to be anywhere near our house and canine quarrels can come up. But if she sees a bunny, she can yank the leash right out of my hand if I’m not ready. And if she finds one of their bunny bunkers in the shrubbery, I can spend ten minutes looking like I’m taking a bush for a walk.

Anyways: Happy National Dog Day!

Given the events of yesterday, I had planned on writing about all this “alt-right” stuff, but I think I’ll save it for another day. But I will say one thing, the well-intentioned folks out there who think I need to lighten up and make common cause with these bottom feeders are not merely wrong about how I’m wired, they’re wrong about how politics works. Saying we need to coopt or indulge people who openly peddle virulent racism and anti-Semitism out of some misbegotten doctrine of Pas d’ennemis à droite are making a monumental error not just in strategic thinking, but in moral judgment. If Bill Buckley taught us anything, it’s the importance of bright lines when it comes to this kind of thing. Saying good conservatives can have a foot — even a toe — in each camp is an invitation to disaster and a monumental gift to the Left.

One last thing: Yesterday marked the 15th year that the Fair Jessica agreed to be my bride. Remarkably she hasn’t come to her senses yet, for which I am eternally grateful.

Debby’s Friday links

How big is a fart?

Dog drinking water in slow motion

POV footage from a Hot Wheels car as it navigates an impressive track

The world, viewed through Terrence Malick’s eyes

Is light pollution hiding the stars and hurting our souls?

A bad lip reading of the Democratic National Convention

A nimble canine

The secret Jews of The Hobbit

Man trying to impress date gets stuck between two buildings

This five-second video could be the start of a new religion

The Revenant as an 8-bit video game

Man breaks world record for . . . most cans stuck to one’s head?

How best friends share each other’s memories

Has the KFC secret-chicken recipe been revealed?

Hundreds of drunk Americans wash ashore in Canada because of strong winds

Why do we hate certain words?

The (many) problems with resurrecting the T. Rex

The 25 worst predictions about the Internet

Is there such a thing as a “neutral” American accent?

When JFK campaigned with a goat

Archaeologists discover Crusader-era hand grenade, and there was much rejoicing from Monty Python fans (yay . . . )

This dog just wants to help

House Clinton and the Wages of Corruption