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 wanted a Trump-free “news”letter, which this is. Please clap).
For reasons having to do with Original Sin, I had to watch the whole Democratic debate last night — sober! So for that, and other reasons too mundane to share, even in this overly personal missive, I am crankier than the comments section on one of Kevin Williamson’s articles. So, as Bill Clinton said to the madame after he dispensed with the pleasantries, let’s get started.
In his play, The Decision, Berthold Brecht wrote:
Who fights for Communism must be able to fight and not to fight, to speak the truth and not to speak the truth, to perform services and not to perform services, to keep promises and not to keep promises, to go into danger and to keep out of danger, to be recognizable and not to be recognizable. Who fights for Communism has only one of all the virtues: that he fights for Communism.
Now, I understand a few things: (1) Socialism and Communism are not the same thing; (2) Bernie Sanders isn’t a Communist; (3) the biggest threat to good deli in this country isn’t the decline in pastrami and corned-beef consumption, but the tendency of bakers to stop making good Jewish rye.
Oh, sorry, it’s just that I can’t talk about Bernie Sanders without thinking about deli and when I think deli, I think of the exquisite genius of the cured-meat arts. And I am quite serious about the rye-bread thing. Putting caraway seeds in white bread doesn’t make it a good rye any more than putting apple juice in rubbing alcohol makes it a good scotch. It may look like it, but then again, Bill Clinton looks sagely contemplative or attentive as Hillary talks when in reality he’s indulging his penchant for sacofricosis.
Speaking of appearances being deceiving, back to the issue at hand. Sanders isn’t fighting for Communism, but he is fighting for what he thinks socialism is. His notion of what constitutes socialism is fairly ridiculous — more like an Epcot Center version of Scandinavia circa 1958 or a fantasy camp for aging hippies called What Might Have Been Land. I can imagine him as a tour guide on the monorail through “Single Payer Land” noting the modest garb of the faux Swedes happily waiting in line for prostate exams. “You see how happy they are!” he shouts into the perfectly good megaphone. “DO YOU SEE!? THAT IS SOCIALISM!”
A Tale of Two Politicians
The funny thing about Sanders and Clinton is that neither is a natural politician. But this works for Sanders and it doesn’t for Hillary. It works for Sanders because whatever you think about him, it’s pretty apparent that he is sincere. The man is drawn in indelible ink and there’s no erasing the contours of his soul.
Hillary Clinton, meanwhile, has been drawn in pencil, erased, re-drawn and re-erased so many times — like a little kid doing over a stick figure again and again on the same piece of paper — that the gray smudges and worn-away tears in the paper are far more permanent than the lines.
It’s not that Hillary can’t be sincere, it’s that she’s faked sincerity for so long, about so many things, she can’t really be sure if she’s being sincere.
This helps explain why her sense of humor can be so awful. When you joke, by definition you’re not being sincere. But if you don’t know what sincerity is, you can’t successfully craft something fake. It’s like trying to forge a painting with no clear memory of the image you’re trying to copy.
Bill can fake sincerity the way a prostitute can fake enjoyment; he knows exactly what it’s supposed to sound like.
For instance, whenever she’s asked an awkward question she laughs so artificially it makes my dogs bark at the TV screen. When asked if she “wiped” her server, she responded, “Like with a cloth or something?” No doubt she thought this was a clever retort, but the retort landed squarely in the land between sincerity and humor known as failed sarcasm. Almost all of her “jokes” and a lot of her “sincerity” land there because the only feeling she’s really in touch with is resentment at having to answer to all the little people. Bill Clinton could have sold the line about being “broke” coming out of the White House because Bill can fake sincerity the way a prostitute can fake enjoyment; he knows exactly what it’s supposed to sound like.
Anyway, back to Bernie and Brecht. My problem with Sanders is that he’s ultimately a coward. He talks a great game about being dedicated to a “political revolution,” but he is utterly unwilling to employ the means required to achieve the ends desired.
For instance, Sanders is happy to denounce the political system as corrupt, but refuses — save by innuendo — to connect the corruption of the political system to the corruption of House Clinton.
RELATED: The Bernie Insurgency
Hillary called it an “artful smear” last night (I joked on Twitter that Sanders has the “Artful Shmear,” an artisanal bagel shop in Bensonhurst). But here’s the problem: It’s not artful and not a smear. At least by the standard of Bernie Sanders, Hillary Clinton is incredibly corrupt. The Clinton Foundation alone is a violation of everything Sanders stands for. It’s one giant access-selling enterprise masquerading as a charity.
Then there’s the whole sordid mess of her husband’s presidency — and I’m not even talking about his playing Baron-and-the-Milkmaid with the intern. The Clintons rented out the Lincoln bedroom, sold pardons — including to a shadowy fugitive billionaire! Talk about catering to the “billionaire class” — and drained so much money from foreign donors (some of it laundered through a Buddhist temple) that 94 people either fled the country, refused to testify, or pled the Fifth.Bernie Sanders has to believe Hillary Clinton is part of the problem. But he won’t say so, save to prattle on about Clinton’s super PACs and speaking fees. That’s amateur-hour stuff. It’s academic-seminar-level griping, not revolution-fomenting. He wants to talk about the system, but he won’t do what is minimally required to change it. And right now, the first step on that long road is steamrolling Hillary Clinton. It’s like saying you want to do whatever it takes to fight malaria, but refusing to say much about the huge, sprawling, and fetid marshlands in the middle of downtown. The Clintons are swamp creatures, taking what they need and leaving in their retromingent wake the stench of corruption.
If Bernie Sanders had the conviction of a real Communist, or even one of America’s great socialists, he would make this personal, he would recognize the opportunity he has and seize upon it. But his vanity is too important, his reputation too precious. If he honestly believes the stakes are what he says they are, then surely it’s worth getting a little dirty. It’s not like the Clintons aren’t willing to get dirty. If anything, they’ve never been remotely interested in getting clean.
Oh and I will confess, I want Bernie to take this race for two simple reasons: I want Hillary to lose and I want Republicans to face Sanders in the general election. Strategically we couldn’t be more at odds, but tactically Sanders and I are totally on the same page — for now.
The Server Gambit
Last night Hillary Clinton made it clear that she is going to brazen it out on the e-mail controversy. She said, “I never sent or received any classified material.” Then there was this exchange:
CHUCK TODD: All right, Madam Secretary, there is an open — there is an open FBI investigation into this matter about how you may have handled classified material. Are you 100 percent confident that nothing is going to come of this FBI investigation?
CLINTON: I am 100 percent confident. This is a security review that was requested. It is being carried out. It will be resolved. But I have to add, if there’s going to be a security review about me, there’s going to have to be security reviews about a lot of other people, including Republican office holders, because we’ve got this absurd situation of retroactive classifications.
Honest to goodness, this is — this just beggars the imagination. So I have absolutely no concerns about it, but we’ve got to get to the bottom of what’s really going on here, and I hope that will happen.
This is a farrago of lies. She did send and receive classified information. It’s not a “security review,” the relevant issue isn’t “retroactive classification,” and the Republican officeholders did not do the same thing as Hillary. Rather, it’s a criminal inquiry concerning, among other things, classified material that was classified at the time. The Republicans in question did not have homebrewed private servers set up to deliberately evade oversight and FOIA, and the e-mails they had were not from the intelligence community (as Ed Morrisey notes, the secretary of state has plenty of authority to declassify information that comes from within the State Department). But the biggest lie was probably when she said, “I have absolutely no concerns about it.” Of course she does. That’s why she issued the clear warning that if the FBI comes after her, Team Clinton is going to take everyone down. That’s what the Clintons do. When they have no legitimate defense of their behavior — which is quite often — they attack or threaten others.
They also make their transgressions other people’s problems. As I’ve written before, the Clintons are master gaslighters. Gaslighting is when you violate all sorts of norms of decent behavior and pretend that the people who notice or care are the weird ones. Hillary Clinton’s crimes are a thousand times worse than the accidental outing of Valerie Plame. But she acts as if caring about it — at all! — is obsessive partisanship. Thus, she is upping the pressure on the FBI immensely. She’s basically saying, “If you want come after my candidacy, be prepared for us calling you irrational partisans on a political vendetta.” She won’t blink. The question is, will the FBI?
Various & Sundry
I am supposed to leave shortly for New Hampshire. Tomorrow night is the big GLoP-National Review mashup. But I keep getting updates from American Airlines saying my departure time is unchanged, but my arrival time is being pushed back more and more. If these e-mails are right, I’ll have a four-hour flight to Manchester. That can’t be right, can it? (“Well, if you have all this extra time, maybe you can write a good “news”letter now?” — The Couch).
Doggie Update: Not much to report except that the Dingo is molting for some reason and the Springer is becoming a much less obedient beast. They both had a grand time chasing deer this week (Please spare me the inevitable odes to ungulate sanctity. They don’t catch the deer, they just remind them of who’s boss).
Hope to see you in NH!