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Catching Up; The Process; I’m Not Going Anywhere -- I Think; Hate Mail 101


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Jonah Goldberg

CATCHING UP
It may be a holiday out there in “the world,” but here time waits for no couch. Somehow I have managed to make a pile of work for myself, and I don’t even have a job. I’m still not done tabulating the reader’s poll. Moreover, last week elicited the most responses in months. It turns out that people, well, readers of the Goldberg File, feel very strongly about Machiavelli, dogs, dog shows, the enduring problem of evil in Sid Blumenthal, Teletubbies, Bugs Bunny, my inability to spell correctly, and that guy with the Velcro fly in the White House. Also, this last week I’ve received a flood of hate mail the likes of which I haven’t seen since the first weeks of the G-File — and I’ve blocked some of the worst cyber-droolers from writing me.

So since this is a national holiday, a day where people go to the office in casual attire to “catch up” with their paperwork, I thought I would do the same. Leave aside the fact that what usually happens when you go to the office on a holiday is that you end up sitting at your desk playing solitaire and listening to your radio really loud. Or, you find yourself suddenly in need of “finding something” on your colleague’s desk — which really means cherry picking his best pens, looking at his (or her) really goofy pictures, and generally trying to find evidence that your water-cooler buddy is in fact a former member of a Turkish prison harem.

But as I work alone (if you don’t count the “voices”) and I already know everything I possibly can about my colleagues I will move straight into old business.

DOGS & DOG SHOWS 
This may have been the most popular column I’ve written to date; at least the response was dramatic. I feel very strongly about this topic and clearly so do many of you. A lot of readers agreed that the old ladies and gay Mafia have really messed things up in the world of professional Dogdom. But the dissenters made themselves heard as well. The biggest complaint was that I was too disrespectful of small dogs. I might have been. Some small dogs are great if they have big dog hearts. Corgies come to mind.

I guess my biggest mistake in that column was blurring the lines of my criticism of the values of dog shows and my criticism of the dogs that best exemplify those values. The problem with dog shows, contrary to what quite a few of you have written, is that they encourage breeding for looks rather than behavior. Border Collie breeders are at the vanguard of fighting this trend. They fear that the hardest working dogs will be bred and judged for their pompadours rather than their Protestant work ethic. Looks do not make a dog, behavior does. Today even great, big, piles of dog-dogs are being bred ever more petite. Not too long ago they tried to exclude the larger breed of black labs from competition.

My point was this: Westminster values appearance over substance; the suppression of doggie virtues for the benefit of a glossy coat and a haughty attitude.

I do not like poodles.
And I do not like dogs without hair.
If they smell good, I do not care.
I do not like dogs grown in a beaker.
I’d rather a dog that chews my sneaker.

CLINTON & MACHIAVELLI
I suggested last week that Clinton was the “perfect advisor to our Machiavellian Prince.” Many of you took great exception to the idea that Clinton was Machiavellian. The criticisms took two forms. First, I was being unfair to Niccolo Machiavelli because Clinton doesn’t care about what is good for the Republic. He is only concerned with what is good for him. Well, this is a problem because Machiavelli seemed to be saying that what was good for the Prince was good for the Republic. The other criticism was that Clinton didn’t have the cojoñes to be as merciless as Machiavelli precisely because a real Prince would figure out how to stay in power beyond 2000.

To be brutally honest, I don’t like writing about Machiavelli. Feelings about what he was saying or trying to say run very high. One group of thinkers believes Daddy Mach is the beginning of all evil, for he reduced morality to a means rather than an end. Others say this is precisely backward, that Machiavelli understood the world as it is rather than it should be and tried to establish the best rules for making the best out of a bad situation. Both sides do recognize that Machiavelli started something new and so did he. In the introduction to the Discourses he wrote that his aim was “to open a new route which has not yet been followed by anyone.” Well, I can’t make out the path for myself so I leave it to others.

If you feel that Machiavelli is a poor soul who’s been misunderstood, I call your attention to the writings of Michael Ledeen, a scholar at the American Enterprise Institute. I do this for three reasons. First he knows more about Machiavelli than I know about drinking beer in the afternoon. Second, he is coming out with a book soon on the subject — on Machiavelli not afternoon beer drinking, that’s going to be my opus. And third, Michael is thoroughly reviled by Sidney Blumenthal. In fact, Michael was deposed by Blumenthal’s lawyers in the Matt Drudge defamation law suit. For starters I recommend his piece in the July 20, 1998 National Review about Machiavelli and Clinton. You might also check out his other works at http://www.aei.org/ .

As for my contention that Sidney is the perfect advisor to our Machiavellian Prince I stick by it. Clinton may be a cheap Hong Kong knockoff of a real Prince, but then again Blumenthal isn’t exactly Cardinal Richlieu either.

TELETUBBIES: THE VELVET MENACE?
My defense of Jerry Falwell and the Teletubby threat also elicited a powerful reaction — and yes, for some of you, I think, a powerful overreaction. Many critical readers couldn’t understand how someone named Goldberg could be such a henchman for the Christian Right. A more common reaction, among critics was, “Oh, come on! Who cares?” Here, I stand by my argument in toto. Gay groups had claimed Tinky Winky as their own for years and the story of Tinky Winky’s “secret” had been published in numerous periodicals. More than once, gay groups rallied around the actor who plays Tinky Winky when he got in trouble. Falwell pointed this out, picking up on these stories, and people freaked out. Why? If gay groups can be proud of their pre-literate four fingered mutant brother-in-arms, why can’t groups who are troubled by the mainstreaming of homosexuality be concerned that their kids are cheering the latest gay superhero? Those who are mocking Falwell are being duplicitous. They are treating Falwell’s bulletin that Tinky Winky has a bright future in interior decorating ahead of him as if it emerged from thin air. We are in the mix of identity politics my friends. If you dismiss the anti-gay argument completely, fine. But don’t be surprised that those who don’t dismiss it will occasionally resist the aims of the mainstreamers. One group’s pioneer is another group’s bad example.

BUGS IS ALL RABBIT
Some of you were very upset by Andrew Sullivan’s suggestion that Bugs Bunny was gay because, while in drag, he almost got married to Elmer Fudd. One reader recounted an excellent point. His kid was watching that episode and said, “Daddy, they can’t get married because they’re both boys.” His father replied, “Son, they can’t get married because one of them is a rabbit.”

THE PROCESS
Many of you kindly, and sometimes unkindly, point out my sometimes terrible spelling and grammar. On this I offer nothing but apologies. The process has its kinks. The Malaysian child laborers we hired don’t know much about these things. Though if anybody wants a straw hat, please contact the New York office of NR.

Others are quite upset that it seems next to impossible to subscribe to the Goldberg File. My understanding is that if you follow the instructions e-x-a- c-t-l-y at the bottom of the page, it should work. But there’s nothing I can do about the fact that subscriber-emails are about eight hours behind the web page.

Speaking of the web page, I am delighted to announce that last month the G- Files finally soared past the 100,000 hits per month mark (not counting subscribers). It is the most popular feature on the NR web page, which is slightly akin to being the world’s tallest midget, but it’s better than chewing on tinfoil.

I’M NOT GOING ANYWHERE — I THINK.
Many of you seem very concerned that I will be quitting or that I will be fired now that the Lewinsky scandal is over (And to be fair, some of you are quite hopeful that I will be canned now that the Lewinsky scandal is over. More on that in a moment). I appreciate the concern a great deal, but I don’t think that will happen, though these Malaysian kids are crawling all over my office with tape measures and plans for the Richard Lowry Editor’s Recreational Center. Only time will tell.

HATE MAIL 101
I have learned not to respond to most hate mail — at least not more than once. Everybody deserves one shot at being treated respectfully. But I think because the scandal has come to an end, and Linda Tripp and my mother are back in the news, people feel particularly motivated to break out the verbal sticks and stones (they are also motivated to send their appreciation, which is deeply appreciated). Still, I would like to get a few quick thoughts out.

First, you are not being clever when you allude to whales, whale blubber, or any other allusion to the biblical context of my name. So far, nobody has come up with anything that I didn’t hear in fifth grade. And, for the record, my name was actually inspired by a jazz musician named Jonah Jones and the beast in the Bible was actually a giant fish. Second. I realize you people are trying to hurt my feelings. But pointing out that my name recognition went up because of this scandal isn’t an insult, and the idea that it will go down now that the scandal is over isn’t frightening for me. Just because you didn’t know my name or see me on TV before this scandal, doesn’t mean I didn’t exist. The degree of crank solipsism is amazing. I’d say a third of the hate mail is from people who think my greatest accomplishment is the fact that they know who I am. And so they think the worst thing they can tell me is that they won’t see me on TV anymore. Very odd. Third, if you people insist on insulting my mother or claiming that she should have killed me in my crib, you should know I’d think you were a bit braver if you actually signed your names. So, off we go into the wild blue yonder. My apologies for the length of today’s file, but I’m just trying to catch-up.



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