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Calling a Spade -- a Liberal; Corrections


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Jonah Goldberg

CALLING A SPADE — A LIBERAL
Hillary mania can only be described as an orgy of intellectual incoherence and Washington feel-goodism. On Friday, the accusation that the President is a fugitive rapist saw the light of day. It was picked up by the Associated Press and The Washington Post. The accusation is unproven but certainly credible enough to warrant discussion. No? After all, this nation went into paroxysms of rage over the idea that a conservative black man might be appointed to the Supreme Court without a thorough airing of accusations that he had asked out an employee and suggested that there might be a pubic hair on his Coke can.

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But you see, Washington just finished a very painful show trial and now that it is over we need to “move on.” Well, we’ve moved on, time to talk about something else; preferably something fun; something improbable–and hey let’s make it flattering to the President’s little lady ‘cause she’s been through a lot.’ So now we have this rotisserie baseball conversation about a candidate who won’t run for Senate in a state she doesn’t live in, against a candidate who would clean her clock. Rapist? What rapist? Let’s talk about Hillary trying to speak Yiddish at a retirement home!

The most ridiculous aspect of Hillary mania is the polls. They run these hypothetical match-ups between Hillary and Giuliani with Hillary in the lead. Well, there you have it. Hillary is a viable candidate for Senator — simple as that. Nobody who knows anything about polls thinks these numbers mean anything. Potential candidates poll well because people like to dream up cool things. Like what if Superman fought the Hulk? But “wouldn’t it be cool?” questions are not real. It would be one thing if all these pundits didn’t know this. But they do. Whenever the political shows run poll results which show hypothetical match-ups between Al Gore and George W. Bush or Liddy Dole, Republicans trounce Gore by a wider margin that Hillary beats Giuliani. But with the Gore match-ups they say, “Of course it’s way too early for these polls to mean anything…”

Normally, I would say fine, let’s have some chewing gum-for-the-brain-debate about Hillary’s prospects. But before we become totally unhinged, it bears recollecting that this is not what the Democratic Party said would happen after the trial. Am I the only one who remembers all of the modern day Trumans and Humphreys who said on every TV show imaginable “We need to put ‘this’ behind us. I for one want to get on with the People’s Business. There is important work to be done…”? By my own mental calculation, I would say hmm, let’s see, carry the one, move the decimal place over one, hmmm wait, no okay, got it. The entire %#$#@^% Democratic Party mouthed this junk. Judging from the comportment of the Senators on Meet the Press for the last two months, if Washington and the press didn’t start paying attention to, say, the Health Care Bill of Rights or Social Security Reform, then all of America would spontaneously burst into flames. It was like they were auditioning for a Profile in Courage Award.

The ever-Churchillian Robert Torricelli was leading the charge to “return to the People’s Business.” Now he should be wearing a fur coat and a giant brimmed pink hat the way he’s pimping for Hillary on every show. But it’s not just him. These days heretofore jaded reporters talk about her with hushed reverence. And normally reverential reporters like Jonathan Alter talk about her as if she’s Scoop Jackson. Indeed, the thing I understand the least is this idea that Hillary isn’t too liberal — or even a liberal at all. This morning Alter suggested that Hillary was some kind of centrist. Lisa Caputo, Hillary’s former Press Secretary, says the First Lady is a practitioner of the “Third Way” (More, much, much more on the Third Way in future columns). But even The Weekly Standard’s Tucker Carlson, who’s about as good as conservatives get in cutting through the media muck, thinks Hillary isn’t particularly liberal for a New York Senatorial candidate. Or at least that’s what he said last Thursday on CNN.

Why am I the only one who remembers the meaning of the Politics of Meaning? Hillary talked — utterly without irony or self-consciousness — about what it means to be a human being in the 20th century. She trumpeted the notion that she was going to provide a “unified field theory” for human existence. Now, many of us have said this sort of thing before, but usually it was in our dorm room very late at night with a lot of Grateful Dead playing in the background. Grown-ups shouldn’t believe this stuff. But if they do believe it, they are about as liberal as is humanly possible. The fundamental insight of conservatism, in the words of Glenn Loury, is that human nature has no history. The impulse to redefine human nature is the central tenet of liberalism. It resides in the sanctum sanctorum of the liberal faith. She believed this five years ago. Why do we assume she doesn’t believe it now?

Think of it this way: If she had been elected Senator in 1992 rather than First Lady, she would have been up for re-election during the election last November. Naturally, she would have had to defend her statements about redefining civilization and humanity, socializing a seventh of the American economy, and all of that pesky scandal stuff too. And even the scandal stuff marks her as a Leftist too. Her brazen willingness to destroy enemies, dismiss personal wrongdoing and the monumental project of justifying Clintonian hypocrisy by believing that the morality of their goals vindicates the immorality of their means, is straight out of the 1930s Left. If conservatives are afraid to call Hillary Clinton, not merely a liberal, but a woman of the Left then they deserve to lose everything in 2000.

CORRECTIONS
Again, my apologies for missing Friday’s correction deadline. I had to make a plane, I had a flat tire, I lost the address, I was sick, some friends came in from out of town….it’s not my fault!

Anyway, the “error” that caught most of your attention was in the following sentence from last week’s column about Hillary: “The fight would adhere more to the rules of the Marquis de Sade than the Marquis of Salisbury.” Was this an error? Most readers assumed, because they are smarter than I am, that I really meant the Marquis of Queensbury, the English aristocrat who came up with the more genteel rules for boxing. But some of my more charitable readers though perhaps I was referring to Salisbury steak — the hamburger smothered in mushrooms and gravy that can most often be found in your high school cafeteria, in the frozen food section of your supermarket, or Bill Clinton’s briefcase. Does this make sense? Let’s see, the rules of the Marquis de Sade would be something like, “Instead of using feather during sex, replace with whole chicken.” The rules of Marquis of Salisbury might be, remove from tray and cook on High for 17 minutes.

Nope, doesn’t seem to work.

But then again, there was a real Marquis of Salisbury and he was an important figure in the history of conservatism. Robert Arthur Talbot Gascoyne-Cecil Salisbury, the third Marquess of Salisbury, replaced Benjamin Disraeli as the leader of the Conservative Party in 1881 and became Prime Minister in his own right in 1885. Salisbury was a devoted conservative who differed with Disraeli on the need for reform. Salisbury was generally an opponent of “doctrinaire” democracy and believed in old-style representation. He also did some terrible things to the Irish and the Indians. So perhaps, I was referring to this Marquis of Salisbury? Well, in that case, the rules would include, a proper disdain for the ignorant masses and a lot of debates in men’s clubs filled with cigar smoke. I’d love it and my guess is even Hillary would prefer it to a real New York style campaign.

But no. I must admit, I was just being an idiot. I meant to say “Queensbury” but I had been reading something that had talked about Salisbury and I screwed up. Thanks for catching it. Go have a Salisbury steak and disenfranchise an Irishman — on me.

The second most common quibble, aside from my continuing diffulty spelling words with the correct letters and writing paragraphs with the requisite number of commas, verbs, nouns and the like, was that I only included New York City questions for candidate Hillary. “What about upstate and Long-geye-land?” asked many of you. Well, I deliberately left out “flyover” New York (just kidding!) because I wanted to make the case for how hard it would be for Hillary to run in her “stronghold.” More questions for candidate Hillary will be forthcoming.

A few of you thought there was a familiar ring to my question about what is above the subtext, (“oh yeah the text”). Some thought it was from Spinal Tap. It was actually from Barcelona, the Whit Stillman movie.

One reader corrected me about the Liberal Party’s endorsement of Giuliani. I said they already endorsed the mayor. Apparently that is in doubt. Since this requires actual research to confirm and I am filing from America today rather than Washington D.C., my crack team of researchers is unavailable to me, and I will have to get back to that one at the end of the week.

Indeed, since I am in Nashville I do not have access to some of your other corrections, so if I did something stupid and didn’t publicly acknowledge the error today, I apologize. There’s always Friday. But everyone could do me a BIG favor. Please, if you have a correction, please use the word “correction” in the subject header. I know everyone wants to be both polite and clever, but headers like “a quibble,” “There you go again,” or “yo! idiot” can get lost when I need them at the end of the week. So be as clever as you like inside the text of your mail, but simplicity in the subject header would be best for me.

As Thoreau once said, “Our life is frittered away by detail. . . . Simplify, simplify.” Now maybe someone could tell me why he said “simplify” twice.



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