HAPPY CHEESE-EATING SURRENDER MONKEY DAY! Tomorrow is Bastille Day, the French July Fourth. This is the day when the French peasants declared that they — not just their aristocratic overlords — had rights. They too had the right to: serve salad after you’ve already eaten a whole meal; serve cheese after you’ve just eaten a salad you didn’t want to eat in the first place; wear a black turtle-neck even though it is quite hot outside and you haven’t bathed for at least a few days.
After a few years of turmoil, genocide, and totalitarianism dressed up as clever cocktail banter, and salad and cheese for everyone, the state, er, sorry, I mean l’état, got some rights back. It reserved the right to dissolve itself every time a bunch of liberal-arts majors burnt some tires in the street. It reserved the right to maintain a structural unemployment rate commensurate to exactly one-third of the percentage of Frenchmen who think they deserve six weeks paid vacation for spending the rest of the year sitting in cafés while reading editorials by academics who think France is superior to America because they have their priorities right. They reserved the right to stick a certain shining city on a hill, known at the United States of America, with the job of cleaning up their messes in Southeast Asia and then criticize the U.S. for its racism and colonialism.
But just as the Tenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution says, “The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people,” their constitutions have maintained a somewhat similar clause over the years: “The powers not delegated to the parliament nor prohibited by the bureaucrats, to surrender at the slightest provocation, shall be reserved to les départements or to le peuple.”
Now this may seem unduly harsh. After all, the French did fight a real fight in World War I. The French outside of Paris can have great character and charm. The French inside Paris have planted trees on both sides of their streets so Germans can always march in the shade. The French outside Paris have wonderful farms and vineyards. The French inside Paris love their culture so much they have passed tariffs to keep people from being able to watch American films. Outside Paris, they go to church. Inside Paris, they pay extra to watch old Jerry Lewis movies.
Yet, no matter what you think of French culture, French history, French “valor,” or some of the very old French jokes found above, Bastille Day is no day for celebration. Mikhail Gorbachev was fond of calling the French and Russian Revolutions the two great revolutions of the twentieth century. Gorbachev was also fond of saying that the United States and the Soviet Union were morally equivalent, but on this point he was on to something. The French Revolution and the Russian Revolution flowed inexorably from one to the other the way my lifestyle leads inexorably to my belly. After decades of revisionism in the wake of World War II, French historians are only now revisiting the truth of how they initiated the world into utopian slaughter.
We have visited the issue of the perfidy of the French many times. And it is unlikely this will be the last (although I think there is something in the water, because in the last two weeks I have received an inordinate number of requests to bash — oops — I mean expose the French). So I don’t want to go too far afield — especially not when the Belgians are monitoring my every move. But as tomorrow is a day when the French take a day off from being unemployed to celebrate their superior lifestyle, we should remind ourselves of what the French Revolution truly was about.
Paul Johnson said of the French Revolution that it was the “classic demonstration of the capacity of words to kill.” Robespierre and his merry band of murderers brought on the era of total politicization. No aspect of human life was beyond the touch of politics after the French Revolution. The state was granted a right to destroy institutions and traditions which protected the family and the individual from the violence of the state. Throughout the world, the French Revolution became an inspiration for men and women to rationalize their actions in terms of their purported ends. As Johnson puts it “every would-be plunderer or ambitious bandit now called himself a ‘liberator’; murderers killed for freedom, thieves stole for the people.”
Hitler, Stalin, Mao, Pol Pot, all admired the French Revolution and found within it precedents for their own contributions to world history (though most of them found the American Revolution utterly useless). In the region of western France called the Vendée, a royalist uprising resulted in the sort of cleansing that would have made Slobodan Milosevic proud. Estimates range from the high tens of thousands to over a half million people. Many were killed by means of forced drowning. Barges full of undesirables were floated into the Loire and sunk.
As I say, there’s no reason to dawdle here. The French Revolution gave us so many things we can despise today, why fight for the victims long since buried or drowned. “False consciousness,” “denial,” radical egalitarianism, various and sundry movement-builders, blaming inconvenient facts on bad motives, political utopianism, and of course Oliver Stone, Jane Fonda, and Hillary Clinton can all be laid in one way or the other at the feet of Robespierre.
Happy Bastille Day. Have a salad on me.
THE FRENCH, THEY ARE DIFFERENT. AND SHOULD NOT BE USED AS ROLE MODELS So lo and behold: Hillary Clinton thinks we should emulate the French way of raising our kids. In her book, It Takes a Village, and in an op-ed she wrote for the New York Times in 1990, Mrs. Clinton sings the praises of the French child-care system. Whether she still holds these views is impossible to tell, as she has been stripping herself of her husband’s positions the way her husband might strip off his pants at the intern pool.
But assuming she does, here is what she thinks. The French are great because they spend a billion-zillion francs (which should be about $38.95 but is actually quite a bit of schmundo) on day care for their children. Now she’s too smart to say we should do precisely what the French do. “France is a country far smaller and more homogeneous than ours.”
This is an important point because the French are surely quite Francophillic in the way they raise their oui-ones (Get it? Get it?). The French taught children in their colonies in Africa that they were the descendants of the Gauls. The French start really early with the “France is great” stuff. Look at the fights we have today over such things as school prayer and high-school curricula. Would you want the Clintons and the Children’s Defense Fund being the people in charge of imprinting values on your three-year-olds? It cuts both ways; imagine the howling from the Left if conservatives ran the show. “Yes, Billy that’s an American flag, you should love it and honor it.”
That’s fascism according to the Dershowitz crowd.
So Hillary heads off that pesky “values” issue which would likely come up. Instead, she says “What I do believe, however, is that the French have found a way of expressing their love and concern through policies that focus on children’s needs during the earliest stages of life.” Well, that’s awfully sweet. Government as an instrument of love! You see, this isn’t an issue of politics, it’s an issue about children and our love for them. Cue the Disney butterflies and snuggly little bunnies!
If the Right would just lay down their guns and accept a huge government-run and government-valued child-care system, our children would prosper — even the children of right wingers (as surely we would educate them out of their intolerance).
“How can you transcend your political differences and come to an agreement on the issue of government-subsidized child care?” Hillary asked of her French hosts when she was over there. “One after another of them looked at me in astonishment. ‘How can you not invest in children and expect to have a healthy country?’ was the reply I heard over and over again.”
Ohhhhhhhhhh… The French were astonished. The French were astonished. Well, no wonder Hillary is convinced.
First of all, when did we get to stipulate that France was so healthy? How do we define health? Mental health? No, that can’t be it — Jerry Lewis, and all that. Physical health? Okay, so they have the slightest of edges on us in life expectancy.
But that can’t be the answer. She must be talking about political health. Because in a mature, politically healthy society, people don’t question the role of government. It’s like the role of fire and toilets and shredders at the Rose Law Firm — they’re just there and should be used as often as necessary or possible.
Let’s also not forget that the French practice what the demographers call pro-natalist policies. In other words, the French need to encourage people to make more babies, because European birth rates are in the tank and, unlike in the U.S., we don’t mind (as much) maintaining our population through immigration. Anti-immigrant feelings are just one of the enlightened reasons the government makes parenthood as painless as possible.
French “astonishment” has less to do with the fact that their policies are better as much as it has to do with the fact that the French can’t stand Americans. The French are also astonished by the fact that Americans: bathe every day, don’t know diddly about the U.N., don’t want the government to raise their kids, don’t think of France as an equal great power, don’t think it’s a sign of national greatness to subsidize the bulk of Africa’s corrupt bureaucrats, think it’s an odd idea to spend tax dollars on a film industry dedicated to the notion that chance encounters in used-book stores make for great drama, and think that their national leaders shouldn’t be canoodling the help while they impose sexual-harassment laws on the rest of us.
Our idea of political health is to keep politics out of as many spheres of human life as possible. “Consensus” on children’s issues, like with so many other things in today’s political arguments, means simply “capitulation” to the mature politics people like Hillary Clinton admire.
THE POLL. FOR REAL THIS TIME. Okay, my apologies for the late posting and polling failure yesterday. Not that too many of you cared. Clearly, these polls are not very popular. Judging from the internal web stats for the Goldberg File (incredibly prized information), less than 20% of you are voting for what you think the best political shows are. Also, according to Goldberg File web stats, some of you are spending too much time on naughty sites.
Anyway, a promise is a promise, So today we continue with the G-File poll and we cover the one-on-ones. This is a broad category with loose definitions. Even John McLaughlin’s literally named One on One usually has two or three guests. Still there are a few shows where the host is the center of attention. Since I produced just such a show — Think Tank with Ben Wattenberg — for quite some time, I feel obliged to throw it into the mix as well. If you don’t get the show in your area it’s because you haven’t thrown a brick through the window of your local affiliate with a little note attached saying “enough with the cooking shows already!”
What is the best political show on TV, Part III? Drudge John McLaughlin’s One on One Watch It! with Laura Ingraham C-SPAN’s Morning Journal Think Tank with Ben Wattenberg Larry King Live The Crier Report