Spin the Wheel

by Jonah Goldberg

Dear Reader (and the beautiful mosaic of binders you come in),

Welcome to 2013. I know it’s been awhile. First there were the holidays. Then there was that man in Reno I shot just to see him die. Then there was a debilitating head cold that rendered me about as effective as the Notre Dame offense in the national-championship game (Boom! Filled my college-football reference quota in the first G-File of the year).

I didn’t get to sleep until 1-something a.m. this morning having returned from a hectic two days in Austin. Sober and full of what I have just decided to call flugzeugschmerz (it’s a madcap-sitcom marriage of the word “weltshchmerz” – which is German for “world-weariness” – and the always-hilarious comedic stylings of the German word for airplane “flugzeug.” Can this partnership possibly last? Tune in Tuesday nights at 9 to find out!).

And then I woke up a little before six to say goodbye to the Fair Jessica and (not-so) lil Lucy who are leaving town for what already feels like an eternity. They’re going to spend some quality time in Hawaii with my in-laws, while I stay home and stage gladiatorial battles with their cats. I’m thinking I’ll get a special Jell-O mold that makes Jell-O brains, put some bike-helmet flashing lights underneath, and then, in a silly voice, say things like “I will wager 10,000 quatloos the gray shorthair vanquishes the dumb one!”

What’s Happening

A lot has happened since we last mind-melded. Some bozo wrote in the New York Times that we should round-file the Constitution. We learned that Hillary Clinton actually did have a concussion. Zero Dark Thirty. Oscars. Newtown. Chuck Hagel Al Gore. Fiscal Cliffapalooza. Trillion-dollar coin. KFC organ meats. And, of course, the Mayan apocalypse.

Let’s spin the wheel! Wwwwzzzzzzz . . . Chick-chick-chick-chick-chick: Aw, “try again.” Okay. Wwwwzzzzzzz . . . Chick-chick-chick-chick-chick-chick-chick-Ding! Hillary’s concussion.

I only have one peeve about this story and it has to do with the following question: Since when is it outrageous to suspect that a Clinton is being less than wholly forthcoming or honest? If doubting the veracity of a Clinton is outrageous, is it also outrageous to question why dogs attend to their nethers? Is it beyond the pale to ask why men slow down when walking by the Victoria’s Secret display at the mall? Is it irresponsible to shout “Allahu Akbar! That’s good coffee!” on a plane? Okay, maybe so on the last one, but you get my point.

I don’t think I wrote about it anywhere or even talked about it on TV but I was mildly skeptical about her story. And because I admitted that on Twitter in the wake of the revelation that Clinton had a blood clot, a whole wave of asininity was directed my way by Media Matters and their troll army. How dare you question her honesty! Aren’t you ashamed!? When are you going to apologize!?!?!

Well the answer to the last part is: right after Hillary Clinton explains how those “lost” billing records ended up on a White House table two years after she “misplaced” them. Or maybe after she explains how she was one of the savviest commodities traders in the world, based solely on her reading of theWall Street Journal.

Look, I understand that not everyone shares my particular disdain for the Clintons. And I myself will admit to having mellowed on them myself. But come on. The woman is the secretary of state. And, for weeks, she refused to provide any proof or information about her medical status while insisting she could not testify because of it. Indeed, she has still managed to avoid saying much of anything about Benghazi. Yes, she’s going to testify. But she already has an advantage she wouldn’t have had two months ago: Everyone else is on the record, so she knows who she can or cannot contradict.

Even if you don’t care about the objective truth that the Clintons have a very long history of orchestrating things so that lies and cover-ups don’t stick to them, since when is it outrageous to be skeptical about public officials? Every journalism school in the country bathes larval journalists with the cliché “if your mother tells you she loves you, check it out.” The full phrase is actually: “If your mother tells you she loves, you check it out with two independent sources.”

But, if Hillary Clinton says she can’t testify about a potentially lethal scandal over a literally lethal screw up on her watch, we should all take her word for it?

One last point (yes, I’m standing like a dog aiming his paw at a quail). Okay, one last thing. The surest sign that the outrage aimed at Hillary-doubters is b. s. is simply this: The outrage only materialized after Hillary provided proof she really was in a bad way. In other words, the same supporters who were retroactively scandalized by any imputation of Clintonian dishonesty were themselves waiting to see if Clinton was lying.

Let’s spin the wheel again. Chick-chick-chick-chick-chick-chick-chick-Ding! Aunty’s Choice!

Oh wait, sorry. That’s the wheel from Mad Max: Beyond Thunderdome. “Bust a deal, face the wheel!” and all that.

You have to admit it would have been cool if Boehner had shouted that at Obama during the negotiations with Eric Cantor – saying in that monotone voice of his: “Who run Bartertown? Master Boehner run Bartertown.”

Anyway, let’s spin the wheel again: Chick-chick-chick-chick-chick-chick-chick-Ding! Defenestrating the Constitution!

I’m not going to spend a lot of time on Michael Seidman’s op-ed in favor of “Constitutional disobedience” because it would take a CSI team with very small tweezers to find anything left of Seidman’s argument that hadn’t already been stomped on by others.

In case you missed it, Seidman writes:

As someone who has taught constitutional law for almost 40 years, I am ashamed it took me so long to see how bizarre all this is. Imagine that after careful study a government official – say, the president or one of the party leaders in Congress – reaches a considered judgment that a particular course of action is best for the country. Suddenly, someone bursts into the room with new information: a group of white propertied men who have been dead for two centuries, knew nothing of our present situation, acted illegally under existing law and thought it was fine to own slaves might have disagreed with this course of action. Is it even remotely rational that the official should change his or her mind because of this divination?

Of course, the answer to that question is yes, even hell yes. Indeed, Seidman says the answer is yes, too. Because he goes on to write that politicians should still adhere to the parts of the Constitution he likes. He wants us to keep freedom of speech and all the cool stuff, though not out of “obligation,” just out of “respect” for the goodness of those policies.

The idiocy of this distinction should be obvious. It’s always easy to adhere to the good stuff in the Constitution when it yields outcomes you like. The point of a Constitution is to bind us even when it yields results we may not like.

Anyway, then he writes:

Nor should we have a debate about, for instance, how long the president’s term should last or whether Congress should consist of two houses. Some matters are better left settled, even if not in exactly the way we favor. Nor, finally, should we have an all-powerful president free to do whatever he wants. Even without constitutional fealty, the president would still be checked by Congress and by the states. There is even something to be said for an elite body like the Supreme Court with the power to impose its views of political morality on the country.

There’s just so much stupid here. Who says presidents would feel bound by presidential terms laid out in a now-defunct Constitution? Why, exactly, would Congress be able to check the president? And what, exactly, is the “something” to be said for a Supreme Court empowered to impose its notions of political morality based upon no external source of authority?

But I come to praise this cotton-headed ninny muggins. The idea that the Constitution should be scrapped because it binds enlightened policymakers in ways that statists don’t want enlightened policymakers bound is so, so, so, so old. Charles Beard, Woodrow Wilson, and that whole school of Hegelian Hepcats were saying much the same thing a hundred years ago. Of course, unlike today’s progressives, they weren’t bothered much by the fact that the Founders were racist Pale Penis People. Wilson liked slavery and Jim Crow, after all. But the argument was pretty much the same: Who cares what the founders thought? We are Klingons! And by Klingons I mean we are way smarter and more decent than those old dudes in wigs who had no idea someone would invent Angry Birds.

What makes Seidman special is that he’s honest about it. He’s not quite a lone voice of honesty, Daniel Lazare for instance wrote an interesting – though ultimately barmy – case for much the same thing 15 years ago. But for the most part, the vast majority of liberals today basically agree with Seidman’s argument, they’re just lying when they say they don’t (the most obvious, and I have to say laudable exception, is Glen Greenwald). Some are plainly lying, others are lying to themselves first. But the simple fact is that the whole idea of a “living constitution” holds that the president should be able to break with the written Constitution whenever it’s the “right thing to do” and that the Supreme Court absolutely should impose its own version of political morality on the country. The difference is that the living constitutionalists want to claim that they still love the Constitution. Why? So Americans who actually do love the Constitution will go along with it.

Seidman’s sin is simply saying things plainly. Personally, I’d much prefer it if more liberals had the fortitude to state their preferences so clearly rather than hide them in conservative or patriotic treacle. (“I am amazed you got through all of that without even one shameless plug of your book.” – The Couch).

Spin the wheel! Wwwwwwzzzzzzzzz Chick-chick-chick-chick-chick-chick-chick-Ding! Lose a turn! [Cue audience “awwwwwwwww” sound]

Sorry, folks. I have to do my “show prep” for the next podcast with Rob Long and John Podhoretz, which basically means walking Cosmo one more time so he doesn’t ask for additional perambulation while I’m on “air.” I’ll try to get to some of these topics in the Corner over the weekend, if I get tired of running around the neighborhood with Cosmo in our respective Superman and Superdog capes.

Various & Sundry

Here’s my column on the problem with Biden’s “if it only saves one life” bilge.

Here’s my recap of Downton Abbey’s premiere.

Here’s the link to the NRI Conservapalooza conference in a couple weeks. I hope as many of you can attend as possible. We’re getting the Steyn-Goldberg-Long band back together.

Here’s the last banana slicer you’ll ever need. Oh wait, sorry, I meant this. Make sure you read the reviews.

Absolutely awesome “about the author” paragraph.

Here’s what my routine will look like if my girls don’t come home soon.

My thanks to the great folks at the Texas Public Policy Foundation. I was bummed I couldn’t get to see more of Austin since I’d never been there before and I hear they have people who cook tasty meat products and serve them with beer. Maybe it’s just a rumor. I’ll find out when I go back next month.  

Proof: Female superheroines are cooler to look at than male super heroes.

Not quite charismatic megafauna: the Lion-Doodle.

If you’re reading this today (Friday), I’m scheduled to be on Special Report tonight. If you’re reading this tomorrow, I was scheduled to be on Special Report last night. I hope I made it.

The G-File

By Jonah Goldberg