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 Josh Duggar who foolishly got a job at the Family Research Council rather than as a party planner on Jeffrey Epstein’s plane),
Bill Clinton is the greatest gaslighter in modern American politics.
This is from the Wikipedia entry on “Gaslighting”:
Sociopaths frequently use gaslighting tactics. Sociopaths consistently transgress social mores, break laws, and exploit others, but typically, are also charming and convincing liars who consistently deny wrongdoing. Thus, some who have been victimized by sociopaths may doubt their perceptions.
Some physically abusive spouses may gaslight their partners by flatly denying that they have been violent.
Gaslighting describes a dynamic observed in some cases of marital infidelity: “Therapists may contribute to the victim’s distress through mislabeling the woman’s reactions. . . . The gaslighting behaviors of the husband provide a recipe for the so-called ’nervous breakdown’ for some women [and] suicide in some of the worst situations.”
A truly sociopathic liar (though his sociopathologies hardly end there), Clinton has a gift for making other people feel like there is something wrong with them for objecting to his deceptions.
At the outset of the 1990s, liberals had worked themselves into a moral panic about sexual harassment. If anything, it was a bigger obsession than the campus-rape panic we’ve been witnessing over the last few years (no doubt in part because there was more factual basis to the problem). Male politicians — Bob Packwood, John Tower, et al. — had their careers summarily ended because of their “womanizing” — a term popularized by Tower’s predations. (Ironically, the original meaning of the word was to “make effeminate,” i.e., to turn into a woman. Given the mainstreaming of sex-change surgery, maybe it’s time to rehabilitate the older definition?)
Then, the country was presented with proof, incremental and suggestive at first, overwhelming and indisputable by the end of the decade, that Bill Clinton was an irrepressible and irresponsible sexual predator, at least by the moral and evidentiary standards established by feminist activists and the press corps that loves them. And, rather than face the consequences of applying their own principles consistently, they prostrated themselves to the Oval Office. Gloria Steinem raced to the pages of the New York Times to advance the “one free grope” rule. Susan Estrich, Susan Faludi, and countless other professional feminists defenestrated their principles in a desperate attempt to defend Clinton.
It was a perfect example of what Lord Acton really meant by power corrupting. He didn’t mean that rulers are corrupted by power, he meant that intellectuals become corrupted by their worship of the powerful.
When Bill Clinton had to “apologize” to his cabinet for playing baron-and-the-milkmaid with an intern and lying about it, he asked if anybody had a problem with it. Donna Shalala foolishly assumed he was being sincere. She chimed in and said she had a problem. He berated her for her effrontery, explaining that her prudish standards would have prevented JFK from being president. And while those of us not ensorcelled by the cult of that charismatic mediocrity might respond, “Yeah, so?” this was a debate-settling argument for many liberals.
Clinton’s sexual exploits were only one facet of his full-spectrum gaslighting of America. He sold pardons. He sold the Lincoln bedroom. He lied and cheated in innumerable ways, large and small, and he successfully made the people who objected, or even pointed out the truth, seem like the weird ones.
The Rise of House Clinton
Hillary Clinton recognized that her ambitions could only be realized by hitching herself to her sociopath husband. No doubt that decision had its downsides, but look where she is now. Let’s not pretend she didn’t make peace with her husband’s ways a long, long, time ago. She was happy to make $100,000 on cattle futures, after all. When the Clintons left office they created a “foundation” whose chief purpose was to give form and function to House Clinton, a modern day version of a medieval aristocracy. The House of Medici did many good things. They fed the poor. They built cathedrals. But their good works were the price of power, not the purpose of the power. The Clinton Foundation does some good things, I’m sure. But the charitable work should be seen for what it is: the cost of business. Mob bosses buy ice cream cones for poor kids. When Marlo Stanfield becomes the big man in The Wire, he’s quick to have his goons hand out money to the school kids for new clothes.
No doubt the Clinton Foundation is full of well-intentioned people who are committed to making the world a better place. But the idea that the core mission of the Clinton Foundation is to do good works is absurd. The core mission of the Clinton Foundation is to expand the empire of House Clinton (and improve the lifestyle of the Lords of the Keep). This is obvious not only from their own accounting, but from everything we know about how Bill and Hillary Clinton have conducted themselves. The mere fact that Sidney Blumenthal was on the foundation’s payroll tells you all you need to know. The Gates Foundation or Oxfam would never hire Sidney Blumenthal because they have no use for a malevolent and lugubrious political mercenary.
This really shouldn’t be a debatable point, save for the fact that the Clintons are so good at corrupting liberals to their cause and gaslighting everyone else who objects.
Jim Geraghty and Michael Gerson make the point that a vote for Hillary Clinton is a vote to endorse the tactics of House Clinton. “A democracy,” Gerson writes, “becomes the image of the virtues it rewards.” What we are witnessing, in real time, is an attempt to bend the country to a standard of conduct that every sane and decent person would recognize as corrupt if described objectively. The problem is the Clintons’ gift for making elites lose their objectivity in the face of the Clintons’ indestructible shamelessness. I fear Ryszard Kapuściński was was correct when he said, “When man meets an obstacle he can’t destroy, he destroys himself.”
Faced with this possibility, the honorable response must be to stand athwart. As Alexander Solzhenitsyn said, “Let your credo be this: Let the lie come into the world, let it even triumph. But not through me.”
A Lie, Told Slowly
If you still don’t see what I’m talking about, let me give you an example. You are being set up, or at least you were.
It wasn’t a set-up like the Red Wedding in Game of Thrones or in some horrible movie like Hostel or Saw or 28 Days. “The Rains of Castamere” will not play while crossbow bolts go thwupt-thwupt-thwupt into your chest just as you realize not only the betrayal but the joys of onomatopoeia. Steel plates won’t slide over the windows as some avuncular innkeeper starts up his chainsaw and laughs as you try to escape. Nor will you discover that the movie you thought was going to be a rollicking zombie flick — i.e., 28 Days Later — turned out to be an unending ass-ache of a film about Sandra Bullock going to rehab.
But it is a setup, nonetheless.
The other day Hillary Clinton repeated her insistence that she wants all of her e-mails released as soon as possible. “Nobody has a bigger interest in getting them released than I do.”
This is the Schrödinger’s cat of spin. It’s a lie until the time comes to take it out of the box as the truth. (If you don’t like this metaphor, just count your blessings I didn’t go with an extended Bruce Jenner riff instead.)
First, the dead cat of lies. If Hillary Clinton wanted these e-mails out ASAP, she would not have printed them out and delivered hard copies — some double-sided, some not, for extra inconvenience — to the State Department.
She would have handed over an easily searchable hard drive. Heck, she still has electronic versions of the e-mails. She could hand them over today if she wanted to expedite the process. But that’s not the plan.
(In case someone points this out, my guess is they’re prepared to reactivate Sandy Berger. He can swing by Chappaqua and steal the relevant device, prompting the question: “Is this a hard drive in my pocket or are you just happy to seize me?”)
Which brings me to the living-feline of veracity: She really does want these e-mails out. Why? Because the damning ones were already destroyed. This shouldn’t be so complicated, and yet I keep hearing useful idiots suggest that Hillary will be “exonerated” when the State Department finally releases the scrubbed e-mails. If you’ve destroyed incriminating evidence, releasing the non-incriminating evidence is a good thing. After all, there’s a little-known codicil to the doctrine of Occam’s razor: When a Clinton says, “There is no evidence I did X,” the most reasonable conclusion is that the evidence of X was “handled.”
A Gaslit Hypothetical
Let me try to explain this in terms Bill Clinton could appreciate. Imagine you’re the kind of guy who spends lots of time looking at, I don’t know, Canadian S&M porn on the Internet.
(What’s special about Canadian S&M porn, you ask? Frankly I don’t know. But I imagine it’s really polite, involving a lot of maple syrup, and whip-wielding women saying “eh” in the dirtiest ways imaginable.)
Now imagine your wife suspects you’re up to no good, but has no proof. Just vague suspicions derived from all the time you spend at Tim Hortons and the way you linger over your poutine. She wants to search your computer.
You could let her search your computer, knowing full well that you’ve scrubbed everything incriminating off of it.
But the best way to maximize your leverage, to make her feel like she’s in the wrong, is to first make a huge stink about the invasion of privacy, about how unfair she is being, how hurt you are that she doesn’t trust you etc. Invoke principles, act indignant, draw out the drama. And, then, with much theatricality, relent to the search. “Fine! You want to look, go ahead and look!”
That way, when she finds nothing, you get to really rub it in like an Ottawan dominatrix with a pint of Aunt Jemima.
The Long March to “Exoneration”
This was Clinton’s plan all along. Already her flacks and hacks have been trying valiantly to redefine the controversy over her stealth server into a more vague and generic controversy over her “e-mails.” The hope was that by the time the State Department released her sanitized correspondence in January of 2016, people would forget about the details — if they ever knew about them in the first place. The specific lies would get airbrushed out of the story and all that would remain would be some vague controversy about her e-mails. Then — voila — they’re released and there’s no there there. “No smoking gun!” and “exonerated!” punctuate the Sunday shows.
Spot the Lie, Not the Lying
The really clever part is that Hillary keeps saying she wants them out as soon as possible. Why? Because everyone knows she’s lying. But she’s not lying about her desire to have them released, she’s lying about her preferred timing. Her critics correctly pick up on the lying but they miss the actual lie. It’s brilliant misdirection.
This is what the Clintons do. People complained about the missing Rose Law Firm billing records for years, and then — surprise! — they were found in the White House and — even bigger surprise! — there was no smoking gun in them.
Ron Fournier reports that Clinton advisers confirmed to him that delaying the release of the e-mails until 2016 was “her strategic choice.” (Truth be told, if I’d read Fournier’s column earlier I would have written a different column!)
Judge Rudolph Contreras screwed up her plan. But like Danny Ocean, you can be sure that the Clinton team knows how to adapt to the unexpected. So we can expect that as every trough of e-mails is released, the Clintons and their enablers will say “See, this whole e-mail controversy was bogus.” It won’t have the same impact as the original strategy, but it will be just as dishonest.
The larger lesson remains: The Clintons are artists at telling lies — Bill by natural talent, Hillary by years of practice and studying her savant husband — and their preferred medium for telling lies is the truth. They take truths and yoke them to the service of lies.
How To Bait a Republican
It may surprise you that despite the rustic-man-of-nature vibe I give off, I’m not an avid fisherman. But I gather that the people who need to yank aquatic-craniate animals out of the water to justify their daytime drinking habits use lots of different kinds of bait depending on the circumstances. The Clintons have many kinds of bait at their disposal as well. The trick for Republicans is to recognize as many of the different lures in their tackle box as possible. It’s worth recalling that even Abraham Lincoln, the first Republican president, was not immune to being baited by his enemies.
This brings me to the allegedly impending Benghazi hearing in which Hillary Clinton is going to testify. Politico had a piece yesterday about how Democrat “insiders” expect this summer spectacle to work to her advantage. If history is any guide, they’re right. It has less to do with Hillary’s skills as a witness (which the Democrats emphasize) and more to do with Republican incompetence at these things. I’ve lost count of how many times Republicans have screwed up hearings like this by mugging for the cameras, spouting off one-liners designed for fundraising e-mails, and using up precious time on mini-speeches that only help the witness run out the clock.
Very few Republicans are skilled at interrogating witnesses. Lindsay Graham, Ted Cruz, and a few other former lawyers understand how to develop a line of questioning. Most just like to hear themselves talk and hope that their orations will make the soundbite highlights on cable news that night.
If I had my druthers — and I rarely get my druthers, which is why I am not writing this from the veranda of my Aegean villa — Trey Gowdy would appoint a committee counsel to ask questions the way Sam Dash did during the Watergate hearings. That won’t happen. But a good alternative would be for Gowdy to ask all the questions. He has a prosecutor’s gift for interrogation. He knows the material. He could ask crisp, factual questions that build a case and expose weaknesses in Clinton’s testimony. And, he’s probably immune to Hillary’s well-honed gaslighting techniques. It’s easy to seem like a victim — ironically one of Hillary’s favorite roles, given her claims of being an empowered, independent woman — when a bunch of blowhard politicians are mugging for the cameras and mansplaining away.
Various & Sundry
I don’t have much for you today in terms of announcements and whatnot. My column yesterday offers a good example of how the Democratic base has been corrupted by the Clintons. Her biggest supporters really have no idea why they are supporting her.
I was on Sean Hannity’s show last night. Andrea Tantaros was guest hosting. She got into a heated discussion with a Democratic consultant named Penny Lee. I was in an insert studio that didn’t have the program on the monitor. I forgot a basic rule of TV: always assume your mug is on TV.
Oh, the National Review webathon has begun. Expect my umpteenth, entirely sincere entreaty in the days ahead.
I’d like to make one serious, albeit familiar, point in the wake of last week’s G-File. Over the last year or so, the G-File has been taking a decidedly jocular turn. I don’t apologize for or celebrate that. I write this thing over a few hours the morning it’s due. Sometimes I’m in a wacky mood. Sometimes not. Alas, some relatively new readers were a bit dismayed by last week’s all too sober “news”letter. To paraphrase Homer Simpson watching Garrison Keillor, you were like “Stupid e-mail, be more funny.” In my defense, the difference is that I wasn’t trying to be funny. It’s an important point. I’m not a humorist. I don’t want to be a humorist. And given the on-the-fly nature of this “news”letter, the more I feel like I’m required to make with the waka waka, à la Fozzy Bear, the less inclined I will be to do so. So if you hate a particular G-File, by all means tell me so. I hate lots of them myself. But please spare me the lectures about what I am supposed to do.
I don’t have a special Zoë update today. But we remain in shock at how she’s suddenly becoming such a good dog.
Speaking of good dogs, however, here’s my essay on pure doggy goodness, adapted from The Dadly Virtues.
Oh and before we leave the topic of good dogs, this may be the best picture ever.
Equal time: The illustrated guide to cat physics.
And here’s the list of students who got a Masters in statistics at Columbia this year.
And here are 17 facts about Blossom.
If you can’t describe how that makes you feel, consult the wheel of feelings.
If you think this is so much navel-gazing, you might want to read up on belly-button lint.