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Deer Reader (and all of you who never get tired of jokes about reading off of ungulates),
I don’t have much use for defenses of Donald Trump in general, but the one I have the least patience for is that the opening question to all the candidates of whether they would support the eventual GOP nominee and forgo a third-party run was “unfair.”
Just to set the stage: This was literally the stage — like the physical stage — of the next Republican convention. This was the first debate in the contest for the nomination to lead the Republican party. Donald Trump is the frontrunner in the polls for that nomination and he has, several times in recent weeks, suggested he might take his marbles and go if he’s not the nominee. But it was unfair to ask him about it?
Donald Trump has suggested he might take his marbles and go if he’s not the nominee. But it was unfair to ask him about it?
Imagine there’s an election for your high-school chess club or your local Shriners group or the Regional Association of Men Who Eat Over the Sink (I’m treasurer). And one guy has been saying over the last couple weeks that if he doesn’t get elected the next president he will quit this organization and set up a rival one. You don’t think it’s fair to ask him about that?
But wait, as an oppo-researcher says to his boss when playing him a video of a Debbie Wasserman Schultz press conference, “Hold on. It gets dumber.”
Contrary to what you might have read over the urinal at Mother Jones, Bret Baier doesn’t work for the GOP. So even if you think it’s unfair for a Republican to expect an answer to that question — which is crazy talk — you have to have your head so far up Donald Trump’s red-velvet-lined ass you can see the glow of the nickel slot machines, to think it’s out of bounds for a journalist to ask that question.
RELATED: Trump: All Bluster and Babbitt
And by the way, what’s up with the whining? All I ever hear from Trump supporters is how “he fights” and “he doesn’t back down” and — of course — “you just don’t get it.”
Well, if it’s too mean to ask this “fighter” to hold up his hand to answer a question he basically begged the world to ask him, is he really deserving of the label? Trump was given an opportunity to explain his position. Go back and read his response. Here it is:
I cannot say. I have to respect the person that, if it’s not me, the person that wins, if I do win, and I’m leading by quite a bit, that’s what I want to do. I can totally make that pledge. If I’m the nominee, I will pledge I will not run as an independent. But — and I am discussing it with everybody, but I’m, you know, talking about a lot of leverage. We want to win, and we will win. But I want to win as the Republican. I want to run as the Republican nominee.
I know what you’re thinking: It’s like when Abraham Lincoln spoke at Cooper Union. Oh, I don’t mean Lincoln’s address. That was a marvel of erudition and coherence. I mean the crazy shirtless guy with a horseshoe sticking out of his open fly shouting, “Did you feed the cat!?” who was dragged out of the room five minutes before Lincoln spoke.
By the way, I will make a similar pledge. If I’m the nominee, I vow not to run as an independent as well. Similarly, if I’m made King of America I will not make any effort to become King of Australia.
What Don’t I Get Again?
I know, I know. I “just don’t get it.”
Which reminds me, here’s a hint, people: If your best argument is “You just don’t get it,” you’re probably the person who doesn’t get it. Why? Because “You just don’t get it!” is not an argument. Sure, I understand if you say it after you’ve made a serious case with facts, data, and logic. But when you start out with “You just don’t get it,” the brain farting is all on your end of the conversation. It roughly means: “Earth logic is useless in communicating why I think this guy should be the nominee. So I will, like an ugly American, shout the same phrase over and over again on the assumption that with greater decibels comes greater understanding.”
As I learned from wading through a river of pro-Trump tweets last night to the point where I felt like I was escaping Shawshank prison through a sewer pipe, what I apparently don’t get is that Trump won’t commit to the party because he needs “leverage.” The word “leverage” is even in his response; it stands out like a lone crouton in that wilted word salad of his.
I understand why Trump won’t pledge loyalty to the nominee — it’s not complicated. He’s threatening the party to make nice on him or else. That may be a smart tactic. But if that’s his tactic, what’s your objection to asking him about it again?
Trump, Putanesca Style
By the way, I think Rand Paul was exactly right, if not exactly effective, in his critique of Trump last night. Trump’s argument is that as a businessman he had no choice but to essentially buy politicians.
BAIER: . . . You’ve also supported a host of other liberal policies. Use — you’ve also donated to several Democratic candidates, Hillary Clinton included, Nancy Pelosi.
You explained away those donations saying you did that to get business-related favors.
And you said recently, quote, “When you give, they do whatever the hell you want them to do.”
TRUMP: You’d better believe it.
Trump added a few moments later that as a “businessman”:
I give to everybody. When they call, I give.
And do you know what?
When I need something from them two years later, three years later, I call them, they are there for me.
He even went so far as to insinuate that he bought most of the people on the stage with him last night. That prompted one of my favorite moments. Rubio said he didn’t get any money from Trump adding, “Actually, to be clear, he supported Charlie Crist.”
I remember a time when “the base” hated people who supported Charlie Crist. Now, because of the reality-warping power of Donald Trump, supporting Charlie Crist isn’t only defensible, it’s what all the smart businessmen do.
Seriously: What the Hell is wrong with conservatives who denounce crony capitalism in theory but forgive it in practice? Trump is like a john damning the prostitutes he beds for being whores. Since when does being a businessman mean never having to say you’re sorry?
Oh, and what are we supposed to make of Trump’s boast — boast! — that he bribed Hillary Clinton to attend his wedding? Why is this something you would pay for? Why is this something you would admit? I mean, how is this proof of Trump’s shrewdness as a businessman? I get paying Hillary Clinton to get a zoning favor or a tax break or something like that. But how does having Hillary Clinton eating your canapés help your bottom line?The guy is bragging about how, as the greatest businessman ever, he shrewdly buys politicians — and his example is getting Hillary Clinton to attend his wedding? I guess not since John D. Rockefeller got Mrs. Harding to attend his daughter’s piano recital has there been a more deft move in the world of high-stakes business. As I joked on Twitter last night, “It profits a man nothing to give his soul to gain the whole world, but for …. Hillary Clinton at your wedding?”
I could of course go on about the idea that the savior of American conservatism is a man who thinks socialized medicine works great in Canada and Scotland and who seems to honestly believe that illegal immigration “was not a subject that was on anybody’s mind until I brought it up at my announcement” two months ago.
But, again, the problem is I “just don’t get it.”
Now, the Important Stuff
Last night’s debates were actually extremely encouraging. I was probably a little too narrow in my declaration — over at Politico — that Rubio, Cruz, and Fiorina were the only winners. At the very least, there weren’t a lot of losers. I mean, yeah, sure, historians will spend decades trying to figure out what Jim Gilmore was doing up there. Honorable, decent, smart guy, I’m sure. But he’s the answer to a question no one is asking.
I increasingly believe that if this Rick Perry had run in 2012, he might be president now. He certainly might have been the nominee. I was very hard on Perry last time around because nothing pisses me off more in politics than when talented and charismatic politicians don’t do their homework. Charisma can’t be bought — if it could, Romney would have bought a ton of it. But you can buy knowledge and preparedness. It takes remarkably little money but a good deal of effort. Perry blew his moment last time so this time he’s running the way a candidate should: seriously.
And that’s true of most of these candidates. The best example is Carly Fiorina. She’s comes to play and doesn’t lose her cool. She was the clear winner of the 5:00 p.m. debate, but Jindal and Perry gave good performances, too. Carly also really shined afterwards. Her interview with Chris Matthews was one of the best examples of a conservative eating a liberal’s lunch since Andrew Breitbart commandeered Anthony Weiner’s press-conference podium.
I will say I was much more bullish on the 5:00 P.m. panel than warranted. I assumed the main debate wouldn’t be as awesome as it was — a safe assumption, I think! Fiorina still helped herself a lot, but it turns out the kiddy-table debate really was a poor substitute for the primetime gig.
Obama’s Iran Speech
For reasons I will get to in a moment, this was an absolutely terrible, horrible, no good, very bad week. So I couldn’t get my normal Friday column done yesterday. That was particularly vexing because it was on Obama’s Iran speech, which I thought was not only bad, but outrageous. It was petulant, small, nasty, partisan, wildly hypocritical, and dishonorable in almost every regard. People who celebrated it should be ashamed of themselves. And the press’s ho-hum reporting on it as if it were just another presidential speech is a searing indictment of not just their news judgment but their partisanship.
The president of the United States said critics of the Iran deal were finding common cause with a murderous Iranian regime — a regime that he has coddled, accommodated, and apologized for time and again. He imputed to his domestic political opponents a none-too-vague whiff of cowardice, dual loyalty, and dishonor. In vintage Obama mode, he condemned the partisanship of his critics while delivering a searing partisan attack. He once again bragged about his opposition to the Iraq War while denigrating all those who supported it — including both of his secretaries of state and his vice president — as if that proves the rightness of everything he does. But this time he went further, basically suggesting that if you don’t support this deal, you are rewarding this evil fifth column in our midst. It was disgusting.
Last, he threatened that if you don’t support his deal, it will mean war.
This is a lie. First of all, if Congress votes down the deal tomorrow, who here believes that Obama will say, “Well, we have no choice now. We have to go to war.”
It was the most shameful presidential speech on foreign policy in my lifetime. Shame on him and his fans.
Who here believes that the people cheering his speech as powerful and impressive will apply its logic if it fails? Will David Axelrod — who loved the speech, of course — suddenly say, “Diplomacy has failed, alas. Now we have no choice but to bomb Iran.”?
They are fear-mongering and lying while denouncing their opponents as fear-mongerers and liars.
They are dishonestly threatening war because war is the only option less preferable than this unbelievably bad deal. It’s a magic-beans deal, minus the magic. It’s the equivalent of giving the Clintons millions in exchange for Mrs. Clinton attending your wedding.
It was the most shameful presidential speech on foreign policy in my lifetime. Shame on him and his fans.
Feel free to skip what follows. I just needed to get it out of my system.
So, I was supposed to be at the Cleveland debates. I had credentials waiting for me. I even prepaid for a hotel room for two nights. But on Monday, a couple hours after my wife departed for a week in Alaska, I got word from the folks at the Pacific Research Institute that there was a problem. You see, I’m going on the PRI cruise from Copenhagen to St. Petersburg. I didn’t make a big deal about it around here, because every time I go on a competing cruise to National Review’s (super-terrific-awesome) cruises, NR publisher Jack Fowler starts cutting himself again. But this seemed like a great cruise, and the Goldbergs could use the subsidized travel to turn it into a family trip. So far so good. So anyway, on Monday I got word that there was a problem with my daughter’s passport. You see, there’s a rule that on foreign cruises (and similar travel) your passport has to be valid. “Well, duh,” you’re probably saying. “Of course it needs to be valid.” Well, you didn’t let me finish. It needs to be valid for six months after the conclusion of your cruise. My daughter’s passport expires in November. The cruise ends on August 22nd. So, okay. I’ll get Lucy a new passport. That’s inconvenient but doable. I’ve known people to get new passports in 24 hours. All I need to do is pay one of these passport expediting services. For just shy of $500 they can guarantee that I get her passport renewed in 24 hours after getting the right paperwork. All I have to do is follow their instructions to the letter. What I was unprepared for was the complication of these instructions and the degree to which they have to be done in the correct order. The folks at the service are kind of like the guy talking the civilian through how to land a plane in a 1970s disaster movie. “Do this. Don’t do that. Don’t touch that! I can’t believe you slept with Sharon!”
So where was I? Oh, right, there’s a hitch. My daughter needs to personally apply — as in physically be at a passport office or post office — as if it were her first time doing so, because she’s a minor. Well, crap on a stick. Lucy’s in rural Maine at sleep-away camp. I’m going to NYC to do Outnumbered on Wednesday and then fly to Cleveland to be over-served at bars while getting spun by consultants and cursed out by Trump fans or maybe the Pataki fan. Well, maybe I can take her when I get back? Oh no. You see, not only does Lucy have to apply in person. Both parents must be physically present with her. Well, now we’ve got a real problem. The cruise needs the updated passport information in eight days or we won’t be allowed to board the boat. Well, I could board without my daughter and my wife, but then again, I could also see what parts of my body best fit into a Cuisinart in frappé mode on my long planned family vacation. Not an option.
Jessica won’t be back from Alaska until 48 hours or so before the deadline. Aha. Jessica can fill out a form — there’s always a form! — have it notarized, stamped, approved by the priests, and, assuming the goats’ entrails are auspicious, the bureaucrat will smush his signet ring into the hot wax. This form attests that she is she and that my wife co-owns the title on our kid and that I have her permission to get our daughter a new passport to replace the perfectly valid passport she already has without her present. So, the only way this works is for me to cancel my flights from New York City to Cleveland (and eat the hotel costs) and instead figure out travel to rural Maine. I have to time it so that my wife gets the form to me in time — and place — so that I have it with me when I take the child to apply.
Oh, so I get to New York to do Outnumbered. Happy to do the show — great bunch of gals and pre-debate talk should be fun — but super inconvenient given my new priorities. I wake up at 5:00 a.m. Perambulate the dingo. Leave for train station. (My AEI research assistant has agreed to house and animal sit for me. He seemed agreeable when I took out my revolver and laid it on my desk before I asked him.) Make 7:00 a.m. train to New York. On train I learn that Obama will speak at 11:15 from American University on the Iran deal. So I say to myself, “Self, how much you want to bet he’s late and preempts this show?” So I get there. Obama is 45 minutes late, which is roughly 25 minutes later than his standard tardiness. So there I am, caked in makeup, sitting on a couch with four ladies, having an Obama speech-watching party. Every five minutes the producer updates us on what we won’t be able to do as Obama chews up the time (and America’s integrity). I end up on air for two minutes. Totally worth the trip.
So, I head to Penn Station, the only place left on the East Coast that really captures the full ambrosia of urban failure and urine. For the second time in two weeks (we just had our daughter’s parents’ weekend at camp), I head to Boston (I had taken three separate red eyes from Canada to make visiting day at the end of the NR cruise). This time, I take the train to Boston, not remembering that I had rented the car from Logan airport. So even when I’m not flying into that open sewage pit of an airport, I still gotta go there. I take a cab from the train station (got ripped off on the fare — long story), get to Logan airport, and rent a car. Because my daughter loves VW bugs, I take the pale blue VW bug when offered. From the moment I get behind the wheel, I can feel my sperm count dropping and my testosterone evaporating through my pores. I check between the seats for my Y chromosome. I drive to Portsmouth, N.H. (for my third visit this summer, another long story). The paperwork from my wife is waiting for me at the hotel. Yay. I spend the next couple hours going back and forth between the hotel bar, business center, and the reception desk getting copies made, talking to the specialists at the passport service, and generally trying to remember everything I need to do while drinking to forget. I wake up at 5:00 A.M. again to write my Iran column. But I get myself too angry to get it done the way I want to. I’ll get back to it later. And I need to get on the road to pick up my kid. I drive to Maine. She’s late for pick-up because you can’t wear white T-shirts or uniforms for your passport picture. That’s almost all she’s got. Anyway, I exfil kid. Drive back to Portsmouth. We sacrifice the appropriate chickens. Get kid’s passport photo taken. It looks like a mugshot on TMZ. We leave post office for the UPS store to send the paperwork off to D.C. where I live so they can start the process of replacing her perfectly valid passport. Take kid to lunch. Drive her back to camp along the same windy rural roads I drove that morning. Day dragged on too long. No time for column. I discover that the testosterone-draining VW Bug doesn’t have any USB ports or working cigarette lighter thingies. So batteries all die. I use my laptop as a portable battery for my phone. Not going to make it to Boston in time for first debate. Fox News Radio not carrying it because everyone likes to hear the third hour of the Tom Sullivan show instead of the first debate of 2016. Duh. Call D.C .bureau of Fox and try to get someone to put me on hold so I can listen to live broadcast they use instead of muzak. That doesn’t work for some reason. Call my research assistant. He’s at my house. He puts phone up to TV and I listen with the remaining juice in my phone battery. And then I watched a great debate. No word yet on whether I’ll get the passport in time.
Zoë Update: She was very happy to see me when I got home.