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 those reading this off my server),
On December 8, 1979 two Zairean air-force jets approached the airport in Kinshasa, the capital what is now the Democratic Republic of the Congo. The tower radioed the pilots, telling them they couldn’t land; the air-traffic controllers were concerned about low visibility.
But when the pilots were told that they “couldn’t land,” they didn’t think, “I can’t land right now,” they thought, “I can’t land, ever.” So they ejected from their planes, letting two perfectly good Mirage jets crash into the Atlantic Ocean.
These men weren’t fools. Idiots don’t fly jets. It’s just that, for an instant, they were thinking according to an entirely different set of rules about how life works. “Can’t” means “never, ever, possible” according to these rules — not “wait an hour,” or “find a different runway.” And so they hit the eject button.
Longtime readers may recall I got this story from a great book, David Lamb’s The Africans. Lamb went on to observe that many Africans have a slightly different interpretation of cause and effect. In the West, the lesson the average person would take from a near-fatal car crash at high speeds on a hairpin turn would be “Man, that was close. I better not try that again.” But in Africa, Lamb writes, “if an oncoming car has to swerve off the road to avoid his vehicle, and there are no collisions or injuries, the African does not say, ‘Next time I’d better not do that.’”
I’ve heard similar stories about drivers throughout the developing world, particularly in Latin America, where traffic accidents and fatalities are much higher than in more advanced nations — even though the rate of car ownership is much lower.
The Third World Mind of the Clintons
I don’t bring all of this up to write a “news”letter on the perils of polylogism, but to offer some insight into the Clintonian mind.
Bill and Hillary Clinton are like that Third World driver who takes a hairpin curve at high speed and survives. Everything worked out, so why change your behavior?
Now, Bill is a famous case. In many respects he’s lived a Caligulan lifestyle. No, he’s never tried to make his horse a senator, nor did he order the army to declare war on Neptune, but for him the highest law is whatever he can get away with.
Bill’s entire life has been about cutting corners, shaving the truth — often down to the bone — and conflating his priapism with his sense of entitlement. This has worked out for him because he has superhuman powers of duplicity and cozenage. There are legends in Little Rock of how a young Billy Clinton was on a school field trip to a laboratory when, through an unlikely series of events, a radioactive hustler bit him on the hand, giving him unearthly powers of flim-flammery and deception. The earnest lad was suddenly transformed.
Bill’s entire life has been about cutting corners, shaving the truth — often down to the bone — and conflating his priapism with his sense of entitlement.
I have no doubt Bill believes that he uses his powers for good, but with the pimpish midichlorians coursing through his veins, he can’t help himself. Over time, as he continually escapes the snares reality and morality typically set for mortal men, he has come to have a sense of entitlement and immunity about it all. Like the hazardous driver who’s never had a crash or the lucky investor who’s never lost money, he just thinks: This is the way reality works. Even when a black swan hits him in the grill, he talks his way out of it.
The tragedy for Hillary Clinton is that she is all too human. As Bill’s mortal sidekick, she’s had a good ride. But whereas Bill has an almost Jedi-like ability to lie convincingly — “these aren’t the interns you’re looking for” — Hillary has no superpowers to fall back on. She just has to grind it out. Like Syndrome in The Incredibles or the entire cast of Kick-Ass, she has to compensate for a lack of raw superpowers through guile and technology — and minions, lots and lots of minions. They do her dirty work for her. They burrow into the bureaucracy and cover for her. They get appointed to commissions and erect firewalls against accountability. They tell her what she wants to hear and explain how all bad news is someone else’s fault. They scrub the paper trail. They even shove classified evidence in their pants, if that is what is required. As Renfield to her huband’s Dracula, Otis to his Lex Luthor, Gogo Yubari to his O-Ren Ishii , Alistair Smythe to his Kingpin, Tom Hagen to his Don Corleone, Bizarro World Radar O’Reilly to his evil Colonel Potter, she has amassed considerable resources and abilities of her own. There’s now an entire Clinton-Industrial Complex that fuels and funds the vast interconnected network of minions. They are like agents of Hydra, embedded in the media, in government, and in academia. Places like Media Matters are like huge industrial farms for breeding Clintonian hacks where the larvae are grown in vats.
Convinced they are the rightful heirs of some new American aristocracy, they are willing to make astounding personal sacrifices for the cause. It would not have shocked me if Sandy Berger had yelled “Hail Clinton!” even as the National Archives guards were pulling paperwork out of his fly.
But the problem remains; Hillary is not the charismatic leader her husband is, or was. She’s good at cleaning up the loose ends of her husband’s lies, but she’s not the person you want out front laying down the lies in the first place. His superpowers did not rub off on her, and to assume they did is to confuse the elephant for the guy sweeping up behind it.
The thing is, Hillary’s been riding shotgun on all those hairpin turns with Bill behind the wheel for so long she thinks she can do what he does. She can’t. It’s understandable, of course. The great ones always make it look easy.
I’m feeling better about Trump mania. It’s obviously too soon to tell for sure, but I think we’ve reached Peak Trump.
Still, vigilance is required. And on that note, I’d like to raise a gripe about what is supposed to be Donald Trump’s greatest strength: his vaunted un-PCness. There’s a consensus out there — among friends and foes alike — that Donald Trump’s success stems from his willingness not to abide by political correctness (that and his willingness to build a wall the Mexicans will pay for). This alleged bravery has managed to convince a great many people that Donald Trump is a conservative. And not just a conservative, but the sort of conservative that one must admire and support if one is to be permitted membership in conservative ranks. Only “RINOs” and worse have problems with the man, I hear hourly.Let me just say I have exactly zero sympathy or tolerance for this claim. To me this isn’t a matter of opinion, but one of simple fact. I have little patience for people who tell me I have to support Ted Cruz if I’m going to call myself a “real conservative.” But I at least understand that argument. I think it’s wrong. But I get it. It has an internal logic and consistency to it. I feel the same way about intellectual figures as well. William F. Buckley is a hero to me, but I don’t think you have to be a fan to be a conservative. Ditto Edmund Burke, Russell Kirk, or for that matter George Will or Charles Krauthammer. But when you try the “RINO!!!!!!!!!” argument out on Donald Trump’s behalf, I have to assume your digestive and respiratory system works backwards, because I think you’re talking out your ass. By any reasonable or objective metric I am more conservative than Donald Trump and I have a vastly more consistent record of my conservatism (ditto Kevin Williamson, Rich Lowry, George Will, Charles Krauthammer, Charlie Cooke, etc.). You of course are free to say that this is open to debate. You are also free to say that turtles crap glow-in-the-dark yoyos made of marzipan. That doesn’t make it so. And I’m not much interested in debating the proposition.
Who’s Un-PC Again?
There’s still this bit about Trump being un-PC and how he’s worth giving the nuclear codes to because he challenges the “establishment.” I was on Bill Bennett’s radio show the other morning and a caller said something to the effect of “You know why I like Donald Trump? Because he befuddles people like Jonah Goldberg . . . Political correctness has been destroying this country and blah blah blah.” (Obviously, I’m quoting from memory).
So first let me say, as I said to the caller, that I agree that political correctness is a huge problem, one I’ve written about many times (often punctuated with many un-PC jokes). Second, as I also said to him, maybe I’m not the one who is befuddled. Perchance Trump fans are the ones who are confused, while I see the man more clearly.
Third, and this I wish I had said on air: What the kind of screwed up standard for picking a president is that? Let’s choose the candidate who most annoys Jonah Goldberg! By that standard, Mt. Rushmore would be lined up with the visages of Carrot Top, Alec Baldwin, Debbie Wasserman Schultz, and Tom Friedman.
It is a lie that Donald Trump stands athwart political correctness, yelling Stop.
But here’s the important point: It is a lie that Donald Trump stands athwart political correctness, yelling Stop.
How did Trump respond? If you guessed with Churchillian statesmanship, you guessed wrong. If you guessed with anti-PC fearlessness, you guessed wrong again.
Instead, he played the political-correctness card. He said my tweet was a “horrible insult to women. Resign now or later!”
I still love the “or later.”
He followed up with more demands that I lose my job because of my insult to women.
People have been forced to resign positions for far less than @JonahNRO’s “tweeting like a 14 year old girl”— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) April 21, 2015
In words Donald Trump could never say sincerely, I know this isn’t all about me. So recall that Trump — the man whose best selling point for some people is that he’s inarticulate when discussing Mexicans — bashed Mitt Romney for being too “mean-spirited” about immigrants. In response to the backlash against his immigration remarks, he’s been slowly revising his position. He’s now for a convoluted kind of amnesty that involves rounding up illegal immigrants and then re-admitting them on an expedited basis if they are “terrific.”
All this week, he’s been defending himself against the charge he’s piggish towards women by attacking Jeb Bush for his gaffe on women’s health. Meanwhile, on the actual issue of Planned Parenthood he’s been all over the place, saying it does great work one moment, saying he’d shut it down another. All the while he says Ivanka Trump is his guide on women’s health issues and he wants everyone to know what a “big heart” he has. What could go wrong there?
Trump’s defenders — and Trump himself — say his liberal record shouldn’t be held against him. He’s “evolved.” The while you find inconsistency on the issues if you go back and look at his record — hence the “he’s evolved” defense — you also find a remarkable consistency on his approach to the issues. He makes things up as he goes along. What informs that process? Liberal conventional wisdom (particularly prior to 2010), reality-show pandering, advice of yes-men, Ivanka Trump, and, of course, whatever direction his mouth is wandering off to at any given moment.
It’s totally worth making that kind of guy the nominee. I mean, after all, he bothers me — and that’s all that really matters.
Various & Sundry
Goodbye. I’m finishing this “news”letter on a flight to Boston, where I shall retrieve my progeny. We will then head to Copenhagen for the Pacific Research Institute cruise. I haven’t decided whether there will be another “news”letter before September — or ever! (No, that’s probably not true. Just very dyspeptic at the moment). Stay tuned.
Zoë Update: The dingo is very, very, very cross with me. She knows what luggage means. When I tried to leave for the front door, she intercepted me and started begging me like I was an American official leaving her behind at an evacuated embassy. “Take me with you!” It was pretty brutal. But otherwise, she’s doing well. There is, however, very preliminary talk in the Goldberg household about acquiring a second canine to serve as running buddy for the dingo. Stay tuned.
My column today is on the Clinton spin that Hillary Clinton’s server is being investigated. This is a bit like saying a car in a hit-and-run is being investigated, but the driver isn’t. The only difference is that there is sometimes doubt about who was behind the wheel in a hit and run situation. We know who set-up the server.