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 (though not Sid Blumenthal, who is probably busy trying to figure out how he can get his penny loafers on over his hooves),
But if it’s meteorological metaphors you’re looking for, back in Washington, the clouds are actually parting. It’s been a week of clarification:
Paul Ryan will almost certainly be the next speaker of the House.
Lincoln Chafee will go back to his true calling as an artisanal vegan cheese monger (sold by the gram and kilo only!).
Joe Biden will almost certainly spend his retirement telling strangers at the bar that he could have been president if he wanted to. Then again, he’ll also probably tell them that he can fit 38 Ho-Hos in his mouth at one time and that Belize smells like Robert Reich’s hat.
Lot’s of people are saying Hillary is now assured to be the Democratic nominee — and even president — because of these clarifying events of the last ten days or so. I don’t think any of that is nearly so clear. Bernie Sanders may still win in both New Hampshire and Iowa. And I continue to have trouble believing such an event wouldn’t reshuffle the race and draw someone else to the rescue.
But something else was made clear this week: Hillary Clinton is a committed and unapologetic liar. Of course, this wasn’t actually a revelation any more than testimony from the Secretary of the Interior that, after extensive study, he can confirm that bears do, in fact s** * in the woods.
Playing Their Parts
There’s a scene in one of the Dune books where Paul Atreides experiences living through the moments he’d already prophesied. If I remember right, it was a dreamlike sense of ennui as he walked through steps he’d felt he’d already walked through. Or something like that. The point is that when it comes to Clintons lying and the press not caring and turning their derision on those who do, it’s déjà vu for as far as the eye can see.
EDITORIAL: What Hillary Knew
So I wasn’t surprised that the Benghazi hearings went as they did. The narrative was written before she entered the room. The only thing that ever confuses me is why so many Republicans are so willing to play their parts with such predictability.
Benghazi Was Never Complicated
Personally, I’ve never found the Benghazi scandal very mysterious. It’s been clear for a very long time what happened. I’ve been saying as much for years on TV and even in this very “news”letter. For instance:
There is an enormous amount of theorizing about what the “real story” behind Benghazi really is. To me it’s always been obvious. The White House was caught off guard — for reasons stemming both from ideology and incompetence — on September 11, 2012. As they have after virtually every other (jihadist) terrorist attack on Americans, they acted as if it had absolutely nothing to do with them. As with the Times Square bomber, the Fort Hood shooter, and other Islamist assaults, there’s always some other reason for the bloodshed, some attempt to claim, at least for a while, that this was an “isolated incident” with no broader implications for the War on Terror or Obama’s foreign policy. Admittedly, even this White House understood that spinning the Benghazi attack as an isolated incident wasn’t going to work (such intense spinning could risk irreparable scrotal torsion). So they went with the story about the video.
At least in Wag the Dog Robert DeNiro (Connie Brean) kept denying the misinformation he was spreading:
Conrad “Connie” Brean: You’re goddamn right, then it’s got nothing to do with the B-3 Bomber!
John Levy: There is no B-3 bomber. Conrad “Connie”
Brean: [Knowingly] I just said that! There is no B-3 bomber, and I don’t know why these rumors get started!
Liar, Liar, Pantsuit on Fire
Yesterday’s hearings confirmed that Hillary Clinton deliberately and knowingly lied when she blamed it all on that video. This really isn’t a debatable point now. We can argue about why she lied and we can debate whether that lie matters. But that she lied is incontrovertible.
RELATED: Hillary’s Breathtaking Mendacity
First of all, we know that the video story wasn’t, in fact, true.
Second, we know that the Obama administration knew it wasn’t true.
Third we know that Hillary knew it wasn’t true. (You could claim that she was lying to the Egyptian prime minister when she said, “We know that the attack in Libya had nothing to do with the film.” But it seems less likely that she would have lied to her own daughter on the night of the attack.)
After reading many of Clinton’s e-mails — never mind her bizarre claim in the Democratic debate that the Libyan intervention was a success story — it seems pretty clear that one of her motivations was to shift blame away from what she — and Sid Blumenthal — had wrought. They had schemed for a long time to find a way to spin the Libyan adventure as her triumph in anticipation of a presidential run. The Benghazi debacle threatened to shed light on the underlying policy failure — not just of failing to provide security, but of the whole intervention. Better to blame the video.
Protect the Hive Queen!
We learned something else as well: Much of the mainstream media simply does not care.
Noah Rothman has a good rundown of the praetorian media’s response to the hearings. In short, Hillary Clinton lied over and over and over, but she did it with poise and grace, so she’s the winner. I should be more furious about it all, but rage is hard to muster when the outrageous is so predictable.
Contempt, however, is much easier to conjure.
When supposedly objective journalists preen about their calling to afflict the comfortable and comfort the afflicted, they aren’t describing their job, they’re admitting their motive for betraying their job.
When ensconced in comfortable leather chairs at conferences in resort hotels, bigwig journalists love to tell themselves that their job is to “comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable.” Never mind that that isn’t their job. Their job is to tell the truth. Afflicting the comfortable when the comfortable have done no wrong isn’t brave journalism, it is reified asininity of the first order. So is the common practice of anointing certain people or peoples as “afflicted” and then using them as ideological cudgels and props. When supposedly objective journalists preen about their calling to afflict the comfortable and comfort the afflicted, they aren’t describing their job, they’re admitting their motive for betraying their job.
The late I.F. Stone — of whom I was no fan — was routinely and widely celebrated by the elite media in Washington because, in the words of Anthony Lewis, he “taught us to penetrate the squid ink of official truth.”
The fact that Stone was particularly persuadable by anything written in the blood-red ink of Communist lies always made such praise clang off my ears like a monkey wrench thrown at a closed bank safe. But the cult of Stone illuminated the way the media regard the truth: It’s not valued for its own sake, but for its utility in a larger story.
When the truth is inconvenient to the villains of the tale, the pursuit of truth is celebrated as the ne plus ultra of their vocation. But when the truth is inconvenient to people they like — or beneficial to people they don’t like — it really isn’t all that interesting or important.
Remember, in the aftermath of the Benghazi attack, the Obama White House used the video lie to launch a national conversation on the limits of free speech. Obama even went to the U.N. and, before the whole world, put our free-speech rights in the dock. Blaming America, specifically our attachment to the First Amendment, is a much easier conversation for this White House — and the praetorian pundits who cover for it — than the White House’s unpreparedness and ineptitude in the face of Islamic terrorism.
If George W. Bush and Condoleeza Rice had instantly blamed a terrorist attack on a video and then it was revealed they deliberately lied about it to win reelection, newsrooms across this country would be aflame in outrage. What is the response when the same fact pattern applies to the Obama and Clinton? “Meh.”
Please note: I am not paraphrasing. That was literally the response of Glenn Thrush, Politico’s chief political correspondent.And this brings us to the most clarifying lesson from the last week. It’s less a clarification than a reminder. The mainstream media will never, ever, be a friend to the Republicans. That’s not to say that they will always come to the rescue of Democrats. Hillary Clinton has gotten some tough but fair coverage from the MSM. But whenever there’s an unavoidable choice to be on one side of the cultural divide or the other, the MSM will stand with the Democrats because, at the end of the day, they are Democrats and they think Democrats are normal people.
This is an important point because I think conservatives have a tendency to see things like this through the prism of ideological bias. That is obviously part of the equation. But an under-appreciated factor is that the press just sees Democrats as normal and Republicans as “the other.” The Clintons have always been brilliant at exploiting this. They’re gaslighting the press and the country. Republicans respond with anger and overreach, and the press takes the bait. It’s much easier for them to forgive the Clintons for their wanton and brazen lies than it is to look past Republican tantrums — real or perceived. The social circles of the elite press and the Democratic party overlap almost completely. Friends, spouses, and former colleagues go to work for Democrats or become media peers. Vast networks of them rely on the Clintons one way or another. And they become corrupted by it, in large ways and small. That’s why I keep saying “lie” and “liar” with regard to the Clintons. We shouldn’t let anyone get away with the idea that the Clintons are just like other politicians or that what they’ve done isn’t what it is. It makes all of the right people wince when you call Hillary a liar, because the truth still stings.
Various & Sundry
Getting to Dallas: On Tuesday, I barely got to the airport in time for my flight to Dallas. My wife had a much earlier flight, so I had to work solo getting the kid to the school bus stop, perambulating the Lady and the Dingo, etc. But I made it. I raced to the kiosk and plugged in my confirmation number. Nothing came up. I went to the agent. She couldn’t find my itinerary either. It turns out United Airlines has a two-step system where they send you an e-mail that says, “Thank you for choosing United.” The e-mail gives you your seat assignments. It contains your confirmation number.
But only a fool would think that this is actually a confirmation that your flight has been confirmed. You have to wait for a second e-mail that confirms yours confirmation number. The original confirmation number isn’t a confirmation, it’s merely a reservation. The lady working for United kept telling me this as if I would find some meaningful reassurance in it. I don’t want to pick on her because she ended up helping me out. But it was a very Seinfeldian half-hour going back and forth over the meaning of “confirmation.” “Call me crazy, ma’am, but don’t you think a corporation that lives and dies by such details might want to use a phrase like ‘non-binding reservation number’ or ‘temporary itinerary number’? Or better yet, maybe United.com shouldn’t send any e-mail with the phrase ‘confirmation’ in it until the ghost in the machine is ready to commit?”
I recount this tale just because a bunch of folks on Twitter wanted to know how it ended. I did make it to Dallas. I did get to emcee the William F. Buckley Prize dinner. I don’t think I messed it up too bad. The whole thing really was a great success. The folks at the National Review Institute really did do a fantastic job. Congrats to all.
The Dingo & the Lady Update: Unmitigated joy is a phrase I never really appreciated until last weekend. Most joy in life is not unmitigated. For instance, when my daughter was born, the joy was off the charts. But so was the instantaneous worry about how to be a good father; how to provide for her; how to dispose of the bodies of her unapproved male suitors, etc. But when Zoë and Pippa started playing with each other last weekend, the joy was as pure as almost anything I’ve ever experienced. In absolute terms, it of course paled in comparison to momentous events like the birth of my kid. But there was literally no downside to it whatsoever. It was all good in every way, at least in that moment.
Ultimately, of course, the fallen nature of this existence intruded. There are downsides to everything, after all. First of all the Dingo & the Lady won’t stop wrestling with each other. The commotion becomes less charming after 11:00 p.m. Second, there’s a real lop-sided nature to the wrestling. It’s kind of like the Abominable Snow Man and Daffy Duck. The affection is real — I can almost hear Zoë saying, “I will hug it and squeeze it and name it George!” — but it’s pretty one-sided. Sometimes it’s less Looney Tunes and more like an accountant going to jail and having a goon for a cellmate fall in love with him. Still, the relief is palpable.
My column earlier this week was on Sidney Blumenthal. I was sure he would come up in the hearings and I figured some folks needed a reminder of his horridness. Alas, I was severely hampered by space limitations.
I’m now at the Denver airport baggage claim and so I have to let this thing go. I’m off to The Fund For American Studies confab in Colorado Springs.
And now, to compensate for a mediocre “news”letter, an all– Back to the Future and Star Wars list of weird links :