Politics & Policy

Nuke The Swiss!; Corrections & Clarifications Friday; and The Winner Is…


Yesterday’s solicitation for column topics from Switzerland yielded twenty or thirty e-mails. Almost all of them were about guns. You see, in Switzerland, everybody’s got a gun for much the same reason the Founders created a Second Amendment. Switzerland is too small and too vulnerable to neighborhood bullies. In order to protect themselves the Swiss implemented a universal militia system.

In the recently published Target Switzerland, Stephen Halbrook argues that this militia system kept the Nazis from invading, whereas Western Europe’s standing armies were so much tank-tread fodder. The Nazis wanted Switzerland to be part of the Reich, and they certainly could have used a more direct path to places like Italy, but the Wehrmacht estimated that an invasion would cost them 200,000 casualties and Hitler feared he would be known as the “butcher of the Swiss.”

While Hitler’s reluctance to appear barbaric seems a bit overstated, Halbrook’s thesis that Switzerland would have been an awfully messy meal for the Wehrmacht seems spot on. He says that a decentralized nation with a populace armed to the teeth is about as immune from tyranny, internal or external, as possible. Indeed, the Founders called the Swiss a “sister republic” as opposed to the various tyrannies of the Old World.

But further Swiss hagiography can wait until they start force-feeding me cheese, chocolate, and some booze that hopefully begins with “ch” so I can keep this alliteration going. The point here is how come Switzerland, and Israel, don’t have people fighting over parking spaces with Uzis the way you’d expect if you followed the logic of the Chuck Schumers of the world? The Democrats have been channeling soccer-mom focus groups and have decided that guns are the source of all violence. Actually they have decided that the lack of gun-control laws is the source of all violence since they don’t actually believe in enforcing gun laws, only passing them.

To be honest, I do believe easy access to guns is a problem today. But the problem lies in the fact that deranged little monsters have access to them. It’s a fascinating turnaround; the Left, which always argues about the “root causes” of poverty, violence, racism, static cling, all of a sudden thinks the problem has do with a material product. Still one cannot simply dismiss the fact that these monsters can get their hands on the guns. It’s a lot easier, or at least it should be, to keep the guns out of the hands of teenage psychopaths than it is to turn around a culture which took forty years to get this way. If that seems like partial surrender, well, I don’t know what else to do.

It seems to me that people in favor of the Second Amendment are far more willing to recognize this fact than their opponents are willing to accept that they have disproportionately helped screw up the culture. That’s why the pro-gun crowd keeps saying that the government should actually enforce the existing laws rather than mint new ones.

The root causes that are so unpleasant to deal with are complicated. So complicated, in fact, as to cause this author to cop out and write about them next week. Instead we now turn to long-absent Corrections and Clarifications Friday!


Okay, first, let’s sweat out the little stuff. Yes it’s Krusty the Klown, not Crusty the Clown. I have ripped the spell checker out of my computer and erased it with a Krusty refrigerator magnet. Second, when I “misspelled” Boba Fett, many of you jumped on it so fast I was able to have the guys in the online boiler room fix it quick enough that most readers never had a chance to see it. Still, my spelling differed from the fat-cat corporate spelling. But who’s to say my spelling was actually wrong? Boba Fett is clearly a phonetic spelling of an alien language from a galaxy far, far away. Hell, we can’t even agree on the spelling of Khadafy or is it Quadafi? Q’ dafi? Quo Vadis? Oh, well, you see what I’m talking about.

Now here comes the meatier stuff (mmmm, meat). We have included links to the relevant columns because 1) we are outrageously self-promotional, and 2) there will be no File on Monday or Tuesday and some people may want to go through the old stuff.

Readers were fairly split about the slaughter of the whales in Washington state. But one reader did say that the Indians wanted to use their old techniques and the government said they couldn’t. I haven’t investigated this further but it’s an interesting fact for either side of the argument. If it’s a religious ritual, why should the state get in the way?

Wednesday’s assault on Alan Wolfe’s “The Revolution that Never Was” was fairly well-received. But a minority thought I was being to smug or highfalutin (Quiz: Can something be “lowfalutin”? What is a falute? — no dirty e-mail, please). One reader said that I must have been born rich “to write columns that can only be only understood by … academic and intellectual snobs.” But most critics thought I took an unfair and unwarranted pot shot at Ayn Rand. Maybe, but the point remains she wasn’t a conservative and Hayek was. Nyah, nyah.

Everybody who’s seen The Phantom Menace (no, not Tony Coelho, but the movie) agrees that Jar-Jar should have been brutally slaughtered in the first five minutes and that Lukas made some serious mistakes (but the movie is still worth seeing). For those interested in the definitive case against Jar-Jar Binks, I suggest you go to www.JarJarMustDie.com (link defunct).

The pro-Catholic Church Galileo column elicited the usual split between “thank God a Jew is saying these things” and “you are an idiot, the Catholic Church is the source of all evil in the universe.” Arguing with rabid anti-Catholics is often pointless, because their anger usually comes from their hearts, not their heads. Still, for the record, nobody here — except for the couch who is unremittingly Papist — ever said the Church hasn’t make mistakes, sometimes dreadful ones. But that goes to the fact that the Church is administered by humans. It is not proof that the Church is morally illegitimate.

Then there was what many people thought was a “quasi-apology” on my part for calling Michael Moore “odiferous.” Thanks for the support but that wasn’t my intention. There was no retraction of the cheap shot — only a clarification of why it wasn’t cheap.


But BY FAR the column that elicited the most critical response was yesterday’s about George W. Bush. It is astounding and bizarre the effect this man is having on solid Republicans. I’ve been inundated with e-mails and instant messages (PLEASE, don’t get any ideas) saying things like “How dare you?… I guess you want Al Gore to win!” “Are you just trying to be different?” as if merely questioning GW’s ability to walk on water is intellectually rebellious. “After 8 years [sic] of Clinton and Gore a true leader has emerged and you criticize him.” Many promised to never read my “awful,” “ridiculous,” or “horrible” column ever again. And, of course, there were also the usual colorful phrases like “idiot,” “traitor,” “liberal,” “jackass,” and all those other endearing terms Dad liked to use (when he was out of lit cigarettes) to wake me up when I was late for school (just kidding).

Pro-Bush phrases that keep coming up are “he’s another Reagan,” “…a leader to usher in a new Conservative Age,” or the “Bush Jr. Era” — that really trips off the tongue. He’s a “leader,” a “hero,” a “Great Man.” And, if I’m lucky, I will be able to tell my children I “once doubted this great leader.”

What can one say about this? Where does this come from? Bush is, as far as I know, a fine man. He may be a great president one day. But where does all of this “leader” stuff come from? The guy hasn’t said anything! The comparisons with Reagan, according to many of these people, are derived from similar popularity ratings. But that’s specious. Reagan was unpopular for quite a long time. He earned his popularity by sticking to his principles. What are Bush’s principles, beyond the compassionate slogans? Where is his agenda? If he were elected, what would be three concrete things he would do in his first hundred days?

Since when did we sign on to the Clintonian idea that high approval ratings equal leadership or moral worth? Hiding behind high poll numbers may be great strategy, and if it helps him beat Gore, it’s probably worth it. But I don’t see why we have to call this strategy “leadership.” Great strategy and greatness are not synonymous.

I don’t want to be pushed into an anti-Bush position. I’m not anti-Bush. But I’m certainly skeptical of the Bush hype. Winnability is great (which must be what the W. stands for). But winnability doesn’t necessarily reflect anything about the man or his ideas.

This raises one last point. The Goldberg File isn’t exactly a candidate for the Columbia Journalism Review’s column of the year. I use the word “I” more than an optometrist or even Richard Cohen. I write about my belly (hmmm, belly). But this isn’t a Republican party newsletter either. People who accuse me of shilling for another candidate or “betraying” conservatives by being honest about GW — or anything else for that matter — really don’t understand what journalism, even opinion journalism, or, even this low-rent version of opinion journalism is about. And when they do it, they reflect very poorly on the greatest, noblest, smartest, coolest, cleverest, sexiest, sincerest, funkiest, ice-ice babiest conservative since life first crawled from primordial ooze on to land.

No wait, don’t print that ! I could be saying that some piece of prehistoric conservative phytoplankton was somehow superior to Bush because it existed before land-based life…. What were its poll ratings?


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