Politics & Policy

Rate The Overrated; Herb Stein, RIP; Something New


Yesterday I said that Hillary Clinton was perhaps the most overrated person of the 20th century. Quite a few people wrote in saying, “Yes, she is overrated, but what about Geraldine Ferraro?” or “Aren’t you overlooking Matt Lauer?” And, of course, “You must have forgotten Tom Harkin.” These are excellent points. Did I overstate the case? Perhaps I was too sweeping? Clearly a poll is required.

I’d like to hear from you. But I think the 20th century might be too broad. Instead, let’s just make it since 1960. How do we define overrated? Well, it seems to me the answer lies in how much esteem they get from the chattering know-nothings of elite opinion versus how little they have actually accomplished. A heavy emphasis should be on people who are reportedly smart, but are really the type of people who insist on licking frozen flag poles at ski resorts. People like Alec Baldwin and other people who think reading The Nation is the equivalent of performing a Vulcan mind-meld with Einstein. Please try to send nominees here.

Thanks very much.


Herb Stein died yesterday at the age of 83. I like to say I knew Herb Stein because I worked at the American Enterprise Institute with him for several years. But the truth is, he probably had a hard time remembering my name. Still, that made me like him all the more because he was nice to everyone and took everyone seriously. I could stick my head in his office and ask him a question and he’d answer it with the same enthusiasm he’d give to a senator. Herb Stein was an extremely funny, brilliant, and by even my lights, cute man. He was Chairman of the Council of Economic Advisors under Richard Nixon, where he unfortunately shepherded wage and price controls. Still, I admired and liked Herb Stein from afar from the first time I met him, as did almost everyone else.

My friend Jodie Allen does a far better job eulogizing him than I ever could at Slate.


National Review is and has been America’s conservative magazine of record. This may trouble the gangs over at Chronicles and The Weekly Standard, but hey, let’s face facts. We got the brand name, we got the goods (though, I must confess, I suspect the Standard would beat us at softball, and Chronicles would certainly clobber everybody at various survivalist games or “Name That 14th Century Monk!” competitions). Nonetheless, there’s room for growth. As the advertising guys keep telling us, the trick is to be young, today, happening, with-it.

One of things I am most proud — and ashamed — of about the G-File is that it’s encouraged some people who recognize the address 1313 Mockingbird Lane or who can finish the sentence “Wonder-Twin Powers Activate! Form of a …”

I know that readers dig this stuff because my e-mail overflows daily with people saying, “You fool: ‘these things go down!’ is a Charles Grodin line from Midnight Run” (although some people do say it’s what Bill Clinton said to Vernon Jordan when he passed the intern bay).

So this got me thinking: If so many G-File readers love the movie and TV quote stuff — why shouldn’t we give the people what they want? I can show some leadership. I can be that big toe. Yes, of course, people on ‘ludes should not drive — or run websites. But life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it. Of course, I’ve missed so much that my couch can often overhear me yelling, “I’m whizzing with the door open and I love it!” So I can’t really complain. Besides it’s not like the little lady has written me any letters beginning, “Dear Baby: Welcome to Dumpsville. Population: You!” because I’m rude, crude, and obnoxious. But sometimes I get the menstrual cramps real bad and I say to my couch, never mind, just bring me a cup of hot fat. And the head of Alfredo Garcia. Providing movie quotes to entertain the dregs of our American education system is not exactly what William F. Buckley Jr. had in mind when he launched NR. But then I say you know what, We’re all very different people. We’re not Watusi, we’re not Spartans, we’re Americans! With a capital “A,” huh? And you know what that means? Do you? That means that our forefathers were kicked out of every decent country in the world!

So I say give the dregs their pop-culture morsels. So here’s the deal: I am announcing a new feature for NR online called What’s That From? [Link defunct] If you could not identify at least a few of the 10 movie or TV lines alluded to in the above paragraph, this feature is not for you. But if you think you’ve got the right stuff, if you’re looking to take things to the next level WTF is for you. Every day, that’s right, every day, WTF will offer a quote from TV or film. If you are the first person — as determined by when your email arrived at NR — to guess correctly the film and the scene the quote is from, your name will be posted as a daily winner (think of the Best Score System of Defender or Tempest). At the end of the month, the person with the most correct guesses, or if nobody has won more than once, the person with best time will win a free one-year subscription to the best magazine in the world — National Review.

How do you like them apples? (What’s that from?)

(Yes, I will tell you what all those lines are from in tomorrow’s column.)


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