Politics & Policy

Spring Fever? Puke.; What’s McCain Doing?; Three Fifths Stupid

Am I the only one who gets depressed in the spring?

You know, it’s just beautiful outside. It’s the kind of day most people use as an excuse to play hooky. There’s not a cloud in the heavens and the sun is shining bright and high in the sky. Unfortunately, this creates unwanted glare on my television, making it difficult to watch. So I’ve closed the curtains and turned up the A.C.

Actually, am I the only one who gets depressed in the spring? Maybe it’s because I’m a natural contrarian, but all these smiley chipper people bum me out. What are you grinning at, sugar, or don’t you know? Seriously, don’t they have jobs? Aren’t we lagging behind in education? Shouldn’t these kids running around all over the place be getting tutored in Cantonese or something?

Anyway, I find all the chipperness out there too distracting for the normally sober, dispassionate, analytical fare usually found in this space. Instead let’s go for the full-fledged TGIF rant (but if you find yourself growing weary and saying “Goldberg…boring….losing consciousness” you should zip down to the announcements at the end).


The behind-the-scenes conventional wisdom is that John McCain’s refusal to let go of his delegates and endorse Bush, is really just a ploy to exact some concessions from GW at the convention. (Mr. Sharp, Mr. Sharp — Senator McCain is being obstreperous — what’s that from?). Well, that’s just fine. He earned the delegates and he can do with them as he pleases. But, that’s what McCain wants.

(And, it is nothing but sour grapes on the part of Republicans to complain about how his delegates were selected in part by Democrats. The GOP set up the system and McCain played it beautifully. In the future, maybe we should re-think the rules. In fact, I suspect the open-primary system was invented by the French so they could vote for Germans.)

But what do the people supporting McCain want? Well, the liberal media supporting him just don’t want him to go away. They’d be perfectly happy having McCain run on the Brown Shirt Party ticket if it meant they could keep hanging out with him. Jonathan Alter sounds like his mommy is going away on a long trip and she’s making him stay at his aunt Selma’s. Don Imus is almost hugging McCain’s leg as he tries to get out the door. Obviously, they don’t care about the Republican party or the horrors of a Gore administration — “the president announced today his initiative for conserving toilet paper squares” — or the chaos an entrenched multi-party system would create. Who wants to live in a country where someone — anyone, Jesse Jackson, Ralph Nader, Pat Buchanan, Susan Sarandon – can get elected president with 28% of the vote?

But what do the conservatives want? What do Bill Kristol and David Brooks want McCain to do? If I understand them correctly, the ubermensch values of John McCain are what make him appealing as a presidential candidate. His ability to translate religious fervor and desire for political reform into patriotic and nationalistic themes; his moral tide capable of lifting all boats; his authentic personal narrative; his gift for making liberals swoon; these are the things that — we — McCain supporters recognized as his attributes during the now-finished primaries.

Here’s the problem: You can’t make George Bush pick up any of those attributes by instructing your delegates to force a floor vote. If George Bush could acquire any of those things, don’t you think he would have done it by now? Using Republican delegates to infuse the GW with manly patriotism makes as much sense as using telephone lines to transport fresh milk.

The only concessions that McCain delegates could extract from the Bush forces fall in the area of campaign-finance “reform.” McCain’s campaign-finance reform was supposed to be the inconvenient intellectual lapse his conservative supporters were “willing to overlook” for the larger cause. For example, I believe that the Weekly Standard is opposed to McCain’s actual proposals. If pro-McCain conservatives now fight to impose his policies on the party, what good does that do? What was once the forgivable, but worst, part of the McCain platform becomes the albatross around George Bush’s neck. Who needs that?


One of these days I will get around to a full blown rant against the most dishonest show on television — NBC’s “West Wing.” In the meantime I’d like to express my outrage against a small item in this week’s episode. Much of the show was dedicated to the argument over statistical sampling versus actual enumeration. As most of you probably know, the Clinton administration and various pointy-heads want the Census Bureau to use techniques that allow them to guess at the number of people in the United States rather than actually count them. On the merits, the argument is a mixed bag. But there is this extra hitch — the Constitution says in pretty clear language that we’ve got to actually count people. That should mean case closed.

Of course, the Democrats don’t care. Al Gore & Co. believe the constitution is like Felix the Cat’s magic bag — need a new right? Just pull it out of there. Need a tuna sandwich? Yeah, look over by Article Two.

The argument as proposed by the always brilliant, always well-intentioned, always right, “West Wing” staff is that the clause is “archaic” and therefor ignorable. The founders couldn’t predict how difficult it would become to count 280 million people, and like everything else that is inconveniently spelled out in the Constitution, we should bypass it if it gets in the way.

But the West Wingers go a little further. In order to demonstrate that the census requirements are archaic, they point to the 3/5ths clause of the Constitution which held that blacks would only count — in the census — as 3/5ths of a whole person. Three fifths of a person! Darwinian racism! How could anything that says such a thing not be archaic? Indefensible! Indeed, they seem to suggest, it’s almost racist to invoke the original language.

It’s no mystery where the Constitutional scholars at “West Wing” got this idea. Civil-rights activists, especially Jesse Jackson, have long pointed to this embarrassing clause as evidence that America was founded on the notion that blacks weren’t full human beings. Throughout February, as part of ABC’s Black History Month celebration, the network ran commercials — hosted by Steve Harris, the black guy from “The Practice” and mercenary #6 from “The Rock” — denouncing this vestigial bit of constitutional racism

The problem here is that this is an infamous left-wing canard.

Blacks were counted as “three fifths” of a person as a compromise between abolitionists and slave holders. Northern delegates to the constitutional convention argued that blacks should not be counted at all, because they were not allowed to vote and therefore their numbers shouldn’t count toward boosting Southern representation in Congress. If slaves were counted, slave states would be able to control the legislative branch and expand the hateful institution into the new territories. Meanwhile, slaveholders wanted blacks counted on par with whites for exactly this reason.

In other words, if the racists had their way, blacks would have been counted as 100% people and if the abolitionists won the day, blacks would be invisible to the constitution. The three fifths was a procedural compromise included in the Constitution because so many of the nation’s founders were opposed to slavery.

I don’t want to defend the three-fifths clause because it is still a window on a hateful institution. But that doesn’t mean we should sit by and let the Left turn the constitution into a strawman. Indeed, the three-fifths clause is in fact evidence that this nation was deeply torn about slavery from the outset, and that the fight for freedom was dear even to many of those dead white males.


If such things as West Wing’s silliness get your goat (speaking of which, where is my goat?); if you find yourself screaming at the TV or kicking the cat every time you hear someone bleat out their concern for “the children;” if you think Alec Baldwin should stop eating lead paint chips; if you couldn’t give a rat’s ass about “how hard” Bill Clinton’s been working; if you think conservative censorship is a bigger problem than making sure the Aleutian and Pacific Islander perspective is fully represented at every level of government; if you think the Pope’s a good guy and people should stop saying nasty things about him; if you think Al Sharpton gets off easy (but gets off the couch reluctantly); if you are obsessive cataloger of petty insults and slights; if you are a Troskyite conservative with a long memory and a short fuse; if you can keep your head about you when others think Hillary is just nifty and guns should be smelted to make children’s swings.

If any of these things apply to you than you must do three things:

You must read NR’s “Outrage Du Jour”

You must feed Outrage Du Jour with new material.

You must say serenity now over and over again before the veins on your neck pop like Bill Clinton’s button fly.

I know the popular feature has been lagging behind for a while, but we’re bringing it back with a vengeance. But what we need is fresh material from the best conservative readership in Christendom (though I assume there is no Buddhist or Shinto version of National Review). For more details click here [Link defunct] now.

II. We are still looking for a new webmaster. He must be able to speak fluent Laotian and Tagalog, as that is where most of NR’s illegal-immigrant web boys come from and the new webmaster will be required to manage them (I know child labor is bad, but nobody else has small enough hands to clean out the pneumatic tubes that carry the HTML code to the livery).

Okay, maybe you’ve gathered that I don’t understand how this ones-and-zeros stuff actually works. But if you do — and want to move to New York; learn how the nation’s best conservative magazine is made; and learn how to flinch every time I walk into a room — this job’s for you. Send me an e-mail saying “I want the job” in the subject header, and attach all that sweet, sweet resume goodness too.

III. Have you people noticed how much cool stuff is on the homepage? Don’t look now, but we are really churning out some primo stuff. Rich Lowry has decided to make me look bad by writing for the site all the time, which is good for the readers, but puts some pressure on me. You should be checking out the homepage for breaking news and analysis a lot. In fact you should be hitting refresh on the homepage more often than Bill Clinton hits reload at www.intern.com and more than I hit refresh on my stock portfolio.

IV. Which raises the next point. Send me your stock tips. No jokes, I just want to make zillions of dollars. Here is what I am looking for: something really cheap that will increase in value geometrically once I buy it — and please no clever replies like “the love of a puppy.”

V. I’m writing about the Simpsons for an upcoming issue of the (print) National Review. If any of you have any well formulated theories about the politics of the Simpsons, I’d love to hear them (please put “Simpsons,” or your favorite Simpsons quote in the subject line).

VI. And finally, as some of you may have heard, I am now a syndicated columnist with Tribune Media. We are just now selling my columns to newspapers, websites, and magazines across the country. It is not the Goldberg File. It is new and fresh — just like my forthcoming rap album.

If you would like to see it (the column, not the album) in a newspaper near you — or very, very far from you — you should politely let your local newspaper know. This will make me very happy and I would be grateful. And, like beer, I ask for so little and offer so much.

(okay now you can go check the homepage.)

(I said go, get out of here.)


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