Politics & Policy

Bon Voyage

I might be thinking of you.

Editor’s Note: Due to events described in gloating detail in this column, I was forced to write this column yesterday evening rather than on the same day of posting. This usually results in long-windedness (check!), wild self-indulgence (yep, we can check that one off too), and egregious grammar (can’t be sure on that one until it gets past the editors, but let’s assume we can check that off too). Still, I would hate it if you failed to notice the big announcement at the end just because this column has about as much substance as a serious conversation with Alec Baldwin. So please scan down before you go. Thanks.

When Al Gore was in high school, he went to his football coach’s house one Saturday morning. Young Albert felt compelled to inform him that several of his teammates had broken training by smoking and drinking. Al Gore felt it was his “duty” to take the “hard right over the easy wrong.”

It is in that spirit that I feel compelled to tell you something.

Yesterday afternoon I was invited to attend the National Review Caribbean Cruise. Unfortunately — for everybody on the cruise except me and the fair Jessica — the Florida supreme court dropped a burning bag of steamy jurisprudence on the doormat of the U.S. Supreme Court. This had prevented certain famous individuals from attending this lavish event at sea. Knowing that I am of that rare breed of prostitute we in America call “journalists,” the suits knew all they had to say to me was, “There’s free shrimp near the Bermuda Triangle” and I would be on the next (free) flight.

So, I apologize that if Al Gore becomes president, or if the Florida supreme court decides to extend its Writ of Mandamus to the entire United States, or if President Clinton claims that he’s not leaving the White House until he can find all the Popeye’s Chicken coupons he lost under the cushions of the living-room couch, I will be on a boat with enough conservative brain types to launch a government in exile. I know this is terribly unfair, especially to those of you who think a banner day is when you snag an old sandwich in the office fridge which “lost” its proprietary Post-It note, or those of you who feel like Rocky at the top of the stairs after finding one last linty stick of a Kit Kat bar behind some old White Out you never use anymore. But all I can say, in all honesty, is — and I really mean this — better you than me.

In all likelihood, I will be halfway to St. Marten by the time you read this. I am writing as I pack. And as we all know, figuring out what to wear on a Caribbean cruise can be very trying, especially for me, considering I am fast on my way to being Ernest Borgnine’s butt-double (for you crazy young’ns who don’t know who Borgnine is, think of him as the Robert Loggia of the 1970s).

The issue of butt-double jokes raises an interesting question. If you clone Alan Dershowitz, is there twice as much asininity as before? Or would they, in their zeal to be the only person in the room who has the correct answer, actually cancel each other out? In this danse de deux ânes, they would both ridicule each other so much that the sum would in fact be less asinine than their individual parts. Interesting physics, no?

(Speaking of physics. If there are any really smart physics types out there, could someone answer the following question. Imagine you have a rod — or some other object that isn’t the name of one of Smither’s kids — and it is perfectly rigid. Imagine it extends from here to Alderan (assuming it wasn’t blown up by the Death Star). Now, my understanding of physics is that nothing can go faster than the speed of light. But if I have this perfectly rigid rod (no doubt the subtitle to more than one gay porn movie), and I press down on one end, shouldn’t the other end of this (inanimate steel) rod move instantaneously? After all, if it is perfectly rigid it should allow force to flow from one end to the other perfectly. And if that is the case, isn’t the force travelling faster than the speed of light? This question has bothered me for years. But the true test for you pocket-protector readers is not to give me an accurate answer, but to give me an answer I can both understand and that won’t tire out my lips while I read it.)

Regardless, the butt-double thing is not the interesting question I was thinking of. No, the interesting question raised by such jokes are my “jokes” qua jokes.

Here we are in the midst of the worst constitutional crisis since at least the last one and I am making like Shecky Green during an embarrassing army physical. This annoys two types of readers: those who think the important things I have to say are obscured by jocularity (Jocularity! Jocularity!) and those who want to make fun of me as unserious because they don’t like the important things I have to say.

I should say the former are a lot nicer in their criticism than the latter. But both have a point. It would be hard to take the Declaration of Independence seriously if every third sentence was punctuated with a parenthetical pull-my-finger joke. But, let’s face it, the prose found in this humble space falls pretty far short of the Declaration (besides, if I said otherwise Harry Jaffa might drive by my house once a year and shoot out my porch light).

Nonetheless, I really don’t want to get tagged with the “humorist” label (which is the main reason I have not posted pictures of myself naked on the site). Seriously, last week I was listed alongside David Letterman, Jay Leno, Jon Stewart, et al., on some USA Today list of “humorists” making election jokes (they’ve taken down the link, the rat bastards). It was pretty cool to be noticed and included with the guys who can afford joke writers, but not what I’m looking for. You see, much like many students at Vassar or Brown — but very different in important ways — I like having it both ways. I like writing serious things and funny things. I also like to write funny things that make serious points and serious things that make funny points and I like to wear very silly hats when no one is looking. Indeed, most of the stuff I write for print, like for the magazine or my syndicated column, tends to be a lot more serious.

Still, the worst thing — which has happened a lot lately — is getting booked on TV or radio shows and being asked, “Okay, Jonah, tell us something funny.” I don’t walk into studios with ready-made jokes. Which may be why I am always tempted to say, “That blouse you’re wearing makes you look like a hooker” — which I think would be hilarious. Unfortunately, I can only think of this when talking to male radio hosts, which would make it less dark humor and more just plain dark. Then again maybe not. Perhaps I’ll try it on my favorite radio host, Lee Rogers at KSFO. He’s always a good sport.

Anyway, I will take it under advisement that I am sometimes too silly. NRO has a very odd mix of readers and I have learned from bitter spam experience it is impossible to please everyone.

Regardless, I have just finished writing this column but I haven’t finished packing. The Supreme Court just announced its ruling which is as clear as the Jeri-Curl smudge Al Sharpton leaves on his pillow. But it does seem that Al Gore is finally finished. If this means Tom DeLay wants his cabin back on the ship, he’s nuts. Then again, Gore should have and could have quit a long time ago, so maybe this ain’t over. Either way, I don’t want to take any chances, so I am out of here. If I can figure out what the Court’s decision really means, I will try to write about it as soon as possible. I might even be serious.


I almost forgot. I promised that I would make an exciting new announcement every day this week (recall that on Monday I announced that Byron York had signed on with NR). And we have a doozy.

Starting in December, former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich will begin writing book reviews for National Review Online. I understand that some of you might think you are imagining things so let me say it again. Starting in December, former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich will begin writing book reviews for National Review Online.

What kind of books? you ask. Well, whatever books he wants (how can I get a job like that? you may ask. Well, there are lots of ways, but the only one I know of for sure is you have to be a polymath Ph.D. former Speaker of the first Republican Congress in 40 years). We will call the feature “Newt’s Bookshelf” and there are pretty much no rules about what kind of topics, genres, etc., he will cover. Newt is a voracious book reader and one week he might dissect a book on dissecting dinosaurs and another week he might dissect a biography of Disraeli. It’s up to him. Of course, considering the wide array of tastes and political inclinations found among our readership, we are sure some of you will enjoy — ahem — disagreeing with Mr. Gingrich quite a bit on his views of sociology, history, or this little boutique academic field known as Republican party politics. That’s fine. He has promised to include an e-mail address for precisely that purpose. What he — and you — do with it is up to you guys. As for us, we could not be more excited to have him join Spaceship NRO.

Announcement #2

Okay, yes, that was a reference to This Is Spinal Tap on Monday. Yes, it was very easy for those of you who got it (about 75 wrote in). To make things more difficult, today’s column features several references. They do not have a “What’s That From?” so you may have a more difficult time finding them.


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