Dear Reader (please note that “dear” is a legal term of art and you specifically may or may not be dear to me),
The First Amendment makes things harder for the government.
Seriously, it helps if you say this over and over again. The First Amendment makes things harder for government. It’s not a bug it’s a feature.
In fact, if you go through the Bill of Rights, you’ll find that nearly every amendment serves as an impediment to efficient government. Why? Because that’s the #$%^ing point!
That’s the Constitution for You
Imagine you’re a monarch or a tyrant or the administrator of Earth appointed by the Psychlo high command, or even Cosmo, Dog emperor of Catworld, and all of a sudden you have to abide by the Bill of Rights. Aw, man, quartering troops in peoples’ homes was so much easier! Do we really have to bother with a trial by jury? The judge is smart enough. And summary execution is so much faster. Wait, I’m supposed to let these cats meet with whoever they want and say whatever they want? Are you frickin’ kidding me?
I know all of you know this because you’re the smartest, wisest readers in the world. Which is why you subscribe to the G-File and why I hold you dear (for the most part). But there’s a reason why the Bill of Rights is written the way it is. It starts from not just the mere assumption, but the article of faith, that the people are sovereign and have rights whether the government acknowledges them or not. The point of the Bill of Rights is to require that the government acknowledge – and respect – those rights. That’s why everything is written in the negative: “Congress shall make no law that . . .”
I know what you’re saying right now. “I hope I left enough fresh water for the producer of The Oogieloves I locked up in my basement.”
Oh, wait. Sorry. That’s me. You’re saying, “I really think this is the perfect moment for an absolutely ridiculous analogy illustrating your point.”
And you are correct.
Think of it this way. The government is a newbie to prison (Fresh fish! Fresh Fish!). The American people are the surly kingpin of a prison gang. The Bill of Rights is sort of like the knowledge you drop on government on his first day over lunch in the commissary. “Look kid, there are just some things you can’t do.” “Don’t look him in the eye.” “Don’t interrupt.” “Never ask him if he’s done with his apple brown betty.” Etc.
The analogy is so flawed it could write speeches for Joe Biden, but you get the point. And if you don’t, here it is again: The people are the boss, the government is the servant. The Constitution is the government’s job description, the Declaration of Independence its mission statement. Campaigns are the job interview, elections the hiring and firing process.
I bring this up because I rather like the awkward spectacle of Hillary Clinton having to explain how it works in America. I understand where my friend Shannen Coffin is coming from, but I enjoy it when liberals tug at their constitutional leash and growl a bit. It reminds me of the classic scene fromThe Simpsons when Mr. Burns is running for governor and has a photo-op ruined by Lisa Simpson (the details are irrelevant and as you know I never, ever, ever, get distracted from making my key points as quickly as possible. It’s my thing. If there’s one word that comes to mind when I say “Goldberg File” it’s “disciplined.” Yep. Disciplined. “I see what you did there, and it’s not clever.” – The Couch).
As Burns is leaving the Simpson home he says to his sidekick with deep consternation: ”Ironic, isn’t it Smithers? This anonymous clan of slack-jawed troglodytes has cost me the election, and yet if I were to have them killed, I would be the one to go to jail. That’s democracy for you.”
The State versus the Government
Actually, it’s not democracy for you, it is the rule of law. But that’s a conversation for another time. I bring all of this up for a couple reasons. First, the brouhaha over this anti-Muslim film is the subject of my column today. Second, I gotta write about something. Third, “Look, Cows!” Fourth: Oh, right. I never got to talk about the Democratic convention.
It’s too late to get into all of it. But the whole thing was sort of like an informercial homage to my oeuvre. In Liberal Fascism, I argue that liberalism is a political religion of the sort discussed by Eric Voegelin and championed by the progressive intellectuals like Richard Ely and Woodrow Wilson. They want to replace the Founders’ vision of the government being (and here I am harkening back to my prison analogy) the Peoples’ bitch and replace it with the Hegelian notion of the God-State where everyone is organically bound together and our collective will is expressed through the State. As (the Hegelian) Mussolini proclaimed in his definition of fascism, “Everything within the state, nothing outside the state.” Or as the producers of the Democratic National Convention’s introductory video put it, “Government is the one thing we all belong to.”
Really? We belong to the government? Really?
No. We belong to our families and our convictions. We belong, in a poetic sense, to our country. But the government belongs to us. It was a significant blow to my faith in the supernatural when Thomas Jefferson didn’t burst forth from his grave, run up to the makers of that video, and scissor kick them in the groin. Walking away from the mewling, groaning, buffoons writhing on the floor, he could say, “That’s democracy for you.”
The Goldberg Is Right about Everything Show
But it didn’t end there. Everywhere you looked it was like they were determined to prove me right about Liberal Fascism or The Tyranny of Clichés or any of four score and twenty columns (“Uh, four score and twenty is five score. It’s like saying ‘a dozen eggs plus twelve more.’” – The Couch).
A few examples chosen not literally at random, but figuratively so.
First, there was all the argument ad Hitlerum which, as anyone who’s read my book knows, is nothing new.
There was all that ranting about what Ted Strickland calls “economic patriotism” (see Williamson here for the full shellacking of Strickland). One of my peeves, discussed at great length in Liberal Fascism, is the false dichotomy between socialism and nationalism. Rhetorically nationalism and socialism are different things but practically they are very hard to separate. What I mean by that is nationalists talk one way and socialists talk another way but nationalists and socialists tend to do the same things. Socialized medicine is nationalized health care. Now, there are differences between fascist economics and Communist economics. The Communists just take over the whole kit and caboodle, fascists tend to simply “nationalize” the management of businesses and other institutions. If the leaders of a company are loyal to the government’s agenda, why fuss with taking it over when you can simply tell the boss what to do? Virtually everything said about Obamacare and the auto industry was a celebration of this sort of corporatism.
Then there was all of that togetherness stuff. In Tyranny of Clichés, I devote a lot of time and space to the ludicrous effort to make government a stand-in for team America (no not that Team America). That’s what this “we belong to the government” nonsense is really about (more here). They want people to feel about the government the way West Texans feel about their local high-school football team. If we can just get Americans to invest their emotions in Team Government, there’s nothing we can’t do! Goooooooo Government! Give me a G! Give me an O! Gimme a V! . . .
Oh forget it, I’m getting so ticked off I’m about to hurl myself at the floor like John Belushi when he talks about the Luck of the Irish.
On a lighter note, there was Joe Biden, who seemed determined to make my cover story about him relevant once again. The prepared text of his speech contained literally no mention of the word “literally.” But when he got up to the podium he literally couldn’t help himself. He figuratively littered his remarks with the word literally, like they were empty beer bottles on a frat-house floor.
“My fellow Americans, we now – we now – and we now find ourselves at the hinge of history. And the direction we turn is not figuratively, is literally in your hands.” Why did Obama kill bin Laden? Joe has the answer:
Look, Barack understood that the search for bin Laden was about a lot more than taking a monstrous leader off the battlefield. It was about so much more than that. It was about righting an unspeakable wrong. It was about – literally, it was about – it was about healing an unbearable wound, a nearly unbearable wound in America’s heart.
And on and on he went. The one place I wish he’d said literally and didn’t was when he said “My dad was an automobile man.” I kind of like the idea that his dad was a Transformer. The reason, of course, that Biden uses the phrase “automobile man” is that he’s reluctant to say he was a car salesman.
Biden even called the troops who died in Afghanistan and Iraq “fallen angels.” I understand the sentiment and embrace it. But it’s not like this guy hasn’t been told that the phrase – borrowed from Milton – doesn’t mean “really great people who died in battle.” As I noted in NR, it means angels who rebelled against God.
In that sense the term might better apply to the delegates who voted against God three times from the floor of the convention.
Various & Sundry
Rob Long, John Podhoretz, and yours truly are experimenting with a new regular podcast. We haven’t come up with a title yet. You can download the most recent one here. Let me know what you think, what we should call it, and when you’re sending large amounts of cash my way.
If I may brag for a moment (“If only we could edit your bragging down to a mere ‘moment’” – The Couch), I learned something cool. Every year the Young America’s Foundation has its big multiday conference in D.C.
Hundreds of college-aged conservative kids come from all over the country, and dozens of speakers come and give talks. I was one of them. I was also apparently picked as this year’s No. 1 favorite speaker. So I got that going for me.
Nine words with dirty roots.
Alas no mention of the fact that cool guys don’t look at explosions.
Are they sure? Heisenberg uncertainty principle explanation wrong.
And, for equal time, here’s a cat video. As I said on Twitter, out of a possible four stars, my daughter gave this eleventy million.