EDITOR’S NOTE: The following is Jonah Goldberg’s weekly “news”letter, the G-File. Subscribe here to get the G-File delivered to your inbox on Fridays.
Dear Reader (and all ships at sea),
Last night was the traditional National Review smoker on our splendid post-election cruise. This is an ancient tradition, the origins of which stretch back into the mists before time and the stories of a young solo sailor by the name of William F. Buckley Jr. — sweat, sea water, and shark blood glistening off his chest — who settled in to enjoy a relaxing cigar after killing the great white beast with his bare hands.
I bring this up for two reasons. First, to alert the reader that I am feeling a bit hungover from both smoke and spirit alike (so please, stop reading so loudly!); second, because I think I must say goodbye to another great white beast: Bill Clinton — and his remora bride, Hillary.
This is a good time to do it. The feeding frenzy atmosphere around the Trump transition is bananas given that there’s so little to say about it. My position on Trump remains unchanged from last week’s G-File: Like Bill Clinton after taking a blood test, I am entirely in wait-and-see mode.
Meanwhile, if I wait too long to give the Clintons a send-off, it will seem not only gratuitous — which would be fine, that’s what I’m going for — but also stale. The bad taste of the Clintons lingers on enough, though — like the acidic after-burp from my lunch in Mexico yesterday — that it still seems a bit relevant.
It Takes a Heart of Stone Not To Laugh
I feel a little like a hungry Sid Blumenthal looking down at a box full of live, white mice: Where to begin?
Well schadenfreude is always a good way to get your day going. The stories about Hillary measuring the drapes are all over Washington. They literally popped champagne on the campaign plane on Election Day.
I like to imagine Bill Clinton going through binders full of women — and not the Romney kind — picking out the “deputies” he’d like to work with in the White House and Sid Blumenthal letting his fingers wander over an assortment of fine Italian leather riding crops pondering his return to power.
Someone recently told me that the Bill Clinton Presidential Library is built off-center on its campus in anticipation of the day that Hillary’s presidential library would go along side it. I can’t find any corroboration of this, save for the fact that if you look at these pictures, it certainly seems plausible.
The Clinton Restoration That Wasn’t
It also seems plausible because the Clintons always planned on Hillary becoming president. It was the logical corollary for the “two for the price of one” nonsense Bill peddled from the beginning. The Clintons burrowed into the brain stem of the Democratic party, like one of those ear-tunneling scorpion things in Star Trek II, and they never left. In the process, they hollowed out the party. Barack Obama helped of course (see my recent column on that), but the Clintons didn’t mind too much because they knew if the bench was cleared of competition, Obama would have to hand the keys to Hillary.
The Clintons burrowed into the brain stem of the Democratic party, like one of those ear-tunneling scorpion things in Star Trek II.
It’s also plausible because there’s really no other explanation for why Hillary would stay married to Bill — even on paper — not only enduring the constant humiliation but actually working assiduously to discredit the inconvenient members of Bill’s harem. Clinton defenders love to righteously justify their partnership on the grounds that no one has a right to judge someone else’s marriage. Logically, I’ve always thought “no right to judge” arguments were a little ridiculous. But in the case of the Clintons, they’re so absurd they fall into the category of gaslighting. The Clintons always boasted about their marriage — that was the whole point of the two-for-the-price-of-one argument. At the Democratic convention, Bill gave one of the oddest testimonials to a wife by a husband ever given, making it sound like he fell in love with her because she’d make a great chief of staff. “She’s a changemaker! A changemaker!” he insisted, sounding like she knew how to give four quarters for a dollar better than any teenager at a video arcade.
But if you dared enlist inconvenient facts in your own judgment of their nuptial endeavors, you were violating some sacred rule. In other words, their marriage was relevant but we were only allowed to subscribe to their interpretation of it. Our lying eyes were illegitimate.
I know it seems impossible given the nigh-upon Swiss precision and focus of this “news”letter, but I rarely do much prep for this thing. I wake up, drink a dozen raw eggs, and start typing. But since I’m in book-writing Hell and on the high seas, I figured that maybe I should get ahead of the game.
So, a few days ago, I asked my research assistant, Jack “Not the Belt! Please Not the Belt!” Butler, to pull together a Clinton Greatest Hits file.
“What specifically are you looking for?” he asked, his flinching fear dripping from the e-mail.
“E-V-E-R-Y-T-H-I-N-G!” [In my best Gary Oldman from The Professional voice.]
Jack did a fine job, thus avoiding getting the hose again. The ship’s antediluvian WiFi groaned downloading the document, like Michael Moore at Walmart trying not to stand up in his scooter as he strains to grab a family-sized tub of SpaghettiOs from a high shelf. The Travel Office, the commodities futures, the Rose Law Firm billing records, the Lincoln Bedroom, on and on it went. A great feeling of dread came over me.
You see, the retromingent trail of House Clinton stretches so far back and coats so much of our lives, even pondering the question gives me a queasy feeling, like contemplating using one of those black lights to find the carpet and cushion stains on Jeffrey Epstein’s plane.
As I looked over the document, reading all those names associated with all those scandals, legal, moral, and ethical — Webb Hubbel, Charlie Trie, Lanny Davis, Sid Blumenthal, et al. — I tried to get myself psyched up to wade back into it. I felt a bit like Bill Murray in Meatballs trying to get Fink excited about the eating contest to come: “Look at all those steaming weenies.”
But the truth is that stuff is a bit sad and tedious. Don’t get me wrong, as it says in the Torah, it is always good to mock Sid Blumenthal. But so many of the people around the Clintons are also victims. James McDougal, Bill’s former business partner, once said that the Clintons “are really sort of like tornadoes moving through people’s lives. I’m just one of the people left in the wake of their passing by.” McDougal died of a heart attack in prison in 1998.
The Devil’s in the Details
More to the point, my problems with the Clintons never had that much to do with the scandals. Oh sure, I was infuriated when Hillary brought her Medicis of the Ozarks tactics to Washington and had the staff of the White House Travel Office carted off in handcuffs just so she could give some Hollywood friends a business opportunity. And, sure, I was disgusted by Bill’s Baron-and-the-Milkmaid games with a White House intern.
James McDougal, Bill’s former business partner, once said that the Clintons ‘are really sort of like tornadoes moving through people’s lives.’
But it was the little things that made me detest them so. Remember when Clinton went to Ron Brown’s funeral and was yucking it up with a pal only to realize television cameras were rolling? He suddenly started to weep for his dear friend. It was this kind of manipulation of the public — and the way the press and his fans (but I repeat myself) fell for it, that so disgusted me. In 1999, when Hillary was preparing to run for the Senate as the heroic martyr of her own marriage, The New York Times Magazine was brought in to start the roll out. In order to convey that she wasn’t just a policy polymath (who just happened to help deliver a Republican Congress because of her disastrous health-care scheme) but also a super-mom, they set up a display of Chelsea’s collection of Beanie Babies. Never mind that Beanie Babies had only just come on the market and Chelsea was in her second year of college at Stanford, Beanie Babies focus-grouped well.
Which, of course, brings me to the issue of their cynicism. Of course, one could run through the greatest hits from their catalog: the renting of the Lincoln Bedroom, the pardon-selling, and all that. But again, it was the little things. When Bill was down in the polls, he wanted to go on vacation in Martha’s Vineyard to do what he likes best (not counting conducting impromptu Lyme disease tick-checks at Hooters): schmooze with celebrities and play golf. But Dick Morris, his psephological haruspex, had butchered a goat and found that the entrails foretold this would poll poorly. So they all went camping in Yellowstone instead. If only Bill had poll tested his affair with Monica before he pole tested her.
And don’t even get me started with the lying. Bill was one of the most impressive liars in American history. Yes, yes, all politicians lie. But Bill was a savant, a priapistic prodigy of prevarication in which he portrayed himself as a paladin of principle (that was a plug for my spoken word album, Alliteration is my Bag, Baby). “I have vivid and painful memories of black churches being burned in my own state when I was a child.” There were none. “Since I was a little boy, I’ve heard about the Iowa caucuses. That’s why I would really like to do well in them.” The Iowa caucuses started in 1972, when he was at Oxford. In Israel, he said he had met with Palestinian children earlier that day who expressed their love of Israel. He never met with them. He lied about big things too, of course. But, again, it’s the little things.
Among Hillary’s greatest problems wasn’t that she was a liar, but that she was so bad at it. When Bill lied, it was like watching a jazz impresario scat. You could pull him off an intern, slap him in the face with a half-frozen flounder, and he could, without missing a beat, plausibly explain that he was just a gentleman trying to help push the young lady over a fence.
But when Hillary lied, which was often, it was like watching a member of the Politburo explain to a hungry mob of peasants that food-production targets exceeded expectations. Hillary never seemed to fully grasp that Bill’s lying skills did not become community property when they got married along with his collection of back issues of Juggs and that shoe box full of used pregnancy tests. There was music to Bill’s lying while Hillary deceived the way Helen Keller played the piano.
Goodbye to All That
And now they’re gone. Oh sure, they’ll pop up from time to time, the way Bill’s cold sore would keep coming back. But they’re now part of history, not the future. And the best thing about this is it means the gaslighting is over. For virtually my entire adult life, the Clintons have corrupted the apparatchiks of the Democratic party, in and out of the media, by forcing them to go along with the charade. They did it in part because people feared their vindictiveness, to be sure. But their vindictiveness was itself a byproduct of their perceived power.
In 2008, people would ask me if we were finally done with the Clintons and I would respond, “Haven’t you seen any horror movies?” Freddy Krueger and Jason always came back. But now, I think they’re really gone.
Freddy Krueger and Jason always came back. But now, I think they’re really gone.
And with them goes the infatuation — along with the fear. People forget the cult of personality, the willful suspension of credulity, that was integral to these gaslighting grifters. When Bill Clinton congratulated Dan Rather and Connie Chung for their softball interview of the first couple, Rather responded: “If we could be one-hundredth as great as you and Hillary Rodham Clinton have been together in the White House, we’d take it right now and walk away winners.”
Well, now they’re all just walking away.
Various & Sundry
Contrary to lots of speculation, the National Review post-election cruise is going swimmingly. Some feared that it would go literally swimmingly, as the angry mob made many of us walk the plank. Not so. There’s definitely a variety of opinions, but, for the most part, nearly everyone understands where NR was coming from during the election and appreciates that we did right as we saw it. It’s a great bunch of people. Tonight, we’re doing a Night Owl session which originally supposed to be a GLoP podcast. But Rob Long had to cancel at the last minute, so instead we’re doing a special mash-up podcast with me and John Podhoretz versus the cast of Mad Dogs and Englishmen (Charlie Cooke, a.k.a. British Shaggy, and Kevin D. Williamson). Look for it on Ricochet.
Canine Update: As I am at sea (“Not just literally,” — The Couch), I don’t have much to report. The Fair Jessica tells me, however, that the beasts have mostly been on their best behavior. The Dingo did escape once and refused to leave the front yard, despite all attempts at bribery with meat products and promised adventures (usually, if you get in the car with Pippa, she will believe that a squirrel sortie is in the offing. Not this time). I like to think that she was waiting on the front lawn for me to arrive.
I contributed to a Los Angeles Times conservative symposium on the meaning of Trump’s win.
My Wednesday column was on people who think everything is racist.
Friday’s column was on the “normalization” of Trump.
On November 29, Ramesh and I (and maybe Rich) will be putting on an event on the future of conservatism at AEI in our new super-swanky headquarters. If you’re in town, stop by.
And now, the weird stuff.