The G-File

Candidates vs. Presidents

Dear Reader (and those who’ve foreseen the content of this e-mail in the entrails of a goat),

Because of the vicissitudes of the space-time continuum, I have to write this missive before the president’s State of the Union address. As we all know, this speech will be brave and bold, deft and nuanced. It will hit all of the right notes and thread the needle exactly as needed. It will remind Americans of Obama’s masterful oratory and his command of the details. It will confirm that Michelle Obama was right to be proud of America for electing a manbeing like Barack Obama.

Or at least that’s what we’ll be told by the usual suspects who say this sort of thing after every “speech of his life.”

Obama could let loose a belch like Booger in Revenge of the Nerds and someone at MSNBC would swoon over the Churchillian chords. He could let one rip in Jon Meacham’s face, and, with tears streaming down his face and his hair askew, the Newsweek editor would still compare him to Cicero.

Left out is that since he’s been president, Obama’s “make or break” speeches never do much for him. Sure, when he was a candidate and the media wanted him to win as much as the base of the Democratic Party did (to the extent these are different demographics, of course), such speeches always “worked.” Just ask Jeremiah Wright, who still has the tracks of a bus tire running up the trunk of his body.

But being president is different than running for president. Candidates promise, presidents do. And yet this distinction is not only lost on Obama – who’s been in permanent campaign mode from day one – it’s lost on his biggest fans, who seem to think that the most overexposed president in American history only needs to talk a tiny bit more and everyone will suddenly fall in love with the guy.

Obama himself allegedly told Arkansas congressman Marion Berry (not the fun Marion Barry of D.C.) that the one important difference between today and 1994 is “me.”

At some point soon, someone is going to have to march into the Oval Office and tell him that the message from the American people is “we’re just not that into you.”

On the Brighter Side

In last week’s Goldberg File I secretly encrypted instructions for how to build a perpetual motion machine made only from room-temperature mayonnaise, two D batteries, and miraculous alien technology completely unknown to mankind (the instructions began: “First obtain miraculous alien technology . . .”). But none of that is important right now

I also took a moment to gloat about Scott Brown’s victory in Massachusetts. Little did I know that the sundae would come with chocolate sauce and sprinkles. (Not to be confused with the 1970s blaxploitation crime-fighting team of Maurice “Chocolate” Sauce and his cross-dressing sidekick Sprinkles.)

First we had the news that Air America was going off the air. Since nobody listened to Air America, it might have been prudent for them not to tell anybody they were going away, sort of like Menudo.

Then there was the news that basset hounds can in fact swim.

And then there was far more momentous news: The Supreme Court pulled down the existing campaign-finance system like Christmas decorations in July. No, that’s not right. They tore down campaign-finance laws like a Jewish shantytown in Mecca. No, that’s not it either. Like Tracy Flick tears down her opponents’ posters in Election. Grr. I just can’t get it right. Use your own frickin’ analogy.

Anyway, they did something really cool. As I noted in the Corner [BROKEN LINK] the other day, there’s a good lesson here for conservatives who get too infected with fatalism. The slippery slope may exist, but it is not some cold, impersonal force of history. We can push back against the slippery slope. The notion that the Constitution was a binding document with a specific meaning had been in disrepute among elites ever since Woodrow Wilson declared war on our written Constitution. Ronald Reagan made restoring the Constitution a centerpiece of his candidacy and presidency. The Federalist Society was a mere twinkle in the Gipper’s eye back then, and it is now a powerful force in our legal system and culture. Bad trends may be deep. They may have momentum. But they aren’t necessarily irreversible. This is one reason why the Left is so fond of asserting inevitability. The more they can persuade people that their preferences are going to materialize eventually – socialized medicine, gay marriage, the conservative crack-up – the better chance they have of making it a self-fulfilling prophecy. I know some of my colleagues subscribe to the “We Are Doomed” school of conservatism, and let me admit right up front that they may be right. But the only way to guarantee they’re right is if we assume that they are.

If I may digress for a moment (“Right, because until now your writing has been the apotheosis of disciplined linearity . . .” – The Couch): The campaign-finance ruling elicited the predictable howls of outrage from the gitchy goo establishment and the lollipop guild. A friend pointed me to this great line from the New York Times’ editorial on the matter:” The founders of this nation warned about the dangers of corporate influence.”

His response: “Right, how could anyone forget the famous Federalist Paper warning that ‘Big Firewood’ was manipulating the 1770s U.S. energy market?” Personally, I liked Thomas Paine’s pamphlet on Big Whale Oil’s funding of research by the beeswax deniers.

Oh No . . . the Historians Are out to Get Me . . .

I actually had plans to go an entirely different way in this week’s TNGF. Lots of readers suggested that I should be more cerebral and intellectual along with the pull-my-finger jokes, and I had this whole big thing about genetic determinism sitting in my prefrontal outgoing box. But then I got blindsided by “the historians.” Over at the History News Network, a bunch of real historians – and a few fake ones – have teamed up to attack my book. I ended up spending a day reading the nonsense and then writing a reply, which, believe me, is not how I wanted to spend my time, not when I’ve finally got season one of The Shieldon DVD.

Anyway, for those interested in this stuff, I think it’s worth reading the attacks and my response. Most of the attacks are just bat-guano crazy. Roger Griffin, a prominent historian of fascism, comes completely unglued, calling me the moral equivalent of a Holocaust denier and Liberal Fascism the modern incarnation of the Protocols of the Elders of Zion. Meanwhile, what substance there is in his essay is trivial and non-responsive to the arguments of my book. Robert Paxton, an even more eminent historian, is a tad less deranged and nasty, but he too keeps shooting where I ain’t. And for a guy who mocks my scholarship, he gets just a pile of stuff wrong.

If I may gloat for a moment – and who will stop me? – I find this whole late-hit attack extremely reassuring. I don’t think I got everything perfect in my book. I don’t think it’s unreasonable to disagree with big chunks of it. But if this is the worst that some of the best living historians of fascism can throw at me, I think that’s pretty cool. That said, I’d have preferred if they had criticized the book in good faith, as I do have an interest in the actual subject matter and I’m not under the illusion that I don’t have anything to learn.

Still, I think the overreaction from these guys is a real compliment. It means I hit them in the soft stuff.

Anyhow, we’re all out of time. I hope you enjoyed the State of the Union but didn’t get turned into a pod person as a result. See you next week.

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