Dear Reader (and those of you having this read to you by your secretary, even though she’s taxed at a higher rate than you),
Distractions & Surprises
In my column today, I write about the infuriatingly predictable tendency of the media to buy into liberal wedge issues – i.e. “distractions” – and dismiss conservative ones as illegitimate. Republicans have “troubling associations” with every Tom, Dick, and Harry who’s within six degrees of separation. But, you know what, Bill Ayers was “just a guy who lives in my neighborhood” according to Obama and just about everyone else in the press. John Kerry belonged to a group of ex-military radicals who (apparently not in his presence) discussed assassinating conservative public officials. That was a youthful dalliance not worth the time of serious journalists, save in the context of showing how irresponsible Republicans were to bring it up in the first place. Anyway you know the drill.
I didn’t have space to mention the latest example of this ancient trend: The battle between Mitt Romney who apparently air-dries his dogs but stops short of turning them into jerky, and Barack Obama who has been, by his own account, peckish for pooch in the past. If that’s not enough information – or alliteration – for you, John Podhoretz has a pitch-perfect piece on the pooch puffery into today’s Post.
Now, if I put on my actual dog-lover’s hat (as opposed to the dog-I-love’s hat in my Twitter picture) I’m un-amused by any of this. You shouldn’t strap your dog to the roof of the car, nor should you braise him in coconut milk when you get him down. I find dog-eating absolutely atrocious, but I don’t in fact hold the practice against Obama in any way (unless, of course, I find out they’ve been serving German Shepherd’s pie at state dinners). But I am 100 percent in favor of turning the tables on Obama on this sort of stuff. If his supporters want to use this sort of thing against Romney then I have no problem with Romney turning the tables. If it causes outrage among liberals, all the better because that outrage is like a siren calling attention to their hypocrisy.
It’s been a joke for a while that whenever bad economic news is released, a lot of news outlets describe it as “unexpected” or a surprise of some kind. It seems that sort of thing is migrating to anything that reflects poorly on the POTUS. Here’s the subhead on a Telegraph story on Obama’s Maldives gaffe. “Barack Obama made an uncharacteristic error, more akin to those of his predecessor George W Bush, by referring to the Falkland Islands as the Maldives.”
And here’s Wolf Blizter inadvertently (I hope) synthesizing three years of MSM coverage of Obama. It’s a CNN piece on the GSA scandal and at about the 2:38 mark Blitzer says: “It’s pretty shocking that four years into the Obama administration stuff like this is going on.”
Uh, shocking to who Wolf?
I like Wolf and was on his old CNN Sunday show for several years, but good Lord, why should we be shocked? The naïf raised on Chicago politics who couldn’t believe there were no “shovel-ready jobs” until he blew hundreds of billions on them to little effect, was supposed to stamp out government malfeasance and incompetence by now? Really? The upshot seems to be that this is the sort of thing we should expect from the Bush administration, but four years into the Obama administration everything should have been fundamentally transformed by now.
The simple truth is that the more you expand government the more likely scandals like this become, for the simple reason that there’s more money sloshing around to be wasted. Add in the preening sense of entitlement that comes with progressive governance and these sorts of scandals are inevitable.
Complexity Is a Subsidy
The other day Mary Katharine Hamm tweeted a link to one of those utterly predictable stories about how corporations with more lobbyists pay lower taxes or some such. She also remarked “complexity is a subsidy” – and that really stuck with me. In many respects those four words distill vast swaths of scholarship from everyone from Friedrich Hayek to Charles Murray.
Again, it’s not a new idea, but I think it’s an extremely useful and pithy description of a very complex argument. The more that financial success depends on high IQ; the more demand there is for lawyers, lobbyists, and accountants; the more onerous regulations become for men-with-strong-backs to find work or for entrepreneurs to start businesses – then the more we move towards a society where the government rewards people based on their ability to navigate paperwork or fulfill quotas on a political to-do list. Complexity benefits statists because increasing complexity allows statists to claim we need more government to help people navigate through these complex times. In the process of helping, they make the government more complicated, creating new services for “fixers” of all stripes to solve problems the statists created in the first place.
The more you look around at spots where society and government intersect, the more you can see how pervasive and pernicious this dynamic is. The more rules you have, the more power you bequeath to the people well-suited to make or manipulate the rules.
Anyway, just a thought.
Don’t Go Into the Light!
Michelle Obama says that her husband “has brought us into the light.” Daniel Harper over at the Standard sees this as conjuring all sorts of biblical allusions to Jesus. Harper writes, “In the book of Matthew, we read, ‘the people dwelling in darkness have seen a great light; and to them which sat in the region and shadow of death light is sprung up.’ (Matthew 4:16) The phrase is used to describe the words Jesus preached.”
Now, back in the days when Liberal Fascism was fresh in my mind, Obama seemed to be going whole hog on the political religion stuff and people were talking about him as the Messiah, I might have made a big deal about all of this.
But fast-forward nearly four years later and when I hear her say that Obama has “brought us into the light,” the first thing that comes to mind isn’t immanentizing the eschaton, but the movie Poltergeist. See what I mean [BROKEN LINK].
By now subscribers to the National Review mothership should have gotten the issue with my Biden cover on it. G-File readers should know that the reason I wrote it in the first place was that Rich Lowry read a recent G-File in which I proclaimed Biden “the most audacious gasbag in 500 years,” or words to that effect. He asked me if I’d ever written on Biden for the magazine itself and I said no. The rest, as pretty much no one says, is history. But here’s a nice extended excerpt for those interested:
The word “literally” has taken a beating in the Age of Biden. He’s often proclaimed that Obama had the opportunity “literally to change the direction of the world” (which, if possible, might help fulfill that promise to lower sea levels). Biden announced that “before we arrived in the West Wing, Mr. Boehner and his party ran the economy and the middle class literally into the ground.” His speeches are “literally” festooned with “literally”s, like hundreds of tethers to the hot-air balloon that is his head.
The standard joke is to quote the scene in The Princess Bride when Inigo Montoya tells Vizzini, “You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.” The problem is that Biden insists that he does know what it means. One of his favorite ways to emphasize his seriousness is to say, “and I mean literally, not figuratively,” as if “literally” meant “I’m really serious” and “figuratively” connoted some effeminate lack of conviction. He says JFK’s “call to service literally, not figuratively, still resounds from generation to generation.” He told students in Africa, “You are the keystone to East Africa – literally, not figuratively, you are the keystone.” “The American people are looking for us as Democrats,” he has said. “They’re looking for someone literally, not figuratively, to restore America’s place in the world.” Speaking at a rally for Senator Patty Murray, he said, “I have now gone into 110 races around the country, and everywhere I go I see ordinary people who play by the rules, get everything right, paid their mortgage, showed up in their school helping their kids, made sure that they did everything they could to save to get their kid to college, took their mom and dad in when they needed help and hoped to save a little bit of money so they wouldn’t have to rely on their own kids when the time came.” Here’s the kicker: “And all of a sudden, all of a sudden – literally, not figuratively – they were decimated.” If they were literally decimated, Biden doesn’t just see ordinary people, he sees dead people. But only one for every nine among the living.
Let’s give the poor word some smelling salts and ask it to get back in the ring for a moment. It is literally absurd to say, “This is a guy who walks and talks like someone who grew up in Scranton,” as David Wade, Biden’s spokesman at the time, told Politico in defense of his boss. (It’s also not literally true that Biden grew up in Scranton; he left town at the age of ten.) As part of my research for this article, I visited Scranton – not literally, mind you, but literally enough in Joe Biden’s America. Statistically speaking, Scrantonites are not more likely than, say, residents of Muncie to instruct a wheelchair-bound man, “Stand up, Chuck, let ‘em see ya.” In 1929, there were a handful of experimental television sets being developed in discrete locations around the country, but literally none of them were in Scranton. Which explains why very few Scrantonites believe, as Biden explained to Katie Couric, that FDR, who was sworn in as president in 1933, went on national television after the stock-market crash of 1929 to reassure the American people.
The Wade defense – he’s authentic! he’s real! he literally talks like a real American! – is an explanation much of the press corps uses to rationalize why they don’t care about Biden’s gaffes. I doubt that all of them believe this, but clearly some do. And those who do are revealing that they hold the American people in remarkably low regard. It’s a frightening prospect, really, that large numbers of pols, flacks, and hacks in Washington think we live in a nation of Joe Bidens. Not least because Joe Biden is crazy.
Now I don’t mean Joe Biden is literally crazy, just figuratively (although sometimes it is very easy to imagine him at the mental hospital, dressed in stained white PJs, standing on a card table and explaining how the shortage of lime Jell-O is “literally the greatest outrage to be visited on mankind” since the orderlies took away his fern). Biden’s logorrhea dementia is the most popularly diagnosed malady in political life since Bill Clinton’s priapism.
Various & Sundry
It’s a light G-File today because I’m quite literally exhausted. I just got back from a great time in West By God Virginia and today my daughter has off from school because of parent-teacher conferences (we had ours early, on Monday. By the way, I find that if you bring a whole stag carcass and skin it on the table – a la Tywin Lannister in Game of Thrones – during the meeting, it focuses the teacher on your child’s merits). And since things are going to get ever crazier as we get closer to pub date, I’m taking the day for some Daddy-Daughter time.
The Preorder Plug
Yes, I know it’s gotten a bit ridiculous and I really can’t wait for the book to stand or fall on its own merits, but I’m grateful to everyone who has preordered the book already. Just to be clear, the reason for the preorder push is really quite simple: The more preorders you have the better your first week sales, which in turn improves your chances to be on the bestseller list. If you are on the bestseller list, the more likely it is bookstores will push your book and producers will want you to hawk it on their shows to promote it.
So anyway, once again: If you preorder and send your receipt firstname.lastname@example.org you get The Goldberg Variations, an e-book collection of my best cover stories from NR, and a chance to win the TOC tote bag.
Also, anyone who wants me to sign a bookplate, just send me a stamped, self-addressed, envelope c/o The American Enterprise Institute, 1150 17th Street, NW WDC 20016. I haven’t started sending back all the ones I’ve gotten yet, but I’m definitely saving them for a signing session soon.
Anyway, I’m really grateful to you all for the support.
Oh and remember to check out the Tyranny Blog when you have a chance for upcoming events and appearances and what not. Once the reviews start coming in, I will start mixing things up a bit more heavily.
And now, for some other stuff.
Corgies are one of my favorite breeds. Here are some reasons why.