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 (Especially everyone who got ripped off ordering that giant blimp online),
Imagine an alien race that built its civilization on the fact it literally defecated highly refined uranium, or super-intelligent and obedient nano-bots, or simply extremely useful Swiss Army knives.
Now imagine one of those aliens comes to Planet Earth. He doesn’t want to see our museums or factories. His first request: a visit to one of our sewage-treatment plants.
“What do your feces do?” the alien asks, cupping the ovoid ends of his seven tentacles around his three olfactory organs. “There must be a payoff for this smell.”
“Um, nothing really,” our Earth representatives answer. “We sometimes turn it into fertilizer. But that’s expensive, and no one wants to eat food grown with human crap. We just try to clean it up a bit before pumping it out into the water.”
“Wait, what?” the alien replies.
“Yeah, we don’t really have much use for it.”
“Wow, that is a lot of stupid, pointless, sh**,” the alien says with a look of disgust (which we’d recognize if we could interpret the aliens’ facial cues).
Which brings me to the week that was. I don’t know if I can remember a dumber week in which to follow the news.
Normally, like the cannibal working the night shift in a coma ward, I’d say, “Where to begin?” But in this case, the more pressing question is, “When does it end?”
Ironically, that’s what I kept asking myself yesterday. You see, I drove to the Adirondacks from Washington, D.C., yesterday, which allowed me to listen to the Strzok hearings for most of the day, which meant that from I-95 to I-87, my car left in its wake a long wisp of my burned-off IQ points, like a ground-level chem trail, all the way up the Eastern seaboard.
Mouth Sounds, How Do They Work?
Before I go on: Here’s a little glimpse into the exciting world of TV punditry. On many occasions, I’ve been on the set of, say, Special Report, getting ready to talk about the day’s news. Sometimes, however, there’s a new name to discuss, which I’ve only read in print, and I don’t know how to pronounce it. Well, there’s a nifty trick I’ve picked up over the last two decades: I ask someone something like, “How do you pronounce this person’s name again?” (It works every time.) If you don’t want to take my word for it, I can attest that I’ve actually witnessed the likes of Charles Krauthammer and Bret Baier do this too.
I bring this up because yesterday a remarkably large number of politicians had no idea how to pronounce Peter Strzok’s name. Now, I’ll admit: When I first saw his name in print, I had no idea how to pronounce it either. If you try to sound it out phonetically, you get the onomatopoeia for a guy trying to say “string” at the exact moment he sticks a fork in a toaster. But this guy has been in the news for 8 trillion years (I exaggerate for effect, but it does feel that way). Moreover, every single one of these Republican inquisitors and Democratic defenders of the faith have staffs larger than Beyoncé’s entourage. And yet, again and again, people pronounced it like they were encountering it for the first time, sounding his name out the way you would when you want to memorize your Croatian cab driver’s name for the cops because of the muffled cries for help you keep hearing in the trunk.
The worst, of course, was Representative Bonnie Coleman, who went on a stemwinder in defense of “Mr. Strozak,” saying “Strozak” with great confidence over and over. Did not one Comms Director think of telling the boss, “It’s pronounced ‘Struck,’ which rhymes with ‘truck,’ not ‘Strozak,’ which rhymes with ‘Prozac.’”?
I don’t want to suggest this was anything like the dumbest thing about the hearings; it’s just that I spent an inordinate amount of time screaming, “It’s STRUCK!” on various highways yesterday, as if I had discovered the secret identity of my arch nemesis. It was Struck all along!
On the drive, every now and then, I would give up and put on a podcast or start cutting myself, anything to feel alive. But then I would go back and turn it on again in the vain hope that we’d learn something new. And each time, I was momentarily convinced that it was a recap or that someone screwed up and replayed the tape from earlier in the day. It turned out that the Republicans kept asking the exact same questions, Strozooozle kept giving the same answers, and the Democrats kept doing whatever the Hell it was that they were doing. Everything that needed to be said was said, but we had to wait for every single one of them to say it. You can’t cut a campaign ad with someone else making an ass of themselves: You’ve got to get the footage of you doing it.
Just for the record: Yes, Strazaam was biased. Yes, Strabant tweeted those things. No, that isn’t evidence of acting on his bias. The idea that cops and FBI agents don’t form opinions about their targets is ludicrous. Fun fact: Elliot Ness was pretty convinced Al Capone was guilty. And, if Ness texted that to a lover, that wouldn’t suddenly make Capone innocent. Mark Furman said some dumb things to impress a girl. That didn’t make O. J. Simpson innocent. No, I’m not saying Donald Trump is like Capone or O. J.; I’m simply saying the relentless repetition of these text messages does not make Trump innocent of anything or Straboozle guilty of anything other than stupidly texting stuff, no matter how many ridiculous analogies the GOP can come up with. Yes, the Democrats have a point that the committee is shirking its oversight in other areas. Yes, the GOP is right that the Dems are shirking their oversight in this area. If the situation were reversed, the a**holery would be reversed too, but that’s not an excuse for the a**holery that was displayed.
Anyway, I don’t want to dwell too long on this deep harbor of feculent foolishness when there’s such a vast ocean of stupid sh** beyond.
The Supreme Court Freakout
Look, I get it. In 2016, Cocaine Mitch went on such a white-bag bender, there’s a donkey in Tijuana named after him (but that’s a different story). After he took care of the stinking Diaz brothers, he stole Merrick Garland’s Supreme Court seat. The Democrats are understandably pissed about it.
But now that the Oracle Kennedy is retiring, they’re terrified — and kind of losing their minds. The Supreme Court has been their Temple of Zeus for 40 years, granting liberals one wish after another that they couldn’t get at the ballot box, no matter how many oxen they sacrificed. And because they see the Court as an instrument of power, not as an interpreter of the Constitution, they can’t imagine that the Court won’t do from the right what they exhorted it to do from the left. (Hint: The Supreme Court won’t usher in The Handmaid’s Tale — that’s Mike Pence’s job.)
So now, almost overnight, liberals are panicking so badly that a line should be forming in the airplane aisle to slap some sense into them.
They want to term-limit justices. They’re penning Very Serious op-eds about how the Court is undemocratic. I particularly like the argument that Democrats must act immediately to pack the Court. No one said to them, “Hold on Skippy, we don’t control the Senate or the White House. If we convince people we’re okay with court-packing, we might get 20 Brett Kavanaughs, or even a few Justice Jeanines.”
But that can’t hold a candle to the magma-hot take that the Democrats should take Cocaine Mitch to court because the “McConnell Rule” has the force of law, and therefore the Supreme Court will make McConnell retract Gorsuch and put Garland on the Court. First of all, the only binding McConnell Rule is “don’t get high on your own supply.” But more importantly, if you took this op-ed and handed it out to a third-year law-school class and said, “take out your red pens,” the paper would simply come back red.
Then, of course, there’s the governor of New York, who vowed to sue the Supreme Court if it overturns Roe. Legally, this is like Emperor Hirohito reassuring his subjects by vowing to declare war on America if America defeats Japan in the Second World War.
Brett Kavanaugh Likes Candy for the Sweet, Sweet Taste
Shockingly, these arguments have not gained much traction, so the front has moved to the war on Brett Kavanaugh himself. Have you heard that he bought baseball tickets on his credit cards? What about the fact that he drank beer in college? Everyone knows that the most horrible demons of the stygian depths like America’s pastime and drink beer in college (it’s no coincidence they use blood-red Solo cups). When Stephen Colbert’s best attack on a guy is that he’s named “Brett,” it should be a sign that the larder is bare.
But, as the sewage-treatment manager told the alien, “Wait, there’s more.” The Washington Post ran an op-ed of Kavanaugh reporting that he is — wait for it — a good dad. The horror! How dare the Post humanize a human by suggesting that he cares for his young like some typical primate!? How dare anyone suggest that it speaks well of a man to praise his daughters!?
Not to inject too much seriousness here, but it is fascinating how many on the left feel so betrayed when the mainstream media treats Republicans with even a fraction of the respect it treats Democrats. It’s a bit like all of those stories about how Democrats get horribly offended when Saturday Night Live makes fun of them: We thought you were on our side!
There’s so much more stupid out there, from the outrage over actors pretending to be someone else for a living and the need to memory-hole anyone who points out the idiocy of it all, to Playbill donning a veritable dunce cap for betraying the party line, to the Democrats ditching the winning issue of child-separation in favor of calling ICE the Gestapo and promising to abolish it, to the percolating theory that Deep State has sleeper cells inside college wrestling.
But I should say a few words about President Trump and the spectacle in Europe. I understand that there are people out there who think my job is to “get right with the electorate” and put my faith in Trump. In this telling, Trump is like one of those trick posters with a hidden 3-D image of space ships or something inside, and if you just relax your eyes just enough, you will see the genius in everything he does. Well call me Mr. Pitt, because I still don’t see it.
There are many good and much-needed arguments about how to improve the NATO alliance, but I’ve seen very little evidence that the president is particularly well-versed in them. As I wrote earlier this week, I think the Trump Doctrine is simply domestic Trumpism on the international stage. And I’ll be honest, it worries me.
His defenders argue (assert, really) that there’s a method to the madness — sorry, “disruption” — that will simultaneously restore manful nationalism around the globe and reinvigorate our alliances. Insulting allies, starting trade wars without any plan for finishing them or even an agenda for getting the concessions he claims to want — it’s all proof that he’s a maestro of a symphony our unsophisticated ears cannot hear. His left-wing detractors see a method too: doing Putin’s bidding by tearing apart NATO and the global order that the U.S. has built. I don’t see that either. I see a guy winging it. Sure, he’s got ideas about all sorts of things, but the planning always seems to be:
Step 1: Mess everything up and get a lot of attention for it.
Step 2: ?????
Step 3: Go down in the history books as the American Churchill.
Some of the ideas are okay — e.g., European NATO members should pay more for their own defense, China does steal our intellectual property and this should be stopped, etc. Some are nonsense. We aren’t robbed of billions of dollars by trade deficits. That’s not how they work. When Cocaine Mitch buys a cargo tanker of Peruvian flake, the Chinese Tongs he’s in bed with get money and Mitch gets the yayo. He’s not being robbed. It’s a win-win. Of course, it’s always better to get the money and the yayo, but that’s a different story. Ocean’s Eleven is a “heist movie” not a “trade-deficit movie.”
The human mind has a tendency to impose causation and narrative on random events. And lots of people do this with Trump. When he threw Theresa May under the bus on Thursday night (the same day he was boasting about a great letter he got from Kim Jong-un), the immediate response from many on the left and the right was that he was up to something. He wasn’t. He just didn’t know what he was doing. That’s why at the press conference on Friday morning, he walked it all back. There was no plan, there was just his id galloping freely out of his mouth.
Just look at some of the things that he’s said overseas. He made up countless statistics about NATO expenditures and contributions. He, again, went on about how he was the first Republican to win Wisconsin in ages — a vital issue to the NATO alliance — insisting that Reagan lost the state. Reagan won Wisconsin twice. He said his father was born in Germany. That was his grandfather. He said, again, that he “understands nuclear” because his uncle was a physicist. In the Sun interview — which he now insists is fake news — he said many strange things, but my favorite was this
“You know, a poll just came out that I am the most popular person in the history of the Republican Party — 92 percent. Beating Lincoln. I beat our Honest Abe.”
For what it’s worth, Gallup introduced the first modern poll in 1936.
In the press conference Friday morning, he was asked if he would take to Twitter on his way home on Air Force One and bad mouth his allies — as he did after the G-7 summit. Trump replied:
“No, that’s other people that do that. I don’t. I’m very consistent.”
“I’m a very stable genius,” the president added.
Look, it’s funny trolling, I guess. And his genius at trolling is indeed very consistent. But come on. This is serious stuff. We may need to rethink all sorts of things, and I’m open to serious arguments about doing so. But in order to seriously rethink such things, it would be helpful to have a serious president who thinks.
Various & Sundry
Canine Update: Yesterday I got a text message from Kirsten, Dogwalker Extraordinaire, that was a bit panicked.
Whoa! Right when we got here Pippy was acting funny and running around like she was chasing a chipmunk then flushed out a fledgling Robin . . . all hell broke loose . . . the parents were dive bombing her I was shrieking and of course Zoe jumped in there but you know what? They didn’t kill it!! I even picked it up and no puncture wounds. Go figure. Phew.
The parent robins acted like the Kavanaughs of the avian world, protected their offspring, and kept dive-bombing Zoë and Pippa. When they got clear, Kirsten texted this picture and said of Zoë: “She is getting heaps of praise for not murdering it!”
Got this pic yesterday while driving. Will explain in today’s G-File. pic.twitter.com/TC8BU2ngOb
— Jonah Goldberg (@JonahDispatch) July 13, 2018
The rest of the week was pretty uneventful. The heat is a burden for the doggers, but the mission never rests. I’m in the Adirondacks through the weekend, so I won’t be tweeting the girls too much. Fortunately, I’m hanging out with these guys. I look forward to my greeting when I get home.
As I alluded to above, this week I responded to Michael Doran’s rejoinder to my criticisms. It’s gotten a lot of attention, but I should say I am growing weary of this whole genre, in part because of my consternation as to why I seem to vex so many people more than other conservatives who come down on these things in just about the same place as I do. It’s particularly annoying because the stated reasons for why I should be singled out are so often wrong, made up, or offered in bad faith. If the attacks were grounded in things that I’ve actually done or said, I’d probably respond less often. But when so many people pretend to know my motives and views — and then get it so wrong — I feel I have to respond. I’m not an expert on much, but I am the world’s foremost authority on what’s going on inside my own cranium.
ICYMI . . .
And now, the weird stuff.