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 (including Matt Labash reading this in his unmarked white van),
I have questions. So many questions. And I really don’t know where to begin. But these are some of the things I want to know:
Does Nancy Grace realize that when they have her play herself in all of these TV shows and movies she’s being asked to play a horrible person?
Producer: And for the Nancy Grace character, we really need someone who can sell lugubrious, sanctimonious, parasitical opportunism and innuendo in just a few words . . .
Casting Director: Hmmm. That is tough. Hey I have an idea. How about Nancy Grace!?
Producer: She’d be perfect! But do you really think she’d prostitute herself that way just for a little more fame and money?
[Long silence] Bahahahahaha!
But I have more questions. Such as, I wonder if the CEO of BleachBit is popping the champagne? I mean he’s just gotten the greatest celebrity endorsement of a data-deletion product ever. They should cut an ad immediately. The CEO could say straight into the camera, “BleachBit: It’s so effective, it’s what the Clintons use to hide their ‘Yoga’ e-mails.” (But he would really need to hit the air quotes around “Yoga.”)
Cut to Trey Gowdy: “It’s so good, even God can’t read them!”
Oh, a moment ago I was saying something about lugubrious parasites, or something like that, which of course calls to mind Sidney Blumenthal. Now, my understanding is that Blumenthal doesn’t in fact have bones so much as a quasi-skeleton made out of highly flexible cartilage, allowing him to get his head further up the rectum of anyone surnamed Clinton far more effectively than a normal human might.
That’s not important right now — but it does remind me to again ask, “If the Clinton Foundation is purely a wonderful and glorious charity, why on earth would Sid Blumenthal be working there?”
I think it was Diogenes who first observed that no charity can claim to be truly noble if you can find Blumenthal’s retromingent trail greasing its corridors, his taffy-like saliva cobwebbing the corners like in an Alien movie. It’s like saying, “This Church does God’s work, not counting the pimp who turned the last three pews into an office and stable for his ladies.” I mean some of the most horrible people in the world, after doing dark and unspeakable things in Tijuana that even the mule would prefer not to talk about, reassure themselves by saying, “Well, at least I’m not Sid Blumenthal.”
In 2009, Hillary Clinton wanted Blumenthal to set up one of his mucus-drenched egg-sack nests at the State Department. Even Rahm Emanuel was like, “Are you high?” So when Clinton was told she couldn’t have her very own wormtongue working for her out of the State Department, what did she do? She gave him a job at her other office — the Clinton Foundation. His job description there was “highlighting the legacy of Clinton’s presidency.”
Let’s pause there for a moment. The other day James Carville said people will go to Hell for criticizing the Clinton Foundation. Children will die. The Seventh Seal will be broken, the CHUDs released, and a second all-ladies Ghostbusters will be made.
James Carville said people will go to Hell for criticizing the Clinton Foundation. Children will die. The Seventh Seal will be broken.
The Clinton Foundation, in Carville’s words, takes money from rich people and gives it to poor people. Yeah, okay, sometimes they do that. But on Carville’s own terms, every dime they take from rich people is for the stated purpose of giving it to poor people (or spending it on their behalf). Did the Clinton Foundation tell donors who thought that they were helping fight AIDS in Africa, “Oh, by the way, we’re gonna take $10,000 a month off the top and give it to Sidney Blumenthal so he can work as a presidential legacy-fluffer?”
Of course, Blumenthal didn’t do much of that because that “job” was his cover (Christopher Moltisanti didn’t spend a lot of his time at Webistics doing market research either). Rather, he spent his days running an off-book intelligence and consulting service, sending Clinton memos on her Libyan adventure and the like.
Look: Hillary Clinton said that she would “avoid even the appearance of conflict” between her work at State and her foundation. But one of the first things she did when she became secretary was have her foundation put Blumenthal on the payroll of her foundation so he could do the job she wanted him to do at State.
Just last June, Clinton said: “There is absolutely no connection between anything that I did as secretary of state and the Clinton Foundation.”
But we’ve spent all week reading e-mails and hearing about all of the phone messages back and forth from the Clinton Foundation and Hillary’s top aides. And yet the press keeps talking about the need for a f***ing smoking gun.
If The Gun Does Not Emit, You Must Acquit
But it’s really as if people don’t understand that a smoking gun is a very high evidentiary bar that most prosecutors — or journalists — never have to meet. Imagine a cop answers a call and comes to a bar where a guy named Jack Butler is caked in the blood of a dozen victims. One of the victims actually wrote, in his own blood, “Butler did it,” which was ironic because the victim was also a big fan of 1930s detective novels. A waitress who hid behind the juke box points at Butler and says, “He did it!” Butler himself says, “You got me.”
But the cop, going by the standards of Beltway clichés says, “Damn, there’s nothing I can do. I don’t see any smoke coming out of his gun.”
Everyone wants proof of a quid pro quo from one of these mega donors in the e-mails. Bless your heart — as if the Clintons would ever put something like that in writing. And if one of their aides did so by accident, well, bust out the BleachBit baby! Use it like fraternity brothers use Febreze on the morning before Parents Visiting Day.
As I write in my column today, you don’t need to look for a quid pro quo in the meetings, the meetings are the quo!
Being able to say to business partners, creditors, local politicians, etc., “When I met with Secretary of State Clinton last week . . . ” is a gift. In America and even more so abroad, possessing a reputation for having friends in the highest places is a priceless asset.
All campaigns understand this. Donors could always just send the check by mail. But politicians understand that one of the things a donor is “buying” is the ability to strut like an insider and dine out on your political connections.
When Bill Clinton rented out the Lincoln Bedroom in the White House to big donors, the donors didn’t get to keep the furniture, but they did get to begin sentences, “The last time I stayed at the White House . . . ”
In Jerry Maguire, Cuba Gooding Jr.’s character gives the great speech about The Quan. It’s his made-up word for not just having money, but also love, respect, the whole package. There are lots of very rich people in search of the Quan, as they define it. Being rich isn’t good enough. They want to be important (I wrote a whole mediocre “news”letter about this point last week). For some of them, just being on the “inside” of politics gets them that much closer to the Quan. Writing a check to a campaign, or to the Clinton Foundation, is a small amount of quid for the quo of the Quan.
Do you think Justin Timberlake spent a small fortune hosting a fundraiser for Hillary Clinton this week because he’s got a pressing business concern that requires a presidential favor? Of course not. Having her at his house was the payoff.
Anyway, Clinton may have sold more than just face time and bragging rights — I’m fairly confident she did. But the point is you don’t need to prove any of that to understand that this whole thing is a farce.
I know, I know: Saying Clinton is a liar has lost all of its oomph, because it has been so obviously true for so long. But it’s so easy to feel like they put crazy pills in the water supply these days.
The Gaslighting Never Ends
In his deposition during the Lewinsky investigation, Blumenthal claimed that Bill had confided in him: “I feel like a character in a novel,” the president allegedly said. “I feel like somebody who is surrounded by an oppressive force that is creating a lie about me and I can’t get the truth out. I feel like the character in the novel Darkness at Noon.” Assuming that Blumenthal wasn’t lying about the conversation taking place, this always struck me as a great example of Bill Clinton’s gift for gaslighting. Not only was he denying the truth of the matter, he was proclaiming that the entire system was paranoid and deluded, that he was in effect the last sane man.
Never mind that Clinton was using Blumenthal to transmit a lie to his wife. Never mind that he was the commander-in-chief and not some dissident intellectual caught in the switches of Stalinism. I still know the feeling that Clinton, or really Arthur Koestler (the author of Darkness at Noon), was trying to conjure. I sometimes sit, watching the TV, and ask, “Am I the crazy one?”
Then the Couch responds, “The question answers itself, no?”
And There You Have It
Now, I know I’m not the last sane man. I know way too many people who feel the same way I do. I write a lot, so it’s always interesting to hear which pieces stick with people. More people have brought up the “news”letter I wrote on the Bodysnatching of the Right than any other since I wrote it last March. We don’t need to get into all of that again.
But this week was rather amazing. For a year or so, a bunch of us have been saying that Trump is conning his fans. The con took many forms, of course. But the most successful bill of goods Trump ever sold certainly wasn’t his steaks or cologne, it was his belching word-salads on immigration. Some of us said he doesn’t really intend to deport 11 million people. Others said he does intend that but he won’t be able to get it done or that he will flip-flop on it down the road. A great many believed that Trump didn’t mean anything in particular, and was just making it all up as he went along. Since it was full-spectrum B.S., some picked one band of the bullsh*t rainbow, others another.
Trump is like the creators of Lost — he sucked everyone in with his crazy story, but had no idea how to wrap it up.
Trump supporters didn’t believe any of the skepticism. But more than that, they insisted anyone who doubted, criticized, or scoffed at Trump’s promises was for “open borders.” When Ted Cruz demurred from the idea of a “deportation force” — a phrase, I believe Trump learned for the first time from Mika Brzezinski — it was suddenly agreed that Cruz, too, was “weak, weak” on immigration.
But when Trump “softened” his position, thanks to his Monty Hall–style consulting with the Greek chorus that is Sean Hannity’s studio audience, he was essentially admitting he not only was conning you, but also that he had no idea how the con was supposed to end. He’s like the creators of Lost — he sucked everyone in with his crazy story, but had no idea how to wrap it up.
When asked on CNN whether he will deport non-criminal illegal immigrants Trump responded — and I am not making this up — “There is a very good chance the answer could be yes.”
This is the guy people rallied to with rapturous testimony about his Strength! Will! Leadership! Decisiveness!
Perhaps the only silver lining in any of this is watching Ann Coulter grapple with this calamity. If Tom Wolfe had written a novel where the Coulter character was defenestrated like this on the night of her book party at Breitbart HQ, the editor would have said, “C’mon, Tom.”
And yet Ann is sticking with her guy. I spent much of the last year writing how Trump was corrupting conservatism by forcing so many Republicans and conservatives to jettison their principles in order to get on the right side of a popular demagogue who would ultimately lead the GOP to catastrophic defeat at the hands of a corrupt and untalented Democratic candidate. There is a kind of pyrrhic schadenfreude, a tragic fremschämen, to watching the demagogues get corrupted too as their idol morphs into Jeb Bush before our eyes.
I’ll give this to Trump, he’s managed to turn Karl Marx on his head. It was his campaign that began as farce and ended in tragedy.
Various & Sundry
Canine Update: Perhaps the biggest change in my neighborhood over the last year — at least from a canine perspective — is the explosion of rabbits. In the nearly 15 years I’ve lived here, I don’t think I ever saw a rabbit until last year. Now they’re all over the place. This presents a real challenge. To say that Zoë loves rabbits is an understatement on par with saying Steve Hayes loves chicken wings.
If she could talk, she’d describe rabbits the way Jack Black talks about Evil Dead 2 in High Fidelity. “Why are you obsessed with bunnies Zoë?” I’d ask. “Because they’re so hoppy and tasty and they can’t climb trees like those rotten squirrels and I can dig huge holes in lawns to get them and they mock me with their bunny ways and I am descended from a great line of rabbit conquerors and I must live up the traditions of my ancestors and they need to be punished for their hoppiness . . . maaaaawwrrrrr BUNNIES!” [Dingoes aren’t big on punctuation]. It’s a problem because if she sees a bunny and she’s off-leash she takes off so fast all you’ll see is that cartoon curlicue of air distortion after she vanishes. She’s jumped out of the car window to get them. Once she has the scent of one there’s no reasoning with her. I walk her on leash around the neighborhood because she doesn’t think any other dog has a right to be anywhere near our house and canine quarrels can come up. But if she sees a bunny, she can yank the leash right out of my hand if I’m not ready. And if she finds one of their bunny bunkers in the shrubbery, I can spend ten minutes looking like I’m taking a bush for a walk.
Anyways: Happy National Dog Day!
Given the events of yesterday, I had planned on writing about all this “alt-right” stuff, but I think I’ll save it for another day. But I will say one thing, the well-intentioned folks out there who think I need to lighten up and make common cause with these bottom feeders are not merely wrong about how I’m wired, they’re wrong about how politics works. Saying we need to coopt or indulge people who openly peddle virulent racism and anti-Semitism out of some misbegotten doctrine of Pas d’ennemis à droite are making a monumental error not just in strategic thinking, but in moral judgment. If Bill Buckley taught us anything, it’s the importance of bright lines when it comes to this kind of thing. Saying good conservatives can have a foot — even a toe — in each camp is an invitation to disaster and a monumental gift to the Left.
One last thing: Yesterday marked the 15th year that the Fair Jessica agreed to be my bride. Remarkably she hasn’t come to her senses yet, for which I am eternally grateful.