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 Paul Ryan, unless he’s busy getting his wildlife tracking collar attached to ensure he doesn’t make a break for it),
I overslept yesterday morning — accursed bartender! Why did you over-serve me!?
When I awoke from my slumber at 7:12 a.m. in my New York hotel room covered in blood that wasn’t my own, my first concern was, “Do I have time to write this ‘news’letter?”
Speaking of time, by the time you read this it will be later than it is now. Damn you, unidirectional nature of the time-space continuum! How much cooler would it be if you were reading this during the Renaissance?
Somewhat more relevantly, by the time you read this, the House Republicans may have unified around a new speaker.
Yes, I know what you’re thinking: “Bwaaaahahahahahaha!”
But it could happen. Also, if vests had sleeves, Joe Biden would have an easier time figuring out which hole his head is supposed to go through.
‘Crisis’ of the House Divided
Some folks in the GOP are freaking out like Lancelot in Excalibur when he wakes up naked next to Guinevere and sees that Arthur has left his sword between them. “The King without a sword! The land without a king!”
Yeah, yeah, I know: The reference is a bit obscure. All of the good pop-culture references are in the hotel minibar and they are outrageously expensive. “Thirteen dollars for a Godfather quote! Are you kidding me!?”
RELATED: The House Republican Civil War
For those of you who missed Excalibur, shame on you. Deduct ten points from your lifetime nerd score. But also: The point is that people — particularly Beltway people — are acting as if the speaker of the House plays a much larger role in our lives than he really does. The speaker without a gavel! The House without a speaker! Where’s Lloyd Bridges to lament that he picked the wrong week to stop sniffing glue?
But, seriously, start asking your friends who don’t work in politics how much they really care about the speakership. No doubt you know some political junkies who are interested or even invested in this (or maybe that’s you). But most normal people don’t care that much about the position. You know why? Because that’s normal.
I think Ramesh makes a good point when he advises calm (Ponnuru’s gotta Ponnuru). We still have a speaker of the House. His name is John Boehner. And whatever you think about him (I personally think he’s been treated somewhat unfairly), you have to appreciate the fact that his job is harder than most people realized. If it weren’t, you wouldn’t see so many ambitious politicians wetting themselves like the rookie fighter standing in front of Russell Crowe in Gladiator at the mere prospect of taking the job.
(Pro tip: Don’t google “gladiator pissing” videos in a hotel restaurant. The results are not the sort of thing you necessarily want the tourists from Omaha in the next booth to see on your screen. Or maybe you do?)
EDITORIAL: Paul Ryan Should Run
I’m not imputing fear or cowardice to Paul Ryan, or really to anyone in particular. From everyone I’ve talked to, it seems like he just doesn’t want the job for honorable reasons, though he may be compelled to take it for honorable reasons as well. See our editorial for more on this. My point is that given the extent of dysfunction in the GOP right now, it’s just not a very desirable job. That’s weird man (not to be confused with Weirdman, the most disturbing superhero ever. Or this guy.)
Right now the GOP is like a messed up family at Thanksgiving dinner. Even the most innocuous comments and actions are treated as rubbing salt in old wounds.
I could write at great length (“You’re telling me!” — The Couch) about the root causes of this dysfunction, but I’ll save that for another time. The simple fact is that this dysfunction exists. Right now the GOP is like a messed up family at Thanksgiving dinner. Even the most innocuous comments and actions are treated as rubbing salt in old wounds. “‘Pass the mashed potatoes?’ I’m sick of your bulls**t! You never came to my school play! I had a solo in West Side Story!”
I got a lot of grief for my column suggesting that New Gingrich should serve as a caretaker speaker. And I get the objections. But even if you don’t want Gingrich — though I honestly think we could do a lot worse — I think the case for a caretaker speaker makes a lot of sense. If Paul Ryan is cattle-prodded into the job, it seems to me he should do it under the condition that he gets to go back to Ways and Means in 2017. Yes, it could work out horribly for him. But it could also work out great. If done right, he could collect a lot of chits that could be redeemed when he pursues serious tax reform. In fact, that might be the key to a Ryan speakership: Find a single unifying policy vision that unites the caucus and put off the other arguments until after the presidential election. But what do I know?
In my column today, I write that Hillary Clinton is little more than “political ambition in a pantsuit.” The single most predictable response from liberals so far in my e-mail and Twitter feed is: sexism! Apparently “pantsuit” is the new bloody shirt of patriarchal oppression. I call shenanigans on this.
Aside from her lying and abandoning all but the pretense of having any actual convictions, pantsuits are Hillary Clinton’s trademark. She even has a line of shwag dedicated to pantsuits. The late boxing writer Bert Sugar wore a fedora everywhere he went. He was never seen without it. If I wrote, “Bert Sugar was a boxing encyclopedia in a fedora” no one would think twice. If every time I went on TV I wore my spaghetti colander codpiece, lefty writers would be entirely in their rights to say “Goldberg is a jackass in a codpiece.”
A more substantive — but equally wrong — complaint is that Hillary Clinton is being held to a sexist double standard when people — i.e., me — point out her naked ambition. This has a superficial plausibility. Carly Fiorina, for example, is often derided as too ambitious when she’s no less or more ambitious than anybody else on the GOP debate stage. Nancy Pelosi, I’m sure, has gotten similar treatment. But there’s a difference between the Nancy Pelosis and Carly Fiorinas and Hillary. The former stick to their principles and convictions far more than Clinton does. Pelosi willingly lost control of the House to get Obamacare passed. Contrary to a lot of nonsense you hear from Fiorina’s critics, she stayed conservative when she ran for the Senate in California. Bernie Sanders is stealing Hillary’s thunder because he sticks to his principles. Yes, all politicians trim their sails to the political winds to one extent or another. But Hillary Clinton operates like she lost her mast. Or something. I’m not very good at nautical metaphors.
In this she is every bit a Clinton. Jesse Jackson once said of Bill: “There is nothing this man won’t do. He is immune to shame. Move past all the nice posturing and get really down in there in him, you find absolutely nothing . . . nothing but an appetite.”
Hillary Clinton was secretary of state for four years and she did little to nothing of consequence beyond prepare for a job she felt entitled to.
Hillary Clinton was secretary of state for four years and she did little to nothing of consequence — well, nothing of positive consequence — beyond prepare for a job she felt entitled to. Yeah, she flew a million miles. But as I’ve said before, if you had a travelling salesman who racked up a million miles without closing any sales, he wouldn’t get the set of steak knives at the end of the year.
Indeed, one of the funniest aspects of her flip-flop on the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) is that TPP was one of the few things she could plausibly take credit for. The day before Clinton came out against TPP, Anne-Marie Slaughter was on NPR touting the trade deal as one of her biggest accomplishments. No wonder her defenders want to rally around the pantsuit battle flag.
#related#Hillary Clinton reminds me of Ted Kennedy, and I don’t just mean the comparable driving skills. When Ted Kennedy was asked why he wanted to be president, he couldn’t answer the question. He was a Kennedy. He felt entitled to the job and it never occurred to him to formulate a reason beyond that. His rambling reply to the question “Why do you want to be president?” killed his bid for the job. Ever since, it’s been political consulting 101 to make sure your client has something to say when asked that question, and I’m sure Hillary could offer up some perfectly serviceable pabulum if required to. But it seems obvious to me that her real answer would be closer to the Kennedyesque one. She feels entitled to the job. It’s her turn. Replace “because I’m a Kennedy” with “because I’m a woman” or “because I put up with all of Bill’s crap and I deserve my shot” or “because there’s nothing else for me to do.”
Various & Sundry
I’ll be on Special Report tonight if you’re reading this today. I was on Special Report last night if you’re reading this tomorrow.
The second installment of my conversation with Steve Hayward is up.
My short “Bookmonger” conversation with John Miller on “What Is Conservatism?” is up over at Ricochet.
My USA Today column this month was on Hillary’s SNL appearance and why it’s a vindication of Citizens United. I gotta say I was a bit surprised by how unbelievably and incoherently angry it made a lot of people. The notion that the First Amendment is a right held by everyone and not just newspapers and TV networks is shockingly difficult for some people to process.