Dear Reader (and those of you just hanging out here because Mitt Romney paid you to show your support),
I’m on the train to Philly to talk to a bunch of congressmen about “Liberal Fascism: Three Years Later.”
Me: “Did you know that Mussolini was partially inspired by William James’s ‘Moral Equivalent of War’ stuff, too? It was one of the foundational concepts of both fascism and American progressivism. If you go back and read the works of Georges Sorel you’ll see that . . .”
Poor Bastard: “Sir, I am on the phone and I have no idea what you’re talking about.”
Me: “I know, that’s what I’m trying to explain to you. Militarism doesn’t simply mean bellicosity, it’s a vision for how to organize society. When my book comes out you’ll see how . . .”
Poor Bastard: “Sir. I am still on the phone. And why are you are still sitting in my lap?”
The Limits of the F-Word
I’m often asked why I don’t invoke Liberal Fascism more in my columns (I think I’ve mentioned the book twice in two years in my syndicated column). It’s not like I have a strong principled position against self-promotion. Heck, if you folks can get my next book to open at #1 on the New York Times bestseller list this spring like Mark Levin’s, I will
shave my head on YouTube swallow a goldfish on YouTube kiss Helen Thomas on the mouth do something whacky to be named later.
Basically, the answer is that Liberal Fascism was a failure in at least one regard. It was never my intent to make abuse of the F-word a bipartisan affair. The idea was simply that the Left should stop using the word because they don’t know what they’re talking about and they’re looking in the wrong direction in their eternal vigilance for fascism. Conservatism in the Anglo-American tradition has no basis in, or relation to, European fascism. And it is not just slanderous but hypocritical for liberals to hurl the term at conservatives when the fact is American progressivism does share DNA with European fascism. But that doesn’t mean we should go around calling liberals fascists.
We shouldn’t do it because it’s rarely true or appropriate, but we also shouldn’t do it because most Americans are sufficiently ignorant about the nature of fascism to make conservatives hurling the term sound crazy or extreme. It’s counterproductive. The irony for me is that my critics on the left insist that the whole point of the book was to call liberals fascists. It really wasn’t, which is why it failed in at least one regard.
So, yes, I could absolutely have written today’s column about the similarities between Obama’s fantasy of a militarized America and fascist doctrine (Mussolini described the exact same thing as the “socialism of the trenches”!). But, as George H.W. Bush used to say, that wouldn’t be prudent. And prudence, unlike fascism, is at the heart of conservatism.
To the Moon!
I’ve got to say, I don’t like the way everyone thinks Newt’s desire to go back to the moon is proof of his craziness. Now, yes, when the country is drowning in debt, proposing a moon colony is arguably politically crazy (though Floridians on the Space Coast probably don’t think so). Indeed, when you have a reputation for saying whacked-out stuff, leading with your lunar ambitions can be confused too easily for lunacy itself (“I see what you did there” – The Couch).
But look: I like the idea of space exploration and I see it as one of the few areas where government can and should be involved. No, that doesn’t mean I’m in favor of a big white elephant, or Amtrak in space. I think Gingrich is largely right about prizes and the like. When Romney had his line about corporate America having no interest in going to space, he was being deliberately obtuse. Of course “corporate America” isn’t much interested in going to space (though obviously some firms are). That’s why you create prizes so you can get corporate America, and Americans generally, interested in going to space.
I’m a cathedrals-in-space guy. In a previous life, I made a breathtakingly mediocre documentary about Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris. I learned a lot in the process. One of the enduring takeaways for me was that there are some things society invests in to inspire everyone. The rich can always afford art and inspiration; cathedrals provided art and inspiration for rich and poor alike. In the Middle Ages, cathedral-building represented a space race of a sort. They were built on the highest land around and city-states competed to build the tallest spires in order to get closer to God.
We are a pioneering people, and I see the effort to, as Reagan said, “slip thesurly bonds of Earth to touch the face of God” as a worthwhile endeavor for a great nation. I bet the Founders would be more comfortable with the idea of American expansion to the moon than with, say, Medicare. Can you say “Louisiana Purchase in spa-a-a-a-a-a-ace”?
If that’s all too frilly for you, think of it this way: Lord knows I’m no Keynesian, but if you believe even a fraction of this multiplier stuff or a scintilla about the need to train up a new generation of scientists and engineers, then spending money on space exploration makes a lot more sense than most of the junk in the stimulus. I’m completely pragmatic about how to do it, and heavily biased toward free-market approaches, but I think it’s worth doing.
The mockery of Gingrich over this seems more like a poor reflection on our own national spirit than on Gingrich himself.
Cutting It Short Today
I’m now back on the train to D.C. My speech to the congressmen about Liberal Fascism three years later was short but well received. I was almost late for it because the train was delayed. You’d think that when I’m giving a talk on liberal fascism, Obama could at least make the trains run on time.
I’m in California next week – come on down to UCSB on the first if you can. It’s open to the public and, as Newt knows, it always helps to have a friendly crowd. Embarcadero Hall, 6:45.
While I despair that today’s G-File was so mediocre for all the normal reasons, I’m also deeply chagrined to contemplate the fact that this is the last G-File I will ever inflict on Helen Rittelmeyer, who has been dutifully editing this “News”letter from the beginning. She’s moving on to new adventures and I’m grateful for her efforts (as you should be, given some of the things she’s yanked out of the G-File like Richard Dreyfuss pulling license plates from a shark). I’m sure she will move on to great things.