Dear Reader (including all of you selfish bastards who’ve never once suggested a “Dear Reader” gag, requiring me to come up with this thing week after week on my own and then, if I don’t have one, you’re the first to complain, as if it’s just the easiest thing to do again and again and again),
I think I’ve figured it out. Newt’s entire staff didn’t really quit. They are going deep undercover, spreading out throughout the competing campaigns waiting for their moment. Then, when the time is right, they will be activated like sleepers in Telefon, only instead of a line from a Robert Frost poem the activation code will be something like Newt saying during a debate, “Brother, can you paradigm?” Then, suddenly, they will rise and fight for their One True Master, like the apes feigning death in Battle for the Planet of the Apes when Caesar shouted, “Now, fight like apes!” Newt shall bellow, “Now, flight like Tofflerians!” and lo and behold, the Gingroids will rise, rise, I tell you, and they will fight like they are winning the future.
Okay, maybe not. But that’s at least a happier theory than what appears to be the reality. Newt and Callista are turning into the Salahis of conservative politics (the Salahis, recall, were that garish couple who crashed the state dinner and parlayed that into a mortifying run on Real Housewives of D.C.). I feel bad saying it because I honestly believe Newt deserves better (Callista: Mmm, not as much). But it is hard to remember a better example of a brilliant leader so misreading the political climate and his place in it than Newt in these last months.
The truth, of course, is that such mistakes aren’t made in a day. They involve years of careful delusion. Still, I think it’s sad.
Perry-ish the Thought
Now there’s all this buzz that Rick Perry is getting in the race. I’m more skeptical than most, but I will give him a fair shot. Kevin Williamson’s cover story on the guy is a good place to start. Still, I’ve always heard that he’s a bit of lightweight (Perry, not Kevin). That could be entirely wrong, of course. But I’ve heard it from a lot of different folks.
One interesting question, I think, is, “How will Texas play?” On the one hand, Texas is doing much better than the rest of the country economically (37 percent of all the net new jobs since the recovery began were created in Texas). Also, Perry’s perfectly positioned to use Texas’s high profile on energy to go after Obama’s electric pegasi and high-speed-windmill stuff.
(Oh, by the way, I do know that there’s no such thing as pegasi, since there is only one Pegasus. A pterippus is a generic winged horse. Pterippi is the plural form. None of this is to be confused with Pteropus, a.k.a. the “flying fox,” an Indonesian “megabat” seen sleeping with Helen Thomas.)
On the other hand, there’s something about the Texas thing that I don’t think will play as well as many think. First of all, I’m sure Obama would be psyched to finally have a guy from Texas who’s actually on the ticket to run against. More seriously, I have nothing against Texas. They make many food products there I would like to put in my belly. But one of my biggest gripes about the Bush presidency was how, over time, it felt like an identity-politics thing. People got lazy, defending him – and attacking him – because he was a cultural marker. For good or ill, a lot of that stuck. And not only am I bit weary of Texas swagger, I’m weary of defending it too. You can certainly be sure that the MSM will play up the Texas stuff beyond all actual relevance. And I just find that prospect a bit exhausting. But we’ll see. This guy ain’t Bush – though that’s certainly not what Debbie Wasserman Schultz will say.
One last point, since I raised it on Twitter yesterday. I think there’s a non-trivial possibility that Rick Perry turns out to be this cycle’s Fred Thompson.
I understand that there are lots of reasons why the analogy shouldn’t hold. Perry’s a much more serious campaigner with a lot more fundraising potential. But there’s just something about this that reminds me of Thompson (who I am a fan of, by the way).
Fred came in looking so awesome on paper — and that was part of the problem. It was as if he got in the race less because he wanted to be president and more because he found the argument for why he should run so compelling. If Perry had the fire in the belly to run, he wouldn’t have waited for the current mess we see before us. I could be wrong. But I just get the sense he’s running because there’s a compelling case for him to run, which is not quite the same as a compelling desire.
The Ginsburg Moment of Junk Tweeting?
You kids probably don’t remember, but it was once controversial for public figures to smoke pot. Really. Yes, I know it’s still controversial for a politician to keep getting high like Andrew Sullivan at a Provincetown campfire sing-along. But if you smoked pot in the past, all is pretty much forgiven these days. Ronald Reagan’s Supreme Court nomination of Douglas Ginsburg is the most famous touchstone of this tale. Within two days of his nomination, he was toast – toastier than Sean Penn’s head in Fast Times. Why? Because it was revealed he’d smoked pot.
But pretty much all the anti-pot stigma was vented in that episode, and ever since, it’s become less and less of a problem if you had some “youthful experimentation.” Yes, Bill Clinton had that wonderful demonstration of his insatiable desire to placate every constituency when he said he smoked pot but didn’t inhale. But for the most part, pot smoking is no longer a truly dangerous black mark on your permanent record.
I truly fear that Anthony Weiner may end up being the Douglas Ginsburg of sexting, a victim of a taboo against a phenomenon that was poised to go mainstream. Already I’m hearing people say things like “Lots of people do it,” “It doesn’t matter,” “Who cares? Join the 21st century.”
The other morning on NPR, they had an earnest piece about how relationship counselors view sexting. Apparently married couples do this quite a lot, but there’s a debate about whether doing it with someone else is still cheating. For the record, it’s cheating in both cases. Sext with someone other than your wife and you’re cheating on her. Sext with your wife and you’re cheating on your dignity.
Now, it may be some time before it’s widely accepted that you should be able to send pictures of your dishonorable member of Congress without public rebuke. But I am not altogether certain we aren’t heading in that general direction.
Even More Depressing
You may have seen this story in the Corner the other day. A “man” who was a professor at Cal State was arrested and pled guilty to molesting a 13-month-old girl.
He crossed state lines with the cooperation of the mother. She helped take pictures as he did unspeakable things. Now, as many may recall, I’m in favor of expanding the death penalty to crimes outside first-degree murder and I would put child rapists in the on-deck circle for the electric chair.
But, here’s the thing: Child molesters tend to have broken brains. I’m not trying to excuse or mitigate the crime, by any stretch of the imagination. But we simply know that most deranged perverts like this simply have bad wiring, and we don’t know how to fix it. What public policies you want to draw from this fact are worthy of debate.
What I want to know is: What on God’s earth is wrong with the mother? I’ve never heard about a compulsion to do this sort of thing. I just can’t get my head around it. Odds are she was probably a drug addict trying to make some money. But you know what’s on my list of things I would do before doing this just to raise money to feed my habit? Everything.
When Windmills Immanentize the Eschaton
One of the underlying themes of Liberal Fascism is that collectivism is a natural human impulse. We are hardwired to be tribal creatures. As a result, the same human compulsions keep re-expressing themselves. This explains why, in politics, we keep trying to divinize the masses, to make ourselves into “the ones we have been waiting for.” It explains why socialism will never, ever go away. All socialism is a popular manifestation of the hardwired human desire to live in a tribe, albeit misapplied to national or international politics and economics.
When you remove the power and symbolism of religion in our daily lives, religious impulses start creeping in from other directions and sources (which might explain why Jill Abramson recently explained that the New York Timessubstituted for religion in her house growing up). As Eric Voegelin puts it:”When God is invisible behind the world, the contents of the world will become new gods; when the symbols of transcendent religiosity are banned, new symbols develop from the inner-worldly language of science to take their place. Like the Christian ecclesia, the inner-worldly community has its apocalypse too.”
And the apocalypse in vogue for the last decade or so has been climate change. That’s changing, I think, as the cause has lost traction. Which is why it was interesting that Tom Friedman brought back the old standard of overpopulation and disappearing resources the other day. I think this is a sign that the new Utopia will not be a classless pure Communism, or a Kingdom of Heaven on Earth, but the so-called “steady-state economy.” Start reading up now, beginning perhaps with my new column.
On a Happier Note: Various and Sundry
The new Steyn-Goldberg-Long podcast is out. We’re still looking for a name for this thing, by the way.
Mom, Dad, don’t touch her, she’s eeeeevil!: I honestly think Sarah Palin gets too much attention from friends and foes alike. But the dilemma for her friends is that there’s just so much high-proof asininity aimed at her that one feels compelled to rebut it. For instance, did Yahoo really have to call Sarah Palin evil? Evil? What has she done that’s evil?
The Eight Worst X-Men, Ever. As my Dad said to me, keep hope alive, punch some air holes in the box. And next time don’t name your guinea pig “hope,” it confuses things.