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 Crom, who cares not what I write),
When my daughter was little more than a toddler, she wrote all over the wall with a pen in my wife’s home office. We confronted her about it. She listened intently, trying hard to be surprised by the news of this defilement of our domicile. “What happened, Lucy?” we asked.
#ad#After a long and nervous pause, she replied, “I know what happened.” Excited by her own duplicitous inventiveness and restrained by her desire to sell it, she said very seriously, “A bad girl must have come into the house and did this.” She tsk-tsked, “What a bad girl,” shaking her head while looking at the wall.
I need not dwell on the implausibility of roving bands of ninja-like naughty toddlers — or lone-wolf munchkins — breaking into nice homes to scribble on the upstairs walls and then depart leaving no other trace of their schemes. I simply bring this up to say that my daughter’s “a bad girl did it” gambit is a wildly more powerful and resolute claim of innocence than “you have no smoking gun.”
My column from yesterday is on this very point. So I won’t recycle it here. I will, however, recycle from an infinitely better “news”letter I penned a couple months ago. I wrote, “If you want to know what Hillary Clinton would be like as president, you’re seeing it right now. There is no other Hillary. This is her.” It’s Hillary all the way down.
And I wrote that before the Peter Schweizer book came out. I wrote that before Sidney Blumenthal was awakened from his slumber by a congressional subpoena (rumor has it he sleeps upside down in a basement at the Clinton Foundation wrapped in his own mothwings).
My point isn’t that I am prescient. My point is that Hillary is predictable. I could have written that in 2000 when she went on her last “listening tour” in a Scooby van, or at almost any other moment of the last 30 years.
There are no “new” Hillarys. There are, on occasion, new strategies to dupe people into thinking there is a new Hillary. But these Potemkin do-overs are usually as pale, thin, and see-through as the skin of an agoraphobic Goth computer programmer. The simple fact is: This is her. There is no other her. There is no other Bill, either, by the way. They are Clintons and they are eternal, Aesopian, unchanging. The tackiness and the lying, the parsing and corner-cutting, the entitlement and fakery: This is what they do. Scandals swirl around the Clintons like the cloud of dirt surrounding Pigpen not because the Clintons are the victims of their enemies, but because the Clintons are their own worst enemies. They do this to themselves. They create these problems. They are the authors of their own torment because this is who they are.
Don’t Get Fooled Again
Scandals swirl around the Clintons like the cloud of dirt surrounding Pigpen not because the Clintons are the victims of their enemies, but because the Clintons are their own worst enemies.
This is an important political point because the Clinton strategists and spinners are invested in a theory that electing a woman will be transformative. It will be like that scene in Excalibur where King Arthur, rejuvenated by the Holy Grail, revives the brown and wasted crops and forests simply by riding by. We already had one experiment in this kind of magical thinking. It worked for Barack Obama. I don’t think it will work for Hillary. Obama was new and fresh. Hillary . . . isn’t.
I think this offers insight into why Hillary is betting it all on reviving the Obama coalition. I’ve written many times that I don’t think she can succeed. But maybe I’m wrong (“It’s happened before” — The Couch). And, more to the point, I’ve come to realize it’s the only strategy open to her. She can’t run to win moderates, independents, and swing voters (save for a subset of women who will vote strictly on identity-politics lines), because these voters can’t be Jedi-mind-tricked into ignoring all of her baggage. Only the hyper-partisan, the extremely uninformed, the incurably gullible, and, of course, the heavily bribed can get really excited about Hillary Clinton.
How to Listen to a Clinton, Cont’d
I’m thinking, the phrase “eats like a bird” is really bogus. I mean, they eat nuts and bugs all day long; that’s a lot of protein, particularly given their size. But that’s not really important right now (Sorry, I’m writing this in my backyard watching my birdfeeder — which my cats consider to be a poorly-constructed and frustrating cat feeder — as I write this).
Where was I? Oh, right, I’m thinking “How to Listen to a Clinton” should be an occasional feature of this “news”letter (see the last entry here). Why? Well, first of all it’s kind of in my wheelhouse. Second, I’m always looking for copy on Friday mornings and, well, if there’s a more renewable resource than Clinton lies, I’m hard pressed to think what it might be.
As I said last week, the Clintons’ favorite way to lie is by telling the truth selectively. There are a lot of benefits to this oh-so-lawyerly technique. It sounds more plausible. It frustrates journalists. It comes in handy when your lies are exposed or you’re asked about them under oath. The downside is that when you use the truth to tell lies, you embed implied confessions in the silences. “There’s no smoking gun” isn’t a denial, it’s a passive-aggressive way of saying, “You’ll never catch me!”
In 2002, being open about her presidential ambitions would be politically inadvisable, so Hillary denied it, Clinton-style:
Responding to reports and comments from anonymous friends and advisers that she plans to run for president in 2008, Hillary Clinton told the Associated Press that “I don’t know who those people are or where they’re getting their information from because they’ve never had a conversation with me they can quote.”
“Never had a conversation with me they can quote” is not the same as “these conversations never took place.” In fairness, lots of politicians lie about their presidential ambitions. My point here is to illustrate the style of Clintonian lies, not the magnitude of them.
When asked by Diane Rehm if Webb Hubbell’s silence had been bought, Hillary Clinton replied, “There’s no evidence of that. There will not be any evidence of that.”
That is not a denial either. This is the kind of thing Tony Soprano says when he knows all the bodies have been disposed of at Satriale’s.
Here’s Bill in 1997 in response to his fundraising tactics.
I don’t believe you can find any evidence of the fact that I had changed government policy solely because of a contribution.
If one parses this with Clintonian precision, this is actually closer to a confession. He says it is a “fact” that he changed policy. But also note the weasel word “solely.” Were contributions a factor in his decisions?
Consider all of the skid-greasing money sluicing into the Clinton Foundation from arms manufacturers, uranium moguls, and the like (not to mention children’s charities!). No doubt there are arguments one can make on the merits for the decisions donors were lobbying for. Every lobbyist I’ve ever met — and I’ve met hundreds — can make good, or good-sounding, arguments for their position, just as every country lobbying FIFA for a World Cup billet can make its case on the merits. It’s just that sometimes a little baksheesh helps officials see those merits more clearly.
And finally, here’s Lanny Davis on Fox News last month:
There’s no evidence that President Clinton, that I’ve seen yet, tried to influence any decision by any governmental agency.
Yes, and there was no evidence that a bad girl didn’t break into my house to draw on the wall, either.
For those who don’t know who either of these candidates are, you should probably count yourself lucky and stop reading. Save the surprise for when all life on this planet is snuffed out in a blinding flash by Smod or wait until hordes of Cthulhu cultists in clown costumes force you to eat your own entrails.
But if you’re not the type to delay gratification, let me quickly catch you up. Cthulhu is one of the Old Ones, a god-demon who predates time and who ravages worlds and souls for his own amusement. His face is a multi-tentacle horror, a mere glimpse of which could send even the strongest mortal into madness.
Smod is the nickname/acronym for the Sweet Meteor of Death, whose planet-killing arrival many sane people pray for whenever they contemplate a Hillary Clinton presidency or listen to Sally Kohn talk.
Anyway, Kevin noted the other day that his preferred candidate in 2016 is Cthulhu (“Why Vote for a Lesser Evil?”). This surprised me because Kevin is a minarchist with strong anarcho-capitalist tendencies. Sure, Cthulhu is a ravager of worlds, but he is also a ruler prone to dirigiste economics., Smod is far more laissez faire. As I wrote yesterday:
Smod describes himself as a “pre-cambrian conservative.” He has no cultists looking to rule in his name. He doesn’t endorse evil, merely the sweet release of planetary destruction. While Cthulhu can be a bit of windbag, Smod makes no speeches, he makes no sounds at all as he glides through the cosmic ether. Calvin Coolidge looks loquacious by comparison. Meanwhile, Cthulhu’s will is unpredictable, he vows chaos and anarchy here on earth. Smod provides what the market demands: certainty, predictability, and simple rules for a complex society. Who knows what Cthulhu will do tomorrow? With Smod there is no tomorrow. He has the single-minded focus only a cold and soulless inanimate object can provide.
Burke, Hayek, & Smod
Kevin makes several excellent points in his rejoinder. And I especially appreciate his perspicacity on the question of our philosophical differences. He is right that I am more of a Burkean. But, sadly, he perpetuates the false division between Burkean traditionalism and Hayekian libertarianism. Burke subscribed to his own conception of spontaneous order and recognized the knowledge problem (“the individual is foolish . . . but the species is wise”) long before Hayek was born. Indeed, Hayek greatly admired Burke, which is why he rejected the label “libertarian” in favor of “Old Whig” — a deliberate pronouncement of solidarity with the Sage of Beaconsfield.
I don’t want to force Kevin into a label he does not accept — that would be Cthulhian of me — but I’d like to suggest he’s an Old Whig without knowing it. If there is a single moral principle that united the Old Whigs — from Burke to Hayek — it is the evil and folly of “arbitrary power.” Kevin’s book, The End Is Near and It’s Going to Be Awesome, is not a jeremiad for moral anarchy and rule by the cruel or the strongest. Rather it is an argument for the morally restorative powers of anarchy — i.e., liberty rightly understood.
If Cthulhu stands for anything, it is for himself. His motives are beyond our ken. His blood-soaked actions are grounded in nothing but his own whimsy. Is this not the very definition of arbitrary power? Obviously, in a world where Al Sharpton can blame Texas floods on “climate control” [sic], all rational men wish for the sweet release of total destruction. But is a mercurial ancient being of indecipherable evil the kind of being you want to pin your hopes on? Just for giggles, he could make Al Sharpton his Warden of Terra for a thousand centuries. That’s a blink of the eye for one who stands outside the currents and eddies of time as we know it. If such a delay amuses him, what does he care about the timetable of those eager to leap in the cosmic bologna grinder?
Meanwhile, Smod is beholden to the rule of law — in this case, the law of physics. As an inanimate object — “a chunk of space-rock,” Kevin dismissively spits — Smod could no more change his mind, or his schedule, than 4 could choose not to be the sum of 2+2. Sure, he lacks Cthulhu’s experience, but he has knowable and reliable convictions. If experience is all that matters, then in the human presidential contest (“a feckless battle of impotent meat-sacks,” in Cthulhu’s colorful phrase) Kevin should be pulling for Rick Santorum, George Pataki, or Hillary Clinton. All I need to know about Smod is he is committed to Newton’s First Law of Motion. And, to paraphrase another Old Whig, Margaret Thatcher, the meteor’s not for turning.
For all we mortals know, Cthulhu could proclaim that ducks must crap plutonium while crows eat our eyeballs every morning. He could raise Helen Thomas from the stygian depths and force us to mate with her. Cop Rock could be broadcast 24/7 on every channel, just to make sure the living envy the dead. Sure, sure, we’d all die eventually, but that’s true now. Smod promises Walmart-level efficiency for his deliverables.
Speaking of unwavering principle, I’m reminded of Frank Meyer’s famous argument for using nuclear weapons if required to defend liberty. The first “conservatarian” wrote that:
Even granted the most horrendous estimates of the effects of their use, the preservation of human life as a biological phenomenon is an end far lower than the defense of freedom and right and truth. These the victory of Communism would destroy. These it is our duty to defend at all costs.
Kevin’s more mundane argument is about electability. He writes:
And we have to keep in mind electoral realities as well. Conservatives have for a generation been effectively locked out of most of New England and much of the rest of the Northeast; given Cthulhu’s long association with Miskatonic University in Massachusetts, we’d finally have a shot at opening up Dukakis country. What’s Smod’s natural constituency? The geology faculty at the University of Colorado Boulder?
Oh please. For starters, Cthulhu will never get the Evangelical vote. As a demonic beast who claims, if not sovereignty over, then at least co-equal status with the Almighty, Biblical conservatives will never pull a lever for some squid-faced Baal-wannabe. I can see Ralph Reed’s attack ads now.
Cthulhu will never get the Evangelical vote. As a demonic beast who claims, if not sovereignty over, then at least co-equal status with the Almighty, Biblical conservatives will never pull a lever for some squid-faced Baal-wannabe.
Smod, meanwhile, has no such hubris. He respects the very same “Laws of Nature and Nature’s God” invoked in the Declaration of Independence. When Smod arrives he will do so in accordance with Divine Will. But he will also do so in accordance with the precepts of “sound science.” Smod could even get crossover votes from the buffoons who’ve elevated Neil deGrasse Tyson into a kind of secular saint. (Alas, given his perch at the Hayden Planetarium, one could also expect a lot of punditry from Tyson, which I will concede is a drawback.)
And if we are going to talk about political realities, let’s deal with the elephant in the room. Cthulhu is ugly. Really, really, ugly. He’s got a nasty disposition. In the great test of “Who would you like to have a beer with?” Cthulhu loses every time. Meanwhile, Smod’s first name is “sweet” — which is great for the women’s vote. He’s the strong silent type.
So I say again, to all principled conservatives and libertarians seeking a great cataclysmic do-over, there’s only one choice in 2016: Sweet Meteor of Death. Give me liberty and death.
Various & Sundry
Well, for those of you who doubted me when I said I write this thing for my own amusement, I refer you to the above.
My first column this week was on Mike Huckabee’s progressivism. It invited a number of interesting responses, including this fairly ridiculous one by Jamelle Bouie. “This is a pretty classic example of ‘everything I do not like is X,’ where X is in this case is ‘progressivism.’” Bouie seems to think he’s exposing an inconsistency on my part, when in fact all he’s doing is acknowledging my consistency. It’s true, I do not like intrusive, nannying, government by Democrats and I don’t like intrusive, nannying, government by Republicans. As someone with socially conservative views on many issues, it shouldn’t be a surprise that if forced to choose between right-wing progressivism and left-wing progressivism, I will mostly — but certainly not always — prefer the former. But my preferred arrangement would be to have limited government, particularly at the federal level. Anyway, my objection to Bouie’s subtweeted derision prompted a rather silly Twitter spat in which he took great exception to my claim that he’s as ideologically liberal as I am ideologically conservative, with the key difference that I acknowledge my biases while he denies his. As I’ve written at great, great, length, this is a common malady of contemporary liberalism.
My column today was inspired by a rant of mine on the latest Ricochet podcast, which can be found here.
Zoë Update: The dingo’s metamorphosis into a good dog continues apace. The one place where she’s still lagging — though still vastly improved — is her desire to scrap with other dogs, particularly golden retrievers it seems. Oh, one last thing, lots of people seem to think I’m joking when I call her a dingo. But that is what she is (or mostly is). If you google “American Dingo” all of the results are for “Carolina Dogs” who not only strongly resemble Zoë, but, according to all of the breed descriptions, share many of her quirks (from snout-hole digging in our backyard, to strange vocalizations, to poop burying when in sandy locales). Though I’ve yet to read that other Carolina dogs bend their arm out the car window the way she does. We’ll never know for sure what she is, of course. She may have some other bloodlines in her (Yay mongrel vigor!), but she was found near Spartanburg, South Carolina. And she is so, so dingo-y.
Speaking of South Carolina, my belated birthday present from the Fair Jessica is a week off by myself to work on my book. I’ll be holed up in an undisclosed location in the vicinity of Charleston, S.C. No meet-ups scheduled, alas, I’ve got lots of work to do. But restaurant recommendations would be appreciated!
The least mystifying mystery of all time? “Why the Oldest Person in the World Keeps Dying”