Magazine | August 14, 2017, Issue

On Infighting and Real Fighting

Whose life has gotten better since he first put on a MAGA hat?

Not Jeff Sessions, Schrödinger’s attorney general, who has been publicly flogged months after the fact for not launching an investigation into Hillary Clinton that the president told him not to launch. Sessions, an Eagle scout, didn’t even get invited to the Boy Scout Jamboree, and the new White House communications director is dangling his job to the likes of Hugh Hewitt on air. (My sources are telling me Sessions is so distraught, in fact, that the only thing keeping him from going to pieces is his drive to expand legalized theft via civil asset forfeiture and to make sure every medical-marijuana smoker ends up in a full Hannibal Lecter kit at a federal supermax.)

Not Chris Christie, who like Sessions submitted early to the endless, existential noogie that rewards loyalty to this president and who is now less popular in the Garden State than people from the Midwest who jokingly pronounce it “Joisey” and expect not to get punched. Christie is currently auditioning — I crap you not — to do mid-morning sports talk radio in the New York market, which I guess beats ambassador to Burundi, but not by much.

Certainly not Sean Spicer, who was also treated to a slow-motion public humiliation that culminated in a sudden, ungraceful exit (think of a metaphorical Vlad Dracul–style impalement if it helps!). Nor Reince Priebus, who seems next up on the spit.

And what of all you conservatives who have been lying back and thinking of rate cuts all these months? What has that gotten you, precisely? Barely a dent in Obamacare; a couple of bucks for the wall, but as yet no bricks; an Iran deal that the White House thought really hard about almost not recertifying; only the faintest of glimmers that we’ll even get around to failing on tax reform in this Congress. At this rate, Neil Gorsuch is going to grow his hair out and get really into the Frankfurt School.

It feels so pointless — it is so pointless — to say this, but there was never any other way this was going to go down. We were given a choice between war and dishonor. We chose dishonor, and we’ll have war — and tweets.

Oh, and speaking of war and dishonor and tweets, I haven’t seen Dunkirk yet, but I shall. I shall see Dunkirk, whatever the cost may be. I shall see Dunkirk on the beaches, I shall see Dunkirk on the landing grounds, I shall see Dunkirk in the fields and in the streets, I shall see Dunkirk in the hills; I shall never not see Dunkirk.

And I’ll do all this even though Dunkirk, in the words of USA Today critic Brian Truitt in an otherwise favorable review, has “only a couple of women and no lead actors of color,” which, he yields, “may rub some the wrong way.”

The comment generated a sturdy cycle of frontlash and backlash on the Internet, a nice little outrage snack for tweeters between outrage dinner and outrage dessert.

The substance of the thing is lamentable for its historical ignorance, sure, but also for its sheer perfunctoriness. PC genuflecting is now so common that it’s bland, the kind of thing a common-denominator critic can do in a dependent clause in the Holiday Inn’s paper of record.

Still the question must be asked: How many of these people are there? I mean, how many are there that will be “rubbed the wrong way” by the fact that Dunkirk didn’t cast Whoopi Goldberg as Winston Churchill?

Everyone who’s been on the Internet knows that if you’re smart, you pick the dumbest, meanest, and most insane critics of your position from the comments section and pretend they represent the entire other side of the debate. But the percentages actually matter a great deal. I’ve always said of the contemporary campus, for instance, that if the illiberal pupae of Dartmouth and Yale and Berkeley represent 5 percent of the ascendant generation, I’ll pay them no nevermind. But if they represent 50 percent, I’ll join a militia.

And so it mattered, too, how many men (and yes, women, and you bet, people of color) in England were willing to die to save Europe from Nazism, how many were willing to get into their little boats and face off against the Luftwaffe to evacuate the last free army on the continent from certain doom. If it had been just a few fewer, if just a tad more had responded to Churchill’s peroration with a collective “Meh,” history would be very different.

And the mix matters most of all, from where I’m sitting, in the right-here-right-now of the USA. There are decent Americans, many of them, who voted in all sorts of different ways in the election last fall. And they reacted in all sorts of different ways to its outcome — pink pussy hats for some, MAGA trucker jobs for others. But six months out I’m still trying to sort out how many of us are bare-pated, looking for a way to help.

Daniel Foster — Daniel Foster is a former news editor of National Review Online.

In This Issue



Books, Arts & Manners

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The Radical

Long after Henry David Thoreau’s death in 1862, Walt Whitman praised him for his “lawlessness -- his dissent -- his going his own absolute road let hell blaze all it ...


The Week

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‐ George Romero, 1940 –2017. Rest in peace — please. ‐ The New York Times has revealed that, in June 2016, Donald Trump Jr. got an e-mail from Rob Goldstone, a ...
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