Politics & Policy

Democrats’ Dumbest Complaint

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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 (unless you’re too busy to read this because you’re in the middle of corgi-mopping),

I know exactly what you’re thinking. You’re saying to yourself, “Self, I like this ‘news’letter thing just fine. But what it really needs are more old-timey swear words, consarn it!”

Well, by saint Boogar, and all the saints at the backside of the door of purgatory, I’m gonna fix that.

I’m in a cussing mood this morning because well, I just am bejabbers (I don’t have to tell you everything, no matter how much it may seem otherwise).

In my last book — last as in most recent, not final (alas) — I wrote:

According to legend, when George Will signed up to become a syndicated columnist in the 1970s, he asked his friend William F. Buckley, Jr. — the founder of National Review and a columnist himself — “How will I ever write two columns a week?” Buckley responded (I’m paraphrasing), “Oh it will be easy. At least two things a week will annoy you, and you’ll write about them.”

Buckley was right. Annoyance is an inspiration, aggravation a muse. That which gets your blood up, also gets the ink — or these, days, pixels — flowing. Show me an author without passion for what he holds to be the truth and I will show you either a boring writer or someone who misses a lot of deadlines, or both. Nothing writes itself, and what gets the writer to push that boulder uphill is more often than not irritation with those saying wrong things righteously.

That’s all true — which is why I wrote it, dad-sizzle! — but one occasional problem is that some of the things that annoy me during a given week may not be suitable for a syndicated column. The Dallas Morning News is probably not going to run a column on how I can’t stand goat cheese (it tastes like curdled death) or how I hate the way everyone in the King Kong movies makes a huge deal about finding a giant gorilla, but seems to think it’s no big thing that they found dinosaurs. I mean I get that the giant gorilla is really cool and interesting, but it’s not like we all have T-Rex rummaging through our garbage cans.

This seems like an implausible scene for a book or movie:

Person A: “I found a giant gorilla!”

The crowd goes wild: “Wow! Cool! Great horn spoon! That’s awesome!”

Todd: “Well, I found a tyrannosaurus rex!”

The crowd stares blankly. A man in the back shouts, “So?” Another says, “Shut up, Todd!”

Todd: “Well, I think it’s cool. I don’t care what you think. Besides, ‘Person A’ is a really dumb first name.”

The nice thing about this fully operational “news”letter is that I can vent about these things as I see fit. Nobody puts baby in a corner and nobody can tell me what to write from my bunker.

If you’re still not happy, I’ll give you a 100 percent refund of the subscription price of this ‘news’letter (minus shipping and handling).

I bring this up because (a) I can, and (b) a number of hecklers, mopes, roués, rakes, vagabonds, ingrates, moperers, tinkers, lazzarone, and rantallions have been complaining about the self-indulgence, verbosity, and length of this 100 percent free “news”letter. (It’s particularly ironic that rantallions would be complaining about length, if you know what I mean). I find these complaints so annoying, I decided to write about it. It’s sort of like the Chicago way, but pretty much entirely different. You come at me with a complaint about the sesquipedalian loquaciousness of this “news”letter and I’ll come back at you with an anomalistic paroxysm of gasconading logorrhea and coruscant garrulousness that makes verbosity the very cynosure of my epistle. Excogitate on that the next time you feel like whining about my lexicological ebullience. And if you’re still not happy, I’ll give you a 100 percent refund of the subscription price of this “news”letter (minus shipping and handling).

The Dumbest Complaint

By now, articles about the Left’s freakout over Donald Trump are getting a little stale. Oh sure, I still chuckle whenever I hear liberals explain that the Electoral College is an institution of white privilege, racism, and bigotry. As Charlie Cooke first pointed out to me, these are the same people who, for over a year, strutted like peacocks about the “blue wall” — i.e., their inherent and, they thought, permanent advantage in the Electoral College. In other words, the Democratic party’s structural advantage stemmed from the fact that an evil antediluvian bulwark of racist oppression favored them. As the rantallion said when the super model walked in on him changing out of his cold bathing suit, “Awkward.”

But defenses of the Electoral College — while all right and good — are a dime a dozen these days. And complaints about the Electoral College — while wrong and often tendentious — are based in a legitimate perspective. I don’t want presidents elected by the national popular vote (I’d prefer if they were picked via trial by combat using gardening tools. “Look out, Ted Cruz has a rake!”). But it’s not an inherently ridiculous or sinister argument, either. It’s just wrong.

Meanwhile, there’s another argument going around, that would need a jetpack or a huge bundle of helium balloons to rise to the level of mere wrongness. A bunch of people are claiming it’s somehow unfair, unjust, or undemocratic that the Republicans control the Senate because, in total, Democratic Senate candidates received more votes than Republican Senate candidates. This “argument” is dumber than using Cracker Jack boxes to distribute hypodermic needles and razor blades. “Mommy, I got a prize! Gah! My finger!”

When I see this argument made with a straight face, I feel like my dog let loose at the buffet table at Fogo de Chao: I just have no idea where to begin.

First, the reason why the Democrats racked up more votes for the Senate is entirely attributable to the fact that California — a very large state, you could look it up — did not have a Republican on the ballot. So, 8 million Democrats voted for a Democrat while the Republican candidate got zero votes — because there was no Republican candidate.

Take California out of the picture and the Republicans, collectively, drew 1.88 million more votes than the Democrats.

But the important point is that none of that matters, at all.

Imagine trying to tell Chuck Schumer that he can’t be a senator even though he won his race in New York because more people voted for Republican senators in Texas. He would be in his rights to ask you how you managed to get out of your restraints in the psychiatric ward.

The Senate is the chamber of Congress that represents the states in our federal system, by the double-barreled jumping jimmenty! That’s why each state gets the same number of senators. The House represents the people in those states, which is why states with more people get more representatives. I know this is a dumbed down way of explaining it, but by the High Heels of St. Patrick, it’s apparently not dumbed-down enough for some people. Maybe I need to use puppets?

The Infernal Constitution

All of this is downstream of the real problem. As I’ve written dozens of times, “Call Brenda for a good time.” No, sorry. That’s my bathroom-wall thing.

As I’ve written many times, the essence of progressivism is to be hostile to any external restraints on progressivism. From an old G-File:

The story of the progressive movement can best be understood as activists going wherever the field is open. If the people are on your side, expand democracy. If the people are against you, use the courts. If the courts are against you, run down the field with the bureaucrats, or the Congress, or the presidency. Procedural niceties — the filibuster, precedent, the law, custom, the Constitution, truth — only matter if they can be enlisted to advance the cause. If they can’t, they suddenly become outdated, irrelevant, vestigial organs of racism, elitism, sexism, whatever. Obstruction, or even inconvenience in the path of progressive ends is prima facie proof of illegitimacy. The river of history must carry forward. If History hits a rock, the rock must be swept up with the current or be circumvented. Nothing can hold back the Hegelian tide, no one may Stand Athwart History. If you’re not part of the solution, you’re part of the problem. This is the liberal gleichschaltung; get with the program or be flattened by it.

And this brings me to my column today in which I bang my spoon on my high chair for the umpteenth time about the wonder and glory of federalism. I recount a great scene from A Man for All Seasons, in which Thomas More is debating William Roper:

Roper: “So now you’d give the Devil benefit of law!”

More: “Yes. What would you do? Cut a great road through the law to get after the Devil?”

Roper: “I’d cut down every law in England to do that!”

More: “Oh? And when the last law was down, and the Devil turned ’round on you, where would you hide, Roper, the laws all being flat? This country’s planted thick with laws from coast to coast — man’s laws, not God’s — and if you cut them down — and you’re just the man to do it — do you really think you could stand upright in the winds that would blow then? Yes, I’d give the Devil benefit of law for my own safety’s sake.”

The whole point of the Constitution is to prevent the concentration of power. The Founders understood that the only thing that can reliably check power is power. If too much power is held by any institution or branch of government, then the other institutions and branches will not be able to stop them. The problem with concentrated power is that it leads inexorably to what Edmund Burke and the Founders called “arbitrary power.” Arbitrary power — the rule of whim rather than the rule of law — threatens liberty for all the obvious reasons. Chief among them: It allows one person — or group of people — to dictate how another person should live. Democracy is a sideshow in this equation. The Founders feared “elective despotism” every bit as much as they feared every other kind of despotism. That’s why they put some questions out of reach (or nearly out of reach) of voters by settling them in things like the Bill of Rights.

Federalism, as enshrined in the Ninth and Tenth Amendments, is an essential bulwark against despotism. In America, we don’t usually talk about “collective rights” and for good reason. But it’s important to understand that we have them. Blacks, Jews, Hispanics, gays, or whites (sorry alt-right), etc. don’t have collective rights — but communities do. Specifically, the states.

Vermonters have the right to live the way they want to live, so long as they don’t violate the constitutional rights of the Americans who live there. So, no slavery or Jim Crow (again, sorry alt-right). But that still leaves an enormous amount of wiggle room for Vermont to do things the people running the federal government at any given time may or may not like. And that’s good, because states, and the communities that make them up, have a better idea of how they want to live — and what will work for them — than people in Washington do. This is why federalism, within constitutional restraints, is the greatest system ever conceived of for maximizing human happiness.

Most readers can probably surmise that I think liberals have good reason to worry that Donald Trump’s fidelity to the Constitution is at best rhetorical. And even here the commitment is flimsy. Trump prefers to think in Nietzschean terms — Strength! Winning! — than in Lockean terms. But it’s worth bearing in mind that if the Constitution is an afterthought for Trump, it is a dangerous relic for most Democratic politicians.

It’s worth bearing in mind that if the Constitution is an afterthought for Trump, it is a dangerous relic for most Democratic politicians.

As I’ve written often, the only times the Democrats ever celebrate the Constitution is when the Constitution is — allegedly — on their side. When Republicans proposed revoking birthright citizenship, Representative Raúl Grijalva (D., Ariz.) cried out, “I think it’s horribly dangerous to open up the Constitution, to tamper with the Constitution.” In 2000, when the GOP introduced a constitutional amendment establishing “victims rights,” Chuck Schumer proclaimed, “We should not mess with the Constitution. We should not tamper with the Constitution.” A balanced-budget amendment? “I respect the wisdom of the Founders to uphold the Constitution, which has served this nation so well for the last 223 years,” Senator Pat Leahy thundered.

But when Hillary Clinton proposed amending the Constitution so her political opponents could be more easily silenced during elections?

Crickets.

But it’s worse than that. Liberals believe in “the living Constitution” a doctrine which holds that the Constitution must mean whatever they want it to mean at a given moment. They hate it when conservatives propose formally changing the Constitution through amendments, but they have no problem changing the Constitution through the arbitrary whims of the Court. That’s why the Obama administration argued before the Supreme Court that the government could ban books during election season.

Not only do liberals believe this stuff, they think it’s wicked smaht.

And since I’ve got chowder-head accents in mind, it would indeed be fun to watch Donald Trump pull that scene from Good Will Hunting and slam his own version of the living Constitution against the restaurant window and scream, “Do you like apples? Well, how do you like them apples?

But the fun would wear off. I get the desire for tit-for-tat, and if I have to choose between a “conservative” despotism and a progressive despotism, I’ll choose the former. But I don’t have to make that choice — and it is a horrible choice. This is a crucial moment for liberals. They can quintuple down on their hysterical whining, effete condescension, and identity politics, or they can grapple with and accept the fact that the real meaning of the word liberal has nothing to do with steamrolling people in the culture war and treating the Constitution like either a weapon of convenience or a ridiculous bit of bric-a-brac from the attic of some dead white men.

And for the same reason, it’s a crucial moment for conservatives. Many of Trump’s intellectual supporters are among the foremost champions of constitutionalism in America today. During the campaign, they claimed that Trump would be a flawed champion in the struggle to restore our constitutional structure and tear down the citadel of unrepresentative and arbitrary power: the administrative state. Well, Donald Trump won.

To borrow an image from Thomas More, now is the time for them to get busy replanting the forest of constitutionalism, because if there is anything certain about the future of American politics, the progressives will have their own devil in the White House soon enough.

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Various & Sundry

You should take my first column of the week seriously and literally.

You should also read Ramesh’s follow-up post.

Speaking of Ramesh, we did a fun event at AEI on the future of conservatism and celebrating his 20+ years at National Review. The video is here.

And speaking of National Review, if you’re like me, you prefer sour cream or ranch dressing to blue cheese on your buffalo wings. But that’s not important right now. If you like National Review Online — and I’d like to think the readers of this thing are more inclined to like it than the average person — you may want it to succeed. You may also be frustrated at times when the website operates like our Amish IT guys aren’t entirely up to the task. I share your frustration. Just the other day I tried to call up NRO on my iPad and it gave me a Diet Orange Fanta instead.

Well, Charlie Cooke — the poobah of NRO these days — wants to fix it. He wants all new pneumatic tubes, fresh and shiny water wheels, and state-of-the-art levers and pulleys. But the dilithium crystals required to power all of that cost money. And that’s why Jack Fowler, National Review’s Publisher and Head Suit, asked me to appeal to you folks for help. You can read his request here. Let me just add that as the founding editor of National Review Online and someone who loves taking credit for the incredible work done by my colleagues, this is really important to me too. When I started NRO, I promised to make it the Mobutu Sese Seko Kuku Ngbendu waza Banga (“The all-powerful warrior [or in some translations, rooster] who, because of his endurance and inflexible will to win, goes from conquest to conquest, leaving fire in his wake”) of the World Wide Web. I think we did that, but that title isn’t like a Super Bowl ring. It’s something you have to re-earn every day. And that’s why we need your support.

My thoughts on fake news.

And on Trump’s Boeing tweet.

And, again, Thomas More’s federalism lesson for liberals.

And now, the weird stuff, now with thrice the flatulence!

Canine Update: Not much to report this week. The spaniel has been particularly spanielly and the Dingo could not be other than dingo-y. She did partake of an especially disgusting repast of deer carcass the other day. But other than some regrettable olfactory consequences she was fine. She remains vigilant as ever.

Debby’s Friday links

Which world religions would best adapt to the discovery of extraterrestrial life?

Infant miraculously survives car crash

The ghost who helped solve her own murder

The foods responsible for the smelliest farts

How a fart killed 10,000 people

New device helps determine which foods make you gassy

A dramatic escape from Tennessee wildfires

Science vs. Cinema: Arrival

Rescue workers save woman and her dog from collapsed building in South Dakota

Golden retriever traps boy with his tail

College student’s dog still waits for her to get off her old bus every day

Australian man punches kangaroo to save his dog

Dog confused by magic trick

Minority Report alert?

There are hundreds of secret underground WWII bases hidden in British forests

The tree on the lake

Friendly otter jumps onto kayak, joins birthday celebration

Paging Ben Sasse and his fellow Cornhuskers: Is this a mortal sin in Nebraska?

Cruel and unusual punishment?

What the year 1967 thought the year 1999 would be like

When the machines rise up, humanity will have to answer for this video in Robot Hague

Receiving Communion . . . IN SPACE!!!

Furbies disemboweled (cathartic for ’90s parents and their kids)

Fake snow, a desert waterslide, dousing wildfires, and more in The Atlantic’s photos of the week

The end of the world, according to movies

Politics & Policy

What the Carrier Intervention Portends

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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 those of you who put the lime in the coconut and shake it all up),

Let’s borrow a page from television and do the epistolary version of one of those show recaps. You know, like, “Previously on MacGuyver . . . ” (my favorite was how the TV version of Fargo sometimes began their episode recaps “Erstwhile on Fargo . . . ”). So, “Previously in the G-File . . . ”

In September of 2015, I wrote a G-File on how Trump’s popularity was corrupting conservatism. Then, almost exactly a year ago, I wrote a “news”letter arguing that Donald Trump’s cult of personality is corrupting conservatism. It was titled, “Trump’s Cult of Personality Is Corrupting Conservatism.” Then last March, I wrote about how many lifelong conservatives seemed like pod-people in the Invasion of the Body Snatchers, changing positions and attitudes almost overnight as Trump gained in popularity. The more traction Trump got, the weaker the grip traditional conservative ideology had on quite a few famous ideologues.

(Then, last May, I managed to fit 78 Cheetos in my mouth at one time. But that’s not important right now. Though, who knows? It may be super relevant for the series finale! This is actually one of the reasons I dislike show recaps — they telegraph what the writers want you to know, making a show more predictable).

Taking these positions made a lot of people, including friends, mad. I understand that. I’m not going to rehash all the old arguments, but I will say my conscience is clear. Indeed, on the recent National Review cruise a good number of people, flush with the joy of seeing the Fall of House Clinton, told me that they “forgive” me for taking the positions I did. I appreciate the sentiment, as it was clearly sincere and offered with magnanimity and friendship.

But you can keep your forgiveness. I don’t want it, at least not for this. I have plenty to be sorry for (“The shoddy quality of this ‘news’letter seems a good place to start” — The Couch) but my stance in 2016 isn’t one of them.

More to the point, when you seek forgiveness for a misdeed, it is morally obligatory to try to correct your behavior. If I ask for your forgiveness for drinking all your beer without permission, I probably shouldn’t express my gratitude for your forgiveness by cracking open one of your beers and burping out a “thanks, bro.”

This was always an underappreciated angle to Bill Clinton’s perfidious sleaze. He’d apologize for doing something when caught, and then go back to doing it the moment he was in the clear. How many times do you think he apologized for his “past indiscretions,” on his way to the pharmacy to load up on Cialis and Tetracycline?

Well, I’m not going to play that game. It would be weird for me to apologize for telling the truth as I see it about Trump — and then continuing to do it.

The Golden Ticket

Oh, that reminds me: I have a theory about the furor over the possibility that Mitt Romney might get the secretary of state job. You see, I’m willing to wait to discover what Trump’s motivations are. Maybe he really likes the idea of forming some kind of unity government. Maybe he thinks Mitt is the right man for the job. Or maybe he wants to show the world he can make the author of No Apology apologize. Anything’s possible.

No, I’m referring to the rage the Romney flirtation has elicited among many in Trump’s inner circle. Clearly part of it is that Huckabee and Gingrich just don’t like the guy. That much is pretty well known. But the list of politicians they personally dislike must be fairly long, and they haven’t mounted public campaigns against them. Something else is going on.

Listen to Gingrich on Laura Ingraham’s show excoriating Romney for “sucking up” to Donald Trump. Now, I like Newt, so I’ll refrain from hammering the point that he has not exactly been reserved in his praise for Donald Trump. But I can’t let this bit go:

I am confident that he thinks now that he and Donald Trump are the best of friends, they have so many things in common. That they’re both such wise, brilliant people. And I’m sure last night at an elegant three-star restaurant, he was happy to share his version of populism, which involve a little foie gras, a certain amount of superb cooking, but put that in a populist happy manner.

He goes on a bit more, childishly putting stink on the fact that Romney speaks French, for example. But two things stand out here. First, it’s not like Newt is a stranger to fancy restaurants. Mike Huckabee and Newt Gingrich don’t behave like Jake and Ellwood throwing shrimp cocktail into each other’s mouths and trying to buy the womenfolk at the next table. Newt had a half-million dollar revolving line of credit at Tiffany’s and wrote his dissertation on education reform in the Belgian Congo. Spare me the boob-bait-for-bubbas rhetoric.

Second, it’s clear that Gingrich, Huckabee et al. are kind of freaked out by the possibility that Trump isn’t quite the Henry the Fifth they hoped he would be.

Consider the following thought experiment.

So that brings me to my theory (shared by Josh Barro, who beat me to the punch on this): Trump’s magnanimity is a threat to the loyalists.

Consider the following thought experiment. A very rich guy makes you an offer: “If you eat this bowl of sh**, I will grant you a wish.” You think about it for a minute or two, and then you grab a wooden spoon and start to dig in, when the rich guy says, “Hold on. You’ve got to do it publicly.”

Well, you figure, “What’s the difference? Once I get my wish it will be worth it.” So, you head on over to a television studio with your plastic bib and your spoon, and you tuck into the steaming bowl like Mikey in the old Life cereal commercials.

Then the rich guy says, “Sorry, one more thing: I can only give you a coupon for your wish. But, I promise to honor it once I get the job of genie. Just keep eating.”

What to do? You’ve already acquired a reputation for coprophagia and no one else is offering wish-coupons, so you stick it out. Besides, you’re not alone. A bunch of other folks have been promised similar coupons and you’ve formed a tightknit group. You spend a lot of time talking about how smart you are for agreeing to this arrangement. You fantasize about what you’ll do with your wishes and how sorry the naysayers will be.

Then, the rich guy gets the job of genie. Woo-hoo!

Naturally, you want to redeem your coupon. But all of a sudden, the rich guy starts playing coy. He’s honoring the coupon for some people, but not you. That would be fine — one coupon at a time and all. But then you learn that the genie-elect is giving out coupons to people who didn’t partake of the fecal feast. Uh oh.

And then you see news reports that the big man is not only giving out wishes to people who never earned a coupon, but he’s considering granting a wish to the foremost guy who criticized the big man and tried to keep him from being able to grant wishes at all!

In many respects, for the hardcore Trumpers, the best days may be behind them.

Okay, this is getting belabored. But you get the point. If Trump remains the loyalist, Gingrich, Huckabee et al. have golden tickets. The last thing they want is Willie Wonka Trump letting just anybody into the chocolate factory.

I don’t blame them for being pissed. They put up with a huge amount of grief inch-worming like Andy Dufresne out of Shawshank Prison for Trump and, in some cases, were forced to leave behind prized positions to fit in the sewer pipe. That’s what comes across most palpably to me in that Gingrich interview: resentment over the fact his golden ticket has been devalued.

This illuminates a point I’ve made before. The more “presidential” Trump gets, the more pissed off many of his fans will get and the more popular he will become. In many respects, for the hardcore Trumpers, the best days may be behind them. He’s already, rhetorically at least, thrown the racists under the bus. Heck, as someone joked on Twitter, when they ate those frog legs, they might as well have been eating Pepe.

Carrier on My Wayward GOP

If the only casualties of a Trump presidency were the opportunists, courtiers, and comment-section trolls, I’d be pretty giddy. But this Carrier decision shows that the damage will not be nearly so surgical. The rot is already setting in. (You knew the recap thing at the beginning of this “news”letter meant I would return to the subject of corruption, right?)

As a political act, it is very, very easy to exaggerate the economic importance of the Carrier intervention. It’s less than a thousand jobs. Save for the workers and families directly involved, it’s all symbolism.

And while the politics of this are great for the incoming Trump administration, they are absolutely terrible for free-market conservatives. The former president of AEI and a veteran of the Reagan administration, Christopher DeMuth, used to argue that perhaps the most important thing Ronald Reagan did was fire the air traffic controllers. In isolation, it was not that big a deal. But the message it sent was hugely important at a time when Eurosclerosis was spreading in America. Reagan let it be known that the public-sector unions no longer had the whip hand and the government couldn’t be extorted.

Trump’s Carrier intervention may just send an equally loud, but nearly opposite signal: that the White House is going to pick winners and losers, that it can be rolled, that industrial policy is back, that Trump cares more about seeming like a savior than sticking to clear and universal rules, and that there is now no major political party in America that rejects crony capitalism as a matter of principle. After all, don’t expect the GOP to recycle the language it used for the bailouts, Cash for Clunkers, Solyndra, etc., when it comes to Carrier. The RNC belongs to Trump.

I’m not going to get into the weeds explaining the bad economics here, but I suggest you look at my AEI colleague Ben Zycher’s critique — or National Review’s own editorial (or the Examiner’s). My point is that I shouldn’t have to!

This is from Friday’s New York Times:

“I don’t want them moving out of the country without consequences,” Mr. Trump said, even if that means angering the free-market-oriented Republicans he beat in the primaries but will have to work with on Capitol Hill.

“The free market has been sorting it out and America’s been losing,” Mr. Pence added, as Mr. Trump interjected, “Every time, every time.”

I don’t begrudge Trump his distrust and/or ignorance of the free market. He ran on dirigisme, protectionism, and a cult-of-personality approach to issues of public policy (“I alone can fix it!” and all that B.S.). He has spent his entire professional life working, bribing, and cajoling politicians for special deals — and he’s been honest about it.

But Mike Pence is supposed to be one of us. He’s supposed to be, if not the chief ideologist of the Trump administration, at least the mainstream right’s ambassador and emissary in the West Wing. And here he is casually throwing the “free market” under the bus in order to elevate crony capitalism, industrial policy, and rule of man over rule of law. Does Pence really believe that America loses in the free market every time? Really?

Does Mike Pence really believe that America loses in the free market every time? Really?

Last night on Fox News’s Special Report, our friend Matt Schlapp — the head of the American Conservative Union (!) — could not muster a single reservation about Trump’s embrace of corporatism. What. The. Hell?

I spent a year hearing that Trump was like Margaret Thatcher, Winston Churchill, and Ronald Reagan. And for eight years Paul Ryan, Mike Pence, and nearly every major conservative critic of the Obama administration has, as a matter of routine, denounced the way the Obama administration picked winners and losers in the economy. Apparently, the hierophants of capitalism have discovered a new Apocrypha to the holy books: The free market is great — unless Donald Trump feels otherwise.

Again, one can over-interpret this one event. Reagan imposed protective tariffs to help save Harley Davidson. But you knew that the decision was a political necessity and the sort of exception that proved the rule. No one doubted that Reagan was a free-market guy in his heart. But Trump has made it abundantly clear that he is beholden to no core ideological program. He’s a “pragmatist” who goes by his gut (after all, he only intervened with Carrier because he saw a story on the news). But I’ve been to too many tea-party rallies and GOP rubber-chicken dinners to let the rest of them off the hook. You cannot simultaneously spout off about F. A. Hayek, Milton Friedman, and Adam Smith and the superiority of the market economy, limited government, and the Constitution and have no problem whatsoever with what Trump did here.

It’s unclear as of right now how many of these former mystagogues of the market were lying then or whether they’re lying now. I like to think that this is mostly about the petty corruption that is inherent to politics and that Pence et al. don’t actually believe what they are saying now. But that is hardly an argument for trusting them later.

Various & Sundry

The reason this “news”letter is so tardy is that I’ve had to write it on a plane and now in the Denver airport and neither is particularly conducive to such things. And now I must go find my connecting flight to Caspar, Wyo. (Don’t ask).

I don’t have much by way of a canine update this week as I’ve been travelling and working like a crazy man (gotta get this frick’n book done) and we were out of town for Thanksgiving (without our beasts) and Zoë was stuck in the Cone of Shame. I asked The Fair Jessica if she had anything to report for the canine update. And she sent me these pictures. When you own hyper dogs, there are few things more satisfying than knowing they’ve been successfully exhausted. Of course, Zoë is always ready to muster the energy to fight the enemy.

Oh, that does remind me. For a while now people have been complaining that I don’t tweet pictures of Zoë in her trademark pose in the back of the car anymore. The reason for that is she stopped doing it for like six months. I have no idea why. But just this week, she decided to start doing it again.

If that’s not enough canine updating, you can try and spot the beasts here.

Now, here’s some stuff I wrote:

The semi-comical spectacle of Trump’s transition.

My first column of the week danced on Castro’s grave.

In the newest GLoP Culture podcast, John Podhoretz tells a whippersnapper to get off his lawn.

Bears will eat your face.

And now, the weird stuff.

Debby’s Friday links

Gun-toting granny foils armed robbery

The birth of crystals

Cross-country runner hit by deer during race

(Different) runner amputates leg so that he can run again

Classy insults from Latin and Greek

Tiny hamster wears cast to help heal his tiny broken arm

A movie accent expert on the best (and worst) movie accents

Why dogs stick their heads out of car windows

Is cheese the key to a longer life?

And also . . . ?

Chinese robot rises up against humanity?

Amityville Horror house finds a buyer

Pet monkey sparks tribal fight in Libya

The best mannequin challenge?

The art of the Hollywood backdrop

Disney World’s singing runway

Behold: The Cthuken

Behold: The bun that holds both a hamburger and a hotdog simultaneously

Colorless rainbow spotted in Scotland

Why do books smell the way they do?

The dreamlike landscape of Iceland

Politics & Policy

The Fall of House Clinton

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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 (and all ships at sea),

Last night was the traditional National Review smoker on our splendid post-election cruise. This is an ancient tradition, the origins of which stretch back into the mists before time and the stories of a young solo sailor by the name of William F. Buckley Jr. — sweat, sea water, and shark blood glistening off his chest — who settled in to enjoy a relaxing cigar after killing the great white beast with his bare hands.

I bring this up for two reasons. First, to alert the reader that I am feeling a bit hungover from both smoke and spirit alike (so please, stop reading so loudly!); second, because I think I must say goodbye to another great white beast: Bill Clinton — and his remora bride, Hillary.

This is a good time to do it. The feeding frenzy atmosphere around the Trump transition is bananas given that there’s so little to say about it. My position on Trump remains unchanged from last week’s G-File: Like Bill Clinton after taking a blood test, I am entirely in wait-and-see mode.

Meanwhile, if I wait too long to give the Clintons a send-off, it will seem not only gratuitous — which would be fine, that’s what I’m going for — but also stale. The bad taste of the Clintons lingers on enough, though — like the acidic after-burp from my lunch in Mexico yesterday — that it still seems a bit relevant.

It Takes a Heart of Stone Not To Laugh

I feel a little like a hungry Sid Blumenthal looking down at a box full of live, white mice: Where to begin?

Well schadenfreude is always a good way to get your day going. The stories about Hillary measuring the drapes are all over Washington. They literally popped champagne on the campaign plane on Election Day.

I like to imagine Bill Clinton going through binders full of women — and not the Romney kind — picking out the “deputies” he’d like to work with in the White House and Sid Blumenthal letting his fingers wander over an assortment of fine Italian leather riding crops pondering his return to power.

Someone recently told me that the Bill Clinton Presidential Library is built off-center on its campus in anticipation of the day that Hillary’s presidential library would go along side it. I can’t find any corroboration of this, save for the fact that if you look at these pictures, it certainly seems plausible.

The Clinton Restoration That Wasn’t

It also seems plausible because the Clintons always planned on Hillary becoming president. It was the logical corollary for the “two for the price of one” nonsense Bill peddled from the beginning. The Clintons burrowed into the brain stem of the Democratic party, like one of those ear-tunneling scorpion things in Star Trek II, and they never left. In the process, they hollowed out the party. Barack Obama helped of course (see my recent column on that), but the Clintons didn’t mind too much because they knew if the bench was cleared of competition, Obama would have to hand the keys to Hillary.

The Clintons burrowed into the brain stem of the Democratic party, like one of those ear-tunneling scorpion things in Star Trek II.

It’s also plausible because there’s really no other explanation for why Hillary would stay married to Bill — even on paper — not only enduring the constant humiliation but actually working assiduously to discredit the inconvenient members of Bill’s harem. Clinton defenders love to righteously justify their partnership on the grounds that no one has a right to judge someone else’s marriage. Logically, I’ve always thought “no right to judge” arguments were a little ridiculous. But in the case of the Clintons, they’re so absurd they fall into the category of gaslighting. The Clintons always boasted about their marriage — that was the whole point of the two-for-the-price-of-one argument. At the Democratic convention, Bill gave one of the oddest testimonials to a wife by a husband ever given, making it sound like he fell in love with her because she’d make a great chief of staff. “She’s a changemaker! A changemaker!” he insisted, sounding like she knew how to give four quarters for a dollar better than any teenager at a video arcade.

But if you dared enlist inconvenient facts in your own judgment of their nuptial endeavors, you were violating some sacred rule. In other words, their marriage was relevant but we were only allowed to subscribe to their interpretation of it. Our lying eyes were illegitimate.

The Tornado

I know it seems impossible given the nigh-upon Swiss precision and focus of this “news”letter, but I rarely do much prep for this thing. I wake up, drink a dozen raw eggs, and start typing. But since I’m in book-writing Hell and on the high seas, I figured that maybe I should get ahead of the game.

So, a few days ago, I asked my research assistant, Jack “Not the Belt! Please Not the Belt!” Butler, to pull together a Clinton Greatest Hits file.

“What specifically are you looking for?” he asked, his flinching fear dripping from the e-mail.

“Everything.”

“Everything?”

“E-V-E-R-Y-T-H-I-N-G!” [In my best Gary Oldman from The Professional voice.]

Jack did a fine job, thus avoiding getting the hose again. The ship’s antediluvian WiFi groaned downloading the document, like Michael Moore at Walmart trying not to stand up in his scooter as he strains to grab a family-sized tub of SpaghettiOs from a high shelf. The Travel Office, the commodities futures, the Rose Law Firm billing records, the Lincoln Bedroom, on and on it went. A great feeling of dread came over me.

You see, the retromingent trail of House Clinton stretches so far back and coats so much of our lives, even pondering the question gives me a queasy feeling, like contemplating using one of those black lights to find the carpet and cushion stains on Jeffrey Epstein’s plane.

As I looked over the document, reading all those names associated with all those scandals, legal, moral, and ethical — Webb Hubbel, Charlie Trie, Lanny Davis, Sid Blumenthal, et al. — I tried to get myself psyched up to wade back into it. I felt a bit like Bill Murray in Meatballs trying to get Fink excited about the eating contest to come: “Look at all those steaming weenies.”

But the truth is that stuff is a bit sad and tedious. Don’t get me wrong, as it says in the Torah, it is always good to mock Sid Blumenthal. But so many of the people around the Clintons are also victims. James McDougal, Bill’s former business partner, once said that the Clintons “are really sort of like tornadoes moving through people’s lives. I’m just one of the people left in the wake of their passing by.” McDougal died of a heart attack in prison in 1998.

The Devil’s in the Details

More to the point, my problems with the Clintons never had that much to do with the scandals. Oh sure, I was infuriated when Hillary brought her Medicis of the Ozarks tactics to Washington and had the staff of the White House Travel Office carted off in handcuffs just so she could give some Hollywood friends a business opportunity. And, sure, I was disgusted by Bill’s Baron-and-the-Milkmaid games with a White House intern.

James McDougal, Bill’s former business partner, once said that the Clintons ‘are really sort of like tornadoes moving through people’s lives.’

But it was the little things that made me detest them so. Remember when Clinton went to Ron Brown’s funeral and was yucking it up with a pal only to realize television cameras were rolling? He suddenly started to weep for his dear friend. It was this kind of manipulation of the public — and the way the press and his fans (but I repeat myself) fell for it, that so disgusted me. In 1999, when Hillary was preparing to run for the Senate as the heroic martyr of her own marriage, The New York Times Magazine was brought in to start the roll out. In order to convey that she wasn’t just a policy polymath (who just happened to help deliver a Republican Congress because of her disastrous health-care scheme) but also a super-mom, they set up a display of Chelsea’s collection of Beanie Babies. Never mind that Beanie Babies had only just come on the market and Chelsea was in her second year of college at Stanford, Beanie Babies focus-grouped well.

Which, of course, brings me to the issue of their cynicism. Of course, one could run through the greatest hits from their catalog: the renting of the Lincoln Bedroom, the pardon-selling, and all that. But again, it was the little things. When Bill was down in the polls, he wanted to go on vacation in Martha’s Vineyard to do what he likes best (not counting conducting impromptu Lyme disease tick-checks at Hooters): schmooze with celebrities and play golf. But Dick Morris, his psephological haruspex, had butchered a goat and found that the entrails foretold this would poll poorly. So they all went camping in Yellowstone instead. If only Bill had poll tested his affair with Monica before he pole tested her.

And don’t even get me started with the lying. Bill was one of the most impressive liars in American history. Yes, yes, all politicians lie. But Bill was a savant, a priapistic prodigy of prevarication in which he portrayed himself as a paladin of principle (that was a plug for my spoken word album, Alliteration is my Bag, Baby). “I have vivid and painful memories of black churches being burned in my own state when I was a child.” There were none. “Since I was a little boy, I’ve heard about the Iowa caucuses. That’s why I would really like to do well in them.” The Iowa caucuses started in 1972, when he was at Oxford. In Israel, he said he had met with Palestinian children earlier that day who expressed their love of Israel. He never met with them. He lied about big things too, of course. But, again, it’s the little things.

Among Hillary’s greatest problems wasn’t that she was a liar, but that she was so bad at it. When Bill lied, it was like watching a jazz impresario scat. You could pull him off an intern, slap him in the face with a half-frozen flounder, and he could, without missing a beat, plausibly explain that he was just a gentleman trying to help push the young lady over a fence.

But when Hillary lied, which was often, it was like watching a member of the Politburo explain to a hungry mob of peasants that food-production targets exceeded expectations. Hillary never seemed to fully grasp that Bill’s lying skills did not become community property when they got married along with his collection of back issues of Juggs and that shoe box full of used pregnancy tests. There was music to Bill’s lying while Hillary deceived the way Helen Keller played the piano.

Goodbye to All That

And now they’re gone. Oh sure, they’ll pop up from time to time, the way Bill’s cold sore would keep coming back. But they’re now part of history, not the future. And the best thing about this is it means the gaslighting is over. For virtually my entire adult life, the Clintons have corrupted the apparatchiks of the Democratic party, in and out of the media, by forcing them to go along with the charade. They did it in part because people feared their vindictiveness, to be sure. But their vindictiveness was itself a byproduct of their perceived power.

In 2008, people would ask me if we were finally done with the Clintons and I would respond, “Haven’t you seen any horror movies?” Freddy Krueger and Jason always came back. But now, I think they’re really gone.

Freddy Krueger and Jason always came back. But now, I think they’re really gone.

And with them goes the infatuation — along with the fear. People forget the cult of personality, the willful suspension of credulity, that was integral to these gaslighting grifters. When Bill Clinton congratulated Dan Rather and Connie Chung for their softball interview of the first couple, Rather responded: “If we could be one-hundredth as great as you and Hillary Rodham Clinton have been together in the White House, we’d take it right now and walk away winners.”

Well, now they’re all just walking away.

Various & Sundry

Contrary to lots of speculation, the National Review post-election cruise is going swimmingly. Some feared that it would go literally swimmingly, as the angry mob made many of us walk the plank. Not so. There’s definitely a variety of opinions, but, for the most part, nearly everyone understands where NR was coming from during the election and appreciates that we did right as we saw it. It’s a great bunch of people. Tonight, we’re doing a Night Owl session which originally supposed to be a GLoP podcast. But Rob Long had to cancel at the last minute, so instead we’re doing a special mash-up podcast with me and John Podhoretz versus the cast of Mad Dogs and Englishmen (Charlie Cooke, a.k.a. British Shaggy, and Kevin D. Williamson). Look for it on Ricochet.

Canine Update: As I am at sea (“Not just literally,” — The Couch), I don’t have much to report. The Fair Jessica tells me, however, that the beasts have mostly been on their best behavior. The Dingo did escape once and refused to leave the front yard, despite all attempts at bribery with meat products and promised adventures (usually, if you get in the car with Pippa, she will believe that a squirrel sortie is in the offing. Not this time). I like to think that she was waiting on the front lawn for me to arrive.

I contributed to a Los Angeles Times conservative symposium on the meaning of Trump’s win.

I responded to the appointment of Steve Bannon. But I think Ian Tuttle had the best response.

My Wednesday column was on people who think everything is racist.

Friday’s column was on the “normalization” of Trump.

On November 29, Ramesh and I (and maybe Rich) will be putting on an event on the future of conservatism at AEI in our new super-swanky headquarters. If you’re in town, stop by.

And now, the weird stuff.

Debby’s Friday links

Supermoon around the world

The case against cats (except for my good cat)

Awkward touch escalator prank

Twenty-foot snake drops out of restaurant ceiling

Colorized photographs of women in Tsarist Russia

Cinematic space trips

Don’t be too worried about this colony of herpes-infected monkeys in Florida

Superior gives up one of her dead

The Spielberg face

The broken technology of ghost hunting

SMOD tied with Satan in DeKalb County, Ga.

The 2017 NYC taxi-driver calendar will really rev your engine

Orphan goat raised by two St. Bernards

Hundreds of strangers join man for his last walk with his dying dog

Polar bear pets dog

Mother pup reunited with her litter at animal shelter

“Meet” the zeptosecond, the smallest slice of time yet recorded

Hmmm . . . blood from human teens rejuvenates the body and brains of old mice

(Simpsons did it)

Pilot calms down political argument on his plane

Australian man fined after using drone to bring sausage to his hot tub

Bob Dylan not interested in flying to Sweden for his Nobel Prize

The Election Is Over — Now, Trump Must Govern

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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 the many of you who are apparently disappointed I didn’t spontaneously combust on election night),

Last week I wrote, “Long ago, I made peace with the fact that this election will yield one form of ass ache or another.”

So, I fully expected to wake up the day after the election depressed and walking like the proctologist refused to take off the catcher’s mitt. Instead, to my gleeful surprise and my detractors’ apparent dyspeptic dismay, I’m in a great mood.

When I took out my laptop this morning to peck out my epistolary musings, it was like the sound track to Born Free was playing in the background.

Part of it is, obviously, the unbridled joy I feel at seeing the fetid carapace of House Clinton torn down. To have the country say to these conniving mercenaries “Pack your knives and go” will have me whistling zippity-doo-dah out of my nethers for a very long time. I always wanted Hillary to lose (and my predictions about her electoral vulnerabilities were, if I do say so myself, exactly right). I was just discomfited by the ramification of Trump winning.

But there’s something else going on.

You see, I spent eight years as a columnist and National Review writer during the George W. Bush administration — and it was work. When your side is in power, the pull to defend your team is strong. Oh, I criticized Bush about plenty of things. Barely a week went by when I didn’t accuse Bush of spending money like a “pimp with a week to live” (a line Bill Maher stole from me, by the way). But when the country is at war and what is supposed to be the loyal opposition starts to lose its mind viciously slandering a wartime president for prosecuting a war many of them initially supported, it’s hard not to rally to the guy’s defense.

And more generally, it’s just a lot more fun to be on offense. Anyone who read The American Spectator or listened to Rush in the ’90s knows what I mean. When you’re on offense the perfect is your ally in any argument against not only the good, but the bad and the lousy.

Bring Out the Unicorn

For example, when Bush was president, progressive arguments about health-care reform were all remarkably abstract.

The beautiful unicorn we want to give you will solve everything. The glow of its shiny coat will make you feel secure. The medicinal effects of its Mountain Dew–like urine will cure everything that ails you. It will sh** gold you can pocket as savings.

We were supposed to all live longer, have kazillions of new jobs, and — according to, say, Nancy Pelosi — all of those plumbers and welders who secretly wanted to be poets would finally be lifted from the “job-locked” bondage of their prosaic vocations.

But it turned out that when progressives led the unicorn by the bit out of its sun-dappled meadow in the Platonic realm of ideals into the cold light of reality, it turned into a flatulent three-legged mule with a lazy eye and a tendency to kick (which is most impressive for a three-legged mule). And all of the smart-set wonks, Voxers, and academics who’d not only insisted they had all the answers but that their critics were morons and scrooges, suddenly had to defend the gassy beast. Instantly, the sage Jonathan Gruber, who once rolled his eyes at any suggestion he hadn’t thought of everything, was reduced to arguing, “No, no. That smell is proof it’s working!”

The Sore Winners Can’t Move On

Well, now Donald Trump is going to be president. His supporters are understandably ecstatic. But that ecstasy hasn’t prevented some of them from being very sore winners, which is a much uglier thing than being a sore loser. (And I must say, Trump deserves praise for resisting the urge to rub it in when he won. I’m told that was not the approach some on his staff wanted).

Newt Gingrich, for example, is railing against Republicans who didn’t rally to Trump as “whiny, sniveling negative cowards.” He wants the Never Trump crowd to “drift off into the ashbin of history while we go ahead and work with Donald Trump and with the House and Senate Republicans to create a dramatically new future.”

The Trump team is ecstatic — and they have every right to be. They pulled it off.

I find this both sad and hilarious coming from Newt. Gingrich’s revolt against George H. W. Bush was instrumental in making him a one-term president. Now, I agreed with Newt on the substance of his disagreement, but I find his passion about partisan loyalty to be awfully selective. The same holds for his almost surgical moral outrage at sexual impropriety. He spent much of the closing months of the election arguing that Donald Trump’s sexual misdeeds were trivialities but the sexual misdeeds of Bill Clinton (the man he helped impeach largely over sexual misdeeds) disqualified his wife for the job of president. Feel free to diagram that argument in your free time.

But, this isn’t all that startling. By Newt’s own account, he’s always seen himself as a revolutionary, and when revolutionaries win, their first recourse is to purge ideological allies who refused to be partisan allies. The first to go under the Bolsheviks (other than the aristocracy) were the Mensheviks.

The Half-Life of Honeymoons

So, where was I? Oh right. The Trump team is ecstatic — and they have every right to be. They pulled it off. The philosophical and political sacrifices they made, the grief they took: It was all worth it. Congrats!

But now they have to lead their own herd of shiny unicorns into the light of day. For example, Trump vowed that, if elected, he would make “make every dream you ever dreamed for your country come true.”

Now, if you know anything — anything! — about conservatism, or human nature, or just plain reality, then you know in your heart this is balderdash of the highest order. It’s a less poetic version of Obama’s crazy talk about reversing the rise of the oceans because “we are the ones we’ve been waiting for.”

As I’ve been writing for years and years, politics can’t immanentize the eschaton any more than basset hounds can fly or Bill Clinton’s gaze can resist the tractor-beam pull of a nice rack.

Utopianism says there are no hard choices, no sacrifices, no compromises. All your dreams — all of them! — can come true. Populism, to paraphrase Bart Simpson, says if you think there are no easy answers you’re not looking hard enough. If we have our way, There Will Be So Much Winning that people will start complaining about the winning surplus. Populist utopianism is like a plane without landing gear, there’s no way it can come down to earth without crashing.

No, my point is simply that Trump now must govern.

To borrow a phrase from Barack Obama — who always saw dark forces out there barring him from rhetorical transparency — let me be clear: I do not think it is guaranteed that Trump’s presidency will be unalloyed disaster, with wreckage strewn across a continent-spanning crash site (though I hardly rule it out, either).

No, my point is simply that Trump now must govern. Rhetorically, Trump promised unicorns as far as the eye can see. He essentially vowed that we could rewind the movie of the last 50 years. Lost jobs would come flying back like the pieces of a shattered vase reassembling as the video plays in reverse. He promised his own nationalist version of Hillary Clinton’s politics of meaning, where all our insecurities and resentments would be mollified and revenged. That won’t happen.

It won’t happen because Trump must now deal with the tools and materials of the real world. To govern is to choose — and economics is the science of competing preferences.

We can already see how Team Trump is trying to orchestrate a controlled landing. Just yesterday, Newt was explaining to the sort of clients his boss has been demonizing as system-riggers that we probably won’t get quite the big beautiful wall Trump promised and that Mexico might not actually pay for it.

Don’t get me wrong: I think this is fine. Though I will not shirk from also saying it was inevitable — despite the fact that for months if you even suggested that Trump might not bring in the whole herd of unicorns you got an earful from the Gingrich crowd.

In other words, if Trump is going to be a successful president — and I hope he is one — he will have to start disappointing his biggest fans. For example, he would be a fool if he indulged the Bannonites in an effort to destroy Paul Ryan. A successful first hundred days absolutely requires teamwork with the party leadership. Launching a civil war among Republicans would be incandescently stupid.

Similarly, as I predicted, he appears fast at work in hammering out a deal on infrastructure with Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer. I’m actually not opposed to an infrastructure package per se, depending on the details, though I’m very skeptical about the Keynesian assumptions behind such things. I also think it’s hilariously ironic that the first big priority after a GOP victory might end up being . . . a New Deal–style jobs bill.

But my point here is simply that whatever choices he makes now will, as a matter of epistemological, metaphysical, and ontological fact, require trade-offs, concessions, and compromises. That’s fine with me because I never remotely believed he could bring in the unicorn herd in the first place. I knew, and still know, that whatever he delivers will at best be a few nice horses, and a good number of farty mules.

I still worry deeply and sincerely about the future of the country and the conservative movement on Trump’s watch, for all the reasons I’ve been spelling out for over a year. The GOP is having a historic political revival, but the conservative movement is heading into a crisis.

You Own This

But as for me personally, and very much to my surprise, I am loving this. I have zero ownership of Donald Trump. This is the one area where I am in full agreement with Newt and Laura and Sean and that whole crowd. I never bought, as a matter of logic, that I would “own” a Clinton presidency, but I certainly understand as a matter of political and psychological perception that a great many people — including many friends — would feel otherwise.

The simple fact is that there is just so much low-hanging fruit where the scattered Never Trumpers and the victorious Trumpers agree.

But now it’s all on them. They own Trump. I don’t. Never Trump is over — by definition. Saying you were “Never Trump” only ever meant that you wouldn’t vote for him or endorse him. We didn’t. He won anyway. Congrats. But now those of us who held the line are liberated. I will gladly and enthusiastically applaud when and if Trump does the right thing on judges, taxes, spending, etc. If he proves my predictions wrong, I will admit it or, on occasion, say, “Give it time.” I’ve constantly said that my job is to tell the truth as I see it. I did that during the election, and I’ll keep doing it going forward. When I’m wrong about Trump, I’ll be right about my ideology. And when I’m right about Trump, I’ll be able to say, “I told you so.”

The simple fact is that there is just so much low-hanging fruit where the scattered Never Trumpers and the victorious Trumpers agree. If they get rid of Obamacare, replacing it with a plan crafted by Paul Ryan? Great! If Trump nominates good judges and Mitch McConnell gets them confirmed? Fan-fricking-tastic. Who has two thumbs and will be ecstatic if Trump delivers on the Claremonsters’ dream of dismantling the administrative state? This guy. [I’m pointing my thumbs me-ward.]

But if Trump launches an idiotic and economy-wrecking trade war, I’ll hie to my well-stocked larder and say, “I told you so.” If his second Supreme Court appointment is a disaster (I think his first will be great, of necessity), I will pop a fresh batch of popcorn and watch to see who steps up to defend Trump’s betrayal. I’m going to have a great time no matter what.

Good Luck Carrying That Load

You can’t say the same about the ranch hands who’ve promised to help bring in the unicorn herd. In fact, I actually feel a little sorry for the Bannon crowd. Not only will they be deprived of their TV network, they will have to wake up every morning wondering, “What is this guy going to make me defend today?” The first wave of disappointment will probably explode like a toxic algae bloom among the alt-right racists (particularly if Trump makes his Jewish son-in-law chief of staff). I suspect the avowed “nationalists” will wait a while longer to see what Trump does on immigration. I am more hopeful that the pro-tax-reform crowd won’t be so disappointed, but time will tell.

But whichever tribe of Trump Nation we’re talking about, my guess is that their glee is likely to have an inverse relationship with Trump’s approval ratings in early 2017 and beyond. Trump’s bottomless yearning for praise and popularity (and, possibly once he’s president, good press in the mainstream media) will likely triumph in any contest with ideological rigor. We can already see that in his entirely laudable cooperation and praise for Obama yesterday.

Trump Nation Versus America

This raises one last very important point (if I say so myself). The “Trump coalition” that put him in office does not necessarily want what Trump’s biggest fans want. Sixty-one percent of the voters didn’t think Trump was qualified to be president, but many of them voted for him anyway. A sizable number of his voters said they want the next president to be more liberal. A huge number of voters said they were holding their noses and voting for Trump because they couldn’t stand Hillary.

Politically, this could be a real advantage for Trump, because it suggests that if he actually governs as a relatively “normal” president with an eye to his approval ratings, voters will be reassured. The fears and low expectations of the American people give him maneuvering room.

I sincerely hope he moves in the right directions. But any direction he does move is likely to leave some of his biggest fans behind, sticking them with the painful choice of finally standing their ground on their professed principles or continuing to run after the Trump Train wherever it goes.

Meanwhile, I’ll be right here with my popcorn.

Various & Sundry

Yesterday, I was on a panel with Michael Mukasey, John Yoo, and Byron York on the Constitution and the presidential election. You might ask what Byron and I were doing there. We wondered the same thing.

I also did a quick hit for the Daily Signal on the aftermath of the election.

My first column of the week (written before the election) was on the weirdness of 2016.

Also before the election, I wrote about Donald Trump’s risky bet on realizing his “hidden” support (Spoiler Alert: It paid off).

My immediate reaction to Trump’s win.

The first (and last) positive thing I’ll have to say about Hillary Clinton.

My Friday column deals with the underappreciated significance of Hillary’s loss.

Heads Up: I leave tomorrow for the National Review post-election cruise, which should be . . . interesting! I don’t know if I will be able to G-File while at sea.

Canine Update: I need to be brief, as the Goldbergs are hosting a post-election celebration tonight and as my wife just got back from a nearly two-week trip to Alaska, there’s more than the normal prep required. The leftover pizza boxes alone are going to be an Augean trial. In the Fair Jessica’s absence, the canines remained loyal to their canine natures. On a mission with our treasured dogwalker Kirsten, the dingo discovered a squirrel carcass apparently dropped accidentally by an owl or some other bird of prey. So of course, she partook of nature’s bounty. It gave her a brief stomach ache. But given her dingo constitution, the discomfort amounted to a single skipped meal at home.

Meanwhile, the terrifying neon-Corgi incident discussed in a previous “news”letter has had a more lasting impact on Pippa. The poor spaniel is now simply scared of poorly lit dog parks. She constantly searches the horizon for signs that the low-slung beasts with their terrifying collar lamps will reemerge from the tree line to wreak havoc on all of spanielkind. This morning, she was still racing back to the car and jumping into the cargo hold, like it was bunker. Anyway, when my wife came home last night, the dogs exhibited all of the canine enthusiasm that makes dogginess so wonderful.

And now, the weird stuff.

?A prelude to the gray-goo problem

Scavenger robot eats organic matter

2016 submissions to the 2016 National Geographic photographer of the year contest

Is Cthulhu calling?

Whatever happened to Barbara Newhall Follett?

Is Siberia preparing for an epic snowball fight?

A snake actually appears on a plane

How James Bond got his name

What to pack before you go off the grid

The aliens of the deep

Canada may have found the nuke it apparently lost

And it has a bad immigration website

Can it handle these 14 celebrities who said they’d leave the country if Hillary lost?

What’s up with Mexico’s zone of silence?

Snakes chase iguana, set to NFL primetime music

Chewbacca, pre-roar

Darth Vader, pre-James Earl Jones

Disney now has an army of drones

Dogs are bipartisan

Predictions and the Test of Time

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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 the new prime-time hosts of Trump TV),

This is a happy day for me, and no doubt at least for some readers. No matter what happens next Tuesday, this is the last G-File I will ever write about the 2016 election while it is still a live proposition.

And perhaps fittingly, it looks like Trump might actually win, though I still very much doubt it. I doubt it for all the pundity kinds of reasons that pundits pundify about. So, let’s just leave all that there.

On the other hand, things certainly look better for him than anyone could have imagined prior to Jim Comey’s October surprise and all that’s followed. It was just two weeks ago that Kellyanne Conway was winking and nodding about how she had one foot out the door. Even Laura Ingraham was distancing herself from the gang she now touts as a Merry Band of Brothers whose victory will yield glory she will deserve her portion of.

Contrary to the Hieronymus Bosch painting that is my Twitter feed, I’m really not “feeling the heat” or “freaking out” or packing my bags for Israel. If that surprises you, it surprises me a bit too, though not for the reasons most diehard Trumpkins would suspect. I’m not going to catalog all the crazy theories about my “true” motivations, all I can ask is that you take me at my word that my motives are actually as I’ve laid them out in this “news”letter and elsewhere for over a year.

Long ago, I made peace with the fact that this election will yield one form of ass ache or another. Once you reconcile yourself to that fact, day-to-day changes in the horse race are really pretty meaningless. Also, part of it is that I am really enjoying watching the flop-sweat panic of the Democrats and the media. Only someone with a heart of stone could fail to laugh at watching the Great Migration of Chickens coming home to roost. Even after all the millions upon millions of dollars spent, the carefully calibrated messaging, and the years of focus groups and strategizing, Clinton Inc. has never managed to fix the central problem: Hillary Clinton.

Clinton World has always thought they could substitute planning and backroom scheming for charm, charisma, and personality. Don’t get me wrong, planning and scheming have taken Hillary very far. But some cooks just can’t work the front of the room, and she’s one of them. This has been obvious ever since Hillary’s single-best news-cycle day was when she was captured buying a burrito (bowl) on a security camera.

Don’t get me wrong, planning and scheming have taken Hillary very far.

Thanks to WikiLeaks, we now know it literally took the Clinton campaign twelve hours and twelve staffers to come up with a single tweet. Contrast that with Donald Trump’s approach to Twitter and one conjures the image of General Hillary agonizing over the exact position of every soldier and artillery piece and pouring over detailed plans for the defense of the city — only to sit back in disbelief as Godzilla tramples it all.

More importantly, we know that the Clinton campaign was a subsidiary of Clinton Inc.

Time and again we see from the Podesta e-mails that John Podesta and Robby Mook — the campaign chairman and campaign manager, respectively — were on the outside of the true inner circle, flummoxed by the secretiveness and paranoia of the Empress and her praetorians. Neera Tanden summarized the Clinton worldview in a single line. Rather than do the right thing by admitting having done wrong, “they wanted to get away with it.” What’s “it”? In this case, it was the e-mail fiasco, but it could have been almost anything these mincers and schemers have been up to for the past 30 years.

Hillary Clinton deserves to lose, and I don’t know a serious political observer who doesn’t think she’d be down double digits in the polls if she were running against a standard Republican.

What Might Have Been

And that’s an important point. All of the reasons Trump is doing well now have almost nothing to do with him, save in one regard: He’s finally discovered some semblance of discipline and restraint. “Donald, stay on point,” he said more to himself than to the audience at a rally in Florida. “No sidetracks Donald, nice and easy.”

(I’m not sure why, but he reminded me of when Homer Simpson discovered a box of trash on the sidewalk. “Wire hangers? Expired medicine? Old newspapers?! Okay Homer, stay calm and quietly get this stuff inside your house!”)

But other than managing not to step on himself — the bare minimum any of us should expect from a candidate — the fact that the election is tightening doesn’t have much to do with Trump.

Donald Trump didn’t force Comey to cough up a hairball on the nation’s doorstep eleven days before the election. He certainly didn’t make Hillary Clinton the spectacularly horrible candidate she is, or force her to set up her secret server. Heck, when she did that, Trump was still saying nice things about her and donating (other peoples’ money) to the Clinton Foundation.

Trump says he has nothing to do with the WikiLeaks disclosures that have eaten away at the thin and spotty veneer of Hillary’s credibility like voracious termites devouring their way through aged and fraying balsa wood. If that’s true, he deserves no credit for the damage they’ve done to her candidacy. And if that is a lie, then he has disqualified himself from any public office and should be on trial.

Nor did Donald Trump create the problems with Obamacare that have caused millions of people to face massive premium hikes right before the election. Indeed, as recently as the primaries, he still believed that single-payer health care works great in Canada and elsewhere.

Have Faith

There’s a good analogy in all this. Back during the fights over Obamacare, I would often say that if we actually believe what we conservatives claim to believe in, then we should have some confidence that Obamacare wouldn’t work and that we would be proven right, eventually. For example, here’s what I wrote in 2009:

Obamacare is a vast, deeply polarizing demonstration project for progressive ideas. It is terrible policy, but because I think it’s terrible policy, it may well result in a beneficial backlash. “Example is the school of mankind,” proclaimed Edmund Burke, “and they will learn at no other.” Democrats insist they’re pushing for health-care reform against a political headwind because “history” compels them to. Republicans are standing athwart “history” yelling, “Stop!”

Politically, one side will be proved right, and the side proved wrong will pay a staggering price. Everyone’s all in.

The Democrats, have been paying a price, politically, for Obamacare ever since. John Podhoretz summarized it well this week:

The most important political story during the nearly eight years of the Obama presidency is how that presidency delivered a neutron-bomb strike to his party. Obama and the political structure of America have been left standing — but nearly 1,000 Democratic officeholders have been defeated.

In the House of Representatives, three successive elections in 2010, 2012 and 2014 have seen 63 Democratic Congress members lose their seats. In 2009, Democrats held 60 Senate seats. Right now, they hold 46.

So out of 535 elected positions in the US Congress, Obama has overseen a 14 percent reduction in Democratic officeholding — and the loss of majorities in both chambers.

Nationally, the numbers are even more stark. Democrats have lost 910 seats in state legislatures since 2009, while Republicans have gained 12 governor’s mansions. Overall, according to Louis Jacobson of Governing magazine, “Democratic losses in the Senate have so far reached 22 percent, 27 percent in the House, 36 percent in governorships and a stunning 59 percent in fully controlled state legislatures.”

Not all of this is due to Obamacare, but a really big chunk of it is. Obamacare has been an albatross for Democrats in virtually every swing state and district in every election since its passage. The result has been to make the Democratic party a far more left-wing party than it otherwise might be — because only very liberal Democrats from very liberal states and districts could survive the drag of Obama and Obamacare.

So how is Trump like Obamacare? Well, first he’s an enormous mistake — a wager made on a mistaken theory about the political landscape and how the GOP needs to think about its future. If Trump loses, he will be an albatross for the GOP for a long time to come. He and his minions have reinforced stereotypes about conservatives that will make it more difficult to win with young people, women, minorities, and persuadable white voters generally for years.

Second, and more personally, I feel very much the same way about the “issue” of Donald Trump and “Trumpism” that I did about Obamacare. I was proven right about Obamacare (and Obama) and I feel equally confident that, win or lose, I will be proven right about Trump.

I feel very much the same way about the ‘issue’ of Donald Trump and ‘Trumpism’ that I did about Obamacare.

Specifically, I honestly and sincerely believe he has the makings of a disastrous president. He’s a man of tawdry character whose outsized lizard-brain can’t see any issue outside of the prism of his own staggering self-regard. He has no intellectual or instinctual commitment to notions of liberty and limited government, and if you take his (very rare) word for it that he does, then you are the perfect mark, the kind every conman looks for: someone who desperately wants the con to be true.

I keep hearing from Trump cultists on Twitter that I’ve been wrong about “everything.” But I haven’t been. I’ve been consistently right about how beatable and flawed Hillary Clinton is, for example. The only important thing I’ve been wrong about has been Trump’s chances in the primaries and in the general election. The sources of my error in the primaries stemmed from several factors. First, there’s the fact that I hadn’t appreciated how a combination of free media, celebrity, and the structural, collective-action problems of a 17-candidate race could open a path for Trump. As for the general election, I was empirically right that he would lose at least until James Comey’s letter surfaced, and I think — albeit with less confidence — that I am still right.

Oh, and I was wrong about one other thing. In retrospect, I was a bit of fool for not anticipating how so many “true conservative” media types would eagerly defenestrate their principles and judgment in order to get on the Trump Train. That’s been a vital, if disappointing, lesson that has set me off on rounds of extended soul-searching — not my soul so much, but the soul of the Republican party and the conservative movement. I remain steadfastly confident Donald Trump deserves my revulsion and contempt.

The Test of Time

I have argued at length that the phrase “the right side of history” is a bogus rhetorical device used by people incapable of making their arguments on the merits. But that doesn’t mean that the passage of time doesn’t vindicate certain stances — and repudiate others. Lincoln Steffens spoke for most progressive intellectuals when he said, upon returning from the Soviet Union, “I’ve been to the future — and it works.” No. It didn’t then, and most sane and reasonable people acknowledge that now.

Which brings me back to Trump, Obamacare, and the school of mankind. Trump’s most devoted followers think they are part of a major movement. Maybe they are. Though I do laugh when I hear people talk about the global movement against globalism. But I remain confident that most Republicans — and certainly most conservatives — who are rallying to Trump are doing so because they see him as the lesser of two evils. (I heard my friend Dennis Prager say the other day that the “lesser of two evils is good,” which I don’t think will go down in history as one of his most time-honored maxims.) According to Pew, 11 percent of Trump supporters say they would be disappointed or angry if their candidate won. That is not quite the kindling upon which to stoke a new prairie fire of populist nationalism.

If Trump wins, even his most ardent Never Trump opponents — me included — must restart the clock and give him some benefit of the doubt. We only have one president at a time.

Still, I have always argued that voting against Hillary on the grounds that “she’s worse” is a perfectly legitimate position. What I cannot get my head around is the idea that any rational person — conservative or liberal — could actually buy any of Trump’s promises or the notion that he’s some modern-day Cincinnatus laying down his golf clubs to save the Republic, abolish the administrative state, bring back manufacturing jobs (an understandable hope, even if most of those jobs have been lost to automation), wipe away the muck of political correctness, and “Make America Great Again.” Such claims seem no less ridiculous to me than all of the messianic talk about Barack Obama, “the lightworker.”

My skepticism about Obama was vindicated and I remain confident my skepticism of Trump will be, too.

I will say, however, that if Trump wins, even his most ardent Never Trump opponents — me included — must restart the clock and give him some benefit of the doubt. We only have one president at a time.

Behind the scenes, Trump’s Republican backers insist that they will be able to manage and steer Trump toward positive ends. “He just wants to make speeches about making America great again,” they say. “We’ll do all the heavy-lifting on policy.” I am profoundly dubious of this. The idea that one could hand the keys of the Oval Office to this glandular oaf and expect it to not go to his head strikes me as ridiculous. Character is destiny, and given his character we can predict what the destiny of the Trump presidency would be.

But we all owe it to the country to give him his shot. I will be delighted to be proven wrong. But given that I actually believe the things I believe in, I don’t have high hopes.

Various & Sundry

I’m running very late because I had to go to a parent–teacher conference and do a stint on the Diane Rehm Show Friday morning, eating up much valuable “news”lettering time. So, I’ll be brief.

Canine Update: I’m still recovering from my wounds from the deer attack. Both the dogs and I are a little skittish about the park where it happened, which I’m now convinced is cursed.

Exactly one week later, we were back at the scene of the crime. I was throwing a ball for the spaniel as the dingo was launching anti-varmint sorties. Suddenly, at the other end of the field we saw bobby lights coming towards us. As they came closer, I realized they were not will-o-the-wisps or aliens, but two corgies. The dingo and the spaniel were both freaked out by it. The fight or flight response kicked in, with the dingo taking the fight portfolio and the spaniel opting for flight.

Zoë started after the corgies, which breaks my heart. No one was hurt, but I hate it when she gets into scraps with other dogs. I tackled Zoë and pinned her to the ground (which didn’t help what I think is a deer-inflicted bruised or cracked rib). I held her down by the neck and yelled at her to make it clear such behavior is unacceptable. When we got up, the spaniel was gone. We searched for 15 minutes, but Pippa was nowhere to be found. I called my wife, who had to leave for Alaska later in the day for a family emergency, and told her I didn’t know what to do. She got dressed and said she would drive over and help me look. But when she got to the front door, there was Pippa who had run all the way home.

This is rather amazing as we live just under a mile away and she had to cross several busy intersections. Moreover, she has never walked that route. When I saw her, I felt a bit like Ron Burgundy after Baxter ate the wheel of cheese: “I’m not even mad, that’s amazing.”

My first column of the week was on James Comey’s decision and how Hillary Clinton deserves the bulk of the blame.

My Friday column was on one of my perennial topics: The folly of early voting.

Ben Howe’s new Trump documentary, The Sociopath, is out. I’m in it. Ironically, I’m also in Dinesh D’Souza’s Hillary documentary, which pretty much sums up my year.

 

Debby’s Friday links

Lifelong Cubs fans go nuts over World Series victory

False vacuum apocalypse 2020?

Now you too can make meals from a 1387 cookbook!

Nonsense paper written by iOS autocomplete accepted for physics conference

In France, politicians are mocked for not knowing the price of a pastry

In Australia, spiders eat mice

In Germany, urine erodes church foundations

In Ireland, massive Celtic crosses grow in the middle of forests

The best political ad ever?

Could an astronaut’s corpse bring new life to another world?

What happens when a dog meets a life-size version of its favorite toy

How J. R. R. Tolkien responded when Nazis asked if he were Jewish

Advice on keeping your home safe, given by imprisoned burglars

Patient burned by mid-surgery explosion when laser ignites fart

Would you want one of these brutally honest cakes?

The lost children of “Runaway Train”

The best thing Obama has done as president?

Rapper behind song “Sell Drugz” is accused of selling drugs

Two-headed sharks are real

Bizarre millipede discovered

John Lennon’s letter to the Queen of England

How to know if your theater screen is working

Is Westeros a planet in a binary star system?

The Impossible Weirdness of 2016

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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.

Deer Reader,*

Okay, I’m only three (now four, now seven . . . ) words into the “substance” of this “news”letter and I already know it’s going to get weird. That may just be the painkillers talking (Hi little guys!), or it may be 2016 generally. I’ll get to the painkillers in a bit.

This has been a weird year. But, frankly, things have been getting weird for a while now. For a few years, I’ve increasingly felt like someone was ransacking the conventional-wisdom warehouse and throwing away the old standards.

The D&D geek in me likes to imagine there’s some Gothic keep out there with a grand library full of jars containing the Unwritten Rules of the Universe, each filled with some kind of pixie or will-o-the-wisp free-floating within. Alas, a couple of precocious kids broke in, climbed up the sliding library ladder along the shelves, and then smashed each ancient jar on the floor. The ephemeral creatures within flew away, and took their rules with them.

The sci-fi geek in me imagines that maybe the code of the universal computer has been hacked or corrupted and so the dedicated and automated programs of daily life are weirdly misfiring. You laugh now, but let’s see how funny you think this is when Kim Kardashian cracks the formula for cold fusion or water starts boiling at 200 degrees.

The Lifting Curses

I know none of these things are the actual explanation for all the weirdness around us anymore than “climate change” explains the rise of ISIS or the fact that the Cubs and the Indians are in the World Series.

Let’s talk about that for a minute. I want the Cubs to lose, and not just because I don’t want Hugh Hewitt to start cutting himself again. I want the Cubs to lose for the same reason I wanted the Red Sox to lose in 2004: I like curses. No, I don’t mean in the sense of giving someone the evil eye so that they give birth to a duck or anything like that. I like curses because they are romantic, in the anti-Enlightenment sense. They defy the machine thinking of the Scientific Revolution. I wrote about this almost exactly twelve years ago:

This isn’t sour grapes. I may technically be a Yankees “fan” but it’s only out of vestigial loyalty sort of like the way Madonna is still a “Catholic.”

Nevertheless, I do hope the Red Sox lose in the World Series. There aren’t many curses left in modern society most people still believe in. We’ve sanitized the culture of such mysticisms. Or we’ve elevated them to quasi-religions deserving full respect under the rules of political correctness (“Oh? You’re a Pagan? Isn’t that wonderful! My hairdresser’s a Druid!”). The BoSox curse is old but it’s not weird. It’s a comfortable bit of lore which adds drama to life. If it disappears the magic and mystery of life will be a teeny bit diminished. Except of course for Red Sox fans, who will be whistling dixie out of every orifice for a year. Depriving them of such joy seems worth the price.

For entirely understandable reasons, this argument was not well-received by Red Sox fans. I’m not hugely invested in either team, or in baseball generally, but if the Curse of the Billy Goat is lifted, a game more attached to superstition than any other I can think of (save for the Virgin League “sport” of Quidditch) will be somewhat diminished. The origin story of George Will be shaved down ever so slightly (though he’ll still have the tale of how he was bitten by a radioactive Oxford Don).

As a Chestertonian at heart, I like and respect old things. I like it when stuff beats the law of averages for reasons we cannot easily fathom. The Hayekian in me thinks old things that last often do so for good reasons we just don’t — and sometimes can’t — know.

Unfortunately, we live in an age where we take the razor of reason to every little thing and strain to know the whys of it, as if knowing the why will empower the how.

For example, we know that kids raised in stable two-parent, religiously observant families will on average do better than kids who are not. This holds true despite differences in race, class, and religion. We all have theories for why this is so — but too many people think that if we can just isolate the variables, we can take the good bits and discard the husks we don’t like.

An even worse — and more prevalent — mindset is to not even bother with the why. If we can’t immediately grasp why some old practice, some ancient tradition, some venerable custom or Chestertonian fence is worthwhile, we tend to instantly dismiss it as outdated and old-fashioned.

Simply because something is ‘old-fashioned’ doesn’t mean it wasn’t fashioned in the first place.

But again, as Chesterton and Hayek alike understood, simply because something is “old-fashioned” doesn’t mean it wasn’t fashioned in the first place. And by fashioned, I mean manufactured and constructed. Customs are created because they solve problems. But they get less respect in our present age because they have no identifiable authors. They are crowd-sourced, to borrow a modern phrase for an ancient phenomenon. The customs and institutions we take for granted are crammed full of embedded knowledge every bit as much as prices are. But most intelligent people are comfortable admitting they can’t know all the factors that go into a price, but we constantly want to dissect the whys of every custom.

Anyway, back to baseball. The last time the Cubs made it to the Fall Classic, Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton hadn’t been born yet, and WWII had been over for exactly one month. The last time they won the Series — 1908 — was 20 years before the invention of sliced bread. Why would I want that gloriously magical losing streak to end?

The Unravelling

I can’t shake the feeling that all sorts of streaks are coming to an end. Only thrice in the 20th century has a party held on to the White House for three elections in a row. Harding (1920), Coolidge (1924), and Hoover (1928) strung together three wins during the Roaring Twenties. FDR did it because he was essentially president-for-life. George H. W. Bush did it because he was standing on Reagan’s legacy and running against Michael Dukakis, a Black Swan of dorkiness. Only two sitting senators were elected president prior to 2008, when we had no choice but to elect one because both candidates were senators.

Other streaks are more ephemeral. Ronald Reagan was the first and only divorced man to be elected president. Even so, there’s been a rule of thumb, which he adhered to, that having an admirable married life — at least in public — was essential to getting elected. That ends this year no matter who wins. The related rule of thumb that you needed to be known as a person of reasonably good character to win your party’s nomination, never mind the presidency, has also come crashing down off the shelf — the magical pixie who guaranteed it has flown out the window.

I could do this all day. It used to be that religious leaders at least pretended that a politician’s personal character and faith mattered, even if they were a Republican. It used to be that kowtowing to foreign despots meddling in our elections was a no-no, particularly for the GOP. It used to be a vicious slander to suggest that Democrats were socialists in disguise. But we spent the last year watching Democrats fall all over themselves to insist there’s no meaningful distinction between them and their socialist brethren.

The fact that no one wrote such rules down was a sign not of their weakness but of their dogmatic strength. No one ever bothered to write down that candidates shouldn’t brag about the size of their penises either. And I’m sure the jarred-spirit upholding that dictum was more surprised than anyone when he was liberated from his obligations.

The Clinton Way

If we wanted to play the blame game, I could talk — or rather type — at great length about how much blame Bill Clinton deserves for all this. He spent his life, like his presidency, mocking the settled rules and customs of public life. Countless other presidents have had affairs, taken bribes, bent and broke the rules. But when caught, they had the decency to be, against at least publicly, ashamed and slink off the public stage, at least for respectable period of time. Not Bubba.

Clinton’s problem was twofold. The first is of his own making: He is and always has been a shameless cad. The second wasn’t his fault at all: He was born too late. The world changed around him and he couldn’t adapt. Something similar happened to Nixon. Tricky Dick’s schemes were not very different from those of LBJ, JFK, and FDR. But the rules changed on him, and like the slowest player at musical chairs, he was out.

In a sense, Clinton learned from Nixon. But the lesson he took from his downfall was that it’s always better to simply brazen it out. Bill forced institutions and people to bend to him — to discard their principles and integrity — for some fly-swarmed and misbegotten argument about the “greater good.” Feminists who invested vast sums of argument, time, and money into a new dogma about sexual relations suddenly started penning articles in the New York Times about how politicians deserved “one free grope.” Today, countless conservatives who decried this and related hypocrisies have now embraced them as the new rules, all in the name of the greater good.

Bill’s wife, always his partner in such matters, learned her lessons too. In the America of the Old Rules, Hillary would have resigned from public life long ago. But she is equally without shame. She’d prefer to debase our institutions and those who work in them by making them bend the knee to the greater good. She put James Comey and the FBI in a no-win situation — so it’s no surprise he and the Bureau came away losers, reinforcing the suspicion that our leaders are all shot-through with self-serving corruption. The Old Rules of probity and the rule of law that Comey continues to sing now clang off the ear as false notes. The Old Rules are now the rules for little people. Why? Because Hillary and her junta “wanted to get away with it.”

In the America of the Old Rules, Hillary would have resigned from public life long ago.

But blaming one man is misguided. Clinton was a creature of our age, the first president to break — publicly — the unwritten rules of character that were already in decline in society at large. After all, it was candidate Clinton who talked about his underwear in order to seem cool. It’s not such a long trip to another candidate talking about his d**k. We were already in that neighborhood.

I still think Donald Trump will lose in at least an Electoral College landslide. But my thinking may indeed be based on the Old Rules. We’ve already learned this year that overreliance on such guideposts can lead you into a ditch. The development economists tell me than an institution, at its core, is just a rule that binds people to certain practices even when it may not be in their self-interest.

In that sense, we are where we are because our institutions are failing, flung off the shelves for fun and profit. It should be no surprise that weird things happen in such an environment. Weirdness is a subjective measure based upon what the observer assumes to be normal. And it looks like we are heading to a new normal — or, at the very least, that the old one lays in ashes. As a conservative, I must believe we’ll find our way out for the same reasons that we discovered the Old Rules in the first place. Certain ways of life are “better” because they work better for most people. The task for conservatives is to identify, defend, and, when possible, restore those customs — even when the acolytes of the fierce urgency of now try to tear them down. On this score, I share David Brooks’s optimism.

Yes, this has been a weird and unpleasant time, but as Bill Clinton no doubt told many a nervous intern, just because something starts out weird and unpleasant, doesn’t mean it can’t end well.

Author Update: Mere minutes before this thing was about to go out in the pneumatic tubes, word broke that FBI director James Comey is re-opening the investigation of Hillary Clinton’s e-mails. It’s as if God wanted to prove my point about how weird 2016 is. There will be more to say about all this soon — here’s my hot take — but I don’t think it changes anything I wrote and it happens to offer a nice segue to what follows.

Various & Sundry

Canine Update: So now let me explain why such matters are on my mind, beyond the obvious reasons. I’ve been struggling to figure out the best way to tell this story. I even thought about starting the G-File with this Very Special Canine Update, but even in a “news”letter in which the author can apparently get away with anything — pull my finger (“You keep using that joke, and as the entity on the business end of your butt, I don’t think it’s funny” — The Couch) — it turns out he still must adhere to some of the Old Rules. So I’ll just start typing and we’ll see where that gets us.

For the last couple months, I’ve been taking the dogs to a different park for their Morning Pee, Poop, Perambulation, and Patrol Exercises. Our usual park, Battery Kemble, is fantastic, but difficult to walk in the dark and I got sick of clearing spider webs with my face and having to hose off the spaniel when she unerringly got in the fetid creek that runs alongside the trail. So instead we’ve been going to a neighborhood community park for 4P Exercises. There’s a paved path, partial street lighting, ample bunnies, and the occasional deer for the dingo to chase. Also, since there are no dogs there until after the sun rises, I don’t have to worry about the Dingo getting into any tussles.

Anyway, Wednesday morning was like almost any other except I was under more stress because I had to fly to New York for a podcast recording and an evening talk and then get back the same day to watch my kid, as my wife had to go to Arizona for work. Well, there I am walking our usual route at around 5:50 in the morning. The stars are still out. I’m throwing the ball for Pippa, keeping one eye out for Zoë, and listening to the Marketplace “morning report” on my headphones. As I head toward the soccer field where the street lamps taper off, I turn on my iPhone’s flashlight.

One end of the soccer field has a chain link fence with a heavy iron gate that’s always unlocked in the center (one whole side of the field is unfenced, so it’s not like a security thing anyway). I heard the fencing at the other side of the field rattle a bit, which made me think Zoë had run into it chasing a critter that could go under it (that happens a lot) or perhaps a soccer ball, as is her occasional wont. The light from my phone barely illuminated the area a few feet in front of me, in an eerie, cinematic way. Just as I approached the gate I heard over the sound of the radio heavy hooves hitting the ground. For just a moment in the half light, I saw something and thought to myself, “Zoë looks strange.” Then suddenly, I’m struck in the head by a blur of metal. A very, very large deer was galloping at full speed, presumably to get away from my wolf-like companion. It charged straight into the gate at the precise moment as I was about to walk through it.

I saw something and thought to myself, ‘Zoë looks strange.’

The force was like a linebacker running full speed into an open door. The whole thing happened so fast and the nano-second before it was so normal and tranquil — I think the deer must have been clocking at least 20 mph — that I keep thinking of those scenes in movies where the alien or monster comes out of nowhere and snatches an unsuspecting human. But when I think about the sound of it running, I think about scenes from movies or Game of Thrones where the unsuspecting knight is blindsided by a horse.

The deer hit the mesh in the middle so hard it blew the hundred-pound gate clear off the hinges straight into me. I caught the brunt of the edge smack dab in the middle of my forehead, on my left knee, and my left wrist. I was also knocked on my ass onto the pavement. I pulled muscles in my neck and my chest. I know this is shocking to people, but the first words I’d associate with my physical condition are not “lithe” or “limber.”

I’m lucky to be alive, given that there’s a pointy steel rod protruding from the thing where they can chain-lock it when needed. If that thing had hit any number of places on my body, I might have bled out on the ground or at minimum lost an eye. Pippa was terrified and ran away and hid. Zoë chased the apparently uninjured (!) deer for a few more seconds, and then gave up as she always does.

I won’t say I am not at least a little saddened that Zoë’s reaction to her possibly unconscious master was seeming indifference. She stayed near me, but I would have preferred it if she had circled me and then sat with her back to me to protect me from any more ungulates or their projectiles.

The story doesn’t end there (the failed hunt for my glasses and the drive home without them, never mind the trip to NYC, and dealing with solo parent duty, were particularly stressful), but you get the picture.

I’m still a sore, rattled, and limping mess. The swelling on my knee and forehead has gone down and I’m no longer worried that I broke my wrist, but I now have a fairly hideous wound on my head that has scabbed up even more since last night. It will be a particularly fun challenge for the makeup ladies at Fox (I was on Brit Hume’s On the Record on Friday night.)

Anyway, ever since I keep thinking about how unbelievably bizarre and scary the whole thing was. (And yes, I have ruled out the possibility that it was Corey Lewandowski in a deer suit.) When I got home and explained what happened to my wife, and as the adrenaline drained from my body, I kept muttering, “That was so 2016.” It wasn’t literally a black swan, but it was close enough figuratively to literally knock me on my ass. So, in short, the world is now a weird place.

My Friday column is on the Medicis of the Ozarks.

My first column of the week was on the black swanny — in a good way — potential for a McMullin presidency.

Thanks for all the kind words about my first appearance on ABC’s This Week.

The new GLoP podcast is out, with the best photoshop to date.

 

Debby’s Friday links

Why are witches popularly depicted as riding on broomsticks?

That time witches tried to put a hex on Wall Street

How to incorporate human remains into your dinner party

At this family reunion, the dead get an invite

Exploring Transylvania

The BBC Halloween hoax that traumatized viewers

Did Soviet scientists successfully experiment with reanimating dead tissue?

A tour of Mark Twain’s (haunted) house

The secret career of the guy whose hand played “Thing” in The Addams Family

Did Thomas Edison try to invent a phone that could communicate with the dead?

America’s real-life horror movie houses, mapped

Have scientists solved the mystery of the Bermuda Triangle?

The history of subliminal messages in rock music

A Halloween reading list

Finally: Researchers build a nightmare machine

Why do people believe in Bigfoot?

What happened at Dyatlov Pass?

A tribute to the disturbingly beautiful work of H. R. Giger

Bursting ‘Beltway Bubbles’

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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 Readers (including all the nasty women and bad hombres),

My kid missed the school bus today, so rather than waste more time fighting rush-hour traffic into D.C., I’m writing this from a shopping-mall parking lot in Virginia. It’s good to get outside the Beltway Bubble, though I think technically, I’m still inside it. But you know what I mean. And since we’re on the topic, as Lawrence Welk said to his roadies, “Let’s talk about bubbles.”

I am always hearing that people inside the Beltway, in Washington, along the Acela Corridor, in the GOPe, wherever, are “living in a bubble” and that’s why “we” or “they” or “you” don’t get it.

“It” is a tiny word, but it contains multitudes. The “it” can refer to gun culture or abortion, opposition to immigration or, for that matter, support for immigration, it can be hatred of Washington or Hollywood or HBO’s Girls. And of course “it” can mean Donald Trump’s appeal.

I am the first to concede that when my wife is out of town I eat an inordinate number of meals over the kitchen sink. But that’s not important right now. I am also an early conceder of the point that I use “You just don’t get it” a lot myself.

Which reminds me: I think a great New Yorker cartoon would have Meet the Press panelists debating the presidential candidacy of Cousin Itt from the Addams Family with one pundit saying to the other “You just don’t get Itt!” Or something like that.

I’m here all week, try the veal. Hello? Is this thing on?

Anyway, where was I? Oh right: Bubbles.

The truth is everyone lives in a bubble, or rather a number of bubbles. For instance, there’s a thing called “Dunbar’s Number.” It’s the rough estimate of how many human beings we can really know as people in relationship to us and to other people. Anthropologist Robin Dunbar set the outer boundary at around 150 people. That sounds about right, though I am sure it varies person to person. My hunch is that some politicians and salesmen have abnormally high Dunbar numbers, while misanthropes like me have a much lower one.

Consider the family. Every family, no matter how normal or weird, is a bubble, a unique little civilization of its own. Not to be too much of a downer, but I wrote about this a bit in the first G-File after my brother passed away, when such thoughts were very close to my heart:

Unique is a misunderstood word. Pedants like to say there’s no such thing as “very unique.” I don’t think that’s true. For instance, we say that each snowflake is unique. That’s true. No two snowflakes are alike. But that doesn’t mean that pretty much all snowflakes aren’t very similar. But, imagine if you found a snowflake that was ten feet in diameter and hot to the touch, I think it’d be fair to say it was very unique. Meanwhile, each normal snowflake has its own contours, its own one-in-a-billion-trillion characteristics, that will never be found again.

Families are similarly unique. Each has its own cultural contours and configurations. The uniqueness might be hard to discern from the outside and it certainly might seem trivial to the casual observer. Just as one platoon of Marines might look like another to a civilian or one business might seem indistinguishable from the one next door. But, we all know the reality is different. Every meaningful institution has a culture all its own. Every family has its inside jokes, its peculiar way of doing things, its habits and mores developed around a specific shared experience.

Friends have inside jokes. When an outsider or newcomer asks “What’s so funny?” sometimes the only serviceable response is “You had to be there” or “You just don’t get it.”

But the truth is, that’s not true. You could explain the inside joke so that any outsider could understand it. What’s much harder is explaining it so that the outsider feels it. This is a common insight when it comes to jokes. Explanations of jokes are like dissections of lab animals: In order to demonstrate how they work, you have to kill them.

Feelings, Woe, Woe, Woe, Feelings

And I think this is an important point given the moment we’re in. A very large share of the arguments on the right these days have more to do with the expression of feelings than the explication of arguments (this is normally a more recognizable trait of the Left).

For over a year now, people have been yelling at me “You don’t get it!” when it comes to Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton. And while I am certainly open to the claim that I’m not that bright, I do think I get it. What drives a lot of friends and (former) fans crazy is that I don’t share their feelings — and that, in turn, feels to them like betrayal. And I get that, too. I’ve felt the same thing about conservative writers — many of them friends or former friends — who came to unpopular conclusions about this or that, and I’ve had similar feelings of betrayal, resentment, and, to use a word that would make total sense in German, notgettingitness.

I think this explains why so many people scream at me with Sam Kinison–like belligerence that I go ahead and endorse “my candidate,” Hillary Clinton. It’s a manifestation of the tribal, bubble-thinking that says if you’re not part of the solution then you’re part of the problem, or “if you’re not with me you must be with them.”

It’s worth pointing out that many of the intellectuals and writers shouting about the ‘Beltway Bubble!’ live in their own bubbles too.

I get the arguments for why I must, absolutely must, vote for Donald Trump. And I think some of them are fairly sound. I also get the arguments that I must, absolutely must, endorse Donald Trump. I just don’t find any of them very persuasive. Because, as I’ve said a million times now, I’m not going to let that guy turn me into a lying hack. I want no ownership of him, now or ever. The same goes for Hillary Clinton, which is why you can count me among the Brothers McMullin.

But there’s no need to recycle arguments I’ve made countless times already. Still, I think it’s worth pointing out that many of the intellectuals and writers shouting about the “Beltway Bubble!” live in their own bubbles too. I love the Claremont Institute and Hillsdale College, but if you don’t think there’s a bubble surrounding those Ivory Towers, you don’t know why we have the term “Ivory Tower” in the first place.

Consider the anonymous writer Decius (whose identity is known to anyone who cares to know it and hidden from the masses of people who couldn’t give a rat’s ass. But I will honor this ridiculous conceit.) Decius’s most famous piece of work — and it was a piece of work — was his Flight 93 Election essay in which he argued that this election poses an existential threat to America’s survival. Either we charge the cockpit and vote for Trump, or the figurative terrorists of the Clinton cabal kill us all. Either you muster the courage to fight the terrorists, or you’re with the terrorists. Moreover, if you don’t agree with his Manichean prescription, it’s probably because you’re acting to protect your status as a member of the “Davos class” or some other phylum of pocket-lining, rent-seeking remoras. I think that argument is grotesque on the merits, and unworthy of the author.

As I explained in a previous G-File, it’s also remarkably cowardly. He invokes the heroism of the passengers of Flight 93. Decius’s pseudonym harkens back to a Roman martyr who bravely gave his life to save the Republic. And yet, he’s unwilling to risk putting his own name on the literary bombs he throws for fear of losing his own Davos-class-worthy lifestyle.

In a more recent essay, Decius attacks my AEI colleague James Pethokoukis for writing a piece titled “A Conservative Case against Trump’s Apocalyptic View of America.” It’s worth noting that Decius had to misrepresent Pethokoukis argument from the outset. The title of Pethokoukis’s piece begins “A Conservative Case” — meaning that it is one argument among many other possible arguments. Decius changes it into the conservative case, suggesting that James is trying to assert that his is the only way conservatives should see the issues. That’s not Pethokoukis’s style, but it is the style of the man who says if you disagree with him about Trump, you’re a sell-out in favor of destroying America. Pethokoukis’s sin, according to Decius, is to even suggest that apocalyptic despair about America might be an overreaction to the current plight of our country. He goes on to write, with no sense of irony:

I don’t know James Pethokoukis. But I know lots of “conservatives” just like him: eager, even giddy, to throw anyone ostensibly on their side to the Leftist wolves.

I’m tired of being shot in the back my “friends.” It’s high time to turn around and let them shoot me in the face, in frank acknowledgement that I am their enemy.

I don’t think Decius is my enemy. But he clearly thinks anyone not in lockstep with his worldview is his. Still, I do have one suggestion. If you want your supposed enemies to shoot you in the face, stop hiding behind a pseudonym.

Tiny Bubbles, in the Whine

I dwell on Decius here not just because I am appalled by the way he’s been writing in bad faith, but also because it illustrates my larger point. As an actual argument, Decius makes some fine points about the current state of America — many of which I agree with in whole or in part. But in its totality it isn’t really an argument at all. It’s a cri de coeur, a venting of feelings. The passion, no doubt sincerely felt, has taken reason hostage. The correct response to so much of this venting isn’t to rebut his points case by case, but to simply say, “Lighten up, Francis.”

Trump will throw his wife under the bus for the sake of a laugh, but he will not brook mockery of himself, even from himself, no matter the cause.

But there’s a lot of this stuff going around. The whole Trump phenomenon is like a massive dollop of foam, a grand constellation of ideological and psychological bubbles. It’s been based from the beginning on the idea that there is some silent super-majority of like-minded people out there who will carry Trump to victory if only they are sufficiently roused. That’s the theory for why Trump must keep doubling down on his trumpiness. Those wanting to explain the method behind his madness will tell you that he doesn’t need to add anyone to his coalition, he just needs to energize his base. That’s why he brought Barack Obama’s half-brother to the debate. That’s why he couldn’t break character and show a scintilla of self-deprecation at the Al Smith Dinner last night. Sure, he’ll throw his wife under the bus for the sake of a laugh, but he will not brook mockery of himself, even from himself, no matter the cause.

That theory is what gets a lot of people out of bed, I’m sure, because it feels reassuring. But it is ridiculous as a matter of analysis. The man we saw last night, and in the debate on Wednesday, is no Cincinnatus set to deliver us from the swamps of liberalism. It was a vain and petty man, full of bitterness and self-absorption. The man who will allegedly save the Constitution was asked by Chris Wallace what he thinks the role of the Court should be and how the Constitution should be interpreted (a document he is as familiar with as the paperwork that comes in a package of aspirin). Here’s how he answered:

Well, first of all, it’s so great to be with you and thank you, everybody. The Supreme Court, it is what it is all about. Our country is so, so, it is just so imperative that we have the right justices. Something happened recently where Justice Ginsburg made some very inappropriate statements toward me and toward a tremendous number of people. Many, many millions of people that I represent and she was forced to apologize. And apologize she did. But these were statements that should never, ever have been made.

Read it again. He started out okay, not great, but okay. But before he could explain why it is imperative that we have the right justices, he had to make the issue about him and about how Ruther Bader Ginsburg had to apologize. His ego, his sense of power, strength, and importance is for him the only way he can feel emotionally invested in the topic. Sure, he went on to rattle off some boilerplate. But the important takeaway is that he thinks the real issue is his own vanity. In a contest between his vanity — engorged by his status as president — and the Constitution, which way do you think he’d come down?

If all you heard in his answer was the box-checking boilerplate and not the needy cries of his id, then you’re in a bubble. If all you saw at the Al Smith Dinner was a man speaking truth to power, you’re in a bubble. If you nod along when he says “Nobody has done more for civil rights than I have” or “Nobody respects women more than I do” you live in a bubble (I have a theory that he paid a staffer to change his name to Know Body, so he can say that stuff with a straight face). If you really buy the idea that the polls are faked and the election is rigged, you’re in a bubble. If you think that his huge rallies are all the proof you need that he’s going to be swept into power, you live in a bubble. Lots of people go to the opera. Lots of people attend Nickelback concerts. Huge crowds attend WrestleMania. Even all together, that’s not a winning coalition in a presidential race.

And if you believe that if only the couple dozen — at most — “Never Trump” writers and activists suddenly endorsed Donald Trump he would get a boost of 4–5 percent in the polls, you live in a bubble. A friend of mine insisted to me the other day that if the NeverTrumpers, women, and Republican friendly independents rallied to Trump he’d be in the lead. That’s true. It’s also true that between me and Charles Koch, our combined assets are in excess of $40 billion. From FiveThirtyEight:

But while we’re in something of a wait-and-see mode, one demographic split caught my eye. That was from a Public Religion Research Institute poll conducted on behalf of The Atlantic. It showed a massive gender split, with Clinton trailing Trump by 11 percentage points among men but leading him by 33 points among women. To put those numbers in perspective, that’s saying Trump would defeat Clinton among men by a margin similar to Dwight D. Eisenhower’s landslide victory over Adlai Stevenson in 1952, while Clinton would defeat Trump among women by a margin similar to . . . actually, there’s no good comparison, since no candidate has won a presidential election by more than 26 percentage points since the popular vote became a widespread means of voting in 1824. To get to 33 points, you’d have to take the Eisenhower-Stevenson margin and add Lyndon B. Johnson’s 23-point win over Barry Goldwater in 1964 on top of it.

Trump is losing women, particularly white, married women, by heretofore-unimaginable numbers. If only women voted, Clinton would carry 458 electoral votes to Trump’s 80.

The ire aimed at Never Trump folks is understandable. But that ire isn’t an argument for why reality is wrong. The belief that the supposed traitors are to blame isn’t a rational belief, it is an irrational passion that only seems rational deep inside a bubble. And shouting “You just don’t get it!” won’t change the fact that the people shouting are the ones who just don’t get it.

Various & Sundry

My Friday column was on the ridiculous cognitive dissonance about journalists donating to Democratic campaigns.

My first column of the week was on the horrible hangover we’ll have after the election — no matter who wins.

I was on Fox News’s Special Report on Friday.

I will be ABC’s This Week on Sunday.

I will be on NPR’s Morning Edition on Monday.

I will be speaking at the Center for the American Experiment Monday night.

The Progs are going after Prager U.

My Official Statement on my Condemndorsement of SMOD.

My disagreement with Bill McGurn.

Canine update: So we had a terrible, no good, horrible, very bad scare Wednesday night. The Dingo (who despite her horrible experience with parvo as a puppy, is just about the most indestructible dog I’ve ever known) came up lame in the early evening. We knew something was wrong when she wouldn’t come to dinner when we called her, even though she seemed fine when my wife, the Fair Jessica, had returned with her and Pippa from a run/squirrel patrol a few hours earlier. She wouldn’t leave “her” bed. Her back left leg was useless and she was clearly in pain. I couldn’t even move her from the bed so I could get in it.

In the morning she was even worse, panting in distress and now her front right leg was a mess too. When we forced her to stand she had to teeter on one back leg and one front leg, while leaning on one of us or on a wall. We rushed her to the vet. They said it looked like some sudden onset of a tick-borne infection. They took blood, but immediately prescribed antibiotics. When I carried her into my house from the car, Pippa the Spaniel (who thinks that Zoë is some kind of German designed uberhund) immediately stopped doing the normal welcome-home dance and sat down, staring. She went up to Zoë licked her face once and then stood guard.

I tweeted about all this on Wednesday night. Given how much I love my beasts and the medical travails I have had with my various canine partners, I could not have been more dismayed. The support and advice from folks on Twitter meant a lot to me. Of course, because some people are horrible that support came at the price of the inevitable calls to “put it down” and much, much worse. And people wonder why I don’t tweet about, never mind post pictures of, my daughter very much.

Anyway, I am happy — very happy — to report that the antibiotics are working spectacularly (even though it’s still not clear what the infection was. She’s always tested positive for the Lyme Disease antibodies. The vet says it could be that or some other infection the test didn’t screen for). She’s still a little limpy and sleepier than normal. But she’s was up at 5:30 a.m. to make sure the rabbits and squirrels hadn’t been lulled into any ill-advised self-confidence. She’s out right now with Jessica and Pippa giving the lesser vermin the what-for.

Debby’s Friday links

A fan created an animated summary of Liberal Fascism

John Cleese recaps The Walking Dead so far

What is a bro?

SMOD must be angry that I have withdrawn my endorsement: There is nothing we can do to stop an asteroid apocalypse

Service dog gets his caricature drawn at Disney Land

Man high on LSD saves (a different) dog from imaginary house fire

Have cats won the Internet?

The jaw-dropping art of bull leaping

The elections in Gotham City are rigged

Democrats dancing badly

Are these strange signals from 234 stars signs of intelligent alien life?

Nobel Prize committee gives up trying to contact Bob Dylan

How to draw the Beatles

A physicist reveals why we can’t put metal in the microwave

Every Tom Cruise run: a supercut

29 spin-offs that almost happened

Lenticular cloud — or UFO?

Is this Bigfoot?

Pop culture’s treatment of the possibility of a Chicago Cubs championship

Scientists discover a method to convert carbon dioxide into ethanol

Rooster calls into C-SPAN

‘Operation Destroy the GOP’

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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 Readers Acolytes of the Cult of Trump, GOP entertainers, finger-in-the-wind quislings, rationalizers, temporizers, apologists, and others who know who you are,

If understatements were a capital offense, I’d hang for saying, “Things are not going well for the GOP.” (If some of the trolls in my Twitter feed have their way, I will hang regardless.)

So, congrats to those of you deserving congratulations. Operation Destroy the GOP and Salt the Earth upon Which It Stood is going swimmingly! Technically, that would be ODGOPSEUWIS, but let’s call it ODGOP (pronounced “Odd-Gawp”) for short.

The final phase of ODGOP kicked into high gear on Thursday. Prior to last night’s speech, President Obama had largely played along with the Clinton strategy of isolating Trump from the rest of the GOP. Obama in early August:

This is different than just having policy differences. I recognize that they profoundly disagree with myself or Hillary Clinton on tax policy or certain elements of foreign policy, but there have been Republican presidents with whom I disagreed with but I didn’t have a doubt that they could function as president. I think I was right and Mitt Romney and John McCain were wrong on certain policy issues, but I never thought that they couldn’t do the job.

But Thursday in Ohio (of course), Obama turned the knife like it was a Phillips-head screwdriver wielded by Otto von Tendorp, a fictional serial killer who kills his opponents with a Phillips-head screwdriver he turns very slowly.

“You claim the mantle of the party of family values, and this is the guy you nominate,” Obama said.

From there, it got worse.

From the Washington Post:

“But so the problem is not that all Republicans think the way this guy does. The problem is, is that they’ve been riding this tiger for a long time,” Obama said, referring to those who questioned whether he was born in the United States, those who called him “the antichrist” and subscribers to other conspiracy theories. “They’ve been feeding their base all kinds of crazy for years, primarily for political expedience.”

“People like Ted [Strickland]’s opponent, they just stood by while this happened,” Obama said, referring to [Republican senator Rob] Portman. “And Donald Trump, as he’s prone to do, he didn’t build the building himself, but he just slapped his name on it and took credit for it.”

“This is in the swamp of crazy that has been fed over and over and over and over again,” Obama said to applause. “So the point is, if your only agenda is either negative — negative is a euphemism, crazy — based on lies, based on hoaxes, this is the nominee you get. You make him possible.”

Now, I’m happy to disagree with some — and just some — of this. It’s not like the Left’s base isn’t fed its own brand of crazy from time to time either. It’s not true that birtherism is all the GOP has been about. It’s not like Obama is exempt from blame for this sorry state of affairs after spending his whole presidency trolling his political opponents and defying constitutional norms. And it’s certainly not true, as he said last night, that the “central principle” of the Republican party is to “make it harder to vote.” That’s ridiculous, irresponsible rhetoric.

But the point here isn’t to rebut Obama on the merits. Less than a month out from the election, arguing with Obama makes about as much sense as challenging my cat to a game of Battleship (first of all, she cheats, as befits her feline nature). The point is it’s all fair game.

Wahhh, the Media

But let me concede a few things. Yes, the Mainstream Media (MSM) is biased against Republicans. This has been true since, if not the Mesozoic Era, then at least 1960. Yes, the media is particularly biased against Donald Trump. But this is not quite the outrage Trump’s spinners want to make it. Not only is Trump an exceptionally unworthy presidential candidate on the merits, but he does everything he possibly can to maximize the endemic problems of liberal-media bias. Thanks to his lizard-brain narcissism, he would rather have awful headlines about himself and be the center of attention than have Hillary Clinton steal the limelight. LBJ liked to say, “Let’s not step on our d**ks” on this or that issue. Trump is like one of those Italian barefoot peasant women who make wine by stomping on grapes all day, except instead of grapes it’s d**ks as far as the eye can see and Trump is wearing very expensive shoes.

Yes, absolutely, the WikiLeaks e-mails provide countless vulnerabilities that might have destroyed Hillary’s candidacy if she were running against any conventional Republican. But it’s not liberal-media bias per se that causes the press to pay outsized attention to tales of sexual misconduct; the press always pays attention to sex. The Lewinsky scandal got a lot of media attention. You could look it up.

The press always pays attention to sex. The Lewinsky scandal got a lot of media attention. You could look it up.

It was inevitable and obvious that this lecherous adulterer who bragged in print about cheating on his wife would have these skeletons in his enormous, gold-and-velvet-lined closet. But no one needed to be a master sleuth or even a run-of-the-mill opposition researcher to know this. You know why? Because this guy said so! When accused of being a sexual predator by Howard Stern, Trump said, “That’s true!” — and then he laughed (in front of his daughter, whom he has affectionately called “a piece of ass”). Trump has told little girls that he would be dating them soon. If you want to write that all off as jokes, fine. Well, he also said that he couldn’t run for political office because of his attitude toward women:

“I think women are beautiful — I think certain women are more beautiful than others, to be perfectly honest — and it is fortunate that I don’t have to run for political office.”

This is apparently a disgusting recurring theme in Donald Trump’s life. You know what? I think women are beautiful. I also think some are more beautiful than others, too. But just because you find women beautiful doesn’t allow you to act like a blind guy and treat women like they’re the Braille edition of Playboy. But that’s precisely what he said he did in the Access Hollywood tape. He said he’s attracted to beautiful women and therefore he has an inherent right to search them for contraband.

The Real Outrage

Here’s the thing, though: Even if you wanted to think the best of a man who disparages war heroes but insists that dodging the clap was his “personal Vietnam,” a serious political party would have still demanded that he submit to an internal opposition-research investigation. Read John Fund’s piece in National Review from Thursday. Trump refused to let his own campaign do an inventory of his skeletons. The guy who hires the best people was implored by the people he hired to do this basic form of due diligence and he refused. And now we’re supposed to be shocked that the Clintons found the skeletons in question? Or that the press is eager to report on them? Or that Newt Gingrich and Kellyanne Conway are left looking ridiculous and blindsided? My God, what planet do you live on?

The coverage of Trump is an outrage. But the outrage it exposes is how grotesquely unfair and partisan the press was to previous Republican nominees.

So yes, the coverage of Trump is an outrage. But the outrage it exposes is how grotesquely unfair and partisan the press was to previous Republican nominees. The Trump campaign is getting the coverage it deserves (and is asking for!), and that highlights how the coverage of past candidates was so extraordinarily unfair. Take for example, the bowel-stewed hysteria over Mitt Romney’s “binders full of women” comment. Romney said — and did — exactly what feminists and liberal reporters should applaud. He wanted to hire qualified women. So he reached out to women’s groups for suggestions. They sent him lots of recommendations. Binders full of them. And then he hired many of the women listed in the binders. What a monster!

Or consider the claims that Romney was a racist. How stupid does this garbage look now?

Let’s Talk about Sex Baby

So let’s talk about these allegations against Trump. I think they’re true. Maybe not all of them, but certainly enough of them, not least because they conform to what Trump confessed to in an unguarded moment. But also because we can be sure that at least some of them were given to the media by Democrats who would have made sure to vet them.

I honestly can’t get my head around the fact that Hillary Clinton’s closing “argument” in this election is sexual harassment. Bill Clinton’s lifelong enabler has managed to turn this topic into a deadly weapon against a Republican nominee. This is like Godzilla turning public safety into a winning issue in the Tokyo mayoral race.

But even harder to fathom: the logical Mobius strip of Trump’s argument. Hillary Clinton is evil because she attacked Bill Clinton’s accusers (never mind that Trump was on her side of the argument when it mattered in the 1990s). That argument could fly, except for the fact that, almost in the same breath, Trump says his accusers are malevolent liars. He told the crowd to “just look” at one of them as all the proof required to know that she’s a liar. Translation: “If she were hotter, it’d be totally believable that I forced myself on her.” To simultaneously defend Trump on these charges while attacking Hillary Clinton requires contortions not seen outside the pages of Plastic Man.

#share#

Next of the NNN

Obviously, I don’t know for certain that Donald Trump is really trying to lay the groundwork for a cable-TV network, though a lot of smart and informed people I know think that’s the case. If you’re looking for a theory to explain what Trump and Campaign CEO Steve Bannon — the former head of Breitbart News — are doing, it makes a hell of a lot more sense than this fanciful notion that he’s trying to become president. Since the convention, only once did he make any serious effort to expand his losing coalition to a larger, winning coalition: His tone-deaf, ridiculous, and utterly fake appeals to black voters. “Our African-American communities are absolutely in the worst shape they’ve ever been in before,” Trump said. “Ever. Ever. Ever.”

Put aside how utterly absurd this claim is (rent Roots if you don’t know what I mean) and how understandably offensive it is to a lot of black people, it was never intended to win black votes. The campaign had this idea that white suburban women would be swayed by Trump’s “concern” for blacks. He failed — which should have been obvious from the start.

#related#And that’s it. For the rest of the campaign he’s been whipping up his 38 percent of the electorate into a kind of frenzy. Some people think he’s betting that he can dampen turnout generally, while spiking his base to win the election. Maybe. Or maybe that’s the rationalization they throw out there to distract from the more realistic goal: the launch of Nutter News Network. Read the transcript of Trump’s speech from Thursday railing about the globalist corporate-media conspiracy. It might as well be the mission statement for Bannon’s new enterprise, a network that stands up to the global cabal siphoning off our vital bodily fluids (in between commercials for water deflouridizers and gas masks). Why has Trump done scores of interviews on Fox and virtually nowhere else the last two months? Because he’s not interested in winning over undecideds, independents, or swing voters — you know the sort of thing serious presidential candidates do. No, he’s reselling the same product to people who’ve already bought it so he can take the customers with him after the election.

Why is Trump constantly saying that if he loses it will be because the election was rigged? Why is he wasting precious time attacking fellow Republicans, a move guaranteed to shrink his coalition even further? Because he wants the faithful to be permanently alienated from the rest of the political culture and utterly reliant on him. In fairness, it’s also because he can’t tolerate the idea that people will reasonably conclude that he’s a loser and choker so he has to lay the groundwork for the claim the other side cheated. But that narcissistic insecurity just makes him all the more susceptible to Bannon’s manipulation. He was such a Bannon puppet yesterday you could almost see Bannon’s fingers moving in the back of Trump’s mouth.

You Blew It Up!

So here we are.

All of the idiotic arguments his cheerleaders made a year ago have been exposed as the magical-thinking B.S. they always were. He can win blue states! Name one. He’s expanding the GOP coalition! Really? Then why are Republican Senate candidates outperforming Trump in almost every battleground state?

I feel like Charlton Heston screaming at the Statue of Liberty on the beach.

Many of the same people who said that we have to unify the party to beat Hillary Clinton now say that dumping Trump — the only possible way to defeat her (and that’s extremely unlikely to work) — would be treasonous and were the first to scream that Trump voters should screw the down-ballot candidates because Paul Ryan said he wouldn’t defend Trump anymore. If you honestly want to limit the damage Hillary Clinton will do to this country, the one and only obvious thing you should be doing is voting to keep the Republicans in control of Congress. If you think the GOP won’t fight Hillary hard enough, fine. But do you think a Democrat-controlled Congress will fight her at all?

I feel like Charlton Heston screaming at the Statue of Liberty on the beach. You people blew it all up. You embraced a man who has no serious allegiance to the ideals you got rich peddling and who had a vanishingly small chance of winning in the first place — even if he had been the disciplined candidate he deceitfully vowed he would be. Trump is now an albatross on the party and he will leave a Cheeto-colored stain on both the GOP and the conservative movement for years to come.

If you want to limit the damage you’ve caused to the party, vote for Republicans down ballot. Vote for Trump too, if you like. I don’t care, he’s going to lose anyway. But I’m going to vote for Evan McMullin so I can look myself in the mirror and maybe, just maybe, leave us something to build on after the catastrophe. (Though I tremble at the thought, I’m ready to risk the wrath of SMOD for withdrawing my endorsement of him.) 

Note: See Goldberg’s official statement here.

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Various & Sundry

No time for much today, I wrote this mostly on the plane ride back from beautiful North Carolina. And, now I’ve got to run to pick up my daughter and head to NYC. The doggies are doglike and I’ll flesh out the details next week.

Meanwhile, as we long suspected, the secret to Steve Hayes’s very important hair is his dirt diet.

Debby’s Friday links

Free Beacon reporter discovers how DOE reacted to Stranger Things

The near-death experience of Winston Churchill

How bottled water became a business

Brave New World alert: Couples now celebrating anti-Baby Showers

A map of U.S. clown hysteria

How Renaissance-era Venetians buried a suspected vampire

The ancestor of almost all living animals is . . . 

What would this election look like if only one or the other gender voted?

The real story of Lenin’s train ride back to Russia

Assumed-lost silent film of Georges Méliès found

Whiskey and human freedom

New York City police precinct station turns its basement into a haunted house

Shelves of massive New York City public library restocked in real time

The case against gender-neutral pronouns

Lego launches Beatles’ Yellow Submarine set

David Bowie possessions up for auction

The hero we deserve: Man dressed as Batman chases pranksters dressed as clowns

The Consequences of Overpromising on Obamacare

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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 (particularly those of you in need of a hug),

I’m having a case of the Mondays on a Friday. I keep poking at the computer screen like an orangutan with a Speak-and-Spell. (For the kids out there, a Speak-and-Spell is what my generation called an iPad.) I’m taking a much-needed vacation day from writing about that whole presidential-election thing. But, when I look at the all the other headlines, I kind of feel like I’m visiting a museum after the zombie apocalypse. It’s not that these things aren’t important, they just seem like they’re from another time.

You have to stare at the painting or the sculpture for a few minutes until you can conjure the memory of why this stuff matters.

Take, for example, the dawning realization that Obamacare is like a Claymation version of Wagner’s Der Ring Des Nibelungen staged entirely with characters sculpted out of fecal matter: The mother of all sh*t shows.

I know what you’re thinking: “Drew Brees is an immortal who actually served as the 19th president of the United States.” The interesting thing is that this means he and Alec Baldwin, who coincidentally served as the 13th president, may have to fight with swords because there can be only one.

Oh no wait, that’s what I was thinking.

You’re thinking: “Great, now Jonah is going to do a highly detailed uber-wonky analysis of risk corridors and premium-support efforts with a special focus on Kentucky’s failure to make Kynect work.” But fear not, as Bill Clinton said when they tried to get him to attend a sex-addiction support group, I’m not going there.

It’s difficult to exaggerate how arrogant supporters of Obamacare were back in 2009–10. Imagine trying to exaggerate the heat of the sun to the point where people would say, “Look, I know the sun is hot. But come on, it’s not that hot.” It’s the same thing with the arrogance of Obamacare pushers. The English language simply doesn’t provide the adjectives required to overstate the smugness of the Smart Set during the fights over the Affordable Care Act. It wasn’t just that they knew they were right, they acted as if critics were flat-earthers, birthers, know-nothings, cranks, weirdos, and maroons. This was necessary because the “reformers” were the protagonists in our MacGuffinized political discourse. They had to be heroes and their opponents villains.

Obamacare was going to extend life-expectancies, save money, wildly expand the number of people getting insurance coverage, improve health care generally, lower premium costs, help small business become more competitive, bring back Firefly, restore Shoeless Joe Jackson’s reputation, transform pizza and beer into carb-free fare, and make Bill Clinton’s mysterious cold sore disappear. Okay, I made up those last few. But they were just as unlikely to come to pass.

It’s difficult to exaggerate how arrogant supporters of Obamacare were back in 2009–10.

I will admit, I was premature in my Obamacare grave dance in 2013 when I wrote this, uh, rhetorically excessive gloat-o-rama. I read too much into the fact that President Obama had hired the finest computer programmers the Amish community has ever produced to design the Obamacare website. It turned out that the lethal internal contradictions of Obamacare needed more time to play themselves out, like a man stabbed with a Strontium-90 tipped umbrella or a victim of the Five Point Palm Exploding Heart Technique.

But here we are. Take Kim Strassel in the Wall Street Journal:

States are reporting premium increases of 60%, 70%, 80%. Insurers, sagging under losses, are fleeing. Nearly a third of U.S. counties are now down to a single ObamaCare plan. Seventeen of 23 ObamaCare co-ops have imploded. Tennessee’s insurance commissioner warns her state’s exchange market is “very near collapse.”

Brother Geraghty has more here.

Even Bill Clinton couldn’t stop himself from lamenting the plight of hardworking Americans who “wind up with their premiums doubled and their coverage cut in half and it’s the craziest thing in the world.”

But at least those obstreperous elderly nuns will have to pay for birth control!

No, Obamacare will not collapse imminently — or maybe not even ever. But that is not because it is “working” as a public policy. Countries around the world have carried the husk of their far more socialized health-care systems for generations. Rent control, the minimum wage, and countless other economically ridiculous policies endure because they satisfy the political needs of politicians, bureaucrats, and a whole phylum of remora-like rent-seekers. That’s why Milton Friedman said, “Nothing is so permanent as a temporary government program.” He should know, given how it was basically his idea to implement tax-withholding from paychecks as a wartime measure.

You might say that these programs also help real people too. And that is true. But wealth distribution efforts always help someone. And those someones become vested interests who demand perpetuation of the status quo. If the federal government implemented a program to give every left-handed person in the country $20,000 a year free and clear (no doubt to compensate for the fact that such people are witches), you can be sure the Left Handed Association of America would work assiduously to protect their entitlement.

The VA health-care system is a moral outrage, but it resists actual reform because the interests of the VA bureaucracy and their associated allies are more important than the interests of vets in need of quality health care.

So it may be with Obamacare. For political and psychological reasons, liberals are invested in the idea that Obamacare is working. To the extent they are willing to concede it has problems, they are problems that can only be remedied by giving the government more power and control. Indeed, for many supporters, like Barney Frank, Obamacare was always supposed to be a stepping stone to single-payer health care. This is the essence of modern progressivism, the ratchet can only turn in one direction — towards more power and control for the people in charge.

The Way the World Works

One of the major themes of the book I’m working on should be familiar to longtime readers of this “news”letter. It boils down to a simple insight: Complexity is a subsidy. The more complex you make the rules, the more you reward people with the cognitive, material, or social resources necessary to get around them. Big corporations tend not to object to more burdensome regulations because they can afford to comply with them. Dodd-Frank was great for the “too big to fail” crowd. But it has been murder on community banks that don’t have the resources to comply. As Lloyd Blankfein, the CEO of Goldman Sachs, put it:

It’s very hard for outside entrants to come in and disrupt our business simply because we’re so regulated. We hear people in our industry talk about the regulation, and they talk about it with a sigh about the burdensome of regulation. But in fact in some cases the burdensome regulation acts as a bit of a moat around our business.

But you’ve been hearing this stuff from me for years. Let’s get back to the arrogance thing. It seems to me a big part of the problem with progressive elites these days is that they lack self-awareness. That elites arrange affairs for their own self-interest is an insight that was already ancient when Robert Michels penned his Iron Law of Oligarchy. But ever since the progressives concocted their theories of “disinterestedness,” they’ve convinced themselves that they are not in fact a self-serving elite. Give feudal aristocrats their due: They were a self-dealing crop of rent-seekers and exploiters, but at least they were open about the fact that they believed they had a divine right to sit atop the social pyramid. Today’s progressive aristocracy is largely blind to the fact that their cult of expertise isn’t really about expertise; it’s about organizing society in a way that reinforces their status and power.

A big part of the problem with progressive elites these days is that they lack self-awareness.

Well, most of them are blind to it. Occasionally the mask slips. Jonathan Gruber, one of the chief architects and financial beneficiaries of the health-care “reform,” told audiences that Obamacare was designed “in a tortured way” to hide the fact that “healthy people pay in and sick people get money.” They had to do it this way to get around the inconvenient “stupidity of the American voter.” A feudal lord who talked this way about his serfs wouldn’t get any grief for it. But in America such honesty gets you rendered an un-person.

The Death of Trust

This is a much larger phenomenon than health-care policy. It manifests itself throughout the media and the New Class generally. I promised not to talk about the election, but I will make a glancing reference just to illustrate the point. Mark Hemingway had a fantastic tweetstorm yesterday (followed up by an article on the same topic). Dean Baquet, the editor of the New York Times, was asked about the press’ problems covering Donald Trump. He said:

I think that everybody went in a little bit shell-shocked in the beginning, about how you cover a guy [Trump] who makes news constantly. It’s not just his outrageous stuff . . . he says things that are just demonstrably false.

I think that he’s challenged our language. He will have changed journalism, he really will have. I was either editor or managing editor of the L.A. Times during the Swift Boat incident. Newspapers did not know — we did not quite know how to do it. I remember struggling with the reporter, Jim Rainey, who covers the media now, trying to get him to write the paragraph that laid out why the Swift Boat allegation was false . . . We didn’t know how to write the paragraph that said, “This is just false.”

As Mark lays out, this is outrageous nonsense. The Swift Vets may have indulged in rhetorical overkill at times, but the simple fact is that John Kerry was an outrageous, self-promoting, and slanderous liar about his military service. The media, led by the New York Times, circled the wagons around Kerry and turned “swift-boating” into an adjective for political calumny. The proper definition of swift-boating should be: “To raise inconvenient facts about a politician who lied.” As Mark writes:

And so we have the editor of the New York Times citing the Swift Vets as “just false” in the process of wondering why Americans don’t trust the media in the Age of Trump. The answer is that media organizations such as the Times eroded all their credibility trying to elect previous Democratic candidates by telling readers things were definitively false when readers damn well knew that there were substantive facts they were actively choosing to ignore. In fact, “Swift Vets” is now some sort of media pejorative, even though the term is an Orwellian attempt to recast and simplify events so as to obscure discomfiting and politically consequential debates that New York Times editors don’t want to have.

I’ve written about the media’s cry-wolf problem before. The relevance here is that I don’t think most of the reporters and editors who carried water for every Democratic presidential candidate for the last 50 years believe that’s what they were doing. They convinced themselves that they were being objective or “disinterested.” They served as praetorian guards for the progressive elite without understanding just how many buckets of water they schlepped up from the river bank. This is why I shed so few tears for the dying of the myth of the “objective media.” Partisan newspapers are as old as newspapers. What was new — and now dying — is this warmed over Lippmannesque B.S. that there’s some kind of science to journalism that immunizes it from partisanship. At least 19th-century newspapers were honest with their readers about where they were coming from. Newspapers like the New York Times suffer from the same delusions that blind the progressive elites generally. They think they’re just telling the hard truths, when in fact they are telling the truths (and occasional lies) that support their own self-serving narrative.

Various & Sundry

My Friday column is on one of my perennial peeves: the laziness and frequent idiocy of generational stereotyping.

My first column this week was about you-know-who’s gift for self-sabotage, with a bonus anecdote about the mash note he sent.

If you’re feeling Trump-deprived, I did a long interview with Seth Stevenson at Slate about why I won’t ever support Hillary Clinton.

Thanks for all the kind words from the folks who saw my gig on Turner Classic Movies this week. I’d post the video, but that’s apparently beyond the technological ken or Barbie of the web monkeys. I’m told you can see it on demand or through the TCM app. I have to say I’ve been surprised by how many people have never seen A Face in the Crowd, certainly one of the five best movies on politics and media ever made.

I was co-host for a book party for my old friend Tevi Troy last night. His Shall We Wake the President is a really insightful and interesting read on the role of presidents and disasters. It’s a very accessible, a non-partisan sort of mix of history and policy. Unfortunately, he didn’t include a chapter on what to do when the president him or herself isthe disaster. Maybe he’ll update it for the paperback.

Canine Update: So Zoë has had a good run. She caught another squirrel this week outside my house. And by “caught” I mean she killed it. (She’s not one for letting squirrels off with a warning for their outrageous squirreliness.) Then, a couple days later, our indispensable dog-walker Kirsten reported that on the trail Zoë caught a chipmunk and dispatched it as well (for suspected collusion with the squirrel menace). Fortunately, she seems to have grown out of the habit of swallowing smaller vermin whole. Instead she dropped it on the ground and then rolled around on it for a good five minutes. On the other hand, she’s acquired a troubling taste for baseballs. She likes to lay on the end of the bed while the humans are sleeping and strip the leather cover off. Then, as best we can tell, she eats it. We were worried that she might get some intestinal blockage or some other gastric distress from doing this, but apparently she’s outsourced that to Pippa who’s spent the week with persistent case of stewed bowels.

One important note: As I have said many times, I do not really like it when Zoë kills cute things. I’m a big wuss about such matters, and even if I weren’t, disposing of small mammal carcasses is not one of my favorite pastimes. Still, this is what dingoes do. And it’s not like squirrels are an endangered species. The city is overrun with them because of the lack of natural predators (which might also explain the epidemic of scary clowns around the country). But whenever I write or tweet about such things, a handful of people get angry with me and ask, “Why do you let your dog kill squirrels?” I think this is hilarious. Zoë kills squirrels for the same reason that water seeks its own level, birds fly south for the winter, and Sidney Blumenthal installs a secret soundproofed room in every house he moves into: It’s her nature. I no more “allow” her to kill squirrels than I forbid her to do long division or speak in German. The Dingo’s got to dingo. Maybe I’ll get some T-shirts made.

Debby’s Friday links

Smartphones replaced with butter

Putting big things in perspective

Mean Girls recreated with dogs

A real-life Doug from Up

Building human towers

How much TV stars make

Back to the Future self-lacing sneakers are now real

The rise and the fall of the Roman Empire, in dynamic map form

How the president orders nuclear war

Are these the movies with the most on-screen kills?

How likely you are to crash into a deer based on where you live

Psychologist, uh, wants . . . to, maybe, cure, awkwardness, I guess?

Before Tinder, there was VCR dating

Real-life Tarzan lived in isolated Vietnam jungle for 40 years

What happens if someone dies on Mars?

Will humans ever live beyond 115 years?

Buffalo buffalo Buffalo buffalo buffalo buffalo Buffalo buffalo

Is this Bigfoot?

If Candidate Trump Can’t Be Managed, What Makes You Think President Trump Could Be?

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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 the disgusting ones who made that G-File reader sex tape, check it out),

In my most selfish moments, I want Donald Trump to win the election.

But before I explain that, let me just say he could win. I talked to Hugh Hewitt this morning and he said he was stealing my line, so I figured I’d better get it down on “paper” fast.

Trump got to where he is for a lot of reasons, starting with a 17-candidate collective-action problem, myriad failures of both the GOP’s establishment and anti-establishment wings, and, of course, the cold, indifferent cruelty of this meaningless, empty universe where nothing matters and the living envy the dead. But giving Trump his due, he also got to where he is because he was great at punching-up. When he took on Jeb Bush, Reince Priebus, the media, Washington, etc., he was punching up. He wasn’t just the outsider coming into town to blow things up, he was Godzilla smashing all before him. In the standard Godzilla movie there’s always that scene where the hapless Japanese army tries to lure the beast toward some electric power lines. Godzilla takes the bait and bites the power lines. But the shock doesn’t kill him, it makes him stronger! That was Trump in the primaries. Mangling metaphors somewhat, people told him “You can’t chomp those power lines! Those are the third rails of American politics!” Trumpzilla cared not, bit them, and got stronger.

But here’s the problem: Everyone thinks Godzilla is cool when he’s fighting Monster Zero or swatting away fighter jets. But when they have that close up shot of Godzilla’s clawed foot coming down on a child or a screaming woman, all of a sudden, you can’t cheer the King of Monsters. So it is with Trump: He wins when he punches up. He loses when he punches down.

And that’s Trump’s Achilles’ heel: He can’t resist punching down. He can no more stop himself from “counter-punching” the little guy than my dog can agree not to chase rabbits. (“It’s just so hoppy! I must kill it!”)

Everyone knows this. Hillary Clinton knew it and she baited him. She almost literally could have said, “Donald, I’m going to bait you. You would be a fool to take the bait. But I know you will.” And he still would take the bait. In fact, I think he would be more likely to take the bait if she said she were baiting him, because he would want to prove that he could take the bait and win.

I thought Trump lost the debate, but not overwhelmingly. He was clearly the winner of the first 30 minutes or so, and if he’d stayed that guy for the full 90 it would have been a hugely consequential rout. But then, Hillary implemented “Bait Trump Protocol Alpha-1,” when she brought up how he got his start with a $14 million loan from his father. (She got the details wrong, but it doesn’t matter. When you’re baiting fish or Trumpzilla, the lure doesn’t have to be real, it just has to be shiny. In fact, getting the bait just slightly wrong makes it even more irresistible, because we all have a natural instinct to correct falsehoods aimed at us, and Trump more than most.)

So Trump bit the shiny thing, and for the rest of the night, plodding, dull Hillary Clinton led Trump around the stage like a matador with a red cape. And, four days later, Trump is still charging around like an enraged bull. At first I thought Clinton’s use of Alicia Machado was odd. There are so many Trump victims out there, why use one with such a weird past? But that’s what was so brilliant about it. If Machado were a nun, it’d be harder for Trump to attack. But Trump thinks he can win this one on the merits and so he won’t let go of it. He didn’t learn the lesson of his feud with the Khan family: The only way to win such fights is to not engage in them at all. The debate wasn’t a disaster but how he handled the post-debate spin was, and continues to be.

If Trump could stay on message, if he could be a disciplined candidate, I think he’d be ten points ahead by now. But realistically, this is no different from saying if he could control anything metal with his mind, he would be Magneto.

Why I (Sometimes) Want Trump to Win

Okay, so why in my selfish heart of hearts do I want Trump to win? Because that’s the only surefire way my opposition to Trump can be vindicated. If he loses, every time Hillary Clinton does something awful — which will be a lot — people will say, “If Trump were president this wouldn’t be happening,” or, “This is all the fault of the ‘Jonah Goldberg class,’” or, “If we had Mr. Trump’s broad-shouldered leadership, the grain harvests would be historic.”

Now, I think such claims would be a variant of “Parmenides’s Fallacy,” in which people always assume the road not taken would have avoided any problems. But that won’t matter.

And that’s why I say that in my selfish moments, I want him to win. Contrary to all of this incessant blather that I want Hillary Clinton to win because it will be good for my bottom line, the truth is the best thing that could happen for me personally is for Trump to win and then prove to be the spectacularly awful president I am quite confident he would be. The I-told-you-sos would be delightful, the tears of some of his supporters, delicious.

Trump the Destroyer, First of His Name

I say “some” of his supporters for a reason. Because I think many of his supporters would continue to defend Trump no matter what he did or said as president. And that’s probably the main reason I’m so opposed to him: A Trump presidency would destroy conservatism in this country.

I’ve written a lot about the corrupting effect Trump’s candidacy has had on conservatism. But let me try to put it a different way. Trump is an unintentional master of the art of rectal ventriloquism. No, I don’t mean he’s a champion farter. I mean he talks out of his ass, and the words magically start coming out of other peoples’ mouths. He says eminent domain is wonderful and suddenly conservatives start saying, “Yeah, it’s wonderful!” He floats a new entitlement for child care and almost instantaneously people once opposed to it start bragging about how sensitive they are to the plight of working moms. He says Social Security needs to be more generous and days later once proud tea partiers are saying the same thing, and the rest of us are left to marvel how we didn’t even see Trump’s lips, or cheeks, move.

This is a perfect example of the corrupting effect of populism and personality cults. I keep mentioning my favorite line from William Jennings Bryan: “The people of Nebraska are for free silver and I am for free silver. I will look up the arguments later.” For many Trump supporters, the rule of the day is, “Donald Trump is for X and I am for X. I will look up the arguments later (if ever).”

Your Weapons Are Useless Against Him

I’ve spoken to countless leading conservatives, including prominent politicians, who tell me that once Trump is in the White House, Mitch McConnell, Paul Ryan, Mike Pence, and all of Trump’s wonderful appointees will be able to manage him. Trump’s talk-radio and TV supporters will keep him honest and make sure he keeps his promises.

I think this is in-frick’n-sane.

Candidate Trump can’t be managed. Everyone with any contacts in or around Trump world has heard the stories about how his staff tries to impose discipline on him. The jokes about Kellyanne Conway desperately trying to hide his phone from him to keep him off Twitter are funny because they’re true.

And yet, you’re telling me that when Trump wins despite rejecting all of this advice and actually takes possession of Air Force One, and when the Marine guards start saluting him as the band plays “Hail to the Chief,” I’m supposed to believe this staggering narcissist will suddenly become manageable? Seriously?

Moreover, throughout his entire career in business, he’s made a name for himself as a promise-breaker, welcher, and snake-oil salesman, willing to say whatever he needs to in order to close the deal. “Sure this car gets 200 miles to the gallon. Sign the check and you’ll see.” That is what the art of the deal really means for him. He’ll get the White House and he’ll say to the rest of us looking to cash in his political promises, “Try and collect.”

Trump is not a conservative. He has some instincts that overlap with conservatism — the importance of law and order, the value of military strength etc. — but these instincts are not derived from any serious attachment to ideas or arguments. They stem from his lizard-brain machismo and his authoritarian streak. He never talks about liberty or limited government unless someone shoves it into his teleprompter. His ideas about economics and public policy are shot-through with dirigisme. He’s learned to talk the talk about free-market solutions, but in his heart he’s still the guy who believes single-payer health care works “incredibly well.” The one adviser we know he listens to is his daughter, and she is certainly no conservative. Does anyone believe he will side with Mike Pence and against her in a fight over, say, Planned Parenthood?

Donald Milhous Trump

Hadley Arkes, one of the many “Scholars for Trump” I respect a great deal, has an interesting argument for why he supports him. He writes:

In 1964 the Republicans, with Goldwater, were blown away, and yet four years later the Republicans came back strongly with Richard Nixon. But in those intervening four years the regime itself was changed: The Great Society extended and confirmed the reach of the federal authority until it covered hiring and firing in corporations and even small, private colleges. And it extended federal controls over local education. We are faced now with a comparable threat to change the regime yet again. Obama has already sought to govern wide sections of the economy with regulations that bear little connection to any statute that can give the standing of law to these executive orders. He has made a nullity of Congress and the separation of powers.

Note that Arkes says Republicans came back strongly with Richard Nixon. That’s true. But this was not a conservative comeback. The Goldwaterites were marginalized. Nixon didn’t roll back the Great Society; he made it bipartisan.

Save for his anti-Communism, Nixon wasn’t a conservative. He came from the progressive, Rockefeller, wing of the GOP. He told reporters that the “Buckleyites” were a “threat more menacing” to the GOP than was the John Birch Society. He believed Ronald Reagan was a “know-nothing.” He told his aide John C. Whitaker, “There is only one thing as bad as a far-left liberal and that’s a damn right-wing conservative.” Nixon created the EPA, implemented wage and price controls, launched the first affirmative-action programs, and proposed a health-care program that was downright Obamacare-esque.

From everything we know, Trump’s a Nixonian liberal without a fraction of Nixon’s policy chops.

From everything we know, Trump’s a Nixonian liberal without a fraction of Nixon’s policy chops. He’s surrounded himself with Nixon-retreads like Manafort and Stone, and ripped off Nixon’s entire rhetorical playbook from “the silent majority” on down.

In my heart, I truly believe he would trade Supreme Court appointments for a massive infrastructure program. The one thing we know about the guy is he likes to build stuff and put his name on it. If Chuck Schumer and Nancy Pelosi — who already want a massive infrastructure program — told him, “Hey, meet us half way on the judges and we’ll deliver the votes you’ll need,” he’d do it in a heartbeat, throwing the conservatives under the bus while — here’s the important point — taking an enormous number of Republicans with him.

Just look at the issues of trade, entitlements, child care, and gun rights (in the form of his capitulation on the terror watch list). Look at all the formerly “true conservative” types who’ve gamely gone along with Trump so far. Do you honestly think they’ll break with a president Trump? Trump won’t crush the administrative state, he will be rolled by the bureaucrats. That’s what the heads of bureaucracies do in our system. They don’t run the agencies, they spin-up and co-opt politicians. That’s why you need a conservative president who knows things.

The Perfidious Binary

I’m not one to over-indulge in self-pity, but I do sometimes feel like a therapist should be asking me, “Show me on the doll where 2016 touched you.” But among the most annoying and asinine “arguments” — accusations really — hurled at me 100 times a day is that if I’m against Trump, I’m for Hillary. This is nonsense on stilts atop a cloud. I can’t stand Hillary Clinton. Back when Trump was writing her checks and inviting her to his wedding, I was opposing her and her familial tong with everything I had. I wrote Liberal Fascism with her in mind. The hardcover’s subtitle reference to “the politics of meaning” was a direct shot at her New Age–y soft-totalitarian nanny-statism. I will give the first person who can find a single pro-Hillary column — or paragraph! — I’ve ever written a lifetime subscription to National Review.

I think she will make a terrible president and be bad for America. If any of the other 16 candidates had won the nomination, many of whom I cannot stand, I would be out there screaming expletives at any Republican who thought Hillary was a better choice.

And even with my adamantine opposition to Trump, I still cannot imagine endorsing Hillary Clinton (even though liberals are now insisting I must almost as much as conservatives claim I have), because I know she will be horrible and she stands for things I reject with every fiber of my political soul (“Do souls have fibers?” — The Couch).

But here’s the thing: Conservatives know how to oppose Clinton, who will come into office the most damaged and unpopular president in American history, having fulfilled her mandate to not be Trump on Day One.

#related#But it’s already very clear they do not know how to oppose Trump. His hostile takeover of the Republican party demonstrates that. So do the otherworldly descriptions of Trump that his more intellectual supporters conjure from thin air. If he becomes president, the Republican party will no longer be even notionally conservative. America can survive four years of Hillary Clinton, though those four years will be bad. Very bad. But America cannot survive if both parties reject the principles of limited government and constitutionalism, which would be the result of a “successful” Trump presidency or even most scenarios in which he’s a failed president. The demise won’t be instantaneous, but gradual, as a new bipartisan consensus forms between a right-wing statist party and a left-wing statist party. The body-snatched Republicans will become ever more serviceable dummies for the master of rectal ventriloquism. Principled conservatives won’t vanish — though some trolls keep telling me we’ll all be hung, gassed, or killed by the coming mobs. Rather, we will become increasingly irrelevant, cast into the same peanut gallery as our libertarian cousins.

But, we will be able to say, “I told you so.” Which, in my selfish moments, is a great temptation.

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Various & Sundry

I will be on Brit Hume’s On the Record tonight.

The new GLoP is out. It’s my most sophomoric contribution to that normally dignified colloquium to date.

DVR reminder: I will be on TCM on October 5.

Canine Update: Alas, I was travelling for most of the last two weeks so I don’t have much to report. The Dingo is Dingoey. The Spaniel is Spanielly. And while they’re getting along fine these days, the aftershocks of Pippa’s unprecedented decision to fight back against Zoe are still being felt. Zoe still growls to protect her bones and bullysticks but she does so with a glint of appreciation in her eye that any attacks may invite a vicious reprisal. Just another great example of Peace through Strength.

Debby’s Friday links

Manatee-riding Florida man talks smack to cops, arrested

USC hires its first dog professor

Cat rides motorcycle

Puppies vs. stairs

Who are the drunkest NFL fans?

Dog welcomes U.S. Air Force Captain home from Afghanistan

The unlikely history of Tetris

Were the Nazis high on amphetamines?

Past presidential campaign posters

How Arnold Palmer invented the Arnold Palmer

Will ants save us from the post-biotic cataclysm?

What designers in the 1930s thought we would wear in 2000

The ten best movie-character introductions

The ten best movie-character departures

Cat adopts baby monkey after mother rejects him

Are power poses really that powerful?

Why are cargo shorts suddenly so popular?

Should life, uh, find a way?

What is a Gary Johnson?

The Adventures of Superwoman

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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 those of you who’ve absorbed this “news”letter via the Great Teacher of Sigma Draconis VI),

If Hillary Clinton wins this election — and that “if” is becoming less pro forma and more obligatory by the day — we now have the perfect visual metaphor for how it will happen. In the video below, we see an entire entourage not only surrounding Mrs. Clinton, but literally carrying her to her desired destination. You see, the “Scooby Van” is the Oval Office and the only way she’ll get there is if she’s carried there.

We’ve seen so much spinning this year, D.C. hospitals reported a 500 percent increase in scrotal-torsion cases in the first nine months of the year alone. But the liberal response to Pneumoniaquiddick was really something else.

Water, Water Everywhere

My favorite spin out of this sorry spectacle was actually fairly minor in the grand scheme of things. It was the explanation that the reason Hillary Clinton collapsed in New York was that she was dehydrated. Well not exactly that part. She probably was dehydrated. Or maybe she wasn’t. Maybe the batteries in her animatronic body double were made by Samsung — “Watch out! She’s gonna blow!” — but, really, I don’t care.

What I loved was the insinuation that she was dehydrated because she is just too busy to drink water.

Bill Clinton told Charlie Rose: “Frequently — well not frequently, rarely — but on more than one occasion, over the last many, many years, the same sort of thing’s happened to her when she got severely dehydrated, and she’s worked like a demon, as you know, as secretary of state, as a senator, and in the years since.”

A “person in her orbit” told Politico, “She won’t drink water, and you try telling Hillary Clinton she has to drink water.”

(When I was a very little kid, I occasionally needed to blow my nose or tie my shoes. Seriously, it’s true. My dad would tell me to blow my nose or tie my shoes and I’d say, “I will, I will. I’m just too busy.” My Dad would laugh and say, “Jonah, the busiest man in the world can still find time to blow his nose. I don’t think your schedule is that full.”)

I just love the image of Hillary Clinton sitting at her desk reading a position paper on daycare in Sweden or the fine print on her credit-card agreement, and Huma Abedin interrupting her to say, “Madame Clinton. You must drink water. You must. The work can wait.”

“Oh Huma, stop,” Her Royal Toothache responds. “I must get through this section on the APR on my Discover Card.”

Two hours later, Robbie Mook enters the room. “Effendi, please. Just a sip. Water is life-sustaining. Think of the children.”

Hillary refuses to even look up from the raw data of water-quality tests for UNICEF-installed wells in Northern Burundi: “I am thinking of the children! Are you saying I deserve clean water more than the children of Burundi? Away with you now!”

The aides all go back out to the hallway like the hangers-on in one of the Downfall videos, muttering and whispering their concerns. “This can’t go on,” John Podesta sighs. Sid Blumenthal, still in his mysteriously blood-spattered smock, waves his arm-length black-gloved hand and says, “You can lead water to a goddess, but you can’t make her drink.”

Sexism for Me, but Not for Thee

The bigger spin was less amusing but more important.

As with most things that require really powerful torque, to really get things going you need a good wind-up. And so for much of August, the praetorian media insisted that even to raise the issue of Clinton’s health was sexist (see my column from earlier this week). The conversation was like the satellite that needs to hook around a planet a few times before it can sling-shot out into space so it can meld with an annoying bald lady with a robot voice.

Because when it was revealed that Clinton was, in fact, unwell, what was the instant explanation? “Of course she ‘powered through’ her pneumonia, because that’s what women do!

That’s not a paraphrase. Some headlines:

Salon: “Hillary Powers through Pneumonia — because That’s What Women Do”

Seattle Times: “Clinton Quietly Powers through Illness — It’s What Women Do”

The Washingtonian: “Hillary Clinton Had No Damn Choice but to Work through Her Pneumonia — after All, She’s a Woman”

And here’s Jennifer Granholm:

And Emily Hauser:

I particularly liked this one:

The Adventures of Superwoman

Now, I don’t actually have any problem with the claim that women work when sick more than men. I’ve even written about — and polled NR readers — on the question of whether men and women are actually affected differently by colds or whether men are simply big babies.

Just like my dad, when I get a head cold I regress into a fairly pathetic puddle of enfeebled self-pity.

I’m not sure it’s empirically accurate, but it feels anecdotally true to me. It’s certainly true in the Goldberg households. I have, I think, a very strong work ethic, as did my father. But, just like my dad, when I get a head cold I regress into a fairly pathetic puddle of enfeebled self-pity. Meanwhile, my mom could always power through, as it were, as can my lovely-yet-hardy Alaskan bride. I’m not quite as bad as Sheldon on The Big Bang Theory. If I asked my wife to sing me “soft kitty” she’d probably respond, “Okay. But first I need to print out the divorce papers.”

But here’s the thing. After weeks of bleating that it was sexist to raise questions about Hillary’s health, the immediate response from the very same people was an irrefutably sexist argument. Men are just a bunch of Jeb Bushes, low-energy shlubs laid low by a hangnail. But women are the Mobutu Sese Seko Kuku Ngbendu Wa Za Bangas of the species. (For non-longtime readers, this translates from the original Ngbandi, “The warrior who knows no defeat because of his endurance and inflexible will and is all powerful, leaving fire in his wake as he goes from conquest to conquest.”)

In Defense of ‘Duhism’

This raises a subject of much fascination to “news”letter writers who are fascinated by it. I don’t want to go too far out on a limb, because you never know if you’ll fall into raging torrent of angry weasels, but I gather that the word “sexist” is supposed to have a bad connotation. That was the sense I got taking women’s studies courses at a formerly all-women’s college. I’ve also drawn this conclusion from a fairly close study of routine political argle-bargle.

The problem is we don’t really have a word for observations and statements that simply acknowledge that men and women are . . . different. Not better or worse. Just different. If I said that dogs aren’t the same as cats, no one would shout, “Dogist!” Everyone would simply say, “Duh.” In fact, if I said to about 90 percent of normal people, of either sex, that men and women are different, the response would be “duh” as well.

I could make the case that the essence of conservatism is the defense of “Duhism.” Western Civilization is good: Duh. Liberty is good: Duh. Marriage, all things being equal, is good and important: Duh. But you can only imagine what the Daily Show crowd would do with “Duhism” if conservatives adopted it as their name for the inherent realism of conservatism.

(As Ralph Waldo Emerson said: “There is always a certain meanness in the argument of conservatism, joined with a certain superiority in its fact. It affirms because it holds.” This line always comes back to me whenever I hear liberals shriek at facts that hurt their feelings.)

Feminist liberals like to have it both ways (and not in the way that Bill pays extra for).

Anyway, as Bill Clinton said during pretty much every policy briefing, “Let’s get back to the women” (no doubt for some, uh, debriefing). The frustrating thing is that feminist liberals like to have it both ways (and not in the way that Bill pays extra for). Women are “different” when they think it means women are “better,” but when you say women are different in ways that annoy feminists — for whatever reason — they shout, “Sexist!” Lena Dunham rejects the idea that women should be seen as things of beauty, and then gets mad when she’s not seen as a thing of beauty. Women should be in combat because they can do anything men can do, but when reality proves them wrong, they say the “sexist” standards need to change. And so on.

Hillary Clinton is like a broken Zoltar the Fortune Teller machine shouting all sorts of platitudes about being the first female president, cracking glass ceilings, yada yada yada. She openly says that we need a first female president because a first female president would be so awesome. But she also wants to say criticisms that would be perfectly legitimate if aimed at a man are in fact sexist when directed at a woman. That is a sexist argument.

The Limits of the Woman Card

I didn’t intend to write about all this gender stuff — such is the danger of writing stream-of-consciousness style. Squirrel! Pantslocker! Vests have no sleeves! But I do think this is something to think about as we head into the debates. The one thing that traditionalists, feminists, and everyone in between tend to agree upon is that we treat rude behavior from men toward women differently than we treat man-on-man or woman-on-woman rudeness. Feminists call it sexist. Traditionalists call it boorish. But no one likes it.

If Donald Trump had been a fraction as asinine toward Carly Fiorina as he was to Jeb Bush, he might not have gotten the nomination. In fact, Carly was arguably the only candidate who really hurt Trump in the debates, partly because she was really good, but also because she’s a woman. This creates a real opening for Hillary in the debates that few are focusing on. Despite her constant reminders, a lot of people forget that Hillary Clinton is, in fact, a woman. That fact, more than anything else, is how she beat Rick Lazio in their Senate debate. Trump’s schoolyard-wedgie act works on men. He’ll need something else for Hillary.

On the other hand, it’s worth noting that the woman card just isn’t a very exciting card. The race card for Obama was an ace up his sleeve. The woman card is an eight of clubs at best. I take some satisfaction from the fact that in a season where I’ve been wrong about so much, I’ve been right about this point from the beginning. Right now, the big conversation about Hillary’s falling poll numbers is about how she can’t reconstruct the Obama coalition. Right after her announcement in 2015, I wrote a piece titled “Hillary Shouldn’t Count on the Obama Coalition to Carry Her to the White House”:

In 2008, the enthusiasm for Obama’s novel candidacy was self-evident and organic. The marketing guys helped, but they had a good product. Obama’s personal appeal was such that his handlers felt he could never be overexposed.

Enthusiasm for Clinton’s long-expected candidacy, while obviously sincere for many partisans, is more asserted than obvious. That’s why the smartest thing about Clinton’s announcement video wasn’t the testimonials from so many “everyday Americans.” It was that there was so little of Hillary Clinton in it.

And this brings me back to where I started. If Hillary makes it to the Oval Office, it will be because her handlers and friends in the media carried her across the finish line. You can already hear the “all hands on deck” call go out across the political and media landscape. Muster the surrogates! Release the Obama! And, of course, Edit the video! (The “frequently” in Bill Clinton’s explanation of Hillary’s health episode was later edited out by CBS and doesn’t appear in many of the write-ups of the interview.) Get ready for 50 or so days of Weekend at Hillary’s.

Various & Sundry

You’ll note that there’s precious little criticism of Donald Trump in today’s “news”letter. I’ll head off the inevitable and routine speculation that always follows when I don’t criticize Trump or when I compliment him: No I haven’t changed my mind. There is a bizarre assumption among Trump partisans that I behave the same way they do, only from the opposite direction. Contrary to widespread impressions, I’m actually less biased in this election because I have no one to root for. This thing ends in tears no matter what. Trump partisans always take the position that Trump is right — on Putin, child-care entitlements, whatever. I’m not playing that game. I don’t think Trump is always wrong. I agreed with National Review’s editorial that Trump is groping toward a workable position on immigration. I think there was a lot that was good in his economic speech yesterday (and a lot that was silly). Where I differ with the Tumpistas is that I think there is zero reason to think he means 90 percent of what he says when he panders to various constituencies. It’s the Art of the Deal: Say or do whatever you need to get what you want.

Where I differ with the Tumpistas is that I think there is zero reason to think he means 90 percent of what he says.

Anyway, for those interested, I appeared on a Hillsdale Constitution Day panel Thursday on “Trump and Conservatism.” I didn’t realize I was supposed to open with prepared remarks. But I think I got some of my points across well enough. The audience was not particularly pleased with me.

My Friday column was on how we shouldn’t let sports become another front in the political and cultural battles of the day.

Canine Update: So the other night my brother-in-law was in town from Alaska on business. He brought some colleagues to my sister-in-law’s place for dinner. The Goldbergs brought Pippa but not Zoë because Pippa is very kid friendly and doesn’t scare my sister-in-law’s dog. Pippa had a great time chasing a tennis ball for far, far, far too long in the backyard and clearly exhausted herself. Anyway, long story short, when we got home Pippa, sweet, harmless Pippa, was apparently in no mood for Zoë’s shenanigans. She got angry and fought back and actually bit Zoë badly on the leg. It was bizarre and shocking. Yesterday we noticed that Zoë actually has a bad puncture in her leg. There wasn’t much for the vet to do — but apparently plenty to charge us for. So now the Dingo needs to wear the Cone of Shame so she doesn’t lick the wound and get it infected. She’ll be fine, but the interesting part is watching the two of them now. The dingo can’t quite get her head around the idea that the spaniel actually has any fight in her. The spaniel seems very concerned that there will be reprisals. Both of them are sulking and stalking around like two sisters who had a terrible fight and don’t know how to bury the hatchet. Obviously, I’m probably anthropomorphizing here, but that’s what I do.

The latest GLoP podcast is up. It’s a fun one. Or at least I enjoyed it.

Speaking of Cones of Shame.

iPhones hack the news

Was Gene Roddenberry only a minor factor in Star Trek’s success?

A dog finds whipped cream

The real Robinson Crusoe

Napoleon’s secret novella

Yeah, sure. That’ll work: North Korea bans sarcasm

Did Alderaan shoot first? (cc: Sonny Bunch)

How to survive inside a plummeting elevator

Brazilian hidden camera TV show goes all out for alien invasion prank

Can you outscream Nicolas Cage?

Fifty years since the premiere of The Monkees, watch the first auditions of the band’s members

Police dog gets a coffee break

I hope that police dog has energy now, because he’ll soon have to confront the canine T-1000

A German sunrise, the opening of the 2016 Paralympics in Rio, lightning in a cyclone, and much more in The Atlantic’s photos of the week

Lightning strikes in front of a rainbow

A history of paper money

Why are knights depicted fighting snails in Medieval manuscripts?

Star Trek: The Libertarian Edition

Human heart found in bag at Ohio gas station

The attention span of a puppy

The biology of B-Movie monsters

This turtle is having so much sex, he’s saving his species

Is This a ‘Flight 93’ Election?

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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 Sean Hannity, who doesn’t think this “news”letter is a safe space),

As Bill Clinton likes to say to the summer interns, I won’t keep you long.

The Flight 93 Election.” That’s the title of a pseudonymous essay in The Claremont Review of Books that’s gotten a lot of attention of late. Rush Limbaugh apparently loved it. A great many others thought it was unlovable (See: Here, here, here, here, here, and here.)

I’m with them. Except in one regard: I like the title. Oh, I hate the way the writer uses the idea. Indeed, while I kind of like the writing style, and I’ve found the man I believe to be the actual author decent enough, I find the whole pose of it fairly offensive. The author adopts the pen name Publius Decius Mus, after a Roman nobleman who sacrificed his life for the Republic by charging into the thick of battle. But the author isn’t even willing to risk harm to his own name to launch his often baseless attacks. Rather, from the bespoke comforts of the private sector, he accuses conservative opponents of Trump of selling out, without any evidence beyond a mist-producing frenzy of logic chopping.

Yes, there’s a nice parallelism between the pen name and the title. The passengers who rushed the cockpit were indeed modern day Publii. The writer, however, is not.

While Publius is obviously using Flight 93 metaphorically — America is not actually a giant plane — he uses the metaphor with an appalling amount of literalism. Hillary Clinton poses an existential threat. Here’s the opening:

2016 is the Flight 93 election: charge the cockpit or you die. You may die anyway. You — or the leader of your party — may make it into the cockpit and not know how to fly or land the plane. There are no guarantees.

Except one: if you don’t try, death is certain. To compound the metaphor: a Hillary Clinton presidency is Russian Roulette with a semi-auto. With Trump, at least you can spin the cylinder and take your chances.

Again, he is not literally saying we will all die if Hillary Clinton wins. But he is saying that it will be the end of America. This is grotesquely irresponsible, particularly as the anniversary of 9/11 is upon us. This is the logic that inspires Latin-quoting mad men.

It’s also not true. Truth would exonerate him. But it isn’t true — and even if it were, he can’t possibly know that it is. I am the first to concede that if Hillary Clinton wins it will likely be terrible for the country. But America is larger than one election for one office in one branch in one of our many layers of government. Indeed, if it’s true that America is one election away from death, then America is already dead. Because the whole idea of this country is that most of life exists outside of the scope of government. Yes, this idea is battered and bloodied. But I fail to see how rejecting the idea — as Publius does — is the best way to save it.

We’re Going the Wrong Way

So what do I like about the title? Well, used differently, it’s illuminating. It’s reminiscent of Hugh Hewitt’s brief clarity on the threat of Donald Trump to the Republican party. As he put it last June, “The plane is headed towards the mountain” and the GOP needed to do whatever it took to gain control and prevent the debacle of nominating Donald Trump. Inexplicably, Hugh quickly abandoned that argument and decided to strap himself in, perusing the SkyMall catalog for Trump ties as the plane careened toward the mountain peaks.

I’m going to be on my hands and knees with a bucket and sponge trying to get the stain out of the carpeting.

In my preferred metaphor, we are on a plane heading for a bad place, though not to our deaths. We are heading to a place from which it will require years of work just to get back to where we are now, never mind a preferred destination. I remember giving speeches during Obama’s first term, amidst the fights over the stimulus and Obamacare. The set title for my talks was “Cheer Up, for the Worst Is Yet to Come.” I was right of course. But I remember saying, often, that I may end up spending the rest of my professional life fighting just to undo the messes this president has created. That may well still be true. And if either of these two hot messes hit the fan in November — and one almost surely will — I’m going to be on my hands and knees with a bucket and sponge trying to get the stain out of the carpeting.

And that’s the thing. The plane is off course because the pilot is MIA, off guest-editing Wired magazine or some such, while the other two members of the flight crew are fighting over the throttle. One, Hillary Clinton, wants to take us to a bad place and she knows how to get there. The other, Donald Trump, wants to take us someplace that doesn’t even exist. The best argument for Donald Trump is that if the destination existed, it might be a great place to go. I hear the martinis in King’s Landing are fantastic. Meanwhile, the only argument for Clinton is that at least she knows how to fly.

Hillary All the Way Down

For a couple years now (see here, here, here, here, here, here, and here), I’ve been mocking the idea that all Hillary Clinton needs to do is show the world “the real Hillary” and everything will be fine.

It’s a hilarious argument on a bunch of levels. The part I like most is that this line invariably comes from people with a vested interest in signaling to the world that (A) they personally know the real Hillary and (B) they really like the real Hillary. In other words, it’s a subtle humble brag, an exercise in throne-licking and a way of posing as a tough-minded analyst.

Hillary laughs like a malfunctioning animatronic pirate at the Pirates of the Caribbean ride.

I’m entirely confident that many offer this guidance sincerely, just as many of Trump’s most public sycophants honestly believe that their dear friend “Mr. Trump” is an awesome guy. The fact that he lends them suites at the Mar-a-Lago is merely proof of his generosity. I mean, has anybody done more to disprove the old adage “no man is a hero to his valet” than Chris Christie?

The more significant problem with this “Real Hillary” mantra — as well as all as the Hillary 5.0 garbage — is that it runs into the nasty Aesopian reality that the Hillary we see is the real Hillary. I used to write a lot about Mitt Romney’s “authentic inauthenticity” problem. He seems fake — but that’s really him. Hillary Clinton has a similar problem (just as Al Gore did). Again, she laughs like a malfunctioning animatronic pirate at the Pirates of the Caribbean ride. She’s probably a good lawyer — even if the moral and ethical spirit of law was exorcized from her a long time ago.

But as many of us know, there are many different kinds of lawyers. There are dazzling courtroom attorneys who spin tales of June bugs and turtles on fence posts. When these kinds of lawyers go into politics, we get Bill Clinton, Dale Bumpers, and Haley Barbour. Hillary Clinton is a different kind of lawyer. Her utility belt is crammed with paper clips, Post-it notes, and a bottomless jug of Wite-Out. She was the kid who reminded the teacher that there was supposed to be a quiz. Where Bill Clinton demonizes his enemies on a debate stage, Hillary takes out hers by finding some small print in their mortgage statement. She’s not Elliott Ness, she’s the accountant.

Sexism, Real and Imagined

What I find so hilarious right now is the effort to claim that anyone who points out these sorts of things is being sexist. Peter Beinart even sees a “wave of misogyny” behind criticism of Clinton.

It is absolutely true that we treat female candidates differently than male ones. Sometimes it’s unfair. At least until Donald Trump, it was a truism that women are at a real disadvantage when it comes to their hair. If a man, or at least a male politician, spends much more than ten minutes on his coif, he’s wasting his time (or convincing himself that no one can spot the comb over or wig). A woman — not just Hillary, but any woman in the public eye — needs to worry about that stuff far more, and dedicate far more precious time to it. That time matters.

(I always think it’s funny when I’m in the makeup room at Fox. I’m a galumpy unmade bed of a man, and I get about seven minutes to put window treatments on the condemned building. Meanwhile, these naturally beautiful women require between 40 and 90 minutes for lily-gilding.)

Men can wear the same suit every single day and almost no one will notice. Women have to come up with new stuff all of the time. Why Hillary Clinton chooses to dress like the First Minister of Rigel 7 in an episode of Star Trek is a separate mystery, but the basic point holds true.

Why Hillary Clinton chooses to dress like the First Minister of Rigel 7 in an episode of Star Trek is a separate mystery.

But the idea that Hillary Clinton is being brutalized by sexist double standards is ridiculous, particularly in a cycle where the size of her opponent’s hands — wink wink — has been a major topic of conversation. There may be some sexist undercurrents when critics say Hillary should smile more or that she is shrill. But they are erased by the factual tsunami that she is actually quite shrill. Think of it this way. I certainly get why gays bristle at the word “effeminate,” especially when it’s used as a generic insult about all gays. But am I really guilty of anti-gay bigotry if I point out that Richard Simmons is pretty damn effeminate?

Not only is it not sexist to dislike Hillary Clinton, it is sexist to claim that disliking Hillary Clinton is sexist. I do not see Hillary Clinton as a stand-in for all women, nor do I associate the things I dislike about Clinton with women in general. If I did, I’d still be a bachelor or looking for Richard Simmons’s phone number.

And anyway, male politicians have always been vulnerable to insults to their manhood — just ask the first president Bush who was derided on magazine covers as a “wimp.” When he ran for president, it was said his trouble with women stemmed from the fact that he reminded women of their first husband. This was all grotesquely unfair to Bush of course. The guy signed up to fight for his country when he was 17. Moreover, I would guess a significant number of first husbands were cut loose — or left their wives — because they were cads, bullies, or bad fathers. George H. W. Bush is, in fact, a consummate gentleman and family man.

Moreover, Hillary Clinton is running explicitly as the First Woman President, Breaker of Glass Ceilings, and Grandma-in-Chief. She’s doing that in large part because she needs to borrow excitement she can’t muster herself. She’s like an unseasoned plate of steamed root vegetables, but the chef is determined to dress it up by describing the meal in French and delivering it under a giant brass dome. Voila! The spectacle is all the more ridiculous when you hear the wait staff and busboys shouting about how great the “real steamed cauliflower” is or how what the chefs need to do is come up with “Cauliflower 6.0.”

There’s really only so much you can do with cauliflower.

Hillary’s E-mail Problem — and Ours

A related dynamic has emerged with Hillary Clinton’s e-mail troubles. The Washington Post’s editors are very mad at Matt Lauer for spending so much time on the issue. And I have to say they have a good point as far as it goes — but it doesn’t go as far as they think. I agree that there’s an asymmetry between Trump coverage and Clinton coverage, but that asymmetry stems from the fact they are so unbelievably asymmetrical. I agree with David French (and, it seems the Wall Street Journal some days) that both candidates are unfit for the presidency. But they are not unfit in the same ways. A saw is a poor tool for hammering a nail and so is a cantaloupe, but the explanations for their unfitness require very different arguments.

Hillary Clinton has spent her life in government. Along with her husband, they’ve schemed, connived, trimmed, and slimed their way to dynastic power and that dynastic power has bred a sense of entitlement the likes of which you’d expect to find in third world kleptocracies. As a result of spending a career climbing up the greasy poll, Clinton knows what she’s talking about and understands the requirements and responsibilities of the job she seeks. That doesn’t mean she’s right about what she wants to do with government power, but it does mean she’s judged by the rules she grew up under. On this Rush Limbaugh is right. Trump is largely immune to criticisms about the normal rules — at least among his fans — because they never applied to him and, often, he doesn’t even know what they are.

Thus the fixation on Clinton’s e-mail set up, her slush fund of a foundation, and the rest is entirely understandable — and entirely her own fault. I love hearing pundits insist that she should just come out and give a press conference explaining what she did and apologize. I do think she would be smart to apologize (though she shares with Trump a congenital aversion to such things), but the reason she hasn’t explained herself is obvious: She’s guilty! If she had a good explanation she would have offered it a long time ago. (Note: I said “good” not truthful.) All she needs is to offer up something believable. She can’t — and so she doesn’t.

On L’Affaire Hannity

Some of you may have heard that Sean Hannity and I got into a dustup on Twitter. Apparently he reads this “news”letter, too. You can read about it here or here . . . or you can read Ramesh Ponnuru’s incisive summary of the underlying beef. There’s no point in revisiting all of that again. But I would like to make one point. I don’t think Sean gives a rat’s ass about convincing me of anything. First, if he was really interested in debating the merits of his man-crush on Donald Trump he would employ better arguments rather than field stripping his talk-show transcripts of bumper-sticker exhortations. Second, he might actually invite me on his radio show or TV show to hash it out. My guess is that if such invitation did come, it would be more like a military court martial: “Up Next: Laura Ingraham, Newt Gingrich, Rudy Giuliani, and a liberal, pinko, Hillary-loving fake conservative will discuss why he wants to destroy America!”

Sean’s goal is to use me as an example, a Medusa’s head, to petrify other conservatives.

And this gets to my point. Sean’s goal is to use me as an example, a Medusa’s head, to petrify other conservatives who might wander too far away from the herd or to convince those undecided independents and soft Republicans that they, too, will be held “personally responsible” if they don’t join the herd. Of course, it’s also a bit of reaffirming cheerleading for the faithful who need to believe that anyone outside the mob is a traitor worthy of getting the pointy end of the pitchfork.

I have no idea if he came up with this locker-room bullying shtick on his own, or if it’s the product of some poll-driven strategy from the Trump campaign. But it doesn’t matter. It doesn’t even matter if I’m wrong about his tactical thinking. The upshot is the same: Sean sees himself as a volunteer in the Trump Army, a drill sergeant and drum major in the cause. And to his credit, he’s largely honest about this. He says he does what he does, include lob more softballs than a pitching-machine at a women’s college batting cage, because he wants his friend to win. He admits he’s not a journalist and is not bound by the rules of journalism, even conservative opinion journalism. He even admits to advising Trump behind the scenes. In effect, he’s only a few ticks shy of being a Corey Lewandowski with much better hair. And that’s fine. That’s the role and career he has chosen. It’s why he sees no problem lending his infomercial to Putin’s pitchman Julian Assange. Let’s just not pretend there’s anything else going on.

Various & Sundry

My column today is on the grotesque explosion in Putinphilia overtaking the Right. It’s only gotten worse since I filed. Mike Pence is singing Putin’s praises as a strong leader (tell me about the heroic wheat harvests, governor). Trump happily went on Russia Today to bad mouth the American media and American foreign policy. (Trump now blames what he said on a miscommunication between him and RT stooge Larry King — demonstrating once again that he’s hired the very best people to run his communications shop.) This morning, I heard a sound bite of Donald Trump Jr. explaining that the one thing we know is that Putin is doing “what’s best for Russia.” This is spectacularly disgusting. So now conservatives believe that strongmen who brutalize their own people and undermine American interests and allies around the world are to be admired for their leadership. I cannot wait to hear the Trumpistas explain how punctual the trains are in Russia. Four years ago, Mitt Romney rightly said that Russia was our chief geopolitical foe. Obama countered that the 1980s called and wants its foreign policy back. Well, now it seems the 1930s are on the line and Trump is eager to take the call.

Earlier, I spoke about cleaning up messes. Well, the best-case scenario is that the mess these fools are making can even be cleaned up at all.

My USAT column this week continued my personal vendetta against the mind-poison that is “the smoking gun.”

My first column of the week, was on Phyllis Schlafly and the bogus claim that conservatives never conserve anything.

Programming Notes:

I will be on Outnumbered on Monday.

I will be on Howie Kurtz’s show this Sunday at 5:00 to talk about certain controversies I have been involved in.

Oh, and this is exciting: On October 5, I will be a special guest on Turner Classic Movies to talk about movies and politics. More about that to come.

This week, I recorded a Q&A podcast with the great Jay Nordlinger.

In other podcast news, John Podhoretz, Rob Long, and yours truly have decided to cave to popular demand and step up the pace of Glop podcasts. We will try to release a new one every two weeks now.

Canine Update: I don’t have much this week. The beasts are doing fine. The spaniel has found a fun new pastime. The dingo is dingoing right along. The other day, when Kirsten, our occasional dogwalker, took her out with the pack, she kept giving the dogs special peanut-butter treats. Alas, Zoë doesn’t like them, but she’d be damned if her running buddies would get them. So while the labs and spaniels munched theirs, she ran off into the woods and buried hers. Oh, and the good cat doesn’t like bowties.

Debby’s Friday links

Italian dog found alive after spending nine days in post-earthquake rubble

Minnesota town reelects dog as its mayor

Cat high-fives boy on a bike

Have a slumber party with dogs at this animal shelter

This hedgehog really likes food

Rescue dog can’t stop smiling since starting new life

What it feels like to spend a year on “Mars”

How do we colonize Venus?

A brief visual history of weapons

Florida man makes his own wanted poster his Facebook profile picture, is arrested

Ancient Egyptian hieroglyphics translated into English and published for the first time

The evolution of stop-motion

Are modern e-readers just electronic scrolls?

It’s not airborne laser volcano lancing, but it’ll do for now: The bold and controversial plan to drill into a supervolcano

Ben Carson forgets his luggage

Leonardo DiCaprio, eat your heart out: Man attacked by bear uses karate to survive

A history of chairs

The Batpod from The Dark Knight is for sale

An omen of SMOD: A river in Russia turns blood red

What it’s like to be a LEGO master builder

On Naming Names

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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 (particularly those of you killing time waiting in line at a taco truck. Someday supply will equal demand!),

Editor’s Note Part Deuce: This week’s “news”letter is very inside baseball, intramural conservative squabbling. If that’s not your cup o’ tea, please come back next week.

By dint of reading this, you might be a member of the “Jonah Goldberg Class.”

In his latest tirade — or, I should say, in one of his latest (there have been so many) — Sean Hannity tears into the “Jonah Goldberg class” as if it were, you know, like a thing. And, frankly, I wish it were. I’d like to think it’d be somewhere between United Airlines’s Global Services and Gold Medallion. In my ideal Jonah Goldberg class, not only do you always get more legroom, but the flight crew will also always work on the assumption that those flying JGC are either nursing a hangover or are committed to putting in the hard and necessary work for the next one.

Of course, in reality, Jonah Goldberg Class is sort of like Economy-Plus on Uzbek Air. It’s nice as far as it goes. The free-range chickens are kept out of the JGC section of the plane and the stewardesses always make sure to pluck the small hairs from the mixed-nut bowls and smell the meat before serving it to you, just in case.

Anyway, so where was I? Oh right. As part of his new mission to “name names” Hannity is calling me out like Omar calling out Marlo in The Wire. He’s also calling out Glenn Beck, Ted Cruz, and a bunch of other people, too. But as far as I can tell, I’m the only one who’s literally in a class all by himself. Which is nice.

The fury Sean brings to this shtick is really quite . . . adorable. It’s like a puppy barking to protect its master from a parked car or a small child vowing to vanquish all of his enemies with his plastic sword. As he ratchets up the rhetoric in order to establish his “stabbed in the back” excuse for after the election, there’s an almost “Come on! I’m really serious you guys!” feel to the whole thing.

On Naming Names

But I will give Sean some credit. He is naming names. Most of the legitimate critics of the Jonah Goldberg Class studiously avoid doing anything of the sort. Here, for example, is my old friend Seth Leibsohn, writing what it is obviously a response to my criticisms of his longtime boss, Bill Bennett, without mentioning my name even once. And here is the reliably perspicacious Ace of Spades swatting at what he calls the “#NeverTrump Pundit Class.” (What is with all of this class consciousness on the right these days?) And then, there are all of the interesting Facebook and Twitter conversations that some of my friends seem to think I won’t see or hear about because I’m not pinged in their sub rosa subtweets.

To the extent this is an attempt to avoid lasting damage to personal relationships, I get it. Lord knows, I get it. I hate fighting like this with friends or people I like and respect.

But there’s a downside to not naming names: It allows people of good will to talk past each other and paint with too broad a brush, and it allows people of less than good will to crank out strawmen by the dozen.

Can Trump Create an Argument Too Heavy for His Supporters to Lift?

For example, when Bill Bennett questioned the patriotism of NeverTrumpers and accused them of moral superiority, I have it on good authority he didn’t have me personally in mind. But how was I — or the viewer — to know that? Moreover, even if he didn’t have me in mind, it was still inadvisable and wrong for him to say it.

Which brings me to Seth’s piece. It is, as the social scientists say, not very good — unless you already agree with it in advance. Which is to say that it tracks closely with the Sean Hannity school of persuasion in reselling the same stuff to customers who already bought it. Though Seth’s argument is certainly more high-minded.

Every time you hear Trump talk about the Constitution, it’s like he’s trying to remember his high-school French.

I won’t get too deep into it, but I have to take issue with two parts. First, I think it’s interesting that he seems to be complaining that conservatives have been wanting to hear more about American exceptionalism for the last decade, and yet aren’t applauding Donald Trump who “centered his whole campaign around it.”

It would be overly generous to even describe this claim as merely wrong. It is absurd to the bone. First, Trump has not centered his campaign around anything of the sort; rather, he’s stated clearly and unequivocally that he doesn’t like the phrase “American exceptionalism.” But that’s not even the important part. You see, Trump doesn’t understand American exceptionalism. Indeed, because he’s a liberal, he doesn’t understand it for the same reasons other liberals don’t understand it — it sounds “rude” to him.

But his incomprehension is even more obvious than that. Every time you hear him talk about the Constitution, it’s like he’s trying to remember his high-school French.

More importantly, not only does he not understand it instinctually he doesn’t represent it symbolically. Shouting “America First” a lot might indeed sound like American exceptionalism, to normal people who don’t live and breathe politics and political philosophy. But until Trump came along, Bill Bennett, Seth Leibsohn, and the gang at the new American Greatness website would be among the first and most articulate voices to object to any such conflation. People like the late Peter Schramm would be the ones I would look for to explain that in any Venn diagram depicting Trump’s shallow “America First” nationalism and American exceptionalism the two circles would barely touch never mind meaningfully overlap.

The Myth of the Proletarian Billionaire

And this is my real problem with some of my Straussian friends. They are trying so hard to conjure this useful myth that, while Trump is no intellectual, he manifests some kind of authentic folk American spirit. “Trumpism but not Trump” is the rationalization of the day. But Trump doesn’t represent that American spirit, and just because he’s convinced millions of decent and patriotic Americans that he does, doesn’t make it any more true.

Trump’s lodestars are not liberty and freedom — he virtually never uses the terms, and shows little interest in discovering how he should. He values “winning” and “strength” and innumerate and illiterate beggar-thy-neighbor economics. The Constitution might as well be an obscure zoning code as far as he’s concerned. Simply put, he is a glandular, generally friendless (by his own admission), zero-sum conniver who has made it clear that he sees nothing wrong with breaking promises — in business, in matrimony, and in politics — so long as he’s dubbed a “winner” by a narcissistic standard of his own choosing.

Nor is he the enemy of political correctness they make him out to be. Trump is perfectly happy to invoke and deploy PC arguments and standards against his opponents, he just wants to be immune from their sting himself.

Some of my friends seem like monks so desperate to spot the next Straussian Dalai Lama they’re willing to see signs that aren’t remotely there. I’ve known and admired Ken Masugi for 20 years, but I would be stunned to learn he didn’t herniate himself if he tried to make the case that there’s anything Lincolnian about Donald Trump much beyond their shared bipedalism. And yet here he is trying to lift an un-liftable argument.

Which brings me to my second beef with Seth’s Stakhanovite effort to spin Bill’s comments. In a clear reference to my criticism two weeks ago, he writes: “Others expressed different kinds of shock — listing titles and quotes from Bennett’s many books, as if doing so amounted to an argument.”

People of a Straussian bent are supposed to be able to find arguments in “significant silences” so it should not induce too much strain to find the argument when it’s being shoved in your face. My point in listing Bill’s book titles was pretty obvious to lots of people. As I said, Bill has spent much of his career educating people (his detractors would say lecturing or wagging his finger) to lift their sights to higher moral and patriotic principles and standards. So when he resorts to ridiculing friends and comrades-in-arms for doing exactly that, it’s not only strategically inadvisable, it seems hypocritical. If Seth can’t see that, I’m shocked. If he can, he should address that argument rather than waste his time bravely eviscerating straw men.

On Obligations

And that brings me back to Ace. I think he’s a brilliant, often fearless, blogger and thinker who is better at sniffing out bullsh*t than a truffle hog is at locating ectomycorrhizal fungi. And I will grant him that he has sniffed out a solid debating point. Writing about how the tightening polls are a problem for the “NeverTrump Pundit class,” Ace argues:

Oddly enough, none of these people claim to have zero influence on the conservative population except when they agitate against Trump. I’ve asked several people to provide past resumes and book proposals to demonstrate they have previously claimed to have absolutely no readership or influence over other conservatives; none of them have come forward with such book proposals stating, “I vow to you that I have barely any readers at all and that my book, should you publish it, will make nary the faintest ripple in the national debate.”

It’s only now, during 2016 (specifically from May of 2016 to November 2016), that this obviously highly-self-regarding group of Thought Leaders is making this claim of having no importance and no following.

I imagine these claims will evaporate ’round the second week of November.

Then they’ll all be back in Highly Influential Thought Leaders of the Conservative Movement mode again.

But I also think he is missing the context. I will confess that I have made the argument he scorns. I have done so in response to people like Sean Hannity claiming that if Trump loses I (and others like me) will be to blame for his defeat. I’ve also been responding to detractors who simultaneously insist that me and my ilk don’t matter anymore and that it will be our fault if Trump loses. Well, which is it? Either we matter or we don’t. Indeed, it’s part of what makes Hannity’s attacks so funny. He has millions of listeners and viewers, but he can’t deliver the election for his dearest leader. Yet somehow I can?

Many of the so-called gatekeepers of conservatism have been utterly inadequate to the task of protecting that which we love.

This points to one of the hard and humbling lessons of this election: Many of the so-called gatekeepers of conservatism have been utterly inadequate to the task of protecting that which we love, because while we’ve been guarding the gate, the Trumpians have smashed down the walls on either side of it. And in response, many have left their post to join the mob, in the spirit of “There go the people. I must follow them, for I am their leader!”

The key to Ace’s mistake, in my eyes, is when he writes:

Some of us, in short, seem to be attempting to win an election, whereas others are still fixated on winning a fight they had on Twitter.

If Trump’s as awful a candidate as you maintain he is (and he might very well be!), then he hardly needs your help in losing.

And if you decide to add your help to that — then at least own up to it. Like a man.

First, I find the constant resort to what I’ll call argumentum ad masculinum tedious. Every day, I hear people telling me that I need to “man up” and support Trump as if this is some kind of dick-measuring exercise. I am confident enough in my manhood, such as it is, that it doesn’t hinge upon whom I support for the chief executive of one of the three branches of federal government. Earlier in the post, Ace writes:

It’s cowardice, pure and simple. If you consider Trump so terrible that you feel obligated to support Hillary, then at least have the guts to say that, instead of putting on this childishly dishonest and evasive act of claiming that words people care enough about to pay you cash money for suddenly have no impact on anyone, anywhere, ever.

But that’s the thing, I don’t feel obligated to support Hillary. Many people I respect do, like Jim Glassman. But I don’t. Ace’s insistence that I admit to something I do not believe isn’t dishonorable. Rather, it is the product of a conflict of visions, as Matt Corbett illustrates over at Ricochet. Ace is locked into this binary argument that one must be for one candidate if one is against the other. I don’t buy the binary argument. If during the Iran-Iraq War, I criticized Iraq, there is no objective reason why that should require the conclusion that I supported Iran. Again, in 1960, National Review refused to endorse Kennedy or Nixon because neither measured up.

Think of it this way: What if the race this year was between Jill Stein and Bernie Sanders, or to better illustrate the point, between Hannibal Lecter and Freddy Krueger. Am I really obligated to figure out which is the lesser of two evils, or am I actually obligated to say they’re both evil? Would Ace argue that it’s outrageous and cowardly for me to criticize them both, just because he’s concluded that Lecter is preferable to Krueger? “C’mon some of us are trying to win an election here! Stop bashing Dr. Lecter. Sure he eats people, but he’s so much better than Krueger. Just look at the Krueger Foundation!”

I go back and forth over the question of whether Hillary or Trump would be worse for America — and/or conservatism — or whom I would vote for if this binary question came down to my vote. But it doesn’t. So, I fall back to the safe harbor of saying what I believe about both of them and the issues at play, for the simple reason that this seems like the right thing to do and because I want to be consistent about what I believe in — no matter who is president.

How Many Divisions Has the Jonah Goldberg Class?

Maybe it’s true that I could swing some votes Trump’s way if I suddenly changed my mind — or simply lied about doing so — and endorsed him. I think the more likely result would be that I would lose whatever respect people have for me (never mind the toll it would take on my own self-respect). I’ll say it again: One of the worst revelations of this whole sordid season has been the discovery that a great many people expected me to live down to their expectations.

But even if Ace is right and I can deliver much-needed conservative votes, it doesn’t change the fact that, as an analytical matter, Trump’s deficiencies aren’t with NeverTrumpers, they’re with millions of voters, the vast majority of whom have no idea who I am. Even if I could bring over the entire Jonah Goldberg Class, Trump would still be underwater with independent and moderate Republican women, minorities, etc. — because Donald Trump is a very bad candidate, which is why I think the people most responsible for a Republican loss in November are those who couldn’t or wouldn’t see that.

The Airing of Grievances

Ace sees NeverTrumpers as making some kind of cowardly commercial calculation in their arguments. He’s hardly alone in that belief. No doubt there’s some of that somewhere. But all I can tell you is that’s not how it seems from where I am sitting. No business manager or brand consultant would advise me to take the course I’ve taken. (I can just hear the late great Gene Wilder playing the Leo Bloom to my Max Bialystock: “You’ve got to alienate huge swaths of your book-buying fans and get yourself nearly banished from TV! We’ll make millions!”).

Still, I get why Ace has such contempt for NeverTrumpers. Since I am in a sharing mood, I will tell you who I have contempt for and it’s not Ace or the gang at American Greatness or even Sean Hannity. It’s the class of pro-Trump pundits and politicians who, the moment the cameras blink off, turn to me or my friends and say how awful Trump is. A related group are the political reporters who go on TV and skew their analysis so as to ensure that they don’t burn their sources in the Trump campaign, at least not until they write their post-election post-mortems. Another group are the commentators and opportunists who see Trump’s candidacy as a useful way to establish themselves as cable-news “celebrities” or boost their ratings. (I spelled this out in more detail in a G-File a few months back.) Perhaps the day will come when those names will be named.

Various & Sundry

My first column of the week was on how conservatives should not contaminate themselves by making room for the alt-right. I discussed the subject at great length with Hugh Hewitt on the air the other day, and I think the conversation is worth listening to. I won’t recycle all of that here, but I do want to clarify something. I do not think that “Trump supporter” and “alt-right” are synonymous terms. In fact, I’ve been very clear that they are not. Contrary to what Trump supporters claim, however, the alt-right is not some made up “bogeyman.” It is a thing. It may be vastly more insignificant than its proponents — and Hillary Clinton — claim, but that should make it easier to draw bright lines around it, particularly when they insist they want nothing to do with us and what we believe.

I see no reason to give an inch to the alt-righters’ effort to create an alt-white consciousness based upon the pigments of their imagination.

By their own words, the alt-righters want to destroy and replace classical liberalism and modern conservatism and replace it with some tribal “identitarian” understanding of whiteness as a unifying concept. In this it shares the same modes of thought as the radical racialist Left. Hence, its real goal is to not just to turn the alt-right into the Right, pure and simple, but to transform the consciousness of all white Americans — and white people everywhere — into racial jingoists. That’s not who white Americans are, thank God, and I see no reason to give an inch to the alt-righters’ effort to create an alt-white consciousness based upon the pigments of their imagination. I think the wisest course would be to ignore it utterly, but thanks to the demons the Trump campaign has aroused — and even hired — that hasn’t been possible. I think it will be again, soon enough.

Canine Update: Of course, just as the weather turns delightful my wife and our mid-day dogwalker return home. They wisely skipped the meteorological horror show of the last fortnight. The only dog tale I have comes from Monday morning. Around 3:30 a.m., I heard Pippa crying and struggling under my bed. I have this big wood bedframe and somehow she managed to get stuck underneath. I don’t really understand how she did it. But, unlike Sid Blumenthal, I don’t find the sounds of panicked and struggling animals soothing (never mind an aphrodisiac). So I got out of bed to get her out.

I tried dragging her out the way she burrowed in. But she yipped and panicked when her head hit the wood. I tried to induce her to what I thought was a larger egress point. After much spaniel inch-worming, no luck. Zoë watched the whole thing with bemusement, “Dumb spaniel. Dumber human.” Finally, I realized I had to lift the mattress and box spring to get her out, jaws of life style. I got her out and she promptly did a 720 on the bed and went to sleep. I meanwhile was now wide awake. I had to do NPR that morning at 6:30 so I walked them around five to make sure I had plenty of time. At the park, Zoë got her blood up chasing several particularly obstreperous bunnies, to no satisfaction. We got back in the car and went home. But Zoë, sharing the same frustrations as Elmer Fudd in similar circumstances, was not ready to be domiciled. I pulled into the driveway and got out of the car only to see Zoë fly out the window like a canine projectile in some alternate medieval world where cats man the trebuchets. Of course, Pippa always wants to be in on the party so she ran out the open car door after Zoë who, by this point, was already half a block away in search of the bunny or unicorn she thought she had seen on the drive in. I managed to make it to the NPR studio — but only by skipping a very much-required shower.

Debby’s Friday links

Mel Brooks remembers Gene Wilder

Gene Wilder on himself

Gene Wilder: master of the comedic pause

What lava looks like up close

Workers rescue ducklings from sewer

Dogs understand tone and meaning of their masters’ words

KFC offers (inedible) fried-chicken-scented sunscreen

John Lennon’s first acid trip

Alaska’s HAARP lab to hold tours to dispel conspiracy theories

A strange black slime is taking over D.C. monuments

Dog walks four miles into town everyday just to greet all of his friends

Teenager on the run responds to police on Facebook, asks them to use a better picture of her

It’s been 50 years since the last Beatles concert

Is Hong Kong losing interest in Kung Fu?

How many of your Facebook friends are undercover FBI agents?

What’s the ratio of shot-to-used footage in major film productions?

What age is Hamlet?

The past 100 years in hairstyles

This kitchen drawer does a spot-on Chewbacca impression

This probably made Hugh Hewitt very happy

Energy & Environment

The Clintonian Gaslighting Never Ends

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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 Matt Labash reading this in his unmarked white van),

I have questions. So many questions. And I really don’t know where to begin. But these are some of the things I want to know:

Does Nancy Grace realize that when they have her play herself in all of these TV shows and movies she’s being asked to play a horrible person?

Producer: And for the Nancy Grace character, we really need someone who can sell lugubrious, sanctimonious, parasitical opportunism and innuendo in just a few words . . . 

Casting Director: Hmmm. That is tough. Hey I have an idea. How about Nancy Grace!?

Producer: She’d be perfect! But do you really think she’d prostitute herself that way just for a little more fame and money?

[Long silence] Bahahahahaha!

But I have more questions. Such as, I wonder if the CEO of BleachBit is popping the champagne? I mean he’s just gotten the greatest celebrity endorsement of a data-deletion product ever. They should cut an ad immediately. The CEO could say straight into the camera, “BleachBit: It’s so effective, it’s what the Clintons use to hide their ‘Yoga’ e-mails.” (But he would really need to hit the air quotes around “Yoga.”)

Cut to Trey Gowdy: “It’s so good, even God can’t read them!”

Oh, a moment ago I was saying something about lugubrious parasites, or something like that, which of course calls to mind Sidney Blumenthal. Now, my understanding is that Blumenthal doesn’t in fact have bones so much as a quasi-skeleton made out of highly flexible cartilage, allowing him to get his head further up the rectum of anyone surnamed Clinton far more effectively than a normal human might.

That’s not important right now — but it does remind me to again ask, “If the Clinton Foundation is purely a wonderful and glorious charity, why on earth would Sid Blumenthal be working there?”

I think it was Diogenes who first observed that no charity can claim to be truly noble if you can find Blumenthal’s retromingent trail greasing its corridors, his taffy-like saliva cobwebbing the corners like in an Alien movie. It’s like saying, “This Church does God’s work, not counting the pimp who turned the last three pews into an office and stable for his ladies.” I mean some of the most horrible people in the world, after doing dark and unspeakable things in Tijuana that even the mule would prefer not to talk about, reassure themselves by saying, “Well, at least I’m not Sid Blumenthal.”

In 2009, Hillary Clinton wanted Blumenthal to set up one of his mucus-drenched egg-sack nests at the State Department. Even Rahm Emanuel was like, “Are you high?” So when Clinton was told she couldn’t have her very own wormtongue working for her out of the State Department, what did she do? She gave him a job at her other office — the Clinton Foundation. His job description there was “highlighting the legacy of Clinton’s presidency.”

Let’s pause there for a moment. The other day James Carville said people will go to Hell for criticizing the Clinton Foundation. Children will die. The Seventh Seal will be broken, the CHUDs released, and a second all-ladies Ghostbusters will be made.

James Carville said people will go to Hell for criticizing the Clinton Foundation. Children will die. The Seventh Seal will be broken.

The Clinton Foundation, in Carville’s words, takes money from rich people and gives it to poor people. Yeah, okay, sometimes they do that. But on Carville’s own terms, every dime they take from rich people is for the stated purpose of giving it to poor people (or spending it on their behalf). Did the Clinton Foundation tell donors who thought that they were helping fight AIDS in Africa, “Oh, by the way, we’re gonna take $10,000 a month off the top and give it to Sidney Blumenthal so he can work as a presidential legacy-fluffer?”

Of course, Blumenthal didn’t do much of that because that “job” was his cover (Christopher Moltisanti didn’t spend a lot of his time at Webistics doing market research either). Rather, he spent his days running an off-book intelligence and consulting service, sending Clinton memos on her Libyan adventure and the like.

Look: Hillary Clinton said that she would “avoid even the appearance of conflict” between her work at State and her foundation. But one of the first things she did when she became secretary was have her foundation put Blumenthal on the payroll of her foundation so he could do the job she wanted him to do at State.

Just last June, Clinton said: “There is absolutely no connection between anything that I did as secretary of state and the Clinton Foundation.”

But we’ve spent all week reading e-mails and hearing about all of the phone messages back and forth from the Clinton Foundation and Hillary’s top aides. And yet the press keeps talking about the need for a f***ing smoking gun.

If The Gun Does Not Emit, You Must Acquit

I’m not going to get all worked up about this smoking-gun insanity again, just half-worked-up.

But it’s really as if people don’t understand that a smoking gun is a very high evidentiary bar that most prosecutors — or journalists — never have to meet. Imagine a cop answers a call and comes to a bar where a guy named Jack Butler is caked in the blood of a dozen victims. One of the victims actually wrote, in his own blood, “Butler did it,” which was ironic because the victim was also a big fan of 1930s detective novels. A waitress who hid behind the juke box points at Butler and says, “He did it!” Butler himself says, “You got me.”

But the cop, going by the standards of Beltway clichés says, “Damn, there’s nothing I can do. I don’t see any smoke coming out of his gun.”

Everyone wants proof of a quid pro quo from one of these mega donors in the e-mails. Bless your heart — as if the Clintons would ever put something like that in writing. And if one of their aides did so by accident, well, bust out the BleachBit baby! Use it like fraternity brothers use Febreze on the morning before Parents Visiting Day.

As I write in my column today, you don’t need to look for a quid pro quo in the meetings, the meetings are the quo!

Being able to say to business partners, creditors, local politicians, etc., “When I met with Secretary of State Clinton last week . . . ” is a gift. In America and even more so abroad, possessing a reputation for having friends in the highest places is a priceless asset.

All campaigns understand this. Donors could always just send the check by mail. But politicians understand that one of the things a donor is “buying” is the ability to strut like an insider and dine out on your political connections.

When Bill Clinton rented out the Lincoln Bedroom in the White House to big donors, the donors didn’t get to keep the furniture, but they did get to begin sentences, “The last time I stayed at the White House . . . ”

In Jerry Maguire, Cuba Gooding Jr.’s character gives the great speech about The Quan. It’s his made-up word for not just having money, but also love, respect, the whole package. There are lots of very rich people in search of the Quan, as they define it. Being rich isn’t good enough. They want to be important (I wrote a whole mediocre “news”letter about this point last week). For some of them, just being on the “inside” of politics gets them that much closer to the Quan. Writing a check to a campaign, or to the Clinton Foundation, is a small amount of quid for the quo of the Quan.

Do you think Justin Timberlake spent a small fortune hosting a fundraiser for Hillary Clinton this week because he’s got a pressing business concern that requires a presidential favor? Of course not. Having her at his house was the payoff.

Anyway, Clinton may have sold more than just face time and bragging rights — I’m fairly confident she did. But the point is you don’t need to prove any of that to understand that this whole thing is a farce.

I know, I know: Saying Clinton is a liar has lost all of its oomph, because it has been so obviously true for so long. But it’s so easy to feel like they put crazy pills in the water supply these days.

The Gaslighting Never Ends

In his deposition during the Lewinsky investigation, Blumenthal claimed that Bill had confided in him: “I feel like a character in a novel,” the president allegedly said. “I feel like somebody who is surrounded by an oppressive force that is creating a lie about me and I can’t get the truth out. I feel like the character in the novel Darkness at Noon.” Assuming that Blumenthal wasn’t lying about the conversation taking place, this always struck me as a great example of Bill Clinton’s gift for gaslighting. Not only was he denying the truth of the matter, he was proclaiming that the entire system was paranoid and deluded, that he was in effect the last sane man.

Never mind that Clinton was using Blumenthal to transmit a lie to his wife. Never mind that he was the commander-in-chief and not some dissident intellectual caught in the switches of Stalinism. I still know the feeling that Clinton, or really Arthur Koestler (the author of Darkness at Noon), was trying to conjure. I sometimes sit, watching the TV, and ask, “Am I the crazy one?”

Then the Couch responds, “The question answers itself, no?”

And There You Have It

Now, I know I’m not the last sane man. I know way too many people who feel the same way I do. I write a lot, so it’s always interesting to hear which pieces stick with people. More people have brought up the “news”letter I wrote on the Bodysnatching of the Right than any other since I wrote it last March. We don’t need to get into all of that again.

But this week was rather amazing. For a year or so, a bunch of us have been saying that Trump is conning his fans. The con took many forms, of course. But the most successful bill of goods Trump ever sold certainly wasn’t his steaks or cologne, it was his belching word-salads on immigration. Some of us said he doesn’t really intend to deport 11 million people. Others said he does intend that but he won’t be able to get it done or that he will flip-flop on it down the road. A great many believed that Trump didn’t mean anything in particular, and was just making it all up as he went along. Since it was full-spectrum B.S., some picked one band of the bullsh*t rainbow, others another.

Trump is like the creators of Lost — he sucked everyone in with his crazy story, but had no idea how to wrap it up.

Trump supporters didn’t believe any of the skepticism. But more than that, they insisted anyone who doubted, criticized, or scoffed at Trump’s promises was for “open borders.” When Ted Cruz demurred from the idea of a “deportation force” — a phrase, I believe Trump learned for the first time from Mika Brzezinski — it was suddenly agreed that Cruz, too, was “weak, weak” on immigration.

But when Trump “softened” his position, thanks to his Monty Hall–style consulting with the Greek chorus that is Sean Hannity’s studio audience, he was essentially admitting he not only was conning you, but also that he had no idea how the con was supposed to end. He’s like the creators of Lost — he sucked everyone in with his crazy story, but had no idea how to wrap it up.

When asked on CNN whether he will deport non-criminal illegal immigrants Trump responded — and I am not making this up — “There is a very good chance the answer could be yes.”

This is the guy people rallied to with rapturous testimony about his Strength! Will! Leadership! Decisiveness!

Perhaps the only silver lining in any of this is watching Ann Coulter grapple with this calamity. If Tom Wolfe had written a novel where the Coulter character was defenestrated like this on the night of her book party at Breitbart HQ, the editor would have said, “C’mon, Tom.”

And yet Ann is sticking with her guy. I spent much of the last year writing how Trump was corrupting conservatism by forcing so many Republicans and conservatives to jettison their principles in order to get on the right side of a popular demagogue who would ultimately lead the GOP to catastrophic defeat at the hands of a corrupt and untalented Democratic candidate. There is a kind of pyrrhic schadenfreude, a tragic fremschämen, to watching the demagogues get corrupted too as their idol morphs into Jeb Bush before our eyes.

I’ll give this to Trump, he’s managed to turn Karl Marx on his head. It was his campaign that began as farce and ended in tragedy.

Various & Sundry

Canine Update: Perhaps the biggest change in my neighborhood over the last year — at least from a canine perspective — is the explosion of rabbits. In the nearly 15 years I’ve lived here, I don’t think I ever saw a rabbit until last year. Now they’re all over the place. This presents a real challenge. To say that Zoë loves rabbits is an understatement on par with saying Steve Hayes loves chicken wings.

If she could talk, she’d describe rabbits the way Jack Black talks about Evil Dead 2 in High Fidelity. “Why are you obsessed with bunnies Zoë?” I’d ask. “Because they’re so hoppy and tasty and they can’t climb trees like those rotten squirrels and I can dig huge holes in lawns to get them and they mock me with their bunny ways and I am descended from a great line of rabbit conquerors and I must live up the traditions of my ancestors and they need to be punished for their hoppiness . . . maaaaawwrrrrr BUNNIES!” [Dingoes aren’t big on punctuation]. It’s a problem because if she sees a bunny and she’s off-leash she takes off so fast all you’ll see is that cartoon curlicue of air distortion after she vanishes. She’s jumped out of the car window to get them. Once she has the scent of one there’s no reasoning with her. I walk her on leash around the neighborhood because she doesn’t think any other dog has a right to be anywhere near our house and canine quarrels can come up. But if she sees a bunny, she can yank the leash right out of my hand if I’m not ready. And if she finds one of their bunny bunkers in the shrubbery, I can spend ten minutes looking like I’m taking a bush for a walk.

Anyways: Happy National Dog Day!

Given the events of yesterday, I had planned on writing about all this “alt-right” stuff, but I think I’ll save it for another day. But I will say one thing, the well-intentioned folks out there who think I need to lighten up and make common cause with these bottom feeders are not merely wrong about how I’m wired, they’re wrong about how politics works. Saying we need to coopt or indulge people who openly peddle virulent racism and anti-Semitism out of some misbegotten doctrine of Pas d’ennemis à droite are making a monumental error not just in strategic thinking, but in moral judgment. If Bill Buckley taught us anything, it’s the importance of bright lines when it comes to this kind of thing. Saying good conservatives can have a foot — even a toe — in each camp is an invitation to disaster and a monumental gift to the Left.

One last thing: Yesterday marked the 15th year that the Fair Jessica agreed to be my bride. Remarkably she hasn’t come to her senses yet, for which I am eternally grateful.

Debby’s Friday links

How big is a fart?

Dog drinking water in slow motion

POV footage from a Hot Wheels car as it navigates an impressive track

The world, viewed through Terrence Malick’s eyes

Is light pollution hiding the stars and hurting our souls?

A bad lip reading of the Democratic National Convention

A nimble canine

The secret Jews of The Hobbit

Man trying to impress date gets stuck between two buildings

This five-second video could be the start of a new religion

The Revenant as an 8-bit video game

Man breaks world record for . . . most cans stuck to one’s head?

How best friends share each other’s memories

Has the KFC secret-chicken recipe been revealed?

Hundreds of drunk Americans wash ashore in Canada because of strong winds

Why do we hate certain words?

The (many) problems with resurrecting the T. Rex

The 25 worst predictions about the Internet

Is there such a thing as a “neutral” American accent?

When JFK campaigned with a goat

Archaeologists discover Crusader-era hand grenade, and there was much rejoicing from Monty Python fans (yay . . . )

This dog just wants to help

Politics & Policy

House Clinton and the Wages of Corruption

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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 (particularly those of you have finally figured out how to use a teleprompter),

Finally the degeneration of this “news”letter from the G-File to the T-File has been checked. Given that the GOP nominee has had a very good four days — grading on a curve to be sure — and that we may actually be seeing something like a pivot, I’m going to use this opportunity to (mostly) write about something other than you-know-who. But first, some instant punditry: I do not think the man we saw last night is a product of Steve Bannon’s counseling, or even Kellyanne Conway’s — though I think she deserves some credit. I think the key player here is Roger Ailes. He has a legendary ability to get politicians to get over themselves and follow a script. Maybe I’m wrong, but I strongly suspect Ailes is playing Oogway to Trump’s Po. We’ll see if the master is up to the challenge.

Now, as the Iranians said before they released our hostages, let’s talk about money.

Money: Don’t Touch It! It’s Eeeeeevil!

“Money is the root of all evil,” goes the saying, and the saying is wrong.

It’s wrong as a quote, and it’s wrong as an idea. The expression comes from the New Testament, Timothy 6:10. There are almost as many versions of this line as there are versions of the Bible.

The King James Bible says:

For the love of money is the root of all evil: which while some coveted after, they have erred from the faith, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows.

But the International Standard Version says:

For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Some people, in their eagerness to get rich, have wandered away from the faith and caused themselves a lot of pain.

If you read the passage in context, this version is closer to the real meaning. The desire to be rich is a path to evil — I would say “can be a path” — but it is certainly not the only path.

Now, if I had to put together a résumé, “Biblical Literacy” would hit the cutting room floor, long before “Can Eat Inhuman Amounts of Chicken Wings” and somewhere around “Practitioner of the Ninja Arts.” So, as Bill Clinton will no doubt say when making his case at the Pearly Gates, let’s leave the Bible out of this.

Instead, let’s simply invoke common sense. Money simply cannot be the root of all evil. Let’s check the Archives of Evil, which I have saved as a handy PDF on my laptop.

Stalin and Hitler killed a lot of people (you could look it up) and a single-minded pursuit of filthy lucre is not the top item in the moral indictment against either. Jack the Ripper wasn’t called Jack the Mugger, for a reason. Jeffrey Dahmer didn’t sell body parts, he ate them. Osama bin Laden, abandoned a very lucrative career in the family business to live in caves and plot murder. Rape, I’m told, is not a get-rich-quick scheme, racists do not collect a royalty every time they use the “n-word,” and stalkers aren’t universally interested in getting their prey’s PIN number. Do I really need to go on?

Bernie Sanders is no Bible thumper and I don’t think such admonitions fit into the Cherokee faith, so Elizabeth Warren is off the hook.

The funny thing is that the people most likely to believe, at least in spirit, that money is the root of all evil aren’t widely known as strict Biblical adherents. Bernie Sanders is no Bible thumper and I don’t think such admonitions fit into the Cherokee faith, so Elizabeth Warren is off the hook. Rousseau, who believed all evils stemmed from the moment someone put a fence around a plot of land and declared it his, was a Christian of a sort, but I don’t think he had Timothy 6:10 in mind. And Marx came to his economics via his atheism, not the other way around.

If you’re inclined to see humanity through a cold, materialist prism it should be even more obvious that money can’t be the root of all evil. (Leave aside for the moment that cold materialist doctrines have quite a heavy lift explaining evil in the first place —- “evil” is such a judgey concept.) After all, money is a very recent human invention: Did evil not exist prior to the shekel? Somehow I doubt it.

Ironically, if you do believe that, then you’re buying into a modified version of original sin and the Fall of Man, in which the apple of knowledge is replaced by a fat wad of Benjamins (which, come to think of it, is pretty close to the Rousseauian line).

The Wages of Corruption

I bring this up in part because I’m very deep in the weeds of the book I’m writing. And even though I do not want to pick off morsels of that feast for the mind and peddle it here piecemeal, I also can’t get my head completely out of it either.

Another reason I bring it up is that I think Hillary Clinton’s corruption is a good illustration of how we have corrupted our understanding of corruption itself.

Corruption is a deeply misunderstood word. Today we associate it almost exclusively with graft, bribe-taking, and other forms of essentially financial malfeasance.

Graft is certainly a form of corruption, but not all forms of corruption can be described as graft. In fact, most of the corruptions in life don’t involve money at all. My Dad always used to say that the most corrupting thing in everyday life was friendship, not money. What he meant by that is that we do things for friends we would (almost) never do for strangers offering cash.

My Dad always used to say that the most corrupting thing in everyday life was friendship, not money.

For the sake of argument, let’s imagine that in ten or 15 years, a longtime friend of mine, say Steve Hayes, asks me to get his kid an internship at National Review or AEI (assuming they haven’t fired me by then). I’m not saying I would automatically do it; there are other considerations at play. But let’s assume that on paper the kid is qualified. I would certainly consider it (at least to spare the young’n the professional and moral stain of working at that hive of mopery and insolence, The Weekly Standard). But if some stranger offered me $1,000 dollars to get his kid an internship, I’m certain I would reject the entreaty summarily.

This highlights the difference between morals and ethics. It is unethical — and arguably immoral — to take a bribe of this sort. But, in practice, it doesn’t matter whether or not it’s immoral to do this kind of favor for a friend because the simple fact is that it happens 100,000 times a day all around the world. Teamsters help get their buddy’s kids into the union, college trustees help their golfing partner’s kid navigate the application process, generals give their incompetent old friends nice billets out of personal loyalty.

That’s because favors are the original currency of mankind. This is not a controversial point in the academic literature. No society has ever existed anywhere on earth in which favoritism towards family and friends wasn’t endemic. It’s in our genes — and not just our genes, but the genes of every cooperative species. “Indeed,” writes Francis Fukuyama, “the most basic forms of cooperation predate the emergence of human beings by millions of years. Biologists have identified two natural sources of cooperative behavior: kin selection and reciprocal altruism.”

Reciprocal altruism, at least for our purposes here, boils down to “I’ll get your back, if you get mine.” Army units live — or die — by this principle.

Every meaningful realm of life that hasn’t been taken over by the logic of markets and contracts, operates on some version of reciprocal altruism. We don’t think of it in those sterile terms, though. We yoke all sorts of other concepts to it: friendship, honor, obligation, etc. And in the vast, vast, vast majority of cases, this is a good and wonderful thing. It is what motivates us to visit sick friends in hospitals and to ruin our Saturdays helping a coworker move.

But politics is different. For good reasons — and more than a few bad ones — we’ve tried to wall off politics from the logic of the market. Public servants are supposed to be above personal financial motivations. To say that we’ve failed to uphold this principle is one of the great understatements of our time, on par with “Sally Kohn can be annoying sometimes.”

The vast majority of corruptions in politics have little to do with money.

Still, the vast majority of corruptions in politics have little to do with money. And even in the cases where money is part of the indictment, it is only part of it. Most people don’t go into politics to get rich, not even Harry Reid (who nonetheless managed it). Vladimir Putin may be the richest man in the world, but you don’t have to be his psychiatrist to understand that he didn’t go into politics just for the rubles.

People go into politics for a number of reasons, many of them lofty, but at least one of them not so much: status. The desire to be a politician is almost inseparable from the desire to want to be a Very Important Person and, in many cases, a Very Important Person Who Can Tell Other People What to Do. The former, at least, is not in itself evil. No doubt many people want — or believe they want — to be Very Important in order to help people.

(I should say that to the extent the desire to be rich is the path to evil, it’s not the money that’s the problem, it’s the desire to be important because you are rich.)

Do Me a Favor

The primary currency of politics is the favor. Trading favors at the macro-level is often called logrolling, but at the micro-level it is called “politics.” Favors can involve trading power, information, offices, access, recommendations of all sorts, status, and, of course, taxpayer dollars.

Among the experts, there are fascinating debates about how much we should expect developing countries to shed their “corrupt” practices. When we give money to an official in Afghanistan, we want that money to go to the winning bidder. The official wants that money to go to his cousin or his clan or some other allied faction. When the official gets his way, we call it corruption. But the official says, “This is how politics has worked in my country for thousands of years.”

And he’s right.

If you watch Game of Thrones you’ll notice that gold plays a big part in petty corruptions, but the desire for power is the real source of moral degeneration. Change out “Westeros” for “Ancient Rome,” the “Soviet Union,” or virtually every other society that has ever existed and you’ll notice the same thing.

The Medicis of the Ozarks

Which brings me to the Clintons. The coverage of the Clinton Foundation is a textbook example of how our pinched and narrow conception of corruption distorts our understanding of politics. Those few mainstream reporters interested in the story at all think the hook is the “pay for play” angle.

A whole generation of reporters have misconstrued the phrase “follow the money” to mean “it’s all about the money.” But if you go back and actually look at Watergate, the reason why “Deepthroat” said “follow the money” (a phrase invented by William Goldman for the movie All the Presidents Men, by the way; there’s no evidence Deepthroat actually said it) was that the money trail would lead to the actual corruption. The money itself had little to do with the real crimes. The real crime revolved around Nixon’s desire to stay in power, not to get rich. And Mark Felt, the real Deepthroat, wasn’t motivated by any lofty principle or even by a desire for profit, he was a petty man who felt passed over when he wasn’t named as J. Edgar Hoover’s replacement.

The Wall Street Journal reported Friday morning that Bill and Chelsea Clinton will stop raising money for their foundation if Hillary is elected president. They will also stop convening the Clinton Global Initiative, which was a brilliant scam for Bill to schmooze and logroll with billionaires, corporations, NGO heads, “thinkfluencers,” and the heads of countless foreign governments. The Journal adds this bit of analysis:

The planned changes are an attempt to insulate Mrs. Clinton from perceptions that Clinton Foundation donors could benefit from her administration’s official actions, these people and a Clinton campaign official said. Even a scaled-down foundation would mark an unprecedented turn in politics, given what would be the organization’s close identification with the White House.

The story doesn’t make reference to it, but this is all in response to leaked e-mails showing that some Nigerian billionaire took time off from sending me e-mails asking for my bank routing number to buy access to the State Department. This “pay for play” angle is simply a manifestation of the bastardization of “follow the money.”

The Clintons are a tribe, a House like House Lanister or House Harkonen.

The money isn’t the primary issue with the Clintons and it never was. Sure, sure, they like being rich. They like flying around in private planes. They like having lots of houses. But the Clinton Foundation was never about getting rich, it was about keeping the Imperial Court in Exile well-tended to for their return to power. Huma’s amazingly corrupt moonlighting wasn’t about money grubbing per se, it was about keeping Hillary’s Richelieu on the payroll.

The Clintons are a tribe, a House like House Lanister or House Harkonen. They trade power, fame, influence and, sure, on occasion, money to advance the interests of their House.

Here’s how I put it last year (in a much better G-File):

Hillary Clinton recognized that her ambitions could only be realized by hitching herself to her sociopath husband. No doubt that decision had its downsides, but look where she is now. Let’s not pretend she didn’t make peace with her husband’s ways a long, long time ago. She was happy to make $100,000 on cattle futures, after all. When the Clintons left office they created a “foundation” whose chief purpose was to give form and function to House Clinton, a modern day version of a medieval aristocracy. The House of Medici did many good things. They fed the poor. They built cathedrals. But their good works were the price of power, not the purpose of the power. The Clinton Foundation does some good things, I’m sure. But the charitable work should be seen for what it is: the cost of business. Mob bosses buy ice cream cones for poor kids. When Marlo Stanfield becomes the big man in The Wire, he’s quick to have his goons hand out money to the school kids for new clothes.

No doubt the Clinton Foundation is full of well-intentioned people who are committed to making the world a better place. But the idea that the core mission of the Clinton Foundation is to do good works is absurd. The core mission of the Clinton Foundation is to expand the empire of House Clinton (and improve the lifestyle of the Lords of the Keep). This is obvious not only from their own accounting, but from everything we know about how Bill and Hillary Clinton have conducted themselves. The mere fact that Sidney Blumenthal was on the foundation’s payroll tells you all you need to know. The Gates Foundation or Oxfam would never hire Sidney Blumenthal because they have no use for a malevolent and lugubrious political mercenary.

Hillary Clinton is corrupt in countless ways, but her desire for personal profit is among the least of her transgressions. She didn’t stay in her thoroughly corrupted marriage for money, she didn’t set up her server for money, she didn’t fire the White House travel office for money, she committed these sins — and myriad others — in order to seek the power and status that she covets and feels she is due.

Various & Sundry

I know we’re taking a break from Trump stuff, but I really didn’t want this to go by the wayside. Last night on Megyn Kelly’s show, in the midst of lavishing praise on Donald Trump, my friend Bill Bennett said:

There’s a lot of people and there are still undecided people. [Trump] does not need to speak to the NeverTrump person — some of my friends, or maybe former friends, who suffer from a terrible case of moral superiority, and put their own vanity and taste above the interest of the country.

I have two points, one analytical one personal. First the analytical: I think Bill is right that Trump shouldn’t bother trying to win over the NeverTrump folks. Contrary to the claims of Sean Hannity and countless others, there aren’t enough NeverTrump people to matter and there’s very little he could do to win most of us over. Trump needs to win over persuadable voters in swing states. There are millions of those people. And, I agree with Bill that Trump’s efforts in the last few days are a good start. This is worth keeping in mind when Sean et al. start convening their Peoples Tribunals to hold the NeverTrumpers “accountable” for sabotaging the election. If Trump loses it will be because Trump blew a winnable election, not because a few journalists and activists failed to get on board the Trump Train.

If Trump loses it will be because Trump blew a winnable election, not because a few journalists and activists failed to get on board the Trump Train.

Now for the personal: Bill should apologize, for two reasons. First, I do not question his patriotism or love of country for so enthusiastically supporting a man who in his personal life and as a politician desecrates so much Bill has stood for over the past 50 years. I just think Bill’s wrong. This kind of rhetoric is beneath him.

Second, the idea that Bill Frick’n Bennett should be lecturing people about their “moral superiority” is a really bad look for him.

These are some of the books Bill has written: The Book of Virtues; The Devaluing of America: The Fight for Our Culture and Our Faith; The Death of Outrage: Bill Clinton and the Assault on American Ideals; The Broken Hearth: Reversing the Collapse of the American Family; Index of Cultural Indicators: Facts and Figures on the State of American Society; The Children’s Book of Heroes; The Children’s Book of Faith; The Book of Man: Readings on the Path to Manhood; and Why We Fight: Moral Clarity and the War on Terrorism.

One can debate whether Bill has been guilty of “moral superiority” over his career. As a longtime defender and fan of Bill’s, I actually wouldn’t make that charge because I know Bill and I know that he argues for the superiority of morals, which is a different thing. Even so, there are some arguments that I think are not very useful to him, and charging — even by insinuation — his friends Bill Kristol, Steve Hayes, Charles Murray, Pete Wehner, and yours truly, to name a few, of being guilty of unpatriotically indulging their vanity, taste, and “moral superiority” amounts not to persuasion but an attempt to anathematize not just friends but your philosophical comrades-in-arms during the heat of an election. He, of all people, should know better.

Canine Update: We are back from Maine and the dogs are pissed. Even my Carolina swamp dog doesn’t understand why the two-leggers would want to be in Washington, D.C., when it is enveloped in the meteorological equivalent of a meth addicts’ sweatpant-crotch fog. Pippa has taken to rolling in rain puddles to beat the heat. My wife, The Fair Jessica, and my daughter are heading off to the Pacific Northwest next week, leaving me on solo canine duty for a while as I re-hunker down on the book. So I expect I’ll have more scintillating tails of doggy daring doo and perhaps poo. But I must now hike to the airport as I am going to a wedding way up in Michigan. The lovely and talented Kate Bachelder is tying the knot and, as I expect to be working for the hard-charging Hillsdale grad one day, I don’t want to miss it.

The new GLoP Podcast is out.

My column today is on the bizarre double-standard we apply to corporations that commit journalism.

The week’s first column was on the white-identity politics that goes by the brand name “nationalism” these days.

That column elicited some interesting responses by Avik Roy and Jeremy Carl. Here’s my response to them.

And here is a very silly person.

And here is some other silly stuff.

Debby’s Friday links

Some sharks live for 400 years

The brain that couldn’t remember

Celebrate the 30th anniversary of The Fly

The myth of the Placebo Effect

The Nerd Olympics

A map of James Bond’s exploits

Kylo Ren watches the Rogue One trailer

How McDonald’s chicken nuggets are made

How a random group of guys conned their way into meeting The Beatles in 1966

Waterfall diver, firefighters, Syrian rebels, and more in The Atlantic’s photos of the week

Hunter S. Thompson’s widow returns the antlers he stole from Ernest Hemingway’s house

The quietest room in the world

The story behind Dali Atomicus

How Victorians encoded secret messages in flowers

Sausage-wielding assailant strikes in Germany

Watch people race down a hill after cheese

Man rescues woman and her dog trapped in car by Louisiana floods

Pictures of dogs taken mid-bath

Scientists discover cute googly-eyed octopus (who probably still worships Cthulhu)

A compilation of animals disrupting live news broadcasts

The meaning of silence in film

Pac-Man as a dog

Kyla MacLachlan successfully explains Dune using only emoji

Truman Capote’s ashes are for sale

Politics & Policy

Pivot? What Pivot?

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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 Vanilla Ice, because we now live in a world where that’s possible),

This is an honest question: Does Sean Hannity want Hillary Clinton to be president? I don’t get it.

And, to borrow a trope from President Obama, let me be clear about being clear for clarity’s sake: I’m not referring to the entirely valid, 100 percent correct, indisputably sound argument that it was batsh*t crazy to nominate this guy in the first place. What’s done is done and Sean Hannity will no doubt one day receive the Golden Hair Helmet for his Stakhanovite effort to get Donald Trump the nomination. Let no one forget his yeoman service in the cause to blow up the Republican party and empty a septic tank into the ground water of the conservative movement.

The Presidential Lie

But, again, that is not what I have in mind.

For more than a year Trump and his choir assured everyone that he would indeed “pivot” and become more presidential.

As he told Hannity: “At the right time, I will be so presidential that you’ll call me and you’ll say, ‘Donald, you have to stop that, it’s too much.’”

“As I get closer and closer to the goal, it’s going to get different,” he told Greta Van Susteren in February. “I will be changing very rapidly. I’m very capable of changing to anything I want to change to.”

As I wrote last week, this was always a lie (and a ridiculous thing to say even if it weren’t). Trump can no more promise to be presidential than a leopard can promise to be a top-loading washing machine that runs on good intentions when in energy-saver mode (did I get that phrase wrong?).

But as 8 trillion eggs on Twitter keep telling me, what I think doesn’t matter. But Sean believed it. Hannity even suggested in that interview that the real Trump – the one Hannity has known for years — is the presidential one. Hannity in effect seconded Trump’s own assurance that Trump could change instantly into a mainstream, mature candidate whenever he wanted.

Many honest and decent people pocketed this IOU of presidentialness. In fact, this promise of a new, disciplined Trump seemed to be the only thing that kept Hugh Hewitt off suicide watch.

Never Mind

Since last week’s “news”letter, Trump has now stated unequivocally that he won’t change his style one bit. Either his a**hole-at-the-end-of-the-bar routine pays off or it doesn’t. “At the end, it’s either going to work or I’m going to, you know, I’m going to have a very, very nice long vacation,” Trump told CNBC. A couple days before that, he basically said the same thing to Fox Business. And, as if to underscore that point, that same day he went and made his “joke” about “Second Amendment people.”

If Trump doesn’t change he will lose. Badly. Even his fanboys know this.

When I heard that, I wanted to call Hugh’s producer Duane, and suggest that he confiscate Hugh’s belt and shoelaces.

So here’s the thing. As Hugh and other reluctant Trump backers have conceded countless times, if Trump doesn’t change he will lose. Badly. Even his fanboys know this – which is why the “stabbed in the back” tantrums against Trump opponents are intensifying.

For instance, in his most sincere “I’m really serious you guys!” voice, Sean Hannity says he will hold conservative Trump opponents “accountable” for Hillary’s victory. No really.

https://twitter.com/seanhannity/status/763741243545387008

Maybe he can get some kind of tribunal going? “The Trial of the NeverTrumpers with Sean Hannity” would surely make for some boffo ratings.

Selling to the Sold

But here’s the thing. And I do not mean this as an insult to Sean (though if he wants to take it as one, I won’t lose too much sleep over it): No one who doesn’t already love Donald Trump is listening to Hannity (or Laura Ingraham, never mind the lower echelons of Donald Trump’s praetorian guard) about the topic of Donald Trump. No one. (Just as no one who went all-in for Cheeto Jesus is paying any attention to me either — which is fine. The Big Sort of the Trump era is useful in this regard.)

Sean’s threats and bullying are for the entertainment benefit of an audience that doesn’t need threats or bullying – they’re already in love with Trump. Except as an exercise in masochism, why would someone horrified by Trump watch Sean’s nightly Trump Hour brought to you by special guest director Roger Stone? Except maybe for the health updates on Hillary Clinton?

There are simply no gettable Trump-skeptical voters paying attention to Hannity or the other Trumpian party enforcers. The tantrums directed at the #NeverTrump crowd are for internal consumption, blame shifting, conscience-easing, and maybe to lay the groundwork for a purge of the new national-populist GOP.

But the really important point is that, the “let’s root out the kulaks” zeal enflaming the folks in Breitbart World notwithstanding, the simple fact is that Trump isn’t losing because of the #NeverTrump brigades. He’s losing because millions of people who don’t know or care about people like me don’t like the guy or are nervous about him.

The simple fact is that Trump isn’t losing because of the #NeverTrump brigades.

Bill Kristol, Jonah Goldberg, Kevin Williamson, Jim Treacher, Guy Benson, Ben Shapiro, Erick Erickson, John Podhoretz, Steve Hayes, George Will, and Peggy Noonan (on the odd-numbered weeks when she doesn’t like Trump) could endorse Trump tomorrow and he’d still be drowning with college-educated Republicans, women, minorities, et al.

Why? Because he’s making a fool of himself, daily. It’s as if he lost his car keys in his rectum and he’s looking for them face first.

I get that this is very hard for some people to hear. It’s a bit like the clichéd Jewish mother who just doesn’t understand how anyone could not love her boy. As Mrs. Seinfeld put it to Jerry, “How could anyone not like you?”

I watch Trump talking like he should be pushing a shopping cart under the West Side Highway, and think, “How can anybody take this guy seriously?” But, hey, one man’s trash is another man’s treasure.

Winning by Losing

Which brings me back to my question: Why does Hannity want Hillary to win?

Rather than hold Trump to his promise to pivot, Hannity is defending Trump’s shtick.

Hannity hosts a nightly infomercial for a product the customers have already bought. Why not expend some energy trying to change the product so that others will buy it, too? Would that be too much like asking the crowds at the Coliseum to downgrade their lust for spectacle? Do you think Trump’s hardcore supporters are so selfish that they won’t tolerate even a little sanity and sobriety from the nominee, if only to beat Hillary?

Give these people some credit for Pete’s sake. I’ve seen a bunch of interviews with attendees of Trump rallies who say they’d like to see more discipline from Trump. I know they want to defeat Hillary.

The simple fact is this: Trump will not win unless he changes. He needs to reassure the skeptics. He needs to win-over people not already won-over. He needs new, serious, material. But like an aging has-been rocker, he’d rather keep playing his greatest hits at Indian casinos and state fairs than actually put in the work and pivot.

But Hannity doesn’t seem to care. Trump is sabotaging his own campaign every single day, and yet his supporters put the blame on everyone else and cheer Trump on. They are Trump’s worst enemies because they are enabling him and by enabling him, they are sabotaging Trump’s campaign. If Hannity really loved Trump, he would play Ben Affleck to Matt Damon’s Will Hunting and tell him he owes it to himself and the country to be more than what he is.

Hannity should pull Trump aside and tell him, “The best part of my day are those few minutes every morning before I look at the newspaper or turn on the TV, when I think, ‘Hey, maybe today’s the day Donald Trump doesn’t beclown himself.’”

So, again: Why, Sean? Why? Doesn’t Trump listen to you? Didn’t you believe him when he promised you all those times that he can and will pivot? If you did, why aren’t you angry with him for lying to your face and your audience? Why are you happy to let him continue to pander to crowds that will already vote for him rather than make the slightest effort to persuade a constituency that would put him over the top?

If he can manage that I’ll reconsider my #NeverTrump position.

Do you think Trump is lying when he says he could be presidential if he wanted to? If so, isn’t that a source of concern? I mean, if he can’t act presidential for 24 hours as a candidate, are you confident he can be presidential for four years? Why not publicly ask him to try to be a serious person for a week? Let’s see if he can do that. Hey, I’ll tell you what. If he can manage that I’ll reconsider my #NeverTrump position.

Unless, the issue is that you know he can’t be presidential, so you don’t want to risk asking him to be. Or maybe you just prefer having stuff to gripe about every night to the amen corner? Or maybe, deep down, you realized just how massively you screwed up – and screwed us – by backing this guy and you’d rather pass the buck elsewhere? Or maybe you just want Hillary Clinton to win?

I’ll take my answers off the air, as they say.

Various & Sundry

I actually had a whole other G-File planned, all about Hillary Clinton’s staggering corruption (which I touch on in today’s column) but this one got away from me. And now there’s no time for anything else (which is ironic given the larger point of my column today).

That’s because I picked up my kid from camp this morning and I owe her a cheeseburger and a movie more than I owe anything to anyone, even to you, my dear readers.

I am heading home on Monday, so I’ll save you the canine updates for then, but there are a bunch of pictures here.

And, of course, the important stuff:

Debby’s Friday links

The sublime beauty of 2001: A Space Odyssey

The high-stakes life of a stolen-art retriever

One dog is particularly excited to be at the beach

And these dogs really like swimming in the pool

What does Donald Trump think dogs do?

Avant-garde poet attempts to secure his work’s immortality by encoding into extremophile microorganisms

The history of the Hawaiian shirt

1007 robots set new world record by dancing together

The sounds of Star Trek

Design your ideal New York City subway system

When museum visitors get too close to the exhibits

James Lileks interviews William Shatner

Bear cub bear hugs ranger who rescued him from a forest fire

Population of U.S. states vs. New York City’s Five Boroughs

Is Trump not always in control of his Twitter account?

Baby elephant sneezes, gets embarrassed, hides behind mother

“He who made kittens put snakes in the grass . . .”

The history of the Olympic torch

A sci-fi short film based on a script written by a robot

Politics & Policy

Waiting for the Pivot at the End of the Universe

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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 (And reading deer),

You know the scene. Radiation is leaking from the control rods and if we don’t close the blast doors, millions will die. Or maybe it’s the army of flesh-eating mutant killer ants coming up from deep within the old coal mine. We have to seal the entrance with TNT or there will be no stopping them. Perhaps it’s an outbreak of a genital-melting super-virus in the underground lab. Or maybe you’re thinking of that moment on the submarine when the containment valves can’t take the pressure. If we don’t seal off section 7G, we’ll lose the whole boat.

“But sir, Jimmy and his team are still down there!”

“Damn it, you don’t think I know that? Close the doors.”

“But sir . . . ?”

“You heard me.”

“Yes sir. [whispering] May God have mercy on our souls.”

If a similar conversation hasn’t already begun at the RNC, it’s going to start pretty soon. We are in the last days of the “He can pivot!” fantasy (and the toll is showing on Trump’s praetorian guard). The Pivot is the dearly held hope of a diverse group of politicians and pundits that Donald Trump can stop being Donald Trump.

Waiting for the Pivot at the End of the Universe

I’ve been keeping an informal file cataloging what can only be called case studies of MBSS — Mass Battered Spouse Syndrome. Battered spouses, at least according to the cliché, insist that their partner can change. He’s good inside! He isn’t always like this! He can get better!

A few examples (feel free to skip ahead if you already know what I’m talking about):

‐ In its April 14 endorsement of Donald Trump, the New York Post wrote:

Should he win the nomination, we expect Trump to pivot — not just on the issues, but in his manner. The post-pivot Trump needs to be more presidential: better informed on policy, more self-disciplined and less thin-skinned.

‐ From the Associated Press, April 21, 2016:

Trump’s newly hired senior aide, Paul Manafort, made the case to Republican National Committee members that Trump has two personalities: one in private and one onstage.

“When he’s out on the stage, when he’s talking about the kinds of things he’s talking about on the stump, he’s projecting an image that’s for that purpose,” Manafort said in a private briefing.

“You’ll start to see more depth of the person, the real person. You’ll see a real different way,” he said. . . . 

“He gets it,” Manafort said of Trump’s need to moderate his personality. “The part that he’s been playing is evolving into the part that now you’ve been expecting, but he wasn’t ready for, because he had first to complete the first phase. The negatives will come down. The image is going to change.”

‐ Here’s Reince Priebus in early May:

“He’s trying. Honestly, he is trying,” Priebus said, staring awkwardly at the floor with a pained expression on his face as Politico’s Mike Allen asked what he thought of a tweet sent out into the ether by the presidential candidate on Thursday in honor of Cinco de Mayo. It pictured Trump eating a taco bowl and giving a thumbs up. The caption read: “I love Hispanics!”

And later:

“I’ve been clear about that, I’ve said that many times, this is not like breaking news,” he said, before attempting to end on a forward-looking optimistic note. “I think you’re going to see it. I think you’re going to see the change in tone,” he predicted.

‐ In early June, Hugh Hewitt wrote:

Trump’s task now is clear: It’s time to abandon his off-the-cuff remarks, disengage from his battles with the media and methodically prosecute the case that throughout her career, Clinton has consistently displayed a disqualifying lack of judgment. He needs to develop this argument, detail it and drive it home.

‐ On June 7, Senator Bob Corker said:

“He’s got this defining period that’s over the next two or three weeks where he could pivot, can pivot, hopefully will pivot to a place where he becomes a true general election candidate.”

‐ In late June Mark Liebovitch met with Priebus:

“I’m feeling good about things,” Priebus told me. His voice was flat and deliberate, hostage-video mode. It was hard to resist a few pokes at the organization man. How’s that Trump pivot working out?

“I think it’s a work in progress,” Priebus said.

‐ Three weeks later the Huffington Post reported:

“The chairman of the Republican Party says that Donald Trump is “pivoting” — in other words, that he is re-inventing himself as a thoughtful, responsible political leader Americans would feel comfortable putting in the Oval Office.”

‐ On July 16, Reince Priebus, speaking to Bret Baier about Trump’s choice of Mike Pence as a running mate, said that “this is the pivot that everyone has been waiting for.”

Now, I could add literally hundreds of other examples to this list, but you get the point: The battered-spouse establishment can’t come to grips with the fact that they’re being played for suckers or that they are actually enabling Trump. I half expect Reince to come out with a black eye and tell everyone that he walked into a door at Trump tower. “I shouldn’t have been so clumsy.”

And I get it. When something is too terrible to contemplate, there’s a natural human tendency to avoid contemplating it. But when a grizzly bear is eating your face, saying “He can change” is not the best response.

Not least because Trump can’t change. He can’t change any more than a one-armed southpaw can suddenly pitch right-handed. Within days of the supposed Pence-pivot, Trump got worse:

In the time since he accepted the nomination Trump has, among other things: revived a crackpot theory on Ted Cruz’s father and the JFK assassination; suggested his adopted party is filled with people who don’t want to help others; invited Russia to influence the U.S. presidential election; smeared the parents of a fallen U.S. Army captain; trashed a retired four-star general; and appeared not to know that Russia had annexed the Crimean peninsula in 2014.

And all of this was at the exact moment when Hillary Clinton lied again about her e-mail controversy (this time about what FBI director Comey said in his testimony), and the government released horrific economic numbers.

And here’s what he said in a mere 24-hour period earlier this week:

And then, just this morning, Trump ate a live hamster on national TV.

Okay, I made that last one up, but you get the point. The Trump you see is the only Trump you’ll get.

I’d love to see a mash-up of Hannibal Lecter channeling Marcus Aurelius as he talked to Reince Priebus.

Hannibal Lecter: First principles, Reince. Simplicity. Read Marcus Aurelius. Of each particular thing ask: What is it in itself? What is its nature? What does he do, this man you seek?

Reince Priebus: He wins primaries? He controls the news cycle? He insults people?

Hannibal Lecter​: No. That is incidental. What is the first and principal thing he does? What needs does he serve by doing these things?

Reince Priebus​: Anger, um, social acceptance, and, huh, sexual frustrations, sir . . . 

Hannibal Lecter​: No! He covets. That is his nature. He covets attention and respect and he confuses one for the other.

ABP — Always Be Pimp’n

It’s important to keep in mind that Trump knows he has to promise things he cannot deliver just to keep everyone on the hook. He’s a bit like a pimp in this regard (actually he’s like a pimp in a lot of ways: gaudy, loud, self-absorbed, fond of gold and red velvet — but we’ll stay on point). He tells those counting on him that he can be better.

On March 9, he told Sean Hannity:

“At the right time, I will be so presidential that you’ll call me and you’ll say, ‘Donald, you have to stop that.’ (LAUGHTER) But you know what? It is true, and I think you understand: When they attack me, I have to attack back. I’m a counter-puncher. When they attack me, if I don’t attack back — You know, the press could say, ‘Oh, he should act more presidential.’ And then like a couple of days ago, I gave a speech, they said, ‘That was so presidential.’ I can be presidential. But when you’re being attacked and when you attack back, they say it’s not presidential.”

This is pimp talk. This notion that he can’t let any insult go un-answered is the lizard-brain logic of the streets and the prison yard. “Honey britches, I gotta save face. I can’t let no one trash-talk me or my name won’t mean sh*t out there.”

#share#

The Pivot Challenge

I want to put forward a challenge to everyone still clinging to the he-can-change, pie-in-the-sky, free-beer-tomorrow, Godot’s-bus-is-just-running-late, he-can-change fantasy. Pick a date. Any date between now and Election Day. I want you to commit to the idea that if he hasn’t changed by that day, he never will. And on that day, you need to accept that he is the same cheeto-dusted smatterer some of us saw from Day 1. Then, ask yourself: “What should we do now?”

The New Rules

My friend Hugh Hewitt is currently a leader of the “remain calm” camp with regard to Trump. I am utterly sympathetic to his dismay about a Clinton Restoration. But I am very skeptical that, barring some horrific terrorist attack on American soil, Trump’s candidacy can be saved.

Donald Trump isn’t running a presidential campaign; he’s running a national speaking tour.

Hugh is right that polls in August normally don’t mean much. But there’s an irony here. To invoke that truism is to invoke the normal rules. And if there’s one thing both Trump boosters and Trump critics can agree on, it’s that the normal rules have been suspended — except of course when the normal rules benefit Trump.

I keep hearing that Ronald Reagan was at 39 percent in the polls in 1980 and that George H. W. Bush was behind by 17 points after the Democratic convention. Never mind that these deficits were before their respective conventions. The real problem with these examples is that they were about normal presidential campaigns. Donald Trump isn’t running a presidential campaign; he’s running a national speaking tour. When a normal presidential campaign gets into trouble you can change tactics and strategy. When a cult of personality gets into trouble, what can you do? Only one thing: Change the personality. And, again, that isn’t going to happen. Ever.

Oh sure, his poll numbers will go up again. He’ll have a good few days, maybe even a good week. And given how we’ve lowered the bar when it comes to Trump’s behavior you can be sure Newt and Christie and, of course, Hannity will celebrate it like the demoralized parents of a junkie teenager who manages to get a B on his report card. “He’s got his act together!” Back in September, I wrote about the tendency of Trump boosters to over invest in Trump’s political accomplishments:

But this is not an argument for Trump as a serious presidential candidate. It is really no argument at all. It is catharsis masquerading as principle, venting and resentment pretending to be some kind of higher argument. Every principle used to defend Trump is subjective, graded on a curve. Trump is like a cat trained to piss in a human toilet. It’s amazing! It’s remarkable! Yes, yes, it is: for a cat. But we don’t judge humans by the same standard.

In the days ahead, Trump will stay on message for a day or two and the reaction from many will be “The Prophecies Are True!” and “Watch out Hillary!” and “Behold! The Cat Who Pees!” Never mind that serious presidential candidates are expected to be disciplined for months on end. We’ve so downgraded our expectations of Trump that even minimal or sub-minimal professionalism from him is greeted like unprecedented statesmanship. But it won’t last. It won’t last because it can’t. The “Days Since an Unpresidential Screw-Up” Clock will never hit double digits.

Close the Damn Blast Doors Already

Which brings me back to the radiation leak in the containment area, the flooded submarine section, the runaway junk-liquidating virus, and the mutant ant army racing toward the suburbs of Cleveland (if you get nauseous from constantly mixed metaphors, I suggest you leave now).

Trumpism is a radiation leak threatening to destroy the GOP, not just in 2016 but for a generation. The half-life of Trumponium-90 is very long. The Republican nominee is the fourth choice of voters 18-29, after Clinton, Johnson, and the Bolshevik Jill Stein. Trump has 1 percent support among African Americans. He’s doing worse among married women and Hispanics than any modern GOP candidate. I cite these numbers not just to point out that he is very likely to be a loser in the fall, but to call attention to the fact that he is destroying the reputation of the Republican party in the process.

I think Paul Ryan sees all this, but he’s desperate to save as much of his crew as possible. A ten-point landslide for Hillary will wipe away the Senate majority for sure, and possibly the House majority as well. His dilemma isn’t philosophical, it’s empirical. What can he do to contain the damage? He calculates that if he doesn’t shut off the reactor core, the rest of the gang can still save themselves.

Maybe.

But in the meantime, the radiation is getting out into the rest of the ship. Waiting to close the doors of the sub means filling the boat with water and sinking to depths the hull cannot withstand.

If you take it as a given that Trump cannot and will not change, you need to ask yourself: What should we do?

If you take it as a given that Trump cannot and will not change, you need to ask yourself: What should we do?

To me the answer is obvious: Excise the tumor, close the doors, blow the mine shaft. Democrats do this kind of thing all the time, though not yet in a presidential election. If the only way to stop the virus from escaping the lab is to implement the Torricelli Protocol, then that’s what you have to do.

Personally, I think a last-minute substitute could actually win, particularly if Trump cooperated. Hillary Clinton is still a terrible candidate and profoundly unpopular. Trump may not be a Democratic plant, but a Democratic plant couldn’t be nearly as effective as Donald Trump has been.

Back during Hugh Hewitt’s brief Trump-realism phase, he compared nominating Trump to a plane heading into a mountain. You gotta do whatever you can, no matter how improbable or difficult, to change course. You need “new pilots,” he said.

“It’s like ignoring stage-four cancer. You can’t do it, you gotta go attack it,” Hugh said displaying a Goldbergian penchant for mixing metaphors. And he was right.

#related#How do we get rid of Trump? I don’t know. Apparently party rules do allow for dumping Trump, but that would obviously be horribly ugly — if Trump didn’t play along. In a normal time with a normal person, the right people would appeal to Trump’s party loyalty, but he has none. That would be like asking a pope to step down for the good of the Presbyterians. One could appeal to Trump’s patriotism, but there too, his tank is, if not empty, then certainly running on fumes. Maybe that’s unfair. What’s not unfair is that Trump certainly cares more about himself than any other consideration with the possible exception of his kids. So maybe the kids could talk to him? Again, I don’t know.

What I do know is that Hugh was right about doing what you have to do when there’s no other choice but certain death. Some of us saw this a lot earlier — which was just one of the reasons National Review ran its “Against Trump” issue. The other reasons had to do with protecting the conservative movement and the country from the damage a Trump presidency would inflict.

The challenge then, as now, is a collective-action problem. The party was too weak to stop Trump and, as we learned, individual politicians who tried to call out Trump died in the process. But the threat never disappeared, it only got worse.

Someone needs to play the role of Spock in Star Trek II and head into the engine room to contain the radiation leak on the principle that the “needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few — or the one.” I choked up when Spock died and I would be even more sad to see Paul Ryan sacrifice himself in the effort. Then again, political deaths are not so permanent as we sometimes think. Spock’s return in the next movie was far more improbable than a Ryan resurrection.

Again, I don’t know how to do it. I only know that it needs to be done.

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Various & Sundry

Canine Update: (Parental Advisory: You may want small children to leave this “news”letter now). I’m still out in Kittery, Maine, working on the book and growing my hermit beard. The dogs are still having a fantastic time. Perhaps too fantastic. The other day, while I was smoking a cigar and writing about German Romanticism or something, the Fair Jessica took the dogs to the woods. While Pippa was chasing sticks or a tennis ball, the Dingo was reprising her Heart of Darkness routine. Moving through the tall grass, she spotted her prey: The legendary rodent of unusual size, the gopher. My wife did not see the moment of the attack. All she heard was rustling out in the bush. Then, the Dingo emerged from sunlight dappled shadows with her prey. To say that she was proud of the kill is an understatement of epic proportions. For the most part, we’ve given up trying to get her to let go of her trophies. The only proven way to do it is to hold her head under water until she lets go. But that presupposed catching her in the first place. Zoë proceeded to remove strips of gopher meat from the beast like it was that fruit leather stuff. When she had her fill, she proceeded to lope around the trail with the gopher’s skull hanging out one side of her jaws and its spinal column out the other. It was like a canine remake of Predator.

Now, I should again stress that I am huge wimp when it comes to these things and I don’t like it when Zoë fulfills her nature because I don’t like watching cute things kill other cute things. So I was glad not to be there for any of that. But that is not to say that I did not participate in the experience at all. For you see, I have learned that gopher-induced canine flatulence is a very serious problem. Even when I was walking her on a very long leash outside on a breezy night, I felt like Kramer driving the horse carriage in that episode of Seinfeld when he fed Rusty a tub of Beefarino. As I joked on Twitter it was like some ancient folktale where the forest gods punish anyone who dares hunt on their sacred lands with a curse of stygian farts. Zoë is fine now, of course. But as the ancient Indian proverbs attest, once a dingo has tasted the delicious meat of the gopher nothing else will satisfy it . . . save of course, squirrels, chipmunks, sliced ham, roast beef, etc.

My column today is on the ridiculous explanation that the White House didn’t pay a ransom to the Iranians — they just wanted the Iranians to think it was a ransom.

Earlier this week I wrote my USA Today column on how Newt Gingrich is writing himself out of the history books.

My first column of the week was on why Hillary is now more comfortable playing the historic woman card. (A number of readers rightly chastised me for not mentioning that women’s suffrage started much earlier in various states long before we amended the Constitution).

Debby’s Friday links

Man claims to have invented way to translate donkey sounds to English

Batpod, TIE fighter helmet, Hogwarts acceptance letter, and other movie memorabilia up for auction this September

Mother dog plays with her litter

British comedians torture themselves walking on a treadmill covered in LEGO

Bear takes break in family’s backyard pool

Smiley face appears in volcanic eruption

Evel Kinevel on himself

Old news, Hillary Clinton’s already the Democratic nominee: New robot doesn’t need humans to control it

Harambe lives

Dog who had lost two front legs walks again

How do you know you’re not in a simulation?

There’s a Museum of Ice Cream in New York City

Why do people call Trump “the Donald”?

What would happen if a coin-sized black hole were placed at the center of the Earth?

How small are Trump’s hands?

How Pokémon Go absorbed one young man’s life

The flight paths of fireflies

A Hemingway wins the Ernest Hemingway lookalike contest

The ruined remains of Olympic infrastructure

How to gird your loins: An illustrated guide

Politics & Policy

My God, She’s Running as Hillary Clinton

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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 the Russian hackers waiting for the right moment to leak this e-mail),

Last night’s Democratic convention was a brilliantly scripted run-on sentence. A stationary parade of speakers built layer upon layer of emotion, patriotism, and drama heightening the anticipation for a political climax the likes of which we have not seen since Barack Obama rode a lightning bolt down from Mount Olympus to deliver his acceptance speech betwixt the pillars of his temple in Denver. The Republican convention in Gotham, complete with its Caesarian chords, offered the perfect opening for the Democrats to build a four-night argument — or at least impression — that the Democratic party is the more optimistic and patriotic party alternative. As Erick Erickson and others have noted, Barack Obama’s speech the night before was more Reaganesque than anything we saw at the Republican convention. The fact it was so staggeringly hypocritical merely underscored the breadth and depth of the political opportunity Donald Trump has given the Democrats. Only in the era of Trump would Democrats dare to try to compete with the Republicans on the turf of American exceptionalism.

Not every speech over the first three nights was a homerun — or even a success. But cumulatively they succeeded in building a narrative arc that begged for a rhetorically pyrotechnic crescendo. The angry denunciation of Trump by a Muslim father of a fallen American soldier, the patriotic pride of a Medal of Honor recipient, the stentorian harangue from Marine General John Allen, the chants of “USA! USA!”: It all built anticipation for the big reveal at the end of the night. The Joycean run-on-sentence was primed like a coil to burst the dam of expectation with an exclamation point so enormous only horribly mixed metaphors can capture it.

Like attendees of a tribal war feast, the crowd waited for the main course. What glorious dish of red meat lay under the giant brass dome? A whole roast bull stuffed with an ostrich stuffed with a boar, perhaps?

Finally, the panel opened up and out came the meal: A gluten-free bran muffin and a warm kale smoothie.

It didn’t seem that way at first. You can’t have that kind of buildup and not get a little swept away at first. When Hillary Clinton walked out in that white suit, I thought for a moment that the makers of the new all-estrogen Ghostbusters had decided to launch a remake of Fantasy Island with one of the Golden Girls in Ricardo Montalban’s role. Here she was to make all of our dreams come true.

Like a dog who mistakenly thinks at first that he’s being driven to the park, liberal pundits and cheering delegates were initially psyched. But as it became ever more clear that the adrenaline-soaked run-on sentence of the preceding two hours wasn’t going to end with an exclamation point but with a sort of meandering ellipses of a road trip past familiar concrete landmarks of clichés and exhausting pit stops of liberal boilerplate, the dogs started to circle in their seats to settle down for the long ride ahead. Even the big dog himself, Bill Clinton, decided to check out for a while and count sugar plums dancing in his head (by which I mean a stripper named Sugar and another one named Plum).

My God, She’s Running as Hillary Clinton

Considering how much I’ve gotten wrong this year, indulge me for a moment to say I got this one exactly right. For years now, I’ve been writing that there is no new Hillary, that she’s the woman who tells you “there’s no eating in the library,” and that no matter how many times we’re told she’s been “reinvented” and “reintroduced” the dog food still tastes the same. It’s Hillary all the way down.

There’s another reason beside the obvious one why the Democrats are leaning so heavily on the fact that Hillary Clinton is the first female major-party nominee. I’m not saying that feminists and many normal Americans aren’t sincere when they celebrate this fact — or that they are wrong to celebrate it. Just because there’s an important subtext doesn’t mean that the actual text isn’t important (a fact so obvious, you need to go to an expensive college to have it taught out of you). But Hillary Clinton needs the “woman card” precisely because she’s transcended identity politics. People don’t see Hillary Clinton as the manifestation of a category, they see her as . . . Hillary Clinton.

Hillary Clinton is a known quantity. She’s Nixon in a pantsuit.

Barack Obama was a blank slate for most Americans, so his status as the first black nominee and president was inextricably part of his identity. Hillary Clinton is a known quantity. She’s Nixon in a pantsuit. She’s been a tedious, grating, cynical, corrupt presence in our lives for nearly three decades.

The Democrats have a similar strategy to O.J. Simpson’s lawyers. As a celebrity, Simpson was not particularly known as a black man. It was only when the facts weighed against him in a court of law that the lawyers had to reinvent his racial identity in order to evoke racial solidarity among the jury.

Hillary Clinton hasn’t murdered anybody (“Now who’s being naïve?” — The Couch). But they need to gloss over the undercoat of her personality with a layer of exciting feminism. Why? Because the jury of voters know her. And you know what? They don’t like her very much. That this fact raises such ire and discomfort among her defenders is the ultimate proof of its veracity.

Every day we hear another sycophant, supplicant, or ally insist that the “real Hillary” is such a wonderful person. “If only you knew her like I do” they proclaim, at once signaling loyalty to the matriarch and boasting of their own access. But no one ever thinks these testimonials through. For we are also told, sometimes in the same breath, that her problem is that she’s just not a great politician or “performer”; “she’s a workhorse not a show horse” virtually every flack and lackey proclaims as if they can get people to stop believing their lying eyes.

Well, think about that.

The key attribute of many great politicians is their ability to hide their true selves. Bill Clinton and FDR were legendarily good politicians and virtually every biographer backs up that judgment by pointing to their ability to convince any audience or adversary they spoke to that they were really on their side. (Bill Clinton is such a consummate performer, he famously made himself cry at Ron Brown’s funeral — only after he saw that he was on camera.) We are supposed to believe that Hillary Clinton lacks anything like this artifice, and yet she has somehow managed to hide her true self from the American public for more than a quarter century? That’s an impressive performance for a non-performer.

I have no doubt that Hillary Clinton can be more charming in person than she appears on TV. But you’d need earth-moving equipment to set a bar any lower than that.

We Get Hillary, She Doesn’t

Hillary Clinton tried to address the problem head on in her speech last night: “The truth is, through all these years of public service, the ‘service’ part has always come easier to me than the ‘public’ part. I get it that some people just don’t know what to make of me.”

No, actually they do know what to make of her. It’s Hillary who doesn’t know what to make of the public. And even I can muster some sympathy because “getting it” would require understanding something about herself that no person would want to understand. Who wants to accept that after a lifetime of public exposure people have concluded they just don’t like you or trust you?

It must be even more mystifying because she has surrounded herself with a praetorian entourage of validators and supplicants. I refer you again to my favorite e-mail from Hillary Clinton’s server (at least until the Russians comply with Donald Trump’s latest order). Lanny Davis, who in his Renfieldesque service to the Clintons has spent decades spinelessly inch-worming through rivers of sh*t like Andy Dufresne in The Shawshank Redemption, wrote her a three-page (!) note begging her to offer a kind word about him to a reporter:

I consider you to be the best friend and the best person I have met in my long life. You know that from the dedication and appreciation of you I have always felt and expressed to you over four decades.

Clinton’s response to this sphincter-muffled entreaty? Silence.

If I asked someone I considered the best person and best friend I’ve ever had for a kidney, I wouldn’t expect them to automatically agree. But I’m fairly certain the contenders for that honorific would think about it. But if I asked for a throwaway blurb to a reporter? I have enemies who would do that.

Clinton has surrounded herself with such people for decades, no doubt in part as a psychological survival mechanism (one that has only fueled her paranoia and vindictiveness). But, still, you can understand why someone who could get Sidney Blumenthal to lick-bath her with his forked tongue, might be sincerely mystified why the peasantry isn’t as enamored with her.

The Wages of Conscience

Last night I tweeted:

It’s the most retweeted thing I’ve ever tweeted. And I stand by it 100 percent. By definition a cult of personality candidacy isn’t going to be as inclusive as a broad, classically liberal philosophy. I am repulsed by his personality, so I am not fit for the cult.

That tweet also elicited predictably angry responses from all of the folks you’d expect to be angered by it. But the anger is instructive. I understand that some people, including many friends and former fans, are cross with me because they sincerely think that whatever Trump’s flaws, “we” have to do everything we can to stop Hillary Clinton. I get that, and I am truly sympathetic (Heck, I play a major role in Dinesh D’Souza’s full-barreled assault on Clinton and the Democrats).

I’m not going to let the GOP make me a liar for Donald Trump and I’m not going to let my contempt for Donald Trump make me a liar for Hillary Clinton.

I’m not going to revisit all of my reasons for why I reject the idea that I should, out of partisan loyalty, transform myself into a pliant hack for a party whose nominee not only has contempt for me, but far more importantly, for most of the things that led me to wear the Republican label in the first place. As should be clear from this “news”letter so far, I’m not going to let the GOP make me a liar for Donald Trump and I’m not going to let my contempt for Donald Trump make me a liar for Hillary Clinton. They are both awful, and if Hillary Clinton wins my conscience will be clear because the people responsible for that loss will be the ones who let this thin-skinned and bullying poltroon hijack the party in the first place.

I’m sure I’m being unfair to many, but I’m convinced I’m being entirely fair to at least a few when I say that some of the anger aimed at #NeverTrumpers isn’t purely motivated by rage against those insufficiently dedicated to stopping Hillary — it’s also derived from a sense of shame on the part of those willing to sell their souls to this creamsicle colored kakistocrat. The thinking seems to be, “If I’m willing to sell out to this guy, who are you not to?” And among the politicians, the calculation seems to be that if everyone makes a deal with the devil, no one can be singled out for blame when this ends in tears.

One of the reasons corruption is so hard to eliminate, particularly in the developing world, is that honesty is seen as a kind of betrayal. Bribe-takers like bribes, to be sure, but they also hate those who won’t take them — not just because the refusers threaten their livelihoods, but because such refusals remind the corrupted of that they had a choice.

Every day I hear from people who accuse me of thinking I’m better than them for not bending the knee. I will, in all honesty, plead guilty to sounding like that sometimes (though it is not my intent). In Cleveland, more than a few delegates told me I need to “man up” or put my “big-boy pants on” and get on board the Trump Train. I hear such hectoring hourly on Twitter and in e-mail (it’s a strange definition of manhood that requires abandoning one’s convictions and hopping aboard the bandwagon). When I refuse, I can on occasion hear the needle-prick-pop of conscience prompting them to shout louder at me.

Patriotism, Surrendered

But back to last night. In response to my tweet, scores of people mocked the idea that the Democrats are more patriotic than the Republicans. They scorned my naiveté for not seeing that the show last night was an eminence front, a put on.

It’s all so ridiculous. Of course, I understand that this was show business. Hillary Clinton represents a century-old American tradition of thinking there’s nothing wrong with America that being more like Europe won’t fix. The organizers last night had to whip-up chants of “Hillary!” and “U-S-A!” and reportedly deploy white-noise machines to drown-out the catcalls and boos of the sizable chorus of those who’d rather choke than cheer the U.S. military. This is the party, after all, that booed God at their last convention and spent the Bush years rending cloth and gnashing teeth over American-flag lapel pins.

Trump values will and strength and has contempt for those safeguards that protect us from ‘leaders’ enamored with will and strength.

But so what? That is all evidence of the political and strategic success of the Democratic convention. Donald Trump rejects the traditional and legitimate understanding of patriotism in favor of nationalism. These are different things. Patriotism is attachment to the creeds, texts, and ideas of our Founding. Nationalism is a tribal loyalty to blood or soil or sect. Donald Trump is no Hitler, but I’m often reminded that Hitler was fond of noting he was not a patriot but a nationalist. Jay Nordlinger loves to quote Bill Buckley: “I’m as patriotic as anyone from sea to shining sea, but there’s not a molecule of nationalism in me.”

I’ve always slightly disagreed with Bill on this. A nation needs a little nationalism to bind the people to patriotic principles. As Chesterton tells us, the purely rational man will not marry and the purely rational soldier will not fight.

Too much nationalism is poisonous, but as Paracelus said, “Poison is in everything, and no thing is without poison. The dosage makes it either a poison or a remedy.” Too little nationalism can be as dangerous as too much, because without nationalism there’s no sinew to hold together the bones of the republic.

I’m not prepared to declare the lethality of Donald Trump’s toxic nationalism, but I am fully ready to say that it is dangerously undiluted by patriotism. Donald Trump has no attachment to the Constitution beyond a transactional commitment to say that he likes it when asked — all twelve articles of it. He values will and strength and has contempt for those safeguards that protect us from “leaders” enamored with will and strength. Must we hear him mangle the cliché that the Constitution isn’t a suicide pact one more time?

Donald Trump’s candidacy and convention created a vacuum the Democrats were only too willing to fill. Americans want to love their country and to do so they must believe it is lovable. The America Donald Trump describes is one where we have no right to judge, never mind condemn, murderous dictators. (In this, he sits in the same saddle as Barack Obama who warned us not to get on our high horses about a gang of theocratic goons who rape children and bury mothers alive.)

The transnational progressives running the Democratic party may not think America as it is lovable, but at least they understand the necessity of faking it.

Tales from the Road

I am writing this in my car (with the top down), smoking a cigar at the Hanover Street parking lot in Portsmouth, N.H. (It’s raining so I need the ceiling). The Fair Jessica and I are staying here for a while longer as I try to hammer out my next book. (The fact that every day I hear from people telling me they will never buy my books again doesn’t really help with the writer’s block.) We have not completely escaped the heatwave, but I know it’s more pleasant here than in D.C. — where all reports are that it’s as hot and humid as a Saigon brothel during a blackout.

Canine Update: As much as we like it here, our fondness pales in comparison to the glee of the dogs. Our rental is just across the bridge in Kittery, Maine where Zoë has discovered that New England squirrels are particularly smug and the chipmunks are clearly pawns of the devil. In her video game of a life, the new enemy however are the gophers. They are everywhere and the Dingo is determined to map out their underground bunkers for the coming offensive. Meanwhile sweet Pippa loves fetching tennis balls from the water. Also Pippa, who was once again rejected from canine MENSA, loves searching for rocks thrown in the ocean which she thinks should float like tennis balls. We went on a major hike in the mountains yesterday and the division of labor was perfect. Zoë concentrated on clearing away the vermin while Pippa searched endlessly for the legendary tree whose fruit are the finest tennis balls in the world. She was so exhausted, she completely passed out at my feet on the drive back and I forgot she was there. When my wife hit the brakes at one point, she suddenly emerged (prompting Gabriel Malor to tweet, “Nobody Expects the Spaniel Inquisition!”). Meanwhile, the cats continue to be very catlike.

In case you missed it, I continue to get very nice compliments for my lengthy Conversation with Bill Kristol.

I took the day off yesterday, but my first column of the week was on the “cry wolf” problem the media and the Democrats are going to have with Donald Trump.

My research assistant Jack took this week off to recharge with a three-state killing spree, so AEI intern Matt Winesett cobbled these links together at the last minute.

Game of Thrones fan theories

Police officer in upstate New York spotted going through a Dunkin’ Donuts drive-thru on horseback

Police say car ends up almost vertical when driver swerved quickly after GPS ordered her to “turn around”

This Star Wars theory about Rey will blow your mind

Bikini-clad Swedish off-duty police make arrest

Every pop song in four chords

Museum hiring beer historian

Makeup artist turns herself into Ron Swanson

Rihanna may have the world’s largest collection of stolen wine glasses

Puppy with “wonky” legs finds new home

People can’t get enough of this dad joke

World to end TODAY claims group

Streaker jailed after upsetting Buddhists at cricket match

Three signs people are lying to you according to the FBI

Owning one pet fish is illegal in Switzerland

Politics & Policy

The Magical Thinking of the Trump Movement

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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 (and everyone who knows the secret handshake),

So last night after driving for five or so hours to flee the Cleve, I was pretty tired. I penned a down payment on a downright downbeat G-File. I hadn’t slept much the previous week — I made my share of mistakes by the lake — and I was in a foul mood. Now that I’ve gotten a solid four hours of sleep, I’m in a somewhat better mood and I don’t want to start this “news”letter on such a downer. But I’ve kept most of what I wrote, I just moved it to the bottom half of this “news”letter through the magical powers of cut-and-paste.

I’m now at a rest area on I-90 sitting in my car, with not much time to spare. So let’s get started.

About Tonight (Or, Last Night)

Personally, I thought Trump’s stentorian address was awful, albeit with a few effective bits, particularly at the end. There was no poetry, no arc, no uplift or modulation. It was like he spent 75 out of 76 minutes shouting the final conclusions on one PowerPoint slide after another. Over time, the sentences seemed to be getting shorter and more blunt. It looked like he might even devolve into just barking random vowels and glottal stops. His delivery reminded me of that old SNL newsroom skit when Garrett Morris’s head pops up in an oval and he just re-shouts everything Chevy Chase says for the hard of hearing.

Thematically, it was an anvil chorus minus the melody. There was plenty of conservative boilerplate, some of which I agree with. But the message last night had nothing to do with conservative litmus tests or checklists. No, the desired takeaway was, “Behold this Man of Strength! Cast your gaze Trumpwards, plebes, for our new Caesar is here to bring a New Rome (or restore the old one) through force of will.” Here is Ivanka last night:

Good evening. One year ago, I introduced my father when he declared his candidacy. In his own way and through his own sheer force of will, he sacrificed greatly to enter the political arena as an outsider and prevailed against a field of 16 very talented competitors. For more than a year, Donald Trump has been the people’s champion. And tonight, he is the people’s nominee.

And:

In Donald Trump, you have a candidate who knows the difference between wanting something done and making it happen. When my father says he will build a tower, keep an eye on the skyline. Floor by floor, a soaring structure will appear, usually record-setting in its height and iconic in its design. Real people are hired to do real work. Vision becomes reality. When my father says that he will make America great again, he will deliver.

And:

Come January 2017, all things will be possible again. We can hope and dream and think big again. No one has more faith in the American people than my father. He will be your greatest, your truest and your most loyal champion.

Over and over again, in videos, speeches and interviews, the theme from Trump’s children was that their father, our champion, had been called from his happy life to serve the Republic. He didn’t want to do this. He has been called by destiny, pulled by patriotism. He is a modern day Cincinnatus laying down his golf clubs.

Never mind that Trump has wanted to run for president for 20 years.

In the Mythic Trump story, he is like Moses living amongst the Egyptians before he sees the light.

Nowhere in his speech did Trump give any sense that he knew — or cared — how he would get things done through his “sheer force of will.” That’s the thing about magical thinking, you don’t need to explain it. The Ones We’ve Been Waiting For get it, and everyone else never will. As Bart Simpson said when running for class president, “My opponent says that are no easy answers. I say he’s not looking hard enough!”

In the Mythic Trump story, he is like Moses living amongst the Egyptians before he sees the light. “Nobody knows the system better than me,” he says with an ironic wink. The idea is that he has been amongst the oppressors, in mufti, learning their secrets and now he shall deliver his righteous people from them.

As for the doubters? They are like some heretical fifth column. In his prepared text, Trump proclaimed “Remember: All of the people telling you that you can’t have the country you want are the same people telling you that I wouldn’t be standing here tonight. No longer can we rely on those elites in media, and politics, who will say anything to keep a rigged system in place.”

But then he ad-libbed: “We love defeating those people.”

And of course, the crowd — brimming with the very same elites who have lived off politics and Washington like remoras on Leviathan — went wild.

RELATED: Trump Does Trump

Just a day earlier Trump said, “When the world looks at how bad the United States is, and then we go and talk about civil liberties, I don’t think we’re a very good messenger.” Keep in mind, this was in the context of criticizing human-rights abusers like Turkey and Russia. But no matter, he told the audience he was going to — through that indomitable will of his — make America proud again. And the crowd went wild.

By the normal rules the speech should have been a disaster. But as we all know the normal rules do not apply. I am fairly certain Trump will get his post-convention bump. I am less confident Trump is a guaranteed loser come November. This was a bread-and-circus convention and, it seems, a great many people want to see how the mythic story of Trump, The People’s Champion, plays out.

Weary Tales from the Road

So this is what I tapped out last night . . .

I’m exhausted. I’m exhausted in every way I can muster from my adjectival toolkit: literally, figuratively, ideologically, biologically, emotionally, ontologically, epistemically, calorically, and, perhaps most of all, visibly.

I’m writing — or at least typing — this on a bench outside the Holiday Inn, specifically the Holiday Inn Syracuse-Liverpool-Exit 37 (which may be the best hotel I’ve ever stayed in with a highway exit number in its name). It’s past midnight and I’m drinking a beer (not my first, nor my last) and smoking a cigar trying to pound out an acceptable “news”letter like the beleaguered millionth monkey tapping at a typewriter in ways that failed the previous 999,999.

I left Cleveland around 2:45 this afternoon and started the drive back to Maine where my wife and I are holed-up with all of our quadrupeds. On Saturday, I visit my daughter at sleep-away camp.

I understand that on the day after the Republican Convention I should probably start with some boffo insight about Donald Trump’s speech or the future or conservatism or at least some sort of jocularity. But, as I said, I am exhausted. And in my fatigue, my emotional compass is pulled by the True North of the things that matter most to me: family and dogs (but I repeat myself).

I could regale you with tales of shenanigans and tomfoolery in Cleveland that explain at least some of the stripes in the rainbow of my exhaustion. But I only have so many neurons left, so let me get to the more meaningful sources of my fatigue.

#share#

I Hate This

I know I’ve said this before, but I hate everything about this year, politically and (not counting some great TV) culturally.

It’s clear many of my friends on the pro-Trump right are giddy with resentment-justifying glee at the alleged comeuppance of Trump opponents. One need only listen to quite literally anything Laura Ingraham or Sean Hannity say about Trump critics to see how large a role spite plays in the now-unbreachable divide between the new nationalists and the old conservatives.

But that’s just a testament to how crappy the situation is. Any family, literal or figurative, where some members take such open pleasure at the misery of other family members is a family on the brink of splitting up based on irreconcilable differences. As someone who has done an enormous amount of ideological soul-searching of late, I’d like to say I wouldn’t give way to some of the same gaudy celebratory schadenfreude if the situation were reversed, but the truth is I just don’t know if that’s the case.

RELATED: The Comedy Is Finished

Then again, I think maybe not. The Trump movement in its glandular core is a movement about resentment and payback. It makes sense to conclude that at least some of its most ardent disciples are psychologically inclined to resentment and payback as well.

Oh, don’t get me wrong. I honestly and truly believe that many of the passengers in the First Class section of the Trump train — many cars of which serve as cable TV green rooms — have rushed to grab their seats out of a craven desire to enrich, empower, and elevate themselves. I know too many liars and mercenaries who have licked their fingers and tested the winds only to soon thereafter discover newfound respect for Donald Trump within themselves.

But the truth is conservatism has become shot-through with a kind of vindictiveness that reflects poorly on everyone, friend and foe alike.

I hate that after 20 years of fighting what I believe to be the good fight, so many can’t muster the will or generosity to consider that I’m doing what I think is right.

I hate what I’ve learned about my side. I hate thinking the worst of people I once respected — sometimes unfairly and sometimes with adamantine certitude. I hate watching TV and seeing people slowly bend to the alleged new necessities. Every few minutes another e-mailer or Twitter follower claims that my only option is to board the bandwagon, get with the program, or see the writing on the wall — as if such hectoring is an argument rooted in some kind of principle other than the fascistic glorification of the mob and a new right-wing version of The Right Side of History. The party barge is leaving the dock for Wales and one must jump aboard or be painted the party pooper or the traitor.

I hate discovering that so many people are disappointed in me for not playing my part in a racket.

Every day, if not every hour, I am told that my true motives are in reality desires, goals, and ambitions that have never once entered my mind. I want Hillary Clinton to be president of the United States as much as I want to be a patient of a narcoleptic proctologist (“Oh, I’m sorry, did I leave that in there all that time?”). I want the Supreme Court to be handed to the Left as much as I want a lap dance from Chris Christie.

#related#I hate that after 20 years of fighting what I believe to be the good fight, so many can’t muster the will or generosity to consider that I’m doing what I think is right. I’m entirely open to the argument that my analysis and judgment is wrong. But I am resentful, furious and, most of all, contemptuous of the lazy and self-justifying assumption that my motives are malign.

I have nothing but sympathy for those who feel they must vote against Hillary Clinton. But I have scorn for those who think that requires lying about Trump. If you’re a true-believer in Trump, that’s fine. I think you’re making the same mistake that the Left’s 2008 true believers made about Obama. There are no saviors in politics. But when millions of people think there can be, those of us in the Remnant of doubt get treated like heretics.

That’s fine, too. Indeed, despite my obvious fatigue and anger, I’m actually far more hopeful than you might think. In Cleveland, I met scores of fellow heretics. We didn’t meet in catacombs. But we plotted and planned all the same. We are the anti-establishment now. We stand opposed to two parties united behind two different facets of statism and identity politics. We are the new rebel alliance fighting against the narrative of a new empire. We aren’t as many as I would like, but we are far from few. We may not win, but one thing is for sure: It’s more fun to be the rebel.

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Various & Sundry

I’ve got to get back to the Fair Jessica so I will save the major canine updates for next week (there are many).

I’ve been on a bit of a new media tear this last two weeks.

Here’s my conversation with Bill Kristol which has generated a lot of nice feedback.

Here’s my Facebook live . . . uh . . . thing.

Here’s the latest GLoP podcast.

Oh, and here’s my Corner rant about the reaction to Ted Cruz’s speech, which became a trending topic nationwide on Twitter.

Here’s my column on why I thought the convention failed before it began.

And here’s my column on the problem of Trump’s dream of a ceremonial presidency.

And last, here’s some weird stuff:

Is Nicolas Cage hatred unjust?

Behold: A biomechanical stingray

Was Philip K. Dick a madman or a mystic?

The origin of “chicken butt”

Sanders fans plan fart-in against Hillary

Alas: Silence of the Lambs murder house now longer on the market

Drone photography

Lord of the Rings bloopers

Vatican digitizes 1600-year-old manuscript of the Aeneid

Science confirms: Music is getting more narcissistic

The history of the Post Office

Chuck Norris vs. Ninja Enforcer

Demonstration of a working Gutenberg printing press

The Man who inspired “The Dude” from The Big Lebowski

Cats getting brain freezes from eating ice cream too quickly

Politics & Policy

Selfishness, Not Incompetence, Explains Hillary’s E-mail Scandal

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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 (omitted),

The news out of Dallas is just awful, but I’m not going to dwell on it here for numerous reasons (It’s fast-moving and my Internet connection isn’t, for one thing). But there’s one point I want to make, even though it’s also one of the reasons I don’t want to talk about the bloodshed. I hate the race to politicize every horror and tragedy.

Still, some incidents lend themselves to it more than others. A terror attack on the United States by a foreign entity is by its nature a political act, and therefore it lends itself to political commentary — particularly when the people running the government make the clear political decision to distort, conceal, or distract us from the nature of the event. When the president says “workplace violence” instead of “Islamic terrorism” to shield himself from criticism or advance his pet theories about foreign policy, it is right to call b.s. on the play.

But there is something particularly vile and disgusting in the way many of the leading masters of sanctimony keep changing their standards. When a registered Democrat and Muslim murdered people in Orlando in the name of ISIS, it was outrageous to suggest that maybe we shouldn’t point fingers at Christian conservatives or the NRA. When Gabby Giffords was shot by an utterly apolitical schizophrenic, Paul Krugman blamed it on Michele Bachmann’s “eliminationist rhetoric.” The Democratic party almost en masse blamed it on some crosshairs on Sarah Palin’s Facebook page. The Orwellians leapt out of their bunkers and started memory-holing martial metaphors.

But now, I gather, any suggestion that rhetoric from Black Lives Matter influenced these murderers is beyond the pale.

MORE COVERAGE: Dallas Shootings

I keep repeating the old line: Behind every apparent double standard is an un-confessed single standard. The single standard here is that only the right people may politicize tragedy. Only the right people get to determine what sort of speech incites violence. Only the right people know when it’s a time for prayer and unity and when it’s time to take up action. Only the right people know when the blame falls solely on the murderers and when the murderers are simply a symptom of a larger problem. And when anyone disagrees with the right people, they reveal themselves to be the wrong people. Because you can only be right if you agree with the right people.

So, as I’ve said before, to Hell with you people.

The Adventures of Super Hillary

Now onto something a bit more amusing: The Adventures of Super Hillary.

“There has never been any man or woman more qualified for this office than Hillary Clinton,” President Obama declared this week. Take that Jefferson! Sit your mansplaining ass down, Ike ! Hillary’s here.

There’s a reason she wears those smocks that make her look like the United Federation of Planets’ ambassador to Rigel 7: She’s just light years ahead of the rest of us.

The real explanation is that Clinton just doesn’t care. Like her husband, what suits her needs is always more important than what the country needs or the party needs.

Read the “112 reasons (and counting!) Hillary Clinton should be our next president” on her website and you’ll see what I mean (but don’t blame me if you vomit on the keyboard). Of course, you have to wade through an enormous amount of pandering. Free tuition for these people, free health care for those. Look under your seats, everybody! You get a subsidy! And you get a subsidy! Everybody gets a subsidy!

What was it Mencken said about Truman? “If there had been any formidable body of cannibals in the country he would have promised to provide them with free missionaries, fattened at the taxpayers’ expense.”

By the time her list gets to 200, she’ll be raffling off the chance for some under-privileged LBGT preschoolers to push a Koch brother into a volcano.

RELATED: No Charges But Plenty of Blame for Hillary

But even the pandering is part of her larger sales pitch. There’s just nothing she can’t accomplish because she’s “One Tough Mother” (That’s Reason No. 55). “She knows what’s going on in Laos” (No, really, that’s No. 69). “She’s a progressive—and she’s a progressive who gets things done” (That’s Reason 51).

And, here’s the kicker. Madeleine Albright, that’s right little people, Madeleine effin’ Albright, says, “I’ve never met anyone more prepared to be president.” That’s Reason number 76. But it might as well be Reason No. 1, am I right? Because, if Madeleine Albright hasn’t met you, you might as well be jointed and used for dog food.

#share#So you get it now? Hillary Clinton can do it all. She can make twelve-minute brownies in seven minutes. She can eat barbecue ribs with her hands without getting her white gloves dirty. She brings home the bacon (or cattle futures) and she fries it up in the pan. If there’s a crisis on her plane, not only can she take the throttle, she can speak jive to the passengers in need. She’s more prepared than a Tennessee survivalist and an Eagle Scout combined, and she’s more qualified than George Washington, the guy the Founders thought of when they wrote the job description of the president into the Constitution. She’s a human Swiss Army knife, a Ninja, a, general, a CPA, and a soccer mom all rolled into one. As Reason 46 says, “Hillary is prepared to tackle all challenges, including national security — because presidents don’t get to choose which issues come to their desks.”

But not if the issue arrives via e-mail!

Again, she can do it all . . . except for one thing. She can’t handle the Internet. It’s her kryptonite. She’s helpless against its foreign ways.

RELATED: Hillary Clinton Lied about her E-mail — The FBI Proved It

All you have to do is say “e-mail” and she sheds IQ points faster than a Mr. Potato Head loses his facial features when thrown into an industrial blender. Giving her a computer is as pointless as giving an abacus to a basset hound. When asked if she wiped her server, she responded, “You mean like with a cloth?” In her initial statement about her server set up, she reassured the American people that the server was secure because “It was on property guarded by the Secret Service and there were no security breaches.”

#related#When I first heard this, I figured her understanding of computers derived from the first Mission Impossible movie. She was worried that Tom Cruise would descend from the ceiling and steal her NOC list or, in her case, her e-mails about yoga. After one particularly sensitive e-mail about how much she struggles with the One Legged King Pigeon Pose, I liked to think she barked out “Double the guards around the server!”

But given how she is instantly lobotomized by all things IT, I now think she’s more on the level of Derek Zoolander and Hansel trying to get the files out of the computer.

The head of the FBI seems to agree with me. When it comes to e-mail, particularly classified email, she’s like a 1980s grandma trying to set the blinking clock on her VCR.

Comey was asked, “A few minutes ago, you also stated that you now believe that Hillary Clinton is not nearly as sophisticated as people thought. Is that correct?”

RELATED: The Quick List of Hillary Clinton’s Eight E-mail Lies 

He replied, “Yeah, I think that’s fair — actually, no, not as people thought, but as people would assume about somebody with that background. I’m sorry, I should be clear about this, technically sophisticated. I’m not opining on other kinds of sophistication.”

In other words, if witty badinage about Laotian current events is on your agenda, she’s still your lady. She can be counted on to MacGyver 3 Q-tips, some chewing- gum-wrapper tinfoil, and a dead D battery into a rudimentary nuclear generator. And, obviously, she’s remains a master of the five-point exploding heart technique. But, despite 30 years of government experience at the highest levels and a storied legal career, when it comes to e-mail and intelligence classifications, she might as well be a homeless lady pushing a cart full of cans while muttering about how the squirrels have no pants.

The Ruse

Obviously, I’m not buying this. Not entirely at least. I do believe she’s pretty incompetent about technology. But I also think she’s pretty incompetent about lots of things. I no more believe she’s the most prepared or qualified presidential candidate in history than I believe that bowel-stewing laugh of hers is sincere. But I think in reality she has less in common with Derek Zoolander than she does with Vinny “The Chin” Gigante.

RELATED: Our Political Masters Show Their Hand

The longtime boss of the Genovese crime family, Gigante pioneered the insanity ruse. He walked around Greenwich Village in a bathrobe muttering to himself in order to convince prosecutors he wasn’t fit to stand trial. It seems to me that Hillary “The Ankle” Clinton is playing a bit of the same game.

But, ultimately the real explanation is that Clinton just doesn’t care. Like her husband, what suits her needs is always more important than what the country needs or the party needs. Maybe Bill got on that plane with Loretta Lynch to lobby her on his wife’s behalf. Maybe not. I think both are equally possible. What I am sure about is that he didn’t care how it looked. That’s how he goes through life. And it’s how Hillary does too. It’s not that Hillary doesn’t care about the sanctity of classified information. It’s just that she cares more about herself. She’s plenty patriotic, just so long as doing the right thing for the country doesn’t interfere with doing the right thing for herself. Her first loyalty remains Her.

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Various & Sundry

A clarification: In last week’s G-File, I was a bit unfair to my friend and NR colleague Victor Davis Hanson. In part because of an editing error of my own making, I made a subhead seem like something he wrote (we don’t write our headlines or subheads for our columns). More broadly, I ended up sounding as if Victor was taking a position he wasn’t. He pretty clearly was explaining the burden this craptacular election places on everybody. As most of you know, this “news”letter is written fast and on the fly and in my rush to use VDH’s point as a springboard, I think I did him a disservice. And as I hope I made clear, I have bottomless reserves of respect and admiration for the man. My apologies.

I’m wrapping up a brief but wonderful stay in the Adirondacks with friends. (Normally I would have taken a break from the columns and this “news”letter, but I’m trying to conserve my working vacation days because I will need them later this summer when I completely freak out trying to get my book done.) So, unfortunately that means I have no updates about my dogs. They are home with the house-sitter and they are pissed because I suspect they know the Fair Jessica and I are in Doggy Heaven. I have however spent some real quality time with Otis. He is awesome. He is like a walking white noise machine, if you find the sound of constant snoring soothing. He is like a ham with legs with the attitude and confidence of 20 dogs. He has two lovely black lab companions and he follows them around as if he were of equal athletic caliber — and none dare tell him otherwise. When they run to the lake, it’s like watching Winston Churchill compete at Olympic tryouts. I just need a couple more dogs and we’ll be able to reenact the dogs playing poker painting.

My column today was on Comey decision and the fact we’ve known Hillary is a monumental liar for a very long time.

My first column of the week was on why I think Newt would make a riveting VP pick for Trump.

Oh and if you missed it, here’s my latest video up at Prager University. Now with 825,000 views in about a week.

And here’s the important stuff.

Using fire to fish

Debby’s Friday links

A supercell approaches

New Yorkers vs. the Subway

A history of the swimming pool

A conversation with Mel Brooks

What happened to the Western?

Does PowerPoint make us stupid?

Is this the fastest swimming stroke?

Which language is the most efficient?

If Pixar movies ended at the sad parts

A brief history of video game controllers

Beware of swimming venomous centipede

Will we someday eat crops grown on Mars?

Scientists have discovered a new shade of blue

How World War I inspired The Lord of the Rings

The long quest to get Southerners to stop dueling

Before paintball fights, there were wax bullet duels

Are historians wrong about the Spanish Inquisition?

13 of the dumbest academic papers ever published

This dachshund ups Games of Thrones’ cute factor

Did a jousting accident change Henry VIII’s personality?

Swedish soccer player gets yellow card for excessive flatulence

When Nicolas Cage appeared on the cover of a Serbian biology textbook

Trump’s Defenders Are Becoming Unmoored

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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 residents of the Vulcan Republic of Rationalia),

I’ve been thinking about Buridan’s ass.

While that might be a phrase you’d expect to hear passing Bill Clinton’s lips — if he had an intern whose last name was Buridan — I have something else in mind.

In philosophy, Buridan’s ass is a paradox about determinism, named after 14th-century philosopher Jean Buridan (but was probably first proposed by Aristotle). Via Professor Wikipedia:

It refers to a hypothetical situation wherein an ass that is equally hungry and thirsty is placed precisely midway between a stack of hay and a pail of water. Since the paradox assumes the ass will always go to whichever is closer, it will die of both hunger and thirst since it cannot make any rational decision to choose one over the other.

There are other versions of the same dilemma, some with two piles of hay or a human instead of a donkey. But you get the point. Personally, I think it’s kind of a dumb paradox when applied to human action as opposed to physical forces (which is what Aristotle had in mind).

Buridan’s ass keeps coming to mind even though it’s almost an inverse analogy to what’s going on today. In Buridan’s parable the donkey is asked to choose between two desirable, even life-saving, options. For the analogy to get closer to the mark to today’s predicament, we would have to be the hay forced to choose between two competing hungry asses.

In other words we have managed to flip Buridan’s paradox on its head. We are being asked to pick our poison. We are being asked if we’d prefer to be mauled by a lion or a tiger. We are being asked what kind of bread our mandatory crap sandwiches shall be served on.

It’s a no-win scenario and Captain Kirk is nowhere on the horizon to rig the Kobayashi Maru.

(Oh, and just for the record, we are not actually bound by the binary choice everyone says we are. We can abstain from voting at all, or vote for Gary Johnson, or write in someone else. The fact that such efforts will not save us from our predicament is merely proof of how sh*tty our predicament is.)

Victor’s Dilemma

Feeling forced to choose between the rock and the hard place is bad enough. Having to write about it day after day is even worse. Here’s the great Victor Davis Hanson letting his frustrations show:

Never Trumpers, then, face a sort of existential quandary: The more they attack Hillary Clinton, the more it becomes surreal to attack simultaneously (and far more frequently) Trump, who has attacked Clinton in a fashion never before seen in her long political history. And if Never Trumpers insist that the two candidates are of equal odiousness, what then is the point of daily reiterating their oppositions: On Monday attack Trump, on Tuesday Clinton, on Wednesday Trump again? Very quickly the message is received that the two are equally terrible people and therefore the election should not warrant any more commentary or interest, given that any outcome will be wretched. The logic of Trump voters trashing Clinton and Clinton voters trashing Trump is obvious; but what is the rationale of trashing both, other than a sort of detached depression that does not wear well in daily doses?

Now, VDH is smarter than the average bear — and that’s if you’re referencing a distant planet inhabited by an advanced race of super-intelligent grizzlies who figured out millennia ago how to genetically design salmon that crap butter-scotch-flavored ice cream.

We are in uncharted territory — for everybody.

Nonetheless this is a strange critique, particularly in a column that begins, “When have voters faced a choice between two such unpalatable, unprincipled candidates?”

In that question lies the knife to cut the Gordian knot Professor Hanson presents.

But first, let’s acknowledge a simple fact: We are in uncharted territory — for everybody.

Victor makes it sound like the dilemma only exists for Trump’s conservative opponents. But it’s everyone’s dilemma. If you’re a principled conservative who nonetheless concludes that Hillary is the greater evil, you’re still stuck with the problem that her Republican opponent is unpalatable and unprincipled.

Coming Unmoored

Consider, again, Stephen Moore. On April 1, 2016 — that’s exactly three months ago to the day — Steve co-authored a blistering (and entirely accurate) attack on tariffs and protectionism generally:

Though almost all economists agree that the freedom to trade is a pillar of a prosperous economy, it’s obvious from the rise of Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders that free trade is in political retreat right now and they want tariffs to keep out the foreign competition. What they don’t seem to understand is that protectionism only gives greater power to corporate lobbyists in Washington.

A few days before that, he wrote another stinging rebuke: “Protectionism via tariffs is a regressive tax and would almost certainly exacerbate income inequality. The people who benefit the most from low-cost imports from China and sold at Wal-Mart or Target are the working poor.” The prior August, he and Larry Kudlow (another born-again Trump backer) co-authored a jeremiad against Trump’s protectionism, ridiculing the notion that trade with China hurts us.

And here is Moore this week, agreeing with Donald Trump on how we have to scrap these trade deals with China. (Though he did say, with what I hope was profound understatement, that he is “more of a free trader” than Trump).

It gets worse. For years, Moore ridiculed those who questioned the benefits of unbridled immigration. In September, Moore told the Washington Post:

What Trump is saying about trade and immigration is a political and economic disaster. … He’s almost now making it cool and acceptable to be nativist on immigration and protectionist on trade. That’s destroying a lot of the progress we’ve made as a party in the last 30 years.

Steve in particular has insinuated that opponents of unfettered immigration — including National Review — are driven by irrational, “foaming at the mouth,” nativist, or bigoted instincts in their opposition to unending immigration and the growing Hispanic population that comes with it. The nobility of assimilation was once one of his most cherished beliefs.

So here’s Steve in The American Spectator this month responding to Republicans denouncing Trump’s comments on Judge Curiel:

The Republicans are, by contrast, pathetic wimps. They are so terrified of and traumatized by the “racist” charge, that they threw the GOP nominee under the bus so that the media wouldn’t label them bigots too. They foolishly piled on to the media and Democratic attack. The media didn’t have to call on Jesse Jackson or Al Sharpton ‎to excoriate Trump. House Speaker Paul Ryan lashed out at Trump for his “racist comment.” Marco Rubio and others did the same. Jeb Bush called for Trump to “retract” his comments.

They seemed to be saying: see how racially progressive I am. I just denounced Donald Trump. He’s the Republican racist, not me. ‎That’s statesmanship for you.

Question: Does anyone believe that this strategy will bring a stampede of black and Latino voters into the party? Do they think this will get the media off their back?

How are we supposed to interpret this?

Now, I like Steve. But how are we supposed to interpret this? I think his mind-reading skills are on par with Chris Christie’s acrobatic talents, but put that aside. Moore is flatly arguing that conservatives who disagree with Trump — on the very principles Moore spent his career defending — are idiots. Smart politicians and their “brain trusts” (his words) should either shut up or lie. He asks, “Since when do we judge our candidates based on the left’s warped criteria? Republicans seem to suffer from the Stockholm Syndrome of seeking the affection of their captors.”

Uh, wait a second.

I thought opposition to nativism and bigotry were part of our criteria — or at the very least Steve’s. He even begins his op-ed conceding that Trump said “stupid and even offensive things.” In other words, his objection can’t be found in all of this rhetorical sprinkler system of diarrhea about the motives of those who won’t fall in line, it’s that they are bothering to stand up for their principles, when Steve won’t.

The Shock of the New

After saying all that, it might seem strange for me to add that I have been trying to adopt a more generous attitude towards those who disagree with me about Trump.

It should go without saying that in extremely unusual circumstances where none of the standard rules apply, different people will have different responses to the new and unfamiliar. Throw ten pacifists into a gladiatorial arena and tell them only one may leave the Coliseum alive, some will still refuse to pick up their swords. But some won’t. A passionate opponent of torture, when actually presented with the certain threat that a bomb will go off underneath his family may stick to his principles, or he may pick up that power drill.

I don’t particularly like these analogies, but I can’t think of better ones right now. The point is, when the terra firma of conventional categories falls away, it’s only natural that a once-unified group will have diverse responses to what comes next. It’s like in a horror movie, when Freddie Kruger or Jason or Lena Dunham suddenly appears, the teenagers scatter, adopting different survival strategies. Some hide in the attic. Some fight. Some get in a car and drive very far away. Others show Dunham a still from one of her nude scenes.

So it is with Trump. One week Hugh Hewitt is comparing him to Stage-4 cancer or a plummeting jet, another week he’s arguing that we have to back him no matter what. I don’t mean this as a criticism per se. Hugh’s an honorable and decent conservative and Republican and he’s trying to figure out how to respond to a terrible situation. He’s come to one set of conclusions, Kevin Williamson another. That’s to be expected when lifelong conservatives are dumped in the Wilds of Trumpistan.

My Hypocrisy

I’m not accustomed to quoting John Maynard Keynes, but he was right to say that when the facts change, so do his opinions.

As Bill Clinton said to the girls at the Bunny Ranch, take me. In 2012, I wrote a column, “The Case for Mitt Romney.” In it, I tried to reassure conservatives who worried — understandably — that Romney wasn’t an authentic conservative. It is absolutely true that if you replace “Romney” with “Trump” it reads like a perfectly serviceable — even entertaining — argument for supporting the 2016 presumptive nominee.

Some guy named Edmund Kozak at Laura Ingraham’s website read it and now shouts “Hypocrite!” in my direction. I get it. What Kozak doesn’t get is that I don’t see Trump the same way he does, or the way I saw Mitt Romney.

I can’t stand Kasich. But he meets my own minimal requirements for support. Trump, simply, doesn’t.

If John Kasich or any — and I mean any — of the other 16 candidates had won the nomination, I’d probably have written “The Case for John Kasich” by now. If I refused to do that, I would indeed be a hypocrite — or at least inconsistent (hypocrisy is a much misused word).

Note: I can’t stand Kasich. But he meets my own minimal requirements for support. Trump, simply, doesn’t. He falls short of the mark like John Candy in the long jump. I’m not going to rehash all of my reasons for this conviction, but suffice it to say I think he’s unpatriotically unprepared and unqualified for the job. Politically, conservatism at its core is about the importance of ideas and the importance of character. With the exception of his longstanding support for protectionism and the unalloyed importance of “strength,” Trump cares not a whit for policy or philosophy. His attachment to principles is, for the most part, a nearest-weapon-to-hand approach. As a matter of character he’s crude, boorish, dishonest, proudly promiscuous, and has launched countless businesses based on the idea that it’s morally acceptable to take advantage of people. He dodged the actual Vietnam War but claimed that avoiding the clap in the 1970s was his own personal Vietnam.

Kozak and many others either disagree with me on these points or they simply don’t care. If it’s the former, we have some substantial disagreements about what I think are obvious facts. If it’s the latter, then I take our disagreement as a badge of honor. If Roger Simon wants to describe that as “moral narcissism,” so be it. But, there’s a practical point here too. I plan on being in this line of work for a while longer. In the future, I want to be able to continue to say character and ideas matter without someone shouting, “Oh yeah, then why did you support Donald Trump?”

Defining Down

Which brings me to my friend and longtime intellectual lodestar Charles Kesler. I revere Charles. But I am flummoxed and bewildered by the contortions he goes through to defend Trump. I’m already running long, so I will give you just one example.

Charles writes:

Do obscenities fall from his lips more readily than they did from Lyndon Johnson’s or Richard Nixon’s? Are the circumstances of his three marriages more shameful than the circumstances of John F. Kennedy’s pathologically unfaithful one — or for that matter, Bill Clinton’s humiliatingly unfaithful one? Have any of his egotistical excesses rivaled Andrew Jackson’s killing a man in a duel over a horse racing bet and an insult to Jackson’s wife?

These are interesting questions and I’ve got what I think are very good responses to all of them. But at a more basic level, how can you establish these shortcomings as the new minimal threshold for good character and ever talk about the importance of character ever again?

“Well, at least Bill Clinton didn’t kill a guy!” (“Now who’s being naïve?” — the Couch).

This applies not just to the issue of character, but policy as well: By waiving the standards we use to judge liberal politicians in order to defend an allegedly conservative one, we are waiving those standards for all time. I’m not talking about some allowances at the margins, politics should be flexible — strange bedfellows and all that. But there’s a difference between being flexible and willingly snapping your own spine to bend over for a politician who, almost certainly, has contempt for the standards you once held near and dear.

The Answer

And that brings me back to Victor’s dilemma. He asks, “What is the rationale of trashing both [Clinton and Trump], other than a sort of detached depression that does not wear well in daily doses?”

Every day, as I read or reread more Nock and Mencken, I’m growing comfortable with the “detached depression” Hanson describes.

We’re supposed to tell the truth.

But the answer is staring him in the face: Because we’re supposed to tell the truth. I will say Hillary is corrupt, deceitful, and unqualified and I will say likewise about Trump — because that’s my job.

Victor is one of the finest historians alive, so I’ll speak in those terms. George Orwell was one of the very few intellectuals generally, and almost entirely alone on the left, who recognized that both Stalin and Hitler were abominations. No, I’m not saying that we face a similar moral or existential choice. What I am saying is that just because we are facing a horrible choice, doesn’t mean we shouldn’t say it is horrible. That’s our job. As Orwell said, “In a time of universal deceit — telling the truth is a revolutionary act.”

Various and Sundry

The reason there was no G-File last week because my morning was consumed like a bundt cake dropped in Michael Moore’s lap by the process of getting my kid on a plane by herself. American Airlines unofficial motto is apparently, “We May Be Slow, But We’re Expensive.” Add in the fact that the adult dropping off the minor is not allowed to leave the airport until the plane takes off and that the plane sat on the tarmac for over two hours, and you can understand why I will probably FedEx her next time.

Anticipating that my morning might be ruined, I asked followers on Twitter to submit their questions for a special “Ask Me Anything” version of the G-File. Alas, I couldn’t get to that today. Though I still like the idea. More anon.

Canine Update: Thank you to everyone asking about Pippa’s plight. The surgery went very well and she’s moving all-to-well now. We are in the rehab portion of the process. I am coming to the conclusion that rehab is to veterinarians what “miracle undercoating” is to car salesmen. But we’ll see. Zoë respected Pippa’s condition at first when it was clear Pippa was a mess. But once Pippa felt better, Zoë considered that the all clear to start rough-housing with her.

Prager University has released a new video by yours truly on Pragmatism vs. Ideology. Over 125,000 people have watched it in the last 24 hours. I shamelessly used it as an excuse to chime in on this Rationalia horsesh*t.

My column today asks why we can’t have a “No Abort” watchlist banning abortions.

As linked above, my first column of the week was on my renewed appreciation for Nock and Mencken. Expect me to return to this theme.

The latest Ricochet podcast is up.

(Oh and one last point on Trump. I am constantly told that my motives for taking this stand are driven by some sort of financial interest or some other selfish motive. I wish people could make up their minds about whether I’m being motivated by arrogant moral narcissism or mercenary greed. Neither, I think are true. Of course, I can’t prove the former, but as for the latter: This stance is not good for “Jonah Goldberg Inc.” as it were. I haven’t been blackballed by Fox News, but my appearances have plummeted for the simple reason that producers understandably want right-leaning pundits who can defend the GOP nominee against liberal critics. That ain’t me — at least not most of the time. Also: Pissing off millions of Republicans is not exactly the best strategy for me to get speech invitations or sell books. In other words, if this is all about my bottom line, I’m a moron).

Anyway, some weird links to get you through the weekend.

From atop his horse, Oregon rancher lassos would-be bike thief in Walmart parking lot

Happens to me all the time: British bros get wasted, wake up in Syrian battle zone

Be transfixed by Prague’s constantly metamorphosing Franz Kafka statue

Happy dog welcomes Air Force officer owner back from Afghanistan

It’s a beautiful day in the neighborhood…of Mr. Rogers’ grave

Still-edible 2000-year-old lump of butter found in Irish bog

A montage of movie characters smashing mirrors

A convenient online calendar of fictional holidays

This Spanish waitress has amazing reflexes

The most emotional moments in movies

Howauctioneerslearnhowtotalkreallyfast

The oldest alcoholic drinks on Earth

Bald eagle defeats Canadian goose

The Northern Lights over Norway

How to have the perfect first date

Has the Kraken been released?

The evolution of Coke over time

120 years of horror movies

Do we need to shower?

Is this the ugliest color?

The evolution of Pixar

Why Can’t the Left Distinguish Conservative Christians from Islamic Terrorists?

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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 those of you who don’t know how parentheses work,

Behold the Fog of Idiocy

The AP published a dismaying story this morning:

WASHINGTON — While there has been ample and justifiable coverage of the Orlando massacre at a gay nightclub this week, the most remarkably un-reported news is that the shooter also used a dirty bomb. The device carried an odorless, colorless, cloud of stupidity that has since drifted up the East Coast and parked itself over Washington and New York. The “Fog of Idiocy” as some experts call it, is already being blamed for what some political scientists and national-security experts are calling the most daft “national conversation” in response to a terror attack in modern memory.

No one knows how much worse things will get. Concerns heightened this week when Vice President Joe Biden was reportedly found using his car keys to get a piece of toast out of the toaster. The incident turned out to be a false alarm, when his chief of staff told the New York Times, “Oh, he’s been doing that for years. That’s why we gave him those Fisher-Price plastic car keys. I mean it’s not like we’d let that guy behind the wheel.” The chief of staff then drifted off for a moment, as if staring at some horrible alternative universe. “Oh, God, we’d never do that.”

A follow-up report from the Associated Press revealed that the toast in question was actually the vice president’s wallet.

Let’s Get Stoopid

No, that’s not real. I know you know that, but I think I have to say so for the lawyers. But in writing today’s column on the stupid reaction(s) to the Orlando shooting, I found that — like a review of Lena Dunham’s collected speeches — there was too much idiocy to be adequately captured in a single column.

Where to begin?

Well, how about the idea that if you oppose gay marriage or transgender bathrooms, you cannot be outraged by a terror attack on American citizens. This is apparently the position of the New York Times, Anderson Cooper, and countless others.

I have walked around and around this idea like a Hertz sales associate trying to find all the dents in a car returned by a University of Texas fraternity brother. I’ve studied it the way my dog tries to figure out what a turtle is all about. I’ve scrutinized it like Bill Clinton when the new Victoria’s Secret catalogue hits his doorstep. And as a matter of reason and logic I just cannot get my head around it.

Let’s flip it around. Imagine if an Islamist nutter went to the convent of the Little Sisters of the Poor and murdered a bunch of nuns (alas, hardly an unimaginable hypothetical). Would I be right to say that the New York Times and its allied Brain Trusts have no right to be outraged? After all, liberals have heaped scorn and contempt on those nuns for their effrontery in not wanting to be forced to pay for birth control. Or what if an Islamist shot up a Baptist Church or Koch headquarters or the Washington office of AIPAC?

To borrow a phrase from the New York Times, hatred for Christians, libertarians, Zionists, and other political minorities doesn’t “occur in a vacuum.” The Times has been fanning the flames of such demonization for decades; surely they would share some of the blame when an emotionally unstable Muslim, inspired by ISIS, took it upon himself to slaughter innocent people.

No, the analogy isn’t perfect, but it doesn’t need to be because there’s a lot of margin for error when comparing competing idiocies. It’s incredibly stupid to use a hair dryer in a bathtub. It’s also incredibly stupid to try to take a selfie with a grizzly bear nursing its cubs. The two things are hard to compare on the basic fact patterns, but what they share equally is a fatal idiocy.

I’m against polygamy. But I’m also against people in polygamous marriages being slaughtered by terrorists. And I will not budge one fraction of a fraction of a millimeter off of that position if a terrorist slaughters a whole bunch of people in polygamous marriages, even if some of the victims — or all of them — thought the laws against polygamy should change.

Clash of Phobias

What’s even dumber is the notion that conservatives are trying to scapegoat Islam to avoid blame for perpetuating anti-LGBT violence. Lest you think I’m creating a strawman, see this piece by Zack Ford at Think Progress titled “Conservatives Try To Scapegoat Islam To Avoid Responsibility For Perpetuating Anti-LGBT Violence.”

Ford writes:

The Orlando shooting is not an opportunity to absolve conservatives who have railed against LGBT equality for years. If they truly care about the fate of LGBT people, they have a responsibility to account for their own contributions to discrimination and stigma. Scapegoating Islam is nothing more than a distraction from having a real conversation about the actual experience of LGBT people when they aren’t being massacred in the sanctuary of a nightclub.

Look, I have no problem with advocates for LGBT equality arguing for LGBT equality. But this is the mother of all strawmen. I don’t know any conservatives — for or against LGBT equality — who are seizing the Orlando shooting as an opportunity for “absolution.” I honestly don’t even know how that argument would work. Conservatives are no more looking for absolution amidst the bloodshed than they are looking for Game of Thrones spoilers.

(I do have a problem with the widespread article of faith that gays and transgender people have been losing the culture war at the hands of barbaric “Christianists.” Sexual minorities have been on a winning streak that any serious-minded person must concede is remarkable. But denying this is the central tactic and mindset of the Left. They are the aggressors in the culture war and have been for 40 years. Yet whenever they encounter the slightest resistance they don the mantle of victimhood.)

Christianity Is Always to Blame

I’ll give you a small example from the intellectual latrine that we call Twitter. This guy didn’t like my column today.What is truly baffling, however, is the way the secular Left talks about the evil and pernicious role of organized religion when it comes to Christianity but suddenly abandons that cudgel-like standard when it comes to Islam.

To which I replied:

And here is his rejoinder:

I almost broke my nose with my face-palm.

Later, when this gentleman was swarmed with responses, he tweeted:

Distinctions Matter

I wouldn’t single this guy out if he wasn’t so typical.

The essence of serious thinking is the capacity to distinguish s*** from shinola, by which I mean that intelligence boils down to the ability to make meaningful distinctions. There’s a reason Barack Obama had to go back to the Crusades to compare the West to Islam in his notorious effort to talk Christians down from their “high horse”: Because in the world we actually live in right now, and by the standards of not just modernity but also of the secular Left, the West is simply better. That’s right, better, by which I mean superior.

The notion that American Christians, even the most ardent Christian conservatives, are indistinguishable from Islamists — or even the typical “moderate Muslims” of Pakistan, Iran, Saudi Arabia etc. — in their attitudes and practices with regard to homosexuality is not just stupid and ignorant; it is almost literally insane. If you doubt that, read Andy McCarthy’s piece from earlier this week. Or look at global surveys of public opinion on homosexuality. Or look at the list of ten countries where homosexuality is punishable by death.

I understand why gays can’t stand it when some American Christians talk about “curing” homosexuality. But (a) that is not the law in America and (b) no matter how you slice it, wanting to “save” gays from perceived sin is just plain different from wanting to kill them. No seriously, you could look it up. Wanting to maintain the traditional definition of marriage is different from throwing gay people off buildings or crushing them with stones. Does anyone doubt that a gay Afghan would rather move to the U.S. than take his chance on being outed in Kabul?

Moreover, it simply will not do to hide behind the euphemism of “organized religion” because not all organized religions are equal in beliefs or actions. I have yet to read a sentence that began, “Another Amish suicide bomber killed . . .” or “Lutheran militants claimed responsibility for an attack on . . .”

Israel is a country with organized religion. Gays have parades there. Iran is a country with organized religion. Gays do not have parades there. If you can’t see this, you are destined to spend your life stepping in s*** and thinking it’s shinola.

The Triumph of the Narcissi

Serious people, straight and gay, left and right, recognize and acknowledge such meaningful distinctions. Idiots, knaves, fools, liars, activists, and a wide variety of narcissists ignore or deny such distinctions.

Let’s focus on the narcissists. It is a trademark tendency of a narcissist to think every significant event is about him in some important way. If he can’t be the center of attention, then the event must be spun as a personal validation. Hence Donald Trump’s first reaction to the Orlando attack was to backdoor-brag about how he was being congratulated for his Carnak-like prediction that there would be another terrorist attack.

For obvious reasons we tend to think of narcissism as a phenomenon of personal psychology. It sounds like an oxymoron to talk about “group solipsism” or “mass narcissism.” But the truth is that nearly all populist movements are forms of collective narcissism. What is nationalism other than a kind of pluralization of self-absorption? It’s like the crowd in Life of Brian shouting, “We’re all individuals!”

I’ve long argued that identity politics is a variant of this sort of thing. In Orwell’s brilliant essay “Notes on Nationalism,” he writes:

By ‘nationalism’ I mean first of all the habit of assuming that human beings can be classified like insects and that whole blocks of millions or tens of millions of people can be confidently labeled ‘good’ or ‘bad’. But secondly — and this is much more important — I mean the habit of identifying oneself with a single nation or other unit, placing it beyond good and evil and recognising no other duty than that of advancing its interests.

The mad rush to bend this tragedy to the pre-existing narrative of gay liberation and anti-Christian bigotry is a perfect example of mass narcissism.

The mad rush to bend this tragedy to the pre-existing narrative of gay liberation and anti-Christian bigotry is a perfect example of mass narcissism. On the secular left today, conservative Christians (and Zionist Jews) are the enemy. They are the other. The oppressor. The villains in the stories the Left tells itself.

Because of the internal fantasy-logic of this story, Muslims must be considered equal partners in the Coalition of the Oppressed. This is why the “pinkwashing” of Israel makes so many leftists angry; it arouses the agony of cognitive dissonance.

The Orlando shooter’s ties to Islam, my Twitter interlocutor insists, are at best “gossamer filaments.” Mateen’s ties to “homophobia,” however, are the real issue. And in the argot of the Left today, “homophobia” is a crude euphemism for the Christian conservative threat.

That is the clear meaning of the New York Times’ staggeringly moronic and craptacular editorial. Never mind that this registered Democrat no doubt got his homophobia not from Ralph Reed but from his Taliban-praising father and from the suicide-bomber-breeding mosque he attended. Mateen celebrated 9/11 in high school and lied about being Osama bin Laden’s nephew. He talked so much about being an Islamic terrorist the FBI had to investigate him twice. He took time out from killing people at Pulse to call 911 and claim allegiance to ISIS. As Jim Geraghty chronicles, Mateen was an Islamist red flag made flesh. And yet, the narcissists claim, the heart of this story is that “our” virtue and rightness is under attack and the domestic enemies from whom we draw our righteousness are truly to blame.

Gay Uber Alles?

The truly gossamer evidence for this comes entirely from the fact that Mateen was probably gay himself (reminding me of this classic, not-safe-for-work Onion piece). As I tried to note in a bit of a rant on Special Report the other night, this is an “argument” built on a swamp, in a cloud, with shoddy materials.

You know who else was fabulously gay? Ernest Röhm. He was also one of the founding fathers of the Nazi Party. The leadership of the Sturmabteilung was so chock-a-block with gays they could have swapped out their drab brown shirts for rainbow tank tops. Hitler didn’t care until Röhm became a rival for leadership of the Nazi party.

How does this change the moral calculus of Nazism? I’ll save you the time: It doesn’t change it at all.

It certainly doesn’t change the fact that the Nazis killed thousands of homosexuals. It doesn’t change the fact that Nazism was an evil ideology nor the fact that the Nazi regime posed a threat to America and to civilization itself. But let’s take it further: The fact that the American government was no doubt full of what we would today call “homophobes” doesn’t change the moral of the story at all either (FDR as assistant secretary of the Navy, by the way, led a notorious crackdown on homosexual behavior).

In short, my liberal friends, homophobia just wasn’t that important — which is not to say it can’t be interesting. Sure, if it turns out that Mateen was a self-hating gay guy, that’s interesting, even illuminating. But it’s just not that important. To listen to some media reports, you’d think that having Islam-defying sexual desires means you can’t be an Islamist. Never mind that the 9/11 hijackers hung out at strip clubs or that Mohammed Atta might have been gay and was certainly terrified that a woman might touch his man-panties after he died. By definition, “lone wolves” will have “issues” — that’s why they’re lone wolves. But let’s not make tails into dogs.

The same goes for the War on Terror. Just because you’ve narcissistically decided that your passion to fight anti-gay bigotry has become an integral part of your self-esteem and self-conception doesn’t mean that you can cram the enormous square of Islamic terrorism into the round hole of the domestic gay-rights agenda and your often bigoted desire to demonize Christians who disagree with you.

Don’t worry, that doesn’t mean your cause isn’t important or worthwhile. You should feel free to fight that fight. But, please, don’t try to bend all of reality to that cause. The same goes for climate change, guns, or any of the other causes you wear like so many pieces of flare. Sometimes there are very important things that don’t provide ammunition in your battle to prove you, and you alone, are the Righteous Ones.

Various & Sundry

Canine Update: My wife dropped off Pippa at the vet this morning for surgery. She has a t