Jeb’s Sad Performance at the Debate Confirms He’s Not the Right Choice for 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.

Dear Reader (including those of you Donald Trump didn’t call “truly odious”),

True story. When I took the SAT (which once was an acronym for “Scholastic Aptitude Test,” then “Scholastic Assessment Test,” but is now simply called the SAT because the gormless quislings of the higher-education establishment are too scared even to defend the idea their test actually measures anything. But that’s a topic for another day) . . .

. . . Where was I? Oh right. True story: When I took the SAT (at Martin Luther King Jr. high school on West 65th street), right before the administrator guy said, “Open your books,” a kid raced into the room and took the chair right in front of me. He was a species of Manhattanite I knew very well: The urban hippie, a close relative of the more dignified bohemian, but a distinct breed. This guy was a cross between Jeff Spiccoli, Shaggy, and maybe a young Lincoln Chafee.

Anyway, the instructor told us all to open our booklets and get started. Almost immediately, the kid started shifting in his seat like maybe he was sitting awkwardly on his roach clip. By the middle of the test’s first section, the urban hippie started muttering in an exasperated whisper: “Oh man.”

With every turn of the page, he’d suck in a lungful of air through clenched teeth and run his fingers through his greasy pre-white-guy-dreadlocks hair, while kicking out his feet in shock. “Aw man, aw man, aw man.” His anguish was matched only by his surprise at how much worse each new page could be the than the one that preceded it.

I thought the whole thing was hilarious, and ended up giggling through most of the test, which probably seemed prickish to kids who thought I was gloating.

I bring this up partly because I had no idea how to begin this “news”letter this morning and partly because I imagined something similar was going on at Bush campaign HQ during the CNBC debate.

The Jeb Test

Full disclosure: I don’t hate Jeb Bush, nor do I scorn him. I respect the guy. I don’t like the way people trash him and act as if no serious conservative could possibly support him. But, as I’ve been saying for a longtime now, I don’t think he’s the right candidate for 2016. While not my first choice by any measure, I think he could be a fine president, and it would be a no-brainer to vote for him over Hillary Clinton. That said, I’ve always thought he’d be a deeply, deeply, flawed nominee. As I’ve written before, in a contest of familiar brands, the more popular one does better — and the Clinton brand is more popular than the Bush brand. In a change election, when the other side has an old and tired brand, the last thing in the world you should do is respond with an older and even more tired brand.

Bush v. Rubio

Of course, politics is about more than branding. It’s also about selling, and Jeb just isn’t a great salesman. It’s almost as if he doesn’t have confidence in the product, which is dismaying given that he is the product.

Let’s revisit the moment when Bush came at Rubio like a census taker going after Hannibal Lecter, over the issue of Rubio’s missed votes.

It was such a sad scene. Jeb was like a gladiator sent into the arena with a Nerf bat and a slingshot full of ping-pong balls.

RELATED: Jeb Swings at Rubio, Misses, and Finds Himself on the Ropes

The thing about being armed with a Nerf bat in a gladiator fight is that it really doesn’t matter if you land the blow. It’s like delivering the cleverest bon mot in the prison yard; it only invites an even more painful response. “That’s exactly what I’d expect from you Bonecrusher, after all you still wear white after Labor Day. [Snicker]. . . Bonecrusher, what are you doing? Put down that cinderblock.”

What made it all so much worse is that it was essentially choreographed. Jeb knows this is a dumb issue and that Rubio would be prepared like a Shaolin monk to respond to it. And if he didn’t know that, he learned it on the debate stage, because Carl Quintanilla had just grabbed the nerf bat and used it himself against Rubio.

RELATED: The Third GOP Presidential Debate: Spin vs. Reality

Rubio swatted away Quintanilla like Pai Mei would Gary Coleman.

And that’s when Jeb remembered, “Aha! I still have my ping-pong ball slingshot!” Enter Jeb:

BUSH: Could I — could I bring something up here, because I’m a constituent of the senator and I helped him and I expected that he would do constituent service, which means that he shows up to work. . .

Marco swats away the assault:

RUBIO: Well, it’s interesting. Over the last few weeks, I’ve listened to Jeb as he walked around the country and said that you’re modeling your campaign after John McCain, that you’re going to launch a furious comeback the way he did, by fighting hard in New Hampshire and places like that, carrying your own bag at the airport. You know how many votes John McCain missed when he was carrying out that furious comeback that you’re now modeling after?

And here’s Bush’s devastating comeback:

BUSH: He wasn’t my senator.

Really?

#related#First of all, does anyone believe that Jeb has a problem getting “constituent service” help from politicians when he needs it? Is he calling Rubio’s office demanding assistance with a visa to Botswana and just can’t get anyone on the phone? Is he still having trouble getting his noise complaints about the local Hooters attended to? More relevant, Bush conceded that he doesn’t care that McCain missed votes. His complaint is grounded in his parochial interest as a Floridian. So even on its own terms, Bush’s complaint shouldn’t bother anybody but Floridians. Maybe that will help — a little — in the Florida primary, but even Bush implicitly concedes New Hampshire and Iowa voters shouldn’t care.

Final Fantasy

That moment was the most devastating politically, and I put the blame almost entirely on his handlers. They gave him those “weapons” and convinced him to use them.

But the more disappointing moment came later.

Here’s the scene as I imagine it at Bush HQ during Wednesday night’s debate, my comments are in the brackets:

QUINTANILLA: Governor Bush, daily fantasy sports has become a phenomenon in this country, will award billions of dollars in prize money this year. But to play you have to assess your odds, put money at risk, wait for an outcome that’s out of your control. Isn’t that the definition of gambling, and should the Federal Government treat it as such?

BUSH: Well, first of all, I’m 7 and 0 in my fantasy league.

[Cheers erupt at Bush HQ. Fists pump the air, putting visual exclamation points on shouts of “Nailed it!” and “Yes!” The laughter sounds a bit forced, but it’s really a sign of relief, like when an airline passenger survives a really rough landing and then guffaws when the tray table suddenly comes down.]

QUINTANILLA: I had a feeling you were going to brag about that.

BUSH: Gronkowski is still going strong. I have Ryan Tannehill, Marco, as my quarterback, he was 18 for 19 last week. So I’m doing great. But we’re not gambling . . .

[Only a smattering of cheers this time, but lots of knowing, prideful nods cascade across the room among Bush loyalists. “This is good. This is good,” says one strategist. “He’s proving he didn’t make up that 7-and-0 thing, sounding like a normal guy.” A rookie consultant adds, “And he’s reassuring Evangelicals that he’s not a gambler.”]

BUSH continues: And I think this has become something that needs to be looked at in terms of regulation.

[“Crap on a stick!” shouts one staffer in the back of the room, as he drains a glass full of bourbon and Pepto-bismal].

BUSH continues: Effectively it is day-trading without any regulation at all. And when you have insider information, which apparently has been the case, where people use that information and use big data to try to take advantage of it, there has to be some regulation.

If they can’t regulate themselves, then the NFL needs to look at just, you know, moving away from them a little bit. And there should be some regulation. I have no clue whether the federal government is the proper place, my instinct is to say, hell no, just about everything about the federal government . . .

[Then, suddenly, like a rabid polar bear charging in from off screen in My Dinner with André, Chris Christie appears]

CHRISTIE: Carl, are we really talking about getting government involved in fantasy football?

(LAUGHTER)

We have — wait a second, we have $19 trillion in debt. We have people out of work. We have ISIS and al-Qaeda attacking us. And we’re talking about fantasy football? Can we stop?

[It’s at this moment that one of the staffers screams, “Damn it! These f***ing windows don’t open!” and looks to see if he can put his head in the microwave oven. Another quietly walks into the next room and calls the Rubio campaign to see if they’re hiring.]

Maybe I’m being a little unfair to Jeb, and he did say his instinct is to say “Hell no” to federal involvement. But the overall takeaway from his response was closer to the reverse. It seemed like his instinct was to say “Hell no” while actually doing the opposite.

RELATED: It’s Time to Thin the Republican Herd

The rap on Bush, as Rich Lowry and others have been saying for a very long time, is that he is a pre-Obama, pre-tea-party Republican. I’ve been to quite a few tea-party events. I’ve never heard anyone say, “Restoring the Constitution to its proper role in our Republic is fine, but what are we going to do about regulating fantasy football!?”

Burke v. Bush

Jeb may be right about fantasy football having problems. Frankly, I have no idea. But I am pretty certain that the next president of the United States will have more important issues to deal with.

Edmund Burke once said, “I must bear with infirmities until they fester into crimes.” What he meant by this is the prudent statesmen must allow society to work out its own problems, using the force of government to intervene only when those problems require it.

(He was specifically talking about priests who were sometimes too gung-ho in their priestly duties:

I can allow in clergymen, through all their divisions, some tenaciousness of their own opinion, some overflowings of zeal for its propagation, some predilection to their own state and office, some attachment to the interests of their own corps, some preference to those who listen with docility to their doctrines, beyond those who scorn and deride them. I allow all this, because I am a man who have to deal with men, and who would not, through a violence of toleration, run into the greatest of all intolerance. I must bear with infirmities until they fester into crimes.)

I hate it when people analogize citizens to children and government to parents, but there’s a similar point here. When you’re raising kids, sometimes you’ve got to let them work it out for a while before sticking your nose in. (In fact, the evidence is pouring in that we’re raising a whole generation of kids who don’t know how to work out their problems on their own. But that’s a subject for another “news”letter.)

#related#I’ve knocked Jeb countless times for his inability to follow through on his promise to run “joyfully.” For a year I’ve been saying, in effect: Stop telling me what motivates your character, and start showing it to me. But at this point it’s probably too late. Because even if he somehow managed to seem joyful, Bush has already convinced people he’s not. Indeed, the fact that he says he wants to run joyfully only underscores the depth of his problem: he knows what to do, but can’t bring himself to do it. As Jim Geraghty puts it in that quotation-mark-less newsletter, “He is a man fundamentally at odds with the mood and thinking of his party at this moment.”

That doesn’t mean he’s a bad man or a RINO or a worse alternative to Donald Trump. But it does mean that this is not his time.

#share#

Various & Sundry

Speaking of Geraghty, raising kids, or raising yourself, I strongly encourage you to pick up a copy of Heavy Lifting: Grow Up, Get a Job, Raise a Family, and Other Manly Advice. It’s a great, fun, and a very useful read on the de-chestification of men in America. Also, and I say this as a self-interested party, the single best way you can help the writers you like — never mind the ones who send you free newsletters (wink) — is by buying their books. The Goldberg File is only once a week, but it requires a significant investment of time and energy. The Morning Jolt is daily and requires an even greater commitment. We appreciate the loyal readers in their own right, of course, but speaking only for myself, these things are hard to justify financially solely on their own merits. If you value these newsletters at all — say at the price of a quarter a week — then the cost of a book is still a bargain. Plus, you get a really good book in the process! My next book won’t be out for a while, but you can expect I will be making this case again and again. (Another way you can help is by encouraging TV and radio programs to bring writers you like on their shows, particularly when they have books out. Lots of the folks you see on TV work the refs to get on as much as possible. I hate that crap, but when support comes organically from the viewers, it helps).

My column today is on how Ben Carson is black. It’s really quite amazing how little attention this gets, given how much the Left and the media (but I repeat myself) have invested in the idea that the GOP is just gussied-up Klavern.

My column earlier this week was on how the data keep proving that the traditional family is the best for kids. One point I should have added is that it’s entirely possible that the even more traditional, pre-nuclear family — you know, with grandparents and even aunts, uncles, and cousins living in close proximity — is even better than what today passes for the traditional family. I think it’s an important point, because even that which passes for the “ideal” family structure can be improved upon.

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Zoë & Pippa Update: Things are still going relatively well. There are still numerous jealousy issues to be dealt with, including some newfound hostility to other dogs. Also, even though Zoë likes Pippa now, they still have completely different lifestyles. Pippa’s idea of play is to fetch tennis balls until she passes out from exhaustion. Zoë’s idea of play is Fight Club. So even when Zoë is playing with Pippa, poor Pippa is hopelessly outmatched. Another (disgusting!) challenge is that Pippa is like a magnet for ticks. We’re putting her on Frontline today (we wanted to wait for her first checkup at the vet), so hopefully that will fix the problem.

I will be on Special Report and Hannity tonight (if you’re reading this today. I was on last night if you’re reading this tomorrow).

The latest GLoP podcast is out.

Yes, the Goldbergs will be getting their zombie on again this year. Maybe I’ll have pictures for you. I don’t normally publicize pictures of my daughter, but I think she’s sufficiently disguised as a zombie escaped prisoner here.

Happy Halloween!

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Debby’s Friday links

For the Left, It’s Always Time for a New New Deal

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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 (Especially those of you who would rally to my cause with sympathy and concern if I was found face down in a brothel, having OD’d on hookers, brandy, cocaine, and herbal Viagra),

It’s weird. I’m kind of a politics junkie, but not like some of my colleagues and friends. There are politics addicts in this town who’d walk Wilshire Blvd in six-inch heels just for a glimpse of some exit-poll numbers on Election Day. “Gimme a fix, man. I’ll do whatever you want.” And I’m talking mostly about dudes.

Still, I’m interested in politics more than a normal, healthy person should be. And yet, I really resented watching the Democratic debate. I watched because it’s part of my job. I felt a little bit like the stock boy at the grocery store being told “some kid just barfed up an inhumanly large amount animal crackers and corn kernels in aisle three. Take care of it.” But I also felt like Peter Gibbons in Office Space, listening to his bosses drone on about their TPS reports, his soul slowly evaporating under the fluorescent lights.

(That’s a fact, by the way: Fluorescent lights are like ectoplasmic kilns; sit under them for too long and your eternal soul essentially turns to chalk dust. This is why some believe Sidney Blumenthal was raised in an old refrigerator box under fluorescent klieg lights.)

The Loser Brigade

Still, I don’t normally feel that way about Democratic debates. I think part of what’s going on is that it was all a kind of set-up. Remember that scene in Rocky III when Mickey explains that Rocky isn’t up to the job of fighting Clubber Lang? Mickey says, “This guy’ll kill you to death inside of three rounds.”

Rocky doesn’t believe it. “He’s just another fighter.”

Mickey, says “No, he ain’t just another fighter. This guy is a wreckin’ machine. And he’s hungry. You ain’t been hungry since you won that belt.”

Rocky says, “What are you talking about? I had ten title defenses.”

“That was easy,” Mickey replies.

“What do you mean, easy?

“They was hand-picked!”

“Set-ups?”

“No, they weren’t set-ups! They was good fighters. But they wasn’t killers, like this guy. He’ll knock ya into tomorrow, Rock.”

(Ah, crap. I just found the YouTube video of the scene here.)

RELATED: The Debate Lesson: America Now Has an Openly Socialist Party

Well, the protagonists on that debate stage may not have been a set-up in the sense that the fix was in. But of course Hillary Clinton won the debate! Her opponents were like Mohammed, Jagdish, Sidney, and Clayton from Animal House. It was like a line-up at the station house where all the other suspects are cops in uniform, except for Hillary.

#related#I mean good gawd, Lincoln Chafee? He’s less a presidential candidate and more a cautionary tale of what happens to WASP genes when you drench them in scotch, ink residue from old issues of Mother Jones, and bong resin. I could swear I’ve seen him walking down the Third Street Promenade in Santa Monica wearing nothing but a bathrobe, Oberlin College sweat pants, and a stained Jefferson Starship T-shirt. He’s like the Kathy Geiss of American politics. In other words, he represents a major swath of Bernie Sanders’s base.

I’m being unkind to Jim Webb, who was kind of fascinating and awesome. He seemed almost like a different species than Chafee. I loved Webb’s last line about his real enemy being the guy who threw a grenade at him in Vietnam for all the reasons David French gives here. (Still, I keep using my Ron Burgundy voice to say, “Jim killed a guy!”) Webb’s a great reminder that serious men once found a home in the Democratic party.

But he has no chance of getting the nomination. None of them do, really — with the possible exception of Bernie Sanders. But Sanders is like Colonel Nicholson in Bridge on the River Kwai; he’s sticking to a principle in spite of what is actually required of him. At some point he’s going to look over his shoulder at the Clinton locomotive barreling down the tracks and say, “My God, what have I done?”

Gift or Gaffe?

That said, for what it’s worth, I don’t think Sanders meant to give a gift to Hillary on the e-mail controversy by saying he was “sick and tired of hearing about [her] damn e-mails.” I’m told that on the stump he blames Clinton for her poor judgment, which made the scandal possible. He may have just flubbed the line. Or it may have been smart politics, as I wrote here and here:

That’s one reason why Sanders wasn’t as foolish as some think for his “gift” on the e-mail scandal. Many Democrats now reflexively take the view that if Republicans or Fox News think something is bad, then it must be an illegitimate issue. Lending even rhetorical aid and comfort to the enemy is counted as “unprogressive” even on issues that progressives should be horrified by. The Clinton Foundation’s incestuous cronyism should horrify the Elizabeth Warren wing of the Democratic party. But saying so would be seen as using “right-wing talking points” so they stay mum on the issue. The same people who freaked out over the leaking of Valerie Plame’s identity should properly want Clinton indicted for what she did with her e-mail. But if the Republicans think so too, it must not be so.

Clinton did well. She’s had a lot of experience in these things. But to the extent she shined, it was because the competition was so pathetic. Put me out on the basketball court with a bunch of second graders and I will go Dikembe Mutombo on their asses. Boom! “Not in my house , Timmy!” I’d be like Billy Madison playing dodgeball.

#share#

New Deals for as Far as the Eye Can See

And then there’s the substance. I guess a more meaningful cause for my resentment is that the debate was a joyless ass ache of a reminder of what liberalism really is. Bernie Sanders thinks you can pay for an 18 trillion dollar expansion of the welfare state — to make it align with a Denmark that doesn’t actually exist — simply by taxing “the billionaire class.” There are 536 billionaires in America. Even if you confiscated everything they had — which, by the way, would surely destroy the American economy by triggering the greatest round of capital flight in human history and amount to government seizure of countless businesses — it wouldn’t come close to covering the tab of Sanders’s proposals.

The scorpion must sting the frog; water must seek its level; Anthony Weiner must text junk pics; and socialists must pretend that they have serious ideas.

But saying stupid things about economics is why God put socialists on this planet. Sanders has to say such things because that is what socialists do. It’s Aesopian: The scorpion must sting the frog; water must seek its level; Anthony Weiner must text junk pics; and socialists must pretend that they have serious ideas.

What really bothered me was Hillary Clinton’s “We need a new New Deal” line. Ever since I started working on Liberal Fascism, I’ve had a heightened sensitivity to this liberal obsession. I can’t count how many times I’ve written about it. Here’s what I wrote in 2008:

The New Deal is 75 years young this month.

A host of commentators have invoked the current mortgage credit crisis as justification for a sweeping intrusion of the government into the economy, not just into the credit markets. American Prospect editor Harold Myerson says, “Bring on the new New Deal.”

For all this talk of newness, you might be surprised at how old the idea is. Liberals were calling for a “new New Deal” when the first New Deal was barely out of diapers. That’s one reason FDR launched a “second New Deal” from 1935-1937. In 1944, he attempted to jump-start a third New Deal with his “second Bill of Rights.”

Let’s set aside Harry Truman’s “Fair Deal,” JFK’s “New Frontier,” LBJ’s “Great Society” and Bill Clinton’s “New Covenant.” I’m sure Jimmy Carter had something like this, too; I just try to avoid paying any attention to the man.

Even the New Deal wasn’t as new as many claimed (as I argue in my book, Liberal Fascism). FDR himself sold the New Deal as a continuation of the war socialism of the Wilson administration, in which FDR had served. For example, the Tennessee Valley Authority, the signature public-works project of the New Deal, had its roots in a World War I power project. (As FDR explained when he formally asked Congress to create the thing, “This power development of war days leads logically to national planning.”)

If the CNN moderators had been doing their job, you might expect someone to ask Hillary Clinton why, after seven years of Barack Obama(!), we still need a new New Deal. I mean, does anyone remember this?

The depressing answer is that for progressives — and please forgive the all caps — It Is Always Time for a New New Deal.

You can explain all day how the New Deal prolonged the Great Depression and they won’t care. They’re like our new canine visitor Pippa, who apparently thinks every moment is the best moment for a New Throw of the tennis ball.. After 9/11 Chuck Schumer raced to the pages of the Washington Post to explain that terrorism requires a new New Deal. After Katrina, liberals said “Aha! This proves we need a new New Deal.” Thomas Friedman has a shortcut macro on his keyboard that allows him to vomit up a column arguing that pretty much everything (but especially climate change!) requires, , nay demands, a new New Deal.

They don’t always use the phrase “new New Deal.” Often, they use the hackneyed language of the “moral equivalent of war” instead (see this latest installment at The Atlantic of this ancient trope). But, as I’ve written 8 trillion times, that’s the same frickin’ argument.

The New Deal is synonymous with a time when progressives had nearly unfettered political power to do what they wanted.

The real appeal of the New Deal wasn’t its alleged success, it’s that the New Deal is synonymous with a time when progressives had nearly unfettered political power to do what they wanted. Liberals don’t really worship the New Deal, they worship themselves. The New Deal is just a talisman in their undying faith in their own ability to guide society and make decisions for others better than people can make for themselves.

And, at a fundamental level, the desire for an unending string of New Deals going on forever, is indistinguishable from socialism. Liberals used to be honest about this point, as when Arthur Schlesinger let slip in the pages of Partisan Review that “There seems no inherent obstacle to the gradual advance of socialism in the United States through a series of New Deals.”

It’s all just so exhausting. And I guess what I resent most of all is the fact that I will spend the rest of my life arguing with people who not only think that their faith in progressivism and the State is smart and modern, but that their opponents are the ones who are stuck in the past. And in the process, they’ll keep making the country worse, with every failure providing the latest evidence that now, now, is the time for a new New Deal.

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Various & Sundry

Zoë Update: First let me say, you are under no obligation to read this. Some people couldn’t give a rat’s ass about my dog — or any dog — and that’s fine, I guess (though I am sort of a “love me, love my dog” kind of guy). But I’ve learned from many of you that if I don’t include a Zoë update, this “news”letter is not worth reading.

For those of you who don’t know, the Zoë updates began about two years ago when we adopted our Carolina dog, Zoë. She who was supposed to be a German shepherd mix. She wasn’t. She came to us with parvo and almost died. Readers wanted regular updates on how she was doing. I can’t blame them. Here she is as a puppy:

Then, when Zoë got better, my wife and I discovered that Carolina dogs — a.k.a. “the American Dingo” — are quite an adventure (I keep hearing from people who ask “Seriously, what breed is Zoë?” and I have to tell them, “No really, she’s a dingo. They then proceed to make lots of “dingo ate your baby” jokes). The theory is they came across the land bridge with the Native Americans from Asia. What’s problematic is that this means they missed out on a whole bunch of domestication and breeding that dogs from Europe got, making them just a bit more wild than your average golden retriever. Now it’s possible, of course, that Zoë has some European lineage in her. But from what we can tell, she’s really mostly a white-trash swamp dog. Most of the time the dingo-ness is very entertaining, once you get past her ability to swallow mice whole. She has some amazing vocalizations. When I come home from work, she chastises me for my absence with this sound remarkably similar to the “Mystics” in The Dark Crystal.

Anyway, this week we took in Pippa, just about the sweetest English Springer Spaniel who ever lived. She belongs to my wife’s parents and is coming for an extended stay, at least through the winter. It has been an ordeal, for everybody. The poor creature spent 20 hours getting here by plane from Fairbanks, Alaska. We followed all of the advice from readers (thanks, by the way) and websites alike: Introduce them on neutral ground. Feed them separately. Etc. The one serious mistake we made was having my wife hold Pippa’s leash when we introduced them at the park. We should have had someone outside Zoë’s pack do that. When Zoë saw the Fair Jessica, she was too excited. When she saw this interloper all love-dovey with her, she put the fur in furious. I am convinced things would have gotten off to a much better start had she just met Pippa as another dog in the park.

Anyway, the first 24 hours were incredibly stressful for me (and Pippa!). It didn’t help watching the Democratic debate to be constantly worried that my dingo might kill my mother-in-law’s dog. We did feed them separately of course, but at one point Pippa merely walked by Zoë’s food bowl and that’s all it took for World War Three. Of course World War Three is a bad analogy because poor Pippa wouldn’t know how to fight back if you sent her to the canine Shaolin Temple for training. It was more like World War Two and Pippa was France. The stress has so many layers to it. First, there’s simply the concern for sweet, terrified Pippa. But there’s also the sickening feeling of being so disappointed in my beloved zo-zo. The only thing I can liken it to is when your kid becomes a drug addict or thief. You don’t stop loving them, but the disappointment is so painful. If you’re about to say, “don’t anthropomorphize your dog,” you should know that ship sailed a long time ago.

Anyway, long story short, there’s been a lot of progress, though we are far from out of the woods. They get along fine outside the house. There are the occasional blow ups when Pippa gets too cozy with us outside or there’s a disagreement about canine property rights (in short: everything belongs to Zoë if Zoë wants it). They even played together for a moment or two this morning.

But even here there’s a yawing culture gap. Pippa is like the lovely daughter of some 19th-century English aristocrats. She’s like a Downton Abbey dog. If she were a person, she’d be handing out tea and finger sandwiches to officers home from the war. Zoë, meanwhile, is like Daryl from The Walking Dead. Pippa’s a sportsman’s dog. Zoë is a hunter. Pippa wants to chase a tennis ball until she’s in a coma. Zoë wants to chase rabbits. Pippa’s idea of playing with another dog is running after the same ball. Zoë wants to wrassle. That’s why when they played it didn’t last long; Zoë’s idea of playing is fighting at quarter speed. Pippa’s a lover, not a fighter. This leaves out the fact that Zoë and Pippa represent, respectively, the rebel and royalist sides of the Revolutionary War,

I really, really, want to make this work. On Tuesday I felt like there was no hope. As of this morning, I’m much more upbeat, but it’s going to take a lot of patience.

Okay, in other news: I did a long podcast with Trevor Burrus over at Libertarian.org’s “Free Thoughts.” Some “ideological dorks” might find it interesting.

Also, the final installment of my conversation with Steve Hayward is now up.

Over at ISI, there’s an adapted version of my introduction to the new edition of What Is Conservatism?

Next week, I will be travelling a lot. There’s the National Review Institute Buckley Prize dinner I’ll be emceeing in Dallas. And then I’ll be speaking at the Fund for American Studies shindig in Colorado Springs. (Since my wife is coming to Dallas, my poor AEI research assistant, Jack Butler, will be attending to Zoë and Pippa. He’ll do great. He’s a Hillsdale man.) I have no idea if I’ll be able to get a G-File done on the road.

My first column this week was on what a Biden run might mean for Hillary and the Dems.

My column today was on the Democratic debate and how only Republicans are asked tough questions on divisive social issues.

And now, the weird stuff:

How movie titles get lost in translation

What’s the most rewatchable movie of all time? (Take note, Sonny Bunch: Willow is notably absent from the list.)

Good news for stop-motion enthusiasts: Ray Harryhausen stuff to be auctioned off

Christopher Nolan explains Memento

Ancient Greeks feared zombies, too

(But of course the Ancient Greeks didn’t exist)

The man who volunteered for Auschwitz to expose the Holocaust

Making the case for the historicity of the Biblical Exodus

Women are the biggest mystery in the universe says . . . Stephen Hawking

This seems unlikely to take over the world: AI had IQ of a four-year-old child

SMOD is still unimpressed

Can we send David Brock and Sid Blumenthal? NASA unveils its plan to send humans to Mars permanently

Good news for automobile enthusiasts

Survey: One in three vegetarians admits to eating meat when drunk

Indy woman uses medieval combat training, sword to stop intruder

(Speaking of Indy: This also would have worked)

Do elephants hold the cure to cancer?

(Related: The Boss makes the case for elephants)

My dogs could have prevented this: Ancient squirrel’s nest leads to discovery of giant virus

I’ll have to remember this one. DUI suspect: My dog was driving

Golden retrievers unload groceries from a car

Puppies swarming their owners

Bearded hipsters mistaken for ISIS

Prepare for Winter Storm YOLO

Arachnophobes should not click this link

The most famous cryptozoological entity in each state

Words fail me

Debby’s links

Politics & Policy

No, It’s Not Sexist to Point Out Hillary’s Naked Ambition

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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 Paul Ryan, unless he’s busy getting his wildlife tracking collar attached to ensure he doesn’t make a break for it),

I overslept yesterday morning — accursed bartender! Why did you over-serve me!?

When I awoke from my slumber at 7:12 a.m. in my New York hotel room covered in blood that wasn’t my own, my first concern was, “Do I have time to write this ‘news’letter?”

Speaking of time, by the time you read this it will be later than it is now. Damn you, unidirectional nature of the time-space continuum! How much cooler would it be if you were reading this during the Renaissance?

Somewhat more relevantly, by the time you read this, the House Republicans may have unified around a new speaker.

Yes, I know what you’re thinking: “Bwaaaahahahahahaha!”

But it could happen. Also, if vests had sleeves, Joe Biden would have an easier time figuring out which hole his head is supposed to go through.

‘Crisis’ of the House Divided

Some folks in the GOP are freaking out like Lancelot in Excalibur when he wakes up naked next to Guinevere and sees that Arthur has left his sword between them. “The King without a sword! The land without a king!”

Yeah, yeah, I know: The reference is a bit obscure. All of the good pop-culture references are in the hotel minibar and they are outrageously expensive. “Thirteen dollars for a Godfather quote! Are you kidding me!?”

RELATED: The House Republican Civil War

For those of you who missed Excalibur, shame on you. Deduct ten points from your lifetime nerd score. But also: The point is that people — particularly Beltway people — are acting as if the speaker of the House plays a much larger role in our lives than he really does. The speaker without a gavel! The House without a speaker! Where’s Lloyd Bridges to lament that he picked the wrong week to stop sniffing glue?

But, seriously, start asking your friends who don’t work in politics how much they really care about the speakership. No doubt you know some political junkies who are interested or even invested in this (or maybe that’s you). But most normal people don’t care that much about the position. You know why? Because that’s normal.

RELATED: Freedom Caucus Strategy Could Backfire on the GOP

I think Ramesh makes a good point when he advises calm (Ponnuru’s gotta Ponnuru). We still have a speaker of the House. His name is John Boehner. And whatever you think about him (I personally think he’s been treated somewhat unfairly), you have to appreciate the fact that his job is harder than most people realized. If it weren’t, you wouldn’t see so many ambitious politicians wetting themselves like the rookie fighter standing in front of Russell Crowe in Gladiator at the mere prospect of taking the job.

(Pro tip: Don’t google “gladiator pissing” videos in a hotel restaurant. The results are not the sort of thing you necessarily want the tourists from Omaha in the next booth to see on your screen. Or maybe you do?)

EDITORIAL: Paul Ryan Should Run 

I’m not imputing fear or cowardice to Paul Ryan, or really to anyone in particular. From everyone I’ve talked to, it seems like he just doesn’t want the job for honorable reasons, though he may be compelled to take it for honorable reasons as well. See our editorial for more on this. My point is that given the extent of dysfunction in the GOP right now, it’s just not a very desirable job. That’s weird man (not to be confused with Weirdman, the most disturbing superhero ever. Or this guy.)

Right now the GOP is like a messed up family at Thanksgiving dinner. Even the most innocuous comments and actions are treated as rubbing salt in old wounds.

I could write at great length (“You’re telling me!” — The Couch) about the root causes of this dysfunction, but I’ll save that for another time. The simple fact is that this dysfunction exists. Right now the GOP is like a messed up family at Thanksgiving dinner. Even the most innocuous comments and actions are treated as rubbing salt in old wounds. “‘Pass the mashed potatoes?’ I’m sick of your bulls**t! You never came to my school play! I had a solo in West Side Story!”

I got a lot of grief for my column suggesting that New Gingrich should serve as a caretaker speaker. And I get the objections. But even if you don’t want Gingrich — though I honestly think we could do a lot worse — I think the case for a caretaker speaker makes a lot of sense. If Paul Ryan is cattle-prodded into the job, it seems to me he should do it under the condition that he gets to go back to Ways and Means in 2017. Yes, it could work out horribly for him. But it could also work out great. If done right, he could collect a lot of chits that could be redeemed when he pursues serious tax reform. In fact, that might be the key to a Ryan speakership: Find a single unifying policy vision that unites the caucus and put off the other arguments until after the presidential election. But what do I know?

#share#

Pantsuit Agonistes

In my column today, I write that Hillary Clinton is little more than “political ambition in a pantsuit.” The single most predictable response from liberals so far in my e-mail and Twitter feed is: sexism! Apparently “pantsuit” is the new bloody shirt of patriarchal oppression. I call shenanigans on this.

Aside from her lying and abandoning all but the pretense of having any actual convictions, pantsuits are Hillary Clinton’s trademark. She even has a line of shwag dedicated to pantsuits. The late boxing writer Bert Sugar wore a fedora everywhere he went. He was never seen without it. If I wrote, “Bert Sugar was a boxing encyclopedia in a fedora” no one would think twice. If every time I went on TV I wore my spaghetti colander codpiece, lefty writers would be entirely in their rights to say “Goldberg is a jackass in a codpiece.”

RELATED: Flip-Flops Show Hillary’s Long on Ambition, Short on Principles

A more substantive — but equally wrong — complaint is that Hillary Clinton is being held to a sexist double standard when people — i.e., me — point out her naked ambition. This has a superficial plausibility. Carly Fiorina, for example, is often derided as too ambitious when she’s no less or more ambitious than anybody else on the GOP debate stage. Nancy Pelosi, I’m sure, has gotten similar treatment. But there’s a difference between the Nancy Pelosis and Carly Fiorinas and Hillary. The former stick to their principles and convictions far more than Clinton does. Pelosi willingly lost control of the House to get Obamacare passed. Contrary to a lot of nonsense you hear from Fiorina’s critics, she stayed conservative when she ran for the Senate in California. Bernie Sanders is stealing Hillary’s thunder because he sticks to his principles. Yes, all politicians trim their sails to the political winds to one extent or another. But Hillary Clinton operates like she lost her mast. Or something. I’m not very good at nautical metaphors.

In this she is every bit a Clinton. Jesse Jackson once said of Bill: “There is nothing this man won’t do. He is immune to shame. Move past all the nice posturing and get really down in there in him, you find absolutely nothing . . . nothing but an appetite.”

Hillary Clinton was secretary of state for four years and she did little to nothing of consequence beyond prepare for a job she felt entitled to.

Hillary Clinton was secretary of state for four years and she did little to nothing of consequence — well, nothing of positive consequence — beyond prepare for a job she felt entitled to. Yeah, she flew a million miles. But as I’ve said before, if you had a travelling salesman who racked up a million miles without closing any sales, he wouldn’t get the set of steak knives at the end of the year. 

Indeed, one of the funniest aspects of her flip-flop on the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) is that TPP was one of the few things she could plausibly take credit for. The day before Clinton came out against TPP, Anne-Marie Slaughter was on NPR touting the trade deal as one of her biggest accomplishments. No wonder her defenders want to rally around the pantsuit battle flag.

#related#Hillary Clinton reminds me of Ted Kennedy, and I don’t just mean the comparable driving skills. When Ted Kennedy was asked why he wanted to be president, he couldn’t answer the question. He was a Kennedy. He felt entitled to the job and it never occurred to him to formulate a reason beyond that. His rambling reply to the question “Why do you want to be president?” killed his bid for the job. Ever since, it’s been political consulting 101 to make sure your client has something to say when asked that question, and I’m sure Hillary could offer up some perfectly serviceable pabulum if required to. But it seems obvious to me that her real answer would be closer to the Kennedyesque one. She feels entitled to the job. It’s her turn. Replace “because I’m a Kennedy” with “because I’m a woman” or “because I put up with all of Bill’s crap and I deserve my shot” or “because there’s nothing else for me to do.”

Get Free Exclusive NR Content

Various & Sundry

I’ll be on Special Report tonight if you’re reading this today. I was on Special Report last night if you’re reading this tomorrow.

The second installment of my conversation with Steve Hayward is up.

My short “Bookmonger” conversation with John Miller on “What Is Conservatism?” is up over at Ricochet.

My USA Today column this month was on Hillary’s SNL appearance and why it’s a vindication of Citizens United. I gotta say I was a bit surprised by how unbelievably and incoherently angry it made a lot of people. The notion that the First Amendment is a right held by everyone and not just newspapers and TV networks is shockingly difficult for some people to process.

105-year-old man breaks (his own) 100m dash world record

Python found in clothes pile at Florida flea market

Kentucky pet store worker almost killed by (presumably a different) python

Ten-year-old girl slays 800 pound alligator with a crossbow

Man sees spider at gas station, starts fire to kill it

How to find Waldo

(But nobody ever asks “How’s Waldo?”)

Apparently people think The Martian is a true story

Probably the same people who keep getting into fights at Chuck E. Cheese

Good news for grammarphiles: Good grammar attractive on online dating websites

Bad news for Trump supporters: They have the worst grammar online

Acrophobes should not click this link

Science: Doctors fix toddler’s internal decapitation with surgery

Science: Babies sing in the womb

Is there anything it can’t do? Bacon may be the secret to a long life

Whole milk is also actually probably good for you

Everyone Jean Claude Van Damme has ever killed in his movies

Of course: Man who calls police to say he’s “too high” found in a pile of Doritos

This would probably make flying worse: New patent shows airplane passengers stacked on top of each other

(They must have gotten the idea from Bill Clinton.)

Graphical representation of celebrity first pitch quality

Your weapons are useless against them! Swarm of bees covers police car

Sign of the apocalypse: ‘Buffalo-Crocodile’ born

Debby’s Friday links

Politics & Policy

Hillary’s Server Is the Smoking Gun!

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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 Kevin McCarthy, who may be too busy putting a cast on his Boehner, having stepped on it so badly),

I feel like Donald Trump when asked to list all the reasons why he’s terrific; I have no idea where to begin.

Lots of stuff has happened since my last “news”letter. Rather than approach this blank page with the sort of planning and care that you’ve come to expect from this well-crafted digital epistle, I’m going to throw care to the wind and, like Bill Clinton at a Saudi harem, I’m going to just jump right into it.

Don’t Move On

Speaking of Bill Clinton, by the end of his presidency, whenever critics said anything critical of him, the almost instantaneous response from his praetorians was to say (1) the critics  were “obsessed” or “haters” and (2) that it was time to “move on.” People forget that MoveOn.org began as a kind of non-partisan, No Labels-y, bit of marketing claptrap designed to make the Lewinsky scandal seem like old news. It was a mass-marketing version of the liberal habit of saying “the time for debate is over” — something liberals never say when the debate is politically helpful to them.

Of course, once the country did in fact move on, MoveOn revealed what was always obvious to all of us “obsessed” “haters”: It was an entirely partisan, left-wing operation from soup to nuts.

(Speaking of which, I wish someone would run for president under the name “Soup.” That way when writing about the polls I could write, “There’s a lot of interesting things happening among the really unconventional candidates from Soup to Deez Nuts.”)

So it was of some small interest when I saw the coordinated response from Hillary’s posse immediately after her Meet the Press interview last Sunday. Here they all are, spontaneously saying the same thing: “time to move on.” What was so amusing was how they all seemed to pretend that this wasn’t a coordinated spin operation.

Unfathomable Affection

We all know the old rule of thumb for anyone who gets involved with Bill Clinton: “Get yourself tested.”

A slightly less-well-known saying about Hillary Clinton: “There are no coincidences.” She didn’t just have a lucky run in the cattle-futures market, her billing records didn’t just show up in the West Wing, and Dorothy’s house didn’t simply land on her sister because of a freak accident.

I’m sorry, that joke was uncalled for. But you do have to wonder what blind people think of Hillary Clinton when all they have to go by is that voice and that laugh.

#share#Anyway, I’m really not obsessed with Hillary Clinton. In fact, one of the points I’ve been hammering like a zombie skull (if all I had to fight off zombies was a hammer) is that Hillary Clinton suffers from a charisma deficit, and by “deficit,” I mean a yawning chasm of charismalessness that descends into Stygian darkness to the point where if you dropped a stone — or even a 1978 AMC Pacer — into that metaphysical null set of charm, you would hear nothing but the subtle shushing of the wind as it vanished into the bottomless abyss.

Meanwhile, Bill Clinton can be both fascinating and infuriating because he’s so damn smart. His ruthless ability to yoke both the angels and the demons swirling around him to the chariot of his political ambition makes him a worthy subject for biographers, psychologists, and secret monastic orders looking for signs of the End Times.

So while Hillary holds no fascination for me whatsoever, Hillary adoration is endlessly intriguing. It is the Bronyism of the political world. (For those of you who don’t know what Bronies are, I’m sorry. After you click on this link, whatever esteem you had for mankind will be at least a little smaller. I think even the pope would allow a flicker of doubt of God’s plan after looking at it.)

Look, she’s not dumb or weak. She’s not without talents. But, when I read, say, Lanny Davis’s suck-up e-mail to her — an e-mail of such profound sycophancy that it can really only be described in the vernacular of proctology — it makes me think of the “familiars” from the Blade movies. In the Blade universe, familiars are human servants of vampires, who will do anything to one day be rewarded with eternal life. Clinton’s sycophants aim a good deal lower.

Lanny Davis wrote this:

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.

And he even threw in this:

Please please please * note there are *three pleases*: *Do not be bashful or concerned about saying no to my request.

And here’s the amazing part: She still said no! Now, I’ve been through some rough moments in my life and my friends have been there for me (“I know you’re not talking about me” — The Couch). I’m not saying they’d take the rap for me if I killed someone or forgive me if it was revealed that I was the guy who cancelled Firefly. But you’d have to go pretty far down the list of my friends into the territory of Friendly Acquaintance Land, People I Held the Elevator Door Forsylvania, and Friends of Friends Whose Car I Puked In On Spring Breakstan before they’d refuse to say a nice word about me to a reporter if I begged them in a three page e-mail (never mind carried more water for them than Gunga Din for 30 years). And yet, like Frank Sinatra in  The Manchurian Candidate, I’m sure to this day if you asked Lanny what he thought about Hillary, he’d say “Hillary Clinton is the kindest, bravest, warmest, most wonderful human being I’ve ever known in my life.”

That’s weird man.

And so are all the people who constantly insist that the “real Hillary” is charming and funny and all around awesome, as if someone in the limelight for 30 years could hide even a glimpse of this allegedly superhuman charm. The real Hillary seems as real to me as the Chess Team equipment manager’s horny Canadian super-model girlfriend. Bigfoot erotica makes more sense to me (and yes, that’s a real thing, too) because I at least know what they say about primates with big feet.

The Smoking Server

So why did I bring this up? Oh, right: this server story. I am getting a little obsessed with it. Perhaps not as much as my friend Shannen Coffin. Just the other night, his lovely wife called me in a panic because at Sunday dinner Shannen sculpted a perfect replica of Hillary’s server out of the mashed potatoes.

#related#And as with Hillary fandom, what fascinates me is not the way Hillary lies constantly and with all the skill of John Candy on the parallel bars, but the way the Beltway establishment — led by her friends — is constantly looking for reasons not to see what is plainly in front of them.

Take the constant refrain that each e-mail tranche contains “no smoking guns.” The other night on the Special Report online show I ranted about it with just a fraction of the energy stored in my splenetic-dilithium crystals, and Charles Krauthammer offered to write me a prescription for valium. I could go on all day about the layers of lies upon lies here. For instance:

‐There are plenty of smoking guns in every e-mail dump. The number of classified e-mails is now in the hundreds.

‐Hillary Clinton insisted in her first statement that she never sent or received any classified information. She knew this was a lie when she said it. Those were extremely prepared remarks. She only revised that to “marked” classified when the lie didn’t take.

‐The “marked classified” thing is a lie on the merits and in intent. Some e-mails were marked classified and it doesn’t matter if they were marked classified. The information was classified regardless of marking. She knew this.

‐She constantly says her system was allowed but never says who allowed it . . . because the person who allowed it was Hillary Clinton. She might as well have hung a banner over her desk that read, “Le département d’État, c’est moi!” (If one of you francophone pedants corrects my French here, I will drive out to your house and leave a burning bag of epoisses on your doorstep).

But all this misses the point. I’m not normally an ALL CAPS kind of guy. So please forgive me for this: BUT THE SERVER IS THE SMOKING GUN! It’s all smokey-like, sitting right there in the FBI evidence room. I feel like the guy in the “To Serve Man” episode of The Twilight Zone shouting “It’s a cookbook” except that was at least a secret. To borrow a line from Thoreau, “Some circumstantial evidence is very strong, as when you find a trout in the milk.” Hillary’s secret server is a trout bigger than the figurative Twinkee Egon Spengler described in Ghostbusters.

And, I’ll just say it again, so as to avoid going bonkers: Saying there is no smoking gun is not a denial!

If I accuse you of murdering your chiropodist and you immediately reply, “You have no smoking gun!” you’re basically admitting you did it. “There’s no smoking gun!” is the sort of rhetorical device used by serial killers in the Death Wish and Dirty Harry movies. “Ha ha! I’m going to get away with it!”

And when I point this out to Clinton defenders who think “Hillary Clinton is the kindest, bravest, warmest, most wonderful human being I’ve ever known in my life,” they look at me with the same head-tilting bewilderment my dog displays when I patiently explain to her that a hexagon has six sides.

Then after a long silence, they say, “It’s time to move on.”

I gotta go make some mashed potatoes.

After Oregon

I didn’t intend to go on about all that for so long, so I will briefly chime in on a few of the other items in the news.

I listened to Barack Obama’s remarks Thursday night about the Oregon shooting. I will say this in the president’s defense: He is obviously sincere. No decent person on either side of the gun-control debate isn’t weary and wounded in his or her soul after these mass shootings. I can only imagine how Obama feels when he has to offer his condolences to the victims and their families, particularly when he’s invincibly confident that he knows the solution to the problem.

And that brings me to what makes him so infuriating. From the first days of his presidency, he has acted as if he has a unique and unimpeachable grasp of the right policy on every issue. When he says he’s open to ideas from other people, what he really means is he’s open to novel explanations for why he’s correct about everything. This certainty is dangerous for all sorts of reasons — a point George W. Bush’s critics used to wax sanctimonious about with mechanical regularity. But one of the reasons it is so vexing in Obama is that it lets him play games with the truth in order to get what he wants.

For instance, he talked over and over again about how there are simple “commonsense” solutions that would protect gun rights. If only we could be like other advanced countries:

We know that other countries, in response to one mass shooting, have been able to craft laws that almost eliminate mass shootings. Friends of ours, allies of ours. Great Britain. Australia. Countries like ours.

Well, do you know the state of gun rights in Great Britain and Australia? They are only marginally more robust than free-speech rights in Russia or Iran.

He also said that there’s less gun violence in states with stricter gun-control laws. I don’t want to steal Charlie Cooke’s food bowl, but come on. Compare Washington, D.C., or Chicago to Burlington or Dallas. Yes, gun violence went down in New York City, but gun violence had been very high with the same gun-control laws. Stop and frisk, which liberals despise, had a lot more to do with declining gun deaths than gun control did. The most relevant gun-control rule in the Oregon shooting was the one that prevented law-abiding people from having guns on a “gun free zone” campus.

So when he says it’s okay to “politicize” these tragedies, he means it in full. When Obama engages in politics, he distorts the truth, demonizes his opponents, and seeks any other weapon that may be near to hand. He does this because he sees politics not as a realm for compromise, but the means by which he achieves what he wants, because what he wants is the only right and just thing.

Various & Sundry

My column from yesterday is on the ongoing foreign-policy debacle that will continue to unfold until Obama leaves office.

There’s an old rule in geopolitics which, if I remember correctly, dates back to Hugo Grotius. It goes something like this: When everybody starts quoting Fred Thompson in The Hunt  for Red October, it’s time to make sure the fecal guard protecting the rotor blades is in good working order.

For some reason I think it works better in the original Latin.

Still, if I were one of the companies hawking gold, silver, “food insurance,” or post-apocalyptic catheters on cable TV, I would be calling Fred Thompson right now begging him to be my pitchman for our next line of commercials.

It’d begin with Thompson in a banker’s suit in front of an old-style TV.

“Hello, I’m Fred Thompson. Remember this?”

Cue footage of Admiral Painter in Red October on deck of aircraft carrier

“Well, I’m here to tell you that this isn’t a movie. That’s why I think you should get a reverse mortgage today, take that money and buy some real security in the form of gold and meals ready to eat.”

Zoë Update: I could regale you with the usual tales of the dingo rolling in deer poop, chasing varmints, and playing soccer, but I have bigger news. Zoë is getting a running buddy — we hope. We’ve long thought the indefatigable dingo needed a canine partner to play with, because even though she gets three hours a day of perambulatory adventure, she could still get a patent for a perpetual motion machine. Well, fate has delivered. The Fair Jessica’s parents have an English springer spaniel that is too much of a handful for them. So we are making arrangements to ship her down from Fairbanks. Pippa is about two years old. Here she is at ten months:

Still, we are very nervous about this. Zoë is a jealous beast and we’re worried that she won’t be too keen on the idea of sharing her humans and her toys (but I repeat myself). If you have any useful personal experience on this kind of canine insertion operation, please shoot me an e-mail.

When I was on the Pacific Research Institute cruise this summer, my buddy Steve Hayward asked if he should split aces. But that’s a different story. Steve also asked me if I’d sit down for an interview for his blog over at Powerline. I said sure. Here’s the first installment. I’ve already heard from several parents of under-achievers that it gives them hope. (And for those interested, here’s the eulogy to my dad which I referenced in the interview.)

Oh, since I didn’t write a G-File last week, here’s the latest GLoP Culture podcast. It was recorded while I waited for the Verizon cable guy to come and fix my Wi-Fi. It was “fixed” — sort of. But now the house has deadzones it didn’t have before. Which means I’m going to spend another weekend trying to get this taken care of.

Another thing I’ll be doing this weekend: watching this AEI event with Deirdre McCloskey, Yuval Levin, and others. Really sorry I missed it last night.

And here’s some other stuff:

What the 2016 presidential candidates looked like as kids

What the 2016 presidential candidates might look like after eight years as president

Height of presidential candidates (and past presidents)

New Stonehenge found?

(But will it be bigger than this one?)

Dog discovers how to use car horn, likes it

Dogs annoying cats with their friendship

Golden retriever puppies swim for the first time

Madman under the water: Fish resembles Elton John

Coulrophobes shouldn’t click this link

First photographed smile (and photobomb)

Good news: Man with complete amnesia learns true identity

Ages of Hollywood film producers

100 movies that say the title of the movie

Fun with editing: Different movies, same phone call

Of course: LBJ gave bust of himself to Pope Paul VI

The most New York thing that has ever happened?

Ten words coined in the sci-fi universe

Selfies are deadlier than shark attacks

Related: Monkey takes a selfie, PETA demands monkey get copyright

Also related: Bank robber arrested after posing with wads of cash on Facebook

SMOD is unimpressed

News you can use: Lies are more convincing when you need to pee

How a Texas grocery store convinced Boris Yeltsin that Communism was wrong

Of course: Florida woman arrested for riding sea turtle

The 100 most edited Wikipedia articles

How did this NOT work? Report: Man Uses Raccoon to Start Breathalyzer Equipped Car; Raccoon Then Attacks Driver

Sign of the apocalypse: iPad waits in line to buy iPhone

Sign of the apocalypse: Missouri snake’s ‘virgin birth’ is species’ first

Culture

Our Culture Makes a Virtue Out of Victimhood

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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 Rand Paul, who has no place in this “news”letter because he’s so low in the polls),

I’m writing this sentence (who can say where I’ll be in an hour) at the Brooklyn Diner off Times Square (the pastrami frittata is fantastic!). I’m about a block away from the set of Good Morning America, where hundreds of decent, normal Americans are willingly turning themselves into meat props for a three-hour spectacle, two hours and forty-five minutes of which is dedicated to something someone named Kanyé said about someone else; the troubling rise in Pilates injuries; J-Lo’s ass; and breaking news of a puppy making friends with a stuffed toy — from someone’s Facebook page somewhere out in America. I don’t actually know that’s what’s on today’s show, but I’m pretty confident it’s not that far off either.

I don’t mean to single out Good Morning AmericaThe Today Show is equally vapid. It’s just that Good Morning America is fresh in my mind because I happened to watch an hour or so of it earlier this week while waiting for my car at the shop. I would have blown my brains out, but the show depleted my IQ so rapidly I couldn’t manage even the most rudimentary tasks. I got so dumb, Debbie Wasserman Schultz could have beaten me at checkers. But I did learn how Victoria Beckham struggles to have it all as a working mom. I don’t know how she does it. She’s a trooper.

And then there was the long segment on Suzy Favor Hamilton, the courageous former Olympic runner who married her college sweetheart, won a bunch of medals, started a family and a business, and then, “after one night with a Vegas call girl,” decided to become a hooker herself.

“That light-bulb moment in my head, wow, why shouldn’t I get paid for sex?” she told GMA’s Lara Spencer. We then learn that her husband knew all about her moonlighting in Vegas, but he disapproved, as all decent husbands would, don’t ya know. You can read all about it in her new book (and so can her daughter). Oh yeah, I forgot to mention that — there’s a book. Contain your surprise.

We live in an age where having addictions, conditions, disorders, and issues is often a moral get-out-of-jail-free card.

Now, I’m not going to get all judgey here — because that would be wrong. Hamilton says she had serious mental-health problems, and that certainly seems more than plausible. Besides, we live in an age where having addictions, conditions, disorders, and issues is often a moral get-out-of-jail-free card. I have my own “issues” with that. But that’s a topic for another day.

What really vexes me is how we’re all expected to celebrate these things. Here’s an excerpt from the segment:

LARA SPENCER: Well, the book is fascinating and very brave . . . just unflinching in how honest you are, Suzy.

SUZY FAVOR HAMILTON: It was very difficult, because I share everything. And I know this is a difficult book for my family and the people that I’ve hurt with my behavior in Vegas. And that hurts me still. It’s something I will have to live with for the rest of my life.

SPENCER: But something to remember, Christine Brennan, a sports columnist, said, of all of your achievements on the track, this might just be the greatest one with all the people it could help.

HAMILTON: You know, with the 20/20 interview, when she said that, I just started crying at home. And what, what a great statement she gave me that . . .

SPENCER: And one to keep in your heart and remember.

And that was that. Hamilton betrayed her family and then compounded that “hurt” by splashing it all across the country — and somehow in a matter of seconds this becomes proof of her heroic struggle. She will have to live with this, but it was worth it because another journalist pandering to an interview subject said something that may or may not be true.

I’m not a big consumer of bipolar tell-alls, but I kind of feel like there are already more than a few out there and that it’s possible — just possible — the genre didn’t need one more, at least this one more. I’m sure this book helped someone, somewhere. But I resent the idea that somehow we’re all expected to celebrate this woman’s struggle and honesty and heroism and blah blah blah. And if we don’t celebrate it, not only are we the bad guys, but our judgmentalism makes her more of a hero.

It seems to me that if you don’t want people to judge you, maybe you shouldn’t herd your demons onto a public stage like they’re contestants in a beauty pageant?

Yeah, maybe her book will help someone out there. But maybe her top priority should be helping her family? I’d bet the book tour isn’t doing that.

For the Time Being

Longtime readers know that one of my favorite passages of poetry comes from Auden’s “For the Time Being” in which King Herod fears a new age where:

Reason will be replaced by Revelation. Instead of Rational Law, objective truths perceptible to any who will undergo the necessary intellectual discipline, Knowledge will degenerate into a riot of subjective visions. . . . Whole cosmogonies will be created out of some forgotten personal resentment, complete epics written in private languages, the daubs of schoolchildren ranked above the greatest masterpieces. Idealism will be replaced by Materialism. Life after death will be an eternal dinner party where all the guests are 20 years old. . . . Justice will be replaced by Pity as the cardinal human virtue, and all fear of retribution will vanish. . . . The New Aristocracy will consist exclusively of hermits, bums and permanent invalids. The Rough Diamond, the Consumptive Whore, the bandit who is good to his mother, the epileptic girl who has a way with animals will be the heroes and heroines of the New Age, when the general, the statesman, and the philosopher have become the butt of every farce and satire.

We may still be waiting for the Consumptive Whore, but the bi-polar one is already a heroine of today’s age.

(For the record, I’m not actually siding with Herod here, but we can talk poetry another time.)

We live in an age where victimhood is the new currency, victims a new kind of aristocracy, and pity a cardinal virtue.

Of course, you could wait a day, even an hour, and a new hero or heroine will emerge from the churning media maw. Tomorrow it may be an accountant with Tourette’s syndrome or a dog groomer with such acute halitosis he can’t find work except as a taxidermist. To be sure, some of the victims are real and legitimate. 

(Whatever you think of Ahmed Mohamed and his clock, it is now obvious that the best thing that ever happened to him was getting wrongfully arrested. If he’d brought in a baking-soda volcano, or had been a blond kid named Smith, he would not be heading to the White House or getting the royal treatment from Facebook and Google).

The point is we live in an age where victimhood is the new currency, victims a new kind of aristocracy, and pity a cardinal virtue. Conservatives — who are by no means separate from, or immune to, this cultural shift — have at least been lamenting it for a very long time. What is interesting is that academia is finally catching up. Jonathan Haidt:

I just read the most extraordinary paper by two sociologists — Bradley Campbell and Jason Manning — explaining why concerns about microaggressions have erupted on many American college campuses in just the past few years. In brief: We’re beginning a second transition of moral cultures. The first major transition happened in the 18th and 19th centuries when most Western societies moved away from cultures of honor (where people must earn honor and must therefore avenge insults on their own) to cultures of dignity in which people are assumed to have dignity and don’t need to earn it. They foreswear violence, turn to courts or administrative bodies to respond to major transgressions, and for minor transgressions they either ignore them or attempt to resolve them by social means. There’s no more dueling.

Campbell and Manning describe how this culture of dignity is now giving way to a new culture of victimhood in which people are encouraged to respond to even the slightest unintentional offense, as in an honor culture. But they must not obtain redress on their own; they must appeal for help to powerful others or administrative bodies, to whom they must make the case that they have been victimized. It is the very presence of such administrative bodies, within a culture that is highly egalitarian and diverse (i.e., many college campuses) that gives rise to intense efforts to identify oneself as a fragile and aggrieved victim. This is why we have seen the recent explosion of concerns about microaggressions, combined with demands for trigger warnings and safe spaces, that Greg Lukianoff and I wrote about in The Coddling of the American Mind.

#share#

Trumpunditry

I decided not to do another debate post-mortem or yet another meditation on Trumpism. But I do kind of feel like the fever might be starting to break. Trump’s performance wasn’t disastrous, certainly not if you went in supporting him. Short of pulling a Greg Stillson, I don’t know that he could have a disastrous performance for his biggest supporters. But, it does seem like more and more people can see why other people don’t support Trump. The vaccination asininity, the rambling, the promising to do his homework only if he’s elected (because, you know, it’s not worth his time otherwise). Some of his rants were so incoherent, I half-expected them to end with him saying, “Does anyone else smell burning hair?” and then pass out. It seems to me that if you aren’t already smitten with the guy, you’re not going to be. Of course, I could be wrong. It’s happened before.

Various & Sundry

As I said, I’m in New York (I’m now at Penn Station waiting for my train, which may explain why this portion of the G-File smells of urine and failure). Yesterday, after I finished Outnumbered, I walked up to Central Park to sit on a bench, smoke a cigar, and write my column. I had thought that the tourists would have thinned out a bit by mid-September, but the place was packed. So I ended up walking for a long ways before I could find a non-rude place to light up (squeezing in between a mom and her kids is a bit too much of a Robert De Niro in Cape Fear move for me). In that time I saw something shocking. On several different occasions, I saw tourists just gushing over squirrels. They were taking selfies with the varmints in the background. Some had telephoto lenses and were shooting pictures like they’d stumbled on a bald eagle. I saw a whole family of Italians, three generations of them, gather around as they watched a squirrel eat a nut, or a pizza crust, or maybe it was a used condom. Who knows? Who cares? When did squirrels graduate to exciting wildlife? My dog would be appalled. And frankly, I think Dana Perino and Jasper owe us an explanation.

Which reminds me, last month, the Goldbergs were at the Copenhagen zoo. They had lions, some really cool vultures, and African wild dogs. They also had a big open-air exhibit of . . . raccoons. North American dumpster-diving raccoons. I thought it was hilarious.

Clarification: In last week’s G-File on MacGuffins I wrote:

There is a very long list of reasons why the movie Willow was awful. But near the top of the list is the fact that the MacGuffin was a human infant. No one really cares when you drop the briefcase with the nuclear codes or when you throw the smegma sample from the dead hooker’s perineum. But when you toss around a baby (or a puppy, kitten, etc.), the audience stops caring about the hero’s heroic struggle of heroism and instead worries about the baby. Interestingly, adult living MacGuffins usually aren’t as problematic. Audiences don’t care if the super-hot princess or telepath is dragged around. But the only time a baby MacGuffin didn’t ruin the movie was in Raising Arizona, as a far as I can remember.

Two things to say here: 1. I heard from lots of people who liked the movie Willow. The leader of this troubled group is Sonny Bunch. Of course, Sonny Bunch is wrong. 2. The line about the dead hooker is from the underrated movie Stuck on You. I don’t normally point out obscure movie references in this “news”letter — that costs extra! But so many of you were disturbed — or even scarier, titillated! — by that language I felt I had to say something.

My column today is on Obama’s never-ending foreign-policy fustercluck. I do think the news we’ve spent $500 million on four or five Syrian rebels is a great premise for a bad movie or TV show. The $100 Million Rebel. If we were getting crazy cyborg rebels with lasers and kung-fu grip action, I’d go much easier on Obama.

I had a nice time on the Fund for American Studies’ “telephone townhall” last night. There’s still time to sign up for the big conference next month at the Broadmoor. Steve Hayes and I will both be there. I plan on charging all sorts of stuff to his room while saying, “Put it on ‘my’ tab!”

AEI has just come out with a great tribute to the late, great Walter Berns.

Get Free Exclusive NR Content

And here is some other stuff:

1960s Batmobile for sale

Princess Leia’s slave costume for sale

$28,500 Star Wars watch for sale

Of course

Evil genius proposes nuking Mars

Though, frankly, I think if we’re going to start nuking things, we should start closer to home

Man receives 3D-printed rib cage

Scientist lets bees sting him on 25 different parts of his body for science

Scientists discover David Brock

Scientists discover Sid Blumenthal

I didn’t know Hillary’s e-mails went back this far

The anti-Communist movies you never saw

What someone in 1924 thought movies would be like today

What political advertising looked like 75 years ago

What drug advertisements (!) looked like in the 70s

What happens when you get your period in space? What happens to human waste on the International Space Station?

Don’t fly JetBlue? JetBlue passenger urinates on others

Dictator reads wrong speech

Sign of the Apocalypse: People actually win American Ninja Warrior.

Best newspaper headline ever?

Better than this?

Or this?

Photographer makes dreams come true for youngsters suffering from cancer

SMOD 2016

Interrupting the Circle of Life

This was a bad idea

Every movie Ronald Reagan watched as president

And Jimmy Carter

Debby’s Monday links

Debby’s Friday links

Culture

In the Left’s Story of Government, the State Is Always the Hero

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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 particularly the lawyer at the State Department who has been selected to pretend he gave Hillary Clinton permission to set up a secret server),

About ten days ago, Dan McLaughlin (a.k.a. Baseballcrank, not to be confused with Footballdyspeptic or Tennispederast or Bocceballcurmudgeon) tweeted, “So many things make more sense when you re-read @AceofSpadesHQ on The MacGuffinization of American Politics.”

As I had never read Ace on the MacGuffinization of American Politics, I didn’t know what he was talking about. Suddenly, my MacGuffin became an essay on MacGuffinization. I set out to read it. But before I could click the link, I was beset by acolytes of a snake cult. And . . . oh never mind, this gag isn’t going to work.

Anyway, I read the essay and lo and behold, McLaughlin was right. I haven’t fully gotten it out of my head yet, which can lead to awkwardness as I have a habit of shouting “get out of my head!” at inappropriate moments under such circumstances. So I will try get it out of my head here. Ace writes:

In a movie or book, “The MacGuffin” is the thing the hero wants.

Usually the villain wants it too, and their conflict over who will end up with The MacGuffin forms the basic spine of the story.

In Raiders of the Lost Ark, the MacGuffin is, of course, the Lost Ark. Indy wants it; the Nazis have it. This basic conflict over simple possession animates a two hour long movie.

Alfred Hitchcock noted — counterintuitively, when you first hear this — that the specifics of the MacGuffin don’t really matter at all to a movie. He pointed out that the audience doesn’t care at all about the MacGuffin. The hero in the movie itself cares, but the audience doesn’t.

In one Hitchcock film, the MacGuffin was some smuggled uranium hidden in vintage wine bottles. But Hitchcock noted it didn’t matter if it was uranium in wine bottles, or a fragment of a diplomatic dispatch from the Nazi high command, or a hidden murder weapon, or photographs proving a Senator’s affair.

The Lost Ark in Raiders of the Lost Ark could have easily been replaced with some missing Shankara Stones from a Thuggee temple, or the Holy Grail. In fact, that’s exactly what they changed the MacGuffin to in the sequels.

No audience member really cared if the Nazis wound up with the Ark of the Covenant….But we cared about Indy. He was a character we liked, a character that sparked our imaginations; whether he was looting a South American burial mound (illegally, by the way!) or blowing off his students by sneaking out a back window during office hours (poor work ethic, incidentally), we rooted for him to win….

A quick aside. I have a longstanding grievance about exceptions to the rule of MacGuffins. Sometimes you really do care about the MacGuffin, particularly when the MacGuffin is a baby. Imagine if you replaced the golden idol in the first scene in Raiders of the Lost Ark with a live infant.

“Throw me the whip!”

“Throw me the baby!”

There is a very long list of reasons why the movie Willow was awful. But near the top of the list is the fact that the MacGuffin was a human infant. No one really cares when you drop the briefcase with the nuclear codes or when you throw the smegma sample from the dead hooker’s perineum. But when you toss around a baby (or a puppy, kitten, etc.), the audience stops caring about the hero’s heroic struggle of heroism and instead worries about the baby. Interestingly, adult living MacGuffins usually aren’t as problematic. Audiences don’t care if the super-hot princess or telepath is dragged around. But the only time a baby MacGuffin didn’t ruin the movie was in Raising Arizona, as a far as I can remember.

It’s All About the Kampf

Okay back to the point. Ace goes on to apply the MacGuffin dynamic to politics. For instance:

Watching Chris Matthews interview Obama, I was struck by just how uninterested in policy questions Matthews (and his panel) were, and how almost every question seemed to be, at heart, about Obama’s emotional response to difficulties — not about policy itself, but about Obama’s Hero’s Journey in navigating the plot of President Barack Obama: The Movie.

As with a MacGuffin in the movie, only the Hero’s emotional response to the MacGuffin matters.

The coverage of the Iran deal . . . is suffused with how this is an epic struggle for Obama’s legacy. How every new Democrat who falls in line is a victory for Obama.

I think this explains a monumental amount about how Obama has been treated by the mainstream media and how he’s viewed by his biggest fans (but I repeat myself). The coverage of the Iran deal, for instance, is suffused with how this is an epic struggle for Obama’s legacy. How every new Democrat who falls in line is a victory for Obama.

RELATED: The Blessed Peace-Fakers

Ace does a great job discussing how the fight for Obamacare was seen through the same prism. The policy arguments were always secondary to The Struggle. The same dynamic happens on the right all the time. Ted Cruz in the government-shutdown fight didn’t have the numbers on his side when it came to votes, but lots of people didn’t care because they were invested in his epic struggle — and for understandable reasons. It should be no surprise that I think lots of people have bought into Trump the Story more than Trump the man. Similarly, Ben Carson, a deeply admirable man, isn’t selling a lot of policy ideas. He’s selling his (amazing) life story and — by extension — a story about America many of us want to believe in. That was the secret of Barack Obama’s success, too. He sold a lot of Americans on his story and to this day he never tires of invoking himself as proof that America’s not all bad.

RELATED: Obama Trades Real Security for Spin to Secure His Legacy

Hillary Clinton is in trouble in no small part because she can’t sell the story she needs to tell about herself. She wants to make her candidacy into the payoff for some epic struggle of womankind. Clearly some people have bought it. But most people see her less as a generic woman and more as the conniving, controlling Clinton she is. It’s a funny irony that she’s a victim of feminism’s success. People see her as an individual — an individual they don’t like or trust — and not as a mere gender category.

#share#

This Is Your Brain on Politics

But, I think you can take all this further. I’ve written a lot over the last couple years about how I think narrative is so much more important than people realize. The human brain has hardwiring. We like fatty and sweet foods more than sour and bitter ones for reasons that go back millions of years. It’s not that we can’t acquire a taste for sour or bitter foods, but it doesn’t come as naturally to us. Ever watch videos of babies eating lemons for the first time?

If the subject interests you, here’s some bonus reading.

Dingo Update: Not much to report. Zoë ate a whole chipmunk right after last week’s G-File was sent out. I think she must have the most powerful digestive system in the world, because she never even burped and we’ve seen no evidence of any other gastrointestinal difficulties. Oh, one other thing. This is my kid’s first week at a new school and she’s pretty upset about it. No need to get into the details. But one funny upside is that my dog is almost a real super-villain. She literally thinks my daughter’s tears are delicious. Fortunately, it makes my kid laugh.

Last week’s G-File was the subject of a lot of praise and a lot of anger. The anger was much louder than the praise. I do want to respond to at least some of the reactions, but I figured we could all use a largely Trump-free G-File. So I’ll try to get something on the site today or tomorrow.

In other news, we have an oddly phallocentric list of odd links. Make of that what you will.

Pet horse bites off boy’s, uh . . .

Snake bites man urinating in field on the, uh . . .

College student gets a certain part of his body stuck in shampoo bottle

Woman sets a certain part of her boyfriend’s body on fire

Touché: Chinese man eats wife’s nose for not answering calls

Python bites museum employee (but not there)

The fastest hunk of junk in our galaxy? Millennium Falcon spotted on moon

Best (or worst) birthday ever?

Man gets speeding ticket on way to traffic court

Burglar stuck in elevator forced to call 911

Does this violate any of the Laws of Robotics? Drunk guy arrested for assaulting robot

World’s stretchiest man can fit into a suitcase

World’s shortest man dies, could also probably fit into a suitcase

I’m sure he has many friends: Man hasn’t bathed in twelve years

Sign of the apocalypse? Two-headed albino snake tries to eat itself

What could go wrong?

Blue-headed bear baffles

Maybe he lives in this house that turns blue at night

Why people steal the skulls of the dead

Related: Gigantic Lenin head bust unearthed

Debby’s links!

Politics & Policy

No Movement That Embraces Trump Can Call Itself Conservative

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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 (if there are any of you left),

Well, if this is the conservative movement now, I guess you’re going to have to count me out.

No, I’m not making some mad dash to the center. No, I’m not hoping to be the first alternate to Steve Schmidt on Morning Joe, nor am I vying to become my generation’s Kevin Phillips. I will never be a HillaryCon. And I have no plan to earn “strange new respect” from the Georgetown  cocktail-party set I’m always hearing about but never meeting. But even if I have no desire to “grow” in my beliefs, I have no intention to shrink, either.

The late Bill Rusher, longtime publisher of National Review, often counseled young writers to remember, “Politicians will always disappoint you.” As I’ve often said around here, this isn’t because politicians are evil. It’s because politicians are politicians. Their interests too often lie in votes, not in principles. That’s why the conservative movement has always recognized that victory lies not simply in electing conservative politicians, but in shaping a conservative electorate that lines up the incentives so that politicians define their self-interest in a conservative way.

But if it’s true that politicians can disappoint, I think one has to say that the people can, too. 

RELATED: Trump Has Succeeded in Convincing Conservatives to Discard Their Principles Overnight

And when I say “the people” I don’t mean “those people.” I mean my people. I mean many of you, Dear Readers. Normally, when conservatives talk about how the public can be wrong, we mean that public. You know the one. The “low-information voters” Rush Limbaugh is always talking about. The folks we laughed at when Jay Leno interviewed them on the street. But we don’t just mean the unwashed and the ill-informed. We sometimes mean Jews, blacks, college kids, Lena Dunham fans, and countless other partisan slices of the electorate who reflexively vote on strict party lines for emotional or irrational reasons. We laugh at liberals who let know-nothing celebrities do their thinking for them.

Well, many of the same people we laughed at are now laughing at us because we are going ga-ga over our own celebrity.

Behold the Trumpen Proletariat

Yes, I know that there are plenty of decent and honorable people who support Trump. For instance, my friend John Nolte over at Breitbart is one. He constantly celebrates Trump because Trump has all the right enemies and defies the conventional rules governing politics and media: 

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.

The Tempting of Conservatism

I’ve written many times how the phrase “power corrupts” has been misunderstood. Lord Acton’s original point wasn’t that power corrupts those who wield power, it was that it corrupts those who admire it. In a letter to a historian friend who was too forgiving of the Reformation-era popes, Acton wrote:

I cannot accept your canon that we are to judge Pope and King unlike other men, with a favourable presumption that they did no wrong. If there is any presumption it is the other way, against the holders of power, increasing as the power increases. Historic responsibility has to make up for the want of legal responsibility. Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely. Great men are almost always bad men, even when they exercise influence and not authority, still more when you superadd the tendency or the certainty of corruption by authority. There is no worse heresy than that the office sanctifies the holder of it.

Trump’s popularity apparently trumps all standards we would apply not just to our neighbors, but to our leaders.

Popularity — which in democracy is a very important kind of power — works the same way. We routinely forgive the rich and famous for sins we would condemn our neighbors for. Trump’s popularity apparently trumps all standards we would apply not just to our neighbors, but to our leaders. A small example of what I am talking about can be found in Ted Cruz’s vow not to criticize other Republicans — if by “Republicans” you mean “Donald Trump.” I have a lot of respect for Cruz, but this doesn’t pass the laugh test. The Texan has been lambasting the entire Republican party for his entire time in office. Some of his critiques are valid, of course. But he has shown not an iota of reluctance to criticize fellow Republicans when it’s in his interest. Cruz isn’t criticizing Donald Trump because, as a smart politician, he wants to woo Trump’s followers when/if Trump eventually falters. Similarly, I’m constantly hearing from Trump fans that it’s “disrespectful” for me to criticize the Republican front-runner — as if these fans would refrain from criticizing Jeb or Rubio or Kasich if they were in the lead.

#share#

The Bonfire of Principles

If I sound dismayed, it’s only because I am. Conservatives have spent more than 60 years arguing that ideas and character matter. That is the conservative movement I joined and dedicated my professional life to. And now, in a moment of passion, many of my comrades-in-arms are throwing it all away in a fit of pique. Because “Trump fights!”

How many Republicans have been deemed unfit for the Oval Office because of comparatively minor character flaws or ideological shortcomings? Rick Perry in 2012 saw his candidacy implode when he couldn’t remember the third item on his checklist of agencies he’d close down. Well, even in that “oops” moment, Rick Perry comes off as Lincolnesque compared with Donald Trump.

RELATED: Donald Trump’s Appeal Is Based on Yesterday’s News

Yes, I know Trump has declared himself pro-life. Good for him — and congratulations to the pro-life movement for making that the price of admission. But I’m at a total loss to understand why serious pro-lifers take him at his word. He’s been all over the place on Planned Parenthood, and when asked who he’d like to put on the Supreme Court, he named his pro-choice-extremist sister.

Ann Coulter wrote of Newt in 2011: “If all you want is to lob rhetorical bombs at Obama and then lose, Newt Gingrich — like recent favorite Donald Trump — is your candidate. But if you want to save the country, Newt’s not your guy.” Now Ann leads a chorus of people claiming that Trump is our only savior. Has Trump changed, or have Ann and her followers? Is there a serious argument behind the new thinking, or is it “because he fights!”?

RELATED: Have Conservatives Grown Tired of Supporting the Rule of Law?

It is entirely possible that conservatives sweat the details of tax policy too much. Once in office, a president must deal with political realities that render the fine print of a campaign pamphlet as useful as a battle plan after the enemy is met. But in the last month, Trump has contemplated a flat tax, the fair tax, maintaining the current progressive tax system, a carried-interest tax, a wealth tax, and doing nothing. His fans respond, “That shows he’s a pragmatist!”

No. It shows that he has absolutely no ideological guardrails whatsoever. Ronald Reagan once said, “Government is like a baby. An alimentary canal with a big appetite at one end and no sense of responsibility at the other.” Trump is close to the reverse. He’s a mouth at the wrong end of an alimentary canal spewing crap with no sense of responsibility.

In his embarrassing interview with Hugh Hewitt Thursday night, Trump revealed he knows less than most halfway-decent D.C. interns about foreign policy. Twitter lit up with responses about how it doesn’t matter and how it was a gotcha interview. They think that Trump’s claim that he’ll just go find a Douglas MacArthur to fix the problem is brilliant. Well, I’m all in favor of finding a Douglas MacArthur, but if you don’t know anything about foreign policy, the interview process will be a complete disaster. Yes, Reagan delegated. But he knew enough to know to whom to delegate.

RELATED: The Other Donald Trump Interview with Hugh Hewitt

If you want a really good sense of the damage Donald Trump is doing to conservatism, consider the fact that for the last five years no issue has united the  Right more than opposition to Obamacare. Opposition to socialized medicine in general has been a core tenet of American conservatism from Day One. Yet, when Republicans were told that Donald Trump favors single-payer health care, support for single-payer health care jumped from 16 percent to 44 percent.

I’ve written a lot about my problems with populism. One of my favorite illustrations of why the populist mindset is dangerous and anti-intellectual comes from William Jennings Bryan. “The people of Nebraska are for free silver and I am for free silver,” Bryan announced. “I will look up the arguments later.” My view of conservatism holds that if free silver is a bad idea, it’s still a bad idea even if the people of Nebraska are for it. But Trumpism flips this on its head. The conservatives of Nebraska and elsewhere should be against single-payer health care, even if Donald Trump is for it. What we are seeing is the corrupting of conservatives.  

Homework Is for Losers

I agree that presidents don’t need to be experts on everything. But they do need to do their homework. This is a standard I’ve held for years:

This is my biggest gripe about some of the GOP candidates in recent years. They don’t think they have to do their homework, perhaps because they aren’t so much running for president as running for greater celebrity.

Consider Herman Cain. I love listening to him, and so do a lot of conservatives. He’s smart enough to be president. But he simply didn’t do his homework, and he acted like that was something to be proud of, as when he of bragged about not knowing the names of leaders of “small, insignificant states” like Uzbekistan (which he jokingly pronounced “Ubeki-beki-beki-beki-stan-stan”).The one thing you cannot buy in politics is charisma. If you could, Mitt Romney would have bought a pallet of it at Costco and he’d probably be president now. Cain and Perry had the charisma, the natural political talent, and they squandered it by thinking all they needed was the sizzle without the steak.

Trump has the charisma, I’ll grant him that. But there is no evidence he’s thought deeply about the job beyond how much classier it will be once he has it. His whole shtick is an eminence front (“It’s a put on!” — The Couch).

When running for president, doing your homework is a question of character and even patriotism. If you love this country and want to be the president, quite literally the least you can do is be prepared.

So let’s return to the issue of character. 

RELATED: Trump’s Hearing Problem

In 2012, Mark Steyn wrote that a President Gingrich would have “twice as many ex-wives as the first 44 presidents combined.” If that (quite brilliant) line resonated with you three years ago, why doesn’t it for a President Trump?

I understand the Noltean compulsion to celebrate anyone who doesn’t take crap from the mainstream media. But when Newt Gingrich brilliantly eviscerated the press in 2012, there was a serious ideological worldview behind it. Trump’s assaults on the press have only one standard: whether the journalist in question is favorable to Trump or not. If a journalist praises him, that journalist is “terrific.” If the journalist is critical of Trump he is a “loser” (or, in my case, a loser who can’t buy pants). Not surprisingly, Hugh Hewitt is now “third rate” because he made Trump look bad. I’m no fan of Arianna Huffington or Gail Collins, but calling them “dogs” because they criticized you is not a serious ideological or intellectual retort. (It’s not even clever.) I think Trump did insinuate that Megyn Kelly was menstruating during the debate. He denies it. Fine. But what in the world about his past would lead someone to give him the benefit of the doubt? This is the same man who said, “You know, it doesn’t really matter what [the media] write as long as you’ve got a young and beautiful piece of ass.”

Trump’s glass-bottom id lets the whole world see his megalomania.

Trump’s glass-bottom id lets the whole world see his megalomania. He talks about himself in the third person all the time. He explains that Trump is great because Trump is rich and famous. He’s waxed profound on how he doesn’t want blacks counting his money (he prefers Jews in yarmulkes). He makes jokes on national TV about women fellating him. He pays famous people to attend his wedding and then brags about it as if he got one over on them. He boasts in his books how he screwed over business associates and creditors because all that mattered was making an extra buck.

RELATED: What Makes Donald Run?

If your neighbor talked this way, maybe he’d still be your friend, because we all have friends who are characters. But would you want him to be your kid’s English teacher? Guidance counselor? Would you tell your kids you want them to follow his example? Would you go into business with him?

Would you entrust him with nuclear weapons?

Remnant Here I Come

#related#Karl Marx coined the term lumpenproletariat to describe working-class people who could never relinquish their class consciousness and embrace the idea of a classless socialist society. Hence, they were useless to the revolutionary cause. I’m no Marxist, so I don’t buy the idea that anybody — never mind a whole class of people — are beyond persuasion. But I am tempted to believe that Donald Trump’s biggest fans are not to be relied upon in the conservative cause. I have hope they will come to their senses. But it’s possible they won’t. And if the conservative movement and the Republican party allow themselves to be corrupted by this flim-flammery, then so be it. My job will be harder, my career will suffer, and I’ll be ideologically homeless (though hardly alone). That’s not so scary. Conservatism began in the wilderness and maybe, like the Hebrews, it would return from it stronger and ready to rule. But I’m not leaving without a fight. If my side loses that fight, all I ask is you stop calling the Trumpian cargo cult “conservative” and maybe stop the movement long enough for me to get off.

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Various & Sundry

I had hoped for sanity to be restored by the time I got back from my vacation. Alas, it was not to be. We had a really wonderful time. I may post some pictures over at my Facebook page later.

If you’re reading this “news”letter style, I’ll be on Special Report tonight. If you’re reading this on the web on Saturday (when it goes on the NRO homepage), I’ll still be on Special Report tonight, but you’ll be reading this too late.

I’ll be at the Cato Institute on September 9, talking about — of all things — the Magna Carta. Actually, I’ll just be responding to a guy talking about the Magna Carta. Still come on by if you can.

In October I’ll be speaking at The Fund for American Studies’ Leadership Conference in Colorado Springs. Details here. And on September 17, I will be hosting a telephone “townhall” (details here).

If you’re interested in what the presidential candidates are reading (or say they are reading), here’s my friend Tevi Troy’s breakdown.

My column today is on how Hillary Clinton is just simply guilty and the rest is commentary.

Here’s my column on defining superheroes down.

I’ve written a new foreword to Frank Meyer’s classic collection, What Is Conservatism? It seems timely.

Zoë Update: I don’t have much for you as I was away for two weeks and she was left behind with the house-and-dog sitter. We got back last Sunday. Around Wednesday she stopped chastising us for leaving her. The only problem is she now really thinks anytime I leave the house, I’m leaving forever. It’s pretty painful when she hugs my leg and I drag her toward the door.

And, now, some other stuff:

Building that looks like couple having sex is slammed as “architecture porn”

Man opens package, finds tarantula

Spiders invade bananas

Doctors discover 40-year-old twin growing inside woman’s body

Hamas arrests dolphin accused of being an Israeli spy

Iranian police smash squirrel spy ring

I hope the Wicked Witch doesn’t learn about this: China enlists squad of trained monkeys to clear skies during memorial parade

Newborn baby dies after being attacked by rats in hospital

Infestation of opossums kills 17 babies in Venezuelan birth ward

Abandoned tiger cub found roaming neighborhood

Watch out, Floridians: King Cobra loose in Orlando

The Buffalo Bill house from The Silence of the Lambs is for sale

Mad Max: Fury Road in real life: Yazidi women take on ISIS

No liquid allowed in carry on, woman drinks entire bottle of cognac at Beijing Airport security

Of course: Selfie causes car crash

Related: Millennials hate Millennials, poll finds

Van Helsing or Don Quixote? Man has been searching for Loch Ness monster for over 20 years

UFOs following Donald Trump?

(Flashback: The Simpsons on aliens and American democracy)

When Sesame Street mocked Donald Trump

Is this what the 2020 presidential election will look like?

Star Trek gadgets that exist today

Alabama woman arrested trying to break in to county jail

Good news for weird people

The evolution of Batman in cinema, world gravy wrestling championships, and more in Debby’s Friday links

Click here to see all of the Debby’s links posts since the last G-File

Politics & Policy

Is Trump Really the Anti-PC Warrior His Fans Make Him Out to 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 those reading this off my server),

On December 8, 1979 two Zairean air-force jets approached the airport in Kinshasa, the capital what is now the Democratic Republic of the Congo. The tower radioed the pilots, telling them they couldn’t land; the air-traffic controllers were concerned about low visibility.

But when the pilots were told that they “couldn’t land,” they didn’t think, “I can’t land right now,” they thought, “I can’t land, ever.” So they ejected from their planes, letting two perfectly good Mirage jets crash into the Atlantic Ocean.

These men weren’t fools. Idiots don’t fly jets. It’s just that, for an instant, they were thinking according to an entirely different set of rules about how life works. “Can’t” means “never, ever, possible” according to these rules — not “wait an hour,” or “find a different runway.” And so they hit the eject button.

Longtime readers may recall I got this story from a great book, David Lamb’s The Africans. Lamb went on to observe that many Africans have a slightly different interpretation of cause and effect. In the West, the lesson the average person would take from a near-fatal car crash at high speeds on a hairpin turn would be “Man, that was close. I better not try that again.” But in Africa, Lamb writes, “if an oncoming car has to swerve off the road to avoid his vehicle, and there are no collisions or injuries, the African does not say, ‘Next time I’d better not do that.’”

I’ve heard similar stories about drivers throughout the developing world, particularly in Latin America, where traffic accidents and fatalities are much higher than in more advanced nations — even though the rate of car ownership is much lower.

The Third World Mind of the Clintons

I don’t bring all of this up to write a “news”letter on the perils of polylogism, but to offer some insight into the Clintonian mind.

Bill and Hillary Clinton are like that Third World driver who takes a hairpin curve at high speed and survives. Everything worked out, so why change your behavior?

Now, Bill is a famous case. In many respects he’s lived a Caligulan lifestyle. No, he’s never tried to make his horse a senator, nor did he order the army to declare war on Neptune, but for him the highest law is whatever he can get away with.

RELATED: Hillary and Bill vs. the ‘Little People’

Bill’s entire life has been about cutting corners, shaving the truth — often down to the bone — and conflating his priapism with his sense of entitlement. This has worked out for him because he has superhuman powers of duplicity and cozenage. There are legends in Little Rock of how a young Billy Clinton was on a school field trip to a laboratory when, through an unlikely series of events, a radioactive hustler bit him on the hand, giving him unearthly powers of flim-flammery and deception. The earnest lad was suddenly transformed.

Bill’s entire life has been about cutting corners, shaving the truth — often down to the bone — and conflating his priapism with his sense of entitlement.

I have no doubt Bill believes that he uses his powers for good, but with the pimpish midichlorians coursing through his veins, he can’t help himself. Over time, as he continually escapes the snares reality and morality typically set for mortal men, he has come to have a sense of entitlement and immunity about it all. Like the hazardous driver who’s never had a crash or the lucky investor who’s never lost money, he just thinks: This is the way reality works. Even when a black swan hits him in the grill, he talks his way out of it.

The tragedy for Hillary Clinton is that she is all too human. As Bill’s mortal sidekick, she’s had a good ride. But whereas Bill has an almost Jedi-like ability to lie convincingly — “these aren’t the interns you’re looking for” — Hillary has no superpowers to fall back on. She just has to grind it out. Like Syndrome in The Incredibles or the entire cast of Kick-Ass, she has to compensate for a lack of raw superpowers through guile and technology — and minions, lots and lots of minions. They do her dirty work for her. They burrow into the bureaucracy and cover for her. They get appointed to commissions and erect firewalls against accountability. They tell her what she wants to hear and explain how all bad news is someone else’s fault. They scrub the paper trail. They even shove classified evidence in their pants, if that is what is required. As Renfield to her huband’s Dracula, Otis to his Lex Luthor, Gogo Yubari to his O-Ren Ishii , Alistair Smythe to his Kingpin, Tom Hagen to his Don Corleone, Bizarro World Radar O’Reilly to his evil Colonel Potter, she has amassed considerable resources and abilities of her own. There’s now an entire Clinton-Industrial Complex that fuels and funds the vast interconnected network of minions. They are like agents of Hydra, embedded in the media, in government, and in academia. Places like Media Matters are like huge industrial farms for breeding Clintonian hacks where the larvae are grown in vats.

RELATED: Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton Are Incapable of Embarrassment

Convinced they are the rightful heirs of some new American aristocracy, they are willing to make astounding personal sacrifices for the cause. It would not have shocked me if Sandy Berger had yelled “Hail Clinton!” even as the National Archives guards were pulling paperwork out of his fly.

But the problem remains; Hillary is not the charismatic leader her husband is, or was. She’s good at cleaning up the loose ends of her husband’s lies, but she’s not the person you want out front laying down the lies in the first place. His superpowers did not rub off on her, and to assume they did is to confuse the elephant for the guy sweeping up behind it.

The thing is, Hillary’s been riding shotgun on all those hairpin turns with Bill behind the wheel for so long she thinks she can do what he does. She can’t. It’s understandable, of course. The great ones always make it look easy.

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Trump’s Trumpery

I’m feeling better about Trump mania. It’s obviously too soon to tell for sure, but I think we’ve reached Peak Trump.

Still, vigilance is required. And on that note, I’d like to raise a gripe about what is supposed to be Donald Trump’s greatest strength: his vaunted un-PCness. There’s a consensus out there — among friends and foes alike — that Donald Trump’s success stems from his willingness not to abide by political correctness (that and his willingness to build a wall the Mexicans will pay for). This alleged bravery has managed to convince a great many people that Donald Trump is a conservative. And not just a conservative, but the sort of conservative that one must admire and support if one is to be permitted membership in conservative ranks. Only “RINOs” and worse have problems with the man, I hear hourly.

#related#Let me just say I have exactly zero sympathy or tolerance for this claim. To me this isn’t a matter of opinion, but one of simple fact. I have little patience for people who tell me I have to support Ted Cruz if I’m going to call myself a “real conservative.” But I at least understand that argument. I think it’s wrong. But I get it. It has an internal logic and consistency to it. I feel the same way about intellectual figures as well. William F. Buckley is a hero to me, but I don’t think you have to be a fan to be a conservative. Ditto Edmund Burke, Russell Kirk, or for that matter George Will or Charles Krauthammer. But when you try the “RINO!!!!!!!!!” argument out on Donald Trump’s behalf, I have to assume your digestive and respiratory system works backwards, because I think you’re talking out your ass. By any reasonable or objective metric I am more conservative than Donald Trump and I have a vastly more consistent record of my conservatism (ditto Kevin Williamson, Rich Lowry, George Will, Charles Krauthammer, Charlie Cooke, etc.). You of course are free to say that this is open to debate. You are also free to say that turtles crap glow-in-the-dark yoyos made of marzipan. That doesn’t make it so. And I’m not much interested in debating the proposition.

Who’s Un-PC Again?

There’s still this bit about Trump being un-PC and how he’s worth giving the nuclear codes to because he challenges the “establishment.” I was on Bill Bennett’s radio show the other morning and a caller said something to the effect of “You know why I like Donald Trump? Because he befuddles people like Jonah Goldberg . . . Political correctness has been destroying this country and blah blah blah.” (Obviously, I’m quoting from memory).

So first let me say, as I said to the caller, that I agree that political correctness is a huge problem, one I’ve written about many times (often punctuated with many un-PC jokes). Second, as I also said to him, maybe I’m not the one who is befuddled. Perchance Trump fans are the ones who are confused, while I see the man more clearly.

RELATED: The Phenomenal Incoherence of Donald Trump

Third, and this I wish I had said on air: What the kind of screwed up standard for picking a president is that? Let’s choose the candidate who most annoys Jonah Goldberg! By that standard, Mt. Rushmore would be lined up with the visages of Carrot Top, Alec Baldwin, Debbie Wasserman Schultz, and Tom Friedman.

It is a lie that Donald Trump stands athwart political correctness, yelling Stop.

But here’s the important point: It is a lie that Donald Trump stands athwart political correctness, yelling Stop.

For example, you may recall that Donald Trump and I got into a Twitter fight a few months back. At one point I wrote that he was “relentlessly tweeting like a 14-year-old girl.”

How did Trump respond? If you guessed with Churchillian statesmanship, you guessed wrong. If you guessed with anti-PC fearlessness, you guessed wrong again.

Instead, he played the political-correctness card. He said my tweet was a “horrible insult to women. Resign now or later!”

I still love the “or later.”

He followed up with more demands that I lose my job because of my insult to women.

In words Donald Trump could never say sincerely, I know this isn’t all about me. So recall that Trump — the man whose best selling point for some people is that he’s inarticulate when discussing Mexicans — bashed Mitt Romney for being too “mean-spirited” about immigrants. In response to the backlash against his immigration remarks, he’s been slowly revising his position. He’s now for a convoluted kind of amnesty that involves rounding up illegal immigrants and then re-admitting them on an expedited basis if they are “terrific.”

All this week, he’s been defending himself against the charge he’s piggish towards women by attacking Jeb Bush for his gaffe on women’s health. Meanwhile, on the actual issue of Planned Parenthood he’s been all over the place, saying it does great work one moment, saying he’d shut it down another. All the while he says Ivanka Trump is his guide on women’s health issues and he wants everyone to know what a “big heart” he has. What could go wrong there?

RELATED: Donald Trump Is an Affront to Anyone Devoted to William F. Buckley’s Legacy

Trump’s defenders — and Trump himself — say his liberal record shouldn’t be held against him. He’s “evolved.” The while you find inconsistency on the issues if you go back and look at his record — hence the “he’s evolved” defense — you also find a remarkable consistency on his approach to the issues. He makes things up as he goes along. What informs that process? Liberal conventional wisdom (particularly prior to 2010), reality-show pandering, advice of yes-men, Ivanka Trump, and, of course, whatever direction his mouth is wandering off to at any given moment.

It’s totally worth making that kind of guy the nominee. I mean, after all, he bothers me — and that’s all that really matters.

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Various & Sundry

Goodbye. I’m finishing this “news”letter on a flight to Boston, where I shall retrieve my progeny. We will then head to Copenhagen for the Pacific Research Institute cruise. I haven’t decided whether there will be another “news”letter before September — or ever! (No, that’s probably not true. Just very dyspeptic at the moment). Stay tuned.

Zoë Update: The dingo is very, very, very cross with me. She knows what luggage means. When I tried to leave for the front door, she intercepted me and started begging me like I was an American official leaving her behind at an evacuated embassy. “Take me with you!” It was pretty brutal. But otherwise, she’s doing well. There is, however, very preliminary talk in the Goldberg household about acquiring a second canine to serve as running buddy for the dingo. Stay tuned.

My column today is on the Clinton spin that Hillary Clinton’s server is being investigated. This is a bit like saying a car in a hit-and-run is being investigated, but the driver isn’t. The only difference is that there is sometimes doubt about who was behind the wheel in a hit and run situation. We know who set-up the server.

The new GLOP podcast is out

Robot kills man in India

Countries ranked graphically by size.

Ax-wielding clown turns himself in

Man assaults brother for not sharing Big Macs

Eagle punches drone out of the sky

Bra saves German woman shot in hunting accident

Ghost of long-dead bishop caught on camera?

‘Flying spaghetti monster’ discovered in deep ocean

Deer and rabbit are real life Bambi and Thumper

Drunk squirrel ransacks club

Is this a secret alien moon base?

Indiana toad licker arrested

Puppy catches rain in mouth

Teen kicks self in head 134 times in one minute, breaks world record

Naked driver leads police on chase

(Different) naked man flees scene of accident he caused

Twenty-year-old DUI suspect takes selfie with cop arresting him

Teen finds gold bar while swimming in German lake

Politics & Policy

Asking Trump Whether He’d Support the GOP Nominee Was Anything but ‘Unfair’

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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 (and all of you who never get tired of jokes about reading off of ungulates),

I wonder if, right before his show-of-hands question, Bret Baier turned to the guys sitting behind him and said, “Watch this. It is about to go down.”

I don’t have much use for defenses of Donald Trump in general, but the one I have the least patience for is that the opening question to all the candidates of whether they would support the eventual GOP nominee and forgo a third-party run was “unfair.”

Just to set the stage: This was literally the stage — like the physical stage — of the next Republican convention. This was the first debate in the contest for the nomination to lead the Republican party. Donald Trump is the frontrunner in the polls for that nomination and he has, several times in recent weeks, suggested he might take his marbles and go if he’s not the nominee. But it was unfair to ask him about it?

Donald Trump has suggested he might take his marbles and go if he’s not the nominee. But it was unfair to ask him about it?

Imagine there’s an election for your high-school chess club or your local Shriners group or the Regional Association of Men Who Eat Over the Sink (I’m treasurer). And one guy has been saying over the last couple weeks that if he doesn’t get elected the next president he will quit this organization and set up a rival one. You don’t think it’s fair to ask him about that?

But wait, as an oppo-researcher says to his boss when playing him a video of a Debbie Wasserman Schultz press conference, “Hold on. It gets dumber.”

Contrary to what you might have read over the urinal at Mother Jones, Bret Baier doesn’t work for the GOP. So even if you think it’s unfair for a Republican to expect an answer to that question — which is crazy talk — you have to have your head so far up Donald Trump’s red-velvet-lined ass you can see the glow of the nickel slot machines, to think it’s out of bounds for a journalist to ask that question.

RELATED: Trump: All Bluster and Babbitt

And by the way, what’s up with the whining? All I ever hear from Trump supporters is how “he fights” and “he doesn’t back down” and — of course — “you just don’t get it.”

Well, if it’s too mean to ask this “fighter” to hold up his hand to answer a question he basically begged the world to ask him, is he really deserving of the label? Trump was given an opportunity to explain his position. Go back and read his response. Here it is:

I cannot say. I have to respect the person that, if it’s not me, the person that wins, if I do win, and I’m leading by quite a bit, that’s what I want to do. I can totally make that pledge. If I’m the nominee, I will pledge I will not run as an independent. But — and I am discussing it with everybody, but I’m, you know, talking about a lot of leverage. We want to win, and we will win. But I want to win as the Republican. I want to run as the Republican nominee.

I know what you’re thinking: It’s like when Abraham Lincoln spoke at Cooper Union. Oh, I don’t mean Lincoln’s address. That was a marvel of erudition and coherence. I mean the crazy shirtless guy with a horseshoe sticking out of his open fly shouting, “Did you feed the cat!?” who was dragged out of the room five minutes before Lincoln spoke.

By the way, I will make a similar pledge. If I’m the nominee, I vow not to run as an independent as well. Similarly, if I’m made King of America I will not make any effort to become King of Australia.

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What Don’t I Get Again?

I know, I know. I “just don’t get it.”

Which reminds me, here’s a hint, people: If your best argument is “You just don’t get it,” you’re probably the person who doesn’t get it. Why? Because “You just don’t get it!” is not an argument. Sure, I understand if you say it after you’ve made a serious case with facts, data, and logic. But when you start out with “You just don’t get it,” the brain farting is all on your end of the conversation. It roughly means: “Earth logic is useless in communicating why I think this guy should be the nominee. So I will, like an ugly American, shout the same phrase over and over again on the assumption that with greater decibels comes greater understanding.”

RELATED: A Fabulously Awful Night for Donald Trump

As I learned from wading through a river of pro-Trump tweets last night to the point where I felt like I was escaping Shawshank prison through a sewer pipe, what I apparently don’t get is that Trump won’t commit to the party because he needs “leverage.” The word “leverage” is even in his response; it stands out like a lone crouton in that wilted word salad of his.

I understand why Trump won’t pledge loyalty to the nominee — it’s not complicated. He’s threatening the party to make nice on him or else. That may be a smart tactic. But if that’s his tactic, what’s your objection to asking him about it again?  

Trump, Putanesca Style

By the way, I think Rand Paul was exactly right, if not exactly effective, in his critique of Trump last night. Trump’s argument is that as a businessman he had no choice but to essentially buy politicians.

BAIER: . . . You’ve also supported a host of other liberal policies. Use — you’ve also donated to several Democratic candidates, Hillary Clinton included, Nancy Pelosi.

You explained away those donations saying you did that to get business-related favors.

And you said recently, quote, “When you give, they do whatever the hell you want them to do.”

TRUMP: You’d better believe it.

Trump added a few moments later that as a “businessman”:

I give to everybody. When they call, I give.

And do you know what?

When I need something from them two years later, three years later, I call them, they are there for me.

He even went so far as to insinuate that he bought most of the people on the stage with him last night. That prompted one of my favorite moments. Rubio said he didn’t get any money from Trump adding, “Actually, to be clear, he supported Charlie Crist.”

I remember a time when “the base” hated people who supported Charlie Crist. Now, because of the reality-warping power of Donald Trump, supporting Charlie Crist isn’t only defensible, it’s what all the smart businessmen do.

RELATED: Trump Alters the Way the Rest of the Field Is Perceived

Seriously: What the Hell is wrong with conservatives who denounce crony capitalism in theory but forgive it in practice? Trump is like a john damning the prostitutes he beds for being whores. Since when does being a businessman mean never having to say you’re sorry?

Oh, and what are we supposed to make of Trump’s boast — boast! — that he bribed Hillary Clinton to attend his wedding? Why is this something you would pay for? Why is this something you would admit? I mean, how is this proof of Trump’s shrewdness as a businessman? I get paying Hillary Clinton to get a zoning favor or a tax break or something like that. But how does having Hillary Clinton eating your canapés help your bottom line?

#related#The guy is bragging about how, as the greatest businessman ever, he shrewdly buys politicians — and his example is getting Hillary Clinton to attend his wedding? I guess not since John D. Rockefeller got Mrs. Harding to attend his daughter’s piano recital has there been a more deft move in the world of high-stakes business. As I joked on Twitter last night, “It profits a man nothing to give his soul to gain the whole world, but for …. Hillary Clinton at your wedding?”

I could of course go on about the idea that the savior of American conservatism is a man who thinks socialized medicine works great in Canada and Scotland and who seems to honestly believe that illegal immigration “was not a subject that was on anybody’s mind until I brought it up at my announcement” two months ago.

But, again, the problem is I “just don’t get it.”

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Now, the Important Stuff

Last night’s debates were actually extremely encouraging. I was probably a little too narrow in my declaration — over at Politico — that Rubio, Cruz, and Fiorina were the only winners. At the very least, there weren’t a lot of losers. I mean, yeah, sure, historians will spend decades trying to figure out what Jim Gilmore was doing up there. Honorable, decent, smart guy, I’m sure. But he’s the answer to a question no one is asking.

I increasingly believe that if this Rick Perry had run in 2012, he might be president now. He certainly might have been the nominee. I was very hard on Perry last time around because nothing pisses me off more in politics than when talented and charismatic politicians don’t do their homework. Charisma can’t be bought — if it could, Romney would have bought a ton of it. But you can buy knowledge and preparedness. It takes remarkably little money but a good deal of effort. Perry blew his moment last time so this time he’s running the way a candidate should: seriously.

And that’s true of most of these candidates. The best example is Carly Fiorina. She’s comes to play and doesn’t lose her cool. She was the clear winner of the 5:00 p.m. debate, but Jindal and Perry gave good performances, too. Carly also really shined afterwards. Her interview with Chris Matthews was one of the best examples of a conservative eating a liberal’s lunch since Andrew Breitbart commandeered Anthony Weiner’s press-conference podium.

I will say I was much more bullish on the 5:00 P.m. panel than warranted. I assumed the main debate wouldn’t be as awesome as it was — a safe assumption, I think! Fiorina still helped herself a lot, but it turns out the kiddy-table debate really was a poor substitute for the primetime gig.

Obama’s Iran Speech

For reasons I will get to in a moment, this was an absolutely terrible, horrible, no good, very bad week. So I couldn’t get my normal Friday column done yesterday. That was particularly vexing because it was on Obama’s Iran speech, which I thought was not only bad, but outrageous. It was petulant, small, nasty, partisan, wildly hypocritical, and dishonorable in almost every regard. People who celebrated it should be ashamed of themselves. And the press’s ho-hum reporting on it as if it were just another presidential speech is a searing indictment of not just their news judgment but their partisanship.

The president of the United States said critics of the Iran deal were finding common cause with a murderous Iranian regime — a regime that he has coddled, accommodated, and apologized for time and again. He imputed to his domestic political opponents a none-too-vague whiff of cowardice, dual loyalty, and dishonor. In vintage Obama mode, he condemned the partisanship of his critics while delivering a searing partisan attack. He once again bragged about his opposition to the Iraq War while denigrating all those who supported it — including both of his secretaries of state and his vice president — as if that proves the rightness of everything he does. But this time he went further, basically suggesting that if you don’t support this deal, you are rewarding this evil fifth column in our midst. It was disgusting.

Last, he threatened that if you don’t support his deal, it will mean war.

This is a lie. First of all, if Congress votes down the deal tomorrow, who here believes that Obama will say, “Well, we have no choice now. We have to go to war.”

Anyone?

It was the most shameful presidential speech on foreign policy in my lifetime. Shame on him and his fans.

Who here believes that the people cheering his speech as powerful and impressive will apply its logic if it fails? Will David Axelrod — who loved the speech, of course — suddenly say, “Diplomacy has failed, alas. Now we have no choice but to bomb Iran.”?

They are fear-mongering and lying while denouncing their opponents as fear-mongerers and liars.

They are dishonestly threatening war because war is the only option less preferable than this unbelievably bad deal. It’s a magic-beans deal, minus the magic. It’s the equivalent of giving the Clintons millions in exchange for Mrs. Clinton attending your wedding.

It was the most shameful presidential speech on foreign policy in my lifetime. Shame on him and his fans.

My Week

Feel free to skip what follows. I just needed to get it out of my system.

So, I was supposed to be at the Cleveland debates. I had credentials waiting for me. I even prepaid for a hotel room for two nights. But on Monday, a couple hours after my wife departed for a week in Alaska, I got word from the folks at the Pacific Research Institute that there was a problem. You see, I’m going on the PRI cruise from Copenhagen to St. Petersburg. I didn’t make a big deal about it around here, because every time I go on a competing cruise to National Review’s (super-terrific-awesome) cruises, NR publisher Jack Fowler starts cutting himself again. But this seemed like a great cruise, and the Goldbergs could use the subsidized travel to turn it into a family trip. So far so good. So anyway, on Monday I got word that there was a problem with my daughter’s passport. You see, there’s a rule that on foreign cruises (and similar travel) your passport has to be valid. “Well, duh,” you’re probably saying. “Of course it needs to be valid.” Well, you didn’t let me finish. It needs to be valid for six months after the conclusion of your cruise. My daughter’s passport expires in November. The cruise ends on August 22nd. So, okay. I’ll get Lucy a new passport. That’s inconvenient but doable. I’ve known people to get new passports in 24 hours. All I need to do is pay one of these passport expediting services. For just shy of $500 they can guarantee that I get her passport renewed in 24 hours after getting the right paperwork. All I have to do is follow their instructions to the letter. What I was unprepared for was the complication of these instructions and the degree to which they have to be done in the correct order. The folks at the service are kind of like the guy talking the civilian through how to land a plane in a 1970s disaster movie. “Do this. Don’t do that. Don’t touch that! I can’t believe you slept with Sharon!”

So where was I? Oh, right, there’s a hitch. My daughter needs to personally apply — as in physically be at a passport office or post office — as if it were her first time doing so, because she’s a minor. Well, crap on a stick. Lucy’s in rural Maine at sleep-away camp. I’m going to NYC to do Outnumbered on Wednesday and then fly to Cleveland to be over-served at bars while getting spun by consultants and cursed out by Trump fans or maybe the Pataki fan. Well, maybe I can take her when I get back? Oh no. You see, not only does Lucy have to apply in person. Both parents must be physically present with her. Well, now we’ve got a real problem. The cruise needs the updated passport information in eight days or we won’t be allowed to board the boat. Well, I could board without my daughter and my wife, but then again, I could also see what parts of my body best fit into a Cuisinart in frappé mode on my long planned family vacation. Not an option.

Jessica won’t be back from Alaska until 48 hours or so before the deadline. Aha. Jessica can fill out a form — there’s always a form! — have it notarized, stamped, approved by the priests, and, assuming the goats’ entrails are auspicious, the bureaucrat will smush his signet ring into the hot wax. This form attests that she is she and that my wife co-owns the title on our kid and that I have her permission to get our daughter a new passport to replace the perfectly valid passport she already has without her present. So, the only way this works is for me to cancel my flights from New York City to Cleveland (and eat the hotel costs) and instead figure out travel to rural Maine. I have to time it so that my wife gets the form to me in time — and place — so that I have it with me when I take the child to apply.

Oh, so I get to New York to do Outnumbered. Happy to do the show — great bunch of gals and pre-debate talk should be fun — but super inconvenient given my new priorities. I wake up at 5:00 a.m. Perambulate the dingo. Leave for train station. (My AEI research assistant has agreed to house and animal sit for me. He seemed agreeable when I took out my revolver and laid it on my desk before I asked him.) Make 7:00 a.m. train to New York. On train I learn that Obama will speak at 11:15 from American University on the Iran deal. So I say to myself, “Self, how much you want to bet he’s late and preempts this show?” So I get there. Obama is 45 minutes late, which is roughly 25 minutes later than his standard tardiness. So there I am, caked in makeup, sitting on a couch with four ladies, having an Obama speech-watching party. Every five minutes the producer updates us on what we won’t be able to do as Obama chews up the time (and America’s integrity). I end up on air for two minutes. Totally worth the trip.

So, I head to Penn Station, the only place left on the East Coast that really captures the full ambrosia of urban failure and urine. For the second time in two weeks (we just had our daughter’s parents’ weekend at camp), I head to Boston (I had taken three separate red eyes from Canada to make visiting day at the end of the NR cruise). This time, I take the train to Boston, not remembering that I had rented the car from Logan airport. So even when I’m not flying into that open sewage pit of an airport, I still gotta go there. I take a cab from the train station (got ripped off on the fare — long story), get to Logan airport, and rent a car. Because my daughter loves VW bugs, I take the pale blue VW bug when offered. From the moment I get behind the wheel, I can feel my sperm count dropping and my testosterone evaporating through my pores. I check between the seats for my Y chromosome. I drive to Portsmouth, N.H. (for my third visit this summer, another long story). The paperwork from my wife is waiting for me at the hotel. Yay. I spend the next couple hours going back and forth between the hotel bar, business center, and the reception desk getting copies made, talking to the specialists at the passport service, and generally trying to remember everything I need to do while drinking to forget. I wake up at 5:00 A.M. again to write my Iran column. But I get myself too angry to get it done the way I want to. I’ll get back to it later. And I need to get on the road to pick up my kid. I drive to Maine. She’s late for pick-up because you can’t wear white T-shirts or uniforms for your passport picture. That’s almost all she’s got. Anyway, I exfil kid. Drive back to Portsmouth. We sacrifice the appropriate chickens. Get kid’s passport photo taken. It looks like a mugshot on TMZ. We leave post office for the UPS store to send the paperwork off to D.C. where I live so they can start the process of replacing her perfectly valid passport. Take kid to lunch. Drive her back to camp along the same windy rural roads I drove that morning. Day dragged on too long. No time for column. I discover that the testosterone-draining VW Bug doesn’t have any USB ports or working cigarette lighter thingies. So batteries all die. I use my laptop as a portable battery for my phone. Not going to make it to Boston in time for first debate. Fox News Radio not carrying it because everyone likes to hear the third hour of the Tom Sullivan show instead of the first debate of 2016. Duh. Call D.C .bureau of Fox and try to get someone to put me on hold so I can listen to live broadcast they use instead of muzak. That doesn’t work for some reason. Call my research assistant. He’s at my house. He puts phone up to TV and I listen with the remaining juice in my phone battery. And then I watched a great debate. No word yet on whether I’ll get the passport in time.

Zoë Update: She was very happy to see me when I got home.

Dog’s first words?

Woman confuses shower gel for olive oil when cooking

Maddie the Labrador tries to fill kiddie pool all by herself

General Martin Dempsey belts out “Uptown Funk”

Tourists glimpse rare grey whales in Baja, even get to pet the aquatic mammals

Are armadillos the new Kevlar?

Meet Citronelle, the Instagram famous, mustachioed cat

Forty-foot inflatable ‘Minion’ blocks traffic on Irish highway

Things don’t end well when fake Ohio cop pulls over real cops

Welsh sheepdog herds ducks

Ride the elevator through this Berlin hotel’s massive indoor aquarium

New York City man goes undercover to prove psychics are frauds

Baby bonobos squeak and “talk” just like baby humans

Go treasure and ruin finding just like Indiana Jones

Albino wallaby seen frolicking about English countryside

Man opens coffee shop inside iconic British telephone booth

Sassy dog plays dead when owner won’t play fetch

Chicken to get $2,500 prosthetic leg

Is the ghost of Anne Boleyn, Henry VIII’s first beheaded Queen, haunting her childhood home?

Check out Petco’s dog surfing competition in California

Australian McDonalds unveils gourmet menu, including Belgian waffles and caramelized-onion burgers

Culture

The Twitter Mob: Society’s New Mechanism for Enforcing Morality

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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 my friends at sea),

Forgive me readers, it’s been three weeks since my last “news”letter.

So, as Bill Clinton hopes to say to a new crop of White House interns in 2017, be gentle with me, I’m rusty.

I don’t mean to make light of the confessional, but I have been thinking lately (“That must be a new sensation for you,” — The Couch).

It seems to me that the Internet is taking the place of God for a lot of people.

I always liked the old line, “Character is what you do when only God is watching.” The alternate version, “Character is what you do when no one is watching,” is actually theologically and philosophically a very different statement. But both have their relevance in the age of the Digital Panopticon.

Gossip-Talking Man

For most of human history, to borrow a phrase from social science, people got all up in everybody else’s business. For most of prehistory we lived in small bands, with minimal clothing and communal shelter. Not a lot of room for privacy there.

Gossip mattered less when everybody was pretty much in plain view of everybody else all day long. But as bands grew to tribes and clans, gossip took on ever greater importance as the social sinew of reputation. Boiled down, reputation is what people say about you when you’re not around to hear it.

For my next book, I’ve been reading a lot on human evolution, and it appears that one of the things that let us open an earthen bowl of whup-ass on the Neanderthals just might have been our ability to gossip. Chin-wagging about who Xeroxed his ass at the office Christmas party (I couldn’t say, but I hear it rhymes with Shmevin Billiamson) is fun, but gossiping is actually a crucial asset when it comes to determining who can be trusted and who cannot. If you know Aruk is going to soil his loincloth the moment he hears a saber-toothed tiger growl, that’s useful 411 that might cause you to change tactics (“Let’s tie Aruk to a rock and use him as bait!”). The growth of gossip is tied closely to development of language and clan size.

Anyway, in these types of early societies, the rule of law was a lot like a unicorn that craps iPhones: a really great idea that has very little bearing on real life. Social pressure is what kept people in line. And the main enforcing mechanism of social pressure was gossip. Actually, that’s not quite right. The enforcing mechanisms of social pressure were pointy sticks, big rocks, swords, pikes, pitchforks, etc. (Withholding of food, sex, and time in the Moon Bounce no doubt played a role, too.) But the process for deciding who should be on the receiving end of pointy sticks and Moon Bounce–timeouts was inextricably bound up in gossip. We are homo rumoris.

Death to Morality, Long Live the New Morality

In modern societies — and by modern I mean after the agricultural revolution — reputation and gossip never really lost their potency. How many duels — how many wars? — were started over questions of individual honor? (As Julien Benda notes, with the rise of nationalism comes the rise of “national honor” which had long been an issue for which the Monarch, not the people, decided what was required. But that’s a “news”letter for another day.) You don’t hear much about honor these days, but that’s not because it has gone away; we just define it differently.

Indeed, there’s a tendency on the right to bemoan the fact that traditional morality is breaking down — and that’s obviously true. But the conclusion many take from it is that nothing is taking traditional morality’s place. I’ve been writing for years that this isn’t true. Society, like nature, abhors a vacuum; if you remove one moral dogma, another will rush in to take its place. That’s what much of political correctness is — an attempt to replace one system of customs, mores, values, and ethics with another. The idea that the tweedy Torquemadas who make lists of “trigger warnings” are moral libertarians —or libertines —is resplendently asinine in its manifest ignorance of how the world actually operates.

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God & the Twitter Mob

In other words, gossip, like everything else we do, is informed by the moral ecosystem we live in. Change the ecosystem and you change the gossip. “Henrietta won’t churn butter” sounds like World War II code or a campus euphemism for something dirty that prudish Henrietta refuses to do. But for all I know, 300 years ago it would have counted for vicious gossip. And, “Henrietta worships Satan,” or for that matter “Henrietta doesn’t wear knickers to church,” would have counted for the kind of “news” that warranted getting a good mob up and running.

In The Seven Deadly Virtues, Jonathan Last made the point that when Donald Sterling was driven from the public square and forced to sell his basketball team, it was because the mob had gone bat-guano crazy about his private racial views; no one objected to the fact that he was sharing his racism with his mistress, whom he escorted around town openly. (Jonathan doesn’t mention this part, but I always thought it was odd that Sterling had no problem with his mistress having sex with black dudes, he just didn’t want her to take pictures with them at basketball games or something. That’s some weird stuff right there.) In short, there was little change in the amount of judgmentalism, it’s just the flavor of judgmentalism changed. “The scarlet ‘A’ doesn’t exist anymore,” Last writes, “but the scarlet ‘R’ is very real indeed.”

The Scarlet Hack

On the other hand, that’s not entirely true. Adultery is more socially acceptable than it’s ever been since the last time it was socially acceptable. (It’s been a while.) But it’s still embarrassing. And there’s still one constituency that can generally be relied upon not to endorse adultery: the loyal spouses of the adulterers (as well as their children). Even Hillary would likely have preferred that Bill not be so Aesopian about his urges.

That’s what’s so significant about the hacking of AshleyMadison.com. For those of you who don’t know (and those of you who are pretending not to know because your wife is reading over your shoulder), it’s a website that helps married people cheat on their spouses with other married people. It does it all in secret, which is another of vice’s tributes to virtue. Well, AshleyMadison was hacked and 37 million personal profiles were stolen. Hilariously, the hackers were motivated by a desire to scold AshleyMadison for not respecting privacy as much as they claimed.

I particularly liked this line from Gizmodo:

It goes without saying that this is about the worst data leak imaginable — not only does it have the usual problems of identity fraud, but if the full list of AshleyMadison’s users hits the internet, that’s a lot of adulterers outed.

There’s so much to unpack here. First of all, on the heels of Wikileaks, Bradley Manning, Edward Snowden, and, most recently, the OPM hack, it’s a remarkable thing to write, “It goes without saying that this is about the worst data leak imaginable.”  But it’s also intriguing that in an era where every day another “hot take” liberal or feminist writer is celebrating polyamory and adultery, the actual users of AshleyMadison still don’t want to be “outed.”

For a while, gay activists would “out” gay conservatives to prove right-wing hypocrisy and to work on removing the stigma against homosexuality. Well, if adultery is an acceptable lifestyle choice, shouldn’t someone be celebrating the outing of these hypocrites?

The most powerful lesson from this story, however, is that even when all of the parties to AshleyMadison have a deep interest in keeping their secrets, you can’t count on the secrets staying secret. The only way to guarantee you don’t get “outed” as an adulterer is not to commit adultery in the first place. Behave as if God is watching you and you won’t much care who else is watching you.

The Village Returns

Ian Tuttle had a thoughtful meditation Thursday on Cecil the lion and the cultural perils of Internet outrage titled, coincidentally enough, “Cecil the Lion and the Cultural Perils of Internet Outrage.” He quotes Neil Postman’s Amusing Ourselves to Death:

The information, the content, or, if you will, the “stuff” that makes up what is called “the news of the day” did not exist — could not exist — in a world that lacked the media to give it expression. I do not mean that things like fires, wars, murders and love affairs did not, ever and always, happen in places all over the world. I mean that lacking a technology to advertise them, people could not attend to them, could not include them in their daily business.

Ian adds, “Now they can. Postman was referring to the cultural sea-change represented by television. The same effect is compounded beyond measure by the Internet, which has, in essence, made everything ‘news.’”

Well, yes. But this is less new than it is a regression to the norm of human history. Every little thing about us used to be “news” on the Village Well Network. What the Internet does is recreate a facsimile of the vicious system of gossip that once upheld the moral order.

What is dismaying is not that society is, via Hayekian spontaneous order, creating mechanisms to enforce morality; that’s actually kind of awesome and reassuring.

(Indeed, it exposes why all of the hand-wringing over proposed changes to the Voting Rights Act is so overdone. Does anyone honestly think any state government could long survive the tsunami of obloquy that would arise in response to any real attempt to restore Jim Crow? And that’s assuming there are any states interested in doing such a thing in the first place.)

What is dismaying is that the content of this new morality is often so ridiculous. I have no problem with the creation of a Scarlet ‘R’ for racism, but I do have a big problem with its promiscuous overuse by people who see it as a censorious tool for their will-to-power or mere amusement.

I certainly don’t mind shaming jack-wads like the guy who killed Cecil the Lion (more about that to come), though I think we’ve moved beyond shaming to moral panic and bullying hysteria.

But here’s my point (“I was wondering if you’d ever get to it” — The Couch). In days of old, we worried about our reputation at the retail, interpersonal level. For a brief period — not much more than a few generations really — we were able to enjoy unprecedented anonymity. Contrary to a lot of the hand-wringing about the anonymity of comment-section trolls and Twitter shmucks, the reality is that the Internet and the Digital Panopticon —by which I mean everything from Wikipedia to metadata, GPS records, credit history, Facebook, Twitter, etc. — are making anonymity ever more rare. In fourth grade, my kid started getting lessons at school about how the permanent record of the Internet is vastly more real and permanent than the “permanent record” I was taught to worry about at her age.

The body-cameras-on-cops stories are just the beginning of the body-cameras-on-the-body-politic stories. Within the next ten years, I wouldn’t be surprised if virtually all public spaces end up being monitored by drones taking pictures of everything we do. In the not too distant future, our cars will increasingly be driven by computers that will record all of our comings and goings. It won’t really matter, until you do something you shouldn’t do. The challenge will be, how should we define doing something “you shouldn’t do”?

The phrase ‘Character is what you do when no one is watching,’ is really a way to get you to imagine that someone is watching you.

The phrase “Character is what you do when no one is watching,” is really a way to get you to imagine that someone is watching you. We are relearning that someone is watching us, but we aren’t being taught that that someone is God.

We’ll see how that works out.

Various & Sundry

Hitler, Huckabee, Obama, Oh My!: My column today is about the brouhaha over Huckabee’s Hitler comments. I’m not a huge fan of Huckabee, but the hysteria over his comments was know-nothing and hypocritical. But, as someone who’s spent quite a bit of time studying the history of argumentum ad Hitlerum, I did find it interesting. Regardless of the merits of Huckabee’s comments — which I think are defensible, even if the words may have been poorly chosen — I think part of the problem for Huckabee was that he talked of Jews and ovens, which still has the power to shock. The other part of the problem, of course, was that he spoke ill of Obama, which simultaneously infuriates and reassures liberals of a certain ilk.

But the hypocrisy of his critics is really rather stunning. FDR proclaimed in his 1944 State of the Union Address(!) that anyone who wanted to return to the “normalcy” of peace, prosperity, and limited government of the 1920s was essentially a fascist traitor:

One of the great American industrialists of our day—a man who has rendered yeoman service to his country in this crisis-recently emphasized the grave dangers of “rightist reaction” in this Nation. All clear-thinking businessmen share his concern. Indeed, if such reaction should develop—if history were to repeat itself and we were to return to the so-called “normalcy” of the 1920’s—then it is certain that even though we shall have conquered our enemies on the battlefields abroad, we shall have yielded to the spirit of Fascism here at home.

In, the next presidential election, Harry Truman implied that his opponent, Thomas Dewey, was a front man for the sort of “reactionary” forces that led to Hitler.

George W. Bush was routinely compared to Hitler across the popular culture and there wasn’t a fraction of this kind of outrage — to the extent there was any outrage at all.

I could write a book about all this — but I already did — so suffice it to say that at least part of what offends liberals about Hitler analogies isn’t the substance of them, it’s the violation of their monopoly license on them.

Zoë Update: Well, the dingo had a great week road-tripping. While I was winding down the NR Alaska cruise, the Fair Jessica was driving the dingo up to New England. I left the boat a day early and flew all night to make my daughter’s camp-visiting day (Because: Dad). Jess picked me up at the Boston airport (“America’s 712th least crappy airport!”) and we drove up to Maine, which the dingo liked a great deal. After an afternoon of licking my daughter’s face, chasing red squirrels, and rolling in deer poop, she joined us in a drive to Vermont, which she also really liked. We spent the night at the Inn at Sunset Hill, which was typically charming, dog-friendly, and had a great English Sheepdog with a summer haircut (here’s Zoë and Dudley hanging out). We then went to the much swankier and even more charming (and expensive) Pitcher Inn in Warren, Vermont, where they treated Zoë like royalty, which was nice, given her roots as a swamp dog of Dixie. The only problem with Vermont is that it was amazingly critter-free. We saw maybe one squirrel, a couple chipmunks, and no bunnies. Zoë was pretty furious about that. She suspects they were tipped off she was coming.

If you’re reading this on Friday, I’ll be on Special Report tonight. If you’re reading this on Saturday, I was on Special Report last night. If you’re reading this 10,000 years from now, I wrote this One Year Before the Age of SMOD.

The cruise was great fun, as usual. You should go sometime. Rumors that I walked onto the stage of the night-owl session without pants on are based in some fact.

Dog ingenuity for the win!

Cows derail train in Kent, England

Most terrifying plane landing ever?

Meet Jojo, the surfing Corgi

Prince Charles & Duchess Camilla dive-bombed by eagle

Ohio toddler and lion play the imitation game

This deer wants to be heard

This exasperated Dad’s channeling Taken to deal with his kids

Giant squid surprises Russian sailors

Stressed from life and work? Channel this pug to chill out

Ernest Hemingway look-alike crowned

German police detain a SQUIRREL for “stalking” woman

Emu drag racing?

Swiss military crosses French border without permission . . . to get water for their thirsty cows

Take a virtual tour of Japan’s robot hotel

Car-wash chaos in central London

Graves of Jamestown original leaders located

Time lapse captures stunning storm over the Grand Canyon

A whole new meaning for “fresh” fish

Battle of the birds

Student protests $140 college fine by paying all in pennies

Don’t have an oven? That’s okay, you can make dessert in your hot car

Crocodile or creature from the dark lagoon?

Kansas authorities find 60-pound carp in drainage ditch

Polish authorities catch runaway cow after two years

Pennsylvania man caught drunk & naked in barn, claims “I just like pigs”

Boston’s last “tower of snow” finally melts

’Til death do they part?

Disneyworld catches dine & ditcher

Britain’s 20 year old MP, youngest since 1667, delivers maiden speech

Take a virtual ride down the world’s biggest water slide

Who wouldn’t want to throw a luxury birthday party for their pet sea lion?

Are snakes squirrels’ new acorns?

GoPro like a Jedi Knight

Politics & Policy

Trump Fans, It’s Time for an Intervention

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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 those of you with better things to do),

There have been times in the past when I’ve gotten crosswise with certain segments of the conservative base and/or with the readership of National Review. And, because, like the Elephant Man, I am a not an animal but a human being, I have always had at least some self-doubt. That’s as it should be. People who share principles should not only hear each other out when they disagree; they should be able to see each other’s points and hold open the possibility that one’s opponents have the better argument.

This is not one of those times, at least not for me.

I truly, honestly, and with all my heart and mind think Donald Trump’s most ardent supporters are making a yuuuuuuge mistake. I think they are being conned and played. I feel like a guy whose brother is being taken advantage of by a grifter. I’m watching helplessly as the con artist congratulates him for taking out a third mortgage.

Anger Is Not an Argument

Now, before I go on, let me clarify a few things. I get it. The base of the party is angry. They’re angry about Obama’s lawless chicanery on immigration. They’re angry about the GOP’s patented inability to cross the street without stepping on its own d*ck and then having to apologize for it. They’re angry that the Left’s culture warriors are behaving like an invading army that shoots the survivors even after they’ve surrendered. They’re angry that Republicans have to bend over backward so as not to offend anyone, while Democrats have free rein (and at times free reign) to do and to say as they please.

Enter Trump, stage left. He makes no apologies. He’s brash. I can understand why some see him as a breath of fresh air. If you want to give him credit for starting a worthwhile debate about sanctuary cities and illegal immigration, fine. I think that argument is way overdone, but certainly reasonable enough.

Trump supporters need an intervention. I want to sit them down at the kitchen table, reach into a manila envelope, and pull out the proof that he’s a fraud.

Maybe you just like him. On that, we can respectfully disagree, as there is no accounting for taste. Perhaps you just like his musk and the way it assaults your nostrils, which is fitting, given his line of cologne. Fine.

I, on the other hand, find him tedious, tacky, and trite. He’s a bore who overcompensates for his insecurities by talking about how awesome he is, often in the third person. Jonah can’t stand that.

You see the next Teddy Roosevelt and all I see is someone who talks big and carries a small schtick.

Sup Britches?

In words George Will shall never write, this is a good moment to talk about my pants. Earlier this week, Donald Trump attacked Charles Krauthammer and me. By the way, I don’t blame Trump one bit for his hostility. I’d hate me too, if I were him. Still I do marvel at how this supposed Master of the Universe can be unnerved by such criticism. If it takes so little effort for me to set up shop in his head, by all means, let’s give him thermonuclear weapons.

Anyway, when asked about me, he said:

I’m worth a fortune. . . . I went out, I made a fortune, a big fortune, a tremendous fortune . . . bigger than people even understand. . . . Then I get called [a failure] by a guy that can’t buy a pair of pants, I get called names?

As the intern said to Bill Clinton, this puts me in a weird position. I don’t like to brag, but I’m actually quite adept at buying pants. I don’t enjoy it. But I can do it. It never occurred to me to put it in my bio or anything — “Jonah Goldberg is a senior editor of National Review, a fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, and a successful pants-buyer” — but maybe I should.

Now, I will say that I sometimes choose not to wear pants, and not just because I’m so fond of my spaghetti-strainer codpiece (which affords me the satisfaction of telling really attractive women, “Hey, my eyes are up here. Thank you very much”). But these are my choices. If I want to identify as a pantless American, who are you to say otherwise?

More to the point, what I find so gaudy about Trump is his constant reference to the fact that he made a lot of money, and his expectation that it somehow makes him immune to criticism or means that he’s a better person than his GOP competitors, never mind yours truly.

The Trump-Pets Blare

Moreover, I find it horribly disappointing that his fans like this about him. If you met someone in real life who talked this way, you would think he’s a jerk. But somehow he’s awesome when he does it on TV?

The most troubling defense is this claptrap that he ‘tells it like it is.’ Well, first of all, no he doesn’t. He tells it the way you want to hear it, which is an entirely different thing.

His biggest fans disappoint in other ways as well. I marvel at how they can simultaneously despise Obama’s arrogance but revel in Trump’s. (I chuckle at all of the people who tell me he’s a heroic truth-teller for “telling it like it is” and “calling it as he sees it” but who at the same time fume at me when I tell it like it is about Trump and call it as I see it.)

But most grating of all are the people who sincerely think he should be the Republican nominee for president of the United States.

On this, I’m afraid we’re going to have to disrespectfully disagree. First of all, he’ll never be president of the United States. I won’t go into all of the reasons I think this, but a few off the top of my head: his enormous negatives, even among Republicans; the Midas’s hoard of oppo-research material that surely lurks beneath the surface; and his comments about women, which alone would turn the gender gap into a chasm. To borrow a line from Mark Steyn, a President Trump would have more ex-wives than the previous 44 presidents combined.

But my objection isn’t to the political analysis of Trump supporters. It’s their judgment of the man that stews the bowels.

The Purest RINO

Which gets me back to the grifter thing.

I’ve written many times about how I hate the term RINO because conservatives should consider themselves Republicans in Name Only. The Republican Party is a vessel, a tool for achieving conservative ends. It’s nothing more than a team. Conservatism is different. It’s a body of ideas, beliefs, and temperaments. The amazing thing is that Trump is both a RINO and a CINO. I’m sure he has some authentic and sincere conservative views down in there somewhere. But the idea that he’s more plausibly conservative — or more loyally Republican — than Ted Cruz, Rand Paul, Scott Walker, or any of the others is just flatly absurd. It is vastly more plausible that he is a stalking horse for his dear friend Hillary Clinton than he is a sincere conservative.

Trump supporters need an intervention. I want to sit them down at the kitchen table, reach into a manila envelope, and pull out the proof that he’s a fraud. The conversation would go something like this:

Immigration: You seem to think he’s an immigration hardliner, and he’s certainly pretending to be. But why can’t you see through it? He condemned Mitt Romney as an immigration hardliner in 2012 and favored comprehensive immigration reform. He told Bill O’Reilly he was in favor of a “path to citizenship” for 30 million illegal immigrants:

Trump: You have to give them a path. You have 20 million, 30 million, nobody knows what it is. It used to be 11 million. Now, today I hear it’s 11, but I don’t think it’s 11. I actually heard you probably have 30 million. You have to give them a path, and you have to make it possible for them to succeed. You have to do that.

Question: Just how many rapists and drug dealers did Donald Trump want to give green cards to?

Abortion: In 1999 he said, “I’m totally pro-choice. I hate it and I hate saying it. And I’m almost ashamed to say that I’m pro-choice but I am pro-choice because I think we have no choice.”

Man, it’s like he’s channeling Thomas Aquinas there.

Now he says he’s pro-life. But I’ll spare the mocking on this because at least he’s flip-flopping in the right direction, and I don’t like to second guess peoples’ professed religious convictions.

Obamacare: The man wrote in his own book and said elsewhere that he was in favor of Canadian-style socialized medicine — which would put him to the left of Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama, and on pretty much the same page as Bernie Sanders.

Hillary: Speaking of her, Trump praised Hillary Clinton and her health-care reform plan — in 2007! She attended his (most recent) wedding. He donated to her campaigns and to the Clinton Foundation. In 2008, he couldn’t get his head around the fact that Obama didn’t pick her for VP. “I’m a big fan of Hillary. She’s a terrific woman. She’s a friend of mine.”

Economics: People tout the guy’s business record. But he represents almost exactly what his supporters think he opposes. He’s a crony capitalist par excellence. He gives to whatever politician can grease the skids for his next deal — and he makes no apologies for it. He’s an eminent-domain voluptuary. He abuses bankruptcy laws like a stack of homemade get-out-of-jail-free cards.

Parlez vous Conservative?

The most troubling defense is this claptrap that he “tells it like it is.” Well, first of all, no he doesn’t. He tells it the way you want to hear it, which is an entirely different thing. He is like William Jennings Bryan, only his cross of gold has an all-you-can-eat buffet under it, and looks remarkably like a capital “T.”

He is like William Jennings Bryan, only his cross of gold has an all-you-can-eat buffet under it, and looks remarkably like a capital “T.”

“The people of Nebraska are for free silver, and I am for free silver,” Bryan announced. “I will look up the arguments later.” That is Trump’s approach. He’s saying what understandably angry people want to hear him say.

He reminds me a lot of Mitt Romney, at least in one respect. I always said that Romney “spoke conservatism as a second language” (a line some people ripped off, btw). That’s why Romney called himself a “severe conservative,” talked about how he “likes to fire people,” and anathematized the “47 percent.”

Trump is even less truly conservative, but he’s trying to speak in an even grubbier dialect of conservatism. And, having grown up in the tabloid politics of New York, he’s better at faking it.

Eventually, I suspect, this will be the cause of his undoing. He doesn’t know what he doesn’t know about conservatism, and at some point he will say something that even his biggest fans will recognize as a damning revelation about the real man beneath the schtick. The only question is whether he implodes before or after he does permanent damage to the GOP’s chances in 2016.

The Conservative Heart

Look, these are rough times for conservatives, for reasons too lengthy, and all too familiar, to go into here. But none of our problems — demographic, political, cultural — can be solved unless conservatives take the cause of persuasion to heart. All of our problems can be fixed by convincing people to join our cause. That is what politics is about — persuading people that their interests and concerns are better addressed by coming to our side. And, given the degraded nature of our culture, I won’t deny that having a celebrity on our side has its utility. But it’s only helpful if that celebrity convinces people to switch sides. As a purely mathematical proposition, it is insane to believe that Donald Trump will convert more voters than he will repel.

For those who are interested in persuasion, I heartily recommend Arthur Brooks’s new book, The Conservative Heart (full disclosure: He’s my boss at AEI and a friend). I’ll be writing more about it in the future because I think it’s an important book. But I will say for now that it is almost a mirror image of Trump’s approach. It’s thoughtful, humble, fact- and data-driven, and informed by a deep moral case for conservatism. It won’t satisfy your desire to scream at the opposition, but it will equip you to explain to the opposition why they are wrong.

Various & Sundry

Zoë update: She has never been a better girl. Whatever happened to her in the kennel last year that turned her into a canine bully seems to have been forgotten. She’s no border collie — she can’t paw out the square root of pi to the 20th digit — but she listens to commands more and more. The only downside is that her sense of entitlement seems to know no bounds. She often insists on sleeping between my wife and me, like she’s some kind of canine chaperone and we’re unwed teenagers. She’s also becoming a more adept killer. I know the war on squirrels is an existential and eternal struggle, but frankly I’m not a big fan of cute things killing other cute things. We also seem to have a major influx of bunnies in our neighborhood and their inability to climb trees is a major tactical advantage for her. Still, a dingo’s gotta dingo.

My column yesterday was on how Hillary Clinton is what philologists call “a liar.”

The other week I joined the Wheels Down podcast to talk about the death penalty.

By the time you get this, the latest GLoP podcast should be up at Ricochet.

I’m not sure there will be a G-File next week as I will be in an undisclosed location where there is no WiFi or cell service. If that sounds mysterious, then I have succeeded. So, just in case, here’s an extra helping of weird links.

Debby’s Links

First it was angry birds, now it’s angry bears

Photobomb by ghost in this Edinburgh haunt?

Biggest exam fails

Cheetahs hop aboard a safari Jeep

Family brings home litter of 16 puppies

Canada’s balloon boy

1 in 50 million half-black-, half-orange-colored lobster caught in Maine

New York City from above

Animals’ best friend

Visit the Czech Republic’s ‘bone church’

Shark dies in traffic accident

Dog tries to take a bite out of the AC

These passengers mean business

Rescue from a rubber duckie

Italian nonnas try Olive Garden

Meet Abu Dhabi’s ‘robocob’ car

Détente by reggae?

Breathtaking photos of the night sky and national parks

Hotel minibars for the stars

Don’t take the seat in 7-bees

Phoenix man rescued from a chimney

Eels on a train!

Apple’s latest products: iRash and iBurn

Visit the luxury Azerbaijani spa where guests bathe in oil

Meet Twiggy, the champion waterskiing squirrel

Desk fan helps marsupial lift-off

Disneyland bans selfie sticks after guest pulls one out atop a roller coaster

Want a chance to win $10,000? Name your baby Quinoa

The Hunchback of Petaluma? California’s “Quasi-Modo” crowned World’s Ugliest Dog

Check out Japan’s new “hunky” gorilla that’s driving up tourism

These kangaroos have got a new BFF: a wild goat

Meet Blossom, the largest cow in history

Crow hitches a ride on a bald eagle

Meet the Rottie who can turn from naughty to nice on command

He’s just a dog in a drive-through

The towns that time forgot

Man can hold 92 pencils, 79 grapes, and 12 lit candles, and more in his mouth

Mom takes kids to see Pixar film, instead shown new horror movie

Skinny jeans send Australian woman to the ER

Chefs create mile-long pizza in Milan

Watch great whites swim by from the safety of this glass-bottom boat

Worst proposals of all time?

The science behind why bacon is so awesome

Man undergoes 23 surgeries to look like his icon, Superman

£300 million, 45-room mansion goes on sale in London’s Hyde Park, complete with gold trash cans, jewel-encrusted bathrooms, and a fireplace once owned by Louis XV

It’s a dolphin! It’s a horse! It’s a . . . sea monster?

English town is cracking eggs to combat seagull population

Culture

The Delusions of Left-Wing Identity Politics

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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 have a Matchbox car of the General Lee from the Dukes of Hazard, in which case you must be sent to reeducation camp),

In my column yesterday I noted that we now live in a world where Bobby Jindal is a fake Indian, but it’s racist to say Elizabeth Warren isn’t a real Indian. It’s okay for the press to mock Ted Cruz for boasting Cuban heritage, but it’s outrageous that Jindal and Nikki Haley aren’t boasting about their heritage enough.

But, as the surprisingly communicative prison bully said to his new cellmate, “Hold on, it gets worse.”

What’s the correct word today? What are we allowed to think? How long must we discuss a world that doesn’t bear much resemblance to the one we actually live in?

Big corporations — the very same corporations we are constantly told are “Right-wing” — have been falling over themselves to erase any hint of Confederate flags from their inventories. Walmart proclaimed, “We never want to offend anyone with the products that we offer.” eBay said they don’t want to sell anything that promotes “divisiveness.” Amazon quickly followed suit with similar pabulum.

As a business proposition, it’s hard for me to fault them. With the mobs desperate to sack any citadel that even hints at being a holdout, best to defenestrate the Confederate flags and fly the white ones.

But this standard of no “divisive” products isn’t actually a standard. It is a political fiction, a marketing myth, an invocation one must offer as one shovels the cursed wares of the day down the memory hole, like so many kilos of heroin with cops at the door. 

Goodbye to All That

“Memory hole” is a term from Orwell’s 1984. It was literally a series of pipes one could throw documents down, so as to whisk them to the furnace as quickly as possible. (Fortunately for Hillary Clinton, that can be done digitally these days.)

Taken seriously, this new standard of anti-divisiveness would require cramming so many things down the memory hole it would be the functional equivalent of shoving a whole Thanksgiving turkey, uncooked, into the garbage disposal. Everywhere one looks, there are divisive things. The gay pride rainbow flag? Shvvvuuumph! Down the memory hole! Nazi memorabilia (still widely available at Amazon and Ebay)? Thwwwwwwwwwooosshh! Down the memory hole! Communist flags? Muslim Crescents? Christian Crucifixes? Stars of David (never mind Israeli flags)? Get ready for a long, grinding, thwarararammmmmfitang as the disciples of blackwhite thinking — and those who fear them — squeeze the polarizing bric-a-brac into the wheezing pneumatic tubery.

These of course are just the symbols. Then there are the books that must be hurled into the maw of forgetting. For the last few years, Huckleberry Finn’s place in American life has been shrinking, thanks to the stark terror it inflicts in an educrat class that insists on denouncing America’s racist past, but is too scared to actually engage it maturely for fear of triggering someone. 

Gone With the Asininity

Already, a film critic at the New York Post (!) wants to dustbin Gone With The Wind (though he at least concedes it could be interred at a museum). I’m no partisan of the Confederacy, but I’m also no partisan of Communism. I understand why so many glower when they see the Confederate flag fly, I am hard pressed to understand why so few glare when they see the Hammer and Sickle grace dorm room walls or the midriffs of bearded, burly hipsters who apparently got a memo it’s okay to wear transgressive T-shirts so long as they’re so tight people get a glimpse of your belly hairs. 

I’d say it’s almost as if they don’t know that the Communists were the greatest revivers of the institution of slavery in the 20th century, except I am fairly certain they don’t know that (as we speak — so to speak — ISIS is giving away sex-slaves to the winners of Koran-memorization contests, but this arouses far less passion in Americans than the thought that someone somewhere might want to buy a civil war chess set from Walmart).

I said above that if this standard were taken seriously so much would have to go down the memory hole. But that’s the rub. This isn’t a standard that is being taken seriously. It isn’t a standard at all. It’s a cudgel. A rhetorical nightstick used in service to the politics of revenge and forgetting.

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When I was growing up (“How’s that going? Seems like you’ve got a ways to go…” — The Couch), it seemed like lots of people talked about post-modernism, critical-race theory and all that junk. Today, it seems like no one talks about it, but everyone lives it — or is being forced to live with it.

I’ll always remember that line from Wendy Doniger when McCain picked Sarah Palin for veep: “Her greatest hypocrisy is in her pretense that she is a woman.”

Whatever criticisms you might have for Palin, there was a time when the one thing everyone could agree on is that she’s, you know, a woman. But now we live in an age where we must say Bruce Jenner is a woman, but only Right-wing cranks like me bother to complain that a professor at the University of Chicago could write that Sarah Palin isn’t one.

The Center Will Not Hold

My real fear isn’t that the Left will win. I still have some faith that the American people, including large portions of the Democratic base, don’t actually buy all of this nonsense, or at the very least it’s reasonable to assume they won’t continue to buy it for long. Why? Because it’s exhausting. What’s the correct word today? What are we allowed to think? How long must we discuss a world that doesn’t bear much resemblance to the one we actually live in? Most people don’t want to be politically engaged constantly. We won’t all be assimilated by the Borg. (Though it is kind of amazing that the Swedish Chef on The Muppet Show had been warning us about this for so long and we never listened; “borg-a-borg-borg-borg!”)

The Left’s identity-politics game is a bit like the welfare states of Europe, which exist solely by living off borrowed capital and unrequited generosity.

No my real fear is that the center will not hold. I’ve discussed this a bit when it comes to the debate over Islam. I don’t like the practice of insulting Muslims — or anybody — just to prove a point. But what I like even less is the suggestion that Muslim fanatics have the assassin’s veto over what we can say or do. So I am forced to choose sides, and when forced, I will stand with the insulters over the beheaders. But that is not an ideal scenario. That is the Leninist thinking of “the worse, the better.”

So what I fear is something similar in our own society; that the Left gets what it’s been asking for: Total Identity Politics Armageddon. Everyone to your tribe, literal or figurative.

Spending as much time as I do on the internet, it’s easy to think this world has already arrived. It’s basically how political twitter operates. But what I fear is that it spills over into real life, like when characters from The Matrix walk among us.

The Left’s identity-politics game is a bit like the welfare states of Europe, which exist solely by living off borrowed capital and unrequited generosity. Europeans can only have their lavish entitlements because they benefit from our military might and our technological innovation. Left to their own devices, they’d have to live quite differently.

Similarly, identity politics is fueled by generous subsidies from higher education, foundations, and other institutions designed to transfer resources to the Griping Industry. But if you spend enough time teaching people to think that way, guess what? They’ll think that way.

Cruz v. Clinton Ragnarok

The other night I was on Special Report with Senator Ted Cruz as our guest in the “Center Seat.” On the broadcast show I got to ask a total of one question — Cruz is a brilliant filibusterer.

Anyway, after he left the online show (where we chatted more), I remarked that his professed general election strategy — should he get the nomination — is to run on uniting conservatives and to get the conservatives who allegedly didn’t show up for McCain and Romney to show up for him. He almost explicitly says he wants to run a Goldwateresque campaign: all-choice, no echo. Galvanize the base, forget about everyone else.

Now, I’m not sure I really believe this would actually be his game plan if he were to win the nomination, but I understand why he’s saying it now. He wants to be the One True Conservative in the race and that’s what his constituency wants to hear. Fair enough.

But it occurs to me that Cruz’s bet that a full-throated conservative can beat a full-throated liberal in a general election is very much the mirror image of Hillary Clinton’s strategy (though Hillary’s approach seems vastly more shameless and transparent, perhaps because, unlike Cruz, she’s an awful politician).

Her plan is to rally the Obama Coalition and forget about the middle. Cruz’s plan is to rally what he calls the Reagan coalition and forget about everyone else. As a matter of pure electoral mechanics and mathematics, I’m pretty dubious about that. But it would move the country further down the course I’m worried about. Obviously, for me, the choice between Ted Cruz and Hillary Clinton is no choice at all. I’d vote for Cruz in a heartbeat. My only point here is that when one side plays the identity politics game so aggressively, it forces others to play it as well. Those of us who want politics to mean less in life are forced to choose a side.

Various & Sundry

I’m finishing this “news”letter in the front passenger seat of some kind of rented Kia something or other. (“Just call it a Kia POS,” my wife advises me from behind the wheel.) We’re driving my daughter and a friend of hers to sleep-away camp. It’s a bittersweet thing of course. Excuse me, I think I’m allergic to something in this car….

Zoë Update: I walked the Dingo at 4:30 this morning. Normally we’d go to the dog park, but I didn’t have time before our flight. So we patrolled the neighborhood instead. It turns out that there’s a lot going on at 4:30. We saw several raccoons heading home after a long night of rifling through garbage cans. Zoë has very mixed emotions about raccoons. They smell fascinating but they don’t immediately run from her, which troubles her. We also saw some deer coming out from behind a house. Zoë was furious I didn’t unleash her and shout, “Bring me some venison!” Anyway, she’s pissed for other reasons. She had a major bath on Thursday and saw her whole family leave for God knows how long (she doesn’t know the dogsitter is coming shortly). She refused to come downstairs to say goodbye to us. For the ultimate white-trash dog, she sure can sulk like a brat from Downtown Abbey.

Okay now for the big confession. After much nudging from the suits, I now have a Facebook page. I don’t even know how to log onto it yet. But in the weeks ahead I’ll be working with the folks at NR and my own crackerjack staff (literally it’s a bunch of crackerjacks with faces on them) to make it like Bill Murray’s underwear in Stripes. By which I mean, I may use it rarely, but when I do I’ll try to make it unusual.

No wait, that’s not right. Anyway, I’ve got my first post up over there. If you’re a Facebook type person, my understanding is that “liking” it or me or something is a good thing. So please do. If you’re not a Facebook person, I envy you the way the living will envy the dead when Cthullu’s reign begins.

Breaking News Update: So after I filed this legendarily unlegendary “news”letter the Supreme Court made another announcement about our constitutional right to live in a world where the Constitution means, like, whatevs. My apologies for not addressing the big news of the day here, I’m sure there’s plenty of great stuff on NRO about it.

This week Kevin Williamson substituted for John Podhoretz on the GLoP podcast.

Blind dog gets a guide dog

Queen Elizabeth & Prince Philip take a selfie?

These princesses are dino-mite

Battle of Waterloo recreated in LEGOs

Artist to sell Donald Trump piñata

Canadian province: don’t flush those goldfish!!

SNL’s Maya Rudolph impersonates Rachel Dolezal 

Ever wanted a pizza with pockets of steak, fries, cheese, and more? Sweden’s got you covered.

French market accidentally sells lamb modified with jellyfish protein

Dogs duke it out for this year’s ‘Ugliest Dog’ award

Mountain lion, kitty-cat throw each other shade

Chris Pratt trains Jurassic Park’s young new dino-keepers

British town has drivers speeding double​ . . . 

Italian taxi driver doubles fare after man ‘punctures’ a tire with his weight

Nebraska man vows to join ISIS after Humane Society takes his cat

Petting Zoo Beauty Pageant

Feral cats stinking up Ohio town

Chimp jams on the drums

‘Twerking,’ ‘FLOTUS,’ ‘Meh,’ ‘Fo’ Shizzle,’ and other slang added to the Oxford English Dictionary

What major cities would look like if Star Wars invaded

Alaska bear cam

Cuttlefish changing color

Puppies stampede into a pool

Old people at Bonnaroo

Politics & Policy

When We Say ‘Conservative,’ We Mean . . .

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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 self-described “transreaders” who do not in fact read this “news”letter but want to be considered the sort of person who does),

I am writing this from the back parking lot of a random Ramada in Williamsburg, Va. I’m sitting in my car in a Tommy Bahama shirt and pinstripe suit pants smoking a cigar. It’s a pretty sketchy look, even before I take off my shirt to finish getting properly dressed. A passing cop would probably assume that I’m waiting for a hooker, a drug dealer, or maybe someone from the development office at the Clinton Foundation looking for a donation.

Oddly, I’m here for none of those reasons.

I’m here because I’m a conservative. Or, to put it more clearly, I’m here to give a talk about what it means to be a conservative. An outfit called the Congressional Institute asked me to come speak to a bunch of Capitol Hill muckety-muck GOP aides on the question “Why Are You a Conservative?”

And since I don’t have much time to write a good “news”letter, never mind time to prepare my talk, I figured I’d try to kill two birds with one stone.

Which reminds me, I always had a bit of a problem with that expression. I get the idea behind it; economy of effort, conservation of resources, blah blah. But when was the last time there was a premium on saving stones? It seems to me that there’s a contradiction between this saying and another avian-themed maxim. The idea behind “a bird in the hand is worth two in the bush” is that one should be a bit humble in one’s expectations and grateful for what one has. If you know you can kill one bird with one stone, why get greedy by going for two in one shot? Contrary to popular impressions, I don’t know a lot about killing birds with rocks, but it seems to me that going for one bird would be infinitely easier and wiser than going for two in a single shot. By being greedy, you risk getting nothing.

Where was I? Oh, right.

There are any number of definitions of conservatism out there on the Interwebs, though my sense from googling around is that at least half of them are invidious; caricatures plucked from the imaginations of anti-conservatives looking for convenient enemies, sort of like Apollo Creed handpicking Rocky Balboa out of obscurity because he thought Rocky fit a convenient, and easily defeatable, stereotype.

I like some definitions better than others. “What is conservatism?” Abraham Lincoln famously asked, “Is it not the adherence to the old and tried against the new and untried?” That’s pithy, but it’s less a definition than a rhetorical flourish.

Russell Kirk who, despite his brilliance and erudition, was never my cup of tea, offered “Six Canons of Conservatism.” (I’ve edited them down, but you can follow this link to read them in their entirety.)

1. Belief in a transcendent order, or body of natural law, which rules society as well as conscience. . . . True politics is the art of apprehending and applying the Justice which ought to prevail in a community of souls.

2. Affection for the proliferating variety and mystery of human existence, as opposed to the narrowing uniformity, egalitarianism, and utilitarian aims of most radical systems; conservatives resist what Robert Graves calls “Logicalism” in society.

3. Conviction that civilized society requires orders and classes, as against the notion of a “classless society.” With reason, conservatives have been called “the party of order.” If natural distinctions are effaced among men, oligarchs fill the vacuum.

4. Persuasion that freedom and property are closely linked: separate property from private possession, and Leviathan becomes master of all. Economic levelling, they maintain, is not economic progress.

5. Faith in prescription and distrust of “sophisters, calculators, and economists” who would reconstruct society upon abstract designs. Custom, convention, and old prescription are checks both upon man’s anarchic impulse and upon the innovator’s lust for power.

6. Recognition that change may not be salutary reform: hasty innovation may be a devouring conflagration, rather than a torch of progress. Society must alter, for prudent change is the means of social preservation; but a statesman must take Providence into his calculations, and a statesman’s chief virtue, according to Plato and Burke, is prudence.

One of the problems with the term ‘conservative’ is that unlike, say ‘socialist’ or even ‘progressive,’ it can mean wildly different things in different cultures.

I agree with all of these in the context of the Anglo-American tradition. But that’s hardly pithy. One of the problems with the term “conservative” is that unlike, say “socialist” or even “progressive,” it can mean wildly different things in different cultures. Samuel Huntington made this point in his brilliant 1957 essay “Conservatism as an Ideology.” A conservative in America wants to conserve radically different things than a conservative in Saudi Arabia, Russia, or France does. Even British conservatives — our closest ideological cousins — want to preserve the monarchy, an institution we fought a revolution to get rid of. In the Soviet Union, the “conservatives” were the ones who wanted to preserve and defend the Bolshevik Revolution.

America’s founding doctrine is properly understood as classical liberalism — or until the progressives stole the label, simply “liberalism.” Until socialism burst on the scene in Europe, liberalism was universally understood as the opposite of conservatism. That’s because European conservatism sought to defend and maintain monarchy, aristocracy, and even feudalism. The American Founding, warts and all, was the apotheosis of classical liberalism, and conservatism here has always been about preserving it. That’s why Friedrich Hayek, in his fantastic — and fantastically misunderstood — essay “Why I am Not a Conservative” could say that America was the one polity where one could be a conservative and a defender of the liberal tradition.

It’s also why I have no problem with people who say that American conservatism is simply classical liberalism. As a shorthand, that’s fine by me.

But philosophically, I’m not sure this does the trick. There are many, many, rooms in the mansion of classical liberalism and not all of them are, properly speaking, conservative. Anarcho-capitalists are a blast at parties and Randians always make for an interesting conversation if you sit next to one on a flight, but they are the first people to tell you that they’re not conservatives. John Locke, Edmund Burke, and Adam Smith were among the founding fathers of classical liberalism, but there are plenty of libertarians who don’t share their piety or reverence for tradition.

Defining conservatism is actually very, very, hard. When Frank Meyer asked my old boss to define it for the seminal collection What Is Conservatism? Buckley submitted an essay titled “Notes towards an Empirical Definition of Conservatism; Reluctantly and Apologetically Given by William F. Buckley.”

Bill was no shrinking violet philosophically, so it says something that it was like pulling teeth to get him to offer a definition of the cause that animated his life’s work. And yet, at the end of the day, all he could muster were some “notes” towards one.

I think this is because conservatism isn’t a single thing. Indeed, as I have argued before, I think it’s a contradictory thing, a bundle of principles married to a prudential and humble appreciation of the complexity of life and the sanctity of successful human institutions.

This reminds me of one of my all-time favorite meditations on conservatism from my friend Yuval Levin:

To my mind, conservatism is gratitude. Conservatives tend to begin from gratitude for what is good and what works in our society and then strive to build on it, while liberals tend to begin from outrage at what is bad and broken and seek to uproot it.

Gratitude captures so much of what conservatism is about because it highlights the philosophical difference between (American) conservatism and its foes on the left (and some of its friends among the libertarian camp). The yardstick against which human progress is measured shouldn’t be the sentiments and yearnings that define some unattainable utopian future, but the knowable and real facts of our common past.

So-called liberals love to talk about how much they just want to do “what works,” but it’s amazing how often “what works” doesn’t. Even more remarkable is how the mantra of “what works” is almost always a license to empower the “sophisters, calculators, and economists who would reconstruct society upon abstract designs.”

In contrast, the conservative belief in “what works” is grounded in reality, not hope.

Gratitude is just one facet of love, which is why conservatism is so inextricably bound up in patriotism. To be patriotic, one must love one’s country for what it is, not what it can be if only the right people are put in charge and allowed to “fundamentally transform” it. We love people for what they are, not what they could be. If you think you love someone or something not for what it is but solely for what it could be, that’s not love, it’s lust.

Comfort with Contradiction

I’ve argued before that conservatism properly understood demands “comfort with contradiction.”

I mean this in the broadest metaphysical sense and the narrowest practical way. Think of any leftish ideology and at its core you will find a faith that circles can be closed, conflicts resolved. Marxism held that in a truly socialist society, contradictions would be destroyed. Freudianism led the Left to the idea that the conflicts between the inner and outer self were the cause of unnecessary repressions. Dewey believed that society could be made whole if we jettisoned dogma and embraced a natural, organic understanding of the society where everyone worked together. This was an Americanized version of a German idea, where concepts of the Volkgeist — spirit of the people — had been elevated to the point where society was seen to have its own separate spirit. All of this comes in big bunches from Hegel who, after all, had his conflicting thesis and antithesis merging into a glorious thesis. (It’s worth noting that Whittaker Chambers said he could not qualify as a conservative — he called himself a “man of the right” — because he could never jettison his faith in the dialectical nature of history.)

Man is flawed. This world is imperfect. Youth is fleeting. Life isn’t fair. Conservatives are comfortable acknowledging all of these things. That doesn’t mean we are complacent or opposed to change. But we are humble about the kinds of change that are possible and grateful for the progress we’ve already achieved.

Liberals love to talk about diversity, but they are constantly at war with any meaningful forms of diversity that conflict with their worldview. As I keep saying, “right-wing” has simply come to mean “non-compliant.”

Everyone March in Step

Yuval Levin notes that all of Edmund Burke’s metaphors about politics are about space while Thomas Paine’s (the progenitor of American progressivism, according to Levin) are all about movement. This strikes me as a really brilliant insight into the philosophical differences between Left and Right generally. The Left wants us all to march together towards its collective understanding of happiness.

The defining rhetorical trope of Barack Obama’s presidency has been this ancient idea that “we’re all in it together.” This warmed-over moral equivalent of war talk is simply another way of saying that everybody needs to fall in line and follow him to the sunny uplands of History. Here’s Hillary Clinton in her do-over announcement speech last weekend: “President Roosevelt called on every American to do his or her part, and every American answered.”

No, they didn’t. And while some were no doubt reassured or inspired by FDR, most people showed up for work not for his benefit but for their own.

Freedom for Me & Freedom for Thee

Conservatives champion the idea enshrined in our founding document that we have an individual right to pursue happiness. This isn’t mere rhetoric. The pursuit of happiness isn’t possible collectively, because one man’s joy will always be another man’s misery. Similarly, one community’s definition of the good life will necessarily be another’s definition of tyranny. Conservatism — or at least my brand of it — is not only comfortable with this kind of contradiction, it celebrates it.

In my book, conservatism is simply a partial philosophy of life that describes how the system should be set up for humans to flourish within it. That flourishing requires freedom, including the freedom to be wrong. Which reminds me of this line from Michael Oakeshott in Rationalism in Politics:

But what I hope I have made clear is that it is not at all inconsistent to be conservative in respect of government and radical in respect of almost every other activity. And, in my opinion, there is more to be learnt about this disposition from Montaigne, Pascal, Hobbes, and Hume than from Burke or Bentham.

What about the Market?

This points to one of my greatest peeves with the liberal caricature of conservatism. We’re constantly told that conservatives are opposed to change. And, to be sure, we’re opposed to some changes. But conservatives embrace change more passionately and eagerly than liberals ever do in the realm of life that most directly touches the most people: the market. The free market is constantly transforming society in profound ways. And who stands athwart history yelling “Stop” at this unceasing tide of change? The Left. The entire left-wing economic agenda is geared towards slowing or stopping economic change. Just look at their opposition to free trade, Uber, GMOs, fracking, and now driverless cars.

Conservatives embrace change more passionately and eagerly than liberals ever do in the realm of life that most directly touches the most people: the market.

No conservative worth the name would say that every product of the free market has been an advance for humanity, but we understand that a free society isn’t free without a fundamentally free market. Liberals resent the free market and are constantly trying to argue that free enterprise isn’t a freedom like, say, free speech (not that they’ve been too keen on free speech either of late). The reasons for this animosity could fill libraries, but among them is the fact that free markets must generate material inequalities and material egalitarians think that’s a crime. Conservatives are for the most part comfortable with material inequalities — so long as the system that produces them is fair and open — because we understand that’s how life works. Indeed, it’s how life should work. If you put in the work, if you have the great idea, you should do better than someone who doesn’t. We’re comfortable with this contradiction.

Philosophically and psychologically, this fact is offensive to the socialist mind. Philosophically, because it seems unfair. Psychologically, because it is un-fun. In a socialist economy, the socialist intellectuals and bureaucrats have the power (and, truth be told, the wealth). In a free economy, the socialist intellectual is a performance artist and the socialist bureaucrat has to work for a living.

“No political philosopher has ever described a conservative utopia,” Samuel Huntington writes. That’s because there is no such thing as a conservative utopia — because there’s no such thing as a utopia (the very word means “no place”). The socialist cannot accept this and he spends his days arguing that it is better to constantly try to kill the two birds in the bush with one stone than to be grateful for the one bird he already has in his hand.

Various & Sundry

My apologies for the long, rambly, not particularly jocular “news”letter. I know many of you were hoping for an essay on Nietzsche’s psychology of blame and how it relates to the current political climate. Fortunately, I wrote that column at the beach yesterday.

Alas, no Zoë update today because I haven’t seen her all week. The house my brother-in-law rented didn’t allow dogs, a form of bigotry too prevalent in our society.

I’ll be on Happening Now on Monday, Cavuto on Tuesday, and Special Report Wednesday. Maybe my “tan” will last until then (I don’t really tan so much as turn various shades of pink).

And here are some various and sundry things.

You’re more likely to be killed by a cow than a shark

Primate selfie

International toe-wrestling competition

Eleven animals who share Donald Trump’s hair

Pomeranian rides a Tonka truck

Kittens recreate Psycho shower scene

Limbo champ limbos under an SUV

Dogs strike a pose

#PrattKeeping meme has zookeepers reenacting Jurassic World

This film’s PC-13: parental contract for minors required

Wisc. town: no service without shirts, shoes, or for those with kangaroos

NYC apartment enacts “dog discrimination” policy

You’re only entitled to half this ex-couple’s belongings

Spend a night by the Statue of Liberty, European palaces, or historic mansions with Airbnb

Emerson College debuts BA program in comedy

#DroughtShaming is the new trend in California

Time for some Kentucky fried . . . rat?

Lost Australian cat found on the Emerald Isle

Fifty Shades of Red? Author E. L. James’s fans irate over “lazy” reboot of series

Double rainbows in Oz

Dinosaurs: pets or pests?

Meet the six-year-old Arnold Palmer

Airport adventures with Hobbes, the lost stuffed tiger

Debby’s Links!

Culture

America’s Progressive Autoimmune Crisis Continues Apace

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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 You Guys (I apologize for this break in protocol. Normally I would begin with the traditional salutation of “Dear Reader.” But now that “you guys” is under assault, I felt this was, quite literally, the least I could do),

If I’ve made one point over the last 20 years, it’s that you can never put too much cheese on anything involving meat. Coming in a close second is that the reason I’m a conservative is that I believe conservatism and libertarianism are only partial philosophies of life. Obviously, this is even more the case for libertarianism than it is for conservatism, but both schools of thought set relatively clear boundaries for what politics should touch. Not so for what we call liberalism.

The progressive vision sees all of mankind as clay to be molded, sheep to be herded, a third-grade diorama to be diorama’d. There are no safe harbors from politics because the personal is political.

The problem with saying “the personal is political” is twofold: You politicize what is personal (“Everyone must celebrate my lifestyle!”) and you personalize the political (“Your opposition to the minimum wage hurts my feelings!”).

This is how you un-think yourself out of a civilization; When politics becomes a fashion choice and fashion becomes political. If you wear your politics on your sleeve, it usually means you don’t keep them in your brain where they belong.

The progressive vision sees all of mankind as clay to be molded, sheep to be herded, a third-grade diorama to be diorama’d.

This is at least partly why so much of what passes for politics these days is really lifestyle branding. I loved David Brooks’s BoBos In Paradise, but its biggest flaw was in underestimating how much of the so-called bohemian-bourgeois lifestyle came pre-loaded with very political features. In 1997 Brooks wrote in The Weekly Standard that “one of the striking things about Burlington [Vermont] is that it is relatively apolitical.” I really don’t think that was true. More likely: Burlington was — and is — so uniformly liberal that even an astute observer might confuse stultifying political conformity for apoliticalness (not a word, I know, but like they said in Fast and Furious 3, you get my drift).

It’s telling that when Phil Griffin predicted MSNBC would overtake Fox News by 2014 (Stop laughing!). He said he wanted to do it by turning MSNBC into a “lifestyle” network. “It’s a mistake for us to limit ourselves to news,” he told The New Republic. Instead, he wanted to build up something he dubbed, “the MSNBC lifestyle.” This is the sort of thinking you fall into when you can’t see where politics ends and “lifestyle” — i.e., life — begins.

I’m not a big fan of generational stereotyping, but it’s fair to say that a large number of Millennials constitute the first big cohort of kids to be fully raised within this lifestyle-ized politics.

What’s been the effect? Well, funny enough, I have a theory about that.

There’s a lot of evidence that being too sanitary, i.e. too clean, causes allergies. If you’re not exposed to dog hair, dirt, bugs, nuts, CHUDs early in life, your immune system doesn’t know how to recognize these allergens later on and deal with them in a healthy way. It turns out if you give babies peanut butter, they are much, much less likely to get peanut allergies when they get older. Unfortunately for my kid’s generation, this news came too late. And while she doesn’t have peanut allergies herself, enough kids do at her school that all you have to do is whisper “peanut butter” and the place becomes like that scene in Monsters Inc. when the creature has a human sock stuck to his back (“23-19! We’ve got a 23-19!”).

As I’ve been arguing for quite a while, I think America is going through a kind of autoimmune crisis. We’re increasingly allergic to our own civilization and as a result we’re attacking once-healthy organs of the body politic.

Frankly, I have trouble seeing all this “trigger warning” shinola (no, wait, the other stuff I always confuse for shinola) in any other context.

Consider this:

“America is the land of opportunity,” “There is only one race, the human race” and “I believe the most qualified person should get the job” are among a long list of alleged microaggressions faculty leaders of the University of California system have been instructed not to say.

These so-called microaggressions — considered examples of subconscious racism — were presented at faculty leader training sessions held throughout the 2014-15 school year at nine of the 10 UC campuses. The sessions, an initiative of UC President Janet Napolitano, aim to teach how to avoid offending students and peers, as well as how to hire a more diverse faculty.

Now, if you suffer heart palpitations, feel light-headed, or in some other way manifest symptoms of panic because you hear that “America is the land of opportunity” or “there is only one race, the human race” you have an allergy to America and its ideals.

The danger is that if we cater to these allergies, they become worse. “A man may take to drink because he feels himself to be a failure,” Orwell observed, “and then fail all the more completely because he drinks.” We fail our kids by giving them these allergies and then fail them all the more completely by catering to them.

Miss Piggy America

Anyway, as I was saying, progressivism sees no safe harbor from politics because it doesn’t see politics as distinct from lifestyle. There is no limiting principle for what passes for liberalism, because liberalism has simply become defined as whatever liberals believe in today. Hence the once-gold standard of liberal thought — “there is no race but the human race” — is now offensive and should be avoided lest it set off some kid’s allergies (a point of view I could better understand if there were a lot of skinheads in the classroom).

One upshot of this that drives me batty is the injection of politics into areas that should remain politics-free. To pick examples near my heart, Star Wars and Battlestar Galactica were corrupted by politics. A few years ago, the Children’s Television Workshop started mucking around with Cookie Monster. Suddenly Cookie Monster was talking about how “cookies are only a sometimes food.” This is true — for humans. But for it to be true of Cookie Monster is to erase his identity. As I wrote at the time:

Since my copy of Meditations by Marcus Aurelius is in storage, let me explain by paraphrasing Hannibal Lecter’s famous dialogue with Clarice Starling in Silence of the Lambs. Imagine Lecter isn’t a superhuman cannibalistic serial killer and that, instead of being a doe-eyed feminist naif in the FBI, Ms. Starling is a doe-eyed feminist naif at the Children’s Television Workshop.

Lecter: “First principles, Clarice. Read Marcus Aurelius. Of each particular thing, ask: What is it in itself? What is its nature? What does he do, this creature you seek?

Starling: He entertains children . . .

Lecter: “No! That is incidental. What is the first and principal thing he does? What need does he serve by entertaining children?

Starling: Social acceptance? Personal frustration?

Lecter: No: He craves. That’s his nature. And what does he crave? Make an effort to answer.

Starling: Food?

Lecter: No! He is not a “food monster!” He is a cookie monster!

But not according to the well-meaning social engineers of PBS. After three decades, they’ve announced he’s not a Cookie Monster at all. In the interests of teaching kids not to be gluttons, CTW has transformed Cookie Monster into just another monster who happens to like cookies. His trademark song, “C is for Cookie” has been changed to “A Cookie Is a Sometimes Food.” And this is a complete and total reversal of Cookie Monster’s ontology, his telos, his raison d’être, his essential Cookie-Monster-ness.

If the Cookie Monster is no longer a cookie monster, what is he? Why didn’t they just name him “Phil: The Monster Who Sometimes Likes to Eat a Cookie”?

(I should note that it is my understanding they didn’t ultimately change Cookie Monster’s song.)

A bit further from my heart is the more recent case of Miss Piggy. Someone thought it would be clever to give her a feminist-icon award. The stupidity of this is not infuriating in of itself. People are free to make fools of themselves and such antics will not hinder the arrival of the Sweet Meteor of Death so much as make it that much more welcome.

But what is infuriating is the way MSNBC handled its interview with Miss Piggy. Anchor Irin Carmon, sitting next to Gloria Steinem, asked a man’s hand wrapped in cloth that resembles a pig whether “she” was pro-choice. Miss Piggy responded, “I am pro — I am pro-everything.”

Now, I have some sympathy for the felt pig (Not to be confused with the poignant children’s book about bestiality, Sympathy for the Felt Pig.). Once asked the question, it would have been difficult to answer in a way that wouldn’t throw her into the abortion debate (though hardly impossible). But only someone who lives in the lifestyle bubble of MSNBC liberalism would ask a character for children whether she was pro-choice or not. Still, I would respect Carmon so much more if she had the courage of her gauzy convictions and followed up with, “Are you for any restrictions on abortion, or do you believe it is your right to have your piglets vacuumed from your belly right up until the day before they’re born?”

But no. Being pro-choice is such a sunny and uplifting thing it’s of a piece with being “pro-everything.”

I would be just as disgusted if a Fox News anchor asked Miss Piggy, “Are you pro-life?” For that matter, I’d be enraged if over at CNN Jake Tapper asked Spongebob Squarepants what he thought of Caitlyn Jenner or if Chuck Todd grilled Fozzy Bear about Dennis Hastert. Tonight on Special Report: Bret Baier sits down with Barney the Dinosaur and asks him whether Barack Obama is losing the War on Terror.

People decry a polarized, politicized country and then they go and politicize things that don’t need to be politicized. Football is great, until some yatch starts telling you that such violent ground-acquisition games are in fact a crypto-fascist metaphor for nuclear war. Few things make me want to downgrade an actress more than hearing them explain that their moving portrayal of a limbless ballerina demonstrates why we need to pass the Lilly Ledbetter Act.

When everything is considered political, the totality of life is politicized. And that’s just a clunky way of describing totalitarianism.

The whole point of a free society is to reduce the number of things that are political, particularly at the national level. When everything is considered political, the totality of life is politicized. And that’s just a clunky way of describing totalitarianism.

Various & Sundry

Thursday on the Acela coming back from New York, I started out thinking I would write a column on why I think the fall of Baghdad is coming. But, I got distracted by a different argument and that became the column. Still, I don’t think we will do anything serious about ISIS until Baghdad is in flames. Lots of friends on the right talk about how if we just recreated the techniques of the surge, arming the Sunni tribes etc., we could win without putting too many boots in the ground. I don’t think that option is still available to us. The Sunnis have every reason not to trust us, never mind the Shia leadership in Baghdad. And anything that could overcome their doubts is not an option for this administration. Indeed, it’s not that Obama hasn’t been given strategies to defeat ISIS, it’s that he doesn’t want a strategy to defeat ISIS because he doesn’t want to pay the associated costs. I certainly understand the reluctance, I even share it. The problem is that ISIS is counting on it. I don’t enjoy saying it, but I think a bloodbath is coming. When we see helicopters fleeing Baghdad, crammed full of Americans, we’ll get serious, but probably not before that.

Zoë Update: It’s been quite a week for the Mid Atlantic’s Dog (I figure it’s too soon for Zoë to go for Jasper’s title of America’s Dog). My wife and daughter took Zoë and both cats (the good cat and my wife’s cat) to the vet. Zoë in good shape. She now weighs 60 pounds (quite a difference from when she almost wasted away from parvo) and has tested negative for all the bad things. Except, she did test positive for the anti-bodies for Lyme disease (which doesn’t necessarily mean she has Lyme disease). The vet wants to do a follow-up test to make sure she’s okay. But they want us to collect a urine sample. This seems as easy as getting sample of Vladimir Putin’s back hair.

In other news, on Monday she caught a chipmunk. When I saw her come out from the woods with it, I assumed she’d already killed it. But no. She was merely looking for an open field to play with it, free of any possible chipmunk escape routes. It was a terrible scene when she dropped the critter on the ground and it kept leaping up to attack Zoë’s face, not least because Zoë clearly thought the chipmunk’s fight for its life was so hilarious. Fortunately — with the help of Buckley Carlson’s (brother of Tucker) dogs as distraction, I managed to save the critter’s life. Future historians may one day condemn me for it if it one day becomes the Hitler of chipmunks.

I was in New York Thursday to appear on Outnumbered, which is visually like putting a rotten egg in the middle of four Fabergé eggs.

I’m going back to NYC this weekend to be on The Greg Gutfeld Show starring Greg Gutfeld. Sunday night at 10:00.

The Fair Jessica had a great op-ed in the Wall Street Journal on Monday.

Once again your humble servant was ahead of the curve.

I spend a shocking percentage of my life talking to dogs I don’t know when they stick their heads out of car windows. So I appreciated this.

Man opens five beers at once

Iguana clogs toilet bowl

Hand print shows how we’re all crawling in bacteria

Deep-fried Slim-Fast bars

Deep-fried Starbucks coffee

Hot dog–stuffed Pizza Hut crust

Goat babies in pajamas

The hills are alive… with the sound of Angela Merkel.

Clash of the Titans! Childhood icons Minnie Mouse and Hello Kitty fight it out in Times Square

Champion air guitar kangaroo

Game of Thrones coloring book coming to a store near you!

Man sues actress, claiming her “intense stares” on TV caused “spiritual damage”

Meet “the world’s happiest dog,” constantly smiling despite illnesses

Assault by pizza slice

Fawn over the world’s smallest baby deer

Guess the tarot cards didn’t predict this guy’s misfortune

Argentine province mandates hospitals employ clowns

Romanian cat hired as communications director

Dog to owners: you may NOT have the lobster

Taco Bell’s on fleek: fast-food chain keeping up on youth slang

Chimpanzee happy hour

Culture

The Gender Fluidity Industry’s Magical Thinking

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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 (a salutation that was gender neutral before gender neutral was cool),

I’m going to try to write this blogger-style, which is not a variant of Kung Fu whereby you distract your opponent with a cloud of Cheetos-dust and then pummel him with couch cushions. No, what I mean is that I think I need to get back to a more “news”lettery format with more items and fewer stream-of-consciousness essays. Don’t worry, I remain devoted to keeping this “news”letter news free.

Fowl Play

It was reported earlier this week that ISIS is morally opposed to raising pigeons. Among their problems with the practice is that it somehow exposes good Muslims to avian genitalia. Where to begin? First of all, bird junk is arguably the least offensive in the entire animal kingdom. They’re pretty much the only animals that can be drawn as cartoon characters without having their kibbles and bits bowdlerized. Foghorn Leghorn (the inspiration for Hillary Clinton’s Southern accent, I’m told), has not been castrated by an eraser. You can’t say the same about poor Porky Pig.

The point is, if you were a psychotic sex-phobic fanatic, you’d think pigeons would be one of the few acceptable animals precisely because they have the most G-rated crotches in the whole vertebrate phylum. I mean, have you seen the bait and tackle on a camel?

But there’s another problem. Banning pigeon coops isn’t the same as banning pigeons. It’s still going to be a world where, at any moment, you could see a pigeon undercarriage or, say, the backside of a bull. And for some reason Allah didn’t equip the beasts of the field and the forest with codpieces or trigger warnings.

Categorical Imperatives

All of this talk of erased dangly bits and trigger warnings has me thinking about Caitlyn Jenner for some reason.

I actually wrote today’s column on the subject, but frankly I didn’t want to. I’m a little off the reservation on this one. First, I really don’t care if Bruce Jenner wants to live as a woman. And if we were to meet, I would respect Jenner’s desire to be treated as a woman. One of the basic rules of good manners is to refer to people as they wish to be referred to. (My views on this are somewhat shaped by Deidre McCloskey, an intellectual hero of mine who used to be Donald McCloskey. I know Deidre a little and have enormous respect for her).

RELATED: Bruce ‘Caitlyn’ Jenner Needs Our Prayers, Not Our Applause

That said, I think the whole Gender Fluidity Industry is for the most part a clown show. I’d call it a campus circle jerk, but that’s too base for this refined epistle, so let’s call it an oval of onanism. (Also, the word “jerk” is gender-loaded if you think about it). The idea that there are 56 different genders (and counting!) is the sort of thing only someone paid to talk about gender theory could take seriously.

What I find fascinating is how much magical thinking is involved in all of this. It’s true that gender is a social construction. It’s also true that it’s a social construction built on a natural foundation. If you have a problem with that statement, take it up with the archeological record and the evolutionary psychologists. In other words, gender is an intersubjective cultural term, but culture is also an expression of human nature. There are no cultural institutions designed to deal with people who have laser vision and 14 heads. Why? Because such people don’t exist. Gender roles came about because they are cultural expressions of biological facts rooted in human nature. There has never been a human society where the men all stay home to raise the kids and the women go fight wars. There are plenty of individual exceptions, I’m sure, but they are exceptions that prove the rule.

RELATED: Who Won Bruce Jenner’s Olympic Medals?

Personally, as the husband of a brilliant working woman and the father of a girl who wants to be a Navy SEAL, I am delighted that gender roles evolve. But you know what doesn’t evolve (at least not on a schedule that is of any use to “gender activists”)? Sexual categories. You can play lots of word games with gender identities, and that’s fine. But to even come close to changing sexes you need more than a sharp metaphor — you need a really sharp knife. And even then you are only approximating a sex change. Yes, yes, there have been people born with mix-and-match plumbing. But while such examples might have incredible power in a Bryn Mawr seminar on Herculine Barbin, they amount to statistical noise for biologists — and sociologists, historians, and gynecologists.

It is one thing to have a cultural argument about cultural institutions, including language. But you venture into a kind of totalitarianism when you insist that facts be bent to, or erased by, ideology as well. (The use of abracadabra words to change reality was hardly created by gender activists. Remember when the editors of Social Text believed that quantum physics was just a social construction? Remember when Uther Pendragon had Merlin change his appearance so he could lie with another man’s wife?)

That only biologically female humans can get pregnant and give birth to babies is true no matter how inconvenient it may be. If that fact hurts someone’s feelings, that’s unfortunate. But that’s no reason to change the language to fuzz-up the facts.

We are tearing down cultural institutions, rewriting language, and demonizing religion for the benefit of a remarkably small number of people.

This points to one of the things that grates on me about all of this foofaraw. We are tearing down cultural institutions, rewriting language, and demonizing religion for the benefit of a remarkably small number of people. According to a recent CDC study, 1.6 percent of the population identifies as gay or lesbian. Less than 1 percent says it’s bisexual (.7 percent) and 1.1 percent identifies as something else.

I understand that activists dispute these numbers — I can’t imagine why! But Gallup says that only 3.8 percent of the population identify as Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, or Transgender. This suggests to me that the number of people who identify as “pangender” or “two-spirit” is vanishingly small. Obviously, being a minority doesn’t mean you are unequal in the eyes of the law or don’t have rights. “One with the law on his side is a majority” and all that. But we’re also talking about the culture. And can anyone really dispute that there’s some asymmetry here? Huge, vital, institutions — including the English language — are being assaulted intolerantly in the name of tolerance ostensibly for the benefit of a group of people who’d have a very hard time filling a decent-sized football stadium.

Aggressors for Progress

Todd Lindberg reviews a book about the culture war in the Wall Street Journal today. An excerpt:

Mr. Hartman’s book makes two main contributions. The first is his framing of the “culture wars” debate from its earliest days. It begins with what he calls “normative America,” which he describes as “an inchoate group of assumptions and aspirations shared by millions of Americans during the postwar years. Normative America prized hard work, personal responsibility, individual merit, delayed gratification, social mobility and other values that middle-class whites recognized as their own.” These values included a preference for men as breadwinners and women as homemakers, sexual discretion, and faith in God and American exceptionalism.

Beginning in the 1960s, this “normative America” was subject to a comprehensive challenge from people who felt excluded or alienated and who devoted themselves to the pursuit of “a nation more open to new peoples, new ideas, new norms.” The “culture wars” took shape when conservatives and neoconservatives rose to the defense of “normative America,” whose way of life they described as valuable in itself for its virtues as well as socially useful in producing prosperity and good outcomes for individuals ascribing to its ethic.

I’ll say it again: Liberals are the aggressors in the culture war. The only shocking thing about that statement is that it ever shocks liberals. On their own terms, they take pride in being “change agents” and “forces of progress.” But the moment anyone attempts to defend themselves against the social-justice warriors, they are treated as the aggressors in the culture war. “Don’t impose your values on me!” should be translated as, “Stop trying to defend yourself as we impose our values on you!”

The movable feast of celebration over Jenner cannot be fully understood unless you see it as part of a larger assault on “normative” America.

The movable feast of celebration over Jenner cannot be fully understood unless you see it as part of a larger assault on “normative” America.

Letters of Marque, Again

The Chinese hack-attack on the United States is only shocking in its scale. Last night on Special Report, Charles Krauthammer said we need to threaten the Chinese with reprisal attacks of a similar nature. I agree entirely. But I wish I’d been on the panel last night so I could once again make the case for Letters of Marque for cyber privateers. Cyberspace today is essentially like the oceans of the 18th century: full of bad actors and vast realms of lawlessness. We don’t have the ability or the technology to police it all, but we can create incentives for others to police the digital ocean in ways the United States can’t.

Now some of you will object that we signed some stupid treaty promising not to issue Letters of Marque anymore, to which I say “Nah, nah, nah I can’t hear you.” But I will add that we don’t have to call them Letters of Marque, even though I think that sounds so frick’n cool. The point is that we need to be getting a lot more creative in how we teach the Chinese and the Russians that cyber anarchy is not in their interests, either.

Various & Sundry

So today is my last day in Charleston. I’ve been bunkered away working on my book and making pretty good progress. Ideally, I would have skipped the G-File today (“That would have been ideal for us, too” — The Couch), but I figured I could use a break from all that and, besides, this is a good opportunity to remind you that receipt of this “news”letter creates an utterly non-binding and unenforceable obligation to buy my book when it comes out. I definitely want to come back to Charleston with the Fair Jessica when the weather is a bit less Barton Fink-y. It’s a very cool town, from what I’ve seen of it.

Zoë Update: It feels weird not having the Dingo with me given that this is her ancestral homeland. Also, because I don’t have her with me, I don’t have much to report save the fact that my wife tells me that Zoë is not waking her up nearly as early as she wakes me up for our morning patrols. I find this very frustrating, because when Zoë wakes me at dawn, she’s always insisted it’s because she’s gotta go to the bathroom, as it were. It turns out that was just a lie.

Welcome to the idiot club, Charles! Now Donald Trump is calling Charles Krauthammer a “dummy” and “clown” and all that. Charles joins me and Steve Hayes in one of the few clubs I really am proud to be a member of. My only regret is that I don’t think Trump saw my column earlier this week on George Pataki:

I am trying hard not rule out anyone in the GOP field prematurely. So far, only Donald Trump has been too heavy a lift. Trump sees the presidential race as self-marketing opportunity, a way to extend his run as a reality-TV star. He’s a more plausible candidate than, say, Honey Boo Boo, but that’s mostly because of constitutional age limits.

How to get more out of your pet-store experience

Meet the safest child in the world

Roger, the buff kangaroo who can crush buckets

Angela Merkel: world leader & champion drinker?

Tightrope-walking dog

Is ice cream the new artistic medium?

Ever wanted to relieve the Titanic sinking? Chinese replica will let you do just that.

Rainbow and tornado meet, Wizard of Oz style

Someone’s not passing her driving exam—tank crushes teen driver’s car

Flintstones replica town for sale in Williams, Ariz.

Guns cause . . . grade inflation?

Want a blinged-out bidet? This Swarovski-encrusted masterpiece can be yours for just £84,000!

So that’s why Susan died on Seinfeld — Jason Alexander reveals & apologizes for why character died after licking toxic envelopes

No, you can’t call your baby Nutella in France

Penguin fight club

Politics & Policy

The Clintons’ Favorite Way to Lie

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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 Crom, who cares not what I write),

When my daughter was little more than a toddler, she wrote all over the wall with a pen in my wife’s home office. We confronted her about it. She listened intently, trying hard to be surprised by the news of this defilement of our domicile. “What happened, Lucy?” we asked.

After a long and nervous pause, she replied, “I know what happened.” Excited by her own duplicitous inventiveness and restrained by her desire to sell it, she said very seriously, “A bad girl must have come into the house and did this.” She tsk-tsked, “What a bad girl,” shaking her head while looking at the wall.

I need not dwell on the implausibility of roving bands of ninja-like naughty toddlers — or lone-wolf munchkins — breaking into nice homes to scribble on the upstairs walls and then depart leaving no other trace of their schemes. I simply bring this up to say that my daughter’s “a bad girl did it” gambit is a wildly more powerful and resolute claim of innocence than “you have no smoking gun.”

RELATED: The Dirty Business of the Billary Machine, Again

My column from yesterday is on this very point. So I won’t recycle it here. I will, however, recycle from an infinitely better “news”letter I penned a couple months ago. I wrote, “If you want to know what Hillary Clinton would be like as president, you’re seeing it right now. There is no other Hillary. This is her.” It’s Hillary all the way down.

And I wrote that before the Peter Schweizer book came out. I wrote that before Sidney Blumenthal was awakened from his slumber by a congressional subpoena (rumor has it he sleeps upside down in a basement at the Clinton Foundation wrapped in his own mothwings).

My point isn’t that I am prescient. My point is that Hillary is predictable. I could have written that in 2000 when she went on her last “listening tour” in a Scooby van, or at almost any other moment of the last 30 years.

RELATED: Do the Clintons Even Care about How Their Myriad Scandals Affect Their Public Image?

There are no “new” Hillarys. There are, on occasion, new strategies to dupe people into thinking there is a new Hillary. But these Potemkin do-overs are usually as pale, thin, and see-through as the skin of an agoraphobic Goth computer programmer. The simple fact is: This is her. There is no other her. There is no other Bill, either, by the way. They are Clintons and they are eternal, Aesopian, unchanging. The tackiness and the lying, the parsing and corner-cutting, the entitlement and fakery: This is what they do. Scandals swirl around the Clintons like the cloud of dirt surrounding Pigpen not because the Clintons are the victims of their enemies, but because the Clintons are their own worst enemies. They do this to themselves. They create these problems. They are the authors of their own torment because this is who they are.

Don’t Get Fooled Again

Scandals swirl around the Clintons like the cloud of dirt surrounding Pigpen not because the Clintons are the victims of their enemies, but because the Clintons are their own worst enemies. 

This is an important political point because the Clinton strategists and spinners are invested in a theory that electing a woman will be transformative. It will be like that scene in Excalibur where King Arthur, rejuvenated by the Holy Grail, revives the brown and wasted crops and forests simply by riding by. We already had one experiment in this kind of magical thinking. It worked for Barack Obama. I don’t think it will work for Hillary. Obama was new and fresh. Hillary . . . isn’t.

RELATED: Does the Media Hold Anyone to a Lower Ethical Standard than the Clintons?

I think this offers insight into why Hillary is betting it all on reviving the Obama coalition. I’ve written many times that I don’t think she can succeed. But maybe I’m wrong (“It’s happened before” — The Couch). And, more to the point, I’ve come to realize it’s the only strategy open to her. She can’t run to win moderates, independents, and swing voters (save for a subset of women who will vote strictly on identity-politics lines), because these voters can’t be Jedi-mind-tricked into ignoring all of her baggage. Only the hyper-partisan, the extremely uninformed, the incurably gullible, and, of course, the heavily bribed can get really excited about Hillary Clinton.

How to Listen to a Clinton, Cont’d

I’m thinking, the phrase “eats like a bird” is really bogus. I mean, they eat nuts and bugs all day long; that’s a lot of protein, particularly given their size. But that’s not really important right now (Sorry, I’m writing this in my backyard watching my birdfeeder — which my cats consider to be a poorly-constructed and frustrating cat feeder — as I write this).

Where was I? Oh, right, I’m thinking “How to Listen to a Clinton” should be an occasional feature of this “news”letter (see the last entry here). Why? Well, first of all it’s kind of in my wheelhouse. Second, I’m always looking for copy on Friday mornings and, well, if there’s a more renewable resource than Clinton lies, I’m hard pressed to think what it might be.

RELATED: With Hillary, the Buck Stops Anywhere but Here

As I said last week, the Clintons’ favorite way to lie is by telling the truth selectively. There are a lot of benefits to this oh-so-lawyerly technique. It sounds more plausible. It frustrates journalists. It comes in handy when your lies are exposed or you’re asked about them under oath. The downside is that when you use the truth to tell lies, you embed implied confessions in the silences. “There’s no smoking gun” isn’t a denial, it’s a passive-aggressive way of saying, “You’ll never catch me!”

Over at Discriminations, John Rosenberg compiled some good examples of similar rhetorical techniques by the Clintons and their sock puppets.

In 2002, being open about her presidential ambitions would be politically inadvisable, so Hillary denied it, Clinton-style:

Responding to reports and comments from anonymous friends and advisers that she plans to run for president in 2008, Hillary Clinton told the Associated Press that “I don’t know who those people are or where they’re getting their information from because they’ve never had a conversation with me they can quote.”

“Never had a conversation with me they can quote” is not the same as “these conversations never took place.” In fairness, lots of politicians lie about their presidential ambitions. My point here is to illustrate the style of Clintonian lies, not the magnitude of them.

When asked by Diane Rehm if Webb Hubbell’s silence had been bought, Hillary Clinton replied, “There’s no evidence of that. There will not be any evidence of that.”

That is not a denial either. This is the kind of thing Tony Soprano says when he knows all the bodies have been disposed of at Satriale’s.

Here’s Bill in 1997 in response to his fundraising tactics.

I don’t believe you can find any evidence of the fact that I had changed government policy solely because of a contribution.

If one parses this with Clintonian precision, this is actually closer to a confession. He says it is a “fact” that he changed policy. But also note the weasel word “solely.” Were contributions a factor in his decisions?

Consider all of the skid-greasing money sluicing into the Clinton Foundation from arms manufacturers, uranium moguls, and the like (not to mention children’s charities!). No doubt there are arguments one can make on the merits for the decisions donors were lobbying for. Every lobbyist I’ve ever met — and I’ve met hundreds — can make good, or good-sounding, arguments for their position, just as every country lobbying FIFA for a World Cup billet can make its case on the merits. It’s just that sometimes a little baksheesh helps officials see those merits more clearly.

And finally, here’s Lanny Davis on Fox News last month:

There’s no evidence that President Clinton, that I’ve seen yet, tried to influence any decision by any governmental agency.

Yes, and there was no evidence that a bad girl didn’t break into my house to draw on the wall, either.

Vote Smod!

Yesterday, the great Kevin Williamson and I debated perhaps the most pressing issue in American politics today: Who should conservatives support in the Planetary Extinction Primary, Cthulhu or Smod?

For those who don’t know who either of these candidates are, you should probably count yourself lucky and stop reading. Save the surprise for when all life on this planet is snuffed out in a blinding flash by Smod or wait until hordes of Cthulhu cultists in clown costumes force you to eat your own entrails.

But if you’re not the type to delay gratification, let me quickly catch you up. Cthulhu is one of the Old Ones, a god-demon who predates time and who ravages worlds and souls for his own amusement. His face is a multi-tentacle horror, a mere glimpse of which could send even the strongest mortal into madness.

Smod is the nickname/acronym for the Sweet Meteor of Death, whose planet-killing arrival many sane people pray for whenever they contemplate a Hillary Clinton presidency or listen to Sally Kohn talk.

Anyway, Kevin noted the other day that his preferred candidate in 2016 is Cthulhu (“Why Vote for a Lesser Evil?”). This surprised me because Kevin is a minarchist with strong anarcho-capitalist tendencies. Sure, Cthulhu is a ravager of worlds, but he is also a ruler prone to dirigiste economics., Smod is far more laissez faire. As I wrote yesterday:

Smod describes himself as a “pre-cambrian conservative.” He has no cultists looking to rule in his name. He doesn’t endorse evil, merely the sweet release of planetary destruction. While Cthulhu can be a bit of windbag, Smod makes no speeches, he makes no sounds at all as he glides through the cosmic ether. Calvin Coolidge looks loquacious by comparison. Meanwhile, Cthulhu’s will is unpredictable, he vows chaos and anarchy here on earth. Smod provides what the market demands: certainty, predictability, and simple rules for a complex society. Who knows what Cthulhu will do tomorrow? With Smod there is no tomorrow. He has the single-minded focus only a cold and soulless inanimate object can provide.

Burke, Hayek, & Smod

Kevin makes several excellent points in his rejoinder. And I especially appreciate his perspicacity on the question of our philosophical differences. He is right that I am more of a Burkean. But, sadly, he perpetuates the false division between Burkean traditionalism and Hayekian libertarianism. Burke subscribed to his own conception of spontaneous order and recognized the knowledge problem (“the individual is foolish . . . but the species is wise”) long before Hayek was born. Indeed, Hayek greatly admired Burke, which is why he rejected the label “libertarian” in favor of “Old Whig” — a deliberate pronouncement of solidarity with the Sage of Beaconsfield.

I don’t want to force Kevin into a label he does not accept — that would be Cthulhian of me — but I’d like to suggest he’s an Old Whig without knowing it. If there is a single moral principle that united the Old Whigs — from Burke to Hayek — it is the evil and folly of “arbitrary power.” Kevin’s book, The End Is Near and It’s Going to Be Awesome, is not a jeremiad for moral anarchy and rule by the cruel or the strongest. Rather it is an argument for the morally restorative powers of anarchy — i.e., liberty rightly understood.

If Cthulhu stands for anything, it is for himself. His motives are beyond our ken. His blood-soaked actions are grounded in nothing but his own whimsy. Is this not the very definition of arbitrary power? Obviously, in a world where Al Sharpton can blame Texas floods on “climate control” [sic], all rational men wish for the sweet release of total destruction. But is a mercurial ancient being of indecipherable evil the kind of being you want to pin your hopes on? Just for giggles, he could make Al Sharpton his Warden of Terra for a thousand centuries. That’s a blink of the eye for one who stands outside the currents and eddies of time as we know it. If such a delay amuses him, what does he care about the timetable of those eager to leap in the cosmic bologna grinder?

Meanwhile, Smod is beholden to the rule of law — in this case, the law of physics. As an inanimate object — “a chunk of space-rock,” Kevin dismissively spits — Smod could no more change his mind, or his schedule, than 4 could choose not to be the sum of 2+2. Sure, he lacks Cthulhu’s experience, but he has knowable and reliable convictions. If experience is all that matters, then in the human presidential contest (“a feckless battle of impotent meat-sacks,” in Cthulhu’s colorful phrase) Kevin should be pulling for Rick Santorum, George Pataki, or Hillary Clinton. All I need to know about Smod is he is committed to Newton’s First Law of Motion. And, to paraphrase another Old Whig, Margaret Thatcher, the meteor’s not for turning.

For all we mortals know, Cthulhu could proclaim that ducks must crap plutonium while crows eat our eyeballs every morning. He could raise Helen Thomas from the stygian depths and force us to mate with her. Cop Rock could be broadcast 24/7 on every channel, just to make sure the living envy the dead. Sure, sure, we’d all die eventually, but that’s true now. Smod promises Walmart-level efficiency for his deliverables.

Speaking of unwavering principle, I’m reminded of Frank Meyer’s famous argument for using nuclear weapons if required to defend liberty. The first “conservatarian” wrote that:

Even granted the most horrendous estimates of the effects of their use, the preservation of human life as a biological phenomenon is an end far lower than the defense of freedom and right and truth. These the victory of Communism would destroy. These it is our duty to defend at all costs.

Extinction Punditry

Kevin’s more mundane argument is about electability. He writes:

And we have to keep in mind electoral realities as well. Conservatives have for a generation been effectively locked out of most of New England and much of the rest of the Northeast; given Cthulhu’s long association with Miskatonic University in Massachusetts, we’d finally have a shot at opening up Dukakis country. What’s Smod’s natural constituency? The geology faculty at the University of Colorado Boulder?

Oh please. For starters, Cthulhu will never get the Evangelical vote. As a demonic beast who claims, if not sovereignty over, then at least co-equal status with the Almighty, Biblical conservatives will never pull a lever for some squid-faced Baal-wannabe. I can see Ralph Reed’s attack ads now.

Cthulhu will never get the Evangelical vote. As a demonic beast who claims, if not sovereignty over, then at least co-equal status with the Almighty, Biblical conservatives will never pull a lever for some squid-faced Baal-wannabe.

Smod, meanwhile, has no such hubris. He respects the very same “Laws of Nature and Nature’s God” invoked in the Declaration of Independence. When Smod arrives he will do so in accordance with Divine Will. But he will also do so in accordance with the precepts of “sound science.” Smod could even get crossover votes from the buffoons who’ve elevated Neil deGrasse Tyson into a kind of secular saint. (Alas, given his perch at the Hayden Planetarium, one could also expect a lot of punditry from Tyson, which I will concede is a drawback.)

And if we are going to talk about political realities, let’s deal with the elephant in the room. Cthulhu is ugly. Really, really, ugly. He’s got a nasty disposition. In the great test of “Who would you like to have a beer with?” Cthulhu loses every time. Meanwhile, Smod’s first name is “sweet” — which is great for the women’s vote. He’s the strong silent type.

So I say again, to all principled conservatives and libertarians seeking a great cataclysmic do-over, there’s only one choice in 2016: Sweet Meteor of Death. Give me liberty and death.

Various & Sundry

Well, for those of you who doubted me when I said I write this thing for my own amusement, I refer you to the above.

My first column this week was on Mike Huckabee’s progressivism. It invited a number of interesting responses, including this fairly ridiculous one by Jamelle Bouie. “This is a pretty classic example of ‘everything I do not like is X,’ where X is in this case is ‘progressivism.’” Bouie seems to think he’s exposing an inconsistency on my part, when in fact all he’s doing is acknowledging my consistency. It’s true, I do not like intrusive, nannying, government by Democrats and I don’t like intrusive, nannying, government by Republicans. As someone with socially conservative views on many issues, it shouldn’t be a surprise that if forced to choose between right-wing progressivism and left-wing progressivism, I will mostly — but certainly not always — prefer the former. But my preferred arrangement would be to have limited government, particularly at the federal level. Anyway, my objection to Bouie’s subtweeted derision prompted a rather silly Twitter spat in which he took great exception to my claim that he’s as ideologically liberal as I am ideologically conservative, with the key difference that I acknowledge my biases while he denies his. As I’ve written at great, great, length, this is a common malady of contemporary liberalism.

My column today was inspired by a rant of mine on the latest Ricochet podcast, which can be found here.

Zoë Update: The dingo’s metamorphosis into a good dog continues apace. The one place where she’s still lagging — though still vastly improved — is her desire to scrap with other dogs, particularly golden retrievers it seems. Oh, one last thing, lots of people seem to think I’m joking when I call her a dingo. But that is what she is (or mostly is). If you google “American Dingo” all of the results are for “Carolina Dogs” who not only strongly resemble Zoë, but, according to all of the breed descriptions, share many of her quirks (from snout-hole digging in our backyard, to strange vocalizations, to poop burying when in sandy locales). Though I’ve yet to read that other Carolina dogs bend their arm out the car window the way she does. We’ll never know for sure what she is, of course. She may have some other bloodlines in her (Yay mongrel vigor!), but she was found near Spartanburg, South Carolina. And she is so, so dingo-y.

Speaking of South Carolina, my belated birthday present from the Fair Jessica is a week off by myself to work on my book. I’ll be holed up in an undisclosed location in the vicinity of Charleston, S.C. No meet-ups scheduled, alas, I’ve got lots of work to do. But restaurant recommendations would be appreciated!

The least mystifying mystery of all time? “Why the Oldest Person in the World Keeps Dying

For the great divorce-letters file

For those not suffering from Hippopotomonstrosesquippedaliophobia, here’s a list of the final words at yesterday’s spelling bee.

Gummy legos

Man named Bacon arrested in fight over sausage

Walrus cam

Monkey gets a makeover

Cat meowing along to “If you’re happy and you know it”

The most unusual causes of death by state

Debby’s links!

The Rise 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 (including Josh Duggar who foolishly got a job at the Family Research Council rather than as a party planner on Jeffrey Epstein’s plane),

Bill Clinton is the greatest gaslighter in modern American politics.

This is from the Wikipedia entry on “Gaslighting”:

Sociopaths frequently use gaslighting tactics. Sociopaths consistently transgress social mores, break laws, and exploit others, but typically, are also charming and convincing liars who consistently deny wrongdoing. Thus, some who have been victimized by sociopaths may doubt their perceptions.

Some physically abusive spouses may gaslight their partners by flatly denying that they have been violent.

Gaslighting describes a dynamic observed in some cases of marital infidelity: “Therapists may contribute to the victim’s distress through mislabeling the woman’s reactions. . . . The gaslighting behaviors of the husband provide a recipe for the so-called ’nervous breakdown’ for some women [and] suicide in some of the worst situations.”

A truly sociopathic liar (though his sociopathologies hardly end there), Clinton has a gift for making other people feel like there is something wrong with them for objecting to his deceptions.

At the outset of the 1990s, liberals had worked themselves into a moral panic about sexual harassment. If anything, it was a bigger obsession than the campus-rape panic we’ve been witnessing over the last few years (no doubt in part because there was more factual basis to the problem). Male politicians — Bob Packwood, John Tower, et al. — had their careers summarily ended because of their “womanizing” — a term popularized by Tower’s predations. (Ironically, the original meaning of the word was to “make effeminate,” i.e., to turn into a woman. Given the mainstreaming of sex-change surgery, maybe it’s time to rehabilitate the older definition?)

Then, the country was presented with proof, incremental and suggestive at first, overwhelming and indisputable by the end of the decade, that Bill Clinton was an irrepressible and irresponsible sexual predator, at least by the moral and evidentiary standards established by feminist activists and the press corps that loves them. And, rather than face the consequences of applying their own principles consistently, they prostrated themselves to the Oval Office. Gloria Steinem raced to the pages of the New York Times to advance the “one free grope” rule. Susan Estrich, Susan Faludi, and countless other professional feminists defenestrated their principles in a desperate attempt to defend Clinton.

It was a perfect example of what Lord Acton really meant by power corrupting. He didn’t mean that rulers are corrupted by power, he meant that intellectuals become corrupted by their worship of the powerful.

When Bill Clinton had to “apologize” to his cabinet for playing baron-and-the-milkmaid with an intern and lying about it, he asked if anybody had a problem with it. Donna Shalala foolishly assumed he was being sincere. She chimed in and said she had a problem. He berated her for her effrontery, explaining that her prudish standards would have prevented JFK from being president. And while those of us not ensorcelled by the cult of that charismatic mediocrity might respond, “Yeah, so?” this was a debate-settling argument for many liberals.

Clinton’s sexual exploits were only one facet of his full-spectrum gaslighting of America. He sold pardons. He sold the Lincoln bedroom. He lied and cheated in innumerable ways, large and small, and he successfully made the people who objected, or even pointed out the truth, seem like the weird ones.

The Rise of House Clinton

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.

This really shouldn’t be a debatable point, save for the fact that the Clintons are so good at corrupting liberals to their cause and gaslighting everyone else who objects.

Our Choice

Jim Geraghty and Michael Gerson make the point that a vote for Hillary Clinton is a vote to endorse the tactics of House Clinton. “A democracy,” Gerson writes, “becomes the image of the virtues it rewards.” What we are witnessing, in real time, is an attempt to bend the country to a standard of conduct that every sane and decent person would recognize as corrupt if described objectively. The problem is the Clintons’ gift for making elites lose their objectivity in the face of the Clintons’ indestructible shamelessness. I fear Ryszard Kapuściński was was correct when he said, “When man meets an obstacle he can’t destroy, he destroys himself.”

Faced with this possibility, the honorable response must be to stand athwart. As Alexander Solzhenitsyn said, “Let your credo be this: Let the lie come into the world, let it even triumph. But not through me.”

A Lie, Told Slowly

If you still don’t see what I’m talking about, let me give you an example. You are being set up, or at least you were.

It wasn’t a set-up like the Red Wedding in Game of Thrones or in some horrible movie like Hostel or Saw or 28 Days. “The Rains of Castamere” will not play while crossbow bolts go thwupt-thwupt-thwupt into your chest just as you realize not only the betrayal but the joys of onomatopoeia. Steel plates won’t slide over the windows as some avuncular innkeeper starts up his chainsaw and laughs as you try to escape. Nor will you discover that the movie you thought was going to be a rollicking zombie flick — i.e., 28 Days Later — turned out to be an unending ass-ache of a film about Sandra Bullock going to rehab.

But it is a setup, nonetheless.

The other day Hillary Clinton repeated her insistence that she wants all of her e-mails released as soon as possible. “Nobody has a bigger interest in getting them released than I do.”

This is the Schrödinger’s cat of spin. It’s a lie until the time comes to take it out of the box as the truth. (If you don’t like this metaphor, just count your blessings I didn’t go with an extended Bruce Jenner riff instead.)

First, the dead cat of lies. If Hillary Clinton wanted these e-mails out ASAP, she would not have printed them out and delivered hard copies — some double-sided, some not, for extra inconvenience — to the State Department.

She would have handed over an easily searchable hard drive. Heck, she still has electronic versions of the e-mails. She could hand them over today if she wanted to expedite the process. But that’s not the plan.

(In case someone points this out, my guess is they’re prepared to reactivate Sandy Berger. He can swing by Chappaqua and steal the relevant device, prompting the question: “Is this a hard drive in my pocket or are you just happy to seize me?”)

Which brings me to the living-feline of veracity: She really does want these e-mails out. Why? Because the damning ones were already destroyed. This shouldn’t be so complicated, and yet I keep hearing useful idiots suggest that Hillary will be “exonerated” when the State Department finally releases the scrubbed e-mails. If you’ve destroyed incriminating evidence, releasing the non-incriminating evidence is a good thing. After all, there’s a little-known codicil to the doctrine of Occam’s razor: When a Clinton says, “There is no evidence I did X,” the most reasonable conclusion is that the evidence of X was “handled.”

A Gaslit Hypothetical

Let me try to explain this in terms Bill Clinton could appreciate. Imagine you’re the kind of guy who spends lots of time looking at, I don’t know, Canadian S&M porn on the Internet.

(What’s special about Canadian S&M porn, you ask? Frankly I don’t know. But I imagine it’s really polite, involving a lot of maple syrup, and whip-wielding women saying “eh” in the dirtiest ways imaginable.)

Now imagine your wife suspects you’re up to no good, but has no proof. Just vague suspicions derived from all the time you spend at Tim Hortons and the way you linger over your poutine. She wants to search your computer.

You could let her search your computer, knowing full well that you’ve scrubbed everything incriminating off of it.

But the best way to maximize your leverage, to make her feel like she’s in the wrong, is to first make a huge stink about the invasion of privacy, about how unfair she is being, how hurt you are that she doesn’t trust you etc. Invoke principles, act indignant, draw out the drama. And, then, with much theatricality, relent to the search. “Fine! You want to look, go ahead and look!”

That way, when she finds nothing, you get to really rub it in like an Ottawan dominatrix with a pint of Aunt Jemima.

The Long March to “Exoneration”

This was Clinton’s plan all along. Already her flacks and hacks have been trying valiantly to redefine the controversy over her stealth server into a more vague and generic controversy over her “e-mails.” The hope was that by the time the State Department released her sanitized correspondence in January of 2016, people would forget about the details — if they ever knew about them in the first place. The specific lies would get airbrushed out of the story and all that would remain would be some vague controversy about her e-mails. Then — voila — they’re released and there’s no there there. “No smoking gun!” and “exonerated!” punctuate the Sunday shows.

Spot the Lie, Not the Lying

The really clever part is that Hillary keeps saying she wants them out as soon as possible. Why? Because everyone knows she’s lying. But she’s not lying about her desire to have them released, she’s lying about her preferred timing. Her critics correctly pick up on the lying but they miss the actual lie. It’s brilliant misdirection.

This is what the Clintons do. People complained about the missing Rose Law Firm billing records for years, and then — surprise! — they were found in the White House and — even bigger surprise! — there was no smoking gun in them.

Ron Fournier reports that Clinton advisers confirmed to him that delaying the release of the e-mails until 2016 was “her strategic choice.” (Truth be told, if I’d read Fournier’s column earlier I would have written a different column!)

Judge Rudolph Contreras screwed up her plan. But like Danny Ocean, you can be sure that the Clinton team knows how to adapt to the unexpected. So we can expect that as every trough of e-mails is released, the Clintons and their enablers will say “See, this whole e-mail controversy was bogus.” It won’t have the same impact as the original strategy, but it will be just as dishonest.

The larger lesson remains: The Clintons are artists at telling lies — Bill by natural talent, Hillary by years of practice and studying her savant husband — and their preferred medium for telling lies is the truth. They take truths and yoke them to the service of lies.

How To Bait a Republican

It may surprise you that despite the rustic-man-of-nature vibe I give off, I’m not an avid fisherman. But I gather that the people who need to yank aquaticcraniate animals out of the water to justify their daytime drinking habits use lots of different kinds of bait depending on the circumstances. The Clintons have many kinds of bait at their disposal as well. The trick for Republicans is to recognize as many of the different lures in their tackle box as possible. It’s worth recalling that even Abraham Lincoln, the first Republican president, was not immune to being baited by his enemies.

This brings me to the allegedly impending Benghazi hearing in which Hillary Clinton is going to testify. Politico had a piece yesterday about how Democrat “insiders” expect this summer spectacle to work to her advantage. If history is any guide, they’re right. It has less to do with Hillary’s skills as a witness (which the Democrats emphasize) and more to do with Republican incompetence at these things. I’ve lost count of how many times Republicans have screwed up hearings like this by mugging for the cameras, spouting off one-liners designed for fundraising e-mails, and using up precious time on mini-speeches that only help the witness run out the clock.

Very few Republicans are skilled at interrogating witnesses. Lindsay Graham, Ted Cruz, and a few other former lawyers understand how to develop a line of questioning. Most just like to hear themselves talk and hope that their orations will make the soundbite highlights on cable news that night.

If I had my druthers — and I rarely get my druthers, which is why I am not writing this from the veranda of my Aegean villa — Trey Gowdy would appoint a committee counsel to ask questions the way Sam Dash did during the Watergate hearings. That won’t happen. But a good alternative would be for Gowdy to ask all the questions. He has a prosecutor’s gift for interrogation. He knows the material. He could ask crisp, factual questions that build a case and expose weaknesses in Clinton’s testimony. And, he’s probably immune to Hillary’s well-honed gaslighting techniques. It’s easy to seem like a victim — ironically one of Hillary’s favorite roles, given her claims of being an empowered, independent woman — when a bunch of blowhard politicians are mugging for the cameras and mansplaining away.

Various & Sundry

I don’t have much for you today in terms of announcements and whatnot. My column yesterday offers a good example of how the Democratic base has been corrupted by the Clintons. Her biggest supporters really have no idea why they are supporting her.

I was on Sean Hannity’s show last night. Andrea Tantaros was guest hosting. She got into a heated discussion with a Democratic consultant named Penny Lee. I was in an insert studio that didn’t have the program on the monitor. I forgot a basic rule of TV: always assume your mug is on TV.

Oh, the National Review webathon has begun. Expect my umpteenth, entirely sincere entreaty in the days ahead.

I’d like to make one serious, albeit familiar, point in the wake of last week’s G-File. Over the last year or so, the G-File has been taking a decidedly jocular turn. I don’t apologize for or celebrate that. I write this thing over a few hours the morning it’s due. Sometimes I’m in a wacky mood. Sometimes not. Alas, some relatively new readers were a bit dismayed by last week’s all too sober “news”letter. To paraphrase Homer Simpson watching Garrison Keillor, you were like “Stupid e-mail, be more funny.” In my defense, the difference is that I wasn’t trying to be funny. It’s an important point. I’m not a humorist. I don’t want to be a humorist. And given the on-the-fly nature of this “news”letter, the more I feel like I’m required to make with the waka waka, à la Fozzy Bear, the less inclined I will be to do so. So if you hate a particular G-File, by all means tell me so. I hate lots of them myself. But please spare me the lectures about what I am supposed to do.

I don’t have a special Zoë update today. But we remain in shock at how she’s suddenly becoming such a good dog.

Speaking of good dogs, however, here’s my essay on pure doggy goodness, adapted from The Dadly Virtues.

Oh and before we leave the topic of good dogs, this may be the best picture ever.

Equal time: The illustrated guide to cat physics.

And here’s the list of students who got a Masters in statistics at Columbia this year.

And here are 17 facts about Blossom.

If you can’t describe how that makes you feel, consult the wheel of feelings.

If you think this is so much navel-gazing, you might want to read up on belly-button lint.

Carol Brady killed her husband?

Debby’s links!

Culture

Why the Left Will Never Talk about Its Real Agenda

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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 your first name is “Reader” and you’re a woman, in which case I apologize for my sexism),

Can government spend so much money on a white elephant, even Uncle Sam can’t lift it?

Why, yes, yes it can.

You see, the omnipotence paradox doesn’t really work on government. What’s the omnipotence paradox you ask? (“Seriously, no one asked” — The Couch). It’s the old conundrum that goes back at least to Averroës, the great Islamic philosopher and champion of Aristotle who, today, would surely be beheaded by ISIS either for his advancement of secular thought, or maybe just because he liked two sugars in his coffee. ISIS’s standards for beheading are pretty lax.

Basically the omnipotence paradox asks if an omnipotent being can put limits on Himself. The most famous version of this is “Can God create a rock so heavy even He can’t lift it?” Some people think, “Can Mitt Romney have a bad hair day on purpose?” is a variant of this, but they are wrong.

I’ve never liked this question for the simple reason that it tells us very little — if anything — about the nature of God and a good deal about the limits of logic and reason. A God that is the Master of the Universe — and I’m not talking about He-Man & Co. — isn’t going to be comprehensible in totality for beings limited to a three-, or four-, dimensional understanding of reality. It’s a fun verbal game, but utterly useless, not only because it is an abstraction but because of our limited ability to abstract things outside of our conceptual horizons.

Behold, the God That Writes Checks

But you can see how this way of thinking falls apart when you apply it to government. The State is a human institution, run by humans who are all too human. The problem is that many people want it to be more. Progressives used to be much more honest about their aspirations for the State. Richard Ely, the founder of the American Economic Association and the most important and influential of the “Wisconsin school” progressives, declared that “God works through the State in carrying out His purposes more universally than through any other institution.” It “is religious in its essence,” and “a mighty force in furthering God’s kingdom and establishing righteous relations.” For Ely, redemption wasn’t an individual religious experience, but a collective one orchestrated by the state. (See Liberal Fascism or my magazine piece “Richard Ely’s Golden Calf” for more.)

Herbert Croly, the George Washington of American progressivism, was literally — and by “literally” I don’t mean “figuratively” the way Joe Biden means “literally” — baptized into the cult of the State. From Liberal Fascism:

Croly was a quiet man who’d grown up with noisy parents. His mother was one of America’s first female syndicated columnists and a dedicated “feminist.” His father was a successful journalist and editor whose friends dubbed him “The Great Suggester.” Their home was something of a “European island in New York,” according to one historian. The most interesting thing about the senior Croly — if by “interesting” you mean really loopy — was his obsession with Auguste Comte, a semimystical French philosopher whose biggest claim to fame was his coinage of the word “sociology.” Comte argued that humanity progressed in three stages and that in the final stage mankind would throw off Christianity and replace it with a new “religion of humanity,” which married religious fervor to science and reason — even to the extent of making “saints” out of such figures as Shakespeare, Dante, and Frederick the Great. Comte believed that the age of mass industrialization and technocracy would pluck the human mind from the metaphysical realm for good, ushering in an age where pragmatic managers would improve the plight of all based upon man-made morality. He anointed himself the high priest of this atheistic, secular faith, which he called positivism. The elder Croly made his Greenwich Village home into a positivist temple where he held religious ceremonies for select guests, whom he would try to convert. In 1869 young Herbert became the first and probably last American to be christened in Comte’s religion.

Longtime readers of this “news”letter might know that my favorite quote of any Progressive Era clergyman is from Walter Rauschenbusch. This famous man of God believed socialism was an idea whose time had come. “Our disorganized competitive life must pass into an organic cooperative life,” he insisted. “Unless the ideal social order can supply men with food, warmth, and comfort more efficiently than our present economic order, back we shall go to capitalism. . . . The God that answereth by low food prices, let him be God.”

This isn’t an argument for God, but Baal. Whichever deity delivers the material stuff we want may be called “God,” but that doesn’t make Him God. If you think God ceases to be God if circumstances require “going back to capitalism,” then you don’t really believe in God.

Rauschenbusch popped into my head last week when I heard that Al Gore said he might become a Catholic because the Pope has taken Gore’s position on global warming. That’s better than Howard Dean, who left his Church over an argument about bike paths, but theologically, it’s not much more sophisticated. Let the God who answereth with carbon taxes (or bike paths) be God!

Born at the Wrong Time

Today, liberals talk around their ambitions for the State in the same way that very ambitious people rarely state their real agenda or the way that some salesmen hold off talking about the actual price until very late in the conversation. They adorn their rhetoric with technocratic verbiage and jargony economic buzzwords like “competitiveness,” because that is the language of the new clerisy.

None of this would be news to Eric Voegelin. “When God is invisible behind the world,” he wrote, “the contents of the world will become new gods; when the symbols of transcendent religiosity are banned, new symbols develop from the inner-worldly language of science to take their place.”

I would love it if one day it was revealed that the whole Journolist/Vox crowd were members of a secret religion, like the Osiris cultists in Young Sherlock Holmes. In the movie, the fanatics are all elite, foppish technocrats, financiers, and statesmen by day but behind closed doors they wear robes and sacrifice young girls to the Egyptian god of the afterlife. I’ve never bought the idea that Barack Obama is a secret Muslim, but I could totally see him being a secret member of Comte’s Religion of Humanity.

Among the reasons the elite Left will never talk about its real agenda, alas, is that it would require a level of self-awareness today’s liberals are incapable of. My friend, the brilliant teacher Peter Schramm, once wrote a beautiful essay about his father and their emigration from Hungary to America. He writes:

My mother tells me, though I don’t remember saying this, that I told my father I would follow him to hell if he asked it of me. Fortunately for my eager spirit, hell was exactly what we were trying to escape and the opposite of what my father sought.

“But where are we going?” I asked.

“We are going to America,” my father said.

“Why America?” I prodded.

“Because, son. We were born Americans, but in the wrong place,” he replied.

Today’s liberals were born progressives, but in the wrong time. We live in a secular age, where technical language and scientific concepts have invaded the space traditionally reserved for religion. It’s not that science no longer exists, it’s that people have put it on pedestal claiming it is something it isn’t. One need only follow the vapid Twitter fatwas of people like Neil de Grasse Tyson to see what I mean.

If you pay attention, today’s liberals talk around their faith in a way that discloses its location in their internal cosmography. It’s sort of like the way scientists figure out where black holes are by studying how other objects move around them. You can’t see the black hole because, well, it’s a black hole. But you can tell it’s there by how all sorts of things get sucked into its maw. Similarly, you can see how the trajectory of liberal rhetoric and ideas are bent toward this unspoken, unacknowledged, un-fillable void at the center of their universes. (It can’t be filled, because utopias cannot exist in this life, no matter how much money we spend on them.)

As Kevin Williamson recently wrote, Paul Krugman talks as if he has oracular knowledge of the “science” of economics, and yet he lets slip the fact that “conscience” — not facts — is his lodestar. “There are some very hot disagreements in the sciences, such as the dispute over the question of measurement in quantum mechanics,” Kevin writes. “However that gets sorted out, it seems likely that conscience will play at most a minor role in it.”

I for one have spent precious few sleepless nights agonizing about whether to view quarks as particles or waves but, hey, that’s just me.

Hillary Clinton has argued that the government must work to redefine what it means to be a human being. Barack Obama has proclaimed we can create a Kingdom of Heaven here on earth (once the rallying cry of progressives like Ely). He defined sin as being out of alignment with his values.

As I’ve written many times, this phenomenon is most obvious in the realm of environmentalism, where some acolytes are occasionally willing to testify to their faith. Prominent environmental lawyer Joseph Sax describes environmentalists as “secular prophets, preaching a message of secular salvation.”

In 2008, Al Gore was on NPR. He mocked — rightly — Joseph Hagee’s claim that Hurricane Katrina was God’s punishment for New Orleans’s sexual depravity. But then, almost in the same breath, he cast Katrina as Gaia’s punishment for our environmental depravity. It’s the same theodical impulse under a different flag.

God’s Passenger Rail

What got me going on all this was a nice piece by the great Mollie Hemingway on the Amtrak crash. She writes:

The theodicy of federal government requires an explanation that defends the goodness of government control or subsidies into the given sphere. So just as some religious groups might blame a weather event on insufficient fealty to the relevant god, some progressives blame — before the National Transportation Safety Board has even shown up on site to investigate the cause of a crash — insufficient fealty, sacrifice and offerings to the relevant god of federal government.

Yes, it’s annoying how some progressives politicize everything. But if it’s understood as a sort of primitive religious reaction to confusion about holy government’s many failures, it at least helps explain why they do it.

Republicans Are Why We Can’t Have Nice Things

From the moment I saw the craven response to the calamity on Morning Joe, I was furious about the way the disaster was instantaneously exploited without the benefit of relevant facts about the crash or knowledge about the issues. (Here’s my early-morning rant about it in the Corner. And here’s my afternoon rant on Neil Cavuto’s show.) If I was at all unfair to the Morning Joe crew, it was to the extent I singled them out. It turns out that they were simply moving with the Beltway herd. I listened to a Diane Rehm Show discussion about the crash and it was arguably even worse. But at least they had the saving grace of having Representative Andy Harris (R., Md.) on to throw cold water on the bonfire of indignation that we don’t have high-speed rail and “Positive Train Control” — a technology almost none of the indignant liberals had heard of five minutes before the crash.

About 20 minutes into the show, guest host Frank Sesno — a normally sensible guy, I think — had to bring up the other side of the argument. Here’s how he tried to ask Ed Rendell (D., Porkbarreltopia) about the charge that Amtrak is poorly run and wastes lots of money.

Governor Rendell, let me ask you this question, and I’m going to bring in, in a moment, Congressman Andy Harris, who is a Republican, who voted against this appropriations measure yesterday. But before I do, there are those who say, with some justification — and let me point out, by the way, that I was on Amtrak the day before this accident took place, going up to New York, getting jostled and bounced around as you do when you take one of these trains because the tracks are not in great shape, not going at the speeds that we should be going if we had a proper high-speed rail system in this country, as virtually every other industrialized country has.

It is an embarrassment, okay. And then when something like this happens, it is a tragic reminder, whether it’s human error or whatever, of where we are in our train travel and what that says about our larger infrastructure. But there are those in the Congress, Governor Rendell, as you well know, who says wait a minute, Amtrak is poorly run, poorly managed, and the investments and the billions that we’ve put in in the past have been poorly spent. What do you say to taxpayers and to that?

Words on a page can’t quite capture Sesno’s angst over having to suggest that Amtrak is a s*** show. He first had to get it in how embarrassed he is by our rail system. He asserts that “virtually every other industrialized country” has high-speed rail, which is both (a) untrue and (b) irrelevant.

Meanwhile, Rendell swats away this unraveled softball by saying, “Well, first of all, I’m not sure that’s true, but if it is true, the congressional oversight has been lacking, severely lacking.” You know what you call a national spokesman on boosting infrastructure — who considers himself an expert on the issue — who says he’s not sure it’s true that Amtrak is poorly run? Well, you have three choices: A liar, a fool, or both. (See Ian’s piece for edification on this point.)

What rankles about this liberal bout of St. Vitus Dance over the “underfunding” of Amtrak is, well, everything. It’s almost like they were waiting for it, with their charts and talking points and pre-booked talking heads; as if a super-villain had sabotaged the train only when he already had everything else in place. If this had been a terrorist attack and the “neocons” responded with such coordinated alacrity, we’d be reading about “inside job” and “false flag” conspiracy theories for years. Obviously I don’t think it was a conspiracy, it was almost certainly human error — a fact that serves as only the shallowest of speed bumps in the rush to open the fiscal granaries and let the money pour forth. “Let the God who answereth with high-speed rail be God.”

Various & Sundry

This was a crazy busy week. Two highlights were events I hosted at AEI.

On Monday, we had a panel for The Dadly Virtues. It was a rollicking good time. Steve Hayes, James Lileks, P. J. O’rourke, Jonathan Last, Tucker Carlson, and yours truly — under the expert moderating of Rob Long — revealed our greatest failures as fathers. Well, we almost all did. Like James Kirk with the Kobiashi Maru scenario, Tucker rejected the premise, arguing that he was utterly blameless as a father. It was a hard group to steal the show from, but Tucker managed to. You can watch it all here.

Still the highlight came after a boozy dinner with those guys — plus Chris Caldwell, Matt Continetti, Matt Labash, and Christine Rosen — when a few of us repaired to the offices of The Weekly Standard and drank bourbon while talking about our favorite funny authors, the beatniks, and life (rumors that I rummaged through Bill Kristol’s desk are unfounded). Listening to P. J. talk about his days with Hunter S. Thompson was a really bucket-list opportunity.

Then last night I interviewed Charles Murray about his new book. I’ll write more about that another time. But you can watch the conversation here and buy the book here.

Zoë Update: Her progress continues apace. On our predawn peregrination she dug up a mole (I think) and dropped it and abandoned it when I ordered her to. You could call me the Dingo whisperer, though I must confess I did a lot of shouting.

My column from yesterday is on how Obama has always behaved boorishly, but the Democrats are only noticing now. Oddly, they aren’t being called racist for pointing it out.

I was actually going to write this “news”letter on a similar angle on this point, keyed to Obama’s behavior at the poverty summit this week at Georgetown. But I got waylaid by Amtrakgotterdamerung. Suffice it to say he reached new lows in bad faith. Meanwhile, I think Arthur Brooks got under his skin simply by pointing it out. More anon.

The British Is Coming! Charlie Cooke is heading to Raleigh to rally the people.

Harvey Mansfield explains Straussianism (or explains what he wants you to think that Straussianism is!)

Disturbing evidence girls are evil

Get in my belly!

Bros doing yoga

Hamster’s tiny tiki party

Humanitarians of Tinder

98 types of food cut into identical cubes

How the shape of your glass determines your drinking speed according to science

Culture

Bureaucrats Use Taxpayer Money to Subsidize Their Own Values—and No One Else’s

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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 need deflated balls),

The British elections went rather well, I’d say old boy. If they’d gone differently this might have marked the beginning of the end of British elections entirely. Instead, there’d be English elections and Scottish elections and Welsh elections, not to mention Shire, Westerosi, and Lucky Charmsian elections (“these exit polls are magically delicious!”).

I’m not a close student of British politics, but I do have my deeply informed opinions. For example, I think that Britain’s parliamentary system is kind of bonkers (which is not to say our gerrymandered husk of a Republic is firing on all cylinders). Also, I think Tony Blair’s reforms of the House of Lords were a mixed bag. Personally, I liked hereditary Lords, but if you’re going to get rid of them and strip them of any real power, the replacements should obviously earn their seats through trial by combat. You don’t have to be an Enoch Powell disciple to see that Britain is rapidly losing its common culture (which is just one reason why Scotland wants to leave). Who could dispute that fighting pits — preferably using weapons chosen at random from a giant spinning wheel — would unite all classes and races around a common institution. And if Russell Brand can emerge victorious from a subterranean garden-rake-and-frying-pan fight with Jason Statham, then by all means give the man a powdered wig and a seat in the Upper Chamber.

MORE COVERAGE: U.K. Elections

But this is all conventional wisdom for the most part.

I should add that George Galloway (the bigoted carbuncle of idiocy who until today represented Bradford West in parliament) is certainly right, “Zionists” are celebrating his defeat — but so are non-Zionists. (It’s hardly the case that you have to believe in the right to a Jewish homeland to think Galloway is a hateful buffoon.) Still, it’s no surprise that a man who’s done all he can to keep his district Judenfrei would believe the authors of his downfall must be the Jews. For gnostics of a certain bent, the demiurge is Jewish in nature and therefore responsible for all the evils of this earth. Who’s responsible for paper cuts? The Jews! Why won’t this toilet flush? The Jews! Why is Steve Gutenberg a star? The Jews! (The Stonecutters are just a front!)

If I may reprise an old joke — one better spoken than written, I should note — and slightly updated: “Who’s responsible for killing Nicole Brown Simpson and George Galloway’s political career? The Juiiiiice.”

(The trick is to say “Juice” in a sinister, dragged-out way so that it sounds like “Jews.” Unfortunately, to explain a joke is to ruin it. So let me offer a new one. What would you get if our friend Daniel Hannan went on an all-night coke bender and then, in a white-bag fueled rage, interrupted Galloway’s beer-hall-tirade and pinned him to the floor?

A powdered Whig on a braying Jackass.

Thank you, I’m here all week. Try the veal.)

Urophagia Über Alles

My column today is Doric. But the article I’ve written is on the escherdrawingesque way (who says only the Germans can make compound words?) liberals think about free speech.

When I came of age politically, I was told over and over again, “Stop eating off my plate. I don’t know you.” But I was also told that a cut in a subsidy for art was logically — and especially morally! — indistinguishable from censorship.

Look, it’s a free country. If one dude wants to pee in the mouth of another dude, knock yourselves out, fellas (and if you want to see that, click on that NSFW link). And if you want to turn that into a Kodak moment, go for it. As the dude gasping for breath downstream said, “Take a picture, it’ll last longer.”

But I’d rather not be involved in any way. That means I don’t want to watch. That means I don’t want to hear about it. And I certainly don’t want to pay for it, not even a little. Indeed, given the option, I’d probably pay not to see it (“Careful, you’ll give the suits a really terrible fundraising idea.” — The Couch). But I wouldn’t pass a law banning this sort of thing. I might support some fairly strict regulations, of course. No erotic urophagia around schools, playgrounds etc. If you want to drink that sort of thing, put it in a brown paper bag the way Patches O’Houlihan does.

The Iron Law of Bureaucrats

I should say I’m no free-speech absolutist. I think the notion that we should treat pole dancing like constitutionally protected speech while we try to ban actual political speech is just one of the loopiest manifestations of our popular confusion over the First Amendment. In fact, government support for the arts doesn’t offend me in theory, it’s just how they do it in practice that bothers me.

I think the notion that we should treat pole dancing like constitutionally protected speech while we try to ban actual political speech is just one of the loopiest manifestations of our popular confusion over the First Amendment.

Specifically, I cannot stand the way New Class bureaucrats think they must be autonomous from the taxpayers who pay their salaries. Imagine if we lived in anything like the “Christianist” theocracy so many lefties live in quaking fear of. Evangelical bureaucrats would likely fund art they liked. The professional Bohemians would shriek — with some justification — that the state was imposing its values on the rest of us. But when those same people are in driving the gravy train, they think there’s nothing wrong — and everything right — with imposing their values.

RELATED: Affronts to Religion in Our Age of Reason

Of course, this is a problem that extends far beyond outposts like the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA). Public teachers’ unions and ed-school priests hate the idea that parents and other taxpayers should have a real say in how education money is spent. Bureaucrats in general have become a kind of secular aristocracy that resents second-guessing by the people who fund their will-to-power. (We will discuss this more once Charles Murray’s fascinating new book comes out, and a whole lot more when my hopefully fascinating book comes out in a couple years.)

When voters say that bureaucrats shouldn’t spend money on X, the bureaucrats shriek “censorship!” But it is only the equivalent of censorship if you work from the assumption that it’s all the government’s money anyhow. As Bill Clinton once said about the federal surplus, “We could give it all back to you and hope you spend it right.” But if we did, alas, not enough of you would spend it on urophagic art.

Shock the Bourgeoisie!

Anyway, how’d I get here? Oh, right. So back in the ’80s and ’90s, the whole point of subsidizing art was to pay for stuff that offended, shocked, and stretched the boundaries (and, occasionally, sphincters) of society. As is almost always the case, what this actually meant was that it must shock the right kinds of people: bourgeois fuddy-duddies and fusspots, squares, and scriveners, men in gray flannel suits and bible-thumpers of all sorts.

RELATED: Progressives Love Anti-Religious Art — As Long as It’s Anti-Christian

Many on the left still like doing that, of course. But there’s a problem. It turns out that there are lots of people who are even more shockable than white, Christian men and the women who love them. After so many years of the Left focusing on making Uptighty-Whitey blush, social conservatives have grown a pretty thick skin about such mockery. Meanwhile the same feminists who clapped with glee as Karen Finley rubbed chocolate-qua-feces over her body to symbolize the way women are treated — and rushed to her defense when she sued the federal government to pay her to do it — don’t much like it when anybody else says things they don’t like. And unlike conservatives, mainstream liberals have rice-paper thin skin about such things, which is why some think Joss Whedon fled Twitter this week.

(When Finley and the “NEA Four” lost their lawsuit at the Supreme Court, Justice Scalia wrote: “Avant-garde artistes such as respondents remain entirely free to épater les bourgeois; they are merely deprived of the additional satisfaction of having the bourgeoisie taxed to pay for it.” This proved yet again that Scalia is a hoss.)

The notion that certain anointed people have a right not to be offended has spread with the ineluctable logic of a cancer cell. One need only look at the reception Christina Hoff Sommers gets on college campuses to appreciate how times have changed. She gets bodyguards to protect her from physical attacks while the delicate little flowers get “safe spaces” where they are protected from words — facts, actually — they do not like.

RELATED: College Student Says You’re Just Not Smart Enough to Understand Safe Spaces

This is all of a piece with the canard that liberals are in any meaningful sense libertarian. They are for freedoms that align with their preferred cultural and social norms — and fads — and they are for coercion or scorn for everything else. Right-wing means non-compliance and non-compliance is “hate,” and no one has the right to hate. Épater la bourgeoisie is so great it must be funded. But épater les féministes or épater les grifters raciales or — heaven forbid — épater les musulmans radicaux not only must not be funded, it must be banned outright. It’s free speech for me and “shut up, racist” for thee.

Various & Sundry

Zoë Update: First let me explain these updates about my dog. A number of newcomers to this “news”letter have told me to seek treatment. A subset of these have asked, “Why are you talking about your dog?” The short answer is that I love dogs, and I find them infinitely entertaining. The longer answer is that we accidentally adopted an American Dingo named Zoë. When we got her from the rescue folks, we were told she was a German Shepherd mix. She’s not. She’s all dingo. She was also gravely ill and nearly died from parvo. Fortunately, they have a cure for parvo: the application of thousands of dollars. The original updates were about whether she would live or die. Then they were about the fact that dingos — or at least this one — are a good deal less domesticated than your typical canine. But readers got hooked on her travails. So I keep going because I like writing about dogs and some of you like reading about them.

So this week, my wife, the Fair Jessica, took the dingo to Cabin John Park where they hooked up with Zoë’s pack (supervised by our friend and occasional dog-walker, Kirsten). One of the other dogs found a half-decomposed deer head, which in dog currency is like a binder full of German bearer-bonds. He ran around with it for a good 20 minutes as the Fair Jessica and Kirsten shrieked for him to drop it (which is like asking Hans Gruber to just walk away from the freshly opened safe at Nakatomi towers). When they finally got it away from the lab, Zoë responded “My turn!” and grabbed it. The Fair Jessica then spent another 20 minutes trying to retrieve it. Jessica finally got her hands on Zoë in a scene that was reminiscent of King Kong versus a T-Rex. She pried the great beast’s jaws apart and, using a leaf, picked up the rotting ungulate’s head. At this point, all of the other dogs started shouting “My turn! My turn!” (In dog economics, all goods are positional goods, in the sense that they value what other dogs value.) Jessica eventually buried the head under a bunch of rocks. But the Dingo has been seething with resentment ever since.

Which may partly explain her behavior this morning. I took her to Battery Kemble Park, as per my normal ritual of morning dingo perambulation. We got there by 6:00 A.M. and the park was empty. But Zoë was going nuts in the car. She has a very strange vocalization that at low-levels sounds like a low-frequency howl by a chain-smoking werewolf. This is the sound she makes when she wants to chastise me on my return from business trips “Where were you! Why did you leave? What did you bring me?” She started making that sound in the car, but it quickly escalated into “enemy in the perimeter!” barking. I still couldn’t see anything. Then, way up on the hill I saw a man, sitting alone, cross-legged like a meditating Buddha. This infuriated the dingo. I couldn’t let her off the leash because she kept shouting “What are you doing!?” “Stop that!” “You’re making me feel unsafe!” What’s particularly intriguing about this is that our beloved canine, the late, great Cosmo the Wonderdog, had a similar reaction in our old dog park to people doing tai-chi. He would get furious, barking “Your Eastern ways are an affront to all I hold dear! Stop that!”

I don’t know what the explanation is, but I suspect that American dogs simply don’t like Oriental traditions of transcendence. I know, I know, “Oriental” is out of favor these days as a term, but one of the great things about dogs is they are utterly immune to appeals to political correctness.

Speaking of which, The Dadly Virtues is coming out in time for Father’s Day. I’m one of the contributors, and I write about parenting and dog ownership. An excerpt from my essay:

To bring this back to where we started, dogs are an antidote to all forms of totalitarian thinking. Our connection to them cannot be politicized. Children should not be politicized either, but as future citizens, voters, workers, taxpayers, and economic cogs, they are simply too tempting a target for the politicians, planners, and meddlers. Moreover, it’s impossible as a parent not to worry about how the polis deals with your child and how your child deals with the polis. I really don’t care what kind of music my dog listens to. I have never rushed to change the channel when she trots into the room.

Being a good parent requires caring about politics. Dogs, meanwhile, keep their innocent doggy goodness from kennel to grave, obviating the need to explain to them why tax cuts are awesome.

I’m hosting an event for the book at AEI on Monday. Details here.

On a much less jocular note, if my brother were alive, he’d be celebrating his birthday today. Here’s my eulogy to my big brother Josh, whom I miss every day.

I will also be hosting an event for Charles Murray’s new book on Thursday. Details here.

I wrote a very long blog post this week revisiting the apparently eternal question of where to place fascism on the ideological spectrum. Obviously, I think they’re not even different sides of the same coin, so much as the same side of the same coin. Some people understood this quite well.

Oh, I’m also a little psychic.

It says something interesting that when porn stars dress up, they do so more tastefully than non-porn stars.

Fantastic canine head tilt

Tumblr that turns famous people into gingers

Double down fried chicken candle

Tickling Irishman’s beards compilation

Epic fire slap and other awesome things in super slow motion

Duck ringtone rescues ducklings

Debby’s links!

Culture

No, Calling the Baltimore Rioters ‘Thugs’ Does Not Make You a Racist

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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 foreign donors who’d like to hide their direct support of this “news”letter by giving money to the Goldberg Global Initiative),

I was going to write about the latest Clinton stuff but, frankly, I can’t muster the energy. I feel like I’m taking crazy pills. The Clintons are to sleazy behavior what Joe Biden is to craziness and inappropriate backrubs. Sure, they get criticized or mocked, but ultimately it gets discounted because that’s just the way they are. Biden could divulge his sacrofricosis addiction on national television while explaining how the Germans bombed Pearl Harbor and within a week it would be “old news.”

“Oh, that’s just Joe!”

But at least Biden’s behavior is contained to himself and perhaps whoever is foolish enough to get in his bitch’n TransAm. The Clintons run a vast enterprise which at this moment is in the finishing stages of taking over the Democratic party and, if it has its way, the United States government. No serious person of any ideological stripe denies — privately, at least — that what the Clintons have been doing over the last 15 years has been unseemly. Legitimate debates can be had as to whether it was criminal. But if the standard is the appearance of corruption, tax-status abuse, influence-peddling, access-selling, money laundering, greed, self-aggrandizement, arrogance, non-transparency, or simply flat-out lying, then no serious person can deny the Clintons have fallen short of that standard.

The Clintons are to sleazy behavior what Joe Biden is to craziness and inappropriate backrubs.

Sure, the foundation spends a few pennies on the dollar for latrines and textbooks. But its real purpose is to serve as a super–super PAC with better branding.

But what really rankles is that the Clintons began their post-presidency in reputational shambles. Bill Clinton sold pardons, or at the very least didn’t care that it seemed like he did. That’s not my characterization; it’s Barney Frank’s, E.J. Dionne’s, Jimmy Carter’s and Patrick Leahy’s, just to name a few. Oh and Hillary’s brother was in on it as well. Hugh Rodham, a Haitian gold-mining expert of late, took $400,000 dollars to shop for pardons, too.

Many people thought that Bill Clinton created his foundation in an effort to repair his reputation. And that’s probably true. But that’s just part of what makes Bill Clinton such a spectacular sleaze-ball. He created a foundation to restore his good name and then used the foundation to do precisely the kind of things that gave him a bad name. It’s like Tony Soprano doing volunteer work at an old-age home just so he can rob money from little old ladies while they’re at bingo. Win-win!

But where is the sense of betrayal from liberals? Sure, a few people have been noticeably embarrassed, but for the most part they are acting like Clinton deserves the benefit of the doubt or that the appearance of impropriety is a fair standard to apply to every politician except ones named Clinton.

It’s like having an addict in the family (something I know a bit about, alas). Everyone agrees in principle that you shouldn’t enable bad behavior, but no one has the stomach to actually live by that principle. The Clintons left the White House having used up every second, third, fourth, fifth, sixth chance they had.

And their behavior never changed!

Only their public-relations strategy changed. In Aesop’s fables, the scorpion must sting the frog because, much to the frog’s foolish surprise, that’s what scorpions do. The Tudors of the Ozarks must do what they do. I get that. Indeed, I sometimes feel like I’m one of the only ones who does. But we are long past the point of blaming the scorpions for being scorpions. Frankly, I don’t expect better from the Clintons and their ability to arouse anger in me is pretty limited at this point. But it’s time to point fingers at the frogs who insist on playing the part of the fool. If you ever find yourself saying something like, “I don’t understand how the Clintons could let us down like this,” understand this: You’re the frog.

 I don’t think Hillary Clinton will be the next president of the United States, but if she is, her enablers will have no right to be shocked by any of the inevitable embarrassing scandals that will follow. Heck, they lost that right a long time ago.

Thug Strife

I don’t get it.

I feel like Tom Hanks in Big when all the executives are excited about the toy buildings that turn into robots. Hanks just doesn’t get it. He asks, “What’s fun about that?”

Except I’m asking, “What’s racist about that?”

The mayor of Baltimore, who will spend the rest of her days living light-years from the word “Churchillian,” recently apologized for two gaffes. First, she walked back her statement that she gave rioters space to “destroy.” That’s not what she meant, Stephanie Rawlings-Blake said.

It sure sounded like it to me, and the facts on the ground seemed to line up with the rhetoric (this new video of Baltimore cops fleeing rioters is pretty compelling). But fair enough. People often say things clumsily in stressful situations.

But then the mayor apologized for calling the destroyers “thugs.”

“There are no thugs in Baltimore,” she added. “Sometimes my own little anger translator gets the best of me.”

Really, there are no thugs in Baltimore? It’s a thug-free zone?

RELATED: Riot-Plagued Baltimore Is a Catastrophe Entirely of the Democratic Party’s Own Making

A Thug by Another Name Still Stinks . . .

Don’t get me wrong, I’m sure there were plenty of non-thug kids pretending to be thugs in the mobs in Baltimore. When I was growing up in the 1970s and 1980s in New York City, I knew, or at least met, dozens of kids who said they were in gangs. The number who were actually in anything like an actual gang was much, much lower. Long before we hunted the woolly mammoth to extinction, young men were acting like they’re tougher than they really are.

But here’s the thing. Someone torched those stores. Those looters weren’t holograms or masked Scooby Doo villains looking to get those good-but-meddling kids in trouble. At least one actual carbon-based life form is responsible for burning down a community center and apartment complex that was being built by the Southern Baptist Church for low-income old folks.

RELATED: What Are Baltimore’s Rioters Trying to ‘Communicate’?

Now, if there’s some reason we can’t use the word thug to describe these people, I’m all ears. I’ve written about the etymology of “thug” many, many times and if the issue is lexicological exactitude, I’m up for that conversation.

Someone torched those stores. Those looters weren’t holograms or masked Scooby Doo villains looking to get those good-but-meddling kids in trouble.

Others argue that the word has now taken on too many racial connotations. Barret Holmes Pinter writes that “thug” is the new “ni**er.” Baltimore city councilman Carl Stokes bullied CNN’s Erin Burnett the other day. “These are children who have been set aside, marginalized, who have not been engaged by us. No, we don’t have to call them thugs,” Stokes said. “Just call them ni**ers. Just call them ni**ers.”

First of all, it seems to me there’s no small amount of racial paranoia here. I use “thug” all of the time with no racial intent at all (I started calling Robert Gibbs a “thug-dufus” after I heard someone else use the phrase). At the dog park, my wife and I will sometimes call bullying dogs (including, alas, our own) “thugs.” One time when Zoë pinned a standard poodle on the ground, I grabbed her, and said, “Don’t be such a thug.” I’ll canvass for witnesses to be sure, but I don’t recall everyone in the park gasping in horror the way they would if I’d yelled at my dog: “don’t be such a ni**er.”

RELATED: Black Thugs Hammer Black Citizens

Pinter argues that the word was imposed on blacks and that Tupac Shakur and others boldly appropriated and embraced it. I’m not sure I buy the first part. It seems to me the term “thug” was mostly imposed on, you know, thugs. But the second part is pretty obviously true. After all, Shakur tattooed “thug life” across his stomach. Which, according to Pinter, he did for really complex reasons:

Tupac’s embracing of the word, in effect, said that black Americans have been unfairly called this word for far too long, and that now we need to start employing the word so that we can impact the discussion and the word’s usage. It is not a justification for non-black voices to refer to blacks as thugs, but rather the appropriation of insult as a mechanism for social discourse.

Well, maybe.

Maybe there’s something to this “mechanism for social discourse” thing. Or maybe Tupak Shakur was part of a broad transracial fad in American popular culture to glamorize criminality.

Whatever the case, I’m not an absolutist here. If it’s really true that a significant share of blacks hear “ni**er” when someone says “thug,” I’m totally open to the idea of using a different word.

But here’s the real problem, even after we expunge this now-hateful word: We will still need a negative word for people (of any race!) who riot, rob, torch and act like [insert non-racially loaded term to replace “​thug”​ here].

RELATED: Baltimore, Charlie Hebdo, and the Weaponization of Cultural Politics

I don’t want to be racist. So, please, give me the shaming word for people who behave horribly that lets me condemn the content of their character without referencing the color of their skin.

You can be a transgender half-Hmong half-Swede in a pinstripe suit, an albino Norwegian in a Bentley, or a poor black kid from West Baltimore, but if you burn down a home for poor old people there still has to be some bad word available to us to describe you.

Excuses vs. Explanations

Where is the acknowledgement that some of the so-called thugs aren’t so-called, they’re simply thugs?

Pinter is outraged about the fact that some tough football players get called thugs. Okay that’s one conversation. But getting offended when gangsters who loot mom-and-pop stores are called thugs strikes me as a completely different conversation.

A society that refuses to distinguish between people who behave criminally and people who don’t won’t be a society for very long.

Before he insinuated that Burnett is a racist, Stokes waxed eloquent about how these kids have been marginalized, etc. Translation: The punks setting cars on fire and looting stores are the real victims.

First of all, it’s not only plausible, but obviously true, that many of these punks had rough starts in life. Unlike the largely bogus claim that poverty and powerlessness is what creates terrorists, the root-causes argument has explanatory power for street criminals. No serious conservative disputes that poverty, joblessness, crime, family breakdown, crappy schools, etc. help explain why young men make bad choices. But explanations aren’t excuses, even if they overlap at the margins from time to time. Bad choices are still choices, and if we don’t judge people by their choices we can’t judge people at all.

#related#If a sane man rapes and kills a little girl but, when caught, explains how terrible his own childhood was, the civilized response of the criminal justice system must be “we don’t care.” Some crimes are moral gray areas — the man who steals bread to feed his starving family, etc. But, other crimes aren’t. Nonetheless, a society that refuses to distinguish between people who behave criminally and people who don’t won’t be a society for very long.

And by the way, how exactly it helps the black community to say that th*gs cannot be singled out from the rest of the black community completely mystifies me. I thought the antidote to racism was judging people individually, based upon their behavior. I don’t discriminate against people because of the color of their skin, but I will freely admit I discriminate against people who burn down senior centers. But that’s just me.

Various & Sundry

Thanks to everyone at NRI for making the Ideas Summit such a big success, and thanks to everyone who stayed up for the night-owl podcast last night. I don’t think it quite fired on all cylinders, but I blame that on an audience not properly lubricated. Anyway, it should be up over at Ricochet soon.

In May, I am hosting two events at AEI. The first, on May 11, is a book event for The Dadly Virtues. This is sort of like a sequel to the Seven Deadly Virtues book. Panelists will include: yours truly, Tucker Carlson, Stephen F. Hayes, Jonathan V. Last, James Lileks, and P. J. O’Rourke.

Then on May 14, I will be having a conversation with Charles Murray on his new book By the People: Rebuilding Liberty Without Permission. It’s quite a humdinger of a book, as you can tell from my blurb.

Zoë Update: The Dingo’s behavior continues to improve steadily. She’s still too eager to scrap with other dogs and get a bit thuggish brutish with other dogs. But she comes when called, gets in the car when asked and looks for Aldrich Ames when commanded to.

Oh, here’s something that’s equally depressing and encouraging. We have new software at NR that allows me to tell how far into an article readers have actually read. I always know that most readers rarely get past the first couple paragraphs, but it’s another thing to see the drop-off by sentence. The good news is that this “news”letter, at least when it appears on the website on Saturdays, retains more readers than most. The surprising news is that the vast majority of you don’t read all of the way to the V&S section and weird links. I always put the weird stuff at the end on the assumption that people will stick around for the dessert. Anyway, it raises some interesting issues if most of you really aren’t reading the stuff at the end. First of all, my angry dismissals of many of your complaints may have fallen on deaf ears. Second, some of these announcements really are important to me. I may have to figure out how to front load some of them. I also may have to downgrade my level of effort on this section from half-assed to quarter-assed.

This is why we can’t let computers take over journalism

Starbucks name generator

Squirrels lifting weights

Cat tattoos

Pouring molten aluminum into a watermelon

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The science behind songs getting stuck in your head

Disney songs remixed as 90s jams

Culture

Donald Trump’s Yuuge Hypocrisy

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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 Sid Blumenthal who, like some albino monk in a Dan Brown novel, feels that this is your time to defend the faith from the infidel menace and their horrifying reliance on truth, facts, and logic),

So this may be my last “news”letter.

We had some good times, didn’t we? I’m not sure what I’ll miss more:

The thoughtful e-mails from really smart people offering me insights that never would have occurred to me?

The touching encouragement when times have been dark?

Or maybe it was simply the opportunity to have turned the Florida-recount phrase “Hanging Chad” into a necrophiliac gay-porn joke. It’s a tough call.

The fact remains I’ll miss almost all of you. But this is the end, because Donald Trump says I have to resign. You see, I compared his Twitter style to that of a 14-year-old girl.

In response, America’s least-famous feminist replied:

And:

Now, having Donald Trump scold me for my less-than-progressive views about women invites any number of responses. The easy way to go would be to point out the hypocrisy. But I think his hypocrisy is merely the Rose Window of the larger cathedral of Trumpian asininity here.

Arguing with Trump is sort of like dressing up an adorable toddler in a Viking outfit and listening to it say that he will raid my village and slaughter all in his path. It’s cute. It’s funny. Maybe it’s even vaguely disturbing if he goes on too long (“I shall hang you from the fence post as a blood eagle! And I have a boom-boom in my diaper, daddy!”). But, just as with Trump’s ranting, the one thing you don’t do is take it seriously.

This morning, I started to do the whole Google-fu thing of looking up all the damning stories about Trump, which was about as taxing as searching for sand on a beach. But I gave up because I just can’t take the guy that seriously, which seems to be his problem with me (and Steve Hayes and others). By the middle of the week I thought I might have to start collecting my mail in his skull, because I seem to have established permanent residence in the guy’s head.

So no, I’m not resigning. And no, National Review is not “failing,” as Trump keeps saying based on nothing (though he does know a thing or two, or three or four, about failed magazines, not to mention failed lines of meat products — which, intriguingly, he sold through stores most closely associated with electric foot massagers). Though at one point, my wife did ask me: “When is Lowry going to step up and clarify that you aren’t the source of National Review’s many, many, failures?”

Yuuge Hypocrisy

What I do find interesting is Trump’s technique. As lame and pathetic as it was, it gets at something really sick in the culture. But first I should spell out that Trump’s hypocrisy really is rich and kaleidoscopic. For instance, he likes to have female contestants on The Apprentice twirl around for him so he can decide how hot they are — because, you know, that’s what the best businessmen do.

So, the idea that he’s actually offended by my — entirely defensible — accusation that he was tweeting like an obsessed 14-year-old girl is, again, as about as serious as a toddler with a plastic battle ax threatening to send you to Valhalla.

But I can only assume he thought it would work. And on that score, he’s not entirely unreasonable.

Bring on the Mob

There are lots of myths about the witch hunts of old, and there’s even more abuse of the term “witch hunt” in contemporary life (you’d know that if you read this or this). But at times it does seem like there’s a deep current of medieval logic running through America today. No one is accusing anyone of literally being a witch (in fact, that would count as religious bigotry today), but many of the accusations of witchcraft 500 years ago really weren’t about witchcraft either. Such charges were a way of tapping into powerful human emotions to hurt people. Don’t like your neighbor? Call her a witch. Suddenly the burden of proof is on the accused. Don’t like the way some guy lives? Thinks? Talks? Why, that’s because he’s a warlock, just like Rich Lowry.

RELATED: The P.C. Police Aren’t Fragile; They’re Vengeful and Malicious

Now, when I say these words were used to hurt people, I do not mean in the way the delicate little flowers of today’s college campuses say “words hurt” à la “trigger warnings” and the like (a phrase one should only use if talking to Roy Rogers’s horse). I mean words were used to inflame passions and translate those passions into action.

There is a tendency to historicize human phenomena. I’m not sure that’s the right term, but what I mean is that human nature is a constant, like our senses. We don’t turn off our senses of touch, taste, hearing, or sight. There are simply some moments where what we touched or heard or saw or tasted is more important or memorable.

RELATED: Moral Heroism Without Morality

The witch-hunt panics were not the beginning of anything in human nature. Human beings have been trying to yoke the ox of the mob to their purposes since the dawn of man. It’s what we do. People think the McCarthy era was this defined chapter in our experience. And, in a political sense, it surely was. But the habits and tactics people ascribe — often incorrectly — to “McCarthyism” never went away and in no sense started with McCarthy.

The urge to demonize, shun, shame, and bully is always there, always working its magic, always in search of new causes and new victims the way water is always seeking its level. And sometimes — often, in fact — that’s a good thing. We collectively shame pedophiles because pedophilia is shameful. We scorn people who cut in line, because if society didn’t scorn such people, we’d be a less decent society. 

We’re All Shamers

We are hardwired to feel shame. And without a sense of shame, the sabre-tooth tigers would be this planet’s apex predator. Megan McCardle has a nice passage on this point:

You can see how powerful this is by looking at my favorite of the less famous Milgram experiments, where he sent students out into New York with a simple task: Ask strangers to give you their subway seat. The response of the strangers was interesting (they were more likely to give up their seats if they were given no reason at all for wanting it), but the most fascinating part is the effect on the researchers themselves. They reported extreme, even physical, aversion to simply asking the question: panic, nausea, feeling faint. Milgram himself tried it and told an interviewer that “The words seemed lodged in my trachea and would simply not emerge.” After he finally managed to make the request, he said, “Taking the man’s seat, I was overwhelmed by the need to behave in a way that would justify my request. . . . My head sank between my knees, and I could feel my face blanching. I was not role-playing. I actually felt as if I were going to perish.”

Shame is one way we enforced good behavior in small groups before there were laws or trading networks. It is a very powerful motivator, and it helps us to come together in large cooperative groups with high degrees of trust and sharing. A hatred of being shamed ourselves and a love of shaming others who have transgressed both literally helped to make us human.

The problem we have today isn’t this natural human tendency. Indeed, the problem we have today is the problem human beings have had in every era in every place around the globe for all time: the misapplication of this tendency. Just as there’s nothing inherently wrong with violence, only the misuse of violence, so there’s also nothing wrong with shaming people; it’s questions of how and why we shame people that we must attend to.

RELATED: The War on the Private Mind

After decades of left-wing intellectuals churning out treatises on the evils of “moral panics” and “shame culture,” the same crowd is now using these very tactics for their ends, utterly oblivious to their own hypocrisy.

That they are doing so should be very worrisome to conservatives, because enforcing orthodoxy against heretics is what the winners do to the losers. That is precisely why this phenomena is most powerful on college campuses — because that is where the secular orthodox are at their most powerful.

On campus and off, today’s losers — social conservatives, climate “deniers,” rape-panic skeptics, even supporters of free speech qua free speech — are being told that they must bend to the shaming of the mob. In the long run I don’t think it will work. But there’s no immutable law — of nature, democracy, modernity, morality, whatever — that I can point to back up that conviction.

RELATED: Campus Rape and the ‘Emergency’: It’s Always an Excuse for Authoritarianism

I realize that going into this rant based upon a tweet by Donald Trump is like writing a Ph.D. dissertation on Skaldic poetry because your Viking toddler likes nursery rhymes. But the point is that even Donald Trump, with his thumbless grasp of the concept of sexism, still understands that arguments are less effective than accusations of heresy. He’s not wrong about the utility of demagoguery, he’s just really, really bad at it.

Bending Time

According to Einstein’s theory of relativity, you can date your cousins. Oh wait, that’s Rex Einstein’s theory that he can date his relations. Never mind. Rex is pervy guy, deserving of being shamed.

Anyway, according to Albert Einstein’s theory of relativity — very different theory — space and time are relative. This is the easiest explanation I could find on the Interwebs without looking very hard (“It’s that attitude that puts the “news” in your “news”letter — The Couch):

For example, in Einstein’s theory, simultaneity is a relative concept. Imagine that there are two events which an observer in space station A judges to be simultaneous — say, the explosion of a firecracker at one point in space and an alarm clock going off a few miles away. For an observer in space station B, which is moving relative to A, this statement will not necessarily be true: In general, such an observer will come to the conclusion that one of the events happened earlier than the other.

I recently watched Christopher Nolan’s Insterstellar for the first time. I liked it, despite its gratuitous lack of nudity. Relativity plays a big part in the story (spoiler alert). Matthew McConaughey is dazed and confused by the fact what takes just a few minutes on some far-flung planet translates into months or years back home. I made a similar discovery when I drunkenly ate a past-date spicy Jamaican beef patty at a 7-11 in October of 1995. Even though I was only a few hundred yards from my bathroom, it felt like it took years to get there.

Anyway, I bring this up in order to say that time is politically relative. To bring the point home, Peter Schweizer has a new book coming out. For those far from the Clinton orbit, it will contain lots of new information. But the closer you get to the gravitational pull of the Clinton homeworld, the older this information will get until, ultimately, it will be ancient, even before its publication date.

It’s funny what counts as relevant information. The New York Times is reporting on the fact that Ted Cruz said icky and unfunny things in an attempt to win in competitive debating. Charlie Cooke has a long piece explaining why this is so stupid, but I can be more brief (relatively speaking). This is like denouncing a politician who boxed in college as someone who went around punching strangers in the face. Competitive debaters say what they say in order to win, end of story.

What I find interesting is the temporal relevance of this information. It happened over 20 years ago. But it seems new because people didn’t know it before. I get that. If it were revealed that I ate the liver of a census-taker in 1989, it would be big news even if in another, equally valid, sense it was “old news” or, rather, news about old events.

But even here, just as with quantum physics, the world doesn’t make a lot of sense. John Podhoretz notes that one take-away from the “Clinton cash” stories “is that they demonstrate the mainstream media have spent the Obama years resolutely not doing their jobs — which means that Hillary Clinton has not actually been vetted the way, say, every major Republican in the race has been.” That’s certainly true about Clinton’s recent shenanigans, which haven’t been covered very much, if at all.

But what about older stories that only those of us with good memories hold on to? The mainstream media’s ennui with old Clinton scandals should not give them a pass from informing — or reminding — the public about them. And I don’t just mean the golden oldies of Whitewater and Travel-gate and the rest. I also mean Hillary Clinton’s greater biography, which is chock-full of interesting things that the media has decided to be bored by. There’s plenty of time to get into all of that another time. But I do think conservatives should prepare themselves to insist on their relevancy, even if the media gatekeepers roll their eyes. Republicans let such eye-rolling over Obama’s problematic history dissuade them from addressing it effectively. There’s no reason to repeat that mistake.

The Tudors of the Ozarks

In my column yesterday I argued that too much emphasis is being put on the greed thesis. Yes, Bill Clinton is clearly greedy. But his greed is subservient to his sense of entitlement and unbounded self-regard.

The Clintons are like the Tudors of the Ozarks. They believe they are royalty, but they also understand that even monarchs need friends. The Clinton Foundation is the perfect vehicle for their ambition. Like the medieval Catholic Church, it blurs the lines between ideals and interests. On the one hand, it does yeoman’s work in the Church of Liberal Dogoodery, but it also provides a conduit for business interests, foreign governments, academics, activists, and journalists to gain access to the imperial court-in-waiting.

Even if Hillary hadn’t conveniently wiped her servers clean, I suspect there wouldn’t be a lot of e-mails about quid-pro-quos. Such transactions aren’t made in the language of the bazaar, but in the lingua franca of loyalty, friendship, and noblesse oblige. Yes, Clinton Inc. needs money, but the money is likely seen more as tribute than bribery, a bit of coin offered up as a sign of loyalty to the coming Ozarkian Restoration — a restoration that may just have to wait for Chelsea.

Various & Sundry

I was a guest on the Coffee & Markets podcast this week. I talked about integrity, morality, what I’m reading, and my Canadian Flamenco dancing career.

The NRI 2015 Ideas Summit is nigh.

My train is pulling into Union Station and I’ve got to get to my kid’s school for a daddy-daughter thing, so Dingo updates will have to wait. But here are some dingo puppies to tide you over. And here are some odd links, too.

Taco cannon

Oreo trick shots

Newly discovered frog looks amazingly like Kermit

Lazy frog hitches a ride on a slowly-moving mollusk

“My kids can’t eat this” Instagram

American facial hair throughout history

Ben & Jerry’s beer!

World’s widest tongues

Surreal photos of melted ice cream

Photos from SoCal Corgi Beach Day

Cat circus

Russian army singing “Barbie Girl”

Star Wars Imperial Army invades Los Angeles

Politics & Policy

The GOP Primaries Have Entered the Family-Squabble Phase

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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 members of the editorial board of the New York Times and all the other residents of their alternative reality),

Congratulations! You are reading a “news”letter written by someone who was A1 in the boarding of a Southwest Airlines flight. That’s right. I am secular royalty. The Elect. As I walked down the aisle to the bathroom, a small child looked up from his Gameboy. His mother clutched him close with her hand over his face, “Don’t look him in the eye!” she scolded in a loud whisper.

I thought it was fairly magnanimous of me to even use the lavatory given that I am entitled to use of the Southwest airlines pissboy. But that’s just how I roll. I am a man of the people (though I did use the pissboy’s shirt to dry my hands when I left the bathroom).

Anyway, like a list of good reasons to eat at Subway, I’m going to have to keep this short.

Mullah Goldberg

But, not only am I flying like steak sauce (A1 baby!), I’m also in lockstep agreement with the supreme cheese of Iran (as I am heading to Wisconsin, I’m already using more dairy-related adjectives). Okay, I’m not in perfect agreement with him about everything. We differ on the whole “Death to America!” thing and the eschatological hootenanny about hastening the apocalypse. Plus, I’ve heard rumors that he liked the ending of Lost, and on this we will never see eye-to-eye. But on the issue of the Iran deal we’re pretty much on the same page. On Tuesday I began my USA Today column (“A Must Read” — Senator John McCain):

“The first thing one needs to know about the nuclear deal with Iran is that it is not, in fact, a deal.”

And here’s Ayatollah Ali Khamenei: “Everything done so far neither guarantees an agreement in principle, nor its contents, nor does it guarantee that the negotiations will continue to the end.”

That’s the Wall Street Journal’s translation of his remarks. But I suspect that if I busted out my Farsi skills, it would read: “The infidel pig-monkey-Zionist Goldberg is right.”

I have to hand it to Obama, even by his own standards he’s been impressively dishonest about all of this. Basically the “framework” he announced was really a declaration that the talks had failed and he needed yet another extension. Talk about turning sh*t into shinola.

There Will Be Blood

#related#We are entering the very early stages of the family-squabble phase of the Republican primaries. In metaphorical popular-culture terms, it’s a heady mix of the Thanksgiving food-fight from Cheers, Festivus from Seinfeld, the Red Wedding from Game of Thrones, and the battle scene from Anchorman.

I’ve witnessed such bloodlettings four times from my perch at National Review (2000, 2008, 2012, and now 2016). I don’t want to exaggerate National Review’s stature on the right, or traffic in stale political clichés from cable-TV shouting matches, but I feel a bit like a member of the College of Cardinals during a succession crisis over the mantle of Holy Roman Emperor during the Ottonian dynasty.

Already, I’m hearing from people who insist that criticism of, or even a lack of enthusiasm for, Ted Cruz or Rand Paul or Ben Carson is some kind of heresy driven by impure or devious motives. Opposition to Cruz means you hate the Constitution. Skepticism about Paul is a sign you want eternal war. And reluctance about Carson is wrong because YOU JUST DON’T GET IT!

RELATED: Rand Paul Is Running, Now the Establishment Takes the Gloves Off

If this is your first rodeo and you’re shocked by the nastiness of the conversation, all I can tell you is what I would tell the guy who complained when his prison cellmate “Tiny” insisted on braiding his hair: “This is the nice part; it’s going to get much, much, worse.” 

I remember the days when our criticism of Newt Gingrich (or allegedly insufficient enthusiasm for, variously, Gary Bauer, Fred Thompson, Rick Perry, or Michelle Bachmann and many others) caused many friends on the right to say really dumb things about National Review (though it’s amusing how many people act as if I don’t remember what they said. That’s why I will have to leave a nice note explaining why they’ve woken up with a half-starved ferret sewn into their abdomens).

Don’t get me wrong, I cannot lie, I like big butts — if by big butts you mean, knock-down, drag-out, primary fights. (If you actually mean large derrières then, well, not really. I’m not all about that base, ’bout that base.)

RELATED: An Early Look at the GOP Candidates’ Positions on Foreign Policy

I think big intra-partisan debates are mostly a good thing for the GOP and the conservative movement. But I really have little patience for all of the mind-readers out there who can see straight past my explicit arguments to my implicit motives. So I’ll just say it now: If I end up disagreeing with you about your preferred candidate, it’s probably not because I am a socialist, RINO, squish, sell-out, Georgetown-cocktail-sucking remora on the underbelly of the leviathan state. Of course I still might be entirely wrong — it’s happened many, many, many times — because sometime my brain no good makes things together go. But even before I was A1 on this flight, I felt that I earned the right to be called wrong for the right reasons, at least from fellow conservatives.

Notes on a Nominee

So since we’re on the subject, what do I think of 2016 right now (other than the fact it is divisible by 1008 which, according to Louis Farrakhan, means that it will be a good year to plant hemp for our alien saviors because vests have no sleeves on account of the Jews)?

As I’ve written a lot over the last couple years, I think the GOP has a persuasion problem. There are lots of reasons for it. Among them:

‐George W. Bush was an honorable man, but a lackluster speaker and intellectual salesman. He testified about what he believed more than he argued or explained. It’s been a very long time since we had a president who could articulate a conservative worldview in the way Barack Obama and Bill Clinton could articulate theirs.

‐The Republican party and conservative movement reward people who can most effectively tell audiences what the audiences already believe and want to hear. This can lead to contests over purity rather than ones over effectiveness or persuasiveness.

This dynamic has elements that are unique to the right, but it also aligns with larger cultural and technological changes that allow people to choose what they want to hear from the media à la carte.

‐Non-sequiturs are really underrated.

I never liked the way many of George W. Bush’s defenders insisted that his malapropisms were an asset because he “talked American.” It’s all well and good to note that the coastal media is full of snobs. But that fact doesn’t mean that Republicans shouldn’t try to be good communicators, it means that they have to be better communicators than their opponents to cut through the built-in advantages Democrats have. This was the secret to Ronald Reagan’s success and William F. Buckley’s, too. (If the media had its way, George Wallace, not WFB, would have been the official spokesman of conservatism in America.).

Who Do I Like?

I haven’t picked a favorite in the field yet, and I really don’t plan to for quite a while, if ever. But I will say that my bias is towards those who can effectively and persuasively articulate the conservative position and/or have an established record of actual policy accomplishment. The first criterion disproportionately benefits the senators, the second the governors.

RELATED: Of Course Ted Cruz Could Win

We’ve probably never had a better field when it comes to articulating conservative arguments. Nearly everyone is a better talker than John McCain or Mitt Romney when it comes to articulating conservative principles. And they are leaps and bounds better than Hillary “there’s no eating in the library” Clinton.

But glibness alone isn’t what’s required. Persuasiveness matters. Ted Cruz is one of the most impressive talkers in American politics, but can he persuade people who don’t already agree with him? That remains to be seen. Rand Paul and Ben Carson are great at saying what they planned on saying, but they have more trouble answering questions they didn’t want to be asked. I’ve yet to see Rubio, Cruz, Jindal (or Fiorina) thrown by a question. I can’t say the same about Scott Walker, who I still have very high hopes for. While I think he isn’t in the same league as Cruz, Rubio, Jindal, Christie, or (sorry folks) Bush in being able to discuss and debate national policy issues, Walker has the advantage of having accomplished things that none of the others can hold a candle to (with the possible exceptions of Jindal and, again sorry, Bush). Cruz can talk a lot about how hard he fought, but he can’t point to a lot he’s accomplished as senator.

Anyway, I’d happily vote for any of them over Hillary, which is a pretty low bar since I’d vote for the Southwest Airlines pissboy over Hillary as well.

RELATED: For Rand Paul, Principle by the Bucket

Keep it in the Tent

If I’m right — and it is an irrefutable fact that I am right nearly every time I’m not wrong — then the primary will at times resemble a junk-punching contest in the land of Kilts and Iron Gloves.

There’s nothing I can do about that. But I would encourage people to avoid the anathematizing urge. I think the recent ad blitz against Rand Paul was a mistake. I disagree profoundly with Paul about some foreign-policy issues, but I don’t feel the need to freak out about it. It strikes me that Paul’s heart is in the right place and there’s no need to excommunicate him or his followers. (I am far less generous about his father.) Let him make his arguments. Oh, and if you’re nodding at that, the same goes for Bush, Christie, and Huckabee. There’s no treason or heresy here in supporting any of them. I know that sentiment puts me crosswise with defenestration brigades, but so be it.

I mean, it’s not like Jon Huntsman is running.

Various & Sundry

Here’s the latest GLoP podcast, which includes a story about John Podhoretz almost attending an orgy. I have nothing to add to that sentence.

I’ll be on Special Report Monday night.

My column earlier this week was on the UVA report. My column from yesterday is on the death penalty.

I had lunch yesterday with Steve Hayes in Milwaukee, my native scout in America’s dairy land.

One of the greatest advances in human civilization

This is some very disturbing advertising including a three-legged O.J. Simpson — and no, that is not a joke about certain stereotypes — as well as some oddly pedophiliac tuxedo ads.

Happiness and more happiness

Debby’s Links!

Culture

Moral Heroism without Morality

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EDITOR’S NOTE: The following is this Friday’s edition of Jonah Goldberg’s weekly “news” letter, the G-File. Subscribe here to get the G-File delivered to your inbox.

Dear Reader (unless you’re an Evangelical Christian, devout Muslim, or Orthodox Jewish wedding photographer who has been forced by the state to take pictures at some same-sex nuptials against your will and conscience, in which case you are probably busy snapping pictures of the groom’s shoes, the ceiling tiles, and the light-blue urinal cakes at the Indianapolis Ramada. What a victory for tolerance!),

Before we get started, you should know that today is Good Friday. I don’t mean that like I’m informing you it’s Good Friday. It’s a declaration of fact, like “You should know that America is in the Northern Hemisphere,” or “You should know that you shouldn’t spend your first day in prison going around the yard asking your fellow inmates, ‘Who wants to put on a production of Cats? I call Bombalurina!’”

Anyway, since you should know that’s it’s Good Friday, you might also be interested to know that National Review’s offices are closed today. This is a classic National Review holiday, everyone has the day off — but all deadlines remain unchanged. It’s like telling the junior baker, “Oh sure you have tomorrow off, just make sure all the doughnuts get made before dawn.”

Anyway, Poor Nat Brown (that’s actually his name, “Nat” is his middle name) has trudged into the office to grease up the wheel of pain, retrieve this “news”letter from the pneumatic tube, pluck off the feathers, slap the tush, pull out the giblets, give the undercarriage a “how’s-your-father?” and do all of the other highly technical things that Internet professionals do to make this thing arrive on your digital doorstep intact. And, in my gratitude, I told him I would make it snappy (and happy, and peppy, and bursting with love).

So let’s get started.

Crush the Safe Harbors

So I guess we’re done with the RFRA fight for now and a lot of people are done with Governor Mike Pence (Here’s is an aerial view of his cave-in, by the way). For those interested, my column today is my second attempt to explain why comparing religious freedom laws to Jim Crow is so inane. I don’t have much hope that it will do any good.

Indeed, this whole ridiculous, insane, paranoid, sanctimonious, bullying, freak-out has me despairing for the country. I don’t know that I can do another stem-winder on the liberal gleichschaltung or the fact that real, meaningful, diversity must be a diversity of customs, institutions, and communities. Civil society is where life happens; we want it to be as rich an ecosystem as it can be. That means tolerating — or even celebrating — hippies and drag queens in San Francisco, but it also means tolerating — or even celebrating — religious and observant people, too. All RFRA was intended to do was to give millions of Americans a little space to be and do what their religion tells them they must. If that faith goes too far, than the common good trumps it. But short of that, let people be for God’s sake.

You Might Also Like: “The Controversy in Indiana Is Trumped Up—but RFRA Isn’t a Good Law,” by Andrew C. McCarthy

No one would confuse me for a particularly pious or religious person. If properly compensated, I would happily bake a cake for a gay wedding — or write a special “news”letter for some lesbian nuptials — myself, though I don’t expect the