The Campaign Spot

What Yesterday Taught Us

Many Jolt subscribers asked that today’s version be posted in its entirety.

Everyone you see in the political world has his public face and his private face. At Ricochet, James Lileks shares this story:

[Andrew Breitbart] was at my house last summer for a party, and it was a great raucous event — everyone was his friend by the end, if they wanted to be. Andrew stayed late. Everyone else was gone. We were having a last drink in the kitchen, waiting for his cab. He was leaning up against the counter, expressing frustrations about how he was regarded by the establishment right, the difficulty of getting the message through the thick stone walls of the mainstream media, the damned toll of it all sometimes, the discouraging moments when rewards seemed scant.

He could tire, and did; perhaps he had his moments of self-doubt that may have stabbed as deep as any conviction he was on the right path. I remember that conversation, because it was the opposite of everything else he always was — and it made who he was all the more remarkable.


If I seemed particularly vocal about the pain I felt on Thursday, it was because my primary memory of Andrew Breitbart was of his private side. It’s not that he and I were particularly close. We chatted a few times at CPAC over the years.

But on the 2010 NATIONAL REVIEW cruise, he, his wife, and his four utterly adorable kids missed the first shuttle at the hotel, along with my wife and myself. So we spent some time waiting for the shuttle bus to return, and then on the bus ride from the hotel to the cruise ship — a good chunk of the morning.

All of us saw the Andrew Breitbart of the web, radio, and television: pugnacious and combative, fearless and sharp, and yet cheerful and seeming to relish every moment. In his public appearances, we saw Andrew Breitbart the provocateur. But that morning, and quite a few times that week on the ship, I got to see glimpses of Andrew Breitbart the dad. I’ve joked that I wanted to see a sitcom or reality show built around the Breitbart family. His four children could very well all turn out to be mini-Andrew Breitbarts with that same spirit of mischief, that same seemingly limitless energy, that same endless reserve of laughter and fun. I heard a lot of “What are you kids doing? Get down from there!” It was the same exasperation that I find myself experiencing with increasing frequency as a father. 

So, needless to say, my first thought was of those four children.

When some particularly twisted souls started using this occasion to show their character and what they’re made of, I found myself behaving in a way I don’t usually behave.

You probably heard Matt Yglesias’s first response on Twitter: ”Conventions around dead people are ridiculous. The world outlook is slightly improved with@AndrewBrietbart dead.” 

I don’t usually suggest physical violence toward others. That’s certainly not the way I want to see myself or the kind of example I want to set for my sons. But, if you’re going to say things like that — just an hour after word arrives that a man suddenly died, leaving his wife a widow and his children fatherless — I don’t think you should be terribly shocked that some folks will want to register their disapproval over the bridge of your nose. And you’ll have it coming.

Really, holding one’s tongue, offering even disingenuous expressions of sympathy, typing the letters “RIP,” when did that get so hard? When did that bar become too high? We have these cultural traditions for a reason. (A quite conservative sentiment, I suppose.) We have them for many reasons, high among them, avoiding mourners’ registering their objections across the noses of the snide and obnoxious. (It’s one of the reasons I strongly suspect that if some grieving parent were to machine-gun a whole flock of the Fred Phelps funeral protesters, every witness would suddenly get struck blind and every jury would remain stubbornly unconvinced.) We shouldn’t suggest that mocking the dead in front of those mourning a loved one is an invitation to violent retribution; the American people are a kind and patient people. But even the most kind and patient people have their limits.

I had observed, yesterday, that there were not merely a handful of folks on the left sneering about how happy they were that Breitbart had suddenly died. There were gobs and gobs of them, all over Twitter and the web at large. If you need examples, Charlie Spiering collected plenty here, though I’d urge most of sound mind to avoid putting themselves through reading that.

You can call this whatever you like — the Daily-Kos-ification of the Left, perhaps — but it confirms what many of us suspected and/or feared. I didn’t want to believe it, really. I personally know too many people I’d identify as Democrats, if not liberals, who are too decent to ever express such raw hate and cruelty. But a large chunk of the rank and file of the Left — way more than a small percentage — really don’t believe that their opponents deserve anything resembling basic human dignity or respect.

We’re not really people to them. It’s not an accident that New York Times columnist referred to his critics on Twitter as “right-wing lice.” They’re not good, decent Americans who just have some different ideas about how to make the world a better place. They run on hate. It appears their entire sense of self-worth is driven by demonizing those who disagree with them and celebrating their political viewpoints as the cardinal measurements of virtue and good character. They are positively energized by the thought of lashing out at those of us who have the audacity to think differently than they. They really do project and accuse the opposition of all their worst traits: rage, closed-mindedness, cruelty, intolerance, bigotry, and an inability to empathize with others. And they completely lack self-awareness. They are blind to the irony of their actions. As someone said on Twitter today (I can’t find the comment now), “How many of the people celebrating Andrew’s death have a ‘NO H8′ icon on their avatar?”

If, in their minds, we’re not deserving of that respect they clamor for endlessly — if their instinct, upon seeing us mourn is to “get in our faces” (a phrase that our president once strangely used) — they really cannot be entrusted with any power. They really would do away with us if given the chance.Does our side have jerks? Sure. Someday, some prominent liberal will unexpectedly pass away, and someone will make some horrid, snide comment. I doubt it will be in the same volume, though I’m sure much of this is in the eye of the beholder. But I do think that if some righty says some variation of “Hooray, that lefty died suddenly! I’m so glad his wife’s now a widow and his children are fatherless,” you will see other righties denouncing that. Even if the liberal you detest most keels over tomorrow, that’s not right. No liberal voice in America deserves to have his death celebrated the way we righteously celebrated the death of Osama bin Laden. Don’t take pleasure in others’ grieving.

We want them to grieve the political loss of the presidency, not the loss of their loved ones.

Anyway, this has been a grim and miserable Morning Jolt to end the week, so I’ll brighten things a bit to close.

 The Weekly Standard’s Matt Labash offered one of the very finest columns about Breitbart’s passing, including this golden anecdote:

Our friend, Daily Caller editor Tucker Carlson, had won the Ayers dinner at an Illinois Humanities Council auction, and had brought us along. Tucker and I were a little worried that we had in our possession a human grenade in Breitbart, though if we were being honest with ourselves, that’s precisely why we brought him. With Andrew, every day was anything-can-happen day. 

As it happened, Breitbart was on his best behavior. “I’m here to learn,” Andrew said facetiously. It was part of the pleasure of keeping company with him. He wasn’t just a friend, he was a co-conspirator. Once we arrived at the apartment, much to Andrew’s and Ayers’s chagrin, they got along famously. Just two guys having dinner, finding commonality, even if Andrew regarded it his hidebound duty to passive-aggressively heckle Ayers as he served us plates of hoisin ribs and farmhouse cheeses. (“This is the bomb, Bill,” Breitbart said to the former explosives-rigger.) 

When Ayers asked me what I was reading right now, I told him “Moby Dick,” which actually lived up to its billing. Ayers agreed, though added, as any good academic would, “You’ve picked up the gay subtext?” Breitbart nearly choked on his tofu and quinoa. “You mean in Moby Dick?” Andrew asked. “Or at this dinner?”

…As Thursday wore down, several conservatives remarked that they felt more unified than they had in a while; our mutual shock, grief, and admiration for Andrew reminded us all how much we share with each other — after a primary season in which it has often felt as if we’ve all been at each other’s throats. Perhaps on Monday I’ll expand on this point, but for now, if one of my less-preferred candidates ends up getting the nomination (COUGH, Newt, COUGH), hey, affix bayonets and charge, and let’s make that guy president. We can deal with his flaws after the inauguration. Right now, this country’s being run into the ground by the president who got elected by all of the folks who chose to dance a jig at our friend’s passing. Like Hell are my boys going to grow up in a country where these losers set the standards of behavior and their juvenile sneers at the recently deceased are normal.

If this is how they want to play this game, then game on.

As Ben Howe put it, “Dear Republican primary candidates: freakin’ draw straws or something. We’ve got work to do and you’re slowing down the works. . . . Dear Left: I’m coming for you.”


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