‘I Worked for the Obama Administration. I Have to Say, I’m 100 Percent Comfortable with Judge Gorsuch.’
This morning, the Judicial Crisis Network launched a national $2 million advertising campaign in support of confirmation of Judge Neil Gorsuch to the Supreme Court. The commercial features Jane Nitze, a former Obama-administration attorney, who clerked for Judge Gorsuch in 2008 and 2009.
“I don’t think folks on the left should be concerned about Judge Gorsuch becoming a Supreme Court Justice,” Nitze says in the ad. “He is extraordinarily fair-minded. He will approach each case the same, regardless of the issue or the parties before him, and he will have a great deal of respect for folks on all sides of the ideological spectrum. I worked for the Obama administration. I have to say, I’m 100 percent comfortable with Judge Gorsuch becoming the next Supreme Court justice.”
What Can I Add to a High-Minded Debate on Nationalism? Graphic Novel Citations!
Then read Rich’s response to Jonah. I’ll wait.
Okay, good, you’re back.
At the core of this discussion is how nationalism differs from patriotism. From Nathan Hale’s terrific World War One graphic novel, Treaties, Trenches, Mud and Blood:
That distinction in the lower left corner – forgive the blurriness from my scanner – seems clear enough. But if “loving your country and hating all other countries” is the definition of nationalism, this doesn’t really fit most of the movement that drove Trump to the presidency last year. Trump’s biggest fans don’t hate all other nations. A lot of them have a creepy admiration or fascination with Vladimir Putin and Russia, and let’s not even get started on the alt-right’s enthusiasm for the scantily-clad females of Japanese manga.
It might be more accurate to say that the Trump-style nationalists don’t value much beyond our borders, which includes a lot of things that Republicans traditionally did value: International trade and safe shipping lanes, alliances like NATO, a steady stream of legal immigrants, a loosely-defined responsibility to try to keep the world safe beyond our borders. As a country, we’re not always quick to respond to far-off bloody massacres like the gassing of the Kurds or the Balkans or Rwanda, but we do denounce them. (Whether or not we actually give a damn, we give a damn about whether we’re perceived as giving a damn.) For quite a few presidencies, we’ve at least given lip service to the promotion of human rights abroad. We’ve generally tried to promote democracy and oppose dictatorships.
But over the last decade and a half or so, reaching out beyond our borders increasingly became associated with apologizing, making unilateral concessions, no good deed going unpunished, and the United States getting the short end of the stick. The Bush administration spent enormous blood and treasure trying to build a safer, more secure, and freer world, and in response, plenty of world leaders — including those in countries we thought of as allies — treated America as a universal scapegoat.
Enter Obama, who kept literally bowing to foreign leaders. Early in his presidency at a Latin American summit, Obama sat as Nicaraguan president Daniel Ortega spent 50 minutes furiously denouncing the United States as the root cause of all problems in Latin America. Eugene Robinson of the Washington Post, usually a pretty enthusiastic fan of Obama, noted, “Ortega made a show of being rude. A flash of presidential anger from Obama would have been in order.”
If our president won’t walk out on a 50-minute diatribe denouncing the United States of America, who will? If we don’t stand up for ourselves, why should we expect anyone else to do it, either?
When Trump says, “America first!” a lot of people familiar with Charles Lindbergh interpret it as, “Don’t fight Nazis!” But it’s unlikely that the audiences before Trump would applaud that sentiment, even on their worst days. No, they’re applauding the idea of standing up for ourselves, of no longer having to sacrifice our priorities and interests for a nebulous sense of the global greater good.
Think back to the lyrics of the “Donald Trump jam,” that weird little ditty performed by the little girls at a Trump rally in Pensacola, Florida: “When freedom rings— Answer the call! On your feet! Stand up tall! Deal from strength or get crushed every time…”
If this resurgent nationalism represents a collective statement of, “we are tired of you crapping on us, blaming us for your own problems, stirring up hatred of us and then turning around and asking for help,” then it is to be cheered.
Of course, when Rich and Ramesh point out, “The country’s founding ideals, history, and institutions barely enter into [Trump’s] worldview… The elements of American nationalism that Trump scants are moderating influences on it” …. well, that’s a pretty big deal! That’s what keeps nationalism from turning into “this country/world is for our superior kind, not their inferior kind.” That’s what separates unity from compulsion.
Speaking of superior groups and inferior groups and compulsion, let’s turn to the author of Animal Farm and 1984, George Orwell:
Nationalism is not to be confused with patriotism. Both words are normally used in so vague a way that any definition is liable to be challenged, but one must draw a distinction between them, since two different and even opposing ideas are involved. By ‘patriotism’ I mean devotion to a particular place and a particular way of life, which one believes to be the best in the world but has no wish to force on other people. Patriotism is of its nature defensive, both militarily and culturally. Nationalism, on the other hand, is inseparable from the desire for power. The abiding purpose of every nationalist is to secure more power and more prestige, not for himself but for the nation or other unit in which he has chosen to sink his own individuality.
Orwell also wrote that nationalism is fueled by an “indifference to reality.”
In nationalist thought there are facts which are both true and untrue, known and unknown. A known fact may be so unbearable that it is habitually pushed aside and not allowed to enter into logical processes, or on the other hand it may enter into every calculation and yet never be admitted as a fact, even in one’s own mind.
Stubborn refusal to acknowledge inconvenient facts? Hey, does that remind you of anyone these days?
Heck, does it remind you of almost everyone these days?
When It’s All Enough to Drive You to Drink
Somebody urged me to share this portion of Heavy Lifting, because someone they know needed to hear it. So… this is the story of the time in my life when I was drinking way too much, way too often, and how I stopped:
I’m not an alcoholic, but there was a short span, shortly after turning twenty-one, when I was just flat out drinking too much, too often. It became too big a part of how I had fun.
I hated my job. My then-girlfriend, eventually-to-be-wife was living abroad. I still had my friends around, but it was hard to see how my life was going anywhere. I had met the real world, and the real world was kicking my ass.
But after a few drinks, man oh man, everything changed! Not only was I no longer worried about people thinking I was a loser or socially awkward, but everything was hilarious! Alcohol was a social lubricant, and my life was a slip-and-slide. If you trip and pratfall while sober, you’re embarrassed. If you trip and pratfall while drunk, not only do you not feel much pain, you’re laughing hysterically at yourself and not the least bit worried about other people laughing at you. In that window of tipsiness, you’re the guy you want to be—so cool, so at ease, so relaxed, nothing bothers you.
And so you drink—starting on Fridays and Saturdays, and maybe you drink quite a bit on Sunday watching football, too. You have something with dinner… each night of the week. When your roommate is traveling, you realize you can drink as much as you like without him saying something about whether you’ve had enough. You count the number of sick days you have, and wonder if you can call in sick this week, free to drink as much as you like one weeknight. This was back when liquor stores were closed on Sundays in Washington, D.C., so I remember sprinting to the one in my neighborhood on a Saturday evening, desperate to re-stock before it closed for the evening…
[When she returned] my girlfriend was not impressed with my shift from a high blood-alcohol content to a high alcohol-blood content. She didn’t have to say much. She later said she thought I was trying to impress her with my ability to drink a mid-sized distillery’s worth in one sitting. It was worse; I didn’t think I was drinking that much more than usual.
I don’t know if I would say I had a “moment of clarity.” But I’m certain that I sure as hell didn’t want her, or any of my friends, thinking of me as an alcoholic. I knew I had been drinking a lot; I just hadn’t thought of it as being “too much.” What’s the difference between a guy who likes to drink and a guy who has a problem? I concluded the answer was control—and I set out to prove to my girlfriend, my friends, and ultimately to myself that I had that control.
I went cold turkey for six months. No alcoholic drinks, period. Afterwards, I felt pretty confident that I didn’t have a drinking problem or addiction.
Once I decided it was safe to drink again, I decided to try to find drinks I could nurse throughout an evening. Having renounced Long Island Iced Teas and the sweet, gulp-able screwdrivers—hey, it’s got orange juice! It’s practically a health drink!—I started trying out the bourbons, whiskeys, scotch, and Manhattans. Sure, they were bitter and strong—and because of that, you had to sip them and take your time. No one could tell you were nursing a drink for the entire evening with one of those.
I must warn you that ordering harder drinks like bourbon does have side effects; you can end up really liking them.
ADDENDA: Tomorrow, starting at 5 a.m. – what was I thinking? – I’m guest co-hosting Mornings on the Mall with the gregarious and affable Brian Wilson on WMAL in Washington. If you’re in the broadcast area, tune in!