EDITOR’S NOTE: The following is Jonah Goldberg’s weekly “news”letter, the G-File. Subscribe here to get the G-File delivered to your inbox on Fridays.
Dear Reader (including those of you who’ve absorbed this “news”letter via the Great Teacher of Sigma Draconis VI),
Hillary Clinton 9/11 NYC pic.twitter.com/q9YnsjTxss— Zdenek Gazda (@zgazda66) September 11, 2016
Water, Water Everywhere
My favorite spin out of this sorry spectacle was actually fairly minor in the grand scheme of things. It was the explanation that the reason Hillary Clinton collapsed in New York was that she was dehydrated. Well not exactly that part. She probably was dehydrated. Or maybe she wasn’t. Maybe the batteries in her animatronic body double were made by Samsung — “Watch out! She’s gonna blow!” — but, really, I don’t care.
What I loved was the insinuation that she was dehydrated because she is just too busy to drink water.
Bill Clinton told Charlie Rose: “Frequently — well not frequently, rarely — but on more than one occasion, over the last many, many years, the same sort of thing’s happened to her when she got severely dehydrated, and she’s worked like a demon, as you know, as secretary of state, as a senator, and in the years since.”
A “person in her orbit” told Politico, “She won’t drink water, and you try telling Hillary Clinton she has to drink water.”
(When I was a very little kid, I occasionally needed to blow my nose or tie my shoes. Seriously, it’s true. My dad would tell me to blow my nose or tie my shoes and I’d say, “I will, I will. I’m just too busy.” My Dad would laugh and say, “Jonah, the busiest man in the world can still find time to blow his nose. I don’t think your schedule is that full.”)
I just love the image of Hillary Clinton sitting at her desk reading a position paper on daycare in Sweden or the fine print on her credit-card agreement, and Huma Abedin interrupting her to say, “Madame Clinton. You must drink water. You must. The work can wait.”
“Oh Huma, stop,” Her Royal Toothache responds. “I must get through this section on the APR on my Discover Card.”
Two hours later, Robbie Mook enters the room. “Effendi, please. Just a sip. Water is life-sustaining. Think of the children.”
Hillary refuses to even look up from the raw data of water-quality tests for UNICEF-installed wells in Northern Burundi: “I am thinking of the children! Are you saying I deserve clean water more than the children of Burundi? Away with you now!”
The aides all go back out to the hallway like the hangers-on in one of the Downfall videos, muttering and whispering their concerns. “This can’t go on,” John Podesta sighs. Sid Blumenthal, still in his mysteriously blood-spattered smock, waves his arm-length black-gloved hand and says, “You can lead water to a goddess, but you can’t make her drink.”
Sexism for Me, but Not for Thee
The bigger spin was less amusing but more important.
As with most things that require really powerful torque, to really get things going you need a good wind-up. And so for much of August, the praetorian media insisted that even to raise the issue of Clinton’s health was sexist (see my column from earlier this week). The conversation was like the satellite that needs to hook around a planet a few times before it can sling-shot out into space so it can meld with an annoying bald lady with a robot voice.
Because when it was revealed that Clinton was, in fact, unwell, what was the instant explanation? “Of course she ‘powered through’ her pneumonia, because that’s what women do!”
That’s not a paraphrase. Some headlines:
Salon: “Hillary Powers through Pneumonia — because That’s What Women Do”
Seattle Times: “Clinton Quietly Powers through Illness — It’s What Women Do”
The Washingtonian: “Hillary Clinton Had No Damn Choice but to Work through Her Pneumonia — after All, She’s a Woman”
And here’s Jennifer Granholm:
To press lamenting @HillaryClinton’s health/transparency: “powering through” illness is what women do: Stoically, every. single. day.— Jennifer Granholm (@JenGranholm) September 12, 2016
And Emily Hauser:
So what I’m hearing is that Clinton got really sick & soldiered on anyway, & most people didn’t even notice b/c that’s what women do.— Emily L. Hauser (@emilylhauser) September 11, 2016
I particularly liked this one:
It’s possible Hillary didn’t think to alert everyone to her illness b/c like most women since the dawn of time, she works when she’s sick.— Katie Klabusich (@Katie_Speak) September 11, 2016
The Adventures of Superwoman
Now, I don’t actually have any problem with the claim that women work when sick more than men. I’ve even written about — and polled NR readers — on the question of whether men and women are actually affected differently by colds or whether men are simply big babies.
Just like my dad, when I get a head cold I regress into a fairly pathetic puddle of enfeebled self-pity.
I’m not sure it’s empirically accurate, but it feels anecdotally true to me. It’s certainly true in the Goldberg households. I have, I think, a very strong work ethic, as did my father. But, just like my dad, when I get a head cold I regress into a fairly pathetic puddle of enfeebled self-pity. Meanwhile, my mom could always power through, as it were, as can my lovely-yet-hardy Alaskan bride. I’m not quite as bad as Sheldon on The Big Bang Theory. If I asked my wife to sing me “soft kitty” she’d probably respond, “Okay. But first I need to print out the divorce papers.”
But here’s the thing. After weeks of bleating that it was sexist to raise questions about Hillary’s health, the immediate response from the very same people was an irrefutably sexist argument. Men are just a bunch of Jeb Bushes, low-energy shlubs laid low by a hangnail. But women are the Mobutu Sese Seko Kuku Ngbendu Wa Za Bangas of the species. (For non-longtime readers, this translates from the original Ngbandi, “The warrior who knows no defeat because of his endurance and inflexible will and is all powerful, leaving fire in his wake as he goes from conquest to conquest.”)
In Defense of ‘Duhism’
This raises a subject of much fascination to “news”letter writers who are fascinated by it. I don’t want to go too far out on a limb, because you never know if you’ll fall into raging torrent of angry weasels, but I gather that the word “sexist” is supposed to have a bad connotation. That was the sense I got taking women’s studies courses at a formerly all-women’s college. I’ve also drawn this conclusion from a fairly close study of routine political argle-bargle.
The problem is we don’t really have a word for observations and statements that simply acknowledge that men and women are . . . different. Not better or worse. Just different. If I said that dogs aren’t the same as cats, no one would shout, “Dogist!” Everyone would simply say, “Duh.” In fact, if I said to about 90 percent of normal people, of either sex, that men and women are different, the response would be “duh” as well.
I could make the case that the essence of conservatism is the defense of “Duhism.” Western Civilization is good: Duh. Liberty is good: Duh. Marriage, all things being equal, is good and important: Duh. But you can only imagine what the Daily Show crowd would do with “Duhism” if conservatives adopted it as their name for the inherent realism of conservatism.
(As Ralph Waldo Emerson said: “There is always a certain meanness in the argument of conservatism, joined with a certain superiority in its fact. It affirms because it holds.” This line always comes back to me whenever I hear liberals shriek at facts that hurt their feelings.)
Feminist liberals like to have it both ways (and not in the way that Bill pays extra for).
Anyway, as Bill Clinton said during pretty much every policy briefing, “Let’s get back to the women” (no doubt for some, uh, debriefing). The frustrating thing is that feminist liberals like to have it both ways (and not in the way that Bill pays extra for). Women are “different” when they think it means women are “better,” but when you say women are different in ways that annoy feminists — for whatever reason — they shout, “Sexist!” Lena Dunham rejects the idea that women should be seen as things of beauty, and then gets mad when she’s not seen as a thing of beauty. Women should be in combat because they can do anything men can do, but when reality proves them wrong, they say the “sexist” standards need to change. And so on.
Hillary Clinton is like a broken Zoltar the Fortune Teller machine shouting all sorts of platitudes about being the first female president, cracking glass ceilings, yada yada yada. She openly says that we need a first female president because a first female president would be so awesome. But she also wants to say criticisms that would be perfectly legitimate if aimed at a man are in fact sexist when directed at a woman. That is a sexist argument.
The Limits of the Woman Card
I didn’t intend to write about all this gender stuff — such is the danger of writing stream-of-consciousness style. Squirrel! Pantslocker! Vests have no sleeves! But I do think this is something to think about as we head into the debates. The one thing that traditionalists, feminists, and everyone in between tend to agree upon is that we treat rude behavior from men toward women differently than we treat man-on-man or woman-on-woman rudeness. Feminists call it sexist. Traditionalists call it boorish. But no one likes it.
If Donald Trump had been a fraction as asinine toward Carly Fiorina as he was to Jeb Bush, he might not have gotten the nomination. In fact, Carly was arguably the only candidate who really hurt Trump in the debates, partly because she was really good, but also because she’s a woman. This creates a real opening for Hillary in the debates that few are focusing on. Despite her constant reminders, a lot of people forget that Hillary Clinton is, in fact, a woman. That fact, more than anything else, is how she beat Rick Lazio in their Senate debate. Trump’s schoolyard-wedgie act works on men. He’ll need something else for Hillary.
On the other hand, it’s worth noting that the woman card just isn’t a very exciting card. The race card for Obama was an ace up his sleeve. The woman card is an eight of clubs at best. I take some satisfaction from the fact that in a season where I’ve been wrong about so much, I’ve been right about this point from the beginning. Right now, the big conversation about Hillary’s falling poll numbers is about how she can’t reconstruct the Obama coalition. Right after her announcement in 2015, I wrote a piece titled “Hillary Shouldn’t Count on the Obama Coalition to Carry Her to the White House”:
In 2008, the enthusiasm for Obama’s novel candidacy was self-evident and organic. The marketing guys helped, but they had a good product. Obama’s personal appeal was such that his handlers felt he could never be overexposed.
Enthusiasm for Clinton’s long-expected candidacy, while obviously sincere for many partisans, is more asserted than obvious. That’s why the smartest thing about Clinton’s announcement video wasn’t the testimonials from so many “everyday Americans.” It was that there was so little of Hillary Clinton in it.
And this brings me back to where I started. If Hillary makes it to the Oval Office, it will be because her handlers and friends in the media carried her across the finish line. You can already hear the “all hands on deck” call go out across the political and media landscape. Muster the surrogates! Release the Obama! And, of course, Edit the video! (The “frequently” in Bill Clinton’s explanation of Hillary’s health episode was later edited out by CBS and doesn’t appear in many of the write-ups of the interview.) Get ready for 50 or so days of Weekend at Hillary’s.
Various & Sundry
You’ll note that there’s precious little criticism of Donald Trump in today’s “news”letter. I’ll head off the inevitable and routine speculation that always follows when I don’t criticize Trump or when I compliment him: No I haven’t changed my mind. There is a bizarre assumption among Trump partisans that I behave the same way they do, only from the opposite direction. Contrary to widespread impressions, I’m actually less biased in this election because I have no one to root for. This thing ends in tears no matter what. Trump partisans always take the position that Trump is right — on Putin, child-care entitlements, whatever. I’m not playing that game. I don’t think Trump is always wrong. I agreed with National Review’s editorial that Trump is groping toward a workable position on immigration. I think there was a lot that was good in his economic speech yesterday (and a lot that was silly). Where I differ with the Tumpistas is that I think there is zero reason to think he means 90 percent of what he says when he panders to various constituencies. It’s the Art of the Deal: Say or do whatever you need to get what you want.
Where I differ with the Tumpistas is that I think there is zero reason to think he means 90 percent of what he says.
Anyway, for those interested, I appeared on a Hillsdale Constitution Day panel Thursday on “Trump and Conservatism.” I didn’t realize I was supposed to open with prepared remarks. But I think I got some of my points across well enough. The audience was not particularly pleased with me.
My Friday column was on how we shouldn’t let sports become another front in the political and cultural battles of the day.
Canine Update: So the other night my brother-in-law was in town from Alaska on business. He brought some colleagues to my sister-in-law’s place for dinner. The Goldbergs brought Pippa but not Zoë because Pippa is very kid friendly and doesn’t scare my sister-in-law’s dog. Pippa had a great time chasing a tennis ball for far, far, far too long in the backyard and clearly exhausted herself. Anyway, long story short, when we got home Pippa, sweet, harmless Pippa, was apparently in no mood for Zoë’s shenanigans. She got angry and fought back and actually bit Zoë badly on the leg. It was bizarre and shocking. Yesterday we noticed that Zoë actually has a bad puncture in her leg. There wasn’t much for the vet to do — but apparently plenty to charge us for. So now the Dingo needs to wear the Cone of Shame so she doesn’t lick the wound and get it infected. She’ll be fine, but the interesting part is watching the two of them now. The dingo can’t quite get her head around the idea that the spaniel actually has any fight in her. The spaniel seems very concerned that there will be reprisals. Both of them are sulking and stalking around like two sisters who had a terrible fight and don’t know how to bury the hatchet. Obviously, I’m probably anthropomorphizing here, but that’s what I do.
The latest GLoP podcast is up. It’s a fun one. Or at least I enjoyed it.