Never Go Full Ninth Circuit

by Jonah Goldberg
Unpacking the Ninth Circuit’s travel-ban ruling — and a rejoinder to Rich Lowry in our ongoing discussion of nationalism.

EDITOR’S NOTE: The following is Jonah Goldberg’s weekly “news”letter, the G-File. Subscribe here to get the G-File delivered to your inbox on Fridays.

Dear Reader (including the manufacturers of the Bernie Sanders action figure, now with the seize-the-means-of-production Marxist grip),

One of my favorite scenes of any comedy — and it’s very un-PC — is in Tropic Thunder when Robert Downey Jr. (in blackface!) explains to Ben Stiller that you “never go full retard.” The conversation is about film roles. Well, if you haven’t seen it, watch:

Now, I don’t like the term “retard” — and I really don’t like it in political debates. We aim for something loftier here.

Still, the scene came to mind because there should be a similar rule in legal circles: “Never Go Full Ninth Circuit.” Personally, I think it sounds better in Latin: Nolite umquam ire plenus nona circuit (and if any of you Latin pedants send me an e-mail correcting my translation, I will come to your house and scatter your Dungeons and Dragons figurines off the kitchen table).

The other day I noted on Special Report that Antonin Scalia had a rubber stamp on his desk with one of his favorite phrases: “Stupid but Constitutional.” I hope that one day, a Supreme Court justice will have a stamp on his desk that says, Numquam Plenus Nona Circuit.

Anyway, I understand that the case against the Ninth Circuit can be exaggerated. Yes, the West Coast’s federal appellate court has the highest rate of cases that have been oveturned by the Supreme Court, but the vast majority of its cases don’t get appealed to the Supreme Court. Hence the qualifier “Full Ninth Circuit.” Going Full Ninth Circuit is when you claim that that the Pledge of Allegiance is unconstitutional. That’s a Simple Jack move, not a Rain Man or even a Forrest Gump move.

It’s not that any single one of their findings in the travel-ban case violates the principle of Nolite umquam ire plenus nona circuit, it’s the totality of the thing. For starters, here is what the relevant statute says:

Whenever the President finds that the entry of any aliens or of any class of aliens into the United States would be detrimental to the interests of the United States, he may by proclamation, and for such period as he shall deem necessary, suspend the entry of all aliens or any class of aliens as immigrants or nonimmigrants, or impose on the entry of aliens any restrictions he may deem to be appropriate.

As Ben Wittes notes:

Remarkably, in the entire opinion, the panel did not bother even to cite this statute, which forms the principal statutory basis for the executive order (see Sections 3(c), 5(c), and 5(d) of the order). That’s a pretty big omission over 29 pages, including several pages devoted to determining the government’s likelihood of success on the merits of the case.

This is like the pope changing a major part of Church doctrine without referencing the Bible or a film critic writing a book about mob movies without mentioning The Godfather.

Then there’s the claim that states have standing to challenge this executive order because they have state schools where students or faculty may be affected, thus depriving them of the ability to provide an enriching educational experience. How does this new standard work? Universities would be affected by a draft or a war, can they challenge those policies because it would affect their students? The president, I gather, can order a naval blockade around the United States. That might interrupt some U-Dub student’s planned semester at sea. Shall the commander-in-chief call to make sure he’s not interfering with anyone’s plan to take a few easy courses by day and smoke a lot of hash by night?

The fancy lawyer guys I’ve talked to think the most egregious thing in the ruling is that the judges are concerned about the “potential due process rights” of illegal aliens. This calls to mind Socrates’ famous query: “Huh?”

The executive order is only aimed at people trying to enter the country. If you are an illegal immigrant already here, it has no bearing on you. If you are an illegal immigrant trying to enter or re-enter the United States — illegally! — what are these due-process rights you’re talking about?

But I think the craziest part of the ruling is the idea that a president’s campaign statements have legal weight and could violate the Establishment Clause of the Constitution. This is battier than Bruce Wayne’s home office. Every cliché-spewing poli-sci major and pundit for the last 17,000 years (give or take) has noted that politicians say one thing when campaigning and another thing when in office. Even Mario Cuomo — that savant at casting banal observations as seemingly brilliant insights — said that we campaign in poetry and govern in prose (Donald Trump changed that to we campaign in limericks and govern in tweets).

Whatever you think of Trump’s original call for a Muslim ban (I think it was ludicrous) the whole point is that Trump did the right thing. He talked to his advisors and they said, “You can’t do that.” So he said, “Okay, what can we do?” And they came up with this executive order. It was shoddily done and on the merits isn’t nearly as vital to American national security as he claims. But that’s my point. He did something vastly less ambitious because the demands of governing required it. The judges responded, in effect, “We don’t care. We’re still going to punish you for it.”

David French is exactly right when he says this ruling is a Pandora’s Box. Where does this retromingent line of legal reasoning end? Barack Obama insisted he would fundamentally transform America and suggested he’d make the oceans recede. Could some judge reviewing an EPA regulation have said, “But the president said . . . ” about that? This is taking the rigorous rules of Twitter logic and putting them into law.

David French is exactly right when he says this ruling is a Pandora’s Box. Where does this retromingent line of legal reasoning end?

I firmly believe the Trump White House screwed the pooch on this thing from the get-go. By doing so, the president set in motion events that have made things even worse. The Ninth Circuit loves to preen under normal circumstances. The judges took a sloppily rolled out — but ultimately legal — executive order and used it to set potential precedents that, if left standing, will have calamitous repercussions.

If one thinks of the courts as a political institution with collective interests, the smartest thing the Ninth Circuit could have done is say something along the lines of “this is stupid but constitutional.” If they really think Trump is the monster the “resistance” Left thinks he is, they’ll need more, not less, credibility in the days to come. But, much like the mainstream media, they’ve decided that crying wolf from Day One is the preferable way to go. And that’s why they went Plenus nona circuit.

Nationalism, Again

For those who haven’t been reading NR this week, what the Hell is wrong with you?

But if you have a good excuse — e.g., the hooker handcuffed you to a towel rack in a motel, you had heart-transplant surgery, a bear ate your face, etc. — you missed a lengthy and civil badinage about the question of nationalism and its role in American life. (See, here, here, here, here, and here). I’m already running long so a lengthy recap is not in the cards. But, in brief: Rich Lowry and Ramesh Ponnuru penned an eloquent defense of nationalism qua nationalism in a cover story for the magazine. I modestly dissented, arguing that in America, nationalism is different from patriotism. I’m going to pick up where we left off below on the assumption you’re pretty much up to speed. If it’s not your cup of tea, that’s fine. I’ll see you next week (when I pretend to be the cable guy).

As Rich Lowry is my boss — or at least one of them (the perils of wearing many hats) — let me start off by saying that not only is he a powerful man, but a handsome one, too.

I should also say that I love these debates at NR, and it speaks well of him and the magazine that Rich encourages them.

And now that I’ve blown enough sunshine up his nethers to earn a solar tax credit from the Obama administration, let’s get on with it.

In their cover story Rich and Ramesh wrote:

Indeed, the vast majority of expressions of American patriotism — the flag, the national anthem, statues, shrines and coinage honoring national heroes, military parades, ceremonies for those fallen in the nation’s wars — are replicated in every other country of the world. This is all the stuff of nationalism, both abroad and here at home.

To which I responded, in part:

This is at the same time both entirely right and fundamentally misleading. It leaves out what the flag represents. It glides over the fact that the national anthem sanctifies the “land of the free.” Our shrines are to patriots who upheld very specific American ideals. Our statues of soldiers commemorate heroes who died for something very different from what other warriors have fought and died for millennia. Every one of them — immigrants included — took an oath to defend not just some soil but our Constitution and by extension the ideals of the Founding. Walk around any European hamlet or capital and you will find statues of men who fell in battle to protect their tribe from another tribe. That doesn’t necessarily diminish the nobility of their deaths or the glory of their valor, but it is quite simply a very different thing they were fighting for.

Rich responds to this by writing like an angel on a cloud (okay, now I’m really done with the up-sucking):

It is a charming characteristic of American nationalism to believe it isn’t and can’t possibly be nationalism — that is for other countries, not us. So Jonah seems to imply that other countries can’t have true patriotism because they don’t have the Declaration and our founding ideals. Their heroes honored with statues — I guess that means you, William of Orange, and you, Admiral Nelson, and you, Tadeusz Kosciuszko — were combatants in grubby wars of tribe versus tribe, as Jonah puts it. This is the equivalent of the New Yorker “View of the World from 9th Avenue” for world history, with the ideals and struggles for independence and self-government of others reduced to utter inconsequence.

Like a mail-order Ikea entertainment center, this is going to require some unpacking before we can even get started.

When Rich says, “Jonah seems to imply that other countries can’t have true patriotism because they don’t have the Declaration and our founding ideals . . . ” you should translate that as, “Rich seems to be inferring.” I have no problem conceding that patriotism exists in other countries. Americans didn’t invent the word, after all.

Let’s stipulate that patriotism means “love of country.” People all over the world love their countries. Even people who live under oppressive dictators and hate their governments will say that they love their country. Indeed, many of the greatest patriots swim against the nationalist tides in their homelands.

Love is a quadrupedal, five-toed mammal with a prehensile trunk formed of the nose and upper lip. Oh wait, sorry that’s an elephant. Love is like a movie about randy underwear models locked up in a prison run by a buxom bisexual warden. No wait that’s not it either.

I guess the point is that love, much like pornography and elephants, is hard to define, but most of us know it when we see it. But I think we can all agree that love is contextual. Love requires an object, and the nature of that object defines the nature of our love. I love my wife, my daughter, my dogs, and eating cold fried chicken over the kitchen sink — but I love all of these things in very distinct ways.

I guess the point is that love, much like pornography and elephants, is hard to define, but most of us know it when we see it.

Let me try it a different way. I have always believed that American conservatism is inseparable from American patriotism. I said “inseparable from” not “identical to.”

Since everyone’s quoting Samuel Huntington these days, I’ll do it too. Huntington observed that conservatism is a “positional ideology.” By that he meant that there are many conservatisms because conservatives in different societies seek to conserve different things. A conservative in France in, say, 1788 seeks to conserve that rich bouillabaisse of altar and throne. A conservative in England seeks to conserve the monarchy, among other things.

“Men are driven to conservatism by the shock of events,” Huntington wrote, “by the horrible feeling that a society or institution which they have approved or taken for granted and with which they have been intimately connected may suddenly cease to exist.” This is why I share Yuval Levin’s contention that, at its core, conservatism is gratitude.

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.

This is why I had no problem saying that Barack Obama’s talk of “fundamentally transforming” America was literally unpatriotic. If patriotism is love, then wanting to fundamentally transform what you love isn’t really love. In speeches I used to tell married men, “Go home tonight and tell your wives, ‘Honey, you know I love you. I just want to fundamentally transform you.’ See how that works out for ya.” Love requires loving something as it is, not for what it might be at your hands.

Patriotism is also a positional orientation (I’m a little reluctant to call it an ideology). A patriot in England, never mind Russia or Botswana, loves different things than a patriot in the United States. It’s something of a paradox: All patriotisms are equal in that they are all subjective, but not all patriotisms are equal when measured against certain ideals.

And that makes all the difference in the world. Lowry asserts that I think other countries can’t have patriotism because they don’t love the Founding and our principles of liberty. Not at all; rather, I think American patriotism is different because America — the object of our love — is different. As Hayek noted, America is the one place where you can be a lover of liberty and a conservative because in America conservatives seek to defend the liberal principles of the Founding.

This creates another paradox. The American colonists considered themselves English subjects and inheritors of an English tradition. But they were, quite obviously, not English nationalists. Indeed, they rebelled against the crown precisely because the inherent logic of nationalism — obey the crown, do as you’re told, abide by tradition — was in their eyes a violation of more important English principles that stretched back to the Magna Carta and beyond. The Founders took the arguments of Locke, Burke et al and followed them to their logical and glorious conclusion that ended up leaving the monarchy in the dustbin of (American) history.

In the nations of the Old World, nationalism is a tribal passion or sentiment that relies (in theory) on mystic and ancient myths of a shared ancestral past. Most of the foundational writers on nationalism, like Johann Herder, argued that nation and volk were literally like an ancient family. There’s no room to go into it here in any detail (though I do at great length in my forthcoming book), but the idea that the nation is a family is a very pernicious one, conceptually ceding all manner of authorities to the state that it does not and must not have.

In America there is nationalist sentiment, to be sure, but the ‘doctrines’ of nationalism find no easy purchase here.

In America there is nationalist sentiment, to be sure, but the “doctrines” of nationalism find no easy purchase here. Werner Sombart’s famous question, “Why is there no socialism in America?” has elicited many answers, but the most agreed-upon one is that America has no feudal past. America represented a sharp break with the ancient notion that polities — nations, empires, city-states, tribes, etc. — were no different than families with an unimpeachable pater familias at the helm. We celebrated and enshrined very different notions in our national DNA, which is why Alexis de Tocqueville could observe that the American was the Englishman left alone. What makes America exceptional, what makes American patriotism and conservatism different, is that the object of our love and gratitude is different. If Rich wants to define nationalism as love of country and nothing more, that’s his right. But he would be wrong.

So when Rich tries to insinuate that I don’t think William of Orange was a patriot, he’s wrong. But his patriotism was fundamentally, philosophically, and morally different than American patriotism. And, by the way, it most certainly was tribal, if one is allowed some leeway when using the term. As he knows, England — and Europe — was cleaved in a vicious “Cold War” (historian J. P. Kenyon’s phrase) between protestants and Catholics. The Earl of Essex told the Privy Council in 1679: “The apprehension of popery makes me imagine that I see my children frying in Smithfield.” To this day you can still find Irishmen who’ll say, “I don’t care if I swing by a rope, down with King Billy and Up with the Pope!”

If you don’t want to call that tribalism, fine. But I think my point stands just fine. In America, we said goodbye to all that, and that’s made all the difference in the world.

Et Tu, Abe?

Rich is a greater student of Abraham Lincoln than I’ll ever be (“Lowry, you magnificent bastard, I read your book!”). But I’ll risk his wrath by reminding him that Lincoln understood the exceptional nature of America as much as anyone. He was dismayed by the nationalist passions that trampled upon the patriot’s commitment to law and liberty. As he said in his Lyceum address:

“I mean the increasing disregard for law which pervades the country; the growing disposition to substitute the wild and furious passions, in lieu of the sober judgment of Courts; and the worse than savage mobs, for the executive ministers of justice.”

“Thus, then, by the operation of this mobocractic spirit, which all must admit, is now abroad in the land, the strongest bulwark of any Government, and particularly of those constituted like ours, may effectually be broken down and destroyed — I mean the attachment of the People. Whenever this effect shall be produced among us; whenever the vicious portion of population shall be permitted to gather in bands of hundreds and thousands, and burn churches, ravage and rob provision-stores, throw printing presses into rivers, shoot editors, and hang and burn obnoxious persons at pleasure, and with impunity; depend on it, this Government cannot last.”

Lincoln recognized that the lust of nationalism was unhealthy and destructive unless it be channeled into the proper orientation of American patriotism.

“As the patriots of seventy-six did to the support of the Declaration of Independence, so to the support of the Constitution and Laws, let every American pledge his life, his property, and his sacred honor; — let every man remember that to violate the law, is to trample on the blood of his father, and to tear the character of his own, and his children’s liberty.”

Lincoln recognized that the lust of nationalism was unhealthy and destructive unless it be channeled into the proper orientation of American patriotism.

I should say that I agree entirely with Rich when he writes, echoing Huntington, “When you lose our nation and common culture, you’re going to lose our creed, as well.” Which is why I said that in a normal time our differences would be largely academic. My purely academic disagreement here is that talking about the burning need for more “nationalism” is not the best way to spark a recommitment to our nation and culture.

The Whitewash

And that brings me to our final disagreement. Rich is understandably perturbed by my closing paragraph:

In a normal time, I would still have the above disagreements (and a few others I left out) with Rich and Ramesh, but they would be entirely academic. But this is not a normal time, and the decision to slap a coat of paint over the term nationalism becomes difficult not to interpret as a whitewash. If the intent is to educate the president about what nationalism, rightly understood is, I wish them luck, but I won’t get my hopes up.

Rich fairly notes that his nationalism-rightly-understood project predates the current moment and his own tenure in the captain’s chair at NR. That is all fair. And if I had the chance to do it over I would rephrase that penultimate sentence to read: “But this is not a normal time, and the decision to slap a coat of paint over the term nationalism makes it somewhat more difficult to defend it against the accusation that it is a whitewash.”

Politics is about moments. We put “under God” in the Pledge in order to kick dirt on the shoes of Communists. Trent Lott said many times that America would have been better off if Strom Thurmond had been president and no one noticed or cared. And then they did. Choosing to rush to the defense of nationalism — no matter how rationally or defensibly — at a moment when mobocratic nationalism-improperly-understood is on the rise opens you up to the charge of being on the other side of the question. As I suggested in my initial response, I think that’s unfair and misguided. But it should also be expected.

Various & Sundry

First off, if you haven’t signed up for the National Review Institute Ideas Summit (March 16–17), I really think you should. It looks like it will be the best one in a very long time even though — or perhaps because! — I won’t be there. I have a family commitment I can’t get out of. I am quite dismayed about it. But if you’re interested in the prospects or plight of the conservative movement and you can make it, I don’t know why you wouldn’t go.

Canine Update: The beasts are the beasts doing their strange beastlike and beastly things. I’d fill you in on all the details, but I’m very late for an important date. We’re taking the kid to Chicago to see the road show of Hamilton for her birthday (we couldn’t afford or get tickets in NYC). So instead I will leave you with some important video of their strange goings-ons.

ICYMI . . . 

My first response to Lowry-Ponnuru on nationalism.

My take on Trump’s latest defense of Putin.

My latest take on Trump’s . . . Trumpiness.

Who’s afraid of Kellyanne Conway?

My NPR appearance Friday morning.

And now, the weird stuff.

Debby’s Friday links

Can corn turn hamsters into cannibals?

The first underwater image of a diver

Your CDs may be decaying into worthlessness

The Dark Knight’s debt to Michael Mann

John Hurt recites “Jabberwocky”

An upper Midwest UFO?

Kayaker descends waterfall wearing LED lights

How many exclamation points do great writers use?

Is SMOD just a little late?

John Wick: Chapter III — Dog Wick

Polar bears want to eat your face

How to go on a quest for the Holy Grail

“The Devil Went Down to Georgia,” feat. Janky Washing Machine

Dance moves scientifically proven to be sexy

Hemingway the spy?

Are today’s Americans weaker than their predecessors?

1967 in photos

Why is the passenger seat of a car called “shotgun”?

Cows like accordions

The ‘Reasonabilists’ of Berkeley

by Jonah Goldberg
If you think free speech is assault but assault is free speech, you’re a moron of world-historical proportions.

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 any in Australia. Just FYI some of us still think you guys are great),

Longtime readers of this “news”letter might think about taking a speed-reading course. But that’s not important right now.

Some longtime readers — and a few quicker ones — might recall that one of my favorite episodes of Parks and Recreation involved a cult that worshipped an alien-beast-god known as Zorp the Surveyor, a reptilian Cthulhu rip-off. The harmless-seeming cultists, who look like the grandparents at an Osmond-family reunion, occasionally gather in a local park to greet the fiery destruction that Zorp has been prophesied to deliver. Anyway, the details, much like the House Progressive Caucus these days, really aren’t very important. The relevant bit is that when the Zorp-worshippers first formed — and briefly took over the town — they decided to call themselves “The Reasonabilists.” They figured no one would want to seem unreasonable by criticizing them.

(I know, I know: I should find another way of illustrating this point, but Rich Lowry has cut my budget for pop-culture references. I’m just lucky I don’t have to get everything at the Pop Culture Dollar Store remainder bin. Then it’d be “Lucy, you have some ’splaining to do!” and “Matlock!” references every day. Though, I should say as an aside, you can find some great stuff in there. Like that Johnny Quest episode with “Norway’s Greatest Acrobatic Dwarf!”)

Anyway, where was I? Oh right: the Reasonabilists. I bring them up because I have been in a twitchy, quick-tempered, fugue state of dyspepsia and crankery for the last couple days (“Days?” — The Couch) about the riot at Berkeley.

I don’t mean the violence or the fact that this couldn’t have gone better for Milo, a click-baiting huckster and alt-right apologist. I don’t even mean the fact that the authorities only arrested one person. Though that does vex me considerably. If you think free speech is assault but assault is free speech, you’re a moron of world-historical proportions. And if you think rioting is some charming rite of passage, you deserve to have your campus destroyed.

Anyway, what really gets my goat are coyotes. Which is why I have to keep buying new goats.

But what really ticks me off isn’t the rioting and violence. Well, I mean yeah, of course that stuff pisses me off. But we’re used to that sort of asininity from the Jacobin hordes. What has my left eyelid involuntarily flicking and my tongue clicking like psychopath when the thorazine wears off are the constant references to the “irony” of these riots at the “birthplace” of the “free-speech movement.” I can’t watch the news with glassware in my hand for fear of reflexively crushing it.

I hate to give any credence to this “triggering” nonsense, but every time I hear it, it sets me off like I’m Ron Burgundy and Veronica Corningstone has just said my hair looks stupid.

Even on Fox News people say it, and I’m all like “Fffft! Thiffft! [twitch] Wha-what . . . did you say?”

Do you want to know where the birthplace of the free-speech movement was? Well nobody knows for sure, but I have some guesses. It might have been ancient Athens. Or it might have been Jerusalem or Bethlehem. Or maybe it was London where, in 1689, the English Bill of Rights established a constitutional right to free speech for Parliament. Or maybe it was Philadelphia in 1776 or 1789.

I can make arguments for all of these places as birthplaces for the free-speech movement. You know where I can’t make that argument? Mother-[expletive deleted]ing Berkeley in 1964.

Oh sure, if you want to say that the Free Speech Movement™ was launched there, that’s fine in the same way it’s fine to say Reasonableness started in 1970s Pawnee, Ind. But the Free Speech Movement™ only had slightly more to do with free speech than Zorp-worship has to do with reasonableness.

I’m not going to wade deep into the weeds on all this, but if you want to you can read, say, Nathan Glazer’s 1965 Commentary essay “What Happened at Berkeley.”

“Those of us who watched the Free Speech Movement (FSM) daily set up its loud-speakers on the steps of the administration building to denounce the president, the chancellor, the newspapers, the Regents, the faculty, and the structure and organization of society in general and universities in particular, could only admire the public-relations skill exhibited in the choice of a name for the student movement,” Glazer wrote.

The students at Berkeley already had the right to free speech. As Glazer noted, left-wing groups regularly brought in Communists and other controversial speakers to campus. In fact, when bringing in Communists no longer seemed rebellious or controversial enough, left-wing groups brought in the West Coast leader of the Nazi party. The left-wing scamps even dressed up like Nazis and handed out fliers for the meeting at all the entrances to campus.

The students at Berkeley already had the right to free speech.

Sort of like what Bill Clinton always says about blind hookers, you just have to hand it to them; those 1960s lefties were a tougher crop than the playschool communards of today’s campuses.

Anyway, the students had free-speech rights. What they weren’t allowed to do was organize and raise money for off-campus political activity on campus. Anyone who works for a 501(c) organization or knows anything about the rules regulating politicians, charities, foundations, etc. can grasp the distinction. And if you’re freaking out about Trump’s promise to “destroy” the prohibition of churches being involved in political activity, you might get it, too.

What initially set off the protests was the administration’s decision to enforce the rule at a park on the edge of the campus, where hippies and political activists hung out, I imagine, in thick clouds of pot smoke and righteous indignation.

Anyway, you can say it was a bad policy, but the issue from the outset was never really about free speech. It was initially about the use of campus resources and, very quickly, the will-to-power of a bunch of radicals who thought that any restraints on their political agenda were inherently illegitimate. It was also a classically romantic revolt against “the system.” Mario Savio, the huckster-philosopher at the forefront of the FSM™ famously proclaimed:

There’s a time when the operation of the machine becomes so odious — makes you so sick at heart — that you can’t take part. . . . And you’ve got to indicate to the people who run it, to the people who own it that unless you’re free, the machine will be prevented from working at all.

“Romanticism,” Baudelaire explained, “is precisely situated neither in choice of subject nor exact truth, but in the way of feeling.”

Feelings are what drove the Free Speech Movement™. The FSMers felt that their feelings mattered more than anyone else’s facts. They felt that any restrictions or rules that hindered their desire to express their feelings were unfair. It was the dawn of a romantic revolt in the academy where debate was dethroned and the tantrum put on an altar. It soon spread to other campuses, like Cornell where the administration literally caved to gun-wielding goons because they were too afraid to champion their own principles in the face of authentic feelings.

The easily triggered idiot-babies of today’s campus Left who squeal, “I don’t want to debate. I want to talk about my pain” or who insist that offensive speech is no different from a punch in the face are the direct descendants of the Free Speech Movement™ because it was Berkeley where the Feelings Supremacy Movement began and where it is clearly thriving today.

Vengeance Is Mine Sayeth the Democrats?

Anyway, enough with all that. I have a lot more to say about romanticism and whatnot, but we’ll save that for the book.

On a different note, I was listening to MSNBC’s Morning Joe on my drive back from the NPR studios when I heard Eugene Robinson say something interesting — Wait, wow, that might be the squishiest sentence I’ve ever written. I feel like I may have just invited a right-wing intervention.

Lowry: “Jonah, this is a safe space. It’s just that we’re worried about you.”

Williamson: “Screw that noise. <slap!> Snap out of it Goldberg!”

Anyway, Robinson was talking about how the Democrats have to fight the Gorsuch nomination hammer-and-tongs even though they know that they’ll lose. He writes in his column today:

Senate Democrats should use any and all means, including the filibuster, to block confirmation of President Trump’s Supreme Court nominee. They will almost surely fail. But sometimes you have to lose a battle to win a war.

This is purely about politics. Republicans hold the presidency, majorities in the House and Senate, 33 governorships and control of the legislatures in 32 states. If the Democratic Party is going to become relevant again outside of its coastal redoubts, it has to start winning some elections — and turning the other cheek on this court fight is not the way to begin.

Now, as a matter of political analysis, I think this is defensible. I’m not sure it’s right. But that’s beside the point. What I think is funny is that Robinson — and the whole Morning Joe crowd — is arguing for futile, partisan rage and obstruction as a necessary good. It’s funny because for the last eight years Robinson and liberals like him have been complaining about the GOP’s alleged obstructionism for obstructionism’s sake almost as if it was unpatriotic. “My fear is that stasis has become a structural feature of our politics. Nothing lasts forever, but this depressing state of affairs could be with us for quite a while — and could get worse,” Robinson wrote in 2013. That same year he celebrated Harry Reid’s decision to invoke the “nuclear option.”

Way to nuke ’em, Harry.

It was time — actually, long past time — for Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid to invoke the “nuclear option” and ask his colleagues to change the Senate’s rules. This isn’t about partisan politics. It’s about making what has been called “the world’s greatest deliberative body” function the way the Framers of the Constitution intended.

Recently, it has barely functioned, as Republicans abused the old rules to prevent the chamber from performing its enumerated duties. There was a time when the minority party in the Senate would have been embarrassed to use such tactics in pursuit of ends that are purely political, but we seem to live in an era without shame.

The key sentence there is: “This isn’t about partisan politics.” Of course it was, and of course it is now. Robinson’s a nice guy, but he has an annoying history of “concern trolling” in which he pretends that he really wants what’s best for the GOP, which — surprise — almost invariably involves bending to the Democratic agenda.

I really can’t blame the Left for being a little unhinged right now. They thought History was on their side. They’re terrified of Trump. They’re in the minority. Blah blah blah. I get it.

But for eight years, a lot of liberals behaved a lot like the Reasonablists, claiming they were objectively concerned with gridlock and GOP obstruction — not on partisan grounds but on some high-minded principle. They even claimed their agenda wasn’t ideological, just “pragmatic” and data-driven. Suddenly, when confronted with a president with whom they profoundly disagree, they’re advocating almost the identical approach to the one they condemned as irrational and dangerous: Obstruct! Resist! Remember, they not only condemned Republicans for this approach, but insisted it was racist. I particularly like this passage from Robinson’s column:

Trump’s pick, Judge Neil Gorsuch, has the résumé required of a Supreme Court justice. But so did Judge Merrick Garland, President Barack Obama’s last nominee, to whom Senate Republicans would not even extend the courtesy of a hearing, let alone a vote. . . . That, too, was purely about politics.

I’m not counseling eye-for-an-eye revenge. I’m advising Democrats to consider what course of action is most likely to improve their chances of making gains in 2018, at both the state and national levels.

I have no doubt that there’s some fine, nuanced distinction to be made between counseling “eye-for-an-eye revenge” and counseling that Democrats simply pander to the demands of base voters who hunger for eye-for-an-eye politics. I can even imagine that an electron microscope could find the very fine line between nakedly arguing that Democrats must pursue the futile politics of obstructionism and gridlock while condemning Republicans for doing the same thing.

But it gets worse than that. The Tea Parties, liberals slanderously insisted, were not only racist but dangerous and fascistic. Now, the same liberals desperately want their own tea party? Um okay, good luck squaring that circle. But while the Tea Parties talked about the Constitution and picked up the trash after their own rallies, the embryonic left-wing Tea Party movement cavalierly uses violence and violent rhetoric. It even talks about military coups and fantasizes about blowing up the White House.

By all means, opinion journalists such as Eugene Robinson are allowed to be partisans. But it would be nice if more of them admitted that is what they are.

Various & Sundry

Canine Update: Not too much to report. The Dingo continues to be exceptionally difficult these days. She’s been a lot like Steve McQueen in The Great Escape, though the analogy kind of falls apart when you consider that our house really isn’t like a Nazi POW camp and Steve McQueen wanted to do more than just lie down on the grass outside the camp and wait for distaff dogs, rambunctious rabbits, savory squirrels, or fascinating foxes to go by.

We wouldn’t care much if she could be a good girl. We used to let the late, great Cosmo the Wonderdog sleep unsupervised on the landing outside our front door for hours on end. He liked to survey all that went by and occasionally saunter down to the street to demand affection from a human or to see the papers of a passing dog (this is a euphemism for butt-sniffing, of course). But Cosmo was one of the greatest and most responsible dogs that ever lived. The Dingo can’t be trusted not to get in fights, dig up lawns, or kill various critters. She’s not hostile to humans at all (though, for some reason, she does think little girls are fascinating and likes to get in her puppy-play stance and bark at them “Frolic with me!”) but she just can’t be trusted to be left unsupervised.

As for Pippa, she still only has two basic modes: ball-chasing fanatic and comatose pile of boneless spaniel. If any Hollywood producers need a spaniel that can seem dead on camera, Pippa might be your girl. Wait for her to fall asleep and you can carry her around like a furry Ziploc bag full of Jell-O.

Feline Query: So, the Fair Jessica and my daughter just got back from the vet with my wife’s cat and the good cat. Apparently, the good cat, Gracie, is too fat. On the one hand, this kind of bothers me. Gracie can leap straight up to a counter that is three or four times her body length away. If I could, from a standing start, jump up to a first- or second-floor window, you wouldn’t be all like, “Man, you need to get in shape.” On the other hand, there’s no denying that Gracetofur (as we call her) is looking increasingly Rubenesque. Does anyone have any guidance for a good way to help a cat lose a few pounds? Specifically, in a two-cat household?

Here’s some of the stuff I did this week:

Is Trump taking the Bannon way?

My thoughts on Neil Gorsuch.

My thoughts on Neil Gorsuch’s nomination fight.

My Groundhog Day essay, now twelve years old.

My Groundhog Day essay, now twelve years old.

My Groundhog Day essay, now twelve years old.

I went on Fox News to tell UC-Berkeley that it should be ashamed of itself.

I went on NPR to talk about the torrent of leaks coming from the Trump White House.

Oh and since I’m self-promoting, here’s a flattering write-up of my speech down in Florida this week. (Note: the part about me being “hot” was not an aesthetic judgment but a polite way of saying that I was sweating like Bill Clinton in a confessional.)

And, since I’m recycling old pieces. I had a very cool compliment this week. Several people at my cigar shop told me that the reason they go there is because of this piece I wrote several years ago. I don’t know why they waited so long to tell me. But I’m glad they did.

And now, the weird stuff.

Debby’s Friday links

How do bees survive the winter?

The woman who walked from New York to Alaska

How hard is asteroid mining?

Corgi models propeller hat

Dogs prefer reggae, soft rock

The secret history of the first cat in space

Why didn’t the thief-catching net catch on?

Tech-savvy writer scams a tech-support scammer

John Hurt: An (incomplete) retrospective

Words in other languages with no single English equivalent

The nuclear bunkers designed for luxury living

Nature is scary: Lion edition

Puppy reunited with long-lost toy

Why frogs’ tongues are so sticky

Feral bunnies are taking over Las Vegas

Nation’s bacon reserve hits 50-year low

Why children ask “why?”

Every day in Groundhog Day

How hard is it to fake insanity?

Maybe the ghosts haunting these abandoned psychiatric hospitals can help you

Week One

by Jonah Goldberg
Yes, the mainstream press is hypocritical — but that doesn’t mean conservatives should lower themselves to that standard.

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 I mean that no matter how large a crowd you’d form on the National Mall),

I’m on a plane flying to Seattle — at least I hope that’s where this plane is heading. Unfortunately, I seemed to have packed the working part of my brain in my checked luggage. When I told the TSA guy that I needed to get my rational homunculus out of my checked bag, he looked at his melting watch face and said, “There’s no time because time is an illusion,” and then suddenly sank into a pool of water lilies.

Suffice it to say, it’s a discomfiting way to begin a flight, never mind a “news”letter or colonoscopy.

Fortunately, this state of affairs seems to perfectly suit the state of affairs we’re all in (come to think of it, Bill Clinton would make a great governor of the State of Affairs, but that’s a subject for another time).

Week One

Whether you are ecstatic with the first week of the Trump presidency or whether you keep looking out the window to see if the rivers have turned to blood, or even if you’re some aging slattern ranting about “blowing up” the White House (I checked several times: Madonna did in fact say “up” — I was surprised, too), it seems everyone can agree the new normal is pretty different than the old one.

Like a sack full of six plastic eggs of glow-in-the-dark silly putty, a half-eaten tuna-fish sandwich, 42 standard-issue playing cards, a six pack of Jolt Cola, $1,000 dollars in gold bullion, a mint condition Tito Puente basement tape, a modified Speak-and-Spell that can broadcast to outer space, and the head of Alfredo Garcia, Trump’s first week was something of a mixed bag. Some of the executive orders were fantastic, some were good, and pretty much all were defensible given that he campaigned on them.

Hypocrisy Über Alles

I don’t have much time for the charge of Republican hypocrisy for supporting these executive actions. Charlie Cooke laid out the why in detail, but you can think of the argument this way: If Trump exceeds his authority and suspends habeas corpus, it will not be hypocritical for opponents of the move to celebrate the next president revoking that executive order.

Then again, if hypocrisy were helium we’d all have funny voices and some folks would just float away.

I agree with pretty much all of the right-wing criticism of the mainstream media these days, or at least the intelligent stuff, of which there has been plenty. What the MSM still fails to appreciate is the degree to which they’ve spent the last 40 years — at least — presenting news as unbiased and objective when it was in fact coated with, saturated in, and bent by all manner of confirmation biases, self-serving narratives, assumptions, and ideological priorities that leaned left. No, it wasn’t all “fake news” (man, am I exhausted by the ridiculous misuse of that term), at least not most of the time [insert outrage over Duranty’s Pulitzer, Janet Cooke’s and Steve Glass’s fabulations, and of course that time Dan Rather climbed the jackass tree only to hurl himself down, hitting every branch].

Journalists live in a social milieu where the borders between the Democratic party, liberal activism, and liberal experts are very, very fuzzy.

I would even go so far as to argue that most of the time liberal bias isn’t even deliberate. Maybe because I’ve been reading so much public-choice theory and psychology stuff of late, I tend to credit conspiracy theories less and groupthink more for the wayward state of the mainstream media (though Mark Hemingway makes a good point about Plowshares’ sub rosa complicity in pushing the Iran deal). Still, the more you get to know elite “objective” journalists, the more you can appreciate that they are trying to do it right. But it also becomes all the more obvious that they live in a social milieu where the borders between the Democratic party, liberal activism, and liberal experts are very, very fuzzy.

For instance, last week I wrote about that ridiculous article in the Washington Post accusing David Gelernter of being “anti-intellectual.” Much of the Post’s “reporting” hinged on a lengthy, catty quote from a member of the Union of Concern Scientists. As I noted, the Union of Concerned Scientists has always been a political operation. It’s a classic example of an outfit that liberal journalists invest with non-partisan authority so they can pass off partisan views as “science” or some other objective expertise.

In 1985, the editors of National Review wrote:

The Union of Concerned Scientists, except for the publicity it commands, can be dismissed. It has been a scandal for years — a letterhead with a few distinguished names acting as shills for a membership of left-wing laymen (anyone can be a Concerned Scientist, just by paying the membership fee).

Countless activists-in-experts-clothing organizations run on some variant of this model, from the Women’s Sports Foundation to the National Resources Defense Council.

Reporters routinely call experts they already agree with knowing that their “takes” will line up with what the reporter believes. Sometimes this is lazy or deadline-driven hackery. But more often, it’s not. And that shouldn’t surprise us. Smart liberal reporters are probably inclined to think that smart liberal experts are right when they say things the smart liberal reporters already agree with.

For these and similar reasons, liberal ideas and interpretations of the facts sail through while inconvenient facts and conservative interpretations send up ideological red flags. Think of editors like security guards at a military base. They tend to wave through the people they know and the folks with right ID badges. But when a stranger shows up, or if someone lacks the right credential, then the guards feel like they have to do their job. This is the basic modus operandi for places like Vox, which seek to explain not the facts or the news, but why liberals are right about the facts and the news.

For instance, The Atlantic, which I think is mostly a great magazine, recently ran a ridiculous article about abortion. The gist is that ultrasound technology has been used to “push” the false notion that fetuses are, you know, humans (apparently they’re Tonka Trucks).

The Atlantic had to issue a series of very embarrassing corrections to this very embarrassing article.

It is inconceivable to me that even if The Atlantic were willing to run a similar pro-life article, that it would have let anything like these errors through. The editorial guards would have brought out those giant dental-mirror things and studied the undercarriage of every sentence, for the simple reason that liberal journalists tend to discover their journalistic skepticism when they hear or see things that clash with their worldview, and they tend to leave their guard down when they hear or see stuff that confirms it.

And you know what, the same thing is true for conservative journalists, because it’s true of people (I’d offer the relevant quotes from Haidt or Daniel Kahneman, but my Kindle e-reader thing isn’t playing nice with the plane’s WiFi). The distinction is that there aren’t a great number of conservative journalists, certainly not in print, who don’t openly admit their biases to the reader. There are literally thousands of mainstream journalists, editors, and producers who insist that they are objective — and who actually believe it. And that leaves out the fact that liberalism is besotted with the idea that liberals aren’t ideological at all in the first place, which makes it even harder for them to recognize their ideological biases. And, then, when everyone they know, including all the right “experts,” are in a total bowel-stewing meltdown over the Trump presidency, it is very difficult for them to find perspective and balance. “Donald Trump puts salt on his French Fries just like Napoleon!”

So, I get why so many of my friends on the right are freaking out about the double standard being applied to Trump. It is an entirely legitimate complaint. But it is also incredibly insufficient and, at times, dangerous. Every day I see conservatives on Twitter and TV denouncing, say, the New York Times for calling Trump a liar because the Times didn’t say the same thing about Clinton or Obama. Fine! Great point. It’s a double standard. Who among us can contain our shock that the MSM is tougher on Republicans?

But it doesn’t mean it’s not true about Trump! The media’s double standard doesn’t absolve Trump of lying, does it? O.J. Simpson literally got away with murder. Is it unfair to other murderers if we don’t let them get away with it, too? Actually, I’m sure it would feel unfair to other murderers, but that’s not an argument for repealing laws against murder.

And that brings me to the danger here. I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but our president has a persecution complex. He thinks any inconvenient but truthful coverage of him is an unfair criticism and any unfair criticism is a lie. What makes this complicated is that sometimes Trump is right. Some of the coverage has been ridiculous and desperate nonsense, as Mollie Hemingway ably chronicles. And some of the coverage has been merely accurate-but-hypocritical. Howard Kurtz ran through a list last night on Special Report. When Bill Clinton lied, it was called “misleading” or “less than candid” but when Trump lies, it’s a “Lie!” in the headline. (One can make the argument — as I have — that many of Trump’s lies are less offensive because he just glandularly blurts them out, while Bill Clinton lied like an artisan whittling a ballerina out of a block of wood, with loving, expert attention to every detail.)

Trump thinks any inconvenient but truthful coverage of him is an unfair criticism and any unfair criticism is a lie.

But you know what? When I say Trump is lying about something, I’m not guilty of any double standard. I called Bill Clinton and Barack Obama liars all the time. You know why? Because they lied all the time. And yet every day, if I criticize Trump about anything, the cultists scream at me some version of “Oh yeah! Why weren’t you this critical of Obama?” or “What about Bill Clinton!?” It’s like they don’t know who they’re talking to. If Trump plays Baron-and-the-Milkmaid with an intern, I will make a big deal out of it and so will the New York Times. Their hypocrisy will not apply to me.

When conservatives — I’m not referring to Republican political hacks, that’s their job; I’m referring to actual conservative writers — go out and respond to the negative coverage solely by attacking the MSM messengers, they are in effect condoning — or at least providing cover for — Trump’s behavior and feeding the idea that he’s a victim whenever anyone does anything other than applaud. Steve Bannon wants to demonize and delegitimize the mainstream media. Given his record at Breitbart, that’s some odd casting for Champion of Journalistic Integrity, but whatever. That’s his fight, and shame on the mainstream media for making his job so easy.

But what should conservatives do? Exactly what most of us have been doing.

I keep hearing from Trumpistas that I’m biased and that my criticisms of Trump can therefore be dismissed. Oddly, they never say that when I praise him, often in the same television appearance or column. Meanwhile I keep hearing from Trump critics on the left and right, that I — or National Review (and the Weekly Standard et al) — must join the liberal freakout over Trump, as if “Never Trump” meant disregarding a legitimate election (Hint: It didn’t).

I think that’s all nonsense. Indeed, I think this is something of a golden opportunity for quality conservative journalism. Based on what has transpired so far, much of the mainstream media can’t be trusted to respond proportionately or accurately to Trump. And, based on what has transpired so far, neither can big swaths of the entertainment wing of the right-wing media. They will, Pravda-like, announce that each new Trumpian wheat harvest has exceeded all expectations, for quite a while it seems.

But if you actually watch the news side of Fox News, or read National Review, the Weekly Standard, Commentary (not to mention the more responsible conservative websites: The Federalist, Hot Air, etc.), you’ll find that we tend not to be swept up in the hysteria of the Left or the Right. There’s a diversity of writers and opinions to be sure, but on the whole we have praised some of what Trump has done and criticized other things. Fox reports inconvenient facts for the Democrats and inconvenient facts for the Trump administration. It’s not always easy to draw the lines — again, mixed bags and all — but so far I’m proud of the way most of my colleagues and peers have handled all of this weirdness.

What I would hate to see, however, is conservatives getting seduced into arguing that the standards we championed under Democratic presidents weren’t really our standards after all. That’s my problem with the right-wing obsession with MSM hypocrisy. By itself, it’s correct but inadequate — because it basically amounts to anti-anti-Trumpism and nothing more. There’s been way, way too much of that already in the era of Trump — and we’re only a week into his presidency.

Various & Sundry

Canine Update: Well, let’s see. Pippa successfully pinned the Dingo last night (never before recorded on video). I suspect that Zoë let her, given how she pulls her punches with the Spaniel. Still, Pippa’s self-esteem needed the boost.

On the advice of readers, we gave both stinky dogs a vigorous tomato-juice bath. The result: a reduction by 90 percent in stygian stinkiness! Unfortunately, I wasn’t home to take pictures, and as the Fair Jessica somewhat acerbically pointed out to me when I said she should have, she couldn’t get it on video because if she had let go of the Dingo for even a moment, Zoë would have escaped the tub — and a tomato-juice-saturated Dingo is not something you want to get out of the containment area.

All right I gotta go. I hope to see some of you at the Roanoke Conference this weekend.

ICYMI . . . 

My reaction to Donald Trump’s Inaugural Address last week, written after the G-File came out.

My first (of probably many) attempted Kremlinologies of the Trump White House.

Did Melissa Harris-Perry already forget that Obama was president for eight years?

What Trump means when he says “America First.”

Mel Gibson, Trump vs. the media, Oscar reactions, and more in the latest Ricochet GLoP podcast.

Build the Wall, but Mexico doesn’t have to pay.

And now, the weird stuff.

Debby’s Friday links

Firefighters rescue piglets in Russia

When a horseback cavalry captured a naval fleet

When U.S. hostages gave their North Korean captors the bird

When Americans get to work

The economics of a hit TV show

Are cats and dogs equally intelligent?

Are dogs taking over the Internet from cats?

Dogs help unload groceries

More than 100 puppies rescued from crashed van in New York

Dogs mushing

The lost art of the screensaver

The history of the umbrella gun

A 1927 map of gangland Chicago

What it’s like to live like an astronaut

What’s the speed of dark?

Let’s hope our children didn’t watch the Women’s March

The man convinced that strangers were his crush in disguise

A sunset so beautiful it almost doesn’t seem real

Australian zoo wants public’s help collecting one of the world’s deadliest spiders

Great movie special effects that aren’t CGI

Parasite inception

College students accidentally given 30 grams of caffeine for an experiment instead of 0.3 grams

The Unwisdom of Crowds

by Jonah Goldberg
The heroic unit in the American political tradition is the individual, not the mob.

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.

Treasured Peruser (including those who will brook no innovations in the “Dear Reader” gag),

I am writing this before Donald Trump’s inaugural address, which is a weird thing to write. I expect I’ll have reactions to the address itself up in the Corner.

I didn’t go down to the Mall today, but it’s not because I was “boycotting” Trump. A team of scientists could harvest the DNA of Abe Lincoln, Calvin Coolidge, Ronald Reagan, Phil Gramm, William F. Buckley, Winston Churchill, and Rowdy Roddy Piper and create some sort of super president with laser vision and a Kung Fu grip and I still wouldn’t want to go down to the Mall, get bumped by other people, and stand in the cold for hours only to hear a speech in the rain.

There’s something that people don’t know about me — and they never will because I never used my real name and then I burned that motel down to the ground.

But there’s something else people don’t know about me. I’m not a big fan of enthusiasm, particularly among large numbers of people. When large numbers of people get really into something, I tend to go the opposite direction.

I guess the one place it doesn’t bother me is sports. As you know, I’m not a big sports guy, but I am a guy and I get the appeal of going all in for your squad out on the diamond and shouting, “Acquire more points!”

But beyond that, I’ve never much liked events where spectators get too into anything. I like music, but I find concerts where everyone is all agog vaguely creepy. I sometimes feel like everyone else has been hypnotized and I’m expected to play along. Or sort of like I’m the only stoned one in the crowd (when it’s actually closer to the other way around). I don’t mean this as a smug thing. I wish I could get more into things like that. It certainly looks fun and, back in the day, the chicks seemed to dig it.

SLIDESHOW: Donald Trump Inauguration

I think the fact that I’m a “don’t just do something, sit there” type of guy informs a lot of my politics. It’s certainly a huge part of why I’ve never liked youth politics and think so little of young people who take so much pride in being young: a) You didn’t do anything, everyone who has ever lived past, say, 21 accomplished “being young,” too; b) there is no ideological content to youth politics; c) if the best thing you’ve got going for you is that you can boast you were born later than other people, you’ve really got nothing going for you; d) shut up kid, you’re bothering me; e) Grumble!; and f) Harrumph!

The Unwisdom of Crowds

But the realm where crowds and enthusiasm bother me the most is politics. The cult-like adoration for Obama made me feel vaguely unsafe, like when someone a bit too chatty opts for the urinal next to yours after walking past ten empty ones. Okay, that’s not exactly the right analogy, but that makes me feel unsafe, too.

And so did stuff like this:

Look, I like kids. But crap like that makes me want to run through the room in a bloody clown suit while revving up a chain saw. (Don’t worry: Even in my darkest thoughts I wouldn’t hurt anyone — but I would like to see them scurry.)

Similarly, I am a big fan of volunteerism so most of this is harmless even if it makes me uncomfortable.

But when Demi Moore ends this thing by pledging to be a “servant of our president” it makes me want to peel off my face like the plastic film on the screen of a new iPhone. (Though I do think it would be fun to make Charlie Cooke watch it using the Ludovico technique just to see how long it took before he turned green, grew out of his restraints, and started shouting in that fake accent of his, “British Hulk shall smash neo-feudalism in my new country!”)

I bring this up for several reasons. First, because I couldn’t think of anything else to write about this morning. Second, because I think it’s a relevant point lost on some Trump fans. Even if he were my first choice in the primaries, I would never have gone all in with the MAGA hysteria. And that’s not just because I have ideological problems with Trump’s nationalism. If Jeb had been my first choice (he wasn’t), I still wouldn’t have been out there waving my big foam finger, shouting “Jeb’s No. 1!” and putting mayo on everything. If George Pataki were my first choice, I’d sue my dentist for accidentally lobotomizing me with his drill because that’s the only scenario where I could see that happening. In short, Trump could be Calvin Coolidge (re)incarnate, and I still wouldn’t wear flair because I don’t do flair.

The Politics of Transcendence

I guess my point is that I don’t like crowds. I don’t trust them. Good things rarely come from them. Not all crowds are mobs, but all mobs start as crowds, and I’m a little allergic to the vibrations within in them. The heroic unit in the American political tradition is the individual, not the mob. The crowd is what makes the cult of personality a thing. Without the crowd, it’s just a person.

I ran across this quote recently from the pastor and author Eugene Peterson.

Classically, there are three ways in which humans try to find transcendence — religious meaning — apart from God as revealed through the cross of Jesus: through the ecstasy of alcohol and drugs, through the ecstasy of recreational sex, through the ecstasy of crowds. Church leaders frequently warn against the drugs and the sex, but at least, in America, almost never against the crowds.

I think this is a fantastic insight. That feeling I don’t like at concerts is, I think, related to this quest for transcendence by the crowd. I didn’t like it in Obama’s new-age revivalism and I didn’t like it in Trump’s old-timey revivalism.

The old cliché about how politicians campaign in poetry but govern in prose gets at the same point.

Now you can disagree with me about crowds and you can think Peterson is all wet. That’s fine. But there’s an important political point here. Elias Canetti notes in his book Crowds and Power that inside the crowd, “distinctions are thrown off and all become equal. It is for the sake of this blessed moment, when no one is greater or better than another, that people become a crowd.”

“But,” Canetti adds, “the crowd, as such, disintegrates. It has a presentiment of this and fears it. . . . Only the growth of the crowd prevents those who belong to it from creeping back under their private burdens.”

In other words, bubbles pop. The sort of aesthetic or transcendent enthusiasm of the crowd is by definition unsustainable. The concert must end, the rally must stop. The old cliché about how politicians campaign in poetry but govern in prose gets at the same point. Barack Obama nearly destroyed the Democratic party by thinking he could translate the transcendence of the crowd into a governing style. Donald Trump would do well to learn from Obama’s mistake.

Waiting for Calvin

Speaking of Calvin Coolidge, he’s been on my mind ever since Amity Shlaes pointed out on Twitter that Coolidge’s “inaugural” remark upon learning he inherited the presidency was, “I believe I can swing it.”

Coolidge wasn’t my jelly, he was my jam as some annoying person might say. Longtime readers of the G-File might recall some of my favorite Coolidge lines. When asked to summarize the record of his administration, Coolidge replied, “Perhaps one of the most important accomplishments of my administration has been minding my own business.” The point wasn’t that he was lazy, the point was that it takes work to stop government from doing stupid things. “It is much more important to kill bad bills than to pass good ones,” he once remarked.

When Coolidge said, “When you see ten problems rolling down the road, if you don’t do anything, nine of them will roll into a ditch before they get to you.” Again, the point wasn’t laziness, it was confidence in the ability of society — a.k.a. the people — to figure things out for themselves. For every ten big problems our society faces, nine of them aren’t the government’s problem. Liberals think not only that all ten are the government’s problem, but that ten is an insanely low tally of the big problems the government is supposed to be dealing with. And fewer and fewer conservatives would endorse the Coolidge Ratio.

I’m increasingly convinced we’ll never have another one like him. My point isn’t that we don’t produce people like Coolidge anymore — though that’s more than a little true, too. It’s not that a Coolidge couldn’t get elected today either, though who could argue with that? It’s that even if we somehow produced a Coolidge and got him or her elected, the nature of the state is such that even Coolidge couldn’t really be Coolidge.

One of the tasks Mephistopheles has assigned me as I continue to burn in Book Hell is dancing the Lambada with Helen Thomas, our naked bodies bonded together as one with Saran Wrap. Oh wait, that’s real Hell.

No, in Book Hell, I’ve been reading a lot about the administrative state. We don’t need to get too deep into those weeds now, but one of the things I’ve come to believe is that the administrative state is unlawful and another is that it is the enemy of civil society.

Even if we somehow produced a Coolidge and got him or her elected, the nature of the state is such that even Coolidge couldn’t really be Coolidge.

I kind of think of civil society as coastal wetlands. For years, people overlooked wetlands as the kind of ugly, swampy places that served no great purpose. It turned out that wetlands are hugely important. They absorb bad runoff from reaching the ocean, they buffer the coast from soil and beach erosion, and they offer a diverse ecosystem a habitat they can’t find anywhere else. If you think of the government — particularly the administrative state — as an ocean, civil society is the wetlands that keep the ocean from eroding everything. They’re a buffer that blunts the impact of the state. Conversely, they are what stop the nine out of ten problems Coolidge talked about. Without the wetlands, all ten just roll straight into the state’s ocean-sized lap.

Now, I know what you’re thinking, “Man that analogy has some holes in it.” And my answer to that is: Considering the price you paid for this “news”letter, you should count yourself lucky I didn’t go with the women’s-prison-movie analogy that I wanted to run with.

The reason we can’t have a Coolidge today is that government has gotten involved in so much he would have to be an activist just to unwind a fraction of it. C. S. Lewis says somewhere that if you took a wrong fork in the road, it’s not progress to keep walking in the wrong direction. It’s progress to turn around and find the right road.

As I’ve written several times now, I feel more and more like I’ll be in the Nockian remnant for a good while. But today is not the day to rehash old arguments about Donald Trump. That day will come soon enough. Today is a day to wish him well and hope for the best.

I’m reminded of H. L. Mencken’s obituary for Coolidge, a president he first scorned but later came to appreciate. “Should the day ever dawn,” Mencken said, “when Jefferson’s warnings are heeded at last, and we reduce government to its simplest terms, it may very well happen that Calvin’s bones now resting inconspicuously in the Vermont granite will come to be revered as those of a man who really did the nation some service.”

I’m not a big fan of the slogan “Make America Great Again.” And I’m not sure what Donald Trump meant last night when he said we’re going to do things we haven’t done in “many, many, decades.” But if he can get us back to the right fork in the road, and to a place where he could be replaced by a Coolidge, or at least to a place where his bones might be revered, he will have made America greater yet — and he’ll have my gratitude.

Here’s hoping.

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Various & Sundry

Canine Update: So, things have been weird around here. First of all, neither dog seems as interested in eating as they once did and Pippa appears to be scared to come into the kitchen at dinnertime for fear that the Dingo will attack her, which she hasn’t done (to our knowledge) for a very long time. More troubling, Zoë’s wild, stubborn side is coming back. She’s just been a bad girl lately. She jumped out of the car window the other day. On Wednesday night, she got loose from my wife around 6:30 at night. She refused to come in the house until midnight. She just sits on the lawn and runs away from you if you try to get close. She pretends like it’s a game.

At first, we thought it was just the cold weather, which does seem to fill her full of beans. That seems to be part of it. But the other problem, we think, is that our neighborhood in D.C. has seen a population explosion of rabbits. Dogs may believe that “squirrels are tennis balls thrown by God” but Zoë believes that rabbits are squirrels done right. First of all, they are so hoppy and she finds the hoppiness irresistible. Second of all, and this is the really important part, they cannot climb those infernal trees. Anyway, Zoë is constantly looking for them, sniffing for them, chasing them. She’ll wait for hours with dingo-patience for a sign that one has emerged from its carrot-strewn bunkers, and then she’s off. And then there was yesterday. Perhaps in an attempt to get some olfactory camouflage, she rolled in some foulness the likes of which you’d only expect to find in Sid Blumenthal’s secret basement. The Fair Jessica gave Zoë a double bath and yet hours later she still smelled, uh, bad.

My first column this week: Why national unity is so elusive.

Friday’s column: “Anti-liberal” does not equal “anti-intellectual.”

And now, the weird stuff. (“And I thought this G-File was already weird enough!” — The Couch)

Debby’s Friday links

A real-life Westworld

A photo of Lincoln’s first inauguration

SMOD failed to destroy Earth, but this space rock could destroy Earth’s economy

The door to Hell

How many of us can hear flashes of light?

Beware the Slenderman

Is Cthulhu still calling?

What the first European visitors to Hawaii thought of surfers

Why is this lake pink?

Can humans hibernate?

What do we really know about pirates?

The most overused sound in trailers today

How to Help Trump Win

by Jonah Goldberg
For Donald Trump to have a successful conservative presidency, the Trump Tribe needs to grapple with how popular Trump actually is.

EDITOR’S NOTE: The following is Jonah Goldberg’s weekly “news”letter, the G-File. Subscribe here to get the G-File delivered to your inbox on Fridays.

Dear Reader (including the good cat, which for some reason is opposed to my daughter getting an education),

I should just say it clearly: I will never fall in love with Donald Trump. For most of you, this is not a big surprise. But for some, it’s a kind of betrayal. In much the same way the Left gets furious when you just don’t care enough about its priorities, many of Trump’s biggest supporters get bizarrely angry at the fact that I am not emotionally correct when it comes to the new president.

Monsieur Google tells me that “emotional correctness” is a term that’s been used before including by — ack! — the constantly self-parodying Sally Kohn. But fortunately, I don’t mean it the way she does. In fact, I think I mean something close to the opposite.

There’s a lot of tribalism and romanticism in the water these days. By tribalism I mean the idea that loyalty to one’s side comes first and arguments come later, and when they do, they must be bent to fit the needs of one’s side. By romanticism, I mean the primacy of feelings over facts.

Epistemic Closure for Thee, But Not for Me

The vexing thing is that a lot of liberals agree with this observation when it’s framed as a criticism of conservatives. That’s Obama’s whole shtick these days, decrying “bubbles” and the lack of a “common baseline of fact.” And by “these days,” I really mean his entire presidency. Obama has always argued that anyone who disagrees with him is doing so from a deficit of facts and surplus of partisanship and ideology. Even when Elizabeth Warren disagreed with him, he resorted to this lazy arrogance.

But Obama is hardly alone. This has been a theme in progressivism going back a century, from the progressive obsession with “disinterestedness” to JFK’s insistence that “political labels and ideological approaches are irrelevant to the solution” of modern challenges. “Most of the problems . . . that we now face, are technical problems, are administrative problems,” he insisted, and these problems “deal with questions which are now beyond the comprehension of most men.”

The whole ludicrous and yet somehow quaint “epistemic closure” panic of the last decade and the rise of “explanatory journalism” illustrated the extent to which liberals believe that confirmation bias is a uniquely conservative failure. Paul Krugman cut to the epistemological chase with his claim that “facts have a liberal bias.” Neil deGrasse Tyson’s fantasies of creating a utopian world called “Rationalia” is in one sense a great punchline to a joke, but it’s also a perfect example of how liberal tribalism uses scientism to discredit perspectives it doesn’t like.

Care, Damn It

All of that is annoying, but it can’t hold a candle to the ugliness of emotional correctness. In recent years, we’ve seen how the real crime isn’t conservative intellectual or ideological dissent but conservative emotional dissent. Mozilla’s Brendan Eich being pelted from his job, the perfidious treason of the wedding-cake bakers, the assaults on Hobby Lobby and Chick-fil-A, the bonfires of asininity lit every day on college campuses: These have so much less to do with an ideological argument and more to do with the new unwritten and unspoken fatwah: “You will be made to care.”

During that idiotic Halloween controversy at Yale, one student captured the moment beautifully when she complained that an administrator’s attempts to discuss, explain, and debate the issue were beside the point. “He doesn’t get it,” she wrote. “And I don’t want to debate. I want to talk about my pain.” The truth is she didn’t just want to talk about her pain, she wanted her pain validated and even celebrated.

In the Soviet Union and other totalitarian societies, displaying overt signs of “insufficient enthusiasm” is a crime:

“Now, if a North Korean university professor is suspected of insufficient enthusiasm for the system, they will be gone without a trace very quickly,” Andrei Lankov has written of the Hermit Kingdom. “Even the memory of the unlucky victim would likely disappear.”

The other day an NPR reporter tweeted:

Marilyn Geewax surely can’t think that Tom Price, a doctor, is against curing cancer. But she clearly thinks that there’s some serious problem with Price for not applauding an entirely debatable and typical rhetorical bauble in a State of the Union Address. My point isn’t to single out Geewax. I’m sure she’s a perfectly nice person.

My point is simply that in this moment of cultural and ideological polarization, the refusal to share one’s passions is a sign of disloyalty.

The Trump Tribe

And that is true on the right as well. In fairness, it’s surely always been true on the right to one extent or another, because the phenomenon I’m talking about is a product of human nature not ideology. The coalitional instinct is a universal human trait that causes people to link up in tribal bonds. The great evolutionary psychologist John Tooby explains that the coalitional instinct “explains a number of otherwise puzzling phenomena.”

For example, ancestrally, if you had no coalition you were nakedly at the mercy of everyone else, so the instinct to belong to a coalition has urgency, pre-existing and superseding any policy-driven basis for membership. This is why group beliefs are free to be so weird.

I’m writing about this at considerable length in my book, so I won’t cannibalize myself here. But the coalitional instinct is an important concept to keep in mind these days.

It certainly helps me understand the barrages of invective and utterly bizarre psychoanalyzing I’m subjected to every day. For instance, last night I was on Bret Baier’s Special Report. On the show, I praised Trump’s appointments and offered a plausibly favorable interpretation of his disagreements with his cabinet officials. I also defended Trump’s tweets supporting LL Bean, but I criticized others. The response, as usual, from the Trump Tribe was an irrational miasma of rage and projection.

When you cut through the trollery, the basic complaint is simply that I am guilty of insufficient enthusiasm for Donald Trump. I keep getting asked in various ways, “When will you get over your Never Trump obsession?” As I’ve written countless times now, as far as I’m concerned, Never Trump isn’t a thing anymore. Trump won, he’ll be the next president, so there’s nothing to be “never” about.

As far as I’m concerned, Never Trump isn’t a thing anymore. Trump won, he’ll be the next president, so there’s nothing to be ‘never’ about.

The problem is that “Never Trump” has morphed in the minds of both liberals and conservatives to mean something very different. For liberals, it means one must never defend anything Trump does or even nod to his legitimacy in the slightest way — lest one be guilty of some form of hypocrisy (this is just another manifestation of the ancient practice of liberals telling conservatives the right way to be conservative).

On the right, Never Trump has become a convenient psychological crutch for dismissing inconvenient arguments. Like the ever-metastasizing phrase “fake news,” it’s waved like a magic wand to make any threatening claim disappear without having to deal with it on the merits. Marxists used to use the term “false consciousness” in much the same way: to head-off threatening facts or arguments by attacking motives. When I point out that until a few months ago Republicans and conservatives despised crony capitalism or “picking winners and losers,” the instant reply amounts to: “When are you going to get over your Never Trump obsessions?”

The upshot of all of these responses is “Get with the program,” “Get on board the Trump Train,” or “Get on the right side of history.” I’ve spent the last two decades decrying this form of argumentation from liberals — twice at book length. I don’t see why I should abandon that position now. Indeed, the only logically consistent argument for why I should (and one often whispered or hinted at behind the scenes) is that it’s the safe play for my career and my income — to which I say, “Meh.”

How to Help Trump Win

But I’ve dilated on all that many times in this space, so let me make a different point. I very much want Trump to be a successful conservative president — which is to say, I don’t want him to be a successful statist president. I understand all-too-well that many of Trump’s fans do want him to be a successful statist president. They don’t use the word “statist,” preferring the rough synonym “nationalist.” They either sincerely think, or convincingly pretend to think, that there’s a meaningful difference between a statist and a nationalist. There isn’t.

That’s a worthwhile argument to have, and there will be many opportunities to have it down the road.

But if Trump is going to be a successful conservative president, I think his biggest fans will have to recognize their own tribalism. I’ll give you two examples. Last night I got these responses to my appearance on Special Report:


Put aside how much these tweets exemplify the points I made above.

The most relevant point is the claim that “the voters want him to tweet.” Trump’s spinners make similar claims ten times a day, insisting that “the American people” support whatever it is he’s doing at a given moment.

Donald Trump’s approval ratings are the lowest for any incoming president in history, by a very, very wide margin. Obama went into his inauguration with a net favorability rating of +71. George W. Bush and Clinton had +36 and +50, respectively. Trump? Negative seven (-7). He’s dropped 13 points in the last month. Quinnipiac has his favorability rating at 37 percent, a marked drop since November. The internals are worse. He’s lost ground in almost every category since the election. Only 12 percent of Americans say they think he will be a “great president.” Oh, and Americans think by a 2–1 margin (64 to 32) that he should stop tweeting.

Looking at these numbers, it is very difficult to see how the Trump Tribe can claim he has the support of the American people for his behavior since the election, unless you define “the American people” as the Americans who unabashedly support Trump. And it seems that a lot of people in the Always Trump camp believe exactly that.

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Various & Sundry

Yes, yes, I know this was not a particularly — or even remotely — jocular G-File. Sometimes that’s the way things break. For those who’ve come to expect that every week, I apologize. My muse for this “news”letter is always unapologetic self-indulgence, and sometimes I just don’t have the pull-my-finger jokes in me. I’m still deep in Book Hell and have a slew of big-time hassles in my private life I’m trying to deal with. I also woke up to discover I made a stupid mistake in my column today, which always puts me in a foul mood. Tune in next week, maybe we’ll both have better luck.

Canine Update: The beasts are doing well, though Pippa had a scary incident with the dogwalker in which she fell through some ice. She emerged a bit like George Bailey after he’s shown the light in It’s a Wonderful Life. Pippa greeted everyone, including some dogs she’s normally afraid of like Spock after he realized Captain Kirk wasn’t dead. And since this “news”letter has been deficient in Vitamin J (for jocularity), I’ll recount a somewhat off-color tale from this morning.

While I was getting dressed for our pre-dawn perambulations, Pippa and Zoë were doing their usual celebratory wrestling and mutual face-licking. At one point, as she is wont to do, the Dingo was biting the scruff of Pippa’s neck when she, uh, well farted. It was surprisingly audible and seemed to take Zoë more by surprise than anyone else. She wheeled around to see what the Hell happened in steerage on the HMS Dingo. At first, she seemed shocked that she didn’t find a squirrel with a Woopee cushion. But then she caught the scent and followed it out of the room like one of those Loony Tunes dogs that smells a roast beef from far away. Perhaps that’s why she seemed so keen to enjoy the fresh air this morning.


Has the New York Times given up on stopping Jeff Sessions’s confirmation?

Should Trump’s appointees fear his Twitter account?

The new Ricochet GLoP podcast discusses Meryl Streep and the Golden Globes, the culture wars, Rogue One, and more.

Obama’s farewell address was a campaign rally in disguise (corrected version).

And now, the weird stuff.

Debby’s Friday links

Picasso’s life in self-portraits

A map of global superstitions

Why not? Scientists blast antimatter atoms with a laser for the first time

Taxpayers foot the bill for Doggie Hamlet

Brits send meat-and-potato pie into space

How many basset hounds can fit on a couch?

Behold what lurks in the sea’s dark depths

Moon sits atop castle

Is Cthulhu calling?

Salvador Dali sells chocolate

Orson Welles sells wine

Ricardo Montalban sells cars

James Brown sells noodles

How do you poop in Antarctica?

Rescuers save stray pregnant dog

Dogs, in one gif

Behold: Spider lives underwater

Behold: Spider eats snake

Science: Conservatives really are better-looking

Science: Revenge really is sweet

The world’s saddest destinations

NASA has a plan to destroy Earth-threatening asteroids, but SMOD turned out to be a liar like every other politician, so we won’t need it

Scientists are building an animal-fart database

Watch a Furby burn

Peanut Truthers and the ‘Lost Friends Theory’

by Jonah Goldberg
Political correctness is a kind of civilizational autoimmune disorder.

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 the ships at sea),

As Bill Clinton said, as he rapidly flipped through the dog-eared pages of the October 1987 issue of Juggs, “I think I need some new material.”

For starters, I think I need to start picking on someone other than Bill Clinton for my cheap letch jokes (he’s still good for some of my more upscale letch jokes, of course). More broadly, I think I need some new old gags, if I’m going to keep pecking out this “news”letter.

I’ve run into this problem before. For years, when I was speaking to a particularly friendly crowd, I would begin my talk, “I’m happier than Helen Thomas at a Hamas rally to be here tonight.”

First off, it was funny because it was true.

Second, like telling Michael Moore there’s a free Happy Meal in the middle of a frozen Lake Michigan, it was a good way to break the ice.

But Thomas went off to collect her 72 virgins, and the joke not only got stale, but it also became clear that some folks couldn’t immediately remember who Helen Thomas was. Was she one of the Golden Girls? Danny Thomas’s Mother? (“Was that the lawyer who helped those terrorists?” one lady asked me after a speech. I replied, “No, but that’s a good guess.”)

And if the audience can’t catch the reference right away, the joke doesn’t work as well. That’s one of the reasons I’ve had to shelve all those jokes about Milton Berle and Forest Tucker walking into a bar in Nantucket.

So, I’m still searching for a “Happier than . . . ” line that works. So far none really sing. Happier than . . . Elizabeth Warren at a sweat lodge, than Harry Reid watching an orphanage fire, than Donald Trump when Arnold Schwarzenegger gets bad ratings on The Apprentice?

Oh, then there’s that problem. There’s a kind of détente between me and a big swath of my “news”letter readership these days. They’ll tolerate my wait-and-see attitude toward Trump, they’ll applaud my attacks on the Left, and — oh yes — they’ll keep coming back for the dog pics. But if I make fun of Trump, suddenly a rightwing form of P.C. humorlessness kicks in. Like the old joke,

Q: “How many feminists does it take to screw in a lightbulb?”


Making light of the notorious DJT is now somehow beyond the pale for many on the right. That’s gonna get old in a hurry. Sad!

Anyway, as Bill Clinton said to the Vietnamese masseuse when she ended her personal phone call, let’s get back to the issue at hand. I think this “news”letter could use some new gags, maybe some new personalities (“What the Holy Hell, does that mean?” — The Couch), and some new obsessions in 2017.

But that day isn’t today.

Hey, You Got Your Cultural Marxism in My Peanut Butter

So, finally, science caught up to my wife (there’s a Stepford Wives or Westworld joke in there somewhere, but I ain’t looking for it). She’s been on a tear about the zero-tolerance for peanuts thing since my daughter was born. No, she’s not a peanut truther; she knows that some kids really do have bad allergies. But the spike in nut allergies is, uh, nuts. And, like with so many things, she blames the parents.

Well, now the new National Institutes of Health guidelines back her up. Fear of an allergic reaction to peanuts causes parents to delay exposing their kids to peanuts. That delay increases the chance that the kids will be allergic to peanuts. Early exposure, in other words, essentially inoculates you to peanut allergies:

“There is this magic window of opportunity, where you can introduce peanut-containing foods,” David Stukus, a pediatric allergist who coauthored the new guidelines, told Stat News. When “we introduce peanut-containing foods early, the immune system can get used to it.” Up is down, down is up, peanut products are for babies.

Now, this doesn’t surprise me at all. We’ve known for years that kids who grow up on farms or with dogs are less likely to get asthma when they grow up. Kids who grow up in sterile environments are more likely to get allergies than kids who’re allowed to get messy. This is commonly called the “hygiene hypothesis.” (Though I just learned from Professor Wikipedia that it’s also called the “lost friends theory,” which may be one of the saddest medical terms ever. Even “ass cancer” sounds funny.)

I think there’s a great analogy here.

I’ve been arguing for years, that political correctness is a kind of civilizational autoimmune disorder. As I put in 2013,

My point is that the institutions — the organs of the body politic — that are the most obsessed with eradicating bigotry (as liberals define it) tend to be the places that have to worry about it the least. The Democratic party is consumed with institutionalized angst about prejudice, intolerance, and bigotry in America. But the odds are that relatively few of these people (particularly those under the age of 50) have been exposed to much real racism or intolerance. The same goes for the mainstream media. In fact, many major media outlets have explicit policies dedicated to hiring and promoting minorities, women, gays, etc. Like the Democratic party, some have very strict hiring quotas in this regard. The well-paid executives and managers of these institutions come from social backgrounds where the tolerance for anything smacking of overt bigotry is not just zero, but in the negative range; they bend over backwards to celebrate members of the officially recognized coalition of the oppressed. (Of course, this coalition doesn’t include traditional-minded Christians, but that’s a subject for another column.)

And again last year in a G-File about people getting ill, or “microaggressed,” by positive statements about America or Western Civilization:

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.

Kevin Williamson had a great piece yesterday about the hilarious brouhaha over pick-up trucks and the question of where the “real America” is. He writes:

Farming America is, indeed, part of the real America. But so is Broadway. So is Wall Street. So is Hollywood and Malibu and glorious Big Sur, and Chicago and Detroit and Miami and all the weird old places in America that don’t even feel like America at all, like New Orleans and Aroostook County, Maine. So is Muleshoe, Texas, and the campus of Harvard. America is a big, splendid place. . . . 

Russell Kirk, describing his “canons of conservative thought,” argued that to be a conservative is to appreciate genuine diversity, “the proliferating variety and mystery of human existence, as opposed to the narrowing uniformity, egalitarianism, and utilitarian aims of most radical systems.” The Left is living up to Kirk’s expectations: The increasingly sneering attitude of coastal elites toward the more conservative interior, particularly for the poor communities there, is as undeniable as it is distasteful. But conservatives are not immune to these Kulturkampf tendencies, either. No, the whole country does not need to be Williamsburg, Brooklyn. It doesn’t need to be Lubbock, Texas, either.

I agree with this entirely. I’ve quoted that line from Kirk many times in my rants — written and verbal (and on one occasion in Mexico, interpretative dance) — about the glories of federalism. College kids usually just stare blankly at me when I invoke Kirk or the Founders, suspecting that if a cape-wearing fuddy-duddy with a sword cane — never mind those horrible Pale Penis People who founded this country — liked something, then it can’t be good.

But you know what sets off a little “Aha!” flash in their otherwise dead, soulless eyes (like a doll’s eyes)? When I say that federalism would make this a “much more interesting country to drive across.”

A lot of elite kids think they’re well-travelled because they’ve been to New York City, L.A., and London. But they also tend to notice that these places are all pretty similar, with the same clothing stores and coffee chains. They’d get a more authentically “foreign” experience if they simply took the bus to a working-class neighborhood in their own cities. Still, these kids genuinely love the idea that different places can be different. It’s only when you activate their ideological subroutines that they become leftwing culture warriors Hell-bent on imposing their corporatized version of “social justice” everywhere.

I’d also point out that that this is nothing new. I’m running out of room here, but I wrote about this at length in my last book:

The Nation ran a whole series of articles under the heading “In These United States” purporting to reveal that Manhattan was an island of sophistication in a vast wasteland of American backwardness. This was the era when it became an article of faith that the artist must hate the society in which he lives, that he must be “a public enemy” in the words of H. L. Mencken, and that the “vox populi is, to him, the bray of an ass.” The writers for the Nation ridiculed what is today called “fly-over country” — which back then was really “train-through country” or perhaps “cruise around country” — with relentless condescension. Chronicling his impressions of Minnesota, Sinclair Lewis lamented that the “Scandinavians Americanize only too quickly!” Perhaps not surprisingly, the South was an object of particular scorn. One writer believed that Mississippi could only be saved by an invasion of civilizing, cultured, missionaries from the North. Another scratched his head to ask what, if anything, Alabama had ever contributed to humanity.

Last, I think one reason why the cultural polarization in America has gotten so pronounced of late has a lot to do with “The Big Sort.” Charles Murray points out in Coming Apart that communities used to be more vertically integrated. What I mean is that there used to be more cultural and economic elites living in and alongside middle- and lower-class communities. Sure, the rich had nicer houses in a better part of town, but they also mingled at social functions — sports events, school functions, the grocery store — with people outside their “bubble.” That’s less the case today. This makes it harder for people to understand, well, other people. Say what you will for the draft, it did force a lot of men from diverse backgrounds to get to know one another.

And I’ll say this for Donald Trump. One of the keys to his success as a politician is that, despite the fact he’s a celebrity billionaire who hobnobs with the rich and powerful, he has the manner and personality of someone who can talk to the plumber or the janitor about last night’s football game. Michael Bloomberg or John Kerry meanwhile, seem like the kind of guys who would explain to Eddie Murphy that you might find bacon on a bacon, lettuce, and tomato sandwich.

I have no great solutions to these problems, and in some cases, I get nervous when people call some of these things “problems” because we live an age where too many people think there’s no principled limit to what kind of problems the government should try to solve.

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Various & Sundry

Canine Update: There’s not too much to report this week. The girls have been generally well-behaved. Though there is the issue of the centipede. When I left town last week, I left the housesitter/dogwalker a bunch of new toys for the dogs and, yes, cats. I will admit, like millions of Americans, the Goldbergs get their animals Christmas presents — but, unlike millions of Americans, we do not wrap them! We got the cats an orange rubber centipede. It’s a bit slimy and sticky (sort of like those rubber things you throw at the window and it creepily crawls down). Anyway, when we got home, we discovered that Zoë had taken possession of this thing.

She doesn’t do anything with it. But she acts like it’s a ham bone or a necklace of squirrel heads. If any mammal — human, canine, feline — gets near it, she growls, yipes, and gets in a protective crouch. She’ll then grab it and run to a different part of the house. We can’t figure out the attraction, though my best guess is that there’s something about it that triggers the swamp dog in our Carolina Swamp Dog. Still, the look of contempt on the good cat’s face when she sees Zoë panic when she merely walks past the thing is kind of priceless. I keep shouting at the Dingo, “No one wants your slimy centipede! Relax!”

Still, she’s a good girl.

ICYMI: My Conversation with Bill Kristol, recorded in the secret neocon lair.

My first column of the week was on how Obama’s last-minute foreign-policy decisions hurt his party.

I also wondered how the new intellectual journal of Trumpism will fare.

And complained about reporters’ treatment of Twitter in the news.

And appeared on Special Report with Bret Baier.

And noted the partisan shift on Julian Assange.

And now, the weird stuff.

Debby’s Friday links

This is pretty funny

God made a dog

Shelter dogs get beds

Dog struggles to understand glass

Dog struggles to understand rainbows

Dog thwarts Roomba uprising

And for the cat people: Aliens promo shoots of Sigourney Weaver and Jones the cat

Artist wants to sculpt your laughter, send it into space

Science: Chimpanzees recognize butts like people recognize faces

Science: Hand sanitizer can cause a breathalyzer false positive

Is the speed of light slower than it used to be?

Finally: Snotty sea blob rediscovered

Brave New World alert: Sofia Vergara sued by her own embryos

Not sure if Bespin or Dubai

Behold: The multifaceted transformations of Cheetos

Behold: A KFC Fried Chicken–scented candle

When will America be worthy of the donut Whopper?

A two-year-old’s solution to the Trolley Problem

The evolution of Disney animation

Behold: The shotgun guitar

The history of zero

Just who are Internet commenters anyway?

Cookie Monster, reversed

Why do dwarves sound Scottish and elves sound like royalty?

Listen to a piano older than Haydn, Mozart, and Beethoven

A map of the entire Internet (as of 1973)

The U.N. vs. Israel

by Jonah Goldberg
Why do so many people believe the United Nations to be a tribune of virtue?

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 all the dudes in this coffee shop with man-buns),

As Michael Moore’s proctologist says at every appointment, “I’d really rather not do this today, but it’s my job.”

I’m in Dallas, killing myself to “finish” my book. I put “finish” in air quotes (while I put actual Finnish people in a pit in my basement, “It puts the herring in the basket or it gets the hose again”) not just because there’s so much left to do and so little time to do it in, but because even after I’m “done” my editor is going to walk around this enormous pile of paper staring at it like a farmer slowly circling a meteorite that landed in his wheat field, incapable of processing why it looks like a smoking, irradiated replica of Dom DeLouise in a sailor suit.

Why Dallas you ask? Because the Cowboys rule!

I’m not actually a Cowboys fan, but I’ve learned that when in doubt about how to deal with the locals, shouting “Cowboys rule!” solves a lot of problems.

I’m in Dallas because the Goldbergs planned to be on a family vacation right now. But then again I also planned to have this book done by now (“Bahahahahahahahahhaha!” — The Couch). So we had a dogsitter/housesitter already reserved. My wife took the kidlet to a warm beach with her parents. And I got out of town, borrowing a buddy’s pad in the Greenville section of Dallas. If you have trouble with Texan accents, “Greenville” is how they pronounce “B-R-O-O-K-L-Y-N” here.

If I sound like I’m avoiding getting to the substance of this “news”letter, there’s a reason for that. I haven’t been following the news as closely as I normally would because I’m so deep in the weeds on the thing that rhymes with “nook” that I feel like doing that thing that rhymes with “mowing my drains pout.” (I didn’t even write a syndicated column yesterday.) But I skipped last week’s “news”letter — and since I vowed over the bloody corpse of my partner all those years ago in Laredo that I’d never miss two G-Files in a row, here we are.

Israeli Idiotic

There isn’t much new to say about Barack Obama’s United Nations fiasco. I just reread my post from last Friday, right after the news broke and I haven’t heard anything that changes my initial take.

But as Bill Clinton said about his marriage vows, I won’t let that stop me.

Because I have the most Jewy name this side of Shlomo Abromowitz, lots of people think I know a lot about Israel. Sometimes it’s funny. I’ve even had people refer to me as an “expert” on Israel. (It’s devilishly fun to ask them, “Why do you think that?”)

I’m not an expert on Israel. I’ve been to Israel exactly once. I’ve been to France a half dozen times, and even wrote and produced a documentary on Notre Dame Cathedral. Still, I’m not an expert on France either. Yet, almost every day some troll on Twitter or in an e-mail (or snail mail) insinuates that I am, or accuses me of being, obsessed by, or in the employ of, Israel. I write about the place maybe once or twice a year in the normal run of things. My rule of thumb is that if you think I’m obsessed with Israel, it’s because you’re obsessed with Israel and/or The Joooooooz.

RELATED: Defund the United Nations

But what’s amusing to me is the way some people assume my Goldbergness is what drives me to support Israel. It’s really not the case. I’m with Israel because Israel is in the right and it’s our ally. By no means do I think that Israel is a flawless country. I’m no fan of the politics of the ultra-orthodox crowd in Israel, I find a lot of Israelis rude (at least the ones in New York), and I think the Knesset makes the Galactic Senate of the Republic in Star Wars seem efficient and functional. There are things I like, even love, about it, too. The shawarma is amazing. The women are both tough and beautiful. And, most of all, Israelis persevere.

Still, I find arguments about Israel incredibly tedious. What I mean is my position on Israel is pretty close to my position on, say, Great Britain, Japan, or Australia. It’s a democratic country. It respects the rule of law. It’s a strategic ally. And, that’s sort of about it. It’s not complicated. Yes, yes, Israel’s historic and religious status as the only Jewish homeland and all that has emotional power for me — and a lot of other people.

Also, because I find so many anti-Israeli arguments and politics so fundamentally dishonest, flawed, and — quite often — repugnant, it’s easy to get really worked up on the topic.

But in a very straightforward way, that’s all a distraction. If Britain were somehow surrounded and besieged by existential enemies my position — and I hope America’s position — would be: “We’re with the Brits.” That doesn’t mean we’d automatically send troops or start a war and all that. Those are prudential, tactical, questions to be worked out with our allies, etc. But the principle couldn’t be simpler.

My position on Israel is pretty close to my position on, say, Great Britain, Japan, or Australia.

Now, unlike my position, the situation surely is complicated. Israel is surrounded by enemies and a few paper “allies.” I love how Israel’s critics make such a fuss about Israel’s military superiority as if it has nothing to worry about. If you’re walking into a saloon where everybody wants to kill you, you might walk in better armed than everybody else. If Israel loses a single war, it loses everything. America hasn’t been in a war like that since the Revolution. Even if we “lost” WWII, the idea that the Germans or Japanese would or could conquer North America is highly debatable. I would like to think that our culture could stay as free and democratic as Israel’s if we were under constant threat of military annihilation.

Whenever Israel is attacked, her critics bemoan the heavy-handedness of its military responses. Even in the bad cases, I tend to marvel at Israel’s restraint. Israel is a perfect example of how lefties shout “Violence never solves anything!” only when the good guys use violence.

It may seem a trite debating point given how often it’s made, but if Mexicans or Canadians (stop laughing) were launching rockets into our cities for years, while insisting that the U.S. has no right to exist whatsoever, I very much doubt Americans would tolerate anything like the military and political shackles Israel puts on itself. Nor am I sure that it would be a good thing if we did.

The U.N. vs. Israel

One last point regarding the Security Council vote. It needs to be remembered that the U.N. hates Israel because it is in the political interests of member states, particularly Arab states, which use Palestinians as a distraction from their own despotisms, to hate Israel. Think of all the horrors and crimes committed by evil governments around the world. Now think about the fact that from 2006 to 2015 alone the U.N. has condemned Israel 62 times. All of the other nations combined have received 55 condemnations. Iran? Five. The genocidal Sudanese? Zero. Anarchic Somalia? Zero. Saudi Arabia? Zero. Pakistan? Zero. China? Zero. Russia? Zero.

The U.N., more than any other player save the Palestinian leadership itself, is responsible for the horrible plight of the Palestinians because it is in its institutional interest to keep the issue alive. After World War II, there were untold millions of refugees all around the world; they all found homes and settled down — except for the Palestinians.

The Global God State

So I’m working on this book. More on that later. But yesterday I was writing about an argument Steve Hayward shared with me. In the 18th century, liberals — Locke, the Founders, etc. — finally overthrew the Divine Right of Kings. Then in the 19th century, the progressives — borrowing from Hegel — established the Divine Right of the State to replace the Divine Right of Kings. (Hegel, recall, argued that “the State is the Divine idea as it exists on earth”). As I’ve written many, many times, psychologically for many progressives the State plays the role they think God would play if God existed.

Anyway, we can return to all that another time.

The only criteria for membership in the U.N. is existence. This is literally the lowest standard possible.

But the reason I bring this up is that I think, for a lot of people, the U.N. occupies a similar place in their brains. Some people just love the idea of the U.N. so much they are blind to the reality of it. For reasons that have always baffled me, the promise of a “Parliament of Man” — an explicitly utopian concept — is just incredibly seductive for some people. So they invest in the U.N. magical properties that are utterly absent from Turtle Bay.

Yes, the U.N. does some good things. But the assumption that, if the United Nations didn’t exist, those good things wouldn’t get done is ridiculous. It’s like saying that if government didn’t pick up your garbage, garbage would never get collected. Meanwhile, the U.N. does all manner of terrible things, that wouldn’t be done if it didn’t exist.

Given how much I roll my eyes after someone tells me that the U.N. voted on this or that, I sometimes worry that I’ll have to blindly crawl around the floor looking for my eyeballs because they’ll roll right out of my head. The only criteria for membership in the U.N. is existence. This is literally the lowest standard possible. More to the point, a great many of the countries that vote in both the General Assembly and the Security Council are what social scientists call “crappy dictatorships.” So when, say, North Korea casts its vote, it has all the moral force of a wet fart as far as I’m concerned. Here’s how I put it 14 years ago in a G-File:

I can’t tell you how many people I’ve met who’ve tried to use the fact that the U.N. voted on something as proof that the U.N. is right. College kids will shriek the word as if it drips with self-evident authority: “It voted against the United States!” “Don’t you understand? It voted!”

Well, voting, in and of itself, has as much to do with democracy as disrobing has to do with sex. Both are often necessary, neither are ever sufficient.

I always think of “the Commission” when I want to illustrate this point. That’s what the Mafia called its confabs of the major mob families. Think of that scene in The Godfather where Don Corleone arranges for the return of Michael from Sicily (and subsequently realizes that all along it was Barzini, not that pimp Barzini, who outfoxed Santino). The Commission was democratic. It took votes on where and when to install drug dealers, bribe judges, and exterminate cops. Now, just because it took a vote, does that make its decisions any more noble or just? Well, the U.N. is a forum for tyrants and dictators who check the returns on their Swiss bank accounts — and not the needs or voices of their own people — for guidance on how to vote. The fact that Robert Mugabe, Bashar Assad, Kim Jong-Il, Hassan al-Bashir, Fidel Castro, et al., condemn the United States from time to time is a badge of honor. And the fact that we, and other decent peoples, feel the need to curry their favor and approval is a badge of shame.

It’s kind of funny. We’ve spent the last six weeks hearing how eeeeeeevill the Electoral College is because it represents the votes of states — American states — rather than the popular vote. “White supremacy! Eeek!” and all that nonsense. But a great many of the same people have no problem with a U.N. Security Council vote that currently includes the governments of China, Russia, Egypt, and Senegal. I’ll confess to not knowing too much about Senegal’s commitment to democracy (I know, you’re shocked. If only I had a Senegalese name . . . ), so let’s put them aside. But please don’t expect me to keep a straight face when you try to tell me that the Electoral College is undemocratic but the votes of Vladimir Putin, Xi Jinping, Abdel al-Sisi, and Nicolás Maduro are authentic representations of the people.

Indeed, the very structure of the U.N. Security Council with the Great Powers getting permanent seats and veto power is nothing more than the institutionalization of the concept that might makes right. I’m open to the argument that, as a matter of realpolitik, this arrangement is necessary. But by definition realpolitik is statecraft minus morality or idealism.

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Various & Sundry

In my first only column of the week, I wondered whether I need forgiveness for my political sins (Spoiler: Nope).

Canine Update: As I’ve been gone, I don’t have too much to report. Word from home is the beasts are doing just fine. I deep fried a turkey for Christmas (I’m now a total convert), and the dogsitter tells me Zoë spends an inordinate amount of time licking the grease stain in the backyard. If you go here and scroll down, you can at least find a lot of pictures of my beasts (and the turkey-frying) who I miss terribly (both the fried turkey and the beasts).

On Sunday, I’m told my latest conversation — recorded about a month ago, I think — with Bill Kristol will be posted. I’m told it took this long to get up because it takes a lot of time to bleep out all the f-bombs.

And now, the weird stuff, 2016 retrospective edition.

Debby’s Friday links

Merriam-Webster’s 2016 word of the year is . . . 

2016 will be exactly one second longer than expected

2016 National Geographic nature photographer of the year contest winners

2016’s most-googled items

2016 in celebrity deaths

Artist recreates Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band cover with celebrities who died in 2016

2016 in memes

2016 in internet slang

2016 in volcanic activity

2016 in images of Earth

2016 . . . IN SPACE

2016 in discoveries

2016 in extinctions

2016 in top-ten lists

2016 in truck spills

2016 in news bloopers

Never Trump Nevermore

by Jonah Goldberg
The Never Trump movement is over, but that doesn’t mean I’m going to stop criticizing Trump when he deserves it.

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 are struggling to muster the requisite Yuletide mirth),

On Wednesday, I went to National Review HQ in New York for the first time in years. Whenever I enter the building, what with all the lasers and retina scanners and pressure-sensitive floors, the music from Get Smart plays in my head. If you don’t know what Get Smart is/was then you probably aren’t a middle-aged dude who watched too much TV after school (“In other words, ‘Your base’” — The Couch).

Anyway, it was good to see so many folks from the old days as well as the young’ns populating the place. Several of the Buckley Fellows looked like someone granted George Will his wish to be 15 years old again. I finally met Mark Antonio Wright, the young man who retrieves this “news”letter from the pneumatic tube like a hungry homeless guy with an untwisted wire hanger trying to get a wet, discarded raisin bagel out of the storm drain.

“Ugh, those aren’t raisins.”

Still, while it was good to see Cooke, French, Williamson, and even that ol’ debil Lowry, I really wanted the trip to be more like Alec Baldwin’s pep-talk in Glengarry Glen Ross. “The writer with the most unique visitors gets the good story assignments. The writer with the second most, gets a set of steak knives . . . where are you going, Ms. Timpf?”

“I’m getting more wine!”

“Wine is for closers only.”

Never Trump Nevermore

Speaking of Cooke and French, they should do a podcast together called “French Cooke.” Also, speaking of those guys, they’ve done most of the heavy lifting on this notion that the Never Trump conservatives have “surrendered” to Trump. But I would like to throw in my two or three cents, as I get grief from the Left and the Right everyday about this stuff. From the Left, I’m told that if I don’t crap out my spleen in panic every 20 minutes begging the Electoral College to “stop Trump” (by asking the House of Representatives to elect Trump), it means I have surrendered entirely and that I was never really “never Trump” in the first place.

This is nonsense. Liberals love to play this game where they define conservative principles for conservatives and then say that if you don’t adhere to them as liberals want, you’re a hypocrite. This was the essence of about 65 percent of Michael Kinsley’s “If conservatives were serious . . . ” punditry.

I’ll say it again: I’m going to call ’em like I see ’em and wait and see if I was wrong about Trump.

From the Right, any time I say anything — and I mean anything — critical of Trump, I’m told it’s proof that I’m “bitter” or “biased” and that I can’t admit I was wrong about him, etc. I can go on TV and say that Trump has been brilliant at x and y but I’m still concerned about z, and all I’ll hear is the whistle of incoming ALL CAPS arrows: GET OVER IT! HE WON! GO AWAY NEVER TRUMPERS! HOW DO I TURN OFF CAPLOCK!!!111! Etc.

The thing is: Never Trump is over. Never Trump was about the GOP primary and the general election, not the presidency. The Left wants to claim it must be a permanent movement, denying the legitimacy of Trump’s election forever, or we were never serious. Well, that’s not what we — or at least I — signed up for.

But you know what is alive and well? Always Trump. These are the folks who think Trump must be defended and celebrated no matter what he does or says. In fairness, some of these people are still auditioning for jobs in the administration and know they must follow the rhetorical principle of “not one step backward.” But others are just normal Americans who love Trump and think that I’m somehow duty-bound to say I love him too, no matter what he does. Well, I didn’t sign up for that either.

Whenever I say this, someone shrieks at me about my “arrogance” or “hubris” — for reasons I truly cannot fathom. But I’ll say it again: I’m going to call ’em like I see ’em and wait and see if I was wrong about Trump. So far, I’ve said that most of his cabinet picks have been a pleasant and welcome surprise. But he’s also done plenty of things that make me feel like I had him pegged all along. We only have one president at a time — and the guy isn’t even president yet. I’ll give him a chance. But I won’t lie for him either.

For Russia, With Love

So, the other week a friend of mine — another columnist type — pointed something out to me. There are already plenty of opportunities to say “I told you so” about Trump, the problem is people don’t care. I’ve been writing for over a year about how conservatism is getting corrupted by populism and nationalism, but when everybody is a populist nationalist who do I get to say “I told you so” to?

As Charlie Sykes notes today, all of the “it’s a binary choice!” talk during the election forced Republicans not just to forgive Trump’s personal shortcomings and ideological deviations, but to embrace them. The hope was that after November 8, the same logic that forced people to embrace the lesser of two evils would also force them to recognize that the lesser of two evils is not great. That hasn’t happened. Instead, we get Mike Pence throwing shade at the free market and the supposed defenders of conservative orthodoxy defending industrial policy.

And now it’s Russia. Support for Putin among Republicans has grown by more than threefold since 2014. I wonder why? Do you think 37 percent of Republicans have studied the geopolitical situation closely and decided that Putin really isn’t such a bad sort? Is Russia Today, the Kremlin-funded cable-TV channel, really that persuasive?

Using 2012 Romney to beat up 2016 Obama is fine, but it’s not a killer argument to do that while implicitly agreeing with 2012 Obama.

Frankly, I resent the fact that I even feel the need to explain how Putin is a bad guy, doing bad things, so I’m just going to skip that part and assert it. What’s particularly galling, though, is to listen to the Always Trump pundits spin themselves into a Gordian knot trying to defend Trump’s bromantic putinphilia. Here’s a typical defense I’ve heard from many Always Trump pundits (that I’ll keep nameless, as I may see them at Fox’s Christmas party soon).

It usually starts with the charge of hypocrisy:

“First of all, wasn’t it President Obama who mocked Mitt Romney for calling Russia our No. 1 geopolitical foe?”

This is a fair, clean shot. Obama did beclown himself with his sick burn of Romney. And so did his defenders. But they can at least argue that events changed and so did their opinions. In other words, Obama & Co. are not necessarily hypocrites when they denounce Russia now, they’re merely implicitly conceding they were naïve partisan asses when they thought Russia was the bees knees for so long.

But then, often in the same breath, the Always Trumper pivots, saying there’s no evidence Russia did anything wrong and there’s nothing amiss whatsoever with Trump’s fondness for Putin.


Which is it? Were Obama & Co. wrong for mocking Romney or was Romney wrong for calling out Russia?

Trump and Romney fundamentally disagree about Russia. Using 2012 Romney to beat up 2016 Obama is fine, but it’s not a killer argument to do that while implicitly agreeing with 2012 Obama.

The Perils of Whataboutism

Since it’s so close to Festivus, I will continue to air personal grievances. There has been a riot of whataboutism these days.

I suppose I should back up and explain what “whataboutism” is.

In layman’s terms, whataboutism is the practice of deflecting a criticism of you or your side by pointing to the flaws of the critic and his or her side.

Apparently, American Cold Warriors coined the term to describe the favorite propaganda techniques of the Soviet Union. As The Economist magazine put it in 2008, “Any criticism of the Soviet Union (Afghanistan, martial law in Poland, imprisonment of dissidents, censorship) was met with a ‘What about . . . ’ (apartheid South Africa, jailed trade-unionists, the Contras in Nicaragua, and so forth).”

We saw a poignant resurgence in this classical form of whataboutism in the wake of the long overdue demise of Cuban dictator Fidel Castro. “You think Cuba is bad on human rights, what about America, where [fill-in-the-blank with left-wing clichés about how terrible America is].”

But while the term “whataboutism” is of a relatively recent vintage, the practice itself is ancient and formally goes by the technical term “tu quoque,” meaning in Latin, “you also.” It’s one of the more famous logical fallacies (a derivative of the appeal to hypocrisy), and it works like this: Your doctor tells you that you need to lose some weight or you’ll have heart attack. You respond, “Oh yeah, doc, you’re not exactly a runway model either.”

Now it may be true that your doctor is just as fat as you. But that has no bearing on the legitimacy of the diagnosis. If I say you’re a slob, you might respond, “You have no right to judge” given my own messy habits. Whatever you may think of the right to judge per se (personally, I think it keeps much of civilization afloat), that doesn’t change the underlying facts. My penchant for gluttony doesn’t make me wrong when I say you’re a glutton, even if it might make me a hypocrite. As the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy puts it, “The value of advice is not wholly dependent on the integrity of the advisor.”

So, you can see how whataboutism is closely related to the vacuous and ubiquitous catchphrase “you have no right to judge.” But, regardless, as a way to change the subject, distract the audience, and generally muddy-up important distinctions and facts, whataboutism is invaluable. It’s a way of making a moral-equivalence argument while sounding like you’re making high-minded moral distinctions.

As a way to change the subject, distract the audience, and generally muddy-up important distinctions and facts, whataboutism is invaluable.

And I should say, Trump does it all the time. When Joe Scarborough pointed out to him that Putin murders dissidents and journalists, Trump responded, “Well, I think our country does a lot of killing too, Joe.” Last summer, when the New York Times asked Trump what he thought of the brutal crackdown in Turkey that led to over 50,000 people thrown in jail, he responded. “I think right now when it comes to civil liberties, our country has a lot of problems . . . 

That said, Barack Obama may still be the world champion. His insistence that Americans have no right to get on their “high horse” about ISIS’s atrocities because of the misdeeds of Christians a thousand years ago remains the ne plus ultra of whataboutist asininity.

Now, I don’t really mind whataboutist arguments across ideological lines. That is actually what a lot of intellectual fights should be about: holding the other side — and your own — to expressed principles when partisan winds change. There’s nothing wrong with holding Obama to the standards he leveled against Bush when it comes to things like the national debt or the toppling of Moammar Qaddafi. That’s the good kind of whataboutism.

For example, Charlie Cooke noted last week that liberals have been flirting with illiberalism for years and they didn’t care because they were winning. Liberals shot back that Charlie was a “Whataboutist!” trying to deflect from Trump’s singular, democracy-destroying, concentrated, and sui generis evil.

Sorry, I don’t buy that. Charlie is critical of Trump and Obama. His point is that progressives don’t mind illiberalism when illiberalism advances their aims. (If only I’d written a book or two that touched on this.) Similarly, I criticized Barack Obama’s hostility to the free market and fondness for picking winners and losers. I don’t see why I should suddenly embrace those policies when/if Trump does it.

We are in a moment of peak whataboutism on the right. As a columnist, I get it. I even partake in it from time to time. For instance, I have more than once pointed out that the very same Democrats who hied to their fainting couches over Donald Trump’s denigration of the democratic system are now hell-bent on denigrating it even more. But I was critical when Trump did it too, so my consistency is secure.

And this brings me to my grievance. What drives me crazy is when conservatives tell me I must use Obama or Hillary Clinton as the metric by which I judge Donald Trump. If I note that Trump said something stupid (no really, it happens sometimes), the retort comes back, “Well, he didn’t refer to 57 states!” or “At least Trump didn’t pronounce it ‘corpse’ man!”

Well, okay . . . ? I criticized Obama about those things, too. What’s your point?

I mildly criticized Trump’s Taiwan call on its messaging and planning, but agreed with it in principle. The immediate response was: “What about what Obama did in Cuba!?” Sure as shinola, someone will respond to the above stuff about Putin, by saying, “What about Hillary’s ‘reset’!?” or, “Don’t you remember when Obama said he’d be more flexible after the election? Did you criticize that!?!”

And my answer is: “Uh, yeah.”

During the election, the case against Hillary was the case for Trump for a lot of people and for wholly legitimate reasons. But the election is over. On the post-election National Review cruise, I was on a panel with a respected conservative who said that we should measure every Trump policy against the yardstick of “What would Hillary Clinton have done?” I’m grateful Hillary lost, of course, but that’s crazy. It’s also an invitation for my greatest pre-election worries to come true. “At least he’s better than Hillary” was a perfectly valid standard for conservatives in the voting booth. It is a suicidal standard for the conservative movement during a Trump presidency.

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Various & Sundry

Some very exciting news:

Steve Hayes has been named the editor-in-chief of the Weekly Standard. Some may quibble that a guy recently on the terror watchlist probably shouldn’t get that job, but not me. I am too eager for the annual Summer Reading issue to be replaced with the annual Beer & Brats edition. The Fall Reading issue will obviously be all about the Packers and the glory of tailgating. “Less Iraqi Kurds, More Cheese Curds!” “Ken Starr? Meh! Bart Starr, Man.” Of course, I’m kidding: Steve and Richard Starr (the editor) will do a fantastic job. But we should also congratulate Bill Kristol on more than two decades of success in building an influential and important new magazine at a time when a lot of old magazines went the way of the Dodo.

‘Less Iraqi Kurds, More Cheese Curds!’

I take particular joy from the announcement because a) Steve is a friend, and b) I’ve spent the last two years hearing from gleeful trolls (and others) that people like Steve and me were committing career suicide by not becoming cheerleaders for Trump. So, it’s nice to see the trend lines go the other way.

On that note, I’d also like to announce that I’ve renewed my contract with Fox News and I “earned” the title of Best Conservative Columnist over at Rightwing News. In a particularly brutal blow to some alt-righters, Ben Shapiro came in second (I await the Downfall video). Anyway, I’ve been a contender many times, and I generally think such lists are problematic. In any random week, there are dozens columnists (including several of my colleagues) who do a better job than I do. But given the year I’ve had, and the fact it will annoy all the right people, I’ll take it with gratitude.

Canine Update: I’ve been travelling a bunch, so I haven’t spent too much time with the beasts. I’m embarrassed to say that there’s growing evidence I’m being played by the canines. When I’m home, Zoë always tries to wake me up around 5:00 a.m., as if her bladder could be used as a paint gun. This sets off Pippa who starts crying and whining, which gets Zoë even more worked up. “We gotta go!” they shout. But, when I’m out of town, my wife usually wakes the docile and patient hounds around 6:45 and doesn’t take them out until after 7:30.

Earlier this week, I got a call from the Fair Jessica asking me if I could come home from the office because the dingo got out (as in leapt out of the car window as she was pulling into the driveway) and would not come back in.

Usually we can bribe Zoë with a car ride or meat products. But no. She put her nose under her tail like a sled dog in the snow, and refused to budge. Unless you try to catch her. And then she springs up and runs away from you. (Despite the impression of almost ninja-like lithe nimbleness I give off, I cannot catch a dog that catches squirrels if she doesn’t want to be caught.) So, I drove home to deal with a “family emergency.” I pulled up to the front yard and acted all excited to see her. She rolled on her back and let me rub her tummy. Then we just walked into the house. Apparently, she just missed her daddy.

My first column of the week was on the terrible-all-around Russia-hacking situation.

One, perhaps two, cheers for Ayn Rand.

What to make of the plutocrats in Trump’s midst.

If you haven’t listened to the Russ Roberts interview with Thomas Leonard, author of Illiberal Reformers: Race, Eugenics, and American Economics in the Progressive Era, you really should. It’s fantastic (if you’re into this stuff). I had a very wide range of responses to the discussion. I wrote hundreds of words in reaction to it, and then decided better of it because it sounded too much like special pleading or griping from me because so much of this was covered in Liberal Fascism. Still, Roberts, who is much, much, better read than I am was — to my real surprise — shocked to learn that Woodrow Wilson was a bad guy. If anything, Leonard goes very soft on Wilson (yes, he was a racist, but he was awful in other ways too).

Roberts was also shocked about Richard Ely, and in a way that surprised me even more. Roberts is of a libertarian bent and he knows where the bodies are buried in that world. And yet, he was caught off guard by how despicable (and yet typical) Ely was. Get that man some Murray Rothbard (or Arnold Kling!). Anyway, it’s kind of asinine to be all, “You didn’t know that!?” to a guy who is much better educated and smarter than me. But it was a shock all the same.

It is unlikely I will be filing this “news”letter next week as the full-on this-plane-is-out-of-coffee panic is setting in in my effort to finish my book. I will be in an undisclosed location writing furiously or making simulacrums of Devil’s Tower with mashed potatoes.

And now, the weird stuff, Christmas-themed.

Debby’s Friday Links

Santa Claus grants final wish to dying child

How A Charlie Brown Christmas almost wasn’t

A history of Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer

Lonely child stuck on a train on Christmas gets a surprise (directed by Wes Anderson)

How to appease the household gods this holiday season

The Night Before Christmas read in 27 celebrity impressions

Harvesting Christmas Trees by helicopter

Nick Offerman drinks whiskey in front of a roaring holiday fire for 45 minutes

Arizona’s Tumbleweed Christmas Tree

A very Rube Goldberg Christmas

A (real) Jimi Hendrix Christmas medley

A (fake, but cool) Led Zeppelin Christmas medley

A (real, but awful) Pink Floyd Christmas song

Shane Black and Christmas

A Wax Royal Family, in ugly Christmas sweaters

Awkward family Christmas photos

Dominos (unsuccessfully) trains reindeer to deliver Pizza in Japan

Crashed Enterprise is a gingerbread masterpiece

Creepy Victorian Christmas cards

Why kids are unreasonably terrified of Santa Claus

But they are all-too-reasonably terrified of Krampus

America’s most common Christmas-related injuries

Horrifying snowmen

A Christmas nightmare: 100 Christmas songs played simultaneously

But at least it’s not as creepy as this AI’s attempt to write a Christmas song

Millennials ruin Christmas

Venezuela’s socialist government is stealing Christmas toys

Democrats’ Dumbest Complaint

by Jonah Goldberg
The essence of progressivism is to be hostile to any external restraints on progressivism.

EDITOR’S NOTE: The following is Jonah Goldberg’s weekly “news”letter, the G-File. Subscribe here to get the G-File delivered to your inbox on Fridays.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Person A: “I found a giant gorilla!”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Dumbest Complaint

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Infernal Constitution

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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Various & Sundry

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

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

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

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

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

My thoughts on fake news.

And on Trump’s Boeing tweet.

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

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

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

Debby’s Friday links

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

Infant miraculously survives car crash

The ghost who helped solve her own murder

The foods responsible for the smelliest farts

How a fart killed 10,000 people

New device helps determine which foods make you gassy

A dramatic escape from Tennessee wildfires

Science vs. Cinema: Arrival

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

Golden retriever traps boy with his tail

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

Australian man punches kangaroo to save his dog

Dog confused by magic trick

Minority Report alert?

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

The tree on the lake

Friendly otter jumps onto kayak, joins birthday celebration

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

Cruel and unusual punishment?

What the year 1967 thought the year 1999 would be like

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

Receiving Communion . . . IN SPACE!!!

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

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

The end of the world, according to movies

What the Carrier Intervention Portends

by Jonah Goldberg
The economic impact of Trump’s Carrier deal is insignificant, but the signal it sends is hugely important.

EDITOR’S NOTE: The following is Jonah Goldberg’s weekly “news”letter, the G-File. Subscribe here to get the G-File delivered to your inbox on Fridays.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Golden Ticket

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

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

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

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

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

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

Consider the following thought experiment.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Carrier on My Wayward GOP

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

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

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

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

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

This is from Friday’s New York Times:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Various & Sundry

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

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

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

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

Now, here’s some stuff I wrote:

The semi-comical spectacle of Trump’s transition.

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

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

Bears will eat your face.

And now, the weird stuff.

Debby’s Friday links

Gun-toting granny foils armed robbery

The birth of crystals

Cross-country runner hit by deer during race

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

Classy insults from Latin and Greek

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

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The art of the Hollywood backdrop

Disney World’s singing runway

Behold: The Cthuken

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

Colorless rainbow spotted in Scotland

Why do books smell the way they do?

The dreamlike landscape of Iceland

The Fall of House Clinton

by Jonah Goldberg
This time, I think the Clintons might really be finished.

EDITOR’S NOTE: The following is Jonah Goldberg’s weekly “news”letter, the G-File. Subscribe here to get the G-File delivered to your inbox on Fridays.

Dear Reader (and all ships at sea),

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

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

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

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

It Takes a Heart of Stone Not To Laugh

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

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

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

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

The Clinton Restoration That Wasn’t

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

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

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

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

The Tornado

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

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

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



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

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

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

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

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

The Devil’s in the Details

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Goodbye to All That

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

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

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

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

Well, now they’re all just walking away.

Various & Sundry

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And now, the weird stuff.

Debby’s Friday links

Supermoon around the world

The case against cats (except for my good cat)

Awkward touch escalator prank

Twenty-foot snake drops out of restaurant ceiling

Colorized photographs of women in Tsarist Russia

Cinematic space trips

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

Superior gives up one of her dead

The Spielberg face

The broken technology of ghost hunting

SMOD tied with Satan in DeKalb County, Ga.

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

Orphan goat raised by two St. Bernards

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

Polar bear pets dog

Mother pup reunited with her litter at animal shelter

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

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

(Simpsons did it)

Pilot calms down political argument on his plane

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

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

The Election Is Over — Now, Trump Must Govern

Predictions and the Test of Time

The Impossible Weirdness of 2016

Bursting ‘Beltway Bubbles’

‘Operation Destroy the GOP’

The Consequences of Overpromising on Obamacare

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

The Adventures of Superwoman

Is This a ‘Flight 93’ Election?