Yet Another Masterful Column from Jonah Goldberg — and Some Discussion

Goldberg’s column is here. His major point is that “character is destiny,” and I certainly agree. However, I think that he might spend too much time on Trump’s character, or lack thereof, and the complete dearth of character on the part of all Trump’s opponents on the Left. Here’s the paragraph where Goldberg makes his point:

I have always believed that the Trump presidency would end badly because I believe character is destiny. There is no reasonable or morally sound definition of good character that Donald Trump can meet. That’s why we learned nothing new about Donald Trump this week. He can’t change. Some good, decent, and smart people couldn’t or wouldn’t see this. But every day, more people see this. The straw that breaks the camel’s back is a collective phenomenon, but like all collective phenomena it’s made up of a multitude of individual realizations.

As usual Goldberg’s column is masterful, and he makes some trenchant and important criticisms of President Trump. It’s important to note that Goldberg has long been, to put it mildly, a critic of Trump’s. He was also a “Never Trumper” during the election, and even argued the point that the election of Hillary Clinton over Trump would have been better for the Conservative movement.

Here’s a key passage in his column:

I do think it was idiotic to nominate Donald Trump as the GOP’s standard-bearer, but I do not think everyone who voted for him in the general election is an “idiot,” as Lewis suggests. Some of the smartest people I know voted for him, for defensible reasons. Krein and his fellow Trumpist intellectuals weren’t dumb, they were just wrong. And while I think the conservative movement would probably be in better shape if Hillary Clinton had won last November, I don’t think it’s nearly so obvious that America would be. But that is an entirely academic question at this point.

In that passage is a heap BIIIIG part that poses a whole lot of questions:

And while I think the conservative movement would probably be in better shape if Hillary Clinton had won last November, I don’t think it’s nearly so obvious that America would be.

Okay. What’s he trying to say here?

Would America be better off, long-term, if the Conservative Movement were better off? Of course. That seems obvious. However, what if America were put into such a state by Hillary that any recovery might be either impossible, or decades in the accomplishment, or unlikely without violent upheaval? What then? A strong Conservative movement in a ruined America?

Goldberg has made the point in his past writing (I’m a big fan, so I’ve read most of what he’s written) that he didn’t think that even Hillary Clinton could ruin America, but I’m not so sure of that. The horrible Supreme Court pick(s) that a President Clinton certainly would have made might well have sent America on a long-term trajectory from which no one could have saved it.

The above passage from Goldberg’s piece, though on the surface a ringing statement, really doesn’t say a lot. We know that Goldberg preferred Clinton over Trump (but didn’t support her — he took great pains to point this out, and he was absolutely right to make that distinction). So, I’ve examined that preference a bit below.

I love Jonah Goldberg’s writing, and I rarely disagree with him, and I’m not really doing so now. Rather, I’m suggesting that his critiques, while well-placed, might be better directed elsewhere. Like at the media who have brought all this about. Let’s face it, all the previous candidates for President on the Democrat side are media creatures. So’s Trump, and I discuss that below.

What Goldberg doesn’t say in this piece — and it’s kind of an important omission — is that, except for a few billion dollars and a ridiculous comb-over, Hillary Clinton (and Obama, Bill Clinton, Kerry, Pelosi, Schumer, et al) are all exactly the same unsavory creature as Trump… they’re just a whole lot smoother. And slimier, and oilier, and slicker, and slipperier, and more dishonest, and more in bed with the corrupt media. And so on. Other than those superficial differences, though, there’s nothing separating the characters of any of them.

They’re all just as much the vulgarians, the egotists, the brash, buffoonish, clownish, clodpoles… only under a smoother, more polished exterior. Oh, and they’re much better liars.

They make the exact same idiotic public statements as Trump. Only the press treat their asininity as surpassing wisdom. For instance, their public statements were exactly as idiotic as Trump’s was alleged to be in response to Charlottesville. Everyone jumped on Trump. Furthermore, every time Obama opened his mouth prematurely in response to something, he made a complete jackass of himself. More discussion on all that, below.

Trump appears to have no edit function installed. If he thinks it, he says — or tweets — it. While Hillary (and all her predecessors) had to focus group, jawbone, test, trial balloon, wordsmith, edit, pass by advisers and her press collaborators every word out of her mouth. Until anything she (and all her predecessors) ever said was nothing more than meaningless, mealy-mouthed pabulum.

Trump, apparently, sees something, reacts, has a thought about it… and says it. I’m not sure that’s altogether a bad thing. After eight years of Obama’s opaque corruption, we on the Right certainly can’t pretend that we weren’t hoping for greater openness, honesty and transparency from the Oval Office. Well, we got it.

Good gravy! An honest, transparent President! I kind of thought that was what we’ve all been clamoring for! And the uncrackable obsidian-like(2) opacity of the Obama Administration was supposed to be a bad thing.

During the 2016 campaign, we found out that Hillary Clinton is demonstrably, provably corrupt, reckless and irresponsible. During the same campaign we found out that Clinton actively and openly colluded with a foreign power — Ukraine — to try to influence the American electoral process. Does any of that sound familiar?

Also, during the same campaign, we found out that any number of foreign governments were almost certainly in possession of documentation that they could use to blackmail Clinton.

During the same campaign, we found out that the press actively collaborated with the Clinton campaign, not necessarily in contravention of any laws, but certainly against any possible standards of decency. We know that no one in the press collaborated with the Trump campaign.

To be fair to Jonah Goldberg, who remains one of my heroes in the punditocracy, and who has consistently, for many years, been one of the finest commentators on current events in modern American history, he has mentioned all the above about Clinton and about her campaign in his writing. I just think that it would be important to have included at least some of it in the above-linked column. Perspective is important. And yes, in 2016, it sure appeared as if we were stuck between a thoroughly corrupt rock and a buffoonish hard place.

And yet…

If Hillary were in power, we on the right would be, correctly, bemoaning:

  • Her secrecy,
  • The mushiness of her response to the terrorist attacks in Spain,
  • The plainly partisan nature of what would be her inevitably stupid response to Charlottesville,
  • Her idiotic economic decisions,
  • Her horrible Supreme Court pick(s),
  • Her decades of corruption, both public and private.
  • The corruption of the media as they allow her just to get away with everything, just as they did with Obama,
  • The dishonesty of the press as they would magically transform every transparent Clintonian idiocy into insightful wisdom, and:
  • Her support, really her Justice Department’s support, tacit or otherwise, for leftists on college campuses violently squashing free speech.

That’s all speculation, but seriously, does anyone think it’s wrong?

Trump simply says what he means. Is he wrong a lot? Hell yeah!

But is he also right a lot? Yes, he is. Is he a good deal-maker? Undoubtedly. Is he a good political deal-maker? Nope. Not yet at least. Not until he figures out the rules of Washington. Throw into that mix the facts that (1) he broke all the rules to get where he is now, and (2) the Democrats have decided to throw out the rule book for him anyway!

Guess what, though, the Democrats would have done that to any other President with an “R” next to his or her name. I don’t think that’s in any doubt. Furthermore, it’s likely that any other President with an “R” next to his or her name would have caved — at the advice of his advisers, of course! — at the first hint of overwhelming negative press from the media… which would have come at the first attempt to repeal Obamacare.

Now, let’s take a closer look at at the above bullet point list:

  • Secrecy

Sorry, It’s not a problem with Trump. In fact, many of his critics complain that he’s not secret enough.

  • Mushiness of response in the face of terrorism

Nope. Not a problem with Trump.

  • Partisan response to Charlottesville

Well, the complaint was not that Trump’s response was partisan, but that it was too weak in its condemnation of “the Right-wing white nationalists,” or “White Supremacists,” or whatever they were.

Hmmm… I disagree. I heard Trump’s statement, and it unambiguously condemned all hatred, violence and bigotry… from all sides. I agree 100% with that. Where is there any possible quibble in that? That’s the statement he should have made. Let’s face a simple fact. Trump gave no one a pass, but in signalling that all violence was bad, the media invented the notion that he gave the White Supremacists a pass. And now, for the most important point of all: It’s a lead-pipe sure thing that a President Clinton absolutely would have given a pass to the leftist counter-protesters, whose presence caused the violence in the first place. And no one in the press — Right or Left — would have uttered a peep about it.

  • Idiotic economic decisions

Well. Hillary would have been horrible for the economy, locking in place the vast regulatory sclerosis that Obama built. Trump has been, at best, a mixed bag. Right on Obamacare. Right on immigration (an economic issue, not a racial or moral one). Right on regulation. Right on the environment/Paris. Debatable on free trade, though I favor it. TBD on taxes, though the notion to reduce them is right.

  • Clinton’s horrible Supreme Court pick(s)

Ummm… point (so far) to Trump. A BIIIIG point.

  • Her decades of corruption, both public and private…

Given an honest press, Hillary would have been disqualified from running for the Presidency decades ago. But we don’t have an honest press, so we’ve long absolutely needed a President who would not cave to the press when they do their usual corrupt presentation of things in the country. It’s important to remember that the media don’t report the news, they manufacture it. It’s important to keep that firmly in mind. Love, hate or indifferent to Trump, he’s no shrinking violent in the face of the massively hostile media. It’s not a sure thing that any other Republican President would have been that way. It is a sure thing that the press would be just as hostile to, say, a President Cruz, or a President Fiorina, or any other President with an “R.”

  • The corruption of the media

‘Nuff said already, above.

  • The perfidy of the press…

See above bullet point.

  • Clinton’s support, really her Justice Department’s support, tacit or otherwise, for leftists on college campuses violently squashing free speech

This is an important point too. Clinton’s cabinet would be just as full of sleaze and corruption as she is. Can you imagine another four, or eight, years of a Justice Department headed by someone like the execrable Eric Holder? Might as well forget all about anything pertaining to actual justice. We’d have been awash in social justice, though… and I’m not optimistic that we’d have been able to recover from it. ‘

I say that, because I worry that we’re already going to prove unable to recover from eight years of Obama’s non-stop obeisances to the nonsensical concept of social justice. I mean, let’s face it: speakers of our political predilection go to college campuses, then are forced, literally, to run for their lives, as the police stand by, and fail to protect them from the adherents to social justice. This is the legacy of Obama. How do you think we’re going to overcome the erosion of free speech rights in America, except, that is, with a really plainspoken President?

Furthermore, don’t forget: lovable, corrupt, witless old Bernie Sanders made it okay to call oneself a Socialist again. That means that the Democrat Party field for President in upcoming primaries will no longer, for the foreseeable future, be lacking in an avowedly Socialist candidate for the Presidency. Great.

The point: I’m not sure that the Trump Presidency is worse than what, with another Republican, likely would have been just an interregnum between the Obama Presidency and the next horror-show Democrat President. And the Trump Presidency might be better. It may be the only chance we have to get better. I realize what I’m saying here:In America, we’re faced with what we know would be horrible — a Clinton Presidency — and what we realize has only a small and diminishing chance of being better.

Those are my quibbles with the great Jonah Goldberg. I admit that I’ve engaged in a good deal of speculation in the realm of the hypothetical. However, my speculation springs from years and years of studying the American socio-political scene. I don’t think that the great Goldberg would quibble too much with the conclusions resulting from my speculation.

My final conclusion: the Obama Presidency was way more damaging to America than anyone ever imagined it could be. The violent thuggery of the Left on college campuses and anywhere we on the Right may feel the desire to congregate, shows this to be more than mere speculation.  And it means that Jonah’s optimism that America could recover from a Clinton Presidency might be misplaced.

Obama left us with a situation in which we on the Right were faced with a bunch of rocks and hard places. In response we chose someone who promised to face down the depredations of the Left. Obama’s real legacy is his party’s formation of a political left-wing hardened into thugs and goons, and absolutely unwilling to cede one inch of the “progress” they got under Obama.

Even if that rollback were to come from democratically elected officials.

Furthermore, the Left has publicly concluded that anyone who’s elected to high office, who does not adhere to their thinking, is simply not legitimate. Serious question: what do you do in the face of that kind of brainless irrationality? In the face of that willingness to decree as anathema anyone and any idea that differs from theirs? Certainly you can’t posit a conventional politician to counter it.

A number of things are possible in the face of all this:

  1. The Republican Party might implode, split up, splinter in the face of the fact that Trump is obviously not a traditional, or an “establishment” Republican.
  2. The Conservative movement might, likewise, implode, due to the fact that many misunderstand Trump to be a Conservative. He’s not.
  3. The best possible happenstance: cooler heads could prevail in the Democrat Party, and they reverse their hard leftward sprint. They can’t just stop moving leftward, they have to come back to the idea of democracy, and of formulating actual ideas that might represent policy proposals and a legitimate governing philosophy. In other words, they’d have to jettison a lot of leftist garbage that causes them to be entirely lacking in substance today.
  4. Some right-wing third party springs up and challenges either Trump himself, or his followers form a center-right party to challenge the Republican Party.
  5. The same thing might happen on the Left. After all, Bernie Sanders’ witless herd of dullards are not at all happy about how the 2016 Democrat Party primary campaign unfolded.

No matter what, Trump appears to be pushing the country, and therefore the world, toward a number of major inflection points. Reminder: “Inflection Points” are things like recessions, changes in policy, riots, or things like the five possibilities listed above. Major Inflection Points” are things like full-scale revolutions and… war.

Inflection points are where all countries go over time; major inflection points are where they go if they don’t arrest their trajectory before it careens into the extreme.  We may already be past the point at which America is recoverable without a major inflection point. I hope and pray that I’m wrong.

Jonah Goldberg’s columns are always well worth the read, and he’s a great writer, and an even better thinker. I recommend this one to you as well. As you can tell, it got me to thinking! And getting people to think is certainly one of a columnist’s primary goals.

Here’s the link again. He covers a lot of other ground as well, but it’s the part about Trump that got me to thinking about the above. The entire piece is interesting, really well-expressed, superbly-written, and thought-provoking. Typical Goldberg!

— xPraetorius


(1) I still disagree that white nationalists, or white supremacists are on the Right. Go ahead and list all the tenets you think represent the beliefs of the Right, and then tell me where the white nationalists or white supremacists fit in. I can save you the time: they don’t.

(2) Remember the idiotic comedian who said he was frustrated because Obama wasn’t good fodder for comedy. I don’t remember the exact quote but it had something to do with the obsidian-like façade covering Obama’s brilliance. On the right, we were quick to point out that there were, ummmm… several (like: several thousand) things from and about Obama that could have been used to evoke guffaws.

3 thoughts on “Yet Another Masterful Column from Jonah Goldberg — and Some Discussion

  1. Goldberg is definitely one of my favorites and I know you probably disagree with him a lot but I find Kevin Williamson to be a genius.

    Good points made in your post x. Where do you find the time to do this stuff? I’m jealous.

    1. Lol! Thanks for your kind words, Tricia! Actually, there are several of “me.” We all usually write under the “x” pseudonym. It’s kind of complicated, but it’s one of the ways we maintain our anonymity.

      I personally am pretty prolific, however, and my particular methodology consists of jotting down lots of notes whenever I can, and saving them up for later publication, generally on the weekend.

      Some of them, of course, are spontaneous — like the Free Speech one today. And that one I just typed up on the fly. I type very rapidly.

      During the week, though, I tend to be dodging the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune in a third-world hellhole, trying to make the world safe for democracy. How’s that for mixing metaphors?!?

      The other thing is that Kevin Williamson is one of my all-time favorites! I’ve featured him a lot! He’s wonderful! Just like you!

      If I disagree with Kevin Williamson, or you, then I do a serious check to see where I might have gone wrong! 🙂


      — x

  2. Glad to see anther KJW fan! One of these days you’re going to have to explain to me how this system of anonymity works. In the mean time and thank you for keeping our world safe for Democracy!

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