There was a great line spoken by Lee Marvin in “The Professionals” (1966):
“Some women have the ability to turn boys into men, while other women have the ability to turn some other men into boys”.
Note the date, 1966, because it was three years before Jonah Goldberg was born.
It was also the time that I hitchhiked during spring break from my university in Kentucky to Juarez in search of the fair Lt Chiquita, or a reasonable facsimile thereof, from that same film.
I learned a lot from that trip that I could never have found in books.
At that time my father was a subscriber to “National Review” and although I was rarely home after 1964, I read many of those issues, and finally began my own subscription in 1976 when I returned to the States after an Army tour in the Far East.
I subscribed until 1991, when I went to the still-Soviet Union. I was there when the Hammer & Sickle came down over Red Square (January, 1992) and in those three months I met only one US government official, an old Army MI pal attached to the Embassy in Moscow. There was a lot of fear and uncertainty in those early days but I was a Gringoski who blended in.
I spent that entire period in small factories, with farmers from collectives, even a few days with a member of the Soviet Central Committee, representing Gorkiy. His interest was insatiable about American small manufacturing business, and I had a lot of knowledge in old-school manufacturing to give him. One of my best memories.
When I returned to the US I shared some of my observations and concerns with WFB, namely that US business seemed too laid back in their approach to the new Russia and Ukraine, noting that we, Amerika, were the people they most wanted to copy and partner with. It didn’t work out that way, for six months later Bill Clinton became president, and instead of Russia getting our business culture, we got their crime culture.
I was 47 then, nearly the same age as Jonah Goldberg today.
I never considered myself a writer then, (some say I’m still not) so took down my shingle near Cincinnati, and took up a residence in a small apartment, running back and forth, mostly to the Balkans, first from Cincinnati, then later Richmond, which provided easier air access to Central Europe. I got to know some of the most uncommon common people you can imagine, even publishing a small book (in much need to editing, with added chapters) Famous Common People I Have I Known. I quit international consulting in 2010 and began writing, first at TownHall and then RedState.com, and finally, after I became allergic to frat boys, I set up shop at UnifiedPatriots.com and VassarBushmills.com (which is my legacy website, so that my son, after I die, can read what I had been doing the past 30 years, and that I really wasn’t all that stupid).
I re-subscribed to “National Review” around 2002 and was especially fond of Florence King’s venom, which was sort of like subscribing to “Playboy” just for the articles. The religion editors Michael Novak and Richard John Neuhaus were also favorites as well as Buckley’s column. I was never very interested in current events politics.
But some of the thinking pieces were very edifying.
The Young Jonah
I have a steel filing cabinet and the bottom drawer contains what I considered to be the “keepers” from “National Review” over the years.
At the top of the pile are two, shown here, dated Jan 31, 2008 and Dec 31, 2009, both written by Jonah Goldberg, He would have been 39-or-40 at the time, but years ahead of the come-lately’s I’ve since encountered, and who never seemed to write in anything other than red-letter edition. “Peachfuzz strokers” I called them.
Of course, “Liberal Fascism” was a NYT best seller, but with Jonah’s magazine overview, I never needed to buy the hard copy, which underlies a serious issue raised here, namely the value of NR and other magazine articles, versus reading a book.
Both these essays were splendid, and I’ve consulted both several times. I’d recommend them to any new-to-the-game conservative both as a style and substance guide as to how to edify (teach) readers important things they might need for future use.
We rarely see this anymore.
On the flip side of good writing, I was first asked to write a book by an old Russia hand in 1998 for the benefit of “people who don’t read.” He died in 2010. He wanted those people to know what it was they were squandering.
It would be an understatement to say he was alarmed by the Clintons. Those people didn’t have a name then but now they have several, the most complimentary of which I’d say would be “Trump’s Base”, people who saw the handwriting on the wall, and heard the national survival trumpet blow without the help of their literary betters. (I even published another book in their honor, Donald Trump, the Common Man and the American Theology of Liberty and touted it on Twitter as “the first to note Donald Trump’s connection to Common Man” I published it before the 2016 election so it also needs to be edited and expanded since that common man connection and saga continues. But seeing my Twitter page, Jonah asked how I could confirm that claim. I referred him to that page on Amazon, where the title is listed. (He didn’t buy it, thus evening the score.)
The Older Jonah
So, nearing 50, Jonah seems to have regressed. Wot hoppen’d?
Well, it seems, in light of my Lee Marvin quote, above, there also seem to be men who have the ability to turn some other men into boys.
Donald Trump is definitely one of those men.
That phenomenon too has a common name today, Trump Derangement Syndrome, and while it is cute, it deserves a little more thought because it seems to be cross-generational.
It’s just as susceptible to pre-Boomers, (George Will, 77) and Boomers (Bill Kristol, 65) as it is to Gen X’ers (Jonah Goldberg ’49 and Erick Erickson, 43) and all the lapdog frat boys who hung around them, such as made up the team that shot holes in the bottom of the RedState.com ship of state.
This is worth a closer look.
Jonah Goldberg seemed less in love with his words, and more with his scholarship in 2008-2009 than he has since 2016.
A genuine regression I think. But in fairness, I only get to read him on Twitter and NR’s links now. Recently Jonah went on a campaign with several Trump defenders about Trump’s character, Scott Adams (age 61) and especially David Horowitz (age 79). David answered with his own article in American Greatness, requiring no further discussion here., but worth the read.
Being an old trial lawyer, I’d never allow discussions of a client’s “character” to be made without a proper foundation and twice interjected that Jonah should first establish what is and is not acts of “character” in his mind.
(With a Pentecostal mother who got 90% of her news over the backyard fence, I’m especially skeptical of self-righteous people who thrive on “facts not yet in evidence”.)
And a person like Donald Trump is especially susceptible to such gossip, just as he is with every dame he ever spent five minutes alone with in the backseat of a limo. Ask Herman Cain how that works.
But Trump tweeted about Joe McCarthy and Jonah couldn’t restrain himself. Very revealing.
TRUMP: Study the late Joseph McCarthy, because we are now in period with Mueller and his gang that make Joseph McCarthy look like a baby! Rigged Witch Hunt!
Goldberg Retweeted Donald J. Trump
“Which books on this period do you recommend most from your studies?”
ME: @RealDonaldTrump– Because I was too busy, too, I got all I ever knew or that was important to me about McCarthy, from National Review. Before your time, tho. It’s better to have seen and done a thing or two than simply read a thing or two. Twain said something like that.
Sheer popinjay, cheap hubris.
The only “book” that mattered for non-scholars at that time, especially on a subject like Joe McCarthy, was “National Review”. Only I doubt Jonah knew that, or that NR was read by hundreds of thousands of people in the private sector for that very reason.
For movers and shakers of the world, magazines such as National Review were their best substitute for reading books.
I also believe that the 39-year old Jonah Goldberg would never have made such a snide, condescending, head-up-the-arse remark that the 49-year old Jonah Goldberg just did.
I’d read a couple of George Will’s compilation books, from his syndicated columns, and read “Weekly Standard, well, weekly. I Iiked their conservatism, but their condescending air of superiority was always a bit over the top for me. I never got the sense they were talking to me, or even trying to edify me. Neither were (are) icons.
They wanted a president who appeared as regal as they felt about themselves. That was always the Will-Kristol standard, while Bill Buckley, lest we forget, defended Joe McCarthy when almost no one else on the right would.
Today NR and #NeverTrump have latched onto a cultural trajectory that is pointed straight down, and which has been evident for at least 25 years.
Bill Clinton was no cultural aberration, only the conservatives graded him by the wrong metrics, overlooking those appetites and vanities that mirrored themselves.
Most conservative GenX’ers then (Jonah still in his 20’s) stuck to the conservative script, but like true Pharisees were slipshod about its underlying spirit. My eldest graduated from college, my youngest just entered, and I just returned from watching the Hammer & Sickle come down over the Soviet Empire.
There were simply aspects of the Clinton culture they didn’t tackle, or didn’t know to.
But the ugly bottom line truth, by the 1980s:
Any child in America who was taught to love this Country, and its traditions and history, and the relevance of that History in their own lives, learned those things somewhere else, but certainly not in the public schools…or universities.
If a kid were lucky enough to have hands-on parents who took personal charge in their moral education; Sunday School, church, even saying grace around the dinner table, and an equal interest in the content of the textbook they brought home from school, or alternately, the good fortune of private schooling, then they might have been able to escape the seine net that had been laid to trap America’s children by “John Dewey and the Philosophical Re-founding of America”, (by Tiffany Jones Miler,) which was Part II of that Four Horseman series, cited above.
“Finally, Dewey arguably did more than any other reformer of progressive social theory as a way to obscure just how radical its principles departed from those of the Americasn founding“.
Did Jonah not absorb this part of the quatrain? That was Dec 2009, almost a decade ago, and did he not know then that not a single American kid had gone through any public school and university that had even the least positive thing to say about America’s founding, its moral foundations, and especially that “shining city upon a hill” riff (Ronald Reagan)?
I can name several scholars, such a Larry Schweikart, Larry Arnn, Victor Davis Hansen, who could convene a committee, and come up with an entire history curriculum for American colleges,. But they couldn’t find one in a 100 public universities that would allow it.
Worse, they couldn’t find more than a handful of Gen X-aged professors to teach them.
According to Robert Ardrey, one of my favorite atheists, what we are seeing today in the public academy, began in the University of Chicago in the 1920s, and moved forward one graduating class at a time.
Donald Trump’s base, the people who elected him, are the parents and grandparents of those lost kids, and it’s not about what books Donald Trump has or has not read, but that their kids are very much in the dark about what books to read and facts to learn from them in the first place.
They are lost, for all they ever had was a Dewey-approved curriculum and conservatives were treating it as mere scholastic malfanction, leaving their fates out of the conversation altogether.
(This is why we have started VeteransTales.org, a non-profit, to find ways to Cliff’s Notes (vt) American and World History, and use veterans to teach small groups of students whose parents think such moral legacies are important to the continuation their line. Not all, but many, are part of Trump’s base. Drop in. It’s a work in progress.)
Chalk one up to survival instinct, for Trump’s Base, who doesn’t read a lot of books we’re told, could nonetheless read the writing on the wall in March 2010 just a few weeks after NR published that Four Housemen series.
The world changed, and conservatism never saw it coming, or, for that matter, was ever on board with it.
The reason for the Constitution, “the People”, suddenly became excess baggage, and as we know, several conservative groups have had no problem jettisoning them.
Like others I’ve written about, Jonah Goldberg still teeters. I hope.
His heart is good, it just ain’t in the trim.
But the People have taken up their own scholarship, and while not as erudite as their educated betters, I still think Bill Buckley is smiling somewhere that yes, the first 400 names in the Boston Telephone Directory can run this country until our finer minds can get their heads screwed on straight. May take awhile, but in the meantime, as I pointed out before the election, the Tea Party has replaced National Review as the INTELLECTUAL repository for conservatism in America. This is because they possess 99% of the enthusiasm for the reasons this thing, America, exists.
The Survival Factor.
Which brings me back to that really childish comment by Jonah to President Trump, “Which books on this period do you recommend most from your studies?”
Doers don’t study. They hire factotums to do the studying. The Farmers’ Insurance Group stated it this way, “We know a thing or two because we’ve seen a thing or two.” Mark Twain said it another way, “A man who has grabbed a bull by the horns comes away with ten times the knowledge compared to the person who has only read about it in a book.”
I’ve seen several dozens things or two, as has Donald Trump (we’re the same age, as with Herman Cain) and doers are what the Republican base will demand perhaps, for a generation at least.
For over 40 years, off and on, William Buckley and “National Review” gave me, but more importantly, the movers and shakers of America like Donald Trump and Herman Cain, a study guide in approximately 110 pgs a month, about all the things they’d need to know while out there wrestling bulls.
Liberal Fascism was a New York Times best seller in 2008, but a good number of people who read it have died, and the replacement factor today is almost zero, Jonah. No one under 40 would even know such a title was important in their lives. Do the math.
Modern conservatism is a League of well-educated Gentlemen, but also dead Gentlemen-walking, unless they re-embrace the spirit of America, and once again learn to shake hands with the men and women they are foresworn to protect as they and their generations pursue “life, liberty and happiness without permission of State” (still my favorite quote from the old USSR).
Yes, I liked the young Goldberg, better. I hope he makes it back.