Last week, as Russia revelations kept cascading over the White House transom and the president asserted his right to pardon everybody, who could blame conservative pundits for instead devoting their attention to other subjects — even if those, too, were embarrassing?
To maintain their reputations as Very Serious People, conservatives discussing Trump have to reconcile two incompatible ideas: that the president’s behavior is weird, reckless, and potentially dangerous to the Republic (latest incident: POTUS orders U.S. military to agitate for his political goals), and that they support him anyway, cuz he rilly sticks it to libs LOL.
National Review’s Jonah Goldberg does this practically every week, and the strain may be starting to show on him. In his latest column he complained, as has become traditional for him, about Trumpkins who badger him to get with the program: “I’ve been using the phrase ‘Cult of Personality’ a lot because that’s what this dynamic often seems like,” he muttered.
But, as has also become traditional for Goldberg, he then backpedaled: While “Cult of Personality” conjures Stalin, he explained, “contrary to what some of Trump’s biggest critics on the left and his biggest fans on the swampier right may think, Trump is no Stalin.” And it’s not like Trump’s enemies are any better: There are the “global-warming alarmists,” plus George W. Bush’s fans got a little out of hand defending him, and “don’t even get me started with the rationalizations that sustained the Obama presidency.” So, really, who’s to judge?
Equally wrong, in the Goldbergian view, are people like James Fallows, who gave a hard time to conservatives who performed “thoughtful, scholarly ‘concern’ about the norms Donald Trump is breaking” but always voted with him anyway. Fallows was referring to Senator Ben Sasse, but Goldberg clearly felt the lash himself: Those such as Fallows, Goldberg retorted, were nothing but “a mirror image of the Trump cultists,” for whom “Trump is a demigod and whatever he says must be right. For the anti-Trump cultist, Trump is a demon, and whatever Trump does or says must be evil and wrong. Both positions are delusional.”
In fact, now that he thought about it, Goldberg had to admit that the Trumpkins’ claim that “[Trump] is getting some important things done” has “some merit, particularly when liberals screech that agreeing with Trump on conservative policies is a kind of appeasement.” So if Trump makes you queasy, go “tsk-tsk, tut-tut” and think of Gorsuch.
I gotta tell you: I know we’re supposed be the moral relativists, but there’s no situational ethics like conservative situational ethics.
For rightbloggers who couldn’t bear even that much direct contact with their own hypocrisy, there were other topics available to humiliate themselves on. For example, Kid Rock.
The go-to white rapper for people who find Eminem too edgy recently expressed an interest in running for Democrat Debbie Stabenow’s Senate seat. Though born into suburban comfort, Rock continues to push his bona fides as a down-to-earth bad boy — conforming to the bullshit template of Trump, whom Rock visited in the White House last April.
Bottom-feeders got busy spreading multiple versions of clickbait videos (“Kid Rock Just Knocked Chuck Schumer The Hell Out And Showed Why He Will Be A PERFECT Politician”) and fanboy blog posts (“Considering all the fools currently in Congress, would it be so ridiculous if Robert Ritchie (real name) actually ran…and won? After all, he is an ‘American bad a**’”).
But some pros got involved, too: P.H. Guthrie, who, according to his byline, “has worked on numerous statewide political campaigns in Virginia, South Dakota, and Washington, D.C.” and is clearly eager to score this account, pitched his services in the form of a Federalist article.
“Authenticity is perhaps the greatest feature a public figure can possess, yet least appreciated by the political class,” lumbered Guthrie out of the gate, and “Robert Ritchie, a.k.a. ‘Kid Rock,’ ” has tons of authenticity, not to mention “incredible energy, ambition, and a talent for self-promotion…”
Wait, it gets even more tongue-bathetic: “Kid Rock music is a pulsating, bass-pounding, guitar-distorting, in-your-face blare of high-octane Americana in ‘Bawitdaba,’ ” rhapsodized Guthrie, “and a softer, melodious, country-style hymn to abandoned love in ‘Picture,’ a duet with Cheryl [sic] Crow.” Longtime fan, first-time groveler!
But in today’s America, it’s not enough to praise the client; you must also belittle his competition. “In contrast,” wrote Guthrie, “little rock star excitement surrounds a fourth term for Stabenow, an unimaginative machine pol who resembles an overweight, scolding aunt who might inspire fights over who has to sit next to her at Thanksgiving dinner.” Like that lame mom who drops the pancakes in that Ke$ha video, right? The kids/voters love that!
Plus, Rock can reach minority voters, Guthrie tells us, as he has “a blood connection through his baby’s momma with African-Americans…‘all the crackheads, the critics, the cynics/and all [his] heroes in the methadone clinic’ may just vote in Kid Rock as the next senator from Michigan.” Don’t let this one get away, Kid! It’s Anthony Scaramucci treatment at rightblogger prices!
If conservatives didn’t want to trifle with Kid Rock, they could challenge themselves to explain why the latest famous police shooting enraged them in a way others typically don’t — without saying that it was because in this case the victim of the Minneapolis incident, Justine Damond, was a white lady and the cop who shot her, Mohamed Noor, is Muslim.
As you probably already guessed, the ones who addressed the case didn’t bother to try to thread that needle, and in some cases just went with straight-up racial appeals.
“Justine Damond: Killed by ‘Islamophobia’ — Political Correctness Put Her In The Way Of A ‘Nervous, Jumpy’ Muslim Cop Who Took Her Life,” raged Robert Spencer at Freedom Outpost. When the cop’s lawyer tried to find out if the victim was on Ambien when she was shot, Spencer roared, “Like so many Muslims before him, it looks as if Mohamed Noor has opted to defend himself by blaming the victim.”
“Skreee,” added Pamela Geller. “Blond Yoga Instructor Skreeeeeeeeeee.”
Thomas Lifson at American Thinker explained the incident thus: “An entire African, Muslim community was grafted onto what had been the most heavily Caucasian major metropolitan area in the country — perhaps the first ever diversity graft onto an American metropolis, engineered by the federal government.” Lifson seemed to think all the Somali Muslims in Minneapolis had shot Damond, like in Murder on the Orient Express.
Former congresswoman Michele Bachmann refined the idea somewhat by calling Noor “an affirmative-action hire by the hijab-wearing mayor of Minneapolis.” Affirmative-action and Muslim hatred — a wing-nut twofer! Further down the food chain, rightwing Twitter dummies ran with the message (“I will always defend police but not a token Muslim Somali Pirate turned cop by ladder climbing County officials,” etc.).
“[Noor] was promoted to be Minneapolis’s first Somali immigrant cop by a city administration that cared more about his background than his actual qualifications,” agreed Glenn Reynolds at Instapundit. Rightbloggers don’t usually question the fitness of other cops who kill but, with Trump pushing to ban Muslims from entering the country, you can also see why this one has them excited. Now, if a “gypsy” cop does a bad shoot, they’ll really have something!
But at the end of the day, if rightbloggers and other wing-nut scribes don’t want to just give up and become Trump propaganda mouthpieces like Jim Hoft or Victor Davis Hanson, their best choice is probably to keep straddling the Trump fence and hope they’re not leaning too far to the wrong side when shit goes down.
It may be dispiriting, but so are most jobs; one learns to live with it. Take Goldberg’s National Review colleague Rich Lowry — previously, odd as it may be to contemplate, the brains behind the magazine’s “Against Trump” issue. When Lowry did a column last week on Trump and investigator Robert Mueller, the weary tone of his headline — “Yeah, Trump Is Probably Going to Fire Robert Mueller” — expressed far more than the column itself. “If Trump doesn’t fire Mueller,” Lowry concluded with an apparent sigh, “it will only be because every other day he’s talked out of following his instincts.” Guys like Goldberg get frantic and exhaust themselves juggling opposites, but cannier propagandists like Lowry just punch in and protect themselves with a blasé tone that you may recognize from those prehistoric birds who served as phonograph needles and can openers on The Flintstones, when they turned to the camera and croaked, “Awk, it’s a living.”
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on July 24, 2017