Jonah Goldberg — comedian or acclaimed author and senior editor at National Review? You decide. Goldberg joined Glenn on radio Wednesday to offer his hilarious take on the absurdity that is Washington, DC. It’s either laugh or cry, right?
Enjoy the complimentary clip or listen to this segment for details.
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This is a rush transcript and may contain errors.
GLENN: I have to tell you, I’m so excited about the next two people that we have to introduce you to today. This hour, we have Jonah Goldberg from National Review. He’s a guy who I don’t know if he knows this or not — I think I’ve told him before — has really changed my life. He wrote a book called Liberal Fascism, stuff I didn’t even know. Nobody was taught. His dad was a real pioneer in this field and kept the torch alive. And Jonah has done such a great job to explain progressives and liberal fascism. And it opened my eyes to an entirely new world and changed the course of my life.
I love having him on and reading his points of view. And he has a lot to say about what’s happening. So we’re going to get an update on what happened yesterday, since we last met on — in Washington, with the Comey letter. And McMaster. And — and his press conference.
Also, next hour, a serial entrepreneur. The guy who started Priceline. He has about 900 patents to his name. He was called by Forbes, the Edison for a New Age. He’s the guy who came up with the friend button on Facebook. I can’t wait to get into this guy’s head as a — as an entrepreneur. That’s next hour.
We begin this hour with Jonah Goldberg and what’s happening in Washington. How do we make sense of it? Beginning, right now.
GLENN: Welcome to the program, Jonah Goldberg. How are you, sir?
JONAH: Glenn, great to be here, and thanks for the kind words up front. That was great.
GLENN: Jonah, you’re watching everything that is happening in Washington, DC, and trying to make sense of it. The media does not have any credibility at all on trying to say, “Rule of law. And, gee, we can’t have somebody handle classified material, that doesn’t know what they’re doing with it.” They have no credibility. It’s a farce to watch them as they’re talking about this, when we know what they did with Obama and Hillary Clinton.
JONAH: Yeah —
GLENN: — if we want to be consistent, we’re watching this and saying, “This does not look good.”
Can you take us through this, especially what happened yesterday?
JONAH: Yeah, no, that’s right. I mean, look, as a big picture point, as I’ve been saying for a while, if hypocrisy were helium, we’d all have funny voices and some people would just float away.
And it is absolutely — as I keep saying to some of my friends on the right who are absolutely right, in their criticisms of the double standards of the mainstream media and how the mainstream media is freaking out about stuff that they yawned about under Barack Obama — that’s all a perfectly good point to make, and it’s a good argument to make. But it’s a necessary argument, but not a sufficient argument, in the sense that, if the things that Obama did — and just to — when Obama did X and the mainstream media didn’t freak out, and you criticized the mainstream media for not freaking out, and then when Trump does X, and you criticize the mainstream media for freaking out — well, you should be freaking out too since you’re — if you believe in the rule of law, you think Obama violated the rule of law, and you stomped your spoon on your high chair for eight years about what Obama was doing to violate the rule of law and then Trump violates the rule of law, and all you have to say is, “Look how hypocritical the New York Times is,” well, then you’re being a hypocrite too. You have a double standard too. You don’t call out a Republican president for doing stuff that you condemned the Democratic president for. Fine. Call the New York Times a bunch of hypocrites, but you’re being hypocritical too. And this is a huge problem on the right, with a lot of people trying to find this safe harbor of anti anti-Trumpism. They don’t — and they’re absolutely right that, you know, much of the left-wing freakout, this resistance nonsense and all of that is absurd. I mean, so much of it has been, “Donald Trump put salt on his french fries. Hitler put salt on his french fries.”
JONAH: It’s that kind of nonsense. And I’m all for calling it out. But if that’s all you’re doing, you’re a disservice. Because some of the things that Donald Trump has done are legitimately worth criticizing, which brings us to yesterday.
So we all remember — I mean, it’s amazing to — you know, it’s just barely a week. Barely over a week since Sally Yates testified. This — the — the space time continuum has been sort of accordioned in Washington. And it’s this bizarre thing where each day sort of brings, usually right around my cocktail hour, which really ticks me off.
GLENN: 9:00 a.m.?
JONAH: Brings a new story — well, yes, there is that.
Look, I have a tattoo that says, “If you don’t start drinking in the morning, you can’t claim that you were drinking all day.”
But it’s just — so the White House, you know, announced that they fired Comey last week, turned out that the story that they brought out there was just flatly not believable, and turned out to be untrue within a couple days. Donald Trump told Lester Holt that he fired him because of the Russia investigation, which, from any other president would have everyone pulling their hair out because you’re just not supposed to say that. You know, you’re not supposed to say that you didn’t like the investigation into your campaign or into you or whatever. And you called it off because you — and you told — and you fired the FBI director because it wasn’t — he didn’t make it go away.
And so this sort of gets to us the core problem, is that Donald Trump’s greatest defense is incompetence and ignorance. He doesn’t know how the system works.
He doesn’t have an appreciation that some rules and procedures that are traditional in a White House are there for a good reason.
I don’t know if you guys remember, you know, the parable of — of Chesterton’s fence. G.K. Chesterton has this wonderful story, where he says — he’s talking about progressive reformers.
And he says the progressive reformer is the kind of guy who sees a fence in the middle of a field, has no idea why it’s there, and says, let’s tear it down because there’s no good reason for it to be there. I can’t imagine why it’s there.
And Chesterton says, “The only time you have a reason to tear down the fence is once you understand why it was put up in the first place. Maybe it’s keeping out the ice zombies and the white walkers.” Who knows. And Donald Trump has contempt for all of the traditional rules, all the traditional procedures. And he wants to go off the cuff. And so when he does stuff like axe the FBI director, as we learned yesterday, to go easy on an investigation into Mike Flynn, the former national security adviser, it seems utterly plausible that, you know, he can just be like, “Oh, was I not supposed to do that?” You know, because he doesn’t know — you know, he doesn’t know what he doesn’t know. And the problem —
GLENN: But if you look at —
JONAH: One last point, the problem with the left is they all want to make it about Russia, collusion. You know, they want to go to 11 on all of this stuff. And they want to have it both ways. They did this with George W. Bush too. They wanted to say he’s an idiot, and they want to say he’s a genius mastermind of an international mastermind of a conspiracy. You can’t have it both ways.
GLENN: Yeah. So I don’t think he’s a genius mastermind of a conspiracy. I think you’re right. He has contempt for rules. He doesn’t want to live by those rules. And, in fact, one of the sources that we talked to Erick Erickson about yesterday, he said, you know, look the guy is a huge Trump supporter, supported him all the way through the campaign. Erick said, I couldn’t even talk to him during the campaign because he was so rabidly Trump. But he was one of the sources that has leaked the information about what really happened. And he said he’s doing it because the president will not listen to any advice. He sees all advice as an attack on him. So he is isolated.
And he’s saying, we have to leak it to the press, because we’re hoping that he’ll listen to the press more than — you know, and have him driven back into our arms, saying, okay. What do I have to know about this?
He said, he’s just out of control, and really bad things will happen if he doesn’t start taking some common sense advice on, “No, Mr. President. We can’t do that because of X, Y, Z.” Now, we can find another way to do it, but we can’t do that.
JONAH: No, look, I agree. I had a column — I wrote a column for the L.A. Times yesterday. It’s up at National Review today. Calling on Michael Pence. You know, Mike Pence is the one guy, the one constitutional officer in the executive branch that Donald Trump can’t fire. And so he — you know, all these other guys in the cabinet — some of them I like, I respect a lot. All these people on the senior staff, some of whom I like and respect, they can all be fired. And they all seem to think that they have to audition every day for their job. Mike Pence doesn’t.
And Mike Pence was humiliated by the president last week. And not for the first time. By going out and saying, “Oh, no, we fired Comey on the recommendation of the deputy attorney general, and it was all through proper procedure, and we had waited for the DAG to get there. Of course this has nothing to do with the Russian investigation.” And then two days later, Donald Trump uses a capitulate to throw him under a bus.
And Mike Pence should march into the Oval Office and say, “Mr. President, if you do that again, I may have to resign and run against you in 2020, or I’m going to start speaking freely to the media on the record.” You know, he can’t be fired, and he would have an enormous bully pulpit.
GLENN: Okay. Wait. Hang on just a second. That was my advice for Hillary Clinton when Bill Clinton did this to her with the blue dress.
GLENN: She should have marched out and said, he’s still my president. I still agree with his policies, but no woman should be treated this way. And what we work out in our marriage is our business. Stay out of our marriage. But no woman should be treated that way. She would have been the most powerful woman in the world. She, however, decided to stay in, I think for her own power and everything else. And that was kind of the arrangement that they had.
With Pence, I wonder if Pence and McMaster, who I have great respect for — although I saw him tap dance like nobody else yesterday. It was an amazing answer from him yesterday. And I’m wondering if these guys are saying to themselves, “Look, if I leave, I don’t know who he’s going to have for advice. And I’d rather be in here. And I’ll take the hits for this, but we have got to get him on track and keep him in place. And who is going to replace me? It could be anyone.”
JONAH: No, I agree with that. I have to assume that H.R. McMaster, to the extent that he kind of — as you put it, tap danced and parsed over the last 48 hours, he was doing it either to protect national security by minimizing the damage of this story, or because he thinks that if I’m not in there, we’re going to go back to someone like Mike Flynn or worse, and I need to keep, you know, things operating in as professional manner as possible. I have to think it was a patriotism in some way or another.
GLENN: I think so too. He’s an amazingly credible man. And he knows — I mean, what he said yesterday was, anything the president wants to do is appropriate, legally it’s appropriate.
Then they asked, so did he do anything appropriate? No. Well, he just said anything he wants to do is appropriate. And he must — he knows that to come out with Jerusalem as the city and the Israelis, that is wildly damaging to our spy apparatus. Wildly damaging.
JEFFY: Although, I still think there’s a possibility that Israel is taking one for the team, and that it was actually Jordan. Because —
JONAH: — you know, it’s not like Israel is going to break its relationship with us over this. They understand, and they’ve got all this stuff coming up on this visit that’s of bigger importance. But if Jordan had been revealed as the source, it could have really — I don’t know. Who knows.
GLENN: Wow. Wow.
JONAH: But, look, I wrote this the other day. I keep thinking that poor Reince Priebus and Mike Pence and these other guys, I honestly think their hearts are in the right place. I imagine all of them, like Jerry McGuire in the locker room, begging Cuba Gooding Jr., “Help me, help you.” You know, I mean, it’s like, if Trump could just get a little discipline, you know, and get sort of — a little less addicted, a little weaned off the drama and the reality show vibe that he clearly thrives on, he could still get important things accomplished. But it’s like you can’t break through to him.
And this thing about, you know, back channeling to him through the media, that’s been going on since day one. I mean, that’s the only reason why I actually liked watching Morning Joe so much for the first couple of months of the administration, is because it’s like reading Pravda. You know, you just never know who is like signaling from what point of the PoleP euro through the press, to the first among equals.
And I think that that’s — but that’s a problem. If he’s consuming and getting all of his advice filtered through what he sees on Fox & Friends or printed out from Breitbart.com, that is no way to run a country.
GLENN: Okay. I only have one minute. One more question.
STU: Politically, Jonah, isn’t it the issue here that his surrogates, their most effective defense is to basically say he’s incompetent, he’s new, he’s trying to figure this stuff out? But that’s also simultaneously, the one thing that they absolutely under any circumstances cannot say.
JONAH: No, that’s right. And that’s why — and I wrote about this months ago — they fall back on this he’s a man of action, he’s a man of wisdom. He knows things that we don’t know.
And the problem with that kind of rhetoric is that it may work for a moment politically — although, it’s credibility is diminishing — but that’s also cult of personality talk. You know, that is not how conservatives, that’s not how people in a democracy are supposed to talk is just say, well, he’s the president, and he has the supreme judgment, and who are we to question it? The whole point of democracy is to question the judgment of your political leaders. But that’s where the surrogates have to go. And I don’t think it works for them very much at all anymore. And it doesn’t help send off anybody who isn’t sort of already in the tank.
GLENN: Jonah, 30 seconds. Can you tell me what we should watch for? What’s the good sign or a bad sign that we should watch for?
JONAH: Well, if the rivers turn to blood…
JONAH: I don’t want to send any of your advertisers — buy gold.
GLENN: Jonah, God bless you, man. Thank you very much.
JONAH: Good to be with you guys. Thank you.
GLENN: Jonah Goldberg, senior editor of the National Review.