Discover more from The Bulwark
Remembering P.J. O'Rourke
Plus: This is how RonAnon wins
“The Democrats are the party that says government will make you smarter, taller, richer, and remove the crabgrass on your lawn. The Republicans are the party that says government doesn't work and then they get elected and prove it.” –P.J. O’Rourke
(Photo by David Howells/Corbis via Getty Images)
P. J. O’Rourke passed away yesterday at the age of 74, which I have come to think of as tragically young.
I already miss him. He still had so much pomposity left to deflate, idiocy to mock, and humbuggery to lampoon. Just look at the material he had to work with.
Make sure you read JVL’s heart-felt tribute in today’s Bulwark. Our friend John Podhoretz remembers P.J. as America’s greatest satirist and “coolest conservative” (back when that sort of thing was still possible):
His passing after a short illness is devastating, not only because it robs us of his gimlet eye but because it reduces the store of kindness in the world, which is more precious than rubies.
It isn’t an exaggeration to say that P.J. was, for a long time, the only cool conservative writer in America. His pieces for Rolling Stone and Harper’s and other mainstream outlets gamely featured his horrified takes on elite cluelessness and liberal-Puritan malfeasance against ordinary American playful fun.
Politico describes P.J. as “a prolific author and satirist who re-fashioned the irreverence and ‘Gonzo’ journalism of the 1960s counterculture into a distinctive brand of conservative and libertarian commentary.”
But that hardly seems to do him justice; really, if you haven’t read his stuff, do yourself a favor. Imagine the literary love-child of Hunter S. Thompson and H.L. Mencken … but that also doesn’t really capture him. He was funnier than Mencken and more trenchant than Thompson.
He was, above all, a master satirist and a fearless wordsmith with no tolerance at all for the bullshit of our times. Here’s a sample from his 1991 bestseller (and one of my favorites), Parliament of Whores:
“In July 1988, I covered the specious, entropic, criminally trivial, boring stupid Democratic National Convention, a numb suckhole stuffed with political bulk filler held in that place where bad malls go to die, Atlanta.
“Then ... I flew to that other oleo-high colonic, the Republican convention, an event with the intellectual content of a Guns N’ Roses lyric.”
You can hear echoes of Twain; and there’s definitely a Menckenesque vibe. But, in the end, it was quintessentially P.J. O’Rourke. And damn, we really needed his humor to get through what he once described as our “era of idiot populism and hooligan partisanship.”
Bonus: I was fortunate enough to be able to chat with O’Rourke a year and half ago about his last book, Cry From the Far Middle. You can listen here.
Warning Signs All Over
Let’s start with the blowout of the uber-Progressives in (checks notes) San Francisco.
The SF anti-woke landslide comes as we get this report about internal Democratic polling:
Democrats’ own research shows that some battleground voters think the party is “preachy,” “judgmental” and “focused on culture wars,” according to documents obtained by POLITICO.
And the party’s House campaign arm had a stark warning for Democrats: Unless they more forcefully confront the GOP’s “alarmingly potent” culture war attacks, from critical race theory to defunding the police, they risk losing significant ground to Republicans in the midterms.
How bad is it?
If Democrats don’t answer Republican hits, the party operatives warned, the GOP’s lead on the generic ballot balloons to 14 points from 4 points — a dismal prediction for Democrats when the GOP only needs to win five seats to seize back the majority.
But … if Democrats can successfully push back on attacks about issues like “defunding the police,” they may have a fighting chance.
The data showed that Democrats could mostly regain the ground lost to Republicans if they offered a strong rebuttal to the political hits. When faced with a “defund the police” attack, for instance, the presenters encouraged Democrats to reiterate their support for police. And on immigration, they said Democrats should deny support for “open borders or amnesty,” and talk about their efforts to keep the border safe.
Which seems like a good segue to…
This is how RonAnon wins
I’ve written/warned about this before, but the oppo research is just now starting to kick in. The leading Democratic candidate to take on Ron Johnson has some issues. Actually, several of them.
But Barnes is now distancing himself from two unpopular, far-left political movements — defunding police and abolishing ICE — despite support from groups backing these efforts and past social media activity referencing these causes.
Indeed, in the case of "Abolish ICE," the 35-year-old Milwaukee Democrat even got the T-shirt.
"Don't know how I missed this reply, but I need that," Barnes tweeted July 4, 2018, when a Madison activist offered him a red "Abolish ICE" shirt from the Democratic Socialists of America in his size.
In November, Barnes was a speaker at a major meeting of the Center for Popular Democracy, which is a supporter of defundpolice.org. The center tweeted last year, "Defund police. Defund police states. Defund militarized occupation. Defund state-sanctioned violence."
Barnes has even posted a couple of tweets that seem to suggest he has supported the movement, such as his July 10, 2020 post: "Defunding the police only dreams of being as radical as a Donald Trump pardon."
He also held a fundraising bash with what one conservative outlet said was "a who’s who in the Madison defund-the-police movement" late last year.
As for the numerous groups that favor defunding police but are backing him, Barnes had little to say.
His campaign declined to provide the Journal Sentinel with his answers to the endorsement questionnaires from the Center for Popular Democracy, Democracy for America, Indivisible, MoveOn.org or the Working Families Party. Each of these groups also supports the movement to eliminate ICE.
This report comes the same day as the Journal-Sentinel story:
Wisconsin Democratic Senate candidate Mandela Barnes raked in $28,000 from a far-left joint-fundraising committee steered by leaders in the "defund the police" and "abolish ICE" movements, even as he works to distance himself from the controversial policies.
Exit take: before you email me about how this AKSHULLY isn’t a problem, imagine this material in $20 million worth of attack ads flooding Wisconsin’s airwaves.
This is how Ron Johnson gets another six years in the U.S. Senate.
Inside the Durham Hurr-durr…
ICYMI, conservative media is aflame with commentary about a recent filing by John H. Durham, the Trump-era special counsel still probing the probe into Russian interference.
I regret to inform you that much of it is codswallop.
Citing this filing, Fox News inaccurately declared that Mr. Durham had said he had evidence that Hillary Clinton’s campaign had paid a technology company to “infiltrate” a White House server. The Washington Examiner claimed that this all meant there had been spying on Mr. Trump’s White House office. And when mainstream publications held back, Mr. Trump and his allies began shaming the news media.
“The press refuses to even mention the major crime that took place,” Mr. Trump said in a statement on Monday. “This in itself is a scandal, the fact that a story so big, so powerful and so important for the future of our nation is getting zero coverage from LameStream, is being talked about all over the world.”
There were many problems with all this. For one, much of this was not new: The New York Times had reported in October what Mr. Sussmann had told the C.I.A. about data suggesting that Russian-made smartphones, called YotaPhones, had been connecting to networks at Trump Tower and the White House, among other places.
The conservative media also skewed what the filing said. For example, Mr. Durham’s filing never used the word “infiltrate.” And it never claimed that Mr. Joffe’s company was being paid by the Clinton campaign.
Most important, contrary to the reporting, the filing never said the White House data that came under scrutiny was from the Trump era. According to lawyers for David Dagon, a Georgia Institute of Technology data scientist who helped develop the Yota analysis, the data — so-called DNS logs, which are records of when computers or smartphones have prepared to communicate with servers over the internet — came from Barack Obama’s presidency.
I had some thoughts
1. Trump Botched China
The questions for those serious thinkers who maintain that Trump put us on the right track vis-à-vis China is: Which parts do you suggest we continue: The high taxes? The failure to secure more exports? The alienation of allies? The farm subsidies? Or the moral abdication?
2. Mazars Thumps Trump
Philip Rotner explains why the accounting firm has parted ways with its longtime client and his company.
Being fired by your accounting firm is never a good thing. When the accounting firm not only walks away from you but does so loudly with an express warning to users of your financial information that they can no longer rely on its accuracy, that’s even worse. When access to loans is the lifeblood of your business, it’s worse yet. And when all of this happens in the midst of civil and criminal investigations into your financial dealings, you could be in big trouble.
3. Where Are the Anti-Putin Anti-Imperialists?
Now would be a nice time for some anti-imperialism. Russia has mobilized a massive contingent of forces on the Ukrainian frontier—fully half of all Russian combat troops, according to some reports—threatening to annex and incorporate more Ukrainian territory than seized at the outset of its hybrid war in 2014….
And yet, from Berlin to Berkeley, there has been a conspicuous dearth of protests against this undisguised display of imperialism. To some, the imperial power galloping around the world with abandon is not Russia but America, and its old stalking horse, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization