tv 2018 Printers Row Lit Fest - Jonah Goldberg Suicide of the West CSPAN June 9, 2018 2:00pm-2:46pm EDT
row lit fest. a special thank you to all of our sponsors. today's program will be broadcast live on c-span2 book tv. there will be time at the end of this event for some questions and answers, so think of those questions you want to ask during the program and we ask that you use the microphones located at the sides so the audience is at home can use it-- here's your questions. .. thank you for joining us for this session with bruce dole and conservative columnist jonah goldberg. mr. goldberg's book is for people serious about reading about the political world in which we reside. those who follow his commentary understand why he sees trump is
an as a pretender to reagan populism and why he believes the current challenge for conservatives is to apply reagan principles. one way to think about this book is there are many antecedents to this charged environment the didn't just happen with mr. trump. this is a patient explanation, not the paralyzing divisions we have in this society. [applause] >> thanks for braving the chicago elements today. thank you for the argument in the book, let's go to the spoiler alert. suicide of the west, grim
title, no question marks, does the patient survive? thank you for having me, thank you to all the people who showed up including all the chicago conservatives and i mean that thoroughly. not figuratively the way joe biden means literally. so one of my favorite sayings about america is it could choke on a gnat and swallow tigers whole and i'm still congenitally an optimist but the point of the title, i agree it is a grim title, not quite kick a bass with a toaster but it is close. i didn't go spanglerian and say decline of the west. suicide of the west because i hate using the word suicide given the terrible things going
on with kate spade, let's stipulate those are tragedies and all that. suicide is a choice and there's a reason the first sentence of the book is there is no god in this book and the reason i say that is not because i am an atheist, i am not an atheist but because as my dear friend charles krauthammer likes to say decline is a choice. we as a civilization and a society and democracy have the power to turn things around if we choose to do so and so just as there is no god in the book there's also no cold, impersonal forces of history, no right side of history, no -- we as a society can argue about the best policy, the best course of action. it takes persuasion and
argument and passion to do it. what i'm trying to do is join in that effort and model behavior. i don't mean to be sanctimonious, eat your spinach, i paid my dues, but conservative argumentation, what i'm trying to do is a good faith effort to persuade people on the right and the left who disagree with me and show that persuasion and argument which are essential to politics can still work and it doesn't all have to be smash mouth stuff. >> the natural state of mind mankind is grinding poverty punctuated by horrific violence terminating with an early death. you are a funny guy in your column by the way. you got the state of affairs but then a miracle happens.
>> for 250,000 years depending on whose numbers you use, since humanity split from the neanderthals, human beings everywhere the world lived on no more than $3 a day for 250,000 years, statistically 0 economic growth, all of a certain ones in human history the starts to change, starting in england, some people want to argue, holland, dutch jingoist in the room wants to fight me on this, it starts on a remote corner of western europe and starts to go like this and like this. it is miraculous, lines get longer, people have more wealth, literacy starts to go
up. every metric people claim politics is supposed to address, alleviation in poverty, improvements in public health. they start to improve not without pickups, and continuing to do this today. we live in the greatest moment of poverty alleviation in human history and in the last 30 years, hundreds of millions have been lifted out of poverty and not because of un programs, i'm not think we shouldn't be taking out mosquito netting and all these things but the reason we have hundreds of millions in china and india and africa being able to eat nutritious meals, to live into old age for the first time, to read for the first time, the spread of these ideas, liberal democratic capitalism. not without problems but that
is what is doing it, despite the gloomy title i tried to end up talking about the importance of gratitude, this thing that happened is not natural, poverty is natural. early death from violence is natural, what is a natural are things like democracy, human rights, property rights, capitalism, these things were invented and invented by accident which is why i call it a miracle. it is inexplicable. we don't know why it happened but we know that it did happen and it is something we should be grateful for. >> these things are happening around the world. you hear people say 1 billion people have come out of the depths of poverty around the world and yet this plateau, their game is our loss which is
to feel the political argument. >> globalization comes with a price. i don't want to say globalization and immigration in these things do not create losers, not in terms of high school, you are a loser but people who get the short end of the stick. globalization and these other powers are dislocating settled communities and settled ways of doing things. the beauty of capitalism, in a state of nature, hundreds of thousands of years, i wanted your apples, i would hit you over the head with a rock and take your apples and with the rise of the market, all of a sudden i give you money.
and they emphasize the negative. one thing capitalism is not good at is fixing any quality, everybody does get richer, some get richer faster than other people and we have a tendency in the human brain to reason people who seem to be getting a larger share than we did and income any quality really pings our tribal brains in a bad way, the thing is communism, which tribalism originally was is really good with the unique problems any quality because it makes everybody equally poor. >> a piece i was favorable, the
focus on relentless individuals, neglected the common good. >> i want to be very delicate about this. i'm a big fan of david's, grateful for the column david wrote about the book, is flatly wrong in his reading of that book. a big part of my argument is the importance of civil society, family and mediating and i do not advocate individualism, lockean individualism is a problem, one of my favorite lines, every generation is invaded by barbarians. we call them children and anybody who has had a kid knows
fundamentally, and one of the things that defines conservatism and the insight human nature has no history, took a baby from new rachelle, and a viking family, to go ponder the english countryside. if you take viking baby and sent it to new rachelle it would grow up to be an orthodontist. what i mean is babies are not born in the united states, they are born into families. families are the things that primarily, babies come with a lot of factory preset software, there's a wonderful book by paul bloom at yale called just babies where he surveys the neuroscience on how much software babies are born with and it is amazing.
babies cry from a shockingly early age with an accent. french babies have a french cry, russian babies have a russian cry, russian babies, english language babies will be attracted to the english language and distrust foreign language, almost from birth from hearing it in utero, babies bond with ethnic facial type of their parents. this gets to one of these clichés i can't stand which children have to be taught to hate. just not true. we are born with a deep distrust of strangers, and evolutionary adaptation that allowed us to pass on our genes. darwin writes about it. what we have to do is teach people not to hate. that is one of the grading families in western civilization are supposed to do and what civilization does, takes human nature and provides
software updates so we don't raise kids to be viking plunderers but good citizens in our civilization. civilization is a verb, a process. when you have the breakdown of the family, the institutions of civil society and revert back to the initial programming and we act more tribally. anyone who has done any research or looked at the role of inner-city gangs going back to the irish of the 19th century understand a big part of the reason kids join these gangs, have a sense of meaning and they do that in large part because the other institutions in society, school, family and religion aren't doing their jobs.
david missed a chapter or something, focusing on locking individuals but i do focus on individualism is for a liberal democratic nation, the sovereignty of the individual is essential when setting up the rule of law and run a greater society, and when you talk about the microcosm of the family, we are not rugged individuals. in my family i am essentially a communist. i do not charge my daughter for food. i do not put price tags on the fridge. i don't charge her rent. she is 15. in the family it really is from each according to his ability to each according to his needs. in the macrocosm, the extended order of liberty, the greater
society, operate on contract, trade, these concepts, treat people as individuals but in the family and the little platoons of life we don't do it that way. and having that right balance, the more humanitarian they need to be but the further out you get, organizing a big society and recognize individual rights individual visual liberty -- individual liberty. >> the general distrust, the return to tribalism, distrust in institutions, can't we just blame the kids for it? i think we can, lineals kids. you cite the numbers. there is a big gap in age, distrust of capitalism, distrust of democracy, they
don't believe in free-speech rights, don't know what the first amendment says, they don't leave it is unfettered. wife there that age gap, fundamental beliefs? >> a few caveats. i'm a big opponent of youth politics. i don't like generational politics. so i can't stand when people talk about the greatest generation because if you stormed normandy you deserve to never have to buy a beer again as far as i'm concerned. if you're in the drunk tank in peoria when everyone else your age was storming normandy, no transitive property said you are too great because you have the same birthday as the guys, the same goes with millennials. marine starting businesses and
all that and some millennial's out there or whatever we want to call young people today who are frittering away their lives playing call of duty on the couch and it is unfair to say they are all one or the other. there is a well-established finding and literature that says ignorance and stupidity are highly correlated with age. we are all born morons and only get over it as we get older. some of it, they used to say gen x doesn't know anything, the baby boomers, some of that is endemic to me. a bigger part of the problem as my friend ben sass says, a civics crisis in this country, we do not teach people how the system works or how to be grateful for what they have inherited or the idea that there should be a partisan
valence to the concept of free-speech is insane, a suicidal choice we are making of the culture to do that and the way we teach history so much in this country is we teach that american history or western history is only one story after another of things we should be ashamed of and a lot in our past we should be ashamed of. we should also be proud of how often we have overcome those things we are ashamed of. take slavery. slavery was a profound moral horror and properly hypocritical of the founding fathers to say all men are created equal and still have slave that not given the right to vote, i want to teach that stuff but i want to teach that stuff to show what an incredible story this country had the we overcame those things. we are not done fixing them, we still have improvements to do. every civilization since the agricultural revolution had
slavery to what extent or another. what was remarkable about western civilization particularly england was better than we were wasn't that we had slaves but we got rid of slaves. we shed blood to get rid of this evil institution and yet the way we teach so much history now, it is just our worst moment coming to define us like the mark of cain forever, and a lot of kids -- when you don't teach gratitude the opposite floods in, the opposite of gratitude is entitlement and resentment. people are taught from an early age in this country in large numbers straight through college that they are owed something from this country. that they should be resentful this country hasn't done more for them. and they should not let go of their identity politics label. and assimilation is evil and this is a real problem and is a suicidal choice in our culture.
>> a few look at the practical implication like free trade, where we come -- bill clinton was a free trader, manasseh -- nafta, obama talks like a free trader and then walked away because he saw where the nation was going and now we have a republican president who almost talks like a democrat on trade protectionism. back in the 90s, a great political cartoon when nafta passed and color-coded north and south america and mexico was labeled manufacturing in the us was labeled retail and canada was labeled tarp. >> those guys did burn down our white house. >> a general feeling, we are
the parking lot now. how do you combat that. >> that is not true. the biggest problem with it, we can talk about immigration if you want. large-scale immigration creates real dislocations in legitimate positions, "national review," we have been hawkish on restriction for a long time, walked through all of that, most of the jobs people are blaming, that we have outsourced or imported workers for, and what we have been. and require fewer people to do it. and these robot kiosks. these aren't immigrants coming in. those are machines. blame skynet.
i have a friend who is a trade expert, constantly worried he will cut himself when donald trump starts talking about trade. trade deficits are one of the great bogeyman of economic illiteracy in american life, not there isn't some instance things to be concerned about, and the investment surplus, we saw more people than import, those dollars have to come back and be invested in america because those have american dollars. all the dollars that go abroad must come back and be spent on america. one thing that drives me batty is listen to donald trump simultaneously complain about
trade deficits will also brag about investment surplus. to get rid of trade deficits we would lose a lot of investment surplus is because the seesaw, another one goes back up. and some of this simply has to do with the bad news bias we have in our culture. it is a problem in journalism and everywhere, a problem with our own brains, the caveman who hears a suspicious roar coming from the cave and says that sounds interesting, i will check it out, tended not to pass on his jeans. the one who said that sounds scary, i am not going in, tended to live another day. it is well documented finding in neuroscience, we focus on the downside and trade is one of those things and so is immigration. we look for blood human. >> we have the republican party at war with itself over trade of all things, what is the republican party if it can have
that kind of sharp disagreement? >> a wild back, it is a little unfair. radio host asked me, william f buckley recognized today's are public and pretty? the only thing that came to mind was charlton heston recognized the statue of liberty at the end of planet of the apes. recognition is not everything it is chalked up to be. it is inevitable trump is like a magnet next to a compass. all conversations go that way eventually. >> we knew that for a long time. >> we are not members of the resistance but we resisted. the remarkable thing to me is not how we are having a war on the republican party about trade in the sense that you mean it but the reverse, that
this is the first major public policy issue that a sizable number of republicans are standing up to this stuff and one of my hopes, people who know who i am know i have problems with donald trump. donald trump is a symptom of the problems we haven't is making some of them were sent some of them better i think or at least his administration is. one of the more serious structural problems we have in our country, the founding fathers never would have dreamed that the legislative branch wouldn't be a julius -- jealous guardian of its own power. we don't have three equal branches of government. congress is supreme. it is the one that passes the laws, the one that has the power to declare war, the one that is in charge of trade.
for reasons some of which have to do with the cold war, some having to do with the object sausage spine cowardice of a lot of politicians, congress has outsourced enormous amount of its responsibilities to the executive branch and the courts and the administrative state, the bureaucracy. so many people in congress do not want to be legislators. the problem with both parties, it is worse with republicans but a problem with both parties. they want to be pundits. they don't want to do anything that costs them a slot on fox and friends or morning joe. they would rather complain about something the president is doing than actually write a lot and take responsibility for it. a lot of the problems we have, a lot of reasons we got trump, this was a problem before trump came along, barack obama ruled with a lot of executive orders, did a lot of things he himself
said were unconstitutional, broke a lot of faith and confidence in the system and we have a parliament of pundits right now in congress. it is a real structural problem and one of the things i would love to see is for congress to clawback its trade authority. donald trump is imposing a lot of tariffs on the assertion that canada and our european allies pose a national security threat to us. that is just ridiculous. and he has that authority because we gave him the authority to decide what a national security threat was during the cold war. congress needs to take that back. >> if you have the white house, your agenda is set by the white house, a chance that you think republicans in congress would try to assert that kind of authority while they are in control?
>> one of the greatest disconnects in public life today is what republican congressman and senators say off the record and what they say on the record. you hear more people saying off the record and more people saying on the record that maybe we need to start clawing back some of these authorities but it is very very hard. donald trump has a real hold over a big chunk of the republican electorate and it is not a policy hold. it is a personality hold. you look at the republicans who have gotten in trouble with donald trump and it is not because they didn't vote with him. it is because they criticized him when he said or did things they said were worthy of criticism. jeff flake, corker is resigning, leaving office, that is why steve bannon when he s in the white house wearing all the layers of clothing was
trying to get rid of mitch mcconnell even though mitch mcconnell's agenda in the senate is the trump agenda. rand paul figured out the secret sauce to obstruct the trump agenda in congress but he finds over trump in public and no one says he is part of the problem. as long as trump commands a lot of the activist base, primaries, fox news, enthusiastic support a lot of access groups, very difficult to break with the base, hard for congress these days to break with the president anyway. 40 years ago if i asked if you were a republican or democrat, you would have to ask a follow-up question to figure if you are liberal or conservative. today because of what they call the big sword, partisan id is a profoundly telling label about
your entire worldview in the aggregate sense and that is another part of the problem. >> you are a conservative writer, conservative thinker in the conservative movement, what price you pay for being so critical of donald trump? >> i don't call myself never trumper but that term lost relevance after the election. i think what you had to do is -- i call my cell trump skeptic, sometimes trumper, agree with women i agree with him. i think all those labels are a tempest in the teapot. i just take the position that, no offense, i think most talk about journalistic ethics is justification for the guild that runs the columbia journalism school and all these things but one thing i take seriously is part of the job is not to lie. i won't say things i don't believe to be true or right things i don't believe to be
true, one of the most painful things is to hear fans and friends essentially disappointed in me because i failed to live down to their expectations and they thought once he is actually pres. about the nomination i would have to fall in line and just become a guy for the are in c. that is not my job. it has cost me some friends, it has been disruptive of my business model. telling -- coming out with a book that is not about trump but has trump stuff in it or being perceived as being anti-trump is not a great way for a conservative writer to sell conservative books. >> i hear from a lot of readers who talk about bias in the press, i argue with them about objectivity of news, we do a great job on that. in one area in punditry, it is
difficult to find columnists of national stature who want to defend trump. do you see -- would you most like to argue with who would qualify as a trump supporter? >> at "national review" we have a few. victor davis hanson does some excellent work in that regard. on specific issues like the fbi stuff, andy mccarthy is great. there are writers at the federalist who are all in for donald trump. but i am hard-pressed, part of the problem is if -- there is this a good journal launched a year and a half ago that was dedicated to fleshing out and defending the philosophical and policy agenda of trump and it
turned into a disaster because i don't think there is a consistent ideological core to trumpism. it is a psychological phenomenon more than ideological. if you put your bets saying trump's policy x is the right policy, in 3 or 4 days trump can completely reverse himself on that. if you are intellectually consistent thinker or writer, what do you do? do you think criticized donald trump for changing his mind or do you defend donald trump for being flexible or being -- 14 dimensional chess? you get a lot of those kinds of arguments because you can't follow a straight narrative on a lot of policy stuff. during the primaries donald trump was for single-payer, against single-payer, a lot of
different things. ideologically he is like an escaped monkey from a cocaine study. it is very difficult to predict where he is going to go or what he is going to say, so instead a lot of people are forced to defend the man rather than any coherence as a policy. he is are markedly consistent on trade stuff. he has been since the 1980s. not to sound like barack obama, but the 1980s what it's trade policy back. the need to take the oil, whatever that means. beyond that he brags about the fact he is flex >> ideological and policy questions. it is very difficult for someone in my line of work to defend this idea of trumpism beyond its role as a phenomenon, entertainment or populism or sticking it to the man or making these arguments that it is justifiable simply because what i call in my book,
tendency to think something is worth doing solely because it makes your enemies mad or upset, problem on the left and the right. it is tough. some people are better than others but it is not a genre i am a big fan of. >> we will take questions from the audience in a minute. we have a microphone floating around, we will ask one question and they will think of theirs. with the republican party today be better off with a wave election against the republican party? what would the outcome be? >> well, there is an old rule in politics. it is always better to win. i certainly think if the democrats take back the house, they will -- it is like trying
to get my dog not to chase a squirrel. they will go after impeachment. that is a tougher thing to game out because depending on what the underlying facts that mueller and the house find, that could be seen as grave overreach during the time the economy is doing well, and it could help donald trump, and it could be the end of donald trump. and calling himself -- i feel about calling myself a conservative. don't invest a huge amount, the fortunes of the republican party one way or another. and hope republicans get routed, people like jennifer rubin and all those guys, to
see the republican party destroyed, the original sin of embracing trump. for me personally if there is anything the last couple years have taught us it is making straight line political projections what the future holds, the surest way to get the universe to make a full out of you, if you look at how the last 21/2 years of gone, 2017-2018, like they were dropping acid in the writers room. it has been crazy. by this time next year we will be remembering fondly how well we did in the great us canada war. it is hard to predict. >> you mentioned congress not doing their job and ability to legislate. how much of that power do you think they could get back if they passed appropriations bills and a full budget every year?
>> i don't know if it would be step one. step one would be getting bloodhounds and finding their spine but it would be near the top of the list. congress has lost interest in controlling the power of the purse. for structural reasons both parties are more interested in running like parliamentary parties where they cram through what they can and have the power. and the way it is supposed to. and to budgeting, do hearings, and close to the right way. >> interesting frustrations, in trump country. i was wondering who would vote for this guy anyway, the way he acts, the inconsistency he is
and everything else, a little research and everything, traveling in kentucky for example when talking to people down there, the big industries, marketing and tobacco and bourbon and things like that, what is going on. a movie called deliverance, and remind me what time -- trump country is all about. >> is that the question? >> the question, trump is from trump country but support this guy, backing him up, republicans does back him up, he hijacked the republican party by using blue-collar democrats and forgotten americans. >> i would be delighted if someone brought a dog. i want dogs in every nook and cranny in our lives. to be fair, i am not sure it is
fair to say the prototypical trump voter is the guy who says to ned beatty squeal like a pig in deliverance which i have friends who are trump voters, i have trump voters in my family. at the end of the day trump did unify the republican party because he had two important mandates. one was to not be hillary clinton and he accomplished that on day one and the other was the judges stuff. those are the only two things. if you talk to every republicans those of the two things they can all agree on. everything else with potential argument or disagreement and all the rest. there was a solid core of trump supporters, but fifth avenue people and others say i don't really like him but he is
better than hillary or whatever. but i think democrats get themselves into really bad places when they assume if you voted for trump you are an evil, dumb, stupid redneck hick, racist, whatever because i don't think that is true. hillary clinton is a bad politician. i know she is a native daughter of illinois and arkansas and new york. >> good point. >> that deplorable thing was a bad idea. and democrats, something like 8 million people who voted for barack obama also voted for donald trump. that alone should tell you the glib, easy, that is because they are all racist thing, may
be a little fast i'll. >> i very much enjoyed your book liberal fascism and look forward to reading your current book. just a brief aside, there's an old adage i'm sure you are familiar with that conservatives think people on the left are wrong and people on the left think conservatives are evil. in the last statement personified that, tens of millions of conservatives in this country into painted with broad brush strokes doesn't serve our politics well at all. my question is this. like many americans, i was terribly disheartened and reeling yesterday at the tragic news about charles krauthammer's terminal cancer and it got me thinking aside from mr. krauthammer, who are the other conservative pundits i truly respect and hold in high esteem? the names that came to mind that would be elevated to the mount rushmore of conservative punditry would be krauthammer, obviously, yourself, victor davis hanson and dennis prager.
that is a personal opinion, no one cares about that. >> i agree with 50% of that for sure. >> what i'm interested in hearing about is the other 50%. who, living or dead, are some of the seminal thinkers that strongly influence your conservative thought that you would put on that pantheon? >> charles for sure. i grew up reading victor r dennis, friends with both of them. myself, sort of baked in by the time i started following that. krauthammer i read from an early age. george will, william f buckley. for me, a guy most people, not a household name anymore but irving kristol, who was bill
kristol's dad, and profound influence on me, deep and abiding influence. i might disagree with them. i have disagreements with all of them. but those guys -- the biggest influence was my dad. my dad was a very cerebral guy. one reason i loved irving kristol's he reminded me of my dad. a little jewish intellectual whose idea of vacation was going from one side of the couch to another to read a different book or magazine. or go to europe to look at museums. one of his only favorite hobbies was going on long walks with his sons to talk about how bad communism was. those guys for sure. i could come up with some other names pretty easily but you brought up charles. i don't want to talk too much because it is bad luck to cry on c-span. the news about charles krauthammer is devastating and i know charles had a dr.
strangelove persona on tv, kind of fry and stern and all that kind of stuff. more decent and humane and mention like human being, i'm not sure you could name. he is an amazing man. it is a whole that i don't think can never be filled. it breaks my heart what is going on. [applause] >> you talk about people in the republican party not getting along very well. when we have what happened with the iran deal, the burden of proof was inverted. isn't that what happens to create a lot of infighting? >> yes. i don't know that there