Jonah, We Hardly Knew Ye!
November 18, 2002, 04:00 AM
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Did articles of mine send out

A certain adolescent the girly-boys fired?

I couldn't help guiltily paraphrasing the Irish nationalist poet W.B. Yeat's broodings on the 1916 Easter Rising when I read the news that Jonah Goldberg had been fired as online editor of what VDARE.COM has been amusing itself by calling the Goldberg Review.

His oh-so-smooth masters aren't saying that, of course. But they wouldn't, would they?

Here's the clue: Jonah is to be a so-called "Editor-At-Large." The only two other National Review "Editors-At-Large" are William F. Buckley, who is senile, and former editor John O'Sullivan - who indisputably was fired, again amid smooth assurances to the contrary.

It's long been clear you have to do something really heinous to be fired at National Review i.e. ruffle WFB's vanity. But surely the Great Man couldn't be jealous just because we jokingly renamed his magazine after its – well, not exactly brightest, let's say brashest – new star?

Could he?

Goldberg may be dead/ out. But the phenomenon he epitomized lives on. I've called it "Goldbergism" – the transformation of a historic conservative movement into the right wing of the permanent government party, sharing its ideology of therapeutic managerial liberalism.

For example, for the sake of understanding the contemporary "conservative movement," I read very carefully the online version of the statement after the midterm election by "NR Editors" that appears in the November 25 issue of National Review. And I came away, like even the neoconservative publicist David Frum, who appears to have been hired by NR in the interests of diversity, struck by the restrained not to say pathetic character of the new "conservative" wish list.

Thus the "first priority for Republicans" was "to ensure that Bush has the ability to fire and reassign people in anti-terrorism agencies" and that "national security" should "trump the unions' demands." Beyond that, it was thin pickings indeed. Unless there was something I missed, all that "conservatives" are supposed to push Republicans to do is "pave the way for a reform of social security based on private investment," that is, introduce into the government plan some private investment aspect, and to link "prescription drugs subsidies [if possible] to a reform of Medicare."

Needless to say, nothing as deeply divisive or as rightwing as moving against affirmative action and "bilingual" education, or ending the continued invasion across our southern border is allowed to enter the picture. National Question issues are not ones that conservatives should even be tempted to raise – and this after electing an administration that "NR Editors" claim, in some generic or structural sense, is "conservative."

What "NR Editors" really want the Bush administration to do, of course, is to create an American empire- but under a different name.

As usual, poor Goldberg has put it best, or most characteristically. In a recent rambling commentary [September 24], he browbeat certain bad guys for "not getting America" and set out to explain when empires are not empires. His tries to make the point that the U.S. only looks and smells like an overreaching empire to those who "don't believe in freedom and democracy and free markets" or who have trouble grasping that the U.S., when given the "moral choice" and "power" to be an empire, "has chosen not to be one." He ends with the typically childish phrase "Hopefully, we'll teach it how to pass the same test." That's a reference to a new Iran.

Iran, not Iraq. It seems "we" are going be teaching Iran next.

But it is altogether possible to believe in ordered freedom and in our original constitutional framework, as all paleoconservatives do, and nonetheless believe that the U.S. is becoming an empire. In my After Liberalism, which fortunately Jonah will now have time to read, he will encounter the argument that not all empires are driven by "material gain." Indeed, I wish American imperialism could be adequately explained by the machinations of oil investors. But it is political players, e.g. the Zionist global democrats at National Review and New Republic, who are its cutting edge. (I may say I write this as a supporter of Israel.)

In my view, and in that of foreign policy analysts Walter McDougall and James Kurth, it may be too late to undo American imperialism. It is a fact of international life that has resulted from the history of the last hundred years. What remains to be addressed is how we deal with the superabundance of our power – prudentially, or like zealots driven by ideological fixations and domestic ethnic politics.

Another consideration that must be addressed: what does imperialism do to the constitutional design of our country? Murray Rothbard and Robert Higgs were both right to stress a general incompatibility between limited constitutional government and expanding empires. Imperial crusades make it harder to counteract consolidated managerial government. They push forward the cumulative process by which a once self-restrained regime, based on checks and balances, is turned into a unified engine of foreign expansion.

The American statesman who made this argument best in the twentieth century was Robert Taft. Unlike Goldberg, Taft never described himself as a "conservative." But if Goldberg and his social democratic globalist companions are "conservatives," then perhaps I too am not a conservative.

In his Blog scribbling (October 2), Jonah noted of me that "Elizabethtown College's Harvey Mansfield he ain't."

I can see that Jonah wouldn't like Elizabethtown College, where I teach. It's a small, private, liberal arts school, originally founded by Protestants, out here in darkest America. I am here because, in what is literally a footnote to conservative history in my book The Conservative Movement, I was denied a graduate professorship at Catholic University of America by neo-conservative lobbying. Of course, this was thirteen years ago – earlier than anything Jonah can be expected to know about.

Jonah cites Mansfield because he's been told he's OK with the neocons - and because he's at Harvard. Mansfield's father and namesake was a liberal political scientist at Columbia University. My own father, by contrast, was the first, and to my knowledge only, Jewish fire commissioner of Bridgeport, Connecticut.

And this is one further reason that Goldberg and his pals are drawn to the guy I "ain't." They're snobs pretending to be "democrats."

Goldbergism is ultimately about fawning on the powerful. Why else would anyone write about politics?

Too bad for Jonah that the powerful can still get jealous.

Paul Gottfried is Professor of Humanities at Elizabethtown College, PA. He is the author of After Liberalism, Carl Schmitt: Politics and Theory, and Multiculturalism And The Politics of Guilt: Toward A Secular Theocracy.

November 18, 2002