James Kirkpatrick’s interview with Rep. Steve King is now available to VDARE Book Club members. (Join here!) The complete video version will be released on Saturday, along with a free excerpt.
Steve King’s Walking Through the Fire: My Fight for the Heart and Soul of America isn’t just conservative boilerplate. In fact, it may pose a challenge to the very premise of the Conservative Movement™. Steve King was a nine-term Iowa Congressman, a Republican stalwart, a powerbroker at the national level, and a champion on every core conservative issue, notably abortion. Yet when he needed the Movement’s backing the most, it was his own party who stabbed him in the back. There is no reason to suppose that America will fare better at their hands.
King’s book details what exactly happened in January 2019 when the New York Times ran a hit piece that ultimately culminated in King losing his seat. It’s important to note that this infamous interview was a cynical and deliberate gambit. The New York Times was switching coverage from the collapsing “Russian Collusion” narrative to the “white supremacy” narrative to take down President Donald Trump. As King writes
In August 2019, New York Times editor Dean Baquet made the paper’s Trump strategy shockingly clear. “We built our newsroom to cover one story, and we did it truly well,” said the delusional Baquet at a large internal meeting. “Now we have to regroup, and shift resources and emphasis to take on different story.” The ‘one story’ had just collapsed. That was the story of Russia collusion. That tale proved to be a hoax. What Baquet was telling his staff was that they would now gear up to create a new hoax, namely the idea that President Trump was a racist. “It is a story that requires deep investigation into people who peddle hatred,” said Baquet, “but it is also a story that requires imaginative use of all our muscles to write about race and class in a deeper way than we have in years.”
Ultimately, it became more than simply toppling Trump, because the movement has no inherent limitation. King writes:
On the final weekend of May 2020, violent mobs of entitled young Leftists, black and white, raged through the streets of nearly every major city in America, burning, looting and defacing all vestiges of Western Civilization they could get their hands on. Statues of Washington, Jefferson, Teddy Roosevelt, Christopher Columbus, Andrew Jackson, Robert E. Lee, and even Abraham Lincoln were tagged, toppled, or beheaded… Not a single Democrat of note protested the madness. If anything, they sang the praises of these anarchists and their mindless acolytes. The Democrats were banking on the mayhem to fire up their base of the November elections. Few Republicans were speaking out with any measure of force or purpose.
Thus the Regime Media has easily been able to direct Americans’ passion and rage against Russia, then “White Supremacy,” then COVID deniers, and now back to Russia again. To my mind, the slavish obedience of the masses provides a powerful argument against “democracy”—as apparently citizens have no more autonomy than a lab rat trying to get a food pellet.
You might argue that’s overstating the case. But the fact is that both private and public actors are working in tandem to impose Left Totalitarianism. Unless Americans can obtain accurate information and debate it freely, voting is meaningless. Otherwise, we may as well just have journalists tell us who gets to be in office.
And we shouldn’t just blame this on “the Left” or “the Woke.” It was the Republican Party and much of the Conservative Movement™ that allowed this situation to develop, with Steve King’s case as a primary example.
On January 10, the New York Times published a story by hack Trip Gabriel [Tweet him]. Congressman King says that he was “more interested than he should have been” for an interview because he wanted media exposure to rebut charges that he was ineffective. (23) The story, Before Trump, Steve King Set the Agenda for the Wall and Anti-Immigrant Politics, certainly showed King wasn’t just effective, but a trailblazer. However, that effectiveness ended with that story. King recalls:
It was the next sentence that caused me a world of headaches. “’White nationalist, white supremacist, Western Civilization–how did that language become offensive?’ Mr. King said.” The following quote should have clarified the preceding sentence, “Why did I sit in classes teaching me about the merits of our history and our civilization?” When I said “that language” I was specifically referring to “Western Civilization.” Had I meant to lump all three phrases together I would have used a plural pronoun and said “those words” not “that language.” The pronoun “that” is definitely singular as is my reference to the culture of Western Civilization.
This may sound like semantics, but it's what started Rep. King’s downfall. A final contribution to this black comedy is that Rep. King’s communications director warned him that the interview was a trap and that the interviewer was gunning for King, not Trump. However, Rep. King missed the message and was caught off guard by the call. Therefore, it wasn’t taped.
The Leftist argument that King himself thought “white nationalist” and “white supremacist” were innocent labels makes no sense. He’s condemned such ideologies by name. There aren’t schools teaching about the glories of the white race—quite the opposite. This wasn’t a scandal; in a sane country, it wouldn’t have even been news. Nonetheless, Republicans (notably the even-then-appalling Liz Cheney) began piling on Steve King and aligning with the narrative that he was a “white nationalist.”
This doesn’t just reflect poor reasoning. It shows the contempt Republicans had for one of their hardest fighters. The worst of the traitors: Rep. Kevin McCarthy, who could become the next Speaker of the House if Republicans win the midterm elections.
My Statement on Kevin McCarthy’s Unprecedented Assault on my Freedom of Speech. pic.twitter.com/0R0vP6MoWT— Steve King (@SteveKingIA) January 15, 2019
Rep. King showed McCarthy his reconstruction of the interview and pointed to what he had actually said. In response, “McCarthy insisted Trip Gabriel was a reliable and reputable reporter. ‘He’s been at this a long time,’ McCarthy explained. ‘He is highly respected and wouldn’t make a mistake like this.’” King notes wryly, “I was not at all sure it was a mistake.”
It is possible that Kevin McCarthy is simply too stupid to know that the New York Times was deliberately launching its offensive to take down effective conservatives. King says that “to McCarthy, the New York Times is the Bible,” which is true of a surprising number of GOP elected officials and is an explanation of their notorious uselessness. But the more likely explanation is that McCarthy knew full well that this was a clumsy political hit, but consciously sided with the New York Times and its ridiculous claim because he wanted to cleanse the party of dissidents and troublemakers aka immigration patriots.
And it wasn’t just McCarthy.
The media have a way of persuading Republicans a circular firing squad is a good idea. For the firing squad with me at the center, all the usual suspects lined up. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell suggested I should find “another line of work.” Senator Mitt Romney said I should quit. Rep. Steve Stivers, the by now failed former chairman of the National Republican Congressional Committee, was publicly condemning me, and, I was told, privately recruiting primary opponents to run against me.
Later, Steve King was able to show via Lexis-Nexis that he was quoted speaking about Western Civilization 276 times since 2000, but never about white nationalism. It didn’t do any good, nor did it stop a media frenzy about Steve King and his supposed extremism [Steve King says he was just defending ‘Western Civilization.’ That’s racist, too, by David Perry and Matthew Gabriele, Washington Post, January 15, 2019].
Yet we shouldn’t just pin it on the journos. Republicans gave them the power by going along with this obvious hoax. Even those who on the receiving end of such media frenzies (as Mitt Romney was during the 2012 campaign) never seem to learn. King details a long list of other milquetoast Republicans who were savaged as vile racists, but seemingly learned nothing.
When King disappointed the Republican leadership by refusing to resign, McCarthy gave him a “political death sentence” by stripping him of all committee assignments, a fate no representative has ever survived. King says that McCarthy later gave him his word that he would later support him being put back on his committees. However, when asked about it by the press, McCarthy flatly denied it.
And we shouldn’t just blame this on “Republicans” or the GOP leadership. Rep. King says he considered Ben Shapiro “a friend or at least a conservative brother warrior.” However, Shapiro “has long lived in fear of the Left’s broad, racist brush.” When the story first broke in January 2018, Shapiro tweeted, “Congress ought to vote to censure [King], and then he ought to be primaried ASAP.” After that, he encouraged his conservative grassroots followers to donate to King’s opponent, Randy Feenstra, in a primary. (In contrast, Mark Steyn’s defenses of King were incisive and unanswerable.)
King also received a devastating blow from the Washington-based National Right to Life Committee (NRLC) when it refused to back Rep. King’s “Heartbeat Bill,” which would have banned many abortions. The NRLC instead has favored an incrementalist approach, opposing Rep. King’s strategy even before the 2019 New York Times interview, much to the rejoicing of Regime Media [Steve King Started A Feud With A Powerful Anti-Abortion Group, And Isolated Himself In The Process, Ema O’Connor, BuzzfeedNews, February 9, 2018]. NRLC proceeded to endorse King’s primary opponent, despite King's perfect voting record according to NLRC’s score card. Regime media celebrated NRLC’s repudiation of King after his election defeat [Iowa Rep. Steve King, Known For Racist Comments, Loses Reelection Bid, by Barbara Sprunt, NPR, June 3, 2020].
Walking Through The Fire contains far more than the incident that (for now) ended Steve King’s time in Congress. It chronicles his stalwart support for immigration patriotism, pro-life causes, and the Conservative Movement itself. He poured countless hours into “the movement,” taking the slings and arrows of the lying press. I’ve chosen to focus on the episode that ended his career in Congress because it broaches a devasting question: What did all this sacrifice and hard work get him in the end?
In my conversation with Rep. King for the VDARE Book Club, he broached the subject of regulating Big Tech, even to the point of nationalization. I believe that may be where we need to go. We can’t displace the controlled opposition of Conservatism Inc., let alone their Leftist masters, without free speech. The top priority of patriots must be subjugating Big Tech and establishing platform access as a civil right. After the Civil Rights Act of 1964, let us hear no nonsense about interference with “private” companies and what they can and cannot do. Those rights are as dead as Nullification. Let’s use the tools we already have in our power. Otherwise the only way for patriots to reach the masses is through a biased media that is determined to smear us at every opportunity. We must have an alternative, and that can only be guaranteed with state power.
Let Steve King serve as an inspiration but also a warning. You can fight hard for conservative principles, but the Conservative Establishment may not have your back. You can be a stalwart champion for the Republican Party, but the GOP leadership will believe an obvious New York Times smear over you. You can take point on the issues that matter to the grassroots, but the Republican Party, even in the majority, has no interest in delivering for the constituents they privately despise.
In his book and during my interview, I was struck by Steve King’s faith, compassion, courage, and willingness to fight on. Frankly, my opinion of him is far higher than it was before. I understand more fully how he handled the attacks on him and am far more forgiving of his tactical mistakes. Even had he dodged the hit piece, another would have been coming soon afterward. The journos knew King’s own party wanted him gone. They were simply acting in their nature; one can’t be mad at them any more than you can be angry at maggots for feeding on filth. The blame lies with the Republican Leadership, who enable them. And, luckily, we can do something about that by working against them as hard as possible.
Read this book, not just to support a great patriot, but to understand the true enemy. Journalists have no power beyond what Republicans give them. Steve King is the most spectacular example to prove Republican leaders truly do hate not just their voters, but their colleagues. They will take obvious lies from avowed foes rather than even grant a hearing to a colleague and comrade.
I hope Steve King will mount a political comeback. He is a proud conservative, American, and champion of Western Civilization. Regarding the GOP leadership, Steve King is worth the whole damn bunch put together.
I differ from Steve King only in this—that I think the System we are trying to save is no longer worth our sacrifices. Steve King wants to save America, and, by extension, Western Civilization. I look at the Potomac Regime and see Western Civilization’s greatest foe. Steve King thinks America can be saved; I no longer even think it exists in any meaningful way.
I hope that I am wrong—it would not for the first time. I hope his optimism and fighting spirit will carry the day. As far as what is to be done, the answers don’t change. Either way, we will have to confront the Left without fear and give them nothing but total opposition. We cannot do otherwise. Walk through the fire—because the only way out of our current difficulty is through it.
James Kirkpatrick [Email him | Tweet him @VDAREJamesK] is a Beltway veteran and a refugee from Conservatism Inc. His latest book is Conservatism Inc.: The Battle for the American Right. Read VDARE.com Editor Peter Brimelow's Preface here.