Yes, There Was a Quid Pro Quo

Note: This is the G-File, Jonah Goldberg’s newsletter. If you saw this without subscribing and want it in your inbox, sign up here.

Dear Reader (If that's your real name),

As Thomas Paine once said: “What’s the point of having a famously self-indulgent email ‘news’letter if you can’t air your grievances?”

So herewith are some replies to some of the jackassery I’ve been subjected to over the last week or so. 

Since impeachment is thick in the air, like the particulates of Eric Swalwell’s famous five-bean chili when he shows up on set, I should start there. 

On Sunday, I was on Fox News Sunday (It would have been weird if I appeared on Tuesday). I said that pretty much all reasonable people who’ve paid attention understand that President Trump pressured the Ukrainians to announce an investigation into Biden. (That’s a paraphrase, you can find the clip here.) 

This made a lot of people angry

Now, if you’ve paid attention, you don’t need me to rehash all of the reasons why I believe this. But I’ll give you a few reasons, just so I’m not accused of stealing a base. Feel free to skip ahead. 

First, there’s the “perfect” phone call. Here’s David French’s useful summary from a couple weeks ago:

First, Trump complains about a lack of reciprocity in America’s relationship with Ukraine.

Second, Zelensky mentions that Ukraine is “almost ready” to purchase Javelin missiles.

Third, the very next words out of Trump’s mouth are “I would like you to do us a favor

though,” and he proceeds to ask for ask for Ukrainian assistance in investigating bizarre

a conspiracy theory related to the 2016 election.

Fourth, Zelensky responds by saying, “[I]t is very important, and we are open for any

future cooperation.”

Fifth, Trump asks Zelensky to work with Rudy Giuliani, says, “The other thing” (implying

this is still part of his favor) and asks Ukraine to “look into” matters involving Joe and

Hunter Biden.

Sixth, Zelensky responds favorably, saying that his new prosecutor “will look into the

situation. 

As David notes, Trump wasn’t asking Zelensky to cooperate with a lawful independent investigation by the Justice Department—no such investigation existed, as Attorney General William Barr was quick to clarify. He was asking Zelensky to work with his off-book personal emissary, Rudy Giuliani.  

There’s the mysterious halting of the military aid, despite the fact the “corruption” certification had already been issued. 

Then there was the time when Trump said, straight into a camera, that he wanted Ukraine and China to investigate the Bidens.

Then there’s the New York Timesstory from last May in which Rudy Giuliani said he was lobbying the Ukrainians to go after the Bidens.

Plus, the CNN interview in which Giuliani admitted he did it. 

Plus, there’s the fact that when you talk to elected Republicans away from the cameras, they almost to a person agree that Trump wanted a quid pro quo.  

I could go on longer than Joe Biden giving “brief” remarks. But you get the point. 

Today’s testimony from Sondland puts a lot of this to rest. There was a quid pro quo. 

Sondland’s Ignorance

A quick digression: I personally find the claim of Gordon Sondland (and of Kurt Volker) that he had no idea “Burisma” was connected to the Bidens to be absurd. Sondland testified that he (and his fellow Amigos) were vexed by Rudy Giuliani’s intrusion into Ukrainian affairs. He claimed that he hadn’t realized the connection until perhaps September, when the “transcript” of the phone call was released. 

Imagine for the sake of argument that your boss hires an outside consultant on his own dime to work out a side deal with the clients you work with. He’s floating all sorts of b.s. rumors and generally mucking up all of your plans. Then, the New York Times runs two front page stories accusing this guy of doing super shady stuff related to your portfolio. I get that not everybody reads the Times. But do you find it remotely plausible that nobody at the office would say, “Holy crap, did you see the story in the Times?” You don’t think someone would have forwarded it to you? Sondland says he talks with leaders and policymakers in and around Ukraine constantly. None of them saw the Times’ stories? And just to be clear, this how the May 10 front-page story begins:

WASHINGTON — Rudolph W. Giuliani, President Trump’s personal lawyer, is encouraging Ukraine to wade further into sensitive political issues in the United States, seeking to push the incoming government in Kiev to press ahead with investigations that he hopes will benefit Mr. Trump.

Mr. Giuliani said he plans to travel to Kiev, the Ukrainian capital, in the coming days and wants to meet with the nation’s president-elect to urge him to pursue inquiries that allies of the White House contend could yield new information about two matters of intense interest to Mr. Trump.

One is the origin of the special counsel’s investigation into Russia’s interference in the 2016 election. The other is the involvement of former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr.’s son in a gas company owned by a Ukrainian oligarch.

Mr. Giuliani’s plans create the remarkable scene of a lawyer for the president of the United States pressing a foreign government to pursue investigations that Mr. Trump’s allies hope could help him in his re-election campaign. And it comes after Mr. Trump spent more than half of his term facing questions about whether his 2016 campaign conspired with a foreign power.

The Biden stuff isn’t even below the fold!

Grievance One

Anyway, one of my abiding grievances with punditry these days is that too many people expect commentators on their own side to simply act like partisan hacks for whatever the party line of the day is. The funny thing about this is that the same people who have this expectation are among the first to—correctly!—point out when commentators on the other side do the exact same thing. Conservatives are great at pointing out the partisan groupthink on CNN and MSNBC but many are utterly blind to it on Fox—and vice versa for liberals. 

I know a lot of folks think that because I am a Trump critic—and because Trump critic simply means “Never Trumper” or “Resistance” to this crowd—that anything I say must be intended to inflict maximum damage on Trump. But the argument I made on Fox News Sunday, and in numerous columns and G-Files, isn’t that he must be removed. I think it is obvious that he did it, that it was improper, and that reasonable people can conclude it’s impeachable. I’ve never written that he must be impeached. I keep saying both impeachment and removal are prudential questions. My argument—which tracks very closely to that of Andy McCarthy and others—is an analytical one. 

Trump is putting vulnerable senators and congressmen in a terrible situation by saying the call was perfect. It wasn’t, and virtually no senator and all but a handful of congressmen believe it was. My point is that it would be better for Trump and the GOP if Trump followed the examples of Ronald Reagan during Iran-Contra, Bill Clinton during his impeachment mess, or even Richard Nixon during the Checkers scandal and just admit he made a mistake, apologize, and then argue that impeachment is overkill, particularly in advance of the coming election. That doesn’t make me a “Never Trumper.” But Always Trumpers have an almost Stalinist hatred for “deviationism” these days. 

Boo Hoo, the Racists Don’t Like Me

I gave a speech at the University of Wisconsin last week. As expected, some young racist poltroons showed up to DESTROY me with their supposedly devastating questions. These kids have been pausing their Call of Duty games and flooding various events around the country to heckle and pester a diverse group of conservatives and Trumpists alike (Don Jr. was literally heckled from a stage at UCLA, in part because he was too scared to face questions from the audience). The week before, they showed up at an event I did with Rep. Dan Crenshaw (you can hear the audio of that here). They go by the name “groypers” after a new and improved alt-right frog cartoon, and they’re followers of pasty kid named Nick Fuentes. 

Anyway, at the Madison event, one kid asked some long and loaded—and really stupid—question which he read from his iPhone. That’s an M.O. of these pasty trolls. They hone their queries in some chat room somewhere until they think there’s no escaping the forensic brilliance on display. After answering the question—admittedly with ample scorn; I don’t think it was unduly harsh, merely duly harsh—the kid whined something about how could I call their group or movement (or giant Onanism-oval) “racist” when it’s been embraced by none other than Michelle Malkin, a woman of color. 

The whiny tone when he brought up Malkin was remarkable. Like a little kid shouting “No fair! We have a token minority! You’re not allowed to call us racist now!” 

You gotta love it when racist would-be manly men hide behind the moral authority of female minorities. 

I replied with something like, “Oh my God, not Michelle Malkin!” and proceeded to detail why I couldn’t give enough defecations to fill a thimble about what she says about these people. Someone gave the video to Malkin and she whined about it on Twitter:

To which I replied: 

And she shot back:

If anything, the only false or defamatory statement here is her paranoid nonsense about how I’m part of something called Open Borders Inc., whatever that is. As for false statements, I suppose you could say I skirted the line by saying I always respected her. But I’ll let it stand. We used to be friendly. 

Since then, Malkin has been justly defenestrated by YAF because she openly defends a bunch of racists and anti-Semites, including Fuentes, who defends Jim Crow and denies the Holocaust. She says they’ve all been “unjustly prosecuted.” I assume she means persecuted, unless she thinks the guy who murdered a protestor at the Charlottesville “Unite the Right” rally should have been let off with a warning. 

Suffice it to say, nothing I said about her was false or defamatory. 

The Invincible Stupidity of the Alt-Right

I honestly thought we were done with this alt-right crap. 

There was a time when the alt-right seemed like a real threat to conservatism. During the 2016 presidential campaign, Donald Trump was eager to take the support of anyone who would offer it. This, plus a lot of his rhetoric, gave the impression that Trump actually subscribed to the full alt-right agenda.

A quick refresher: Besides what we know publicly about Trump’s reluctance to disavow David Duke, reliable sources have  told me that it took serious effort from his advisors to denounce him. Again, I don’t think it was because Trump’s a secret Klansman or anything; he just hates criticizing people, including dictators, who flatter him. Also, I think he believed that Republicans were more racist than they are or that racists are an important part of the GOP coalition. There was also the fact that Russian bot accounts, in keeping with a Soviet tradition that goes back to the 1960s, were flooding Twitter with racist and anti-Semitic garbage that amplified the perception that there was some sleeper army of bigots ready to swarm the polls on Trump’s behalf. These were the days when that Milo guy was a right-wing celebrity defending the alt-right and Steve Bannon was proudly proclaiming that Breitbart—then overpopulated with actual racists—would be the new “platform for the alt-right.” The Klavern over at VDARE thought their moment was nigh and were no doubt handing out their Helter-Skelter party hats. 

Since then, the Russian bot spigot has been turned off, and Donald Trump posed the same problem for committed racists that he poses for everyone else who actually believes in something other than Donald Trump. Consistent conservatives inclined to support the president have been bedeviled by Trump’s glandular unpredictability and narcissistic self-absorption, but so have intellectually consistent nativists, nationalists, isolationists, and racists. Say what you will about the tenets of Ann Coulterism, at least it’s an ethos. The author of In Trump We Trust cares more about her priorities than fueling the Trump cult of personality. Sure, Stephen Miller is safely ensconced in the White House—I suspect because of the physical danger of removing his head from so deep in Trump’s ass—but we don’t live in the Trumpen Reich that Richard Spencer fantasized about either. 

I don’t want to glide past the fact that the alt-right is fundamentally evil. That would be like attacking Jack the Ripper for the raggedness of his knife work. But if you don’t think Holocaust deniers and defenders of state-sanctioned racism are evil, there’s nothing I can do to persuade you otherwise. 

But I assume that at least some people attracted to this bilious garbage can be salvaged because they’re simply working from imperfect information. Young people are often attracted to transgressive taboo-defying speech because they mistake the controversy it arouses for the glow of some Secret Truth. This is the story of countless radicals of the left and right throughout the ages. So it’s worth pointing out just how stupid all of it is. 

First, by his own admission, Fuentes is a Milo, just without the flamboyant wardrobe. He told The Hill that he’s not really a Holocaust denier; he just pretends to be for the attention: 

He said that some of his remarks are meant as outrage trolling to draw attention to his show or as over-the-top digs at political rivals aimed at getting under their skin.

“That’s kind of the whole thing,” he said. “We have figured out the game. The algorithm. We’ve hacked the conversation where if you say sensational things like we do, you get attention. I don’t want it to be like that. I wish I could ascend with ideas.”

The poor little bigot would love to talk about ideas, but he just has to play a game to get saps, losers, and sincere bigots to watch his show. Now, I’m sure many of the groypers think he’s lying to The Hill and he really does believe this crap. Either way, by his own words, anyone who takes Fuentes as anything more than a performance artist is a sucker. 

As for the substance, the idea that America was once a unified community for “white” people is ahistorical hogwash. It took generations for Italians, Irish, and other immigrant communities to be counted as “white.” Even in the South, there was a caste system. Blacks were obviously at the bottom, but poor whites were not exactly seen as equals by the aristocratic class of slaveowners.  The idea that “true conservatism”—one of the groypers go-to-phrases—is defined by white solidarity is particularly absurd when you factor in the history of Western civilization. None of the conflicts, debates, or arguments of Western Civilization centered around racial questions until the late 19th century. Indeed, the idea of race doesn’t even enter the story until the Enlightenment, and it was hardly central to anything.

Meanwhile, if you take the serious arguments this crowd salts its race panic talk with seriously, their strategy is idiotic. They claim to be very concerned that non-white people (other than Michelle Malkin) are somehow—genetically, culturally, congenitally—predetermined to vote Democrat. Genetics has nothing to do with it, of course. But the mere fact that Malkin (or Dinesh D’Souza) isn’t “voting her race” points to the flaw here. Hispanics and blacks can vote any way they want, but they must be persuaded to do so. Telling them they’re all dirty mud people with a hardwired drive to vote Democrat is literally the best way possible to get them to vote Democrat. 

Worried that Hispanics vote too liberal? Persuade them to vote differently. Is that hard? Sure. But it’s impossible if you tell them you think they’re un-American or inferior to white people. I have no principled objection to a time-out or drastic reduction in immigration numbers (there goes my check from Open Borders Inc). But the demographic trends in America still require the GOP to stop acting like it’s the party of White People. Indeed, the more successful the groyper types—and quite a few mainstream conservatives—are in making this the defining rationale for the GOP, the more it will turn off minorities, and a lot of white people. I put it to you that the number of white people who want to be part of an explicitly white nationalist party is far smaller than the number of white people who would leave the GOP as a result. 

One Final Grievance

Last and least is prominent goon-dufus Cory Lewandowski. 

I think that covers it.

Various & Sundry

I’m scheduled to be on Special Report tonight, though who knows whether it will be preempted by the hearings.

The latest Remnant is out, and it is admittedly not for everybody. It’s a pretty intensely nerdy foray into political theory with political scientist Dan Burns. I enjoyed it a lot but I understand if it’s not your thing.