Monday, November 21, 2016

National Review gets into The Normalizing

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At the National Review, Kevin D. Williamson dips a toe into The Normalization:
I do not agree with Donald Trump about much of anything. Early in the primary season, I wrote a little book titled “The Case against Trump.”
An extremely little book (48 200-words-per-page sides, or maybe 30 pages of manuscript, rushed out to cash in on the #NeverTrump flutter in the conservative movement before it fainted and died) in the Encounter Broadsides series beginning with a lively complaint that if it were 160 years ago and Trump were British he would probably oppose the repeal of the Corn Laws, which I think has to be one of the weakest arguments against Trump that has yet been deployed—not that I'd be against Repeal myself, of course, if I were an Englishman in 1846, I just think it's very hard to be sure how Trump would have felt about it, if he were somebody else in a different place and a different time, and equally hard to see why it's important.

And going on to clarify that Trump is actually right about immigration, though illiberal and wrong at the same time, and not a racist, because the racists just happen to be right about immigrants: "The litany of complaints is no less true for being dear to the hearts of bigots", because he has some evidence to suggest that Latino people in the United States are generally poorer than white people, and also a little more criminal, as poorer people often are, though Williamson doesn't of course mention that immigrant Latinos as opposed to US-born ones are on the whole significantly less criminal—
A separate IPC paper from 2007 explains that this is not a function of well-behaved high-skilled immigrants from India and China offsetting misdeeds of Latin American newcomers. The data show that “for every ethnic group without exception, incarceration rates among young men are lowest for immigrants,” according to the report. “This holds true especially for the Mexicans, Salvadorans, and Guatemalans who make up the bulk of the undocumented population.”
It also holds true in states with large populations of illegal residents. A 2008 report by the Public Policy Institute of California found that immigrants are underrepresented in the prison system. “The incarceration rate for foreign-born adults is 297 per 100,000 in the population, compared [with] 813 per 100,000 for U.S.-born adults,” the study concludes. “The foreign-born, who make up roughly 35% of California’s adult population, constitute 17% of the state prison population.” (Wall Street Journal, July 14 2015)
Which brings us up to the end of the Kindle preview, on page 6, and the end of any attempt to take Williamson seriously, given that the bigots he's defending are precisely wrong, and Williamson probably knows it (he brings up differences in numbers between native-born and immigrant Latinos in arguing about their possible effects on the prevailing wage). He's just another propagandist liar with a sweeter-than-average prose style.

But since Williamson's book, sadly, failed to tip the scales in favor of some other conservative option with a more advanced understanding of the British political economy of the 1840s, it need not concern us any further here.
I believe him to be morally unfit and intellectually unprepared for the office to which he has been elected. Which is why one of the most annoying of my tasks for the next four (one assumes!) years is going to be pointing out that while Trump may not be right about very much, his critics often are wrong.
The Normalization proceeds. That second sentence needs some editing: Williamson meant to say not "Which is why my annoying task is going to be pointing out P" but something like, "Which is why my task of pointing out is going to be annoying". The way he's written it makes it sound as if Trump's unfitness for office is itself the reason why Williamson has to attack Trump's critics, and the annoying character of the job is a side issue—
  • Trump is unfit for office, and therefore
  • Williamson must point out that Trump's critics are wrong
  • which will be especially annoying
as opposed to the intended
  • Williamson must point out that Trump's critics are wrong,
  • but Trump is unfit for office, and therefore
  • the task will be especially annoying
—which is pretty weird, when you think about it.

In fact, it's a clever semantic trick that Williamson is himself probably unaware of. Misordering the premises in that way begs a big question—just buries it, really, in the mess of the syntax: Why does Williamson have to spend much of his time over the next four years attacking Trump's critics? Even though Trump is unfit for office and wrong about most things?

The real reason being—duh—that Williamson is a propagandist, as I've said, working for the team rather than for the truth. He's tasked with attacking Trump's critics because the critics are on the enemy squad, period, and the fact that his own squad's captain is an ignorant psychopath makes it harder, but doesn't tempt him to give up.

What Trump is right about this week, per Williamson, is preferring Trump Tower to the White House as a place to be president from:
Trump apparently does not want to live in Washington, and this has inspired a chorus of discord and dissonance to rival the oeuvre of Yoko Ono.
There is no particular reason for Trump to live full-time in Washington. Washington is a dump, one of the least attractive and least inspiring American cities. Trump Tower is a dump, too, a big vertical void in the middle of one of the least interesting parts of Manhattan, but Trump apparently likes it, and he has gone to the trouble of gold-plating his toilets, which you do not do unless you are really planning to plant yourself in place.
There is a particular reason why the head of government and head of state of the United States should live in the national capital. It's where the government and the state are. You can't run it by conference call. You might turn it over to a crew of trusted thugs, like Emperor Tiberius swimming with his catamites in Capri, but to not live in Washington is effectively abdicating.
National Review has kept its headquarters in New York for much the same reason: Politics should not be the central activity in our lives, or even in our shared public life, and consequently the political capital should be subordinate to the financial and cultural capitals. 
Trump shouldn't have run for president if he didn't want politics to be the central activity in his life. Bad career move!

There's lots more, including a gratuitous attack on Vice President Biden for maintaining his residence in Delaware, which causes the public much more inconvenience (his security takes up half an Amtrak car) than Trump's helicopter travel from his dark tower (Williamson doesn't mention the security around the tower itself, which is presenting an "unprecedented challenge" to policing and traffic management in its East Side neighborhood, costing the city $1 million a day and "destroying foot traffic" to the local restaurants and shops), and a ridiculous attempt to revive the great Clinton email massacre:
If Trump prefers to conduct his business via technological means rather than face-to-face, I am confident that the gentlemen over at the NSA can configure his Twitter account in a secure fashion, or at least one that is more secure than the e-mail system used by our beloved former secretary of state.
Let the record show that Clinton's email system was infinitely more secure than the State Department and Pentagon communications during her secretaryship. But no, it's not worth a lot of attention. That bland assertion, though, that Trump ought to stay on the East Side because it's more real than Washington, and it was good enough for old Mr. Buckley—
Also, I suspect that while William F. Buckley Jr. was one of the most persuasive men of his generation, he’d have had an impossible time convincing his wife to live in Washington, even if he had thought it necessary.
—that's something of a superior level of wrongness.

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