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Incompetent, Imperial Neocons and the Permanent State (Part 1)
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Following the show of incompetence at the Democratic Iowa caucus, columns on competence proliferated. One stood out for its ineptness: “Make America Competent Again” by David French at the Dispatch.

Mr. French is an attorney and decorated Iraq War veteran, who was prominent among National Review’s “Against Trump” writers.

Back in June of 2016, when the anti-Trump cabal was engaged in a political blood sport as degrading as dwarf tossing—Mr. French came into focus as the object of neoconservative Bill Kristol’s fantasies.

To wit, never Trumpsters like Kristol imagined that from the ashes of the Republican primaries would rise a man to stand for president against the victor, Donald J. Trump. This Sisyphean task had been attempted and failed by 17 other worthies.

One of the political dwarfs tossed at Donald Trump by the aforementioned Mr. Kristol was Mr. French, who is vested in an aggressive, expansionist foreign policy, and is a tool of democratic internationalism.

The first sign of incompetence in “Make America Competent Again” is that the column is hopelessly littered with the Imperial “I”:

“I THOUGHT—after federal officials let Jeffrey Epstein kill himself in prison—that I COULD no longer be shocked by incompetence. Yet, HERE I AM, the day after the Iowa caucuses, shocked again. … If you follow MY WRITING at all, you know that I THINK that … As I TYPE this newsletter …” On and on.

This amounts to a big fat epistolary selfie.

Entitled “The French Press,” French’s blog would be better called “I, David.” The reference is to I, Claudius (1934), an historical novel about the Roman Emperor Claudius. Written “in the form of an autobiography,” I, Claudius was turned into an award-winning television series.” (Which this writer watched as a child growing up in … Israel. That’s what once passed for kiddy entertainment!)

In any event, the use of the first-person pronoun in opinion writing is a cardinal sin. To get a sense of just how bad someone’s writing is, count the number of times he defers to himself solipsistically on the page. The late, sphinxly Charles Krauthammer, who wrote a tight column, considered a single “I” in a piece to be a failure.

The Imperial “I” is fine when you’re a Roman emperor, or when the writer has earned the right to rhetorical self-absorption, due to his relevance to the story. That excuse does not obtain in the case of the French puffery.

The promiscuous use of the first-person should be considered as bad as the ghastly catchphrase, “I feel like,” which prefaces every sentence spoken by a millennial.

Mr. French is doubly diminished when he declares:

“If you follow MY WRITING at all, you know that I THINK that policy is far less consequential to American life than culture.”

Oh, the sins we commit when we omit. Naturally enough, strong, competent writers credit those who inspire them; they don’t crib from them.


Mr. French, on the other hand, appears to take a bow for a philosophical bent that belongs to classical conservatism: “The culture is upstream from politics.” Or, as Russell Kirk, the father of American conservatism, put it, “At heart, all political problems are moral and religious problems.”

Relinquish the ego. Quit letting your reptilian brain lead you, and allow, in a sentence or two, that the stuff “I THINK” in “MY WRITING,” to parrot Mr. French, belongs to a proud conservative tradition.

That tradition might need revision. For the world, political and cultural, has changed, metaphysically.

Although a man of the left, Canadian columnist Rick Salutin had, without doubt, advanced astute observations about the relationship between culture and politics. Because they comport with the metaphysical changes alluded to, Salutin’s observations are the better ones.

Back in 1998, Salutin offered up a prescient, if distressing, view of politics as culture, following “the capitulation of most sources of opposition to the neoconservative … agenda.”

Wrote Salutin: “In a culture of imagery and spectacle, politics has become mostly a show, entertainment.”

“[F]or the moment, politics in the democratic, electoral sense, is no longer about making choices [left or right] regarding social and economic direction.”

“What’s increasingly clear to voters is that they are not choosing the direction of their society—that has already been settled; they are voting for a cast of characters who will play the role of The Government on television and on [Capitol Hill] for the next [couple of] years.

The scrip is set, but you get to decide who plays the parts on TV.”

If Deep State durability has proven anything, it is that not even a fire-breathing political dragon like our president can fumigate the snake pit that is the Permanent State.

Neoconservatives like David French and the attendant ideology they promote—foreign-policy bellicosity, endless immigration, mindless consumerism, racial shaming and “cancelling” of deviationists, conformity to an American identity that’s been melted away in vats of multiculturalism—these are in our country’s bone marrow, by now.

That’s politics qua culture.


Next week: More incompetence From David French’s Press


Ilana Mercer has been writing a weekly, paleolibertarian column since 1999. She’s the author of Into the Cannibal’s Pot: Lessons for America From Post-Apartheid South Africa (2011) & The Trump Revolution: The Donald’s Creative Destruction Deconstructed (June, 2016). She’s on Twitter, Facebook & Gab. Latest on YouTube: “How Democracy Made Us Dumb.

• Category: Foreign Policy, Ideology • Tags: 2020 Election, Donald Trump, Neocons 
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  1. “The scrip[t] is set, but you get to decide who plays the parts on TV.”
    Great analogy.

  2. Write on…Kant weight for the next 99 parts…
    I t seams to me,we haven’t much t I’me left.
    hope, yours truly, is wrong.PEACE,LOVE,LIFE

    • Replies: @Realist
  3. Sean says:

    Or, as Russell Kirk, the father of American conservatism, put it, “At heart, all political problems are moral and religious problems.”

    Domestically perhaps, but I don’t think that holds true when dealing with other countries.

    Virtually all leaders—whether they head up autocracies or democracies—are wont to justify their behavior in terms of liberal norms and international law, even when their actions are principally motivated by the kind of hard headed strategic calculations associated with realism. However this penchant for realism does not create problem’s as long as a country’s behavior is consistent with both realist and liberal dictates, as it often is

    Mearsheimer, Why leaders Lie, cited in US Foreign Policy Towards the Middle East: The Realpolitik of Deceit (2017).

    Mearsheimer had went on to make the point that US participation on WW2 against Nazi Germany and Imperial Japan was defensible on moral as well as strategic grounds, as was war with Saddam in 1991, but where the course of action that realism dictates is incompatible with idealist rhetoric, the leaders will talk like liberals, but act like realists. So in other words, the sound moral principles do not do any heavy lifting when it comes to deciding what to actually do. A decision to take action that is only compatible with realism “inevitably necessitates deception, including lying”.

    • Replies: @Mark Humphrey
  4. Realist says:

    Write on…Kant weight for the next 99 parts…
    I t seams to me,we haven’t much t I’me left.
    hope, yours truly, is wrong.PEACE,LOVE,LIFE

    Curious…what is the highest grade you completed?

  5. “… I, Claudius (1934), an historical novel … turned into an award-winning television series … this writer watched as a child …”

    What did you, as a child, make of John Hurt’s prancing, Speedo’ed Caligula?

  6. Jake says:

    Another brilliant article by Ilana Mercer.

  7. Rick Salutin was a member of the “Waffle” group expelled by the allegedly “left” New Democratic Party in the 60s. I credit him with my understanding that “left” and “right” political labels only apply locally and nationally. For example, Bill Clinton, politically speaking, was to the “right” of Ronald Reagan’s “Conservative” friend Prime Minister Brian Mulroney. Comparatively, in US terms, Mulroney would have been bordering on a communist.
    Salutin understood, in the 60s, that political parties campaign from one platform, and govern from a different one. There have been some exceptions like Thatcher, Reagan, and perhaps Trump somewhat, who have attempted to stay on the same platform, and while the platform remained the same, there were many renovations, some good, some bad.
    Salutin was correct, just as George Carlin was. It’s all theatre, and the owners will decide the cast.

    • Replies: @Poorgrandchildren
  8. @Sean

    Ilana Mercer is right on target, including her point that all political values derive from cultural ethical norms. Norms are ideas about ethics that when correct are ethical principles.

    The reason a culture’s take on ethics determines the culture’s behavior in dealing with other nations, including decisions about whether or not to engage in war, is clear. The proper philosophy of ethics defines the nature of a just war.

    There were compelling reasons FDR’s entry into WWII was immoral, based on facts buried and suppressed by our political establishment, and based on reasoning long forgotten in our culture.

  9. @Curmudgeon

    B. Hussein Obaminal certainly tried his best to fundamentally change and destroy our country.

  10. “a fire-breathing political dragon like our President”

    the Issacsohn-Mercer loves Drumpf because MIGA! He’s

    made Israel great again. I’ll be greater still

    when Ilana the Jewess makes aliyah. This time,


  11. john h says:

    From his Wiki, French is not a “decorated war veteran” within the normal meaning of that term. He was in the JAG corps in Iraq, not combat, and his bronze star was presumably without “v”, which means it can be awarded for good cooking or anything else the recipient has been good at.

    There is no evidence he was awarded the Combat Infantryman’s Badge (awarded to every Army infantryman serving 30 days in combat).

    Effectively, he was in the peacetime army, continued to do law work at a desk.

    Unless he purposely hid his purple hearts, his “v” , and his Congressional Medal of Honor from his own Wiki site, that is not a “decorated war veteran” in anything but the most technical (and meaningless) sense.

  12. anon[269] • Disclaimer says:

    “I THOUGHT—after federal officials let Jeffrey Epstein kill himself in prison—

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