Oh my.Feb 16, 2015, Vol. 20, No. 22 • By ANDREW FERGUSON
Boy, that didn’t take long. Over the span of a few short days in late January and early February, three members of the top tier of Republican presidential candidates demonstrated why they’ll never be president. They didn’t do anything to disqualify themselves directly, just revealed the traits that will make them appear unsuitable to most voters by the time the campaign really heats up, say, when the presidential election is a mere 18 months away. As it is, all three of them—Rand Paul, Mike Huckabee, and Chris Christie—can pack it in right now and save months of time and tons of money. They’d be doing themselves a favor, and us too.
Consider first the case of Mike Huckabee. He is a former preacher, TV talk show host, and governor of Arkansas. Huckabee seems to want to cement his image in the public mind not as a successful governor of an unsuccessful state but as a preacher and a talk show host. It is a deadly combination. The part of him that is talk show host will, as talk show hosts do, comment on everything that swims into view, especially if it’s none of his business. And the part of him that is preacher will comment in a way that will annoy anyone who doesn’t share his pious background, which in this age of galloping secularism strikes most people as increasingly esoteric.
Huckabee is on a tour promoting a book called God, Guns, Grits, and Gravy, in that order. He appears on shows whose hosts and audiences agree with him on almost everything. This too is deadly. The hundred-thousand-plus sales that result from such saturation publicity lull an author into thinking he has many more followers than the hundred-thousand-plus who had the time, inclination, and money to buy the book. More likely it means that he’s exhausted his market and has goosed everyone who agrees with him and his book into buying it. Which in turn means that everyone who didn’t buy his book doesn’t agree with him. This segment of the population numbers roughly 320 million.
The book is pretty good, by the way, written in smooth and jokey prose. Who besides Dick Durbin can hate a book that matter-of-factly calls Dick Durbin a “windbag”? There’s enough material in its pages, however, to make even some Huckabee sympathizers squirm. In the first few chapters the waste-matter metaphors are laid on a little thick: lots of “sewage” and “filth” are (daintily) discussed. You don’t have to like New York—everyone who likes New York has already moved there, thank God—to be a little unsettled by his denunciations:
it’s crowded, loud, hurried, intense, and it just seems like its streets are filthy. Even when the trash gets picked up, you always want to burn your shoes after you’ve walked the New York streets because of all the “stuff” that is ever present on the sidewalks.
Travis? Travis Bickle, is that you?
Huckabee’s book is now most famous for his denunciations of such sewage-workers as the lip-synching dancer Beyoncé and her repellent husband. Good for Huck! But in his book he uses this as an occasion to comment on how the president and first lady are failing in their role as parents, allowing their teenage girls to listen to the “toxic mental poison” of contemporary music. Bad for Huck: Any parent who is trying to bring up a kid in the crappy culture of 21st-century America faces the same dilemma as the Obamas, and many of them have uneasily resolved it in the same laissez-faire fashion as the first couple. The proper response to such a parent, if any is called for, is sympathy. But no response is called for, since Huckabee wasn’t asked.
Our preacher/TV host/governor tried explaining these and other untoward remarks in ways that he evidently hoped would satisfy the moralizers of the mainstream liberal press, and in so doing he only fell deeper in the “stuff.” Toward homosexuality, for example, he took what he surely thought would be deemed an enlightened position: He compared it to the use of profanity or alcohol—not a mortal sin, in other words, just a harmless vice; thus managing to alienate partisans of homosexuality and their most dedicated enemies, who may think it’s a vice but don’t think it’s harmless.
There will be much more of this unpleasantness till the unavoidable day when Huckabee withdraws from the race or explicitly chooses not to run. As a talented and competent former governor he might be a plausible national candidate. First, though, he would have to put a sock in the talk show host and the preacher, and the odds are long. Only a certain kind of voter wants to be governed by a professional controversialist. And that voter doesn’t have a lot of friends.
Feb 2, 2015, Vol. 20, No. 20 • By THE SCRAPBOOK
The film Selma, which chronicles the pivotal battle in the civil rights movement, is currently in theaters and has even garnered an Academy Award nomination for Best Picture. The film has an unlikely critic, however—PBS host and former White House aide to Lyndon Johnson Bill Moyers.
We can dream, can’t we?Oct 20, 2014, Vol. 20, No. 06 • By ANDREW FERGUSON
Kingsley Amis, the British novelist, once explained that everything that had gone wrong with his country in the second half of the last century could be summarized in the word “workshop.” His point is sound. No two syllables better conjure up the mandatory “sharing,” the regimented bonhomie and bogus cheerfulness, the mincing
The crackpot social science of generational analysis Sep 29, 2014, Vol. 20, No. 03 • By ANDREW FERGUSON
As far as newspaper corrections go, it was a whopper. On August 24, the editors of the New York Times sucked the air out of a windy essay that had blown through its pages a few days before. The original article bore the headline “Generation Nice.” It was adorned with color photos of fresh-faced teens and twenty-somethings. All of them looked nice. In case Times readers were confused (they’re not getting any younger), the subheadline drove the point home: “The Millennials Are Generation Nice.” And that was the theme of the article, too.
Haven’t we seen this movie before?Jul 21, 2014, Vol. 19, No. 42 • By ANDREW FERGUSON
It has been five years now since America got the news, or was supposed to: Henceforth our children would enjoy a revolutionary new approach to learning in the public schools, in the form of national educational standards. They’re called the Common Core State Standards, or Common Core for short—or if you’re in a particular hurry, CCSS. Why national standards should bear the official title “State Standards” is one of the many peculiarities that make Common Core interesting to think about.
Wrigley Field and the national pastime. May 26, 2014, Vol. 19, No. 35 • By ANDREW FERGUSON
You can tell George Will is a serious baseball fan because—I wish I could find another way to put this—he is serious about baseball. The statement isn’t (quite!) as fatuous as it sounds. Lots of people who profess their love of baseball are mere romantics and mythologists.
How Andrew Wyeth saw the world, and himself. May 19, 2014, Vol. 19, No. 34 • By ANDREW FERGUSON
Was Andrew Wyeth so celebrated because he was so misunderstood, or did it work the other way around? His reputation seems ill-fitting, whether you consider him one of the great American painters of the last century, as many laymen and a few professionals do, or a kitsch monger and conman, as many more professionals and a few sniffy, wised-up laymen do.
The perpetual adulation of Herblock.Feb 10, 2014, Vol. 19, No. 21 • By ANDREW FERGUSON
Herblock: The Black & the White, a documentary about the editorial cartoonist Herbert Block, had its cable premiere on HBO last week, and we can expect repeated showings for many weeks to come, creating a low-buzz Herblockfest interspersed dizzily among re-airings of Girls.
The Books and Arts Podcast is hosted by Philip Terzian.8:15 AM, Dec 27, 2013 • By TWS PODCAST
The new WEEKLY STANDARD Books & Arts Podcast, with literary editor Philip Terzian and his guest, senior editor Andrew Ferguson. This week they discuss Ferguson's recent cover story on Ambrose Bierce.
The brave life and mysterious death of Ambrose Bierce. Dec 30, 2013, Vol. 19, No. 16 • By ANDREW FERGUSON
One golden autumn morning 100 years ago, a few blocks from where I’m writing these words in northwest Washington, D.C., Ambrose Bierce said goodbye to his secretary, turned the key in the door to his apartment on Logan Circle, and went off to God knows where.
Remember when the battle of the sexes was a laughing matter?Aug 12, 2013, Vol. 18, No. 45 • By ANDREW FERGUSON
I'm showing my age again, but I can remember, just barely, when we had the war between men and women. Not a war, but the war: eternal and (of course) metaphorical, a fight without massed ranks of infantry or elaborate flanking maneuvers or formal parleys among belligerents.
Hosted by Michael Graham.3:45 PM, May 28, 2013 • By TWS PODCAST
THE WEEKLY STANDARD podcast with senior editor Andrew Ferguson, author of Crazy U, on the rising cost of college and whether it's still worth the cost.
Jun 3, 2013, Vol. 18, No. 36 • By ANDREW FERGUSON
The workings of Washington sometimes attain a kind of purity in their illogic. This happens most often after a particularly jarring event, when the frenzy to do something, anything, becomes irresistible to the beehiving journalists, legislators, lobbyists, and regulators who constitute the capital’s political class. Usually the legislative overreaction is blessedly fleeting and inconsequential.
Senior editor Andrew Ferguson, with host Michael Graham.4:51 PM, Mar 26, 2013 • By TWS PODCAST
THE WEEKLY STANDARD podcast with senior editor Andrew Ferguson on the Supreme Court's consideration of same sex marriage and his editorial "The ‘Science’ of Same-Sex Marriage." Hosted by Michael Graham.