Has Syria's monstrous chemical attack on its own citizens changed the trajectory of the Trump foreign policy—and was it occasioned by Trump's announcement of an American pullout from Syria? That's the question we ask on this podcast. Then we go into l'affaire Williamson, during which segment I curse repeatedly for the first time in public in a couple of years. Give a listen.
This is an unofficial transcript meant for reference. Accuracy is not guaranteed.
Welcome to the commentary magazine. Podcast today is Monday April. Ninth, two eighteen, I'm John Podhoretz, the editor of Commentary magazine the seventy some odd year, old, monthly of intellectual analysis, political probity and cultural criticism. From a conservative perspective, we invite you to join us a commentary magazine dot com, where we give you a few free reads and ask you to subscribe. One thousand nine hundred and ninety five for a digital subscription, two thousand nine hundred and ninety five for an all access subscription, including are beautiful monthly magazine in your mailbox eleven times
Please go to Itunes and leave us a review. It's really helpful for the algorithm and the algorithmics and the eurythmics and other Sounds of the 80s my stress, is always a Greenwald. Our senior editor look, I'm not laughing at my own stupid joke. That's really bad hi Josh hi Dave you shouldn't know, I'm I right you shouldn't laugh at your own jokes. I do it all the time I was actually listening to a podcast on the one of our podcast and I laughed at a joke, and my wife looked at me and said he has to do is laugh at your own joke and I set unapologetic Lee. Yes, I did look if no one else can, if you don't think your own joke is funny. Who else is going to think it's funny so robbery or senior editor senior writer? I do is when I, when I tell a stupid joke and and and no one laughs, I'll I'll, say it again. We did you guys get, you might also be. Did you heard me correctly? The first time you
the good the grace to if you like, live long enough and you've told enough jokes. Often, if there's this great old joke about a bunch of very old comic sitting around and they just sit. Read the Friars club there. Ninety years older, like sitting at a table in one, says number twenty, three, and the other says you told it wrong right because it's choke twenty heard. I've heard it in a prison anyway, yeah that's right! Yes, yeah number number! Eighty, seven! That's not how to tell it. Any anyway so from the from the ridiculous to the Totale anti sublime. We have the horrible news of the the the gassing of hundreds of Syrians in the Damascus suburb neighborhood of good to as many as a hundred and fifty or two hundred dead, many of them children. The pictures are beyond her.
Thick, and the question it appears now is seems to be confirmed that Israel launched the first retaliatory airstrike last night and, of course the United States and France together are promising massive retaliation at some So the question that arises here. We take this on sort of chronologically. So the question that needs to be addressed is whether Donald Trump implicitly, he didn't give a green light but implicit provided the initial rationale for the syrian regime to to run this chemical attack
basically ten days ago when he started out of nowhere talking about an immediate withdrawal of american troops from Syria on the grounds that we had failed in our mission to extirpate ISIS. Southern Syria and therefore we should get out and start rebuilding at home. We set it. We can go Thursday. He then set it a week ago today, and he said it six days ago, on Tuesday in the press, conference, so we didn't just say it once it wasn't just some flip thing. He said it three times. There was a meeting of his national security team, in which Secretary of Defense, Mattis and CENTCOM have head General Joseph help me out here guys Lowell and and Hr Mcmaster in and one of his last meetings told the president that this was a terrible thing to say that he wanted to meet withdrawal, that it was going to create crisis conditions not only for
whoever is fighting against the syrian regime, but you know within within Syria. So the first question that arises is: did this initiative to sort push. I don't know where the notion that we to take our troops out, so we could begin rebuilding at home. Did that give osted asaad say: okay, here, they're going it's time to gas scooter. So I'll give the case for why the answer is yes. Basically, because our is not that complicated he's a thug he's a school yard, early, and he wanted to send a message because he understands America to operate the way Syria does so when the strong man from says they're going to leave they're going to leave, and so he makes a simple calculation. He says I am going to unleash hell on you now, meaning that on the little pockets of Syria that are still rebel, controlled and look what I can do America has
Left yet- and I can gas you and he's the only one, by the way it responds to all the conspiracy theorists, he's the someone who has a serious capability of carrying out a large scale chemical attack like this, so he just sent a simple thuggish mess because that's who he is- and I just want to remind listeners that in two thousand and thirteen when he did his couple of of chemical attacks in the suburbs of Damascus, those attacks took place at a time when international inspectors were already on the ground elsewhere in Damascus, and he did that because he's a thug that he just wants to send a message to his own people, saying there are no international inspectors or international quote: unquote: community! That's going to come to your rescue. If I want to gas you I can gas, you it's it's as simple and thuggish. Is that there's no nothing
complicated about it. That's I guess that's my case for the simple yes answer, I'm inclined to think that's per probably the case, but I'm still, I'm sure to the opinion that it might have happened anyway and what Trump said: didn't help or it did help to produce it, but it did didn't didn't, help the situation and I'm symporter. Before we go forward to say that I don't think of anybody. Anybody at this table would that were sitting at that. You can't see would want to give the impression that Trump's words at there or mean that he is culpable villain right. The villain is awesome, God awesome is the war criminal the question, is whether inadvertently, let's say- or you know, the you know- without to Aforethought Trump.
Lead to something you know. Will it did something that that that, because something else, I I what what world situation from my point of, but no, but while I agree with what John just said entirely, I also think it's important to note that, to the extent that this did Influence Assad's thinking here it is the most grievous example of Trump's non prepared off script, comment that that might have had a real world, much as we had been thinking that you know the examples always were what it. What if he that she would say something bellicose that the anger. An enemy or an antagonist. In fact, no he was, he was. If anything it was the signaling of are our lack. Interest in in war making and
and forward lean. I've always said. His ambiguity is what makes him most dangerous because he doesn't send clear signals. Adverse so let's say that everybody's on the same page here that this is, roll Trump's comments. I'm not sure I agree with that. One hundred percent, but let's say applications. There are rather significant because that means, in my opinion, you cannot suggest that this attack occurred as a result of Donald Trump saying we're going to create a vacuum east of the Euphrates and say that that is within the he's parameter is acceptable to Assad's allies. Notably among them Moscow and Tehran, so now you're saying that this action occurred in the absence, of some sort of support from the benefit does that are keeping this rump regime from completely collapsing in on itself, action. You mean the gassing, correct, okay, now you're saying that this guy is gone completely,
coming, not just from just a rogue state perspective but wrote from the percent of print exception of his allies, because this has a whole lot of secondary consequences for them, who are more strategic involved in in Syria than then even the syrian regime is in a lot of ways. Because of that I am disinclined to jump right on the idea that this is This is something that has that was designed by Assad to effect. No outcome other than to Hammer and nail in order to just force forces sick to communicate nothing to nobody. I find that difficult to believe There's no strategic direction, nothing to nobody, but just this message delivered his own. His own people. I can do this to by the end, I mean he's been doing that for quite some time, because the that secondary consequences are that the United States has to act. Now we have established a precedent, April of last year. If there was anything
not chlorine gas, which we treat as a conventional weapon, which we really shouldn't, but we do. That was a bomb our president we've adopted it, the Trump Administration has, and yet, if there is anything other than than chlorine used, we will execute kinetic strikes We have no choice, but to do that now it could. Stall or prevent entirely any kind of withdrawal, because it will have longer term strategic consequences As a result week, we engage in kinetic still with this regime on a regular basis, it's regime, and it's at and its allies. We should at their planes there plane shoot at us. We shoot their troops. Times our troops should us. Sometimes we have an actual sort of a friendly relationship in some parts of the country where they allow were the regime allows this passage to attack Sorana, sir. What have or what have you complicated relationship, but generally it's conflict Schule, and this is only going to intensify that conflict and make withdrawal all the more harder. So, if Assad's goal was to say well you're getting out. You know. Let's, let's go for broke, it's
the precise opposite end of the intended effect, and you have to think that he knew that. Okay, I don't think He knew that and I'll explain why. I don't think that he knew that which it goes to Sorribes point. The press, United States three times in the last ten days said we're pulling. So we're pulling out we're pulling out we're pulling out we're pulling out we're pulling out. We need to rebuild it home. We've done what we came to do. We came to extirpate ISIS. It's done. I'm pulling we're pulling out we're pulling out we're pulling out now you're saying he's saying: well, I'm a straussian I'm I'm Bashar, Al Assad, the Straussian and that's the exoteric, meaning that Trump is saying that he's going to pull out, but I really should pay attention to secretary hence Mattis, stories leaks out of the that say that the defense establishment inside the Administration is telling Trump that he really shouldn't pull out and so that's, what's really more important, not the fact that President I'd states, the most powerful man in the world said eighty
two thousand times in this in you know, in five days that the United States is pulling out of Syria. Well, it depends on the extent to which you believe that Damascus is in control of affairs on the ground. This is that's how the things behave. Russians don't listen necessarily to the. The president. They understand is that the institutions, the United States, are various and have various territorial. Back to them and they do listen to what the Secretary of Defense says in the special envoy says in the Secretary of State says they are able to compartmentalize these things. So you're saying as I'm saying that the Charlotte side is not listening to his russian counterpart, so you're not saying that it was that Russia displays has recently displayed. Examples of excess Lake Blake using a chemical weapon in Salisbury England. I think that was completely calculated. I don't think they expect the response that they got. I think that, if you were,
in a completely calculate such a thing, you would probably do it in a way that made it more. When I categorically deny apple well, there are proper here's. The thing is that, if you're going to provoke to test parameters, you would do something new and they have. Done something like that in proximately twelve years. It's been a long time, so they're testing parameter. You could say that they would test parameters like that. If you're going is a chemical weapons on civilians a year after you just did it, which resulted in in kinetic strikes on your regime. You would expect the same response. I say you are overlooking, Occam's razor, which is to say that the President said he was pulling out, four days later, SIRI use chemical weapons on its people in response to the word that the Eight states said that he was instructing his military to design immediate withdrawal strategies and that would hasten withdrawal well
The point is that he said he wanted to get out you're assuming that there for us is planning chess moves such that if he does x, that will blade Trump's Trump makes the opening move, which is a gamma to get out. I saw it responds, but his response actually is to make trump changes moved I am I'm not entirely a hundred percent convinced that that's an accurate. I know everybody thinks I'm over thinking this here. I'm sure you do in the audience too, but those of us who spent a lot of money getting international relations degrees do tend to over think international relations theory. I look. I like it. I'd like a complicated fund, a you know red herring theory as much as the next guy, but I generally
vacuums are not stable, they're filled up by somebody, and you got to think what would fill up when we create, if you think, a vacuum isn't created by the President United States, saying I'm pulling I'm pulling all of our troops out immediately. That is, that is creation of vacuum, I think Kim said, I think, maybe before we got both where we started the podcast You, if you were a putin- and you want to you- know what I completely blanked on what it was that you said. That this is a very sad senior moment for me. I had it and fifteen seconds later I lost it. I don't know what I said either and it's been one set right Sattar for me because I said it, but it was really great and I apologize for my I I well I'm turning fifty seven next week which is really too young to have a senior moment like the one I just had. So I just want to
what's a gal, could we move? Okay, yeah? Let let me I want to say something else, because I don't. I don't remember what I said, but it's it's related but it's not exactly the same thing. Talk about fake news and alternative facts. What happened? I thought I thought the Russians, had successfully gotten aside to remove, overwhelming majority of his of his chemical weapons right you know somebody stuck up Tommy V8 or one of the Obama communications guys. Somebody dug up this tweet of his from like two thousand and thirteen two thousand and fourteen saying look at this We won the war in Syria without firing a shot right, Obama's Obama said we were going to go in after the use of chemical weapons in twenty thirteen. Then he went on vacation. Then he gave a speech saying
going to do something and then the Russian said no, no will take it off your hand. This is this. Is we will deal with the westerns. Right so the biggest bugaboo with the Obama administration so get your timeline is Pro Tommy. Then Tommy Vietor then says tweets this thing out and toys or two who saying you know we won. This is the greatest. This is look, how we want all this and we got almost all the weapons out and somebody tweeted it out to go haha and then his response last night was something like what we did. I mean you know we didn't get them all, but got a lot of them out there in the United Nations was complicit in this. Barack Obama gave a speech on September tenth, two thousand and thirteen to the nation I think it was the most pivotal moment of his presidency when he said here's why we need strike Syria Chemical norms, weapons are going to start, only in the hands of ISIS? we're going to start seeing chemical weapons used against our troops around the world, blah blah blah, and then he
and also I'm making sure that Congress does this an also I'm making sure that the Russians are going to come in and resolve this threat, and we won't have to do anything about. It was the most confused speech of his presidency. Engaged in Congress to have an out 'cause. The pelican led in the house and Republicans in the Senate had no interest. Executing with John Kerry told his british counterparts would be a quote unbelievably small quote exercise in the solution of american power abroad It wouldn't have had any effect and, as a result, he managed to get an off ramp from Congress that never occurred because, while strikes approved in the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. They never got or vote thanks Harry Reid? a second the note and that Russia was going to save this president from his execution of his red line was really popular at the time. Among Democrats 'cause, Russia was still a good guy. We were still executing the the the reset to an extent,
just that it was also remember I mean to who we need the that it was Romney who said that Russia was the number one rat, the nineteen eighty nineteen eighties was calling and wanted its policy. You can draw a straight line from that concession to Russia to who the invasion of Ukraine, noting that there would be no response from this White House and they were correct in that assumption to the intervention directly in Syria of Russia military assets, resulting in the most dangerous period and Russo american relations in the modern era culminating in the downing of a russian warplane by a NATO Anti air defense mode. That was the scariest moment. I can remember: okay, now let's go again to whataboutism irony. One hundred and one which is even adds the resistance, is trumpeting the fact but the news of russian collusion is tightening around the necks of the Trump administration uh the Washington post. This morning says flatly that, because
so what's going on in Syria and various other things, Us Russian relations are at their lowest point in decades, these two things cannot simultaneously be true. It is in fact true that as of last week, renewed and more thoroughly impose sanctions on a hundred of Putin's closest personal allies. Are really beginning to choke the regime like this is no joke. I like their Posca, who was a figure in the collusion store for reasons. I can't entirely remember 'cause, who can remember any of these details, basic He said last night this morning that his I don't know what it's sort of like an international hedge fund of some It is basically about to go belly up because of the sanctions is a huge credit crisis, and you know this is league starting to choke them, so the trumpet. Ministration has fact '
posed. Not only policies to who says sanctioned to sell weapons to the Ukraine to Ukraine to fight the russian invasion? We are now we are we, the United States has become a pop. Blic antagonist of the russian regime in it policies to extend that no american machine has been really probably since the cold war, and I and up until this past weekend, you would able to say that, despite all that, Trump would would not criticize Putin publicly had only not things to say about him and how curious that was in a way that wasn't completely true, but but but but mostly true, but but I, but I think, he's from move beyond that as evidence from his tweet
over the weekend. That said, uh, Russia and IRAN are possible for this, the animal Assad for supporting the hot, and there will be a b had a heavy price today that the people who sec exclamation point sick, he did the people who push this idea of of of collusion the Trump administration that worked of the Trump campaign and an administration that is about it. Is that the the lap dog of the Kremlin, which the way I see it on Twitter all the time you know, If you go on Fox people, respond and say here we go traders and spokesman for traders. An apologist for traders and the elites who empower that very very serious people who pushed aside of a of its its Trump administration as a as a as a crime, lap dog that is completely divorced from GEO politics, because they're
especially on the elite side of it, whether their former Obama, Obama, officials or, using writers and editors who, for years covered up for Obama's disastrous foreign policy, they were the people, so they are the same people now who are fretting about supposed russian collusion, an and Trump being a lap dog, but they haven't made the slightest change in terms of their GEO political mindset in terms of recognizing Russia, real adversary and what it takes to confront it when it comes to put you know, the farm policy tax they're still the same kind of soft liberals. They always were so it's a purely itself. It's been so exposed it's purely a domestic political, Employ, and it looks like it's going to fizzle now. Well, though, the Washington Post line is that russian relations have never been so bad as it's something that must have been saying for a year I mean all you have to do is listen to like people like me treat Pasco
who is the Kremlin spokesman who's been saying this at least The the first strikes on syrian targets- I do think you have to be theater specific. It was only last week Donald Trump was saying flanked by the prime. I started with a Stonea lottery in Lithuania that we really need to have some good relations with Moscow. I think, would be a good thing to have relations with Moscow and you can't just ignore the fact that the president is not saying what his administration is doing said anymore as a sign of a signaling desire for real approach or or actually reflecting us policy under this administration I've really come to accept the idea that you know. Don't you might just say so so I agree with you that he's just talking, but he just as things, but we can
not say at the same time that the president just says things in the international community is obliged to ignore them and also say that the president just says we're getting out of Syria and the international community is obliged to take that a hundred percent seriously, the or actually me, I said, also is Austin's who heard what? Now, I will say this again tomorrow what you want to hear about it at this administration, but I think it's naive to say that people don't listen to what this administration says out of all sides of his mouth, because the stakes are so high. Ok, well play inclusion is if it happened, if Mauler find that there was you a collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia to get Trump elected has screwed the Russians the way he seems to screw. Everybody who has does business deals with him. So at the very least you can say that there was no real world consequences from Trump being a russian Patsy and the other thing think you can say is that at some point, if the Russians have blackmail material on Trump that could
destroy him should probably let it out pretty soon before he before his sanctions impoverish everybody in the you know, in Putin's orbit and make people turn on Putin for having gotten them, sanctioned beak if so at some point the proof of the pudding is going to be in the eating here, if if the Russians, if our fear is that the Russians have blackmail material on Trump Trump needs to act like for that
The true trouble need to act like they're blackmail, material on it, but look they really have you know trump if he wants to take this s s step further or he has to take this a step further. He needs to actually react to this chemical attack. You know and in two thousand thirteen the in the US did. This disaster is kind of dance. By giving Russia the opportunity to take over the they could be the chemical problem out of out of America's hands, despite the red line. It can't be that the US now five years later again from issues these threats about use of chemical weapons and then doesn't follow through after a while. It's so so, Damn aging, so so corrosive to it into a a great powers, Christie's to constantly say I'm gonna. Do this I'm going to do that and then not fun. Well, I don't think it's a constant thing. I mean. Basically, I think it's pretty clear that we are going to act. I mean Trump said trump and now Mattis have seen both to have said that
going to be massive retaliation in some kind of concert with the french air and the israeli strike on Sunday. Some theorize was an effort to ensure that the material on the base where we believe the chemical weapons attack was launched from cannot be moved so that, if we go in and massive force. We can, you know basically bunker buster, that horrible junk thousands of feet under the surface. So there's a what's going on. I think it would be, ordinarily surprising, based on the language. If we didn't act now, Trump, active he acted last year is Noah Noah, pointed out I was very proud of himself for doing so, did so at that point so, I think
in his you know, Courtney. What we read for humanitarian reasons like he was appalled, Avanca showed him pictures of dead children and he was appalled, and so they did a strike and then he basically ran a victory lap and then forgot probably forgot about it. Somehow. I think the notion that he would think that he could serve do the same saying this time, even for him I would not be, it would wouldn't be rational, like the the at the attack would have to be escalated from that. First of all, this is a worse chemical weapons attack the last one use. Using worse chemical weapons and I'm guessing the idea here would be to attack in such a way, not to protect, say the the from from from the regime in general, or to try to consolidate. Gains in areas that have been been been back from ISIS, not not in any of that sort of Rebuild any that's from
the rebuilding mission or sort of you know and and and nation building aspect, but but but Looking to do is simply say whatever horrors continue in the in Syria it during this war there will not be chemical weapons deployed that's a very, very bowl, Tony and way of thinking about this. By the way, it's a mess, we can't put it back together, but the sense of the barrier against use of chemical weapons has to be enforced and we're going switch would which would require a really massive strike? In other words like as if you did the one last year and get this one. Then you really have to go bigger in order to make it clear to us not just what kind of Punish and he will indoor for doing this yeah. So here's where things get dangerous. We did that last year, in concert with Moscow, not we didn't purchase
hey, but we use the Deconfliction Complexion Hotline, we let him know what was going to happen. The air base we're going to hit that cleared out a couple hours before we hit it. And it was a really pin pinprick straight symbolic entirely. If you really wanted to have an effect, you would strike the sides ability to get planes in or maybe even neutralize, that our force, my I not really having that anymore. They went right out in front of this is real thing said Israel that it we're, happy about that. They stood down a couple. X back they stood down. This time there stood down last April, They going to stand down again with American going over. The skies and shutting down the air force. To what at what point does Moscow say? We can't stand down anymore. We have, it's four hundred sophisticated anti missile batteries on the ground all over the place, we can't use them there. Russian operated that can't hit us, but we can't use them. We're trying to sell things to it, to India, in violation of american sanctions by the way they have to demonstrate their value. At what point does Russia become a
Tiger at what point is Russia losing capital to the point it can't afford to lose capital anymore. Well, I think the notion that Russia really wants to engage gate would want to engage directly with the United States. Militarily. In summary that I do not want to do that. They don't want to do that a lot more than we want to see. If we would not have believed that they would have less of a problem with that, then they would they they obviously are facing. What's called you know, a crisis point the mom at which point you have a crisis where the face saving resolution to that conflict is unacceptable this is what we were always afraid of by the way. Well, I think the most important point about this is this question of whether or not You know our side is a puppet of Putin's or whether he really is an independent actor but- and you know put- and it's the you know he's like trying to trying to dead domesticate for own purposes. A you know, an animal that can be domesticated.
I'm into a lot of trouble Russia by the way, and I'm sorry to interrupt you, but Russia by the way has no problem. Signaling coercive lied to us that they are not great to hit us. They have executed, danger, close artillery two american troops in Syria on frequently met many occasions. They have struck CIA weapons depots, they've struck America and bases Hill. Two hundred read: we killed two hundred crore under actions who were under Kremlin Control and is just run one strop removed. Apparently Jim Mattis said basically that this was we communicate to this guy? In Russia who communicated in the Kremlin who got back to these mercenaries and that's when the attack and that they are under criminal controlled later in this, this semi warm conflict. With Russia already about what happened? What happened when we struck these two hundred Russians who are under Kremlin Control the Kremlin not respond. Everybody got scared, that's right, but the core everybody. Didn't get scared. The Kremlin got scared. We didn't get scared, There's no evidence that we got scared. We we we
did what we had to do and they backed off. I mean that's, that's the it's where you know the deal in this case a case like this. I is in Syria. As a you know, what was potentially a relatively low last way of exerting his prestige, and you know making a point about his international power member. This is Russia is a poor serving the Mediterranean based on charter, but also we need to remember that Russia is a poor, not a rich country. Russia is a second rate. Third rate economic power, who's in higher basis of its international economic force? Is it is it oil, which is, of course, a declining value. Now, because oil prices are going down so where you have Russia, Russia in Syria, as a kind of opportunistic uh, stick it. The the the west, you know manipulate things, be try to play a great power game, but you know
does it want to be in over its head. The and get itself into a direct conflict with the United States to prop our son, who is of not much value to a much more value to IRAN and then then, to us, I kind of doubt it anyway. I want to make one last and then go to commercial. The point is that The Israelis launched the strike. One of the strike do this strike was designed to cripple the capacity of the syrian regime to do any follow up uses of it's come weapons and to send a message to IRAN that it was not. Then think about using looking at this as a possible approach. To the north of Israel, okay, so who media organizations reporting on the fact that it seems to have confirm that Israel ran the strikes the wash posted NBC News, both Ren headlines saying. Is oh blamed for strike on syrian facility blamed both of them in
at least thirty minutes away from each other blamed blamed. Ok, that is for a strike against a chemical weapons facility. To buy a good nation against an evil nation, and this is what we get from the mainstream media in the United States in response to it headline writers, whose blamed, as opposed to say credited or behind behind exactly so. Just please take that under consideration. Now I love to talk about away travel because I love away travel, because I have a way travel suitcase and I love it, because you're it shouldn't cost more than your plane? Ticket away travel luggage is designed with the highest quality materials for twenty dollars off suitcase with away: travel dot, com commentary and use promo code commentary during
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Kevin Williamson, most known best for being a writer for national review, though he has written extensively for other concert. Publications, including commentary, where he reviewed, among others, where he's written, among other things, about JD, Vance, hillbilly elegy and has a piece in our upcoming issue on the radical beloved, radical writer, Julia Kristeva and her checkered communist past so, as everybody probably knows, by now, who's listening to this Kevin was hired by the Atlantic to be provocative. Conservative voice and the Atlantic as a result of you know seriously conspiratory Spade digging work by media matters for America discovered that once the tweet and once for a couple of minutes on a podcast
He mused about whether or not women who had abortions should be hanged, this this musing was deemed so horribly, violent and monstrous that he could no longer be employed by the Atlantic after after two weeks, In response to that, I should say I contacted Kevin an within I twelve hours we had published for we published on our blog, the first piece by him since the moment that the Atlantic made its move a short piece. I commend to your attention on Roseanne BAR the in the revival of the Roseanne show. The headline is class acts on the website. Right class acts it's
Williams, and so we are lined up firmly in Kevin's corner. I begin with that precept. He is a friend. He is a person that I have extraordinary respect for a pro stylist as a as an uncompromising thinker and Anna somebody who has brings a kind of extraordinary writerly energy to his to his treatment of subjects of vast range. She was the theater critic of the new criterion. He can write about literature, he can write about popular culture. He can write about poverty, he right about social with him. He could write about he we all kinds of things there's. Actually, if you go go to Google and you go, will this I
There is a the c span hour, long episode of me interviewing Kevin about his book on socialism. So this is a a long term relationship important to state from the outset The- and I will go into later- why what my particular beef is is with the way this was all handled, but no you had some. I have thoughts yeah so yeah. Whether or not Kevin really believes He said the hanging thing is sort of a material to what has happened over the course of these of this week. I suppose are this two weeks the really. There was a real concerted campaign to get this guy fired on the left, uh in two thousand and fifteen. He gave a speech before Hillsdale College, where he said no pretty much
quickly. I don't believe in these things and sort of at the extent to which that these comments had been used by an online provocateur, who runs a blog called little green footballs to get him in trouble. And in the ensuing weeks. Apparently he said this again podcast that he had over at National review and then bring to the memo announcing internally there's fire over at the Atlantic, editor Jeffrey Goldberg- said that a subsequent conversations with Kevin. I determine that these are quotas firmly held beliefs. Well, or not they are his firmly held beliefs, I'm not really sure he might have felt that he had a gun to his head. At this point it was being told to recant and resent that condition which I can completely empathize with and declined to do so, but it was really elite dangerous here from the idea of some who's in the business of ideas we are in the ideas. Industry is the notion that these firmly held beliefs are what got Kevin fired. So we
determine that there are certain things that we Should not allow in the public and even in the idea sector, where we are designed to confront bad ideas. Now I think there are certain ideas that people ideas sector are obliged to keep out of the public's too, I guess of the the ability for the public to takes. Seriously like we should not be accepting certain ideas: eugenics, racism, Erie. I think these ideas have been thorough, we explored in the 'cause of the Atlantic. Even you had some just go back to nineteen ten and the I forget his name, Sedgwick Ellery Sedgwick, something along those lines, that the period in which she was an editor, they did a lot of pro eugenics stuff. We see how that worked out in the real world, and I think that experiment is pretty well defeat. The notion, though, that we should not be discussing the extent to which the the public believes that abortion is violence and should be treated like
violence by the state like violence, whether or not you agree with it. When I talk about politicians were talking about people whose jobs it is. The Bandy about Ideas- and if that is one we've decided has been fully explored and that the public should not be allowed to encounter it up because it is so dangerous. I think we made a big logical leap, they're, based on a lot of presumptions, that weren't very fully tested, and that's a bad precedent to set for people in in the ideas sector are Our job is to play with concepts, and sometimes those concepts are going to be wrong or dangerous. Should have the liberty to explore them to the extent to which we can then identify and define extent to which they are dangerous. Otherwise we don't have a free exchange ideas and it's going to become a very stilted and shallow conversation. So let me underscore everything: I said I agree with that entirely. From a from my list. I don't agree with I'm not I'm not on Kevin's team when it comes to
ocean rise and I'm no. No. I do understand that as a but what I I agree with your your point about that. The necessity for, if you want to have you, know at a real, an industry. If you want to have a real opinion journalism, you have to let people sometimes this I there's like Kevin, who can sometimes go penetrating Lee far it down one set of ideas. Not even in a serious way. I think he was just playing with it yeah. He obviously opposes all capital punishment, so he clearly didn't mean it seriously that that that that women have had abortions should should be executed. But if you want to have a a for free, a a a a an interesting rom of ideas, okay, so you have to let intellectuals go too far, even otherwise. Because if we can't tolerate it- and we shouldn't be in this business, we should we should go into other industries. I don't insurance sales insurance sales is perfectly noble. Import.
Business, I don't mean to disparage them, but it's a business that doesn't involve provoking people with ideas. The other point that I wanted to make it Okay, I is Glay my cards out, I'm the going to pro life pro life catholic at the table, but there are all sorts of other deeply violent ideas that are perfectly respectable in the liberal mainstream, which, by the way, those ideas aren't and an intellectuals, flip remark on twitter, but are actually the policies in H. Our society is based in it. We we, which we accept so, for example, it never mentioned eugenics. What we do sort of have eugenic abortion. It's not it's not coercive the way it was in the first half of the twentieth century or under the, but nevertheless there there are pressures to abort babies with down syndrome, especially in a lot of nordic countries where it's emerging, where ninety nine hundred
percent abortion rates for children with down syndrome that begins to look like abortion, even though it I'm sorry looks like eugenics, even though it's not coercive in the US has some of the most liberal abortion laws across the world in terms of being able to to to terminate depend pregnancy almost up to the point of birth at universities. You know with people like Peter Singer, had behold purse the its chairs for putting forward ideas such as the idea that, in some cases, infanticide it meaning a killing of an infant after birth, is justified and again he's invited into to do these kind of Christie's press pages. His chair at Princeton and no one bats an eye. So it's just a. It's interesting to me that one flip remark that he didn't even mean because he opposes the death penalty as a whole, gets Kevin, Williamson written out of polite society, but that sort of underlying vibe
islands, that does that we accept as acceptable violence is okay, okay, so we've now taken this seriously. So let's pull back and get into the realm of just simple, both power and the american society, as it is at the present some active power this was an attack liberal and leftist journalists on the idea on the ability that, the institutions that they like and that they want to work for, will ever hire people who have used that they don't like, and what this does is raise the cost of doing so. This really started. We sought start with the hiring of other. Commentary. Friends, Bret, Stephens and Barry White. The New York Times were still under assault for holding opinions that it is deemed are beyond the bounds of acceptable discourse, and then I gargle at the Washington Post right may had written a word. That's right so, and it was very southern people. So what what this is about? Is them saying this is our turf, you
wandering onto our turf and what we're going to do is raise the cost to any institution, any editor and publisher. Anybody who wants to open itself up ideologically to you know, have these what are effect. Lee supposed to be con opinions, contrary to general run of opinion that is, in these pages, do Does the publisher to the publisher and Op Ed editor of the New York Times? Do they need to hire Brett and Barry? No, they chose oh it's their decision. They can. They can't I'm guessing you're not going to see them hire anybody like them again ever again. 'cause the cost is too high. There are still articles a year later about how terrible they are, pieces in You know in the New York Times about how this is split the staff and made a terrible crisis inside the New York Times. That's number one right and that's what's happening at the Atlantic. Also, it's like
have media matters, go at Kevin Williamson so that you dig into his past, find one tweet and a couple of minutes on a podcast and go a ha sting. We got you and then bully Jeff Goldberg, and that were you know, and that and the people who run the Atlantic into firing, someone that they went and pursued Kevin was standing. There won't pass or view the at one I came to him and offered him a job, and then it just not too costly for Jeff Goldberg, who is a coward he's an intellectual coward and personally a coward. I would say that to his face. He didn't not higher Kevin and that's fine. He shouldn't have higher Kevin. If he, if he couldn't you know, stand. The heat of a couple of people on his staff whining and complaining that his views were just painful for them that they did. Feel safe, working in an office with him where he didn't work since he lives in Dallas and doesn't work in the Atlantic office what they don't like our opinions, I don't agree with
and they will, as I say, the whole purpose here is to raise the cost of doing business so that editors and publishers will not do this again and it. Will be successful, Brett Bret Stephens is the last conservative will be hired by the New York Times Kevin. Williamson is the last real conservative who will be hired by the Atlantic. They'll find somebody to hire. I'm sure, they'll find choice. The woman who says, that she's conservative to higher so that she will be clean in the eyes of the people on staff, and that will be the way that they go about it and again. That is their prerogative. What is not Jeff Goldbergs prerogative is defame and disgrace. Kevin Williams and a person that he sought to hire. That is disgraceful personal conduct, it is horrifying. It is indefensible it Howard Lee and I, contempt for him for doing that. He's. A good writer good reporter. I have many disagreements with him on his approach to things, but
a human being. I think he has failed as a person, and he is certainly failed as an editor 'cause. He is no longer the editor of the Atlantic. Twitter is the enter the Atlantic media matters for America's the other Lantic and his own rump staff who thinks that it can blackmail him into firing, whoever he wants to whomever they want him to fire. They are now the others, the Atlantic. So good luck to him the idea that um feminists, or progressives would be scared or hurt or wounded by having someone like Kevin Williamson on staff. This whole approach of the thought that such people are snowflakes, who would melt if they encountered a ideas and and philosophies that that offend them? I think this gets everything wrong. It's not that they would be crushed or hurt or wounded. I think that is it that that is it sort of dress let's put on after the fact the goal for
in this matter, is to shutdown opinion is to fight. They are destroyers. They want to destroy careers for people who, with whom they disagree, the idea they would be offended in Woon, did and scared and need protection that comes after that helps them justify the destruction here, let's let's be super clear for detractors people who are on the left, who say that we're not giving their case a good enough attention, so it's not just that we the abortion thing, the abortion thing was the nail in the coffin. There was also something that I am a member of an and a minimum of a road media matters for men with regard to a column that he had written for national review talking about their their governor back before it was Bruce Rauner. I believe Illinois in Illinois correct where he had opened up a column talking about his experiences on the ground there and he had described in an african american person, is looking like Snoop Dogg
younger version of Snoop Dogg, who is engaged in gestures and I think he used this primate press as well. He said it was like a primal gesture of of the th of of authority that he desired worry all territorial ownership of of of a stance like Terra real dominance comments are the crime is good. Thank you. They're gonna, all prime all primates, including people, but so it was a literary device that could be interpreted as and was gleefully interpreted as calling an African in person a a monkey which is obviously a racial stereotype. The column in question is difficult to say it was a racist column because it goes on to describe the many ways in which Illinois is African American. Population was being underserved by its the governor who happen to be democratic at the time. But that's again beside the point, if you went into Mfa's reserve. They had lot of stuff on Kevin Williamson. It talked about how he
had opposed the seventy seven cents, myth which the Bls admitted under Barack Obama was a myth in etcetera, so forth. A lot of conservative positions. They didn't have anything else in reserve the bottom line is, is that they are refusing to take Kevin Williams entire career into account, because if they had, they had very little left to go on and Kevin Williamson's entire career is rather markable, as John said, he's a very good writer, and that's one of the reasons why people want him to write for their organization. Look. It was a very big of you now to try to give the totality of the leftist case against only because I there is a fully understood to full ship, correct. Okay, it is bullshit, it is a lie. The began with the notion that hiring, a conservative at the Atlantic was beyond the bounds and then Information was sought to support this if it was only by the way, would be it would they'd have a case to make, but it's simply not but happens every time, but
in a case, by the way, fine a lot of bizarre, ng is when people said well do commentary you would. Naturally you don't hire. Liberals well, Well, we have a very small staff. Second of all, I do in fact- or we do on occasion, published liberals who write about matters that are not necessarily within aren't. Actually pull it but we are magazine, we are a conservative publication with a conservative point of view. I do not publish as a editorial matter. I do not publish things that I find. In the either ideological or doctor final disagreement with. But that gives away the game, and that's David French's point is that if you want to say that this is so so it Nick is a liberal publication, even though it says in its mass that that's absolutely not it's mission is to have literally its mission is to have no part yeah, but the
its mission. It's a mission at mission statement is bullshit, just like the attack on Kevin Williamson is bullsh It is a liberal publication. The Atlantic didn't have to hire, it will If I went off and but the higher you know I hate yeah or you know, Glenn Greenwald, and then after two weeks I was like. Oh my God, Glenn Greenwald is a disease. You know basically a soviet lack of russian lackey. I need to fire him now. You would have every right to say what the hell you doing and the simple, like that matters is a matter of personal decency. We you don't, go out, recruit someone to hire them and then publicly only you fire them, but you say that their views make them drive, make it impossible for them to work in our replace eyes way say if you find out that somebody, let's say financially corrupt right. You found out that they were in the pay of a corporation. You know with it that they were trimming, their views or starting their own opinions because they were
accepting money from somebody else. That would be an acceptable firing offense a couple weeks after hiring somebody, that's actually the exact opposite of what Kevin Williams in is with that that that's being compromised weight, which is weird where's, he's completely uncompromising. He says exactly what he but what he wants to say, regardless of of audience right. I mean again just to give you l, I idea of these sort of the you know the for lack of red lines of them in a you know, in a sort of into actually Series publication, so we right now we have published several pieces a couple pieces by the israeli new historian Benny Morris, someone who has been attacked in these pages for decades, it's for having. You know promulgated certain ideas about the founding of Israel that we think are wrong headed, but he writes, but he's also very knowledgeable and and and has written some very good stuff published, my friend, she was sure on the on sabbath every
welcome. Who just had that been a piece for us a couple months ago about the the use of political slogans in G in Judy's, Judah, Judaism of of slogans states in the piece that he is he is, but mostly politically a liberal yeah hit. So your reform rabbi in in in in Hollywood Florida Reform Rabbi Clifford Lee Brach of Canal. I who we published on the reform C door couple months, I mean all right. Kipnis, I believe, is we've never published Laura Kipnis, though I would but actually appeared on the free speech what she did. That was so we were there. There also symposium, which we published people, but my point is not to praise us for being so open minded. I'm saying that that game playing that game of saying over you, the Republic, Duke Blue, didn't do you get upset the do. You live the good focusing is If you I mean we
are a magazine promulgating, a point of view, but I will publish people. I will publish good writers of any sort if they're writing thing who's on matters that I find that I can Some point of agreement with it's also disingenuous what they really afraid of is as well. I think these these people in New York Times the Washington Post in the Atlantic are really paying penance for two thousand and sixteen they didn't see. Two thousand and sixteen coming so idea has been ever since. Let's get some conservative voices on this page in the debate has been raging on the left as to what conservative voices consist of. Are they never trump, revoices, some say yes, because they are they right well and they're. You know informed and they can craft an argument and on the left say no, it should be Magga hat wearing jumpers because they represent the conservative movement as it is as though that the left would be comfortable having mag hat wearing drummers writing in the op Ed page of the New York Times, The bottom line is that it's very existentially threatening right right now, I'll give you an example of this. So David from old friend of mine,
David. No one has turned more, never trump Trump, then David from right right, I mean it's like his consuming obsession is when the book called Trump Akhras and all that so Trump. So David it's out, some very negative, anti trump thing of some sort right. If you look at the string under it, and he's got a lot of followers and he in fact works at the Atlantic. As we know this The third thing will be something like your or criminal or You know you should pay penance for supporting the Iraq war you're a monster because you, this is all your fault. Trump. Is your fault? That's another one of my fave things. Is you can be sort of have breast, very hostile views to Trump, and he behavior in this compartment. All of that, and then you get this big lecture from somebody again on Twitter, about how you're responsible for Trump, because Trump is full flowering of the right one thousand nine hundred and sixty eight onward and everything that happened he, and so, if you were on the right, then basically Trump is your fault. Well great talk! epistemic closure, so you Base
right off, every opinion that you don't agree with ever. That is a real, that's convenient thing, but that's that's the thing that there's there's there's a truth here, that's that's hidden because, they got a hold of the hanging statement. Said. All this is beyond the pale. This is, the truth is any conservative opinion genuinely. A conservative opinion is beyond the pale to a whole sect of media liberals they can. Even believe they find things like. I don't even Anything right, right guns that that that you are you already. You already be on the pay, your beyond the pale, if you, if you Jan Molly, deeply but cops guns inequality. Eighty eighty you're not on the right side of the inequality I mean he could literally everything. Conservatives are, I
I think I am the most right well and a yeah the because okay, so no less people say that were whining, and this is just whining about the a liberal I mean the example that is constantly given by the left of exit of epistemic closure in that way in this notion that you we know who views are not allowed to be aired at and that there's no hatred of Contrasting views is Fox NEWS right. Ok, so, Fox news, is basal become the Magen that work and if you know the Hannity and Laura Ingraham in Tucker at all, they didn't know that all they do is say the same thing. Over and over again, fine, that's fox write three million people a day. What watch Fox NEWS said the most powerful name in cable news, and all of that Yeah. What do we have? On the other side, everything mostly everything else, and I'm not objecting to that, I we publish, here a commentary. I feel that we are a necessary resource for the world. Precise, because concert
reviews are on under represented in other media, and I think I don't think that there is anything shameful about being in a place where you, where you elaborate your arguments in a in a in an atmosphere in which people are willing to listen to them. But if you hate Fox NEWS for its episode, closure. The idea that you then turn around and say well, except everything that I like that doesn't admit of any other opinion is just true just fact is an example. A horrendous form, existential closure. There is much more the province of the left and the right because they own it. I mean there's a we. We do the you know, that's the other argument against oh National review and commentary and are conservative publications. Yes, they're little islands, in a meat is essentially a cd of
Well, that's what's so threatening here is that the there with the river the product of this is going to be the get up get? Who is ation of american opinion about I eat? if it is, and I don't think in fact, I think it's things are a vastly better than they were in the you know early early 1970s when there were literally like two columnists in America on the right and everybody. You know there were only you know: seven, major media organs and all of that, I I I think things are much. People have that to a lot more information. I think the real danger to liberals and not to liberals forget the left is to liberals that is, liberalism is being choked, just as it was in the sixties, on college campuses is being choked of its life by the left. And that's why I say the Jeffrey Goldberg is no longer the editor of the Atlantic. The mob is the editor of the Atlantic, and if he steps out of line, they will do to him what they did to university presidents and what they did to
professors who who dared not hotel, the line in the 70s and 80s and what dis is interest. Let liberal centrist opinion because is overrun and stomped on the head by the leftist I have always hated catholicity of opinion on the left. And with that, Warning to the other side we will close out. This edition of the Commentary magazine podcast so for a Greenwald Noah Rothman and Surah Maryam John Podhoretz keep the candle burning.
Transcript generated on 2019-11-14.