Adapted from remarks delivered at the annual Robert L. Bartley gala last Tuesday in Washington, D.C.
I have been preceded all the days of my life by little children scattering flowers. I have few regrets.
Think of all the morbid people — usually on the left — who whimper about how dreadful it is to be born in America: their struggles to find the public toilet of their choice, their struggle for free healthcare for themselves and, in the fullness of time, free healthcare for their household pets, and, of course, the real possibility that they may live out their lives trapped in what are called Dead End jobs.
Well, as it has turned out I actually have been trapped in a Dead End job. I have held it for fifty years. Fifty years without interruption, without being furloughed, without being promoted, without even being fired, and always the same crummy two-week vacation — year in and year out. Yet thinking back on the last five decades, it has not been all that bad. If a Dead End job is the right job, it can be very amusing and there can be a few achievements along the way.
The American Spectator was the right job for me, and frankly I’ve had a ball, so has Wlady, and so have scores of others who have written at The American Spectator and moved on.
If Hillary Clinton had taken a job with us she might have greeted every day with a smile on her face, a spring in her step — happy, happy Hillary. But then where would we put her? In the 1960s she interned with communists and contributed to a law review depicting the police as pigs. In the 1970s she dealt in cattle futures and began what would become many long decades of fabricating cover stories for Bill. What is more, she began fabricating stories about herself that have never ended.
From the 1980s to the late 1990s she ran what FBI Director Louis Freeh said looked very much like an organized crime family, and in the 21st century things got worse. She became the Democratic Party’s Harold Stassen and, ably abetted by Barack Obama, led that Party into the wilderness. She began her public life ranting at Wellesley College and ended her public life raving at Donald Trump. She is going down in American history as America’s most egregious poor loser.
We founded our magazine 50 years ago in a farmhouse on 40 acres just outside of Bloomington, Indiana. Today the magazine is lodged in an office building just outside Washington, D.C. The American Spectator has always been a writers’ magazine. And those writers have been intent on giving their customers the serene sense that they are reading something that matters, something that will help them preserve their freedoms, their security, and, of course, their sanity — and most of all I suppose their humor.
The literary creatures that have for 50 years roamed freely at The American Spectator have been in the main that species of litterateur that is classified as a journalist. So I guess it is no accident that our offices have always been beyond the limiting confines of a city. We were outside the confines of Bloomington, Indiana for 18 years. We have been a mile or so beyond the confines of the Washington, D.C. for 32 years.
To be a journalist alive to the possibilities of free, unfettered journalism, it is best to be an outsider — and outsiders we have been. They call Washington, D.C. the bubble. For the journalists of The American Spectator, Washington has been a bubble to be popped.
We began in the late 1960s by siding with the defeated Barry Goldwater. His bumper stickers were on our jalopies. We ended the 1960s fighting against the enemies of Richard Nixon and the Silent Majority, though I personally was with Ronald Reagan, and campaigned for him in Indiana as early as 1968. Throughout the 1970s Reagan was our man. Jimmy Carter was an amusing dunce. Jimmy still is, though Barack Obama has given him stiff competition in recent years. Reagan’s presidency, however, was sheer bliss.
Then, beginning in the 1990s the gods gave us the Clintons. We have pursued them for three decades. Some conservatives complained that for The American Spectator to pursue the Clintons wasn’t quite grownup. All I can say is that if the Clintons had not been a staple of the headlines for those 30 years, we would have had nothing to write about. But the Clintons were there from beginning to end, and unfortunately for them, so were we, writing it all down.
Our skittish critics who had chided us for our so-called “obsession” with the Clintons missed what Seth Lipsky of the New York Sun has called the “political scoop” of the last thirty years: “one family’s destruction of the Democratic Party.” Moreover, these wobbly-kneed journalists have been left with absolutely no claim to membership in what Hillary called “the vast right-wing conspiracy.” The wobbly-kneed ones are not a part of it. In point of fact, the great Bob Bartley recognized that Hillary, when she intoned her infamous conspiracy, was referring to The American Spectator’s spreadsheets, which she had gotten her prehensile hands on.
It is all revealed in Sidney Blumenthal’s memoir, The Clinton Wars. There, Hillary’s faithful servant reveals that an unscrupulous stockbroker of mine, Bud Lemley, brought to the White House The American Spectator’s spreadsheets and Hillary concocted her conspiracy theory. The Clintons then hauled us before Federal inquiries and Grand Juries. They made The American Spectator the most thoroughly investigated magazine since John Adams used the Alien and Sedition Acts to go after Benjamin Bache’s Aurora. Unlike the Francophile Bache, in the end we were exonerated. The Clintons have never been exonerated. We are still standing. Hillary is going from defeat to defeat. In time, even I shall shed a tear.
For 50 years we have raised hell and flown the flag. Putting the Clintons in jail would have been a genuine public service. But at least we played a role in Bill’s impeachment and 18 years later we played a role in the Clintons’ unanticipated car wreck. It was very satisfying to be — once again — the only clear conservative journalistic voice supporting the presidential candidacy of Donald Trump. Every establishment newspaper got it wrong, but The American Spectator’s vast computer models predicted Trump’s victory. And we predicted it 18 months in advance. Donald retired Hillary and her husband, who — incidentally — has not aged that well. So much for the therapeutic value of zoo sex. As for Hillary, off she went, snarling and gasping and clasping an empty bottle of booze. Her loss in 2016 set another record. It was the most undignified defeat in a presidential race in American history. And with the publication of her latest book, her ghastly decline continues. I am proud to say that the Spectator played a role. We even tossed in a few speeches for Donald — free of charge.
We have been joyful outsiders for fifty years, but we have never been alienated from our country. That is the condition of perpetual adolescents reinforced by angry readings of the late Karl Marx. Today a sizeable minority of the American people are alienated from this country which very graciously grants them citizenship. Why they don’t just flee to North Korea or some other hellhole I don’t know. They once called themselves Liberals. Now they have debauched Liberalism. The ex-Liberals once preached dialogue with the Russians. That, of course, was in the days when the Russians were communists. I think the Liberals were fetched by communism’s progressive tax structure.
We call this annual banquet the Robert L. Bartley dinner because the late editor of the Wall Street Journal picked us up when things were at their grimmest. George Gilder had heroically rescued the magazine, but it needed yet more cash. An offer came from a prospective buyer. Bartley, sensing danger, convened dinner at a restaurant in lower Manhattan. There, in one of Gilder’s finest hours, instead of selling it to someone else, he just gave it back to us for a dollar. Doubt raced around the table. Where would we find the dollar? Yet I saw Bartley nodding, and I took the offer.
It has brought us to this jubilee. I very much appreciate all of you being here to share it. We are now in a new digital age. It will be an age of growth for the Spectator and for our common cause. Let us all look forward to fifty more years at the ramparts.
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