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James Lileks explains the difference between a wood and iron leg, and the other one of clay.

Thursday, August 3, 2006
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HH: Joined now by James Lileks, he of the Minneapolis Star Tribune and Lileks.com, as well as the Newhouse News Service. And a fine, new screedblog is up at Lileks.com. James, I have a lot to cover with you. I hope you’ve been listening to the program.

JL: Most of it, except for the Rumsfeld V. Hillary match.

HH: All right. Now this goes back to my first hour. I had a call from a young Southern California woman, a Duke student, who was upset that I had brought up the fact that I’d talked to a federal law enforcement senior official today who told me we’ve got a real problem with Islamists in the United States, and she denies it exists. Do you think that’s widespread?

JL: I can’t really say, but I think the idea that there are hundreds, I think, maybe one or two hundred, as she seems to hope to think, is preposterous. What do they generally say? That 10% of the Muslim communities are radicalized, and in an Islamist fashion?

HH: Right.

JL: Okay. Well, I read a survey today that said that about one-third of Americans believe that 9/11 was an inside job.

HH: Wow. That’s remarkable.

JL: And…all right. Now that’s 33% of the American people. And 16% of those people were convinced that the government had done it for various nefarious reasons, and had sort of regarded themselves as being now foes of the federal government, which means, you know, that’s an awful lot of people. Now if every one of those people in that 16%, if they started bombing places, if they started bombing Post Office buildings, and other exemplars of the federal power, do you think people would get upset and curious and a little up in arms about what sort of threat we faced from within?

HH: Yup.

JL: Right. Well, if you take 10% of the American Muslim population then, I’m not going to say it reflects on the other 90, but that 10% is something to worry about. What I hear over and over again is the notion that these numbers are inconceivable, because it is impossible to call oneself a Muslim and believe in these things. It manifestly isn’t the case. All right? And even if it is the case, it’s irrelevant.

HH: It’s manifestly…it was not manifestly the case for the Irish to say it’s impossible to be Irish and have IRA killers and thugs in there.

JL: Right.

HH: And there were. And among the pro-life movement, there are nutters who blow up doctors. Not many, but enough to worry about.

JL: No, but unfortunately, hand in hand with the people who are not paid a great deal of attention are the people who are actively advocating that the real problem the country faces are those legions, numerous and enumerable that they may be, of abortion clinic bombings.

HH: Yes.

JL: The people when you get into an online debate about these matters instantly go back to Timothy McVeigh, whom they believe had a Bible in one hand, and an anti-abortion tract in the other, and blew up the Murrah Building because he’d been watching the X Files. I mean, it’s just preposterous.

HH: Second subject. Did you hear my rotation of greatest hits from Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday, two from Ahmadinejead, one from Khamenei, the Ayatollah and supreme leader, to Mark Steyn?

JL: I did. It’s astonishing, in one respect, that we don’t take any of this seriously. I mean, on the other hand, I can understand why, because for thirty years now, we have been hearing death to America. And it’s boiled down to this background white noise of dirka, dirka, dirka to most Americans. But the fact of the matter is, these are extremely beligerent statements coming out, and they’re not exactly made by people who are known for empty threats. When we talk about the 30’s, as you were talking with Steyn, I think he was right. I’ve had the feeling, too. I don’t think this is like the 30’s. I think it’s much worse than that, because this is the equivalent of not just Hitler coming out and saying in the daily paper, day after day, that he intends to extirpate the Jews. It’s having Hindenberg totter up on the podium and say yes, I support the death of the Jews as well. I mean…

HH: And Hitler also pretended to be appeasable for a long time.

JL: Right. He knew how to clasp his hands in front of him, and look civilized and European, and mollify all the men in the nice, long suits. They’re not interested in mollification. That should be obvious. I would like to see the rhetoric responded to in force, in kind. And on that point, I think Hitchens was right the other day.

HH: Well, he was. I agree with that. Now listen to this exchange, and here is our central problem. It really did crystalize it for me. Martin Peretz, two segments ago.

HH: Do you want the Democrats to win majorities in the House or the Senate, Martin Peretz?

MP: I’m…I’m appalled by some of the people who would become head of Congressional committees.

HH: Is that a no?

MP: Uh, but…uh, I’m also appalled by some of the shenanigans…

HH: But I’ve got five seconds. Is that a no, Martin Peretz?

MP: It’s a cowardly refusal to answer.

HH: James Lileks, you can’t be pro-Israel and want Democratic majorities, because they will withdraw from Iraq, and they will empower Iran.

JL: Yes, and you hear the agony in his voice. Peretz is a smart man, and from all accounts I’ve read, he’s a decent and good man, and he realizes…

HH: And he knows.

JL: …what this has come to. It’s hard, because especially when you’re getting on in the Autumn years of your life, and not to say he’s ready for the shroud, but your notion of what your party is stays with you ten, fifteen years after its complexion and nature have completely changed. And his party has changed. And I think that’s getting through to him. Now the problems that the nation faces is not necessarily that we have feet of clay when it comes to the next part of the war. It’s that we have a leg of clay. We’ve got one leg of good wood and iron. But the other one seems made entirely of wet, moist, damp, bendable, pliable clay.

HH: Have you heard anyone explain…I just posted this not 20 minutes ago. Do they have any explanation how cut and run can do other than result in existential threat realized for Israel, and war upon the West?

JL: Well, first of all, it’s irrelevant to them, because it’s not the task at hand. The task at hand is defeating Bush. And they believe that they have a national security posture, and they believe that their national security posture consists first and foremost of more body armor. As far as I can tell, that’s what it boils down to, billions of dollars for body armor, and that’s the rest. Decommission the fleets, go home, as long as we’ve got body armor. But as far as it comes to what the general effect of this was, Marty said it himself. He said that they haven’t really thought through the implications. Now what does that say when you have a formerly serious party, who in its height and power, was known for being a source of anti-Communism? What does it say that that party is now unable to intellectually apprehend the total, global ramifications of what they want so dearly to do? That is frightening, because that’s the other party. That’s the other leg.

HH: And this is what you began the Bleat with today. “Tomorrow, I believe, I will turn on the TV and hear someone say 500 rockets fell on Tel Aviv today, which leads to our call-in question for this segment, do you believe Mel Gibson’s apology was sincere.”

JL: Right.

HH: It’s insane.

JL: It’s absolutely insane.

HH: And I…

JL: And the best option we have, Hugh, is to hope that we deal with this sort of insanity for the rest of our natural lives, you know? That it never gets more serious, that we can luxuriate in these amusements, and these little desserts, and these after-dinner games. That’s the best we can hope for.

HH: But you don’t believe that.

JL: I don’t, unfortunately. I wish I could, but I don’t.

HH: And that’s because formerly serious people have gone nutter, and I include in this a lot of Democrats. And I don’t mean just nutter, but perhaps banished, and that people who know won’t say so on that side of the political aisle.

JL: And when the question is put to them, will hem and haw and hem and haw, and feel the sort of black cloud of shame come over them, perhaps.

HH: Well, it’s not working. Lileks, a pleasure. We’ll keep doing this, though, as long as we can.

End of interview.

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