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Jonah Goldberg And I Discuss The State Of The Campaign And The Alleged “Conservative Media Crack-Up”

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National Review’s Jonah Goldberg joined me this morning to discuss the campaign, the alleged “civil war” in conservative media, and in the course of the conversation, Jonah comes up with the best assessment of when Donald Trump rises and falls:




HH: Welcome back, America. The perfect intro to special guest star, Jonah Goldberg. In the 60s when you were young like I was, the television shows would always have, “and special guest star, Lorne Greene,” etc. And Jonah Goldberg is my special guest star. Hello, Jonah, good morning.

JG: Hey, Hugh. I always like to remember the old Scooby Doo cartoon where they would all of a sudden come up on a guy on the side of the road, and they’d go, “It’s TV’s Don Knotts.”

HH: (laughing)

JG: (laughing)

HH: Yeah, we’re going to have some fun in this segment, but I do want to say you’re originally a New Yorker. The New York Post today, mom dead, 114 injured in Hoboken rail crash, train horror. I saw that after I got off the show yesterday. Didn’t you think there had to be scores dead when you saw that?

JG: No, I did. I was really worried. And my mom actually now lives in Jersey very close to there, and I, you know, it was…

HH: Scary.

JG: Your mind races. So, you know, it was terrible.

HH: I must say the professionals from the ER doctors to the blood bank professionals, the EMT’s, the first responders, the trail people, just amazing how good they are in New York at handling a mass casualty event. I grieve for the family and the injured, but nevertheless, boy, it wasn’t that bad. Now let’s turn to the non-actual wounds that the conservative movement is suffering. There is a New York Times story that prompted me to call you this morning and say be my special guest star to comment on this, because I just think it’s overwrought. On a scale of 1-10, I think it’s an 11, about the conservative civil war. Harsh things have been said, bad things have been tweeted. But the NRO cruise is coming up, Jonah. I’m promoting it at after the election. Tarzana Joe tweets, I don’t know about you, but I’d always be wearing a life preserver if I was on the National Review cruise after this election. Is it that bad?

JG: I think you’re, look, I mean, look, on Twitter, things can get blown out of proportion and distorted. You know, every day, every day, many times a day, people are telling me that if Trump wins, my career is over, that they’re going to, and even if he loses, they are going to punish me, single me out. I think it’s all nonsense, but there are a lot of hard feelings out there. And there are a lot of hard feelings within the conservative movement. I think some of the stuff that we’re seeing is actually healthy, because I think that the conservative movement have become a bubble. Conservative media has become a bubble, that we’re all talking to a very small slice of the American public, and we think it’s a much bigger slice than it really is. And I think that one of the things that this Trump episode has shown is that there actually are a lot, you know, it’s sort of like, from the outside, the old British Army just looked like a bunch of Redcoats. But if you got close, it all of a sudden turned out that no, here are the Scottish fusiliers, and here are the Welsh, you know, black hats or whatever. It turns out there are a lot of different kinds of conservatives in the conservative family. And I think one of the things that this Trump moment is showing is it’s sort of highlighting that.

HH: There are many tribes, and of those many tribes, there are some hard feelings. But I also just don’t think it goes to the level of degree of disaffection with each other. I mean, yeah, harsh things are said, and there are some feuds, and there will be some marks left. Usually, they are resolved offline, I think. When people say something harsh about me, I’ll just send them a DM and say really? Really, you mean that? And I can’t do it if they don’t follow me, but I just don’t think it lasts. So I’m asking you. Yes, the NeverTrumpers are in an extended argument, sometimes quite brutal with people who are resigned to voting for Donald Trump, or enthusiastically voting for Donald Trump. But does it last?

JG: I don’t know. I mean, I truly don’t know. Look, my impression of some people is forever changed. Does that mean that I won’t be polite with them or go on their TV or radio shows, or you know, that will ban them from the pages of National Review? For the most part, no. It doesn’t mean any of that stuff. But this has been a real education for me, this entire period. And there are some people who just have their job, see they have a different job description than I do. And I didn’t realize that they saw it so differently. And that’s fine. That’s life. But I can’t speak for the hard feelings people have towards me. I guarantee you when I get off this, there are going to be lots of people on Twitter telling me we’ll never forget, you know, and then some alt-right jackasses will send me pictures of corpses hanging from the skids of helicopters, or Jews being shot in the back of the head and tell me that’s what’s going to happen.

HH: Well, that is, the alt-right is different. And you know, I can’t block fast enough.

JG: No, I agree. I’m just saying, I was trying to be clear. I separated out, we’ve had this conversation before, separate out the alt-right, but you know, my only point is that I will hear from everybody who is very mad at the NeverTrump or the anti-Trump crowd, and those guys are among them.

HH: Yeah, yeah. I do want to make sure the audience understands Jonah and I are both anti-alt-right, and as it’s come to be understood and well-defined. They’re haters, they’re racists, they’re bigots, they’re anti-Semites. And I don’t really care what they think about us. I do care about the movement. I don’t like it that conservative A and conservative B are unhappy with each other, and I hope they all go on the National Review cruise and the Sharks and the Jets, I hope the Sharks and the Jets don’t have fights every night by the pool. That’s what I’m hoping isn’t…

JG: I think part of it, though, Hugh, is that you are someone who tries to get along with everybody, and because of that, you project upon everybody an equal amount of equanimity and equipoise. And I am not sure that that is exactly right in how it works out there, but we’ll see. You know, look, I mean, if Trump wins or if Trump loses, there are going to be arguments to be had. And I think they’re good arguments to have.

HH: Yeah, yeah.

JG: And…

HH: And I just, I used to be Switzerland during the primaries. Now, I’m the Red Cross. Smokes and bandages for everyone inside the tent.

JG: (laughing)

HH: Let’s go to the stories of the day. The first one is in the Washington Post. I got in trouble with people online last night because they found out, David Fahrenthold is a great reporter. He’s doing great work on the Trump Foundation. He found out last night that they’re not registered. Now this is a lawyer’s error. I can’t imagine Snidely Whiplash-like, Donald Trump sitting in his office saying let’s not register the Foundation in New York. And so I just say this isn’t going to move one vote, five votes, maybe. But it’s just not, I don’t think any of the foundation stories, Clinton Foundation or Trump Foundation, matters. What do you think, Jonah?

JG: I think that’s basically true. I think they both should matter, but they cancel each other out. I try to use, I think, a very strained analogy last night on Special Report. It kind of reminds me of the intervention scene for Chris Moltisanti in the Sopranos where…

HH: Oh, oh yes.

JG: …they’re, they want to, he’s back on, you know, heroin or something, and he starts calling out everybody in the room for all the nasty stuff, all the terrible stuff they’ve done. And you know, Hillary wants to, Trump wants to beat up on Hillary about Bill’s infidelities and all that kind of stuff. Well, you know, Donald Trump, thrice married guy who bragged about his affair, you know, and said that avoiding the clap was his personal Vietnam. That is not a guy who gets on a very high horse. There are glass houses on both sides is so great, and the foundations, too. They’re both bad stories. I think the Clinton Foundation is worse, because she was actually in high government power, and Trump was basically running it as sort of a shady operation for his business, which is also bad, but Hillary was sort of using it as a superPAC, you know, as Secretary of State. And you know, I think you can go back to the Talmud. Any foundation, any charity that has Sid Blumenthal in its employ is up to no good.

HH: (laughing) You’re absolutely right. All right, let me go to the second story. I can’t pull it back up right now, but yesterday, they had a rally in New Hampshire, and WMUR shows Hillary Clinton won the debate and is up seven points in New Hampshire, but they interviewed a bunch of people from Massachusetts, a couple of women, a daughter and mother, and they showed up, and the mom has lost her job, or had her job change, and she loves Donald Trump, and her daughter loves Donald Trump, and it’s got nothing to do other than this trade issue. I think Trump won the first 39 minutes when he stayed on 30 years and on trade and on jobs, and I think he got blown out in the last 60 minutes when the birther threw him off his game, etc. But it doesn’t matter to people who feel left behind. And there’s a great New York Times story by Jonathan Martin yesterday on how Ohio has gone Trump, and another one today in Iowa about people for whom everything is flipped, and it goes back to the Samantha Bee column by Ross Douthat. I just think the seismic nature of this election is overwhelming day by day stories. Jonah Goldberg?

JG: Look, I think that’s basically right. I think that Donald Trump has this set of issues. I may have some disagreements with him on the policy side of it, and also on how much he’s actually thought through of it, but on the grand themes, the sort of trade, immigration stuff, losing the country that a lot of people thought we had, that is a very compelling message, and including for a lot of blue collar, historically Democratic voters. And it just reminds you that if Donald Trump could stay on message, because I agree with you entirely about the debate. If you go back and look at my Twitter feed, and you know, for the first half hour, I’m like he’s winning. He’s winning. And then he took the bait that Hillary left about how he started his business, and then for the rest of the debate, Hillary just controlled the tempo and could move him around any way she wanted, because she knew that he was going to take the bait. He was up this morning at 3:20 in the morning tweeting silliness about this Miss Universe thing. And if he had actually discipline…

HH: I know. I started the show with that.

JG: Yeah.

HH: I started, I just can’t believe it.

JG: If he stayed on message, and he had discipline, he would, I think he’d have this thing in the bag. But he doesn’t, and he gets, look, he won the nomination in part, and there was a collective action problem. There are a lot of reasons why he won the nomination. But one of the big ones was he always does well when he’s punching up. When he was taking on Jeb, the frontrunner with all the money and was taking on the Republican establishment, and when he’s taking on Washington, that draws people to him. When he punches down at the Khans, at this Miss Universe, it makes him look petty, narcissistic and small. And you can understand the frustration that people like Kellyanne Conway and that crowd must have. If they could just get his phone away from him, it would solve a third of their problems.

HH: I just think you summarized in terms that Donald Trump would understand what tactics to adopt, that he punches up, people cheer him. He punches down, they don’t like it. Punching at Hillary is punching up or sideways. It’s the heavyweight fight.

JG: Right.

HH: Don’t punch down. That’s actually brilliant, Jonah. Have you written that up?

JG: I have not.

HH: Then it’s mine. I take it. I’m just going to use it.

JG: There. Go with it.

HH: Because that’s what conservative media really fights over, is who came up with the good lines. Before I let you go, Sonny Bunch is coming up. I saw Magnificent Seven. Have you seen The Magnificent Seven yet?

JG: I saw, I’ve seen the only one that truly matters many, many times.

HH: Oh, no, you’ve got to go see it. It’s the best western in 30 years. But okay, number two…

JG: Really? That’s great. That’s great to hear.

HH: Oh, it’s terrific. And then Rolling Stone put out the top 100 television shows of all time, and they lists number one, Sopranos, two, the Wire, three, Breaking Bad, four, Mad Men, five, Seinfeld, six, the Simpsons, seven, the Twilight Zone, eight, Saturday Night Live, nine, All In The Family, ten, The Daily Show. What does Jonah Goldberg think of that list?

JG: That top ten list is utterly defensible. My understanding is that number 11 is Freaks And Geeks, which is insane. And we talked about this on this podcast I do with Rob Long, you know, the former producer of Cheers, and John Podhoretz, movie critic and columnist for the Post. And the really interesting stuff is like what’s at the end of the list, because that’s sort of where you get political and you start dragging in stuff that doesn’t belong there. I think that top ten right there is pretty close. I mean…

HH: Now you’re banned.

JG: I think…

HH: Now you’re banned. Mary Tyler Moore is in the top ten, and you’re banned for all time as a result of not…

JG: (laughing)

HH: Jonah Goldberg, I’ll look for tomorrow’s G-File. I will not steal your punching up, punching down. That is brilliant. I hope it’s in the G-File if you haven’t written it already. Read Jonah Goldberg at, and sail with him on the National Review cruise, which you can sign up for at

End of interview.


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