Q [Jonah Goldberg]: Will you ever write a novel?
M [also Jonah Goldberg]: I hope so. I never planned on being a pundit. I wanted to write comic books and sci-fi. I kind of stumbled into this life. I have several ideas, but I need time and/or f-you money...
I think there’s a profound conservatism to all great fiction.
— Jonah Goldberg, “Question Time,” National Review, 8/4/17
The Legacy Pledge was in the zone! He’d had not only a single-malt and a cigar — he’d had an inspiration. No, an epiphany. Maybe a brainstorm? No, epiphany was fancier, he decided, therefore better.
It would be about Mueller of course, but not in the usual way — no, this would have what that guy whatshisname called a derangement of the sinus. Was it the sinus? Quick, another dram! No, a Mr. Pibb, to take the edge off.
The Legacy Pledge had said the year before, right after asking himself if the novel he was going to write when he made enough money (because that’s what it took; weren’t Dan Brown and the 50 Shades chick rich?) would be political: “God, no! I mean, there’d be politics in it. There’s politics in lots of great fiction because politics is about human nature, and that’s what fiction is about.” To get the politics without the politicalness — there was art!
But he had to act fast or he might lose his nerve. His mother had called twice that day and if he ignored her a third time she might call the police.
He giggled at the wickedness of his thought. It was about shit. About political people being full of shit. Rabelaisian — that’s what Williamson said about something else that was about shit. Or maybe it was about sex. Whatever, it was dirty but fancy words made it art, and also kept Rich from cutting it, and boy was The Legacy Pledge feeling fancy! He took a deep breath, opened the laptop, shimmied in his seat like a cat preparing to lunge and also because his butt itched, and as he typed imagined with a thrill the future Hollywood version of this moment of creation:
In Green Rooms, in Editorial Rooms, in Conference Rooms of every hue and shape, and even in bathrooms where stewed bowels are uncorked like a confused drunk opening the emergency exit at 35,000 feet, people are preparing for what can only be described as the Mother of All Shinola Shows, only it won’t be shinola on the main stage.
That was even better than he expected! He was stoked! Shinola! Everybody knew what that meant! Onward:
Reporters are rereading ten-year-old New Yorker profiles of bit players just so they can be ready to drop an obscure reference about a Russian oligarch.
Ha! cheered The Legacy Pledge. That was just like those assholes; they think obscure references make them look smart.
A striver at Breitbart is researching Robert Mueller’s family tree going back to the Duchy of Pomeria.
Ha! cheered The Legacy Pledge. I bet they have to look that one up!
...On the Hill, House Democrats, flush with the stench of midterm victory in their nostrils...
Did that make sense? Write drunk, The Legacy Pledge remembered from some college class, edit sober. Or let the intern edit it. The Legacy Pledge had earned this!
...are storming the vacated bunkers of the former majority, like Vikings sweeping into an unprotected English village or the caddies into the Bushwood pool on Caddy Day.
That was kinda like Wodehouse — but with a Caddyshack reference! The Legacy Pledge would show them you didn’t have to be a limey snot-nose to be a stylist.
The walls are being covered with photos of Trump and his associates, each held up by a pushpin and tied by red string to another pushpin holding up another photo and another, until a batwing-shaped web connects Trump to Vladimir Putin, the Saudi crown prince, Roy Cohn, and, thanks to Senator Cruz, both the Zodiac Killer and the real culprits in the Kennedy assassination.
The Legacy Pledge couldn’t believe he was the first one to think of that.
He made fun of Democrats and he made fun of Republicans — that was the long view, artists did that — in a crazy siege scene, like something out of Duck Soup. But it wasn’t wacky enough. It needed more wack. Aha!
For reasons no one knows, but everyone understands, an old lady is standing outside the gallery shouting, “Flores! Flores para los muertos!”
It was even better than Duck Soup -- it was like Airplane!
He wacked on, many minutes longer than usual. He had to eventually segue to a regular political section, but even there he was leaning heavy on the art things — metaphors, wordplay, all that. Even though he had do things normal at the end, and answer his mom’s third call, he felt the glow of inspiration carrying over into it. Maybe it would carry over to the rest of his work, too. Maybe at least they'd see the real Legacy Pledge! Then they could get rid on that ugly Lladro clown on the mantel and put his Pulitzer in its place.
Later the intern approached The Legacy Pledge, who had his feet up on the desk and showed the kid a look he thought would be taken as a challenge, even a warning, that he’d better have a damn good reason for suggesting changes to the best thing The Legacy Pledge had ever written. The intern took it instead as a challenge, even a warning, not to mention The Legacy Pledge's recent, lingering fart.
“Mr. Goldberg,” said the intern, “did you see my query on the hat metaphor?”
That was the one that started with this...
In this business, people like me wear a lot of different hats, figuratively speaking. Among the hats we wear: journalist, writer, author, TV pundit, intellectual, partisan, etc. In those roles, one can sometimes be a critic or a cheerleader for a party or a politician or a policy.
The point is that most of the time, it’s pretty easy to switch out one hat for another without feeling conflicted.
...and eventually led to this...
The rise of Trumpism demanded that everybody decide which hat they were going to wear. Or to put it a little differently, they had to decide which hats were they willing to take off when push came to shove.
...and finally came to this:
There’s a reason why the Kavanaugh spectacle was the only time the broader American Right has unified during Trump’s presidency; it was because Donald Trump wasn’t the issue, even if he at times tried to make it about him. It was the one-time moment when all of the hats could converge or overlap each other.
The Legacy Pledge tried to form his words carefully. He didn’t want to give the kid too hard a time; not everyone knew better than to meddle with genius. And, as it happened, the intern didn’t want to give the The Legacy Pledge too hard a time, either — not because of any soft spot, but because he was reminded by The Legacy Pledge’s look, and his fart, that it was hopeless, that doing him the favor of honest criticism just made him cranky, that it was a mistake to even bring up the converging, overlapping hats — and he wouldn’t say anything about the “stench of midterm victory” either.
“Just wanted to say forget it,” said the intern. “Good column.” And he walked away.
The Legacy Pledge, touched by this manful withdrawal savored the moment and the smell.