The “joke” and the Derb

To believe that Sen. Kerry’s “joke” was intended to be about President Bush, you’d have to believe that the “joke” consisted of saying that if you don’t study hard and don’t work hard, you’ll end up stuck in, uh, you’ll end up stuck in the White House, as president of the United States. Is it at all plausible that Kerry intended to say this?

Now, I’m not saying it’s impossible that Kerry somehow meant for Bush rather than GIs to be the butt of his charming “joke.” But if that were the case, then as soon as the storm broke upon him, Kerry would have immediately responded: “I see how my flubbed words DO sound as though I’m denigrating the troops. I’m very sorry about this. This was not what I intended to say.”

But that’s not how Kerry responded. Instead, he insisted he had done nothing wrong and intoned in his usual arrogant manner, “I am not going to apologize to anyone.” This indicates to me that Kerry did intend to mock the troops, was caught out on it, and so went into denial mode. (See my further qualifications on this point below.)

By the way, John Derbyshire was arguing strongly at the Corner yesterday that the president was in fact Kerry’s intended target. The Derb, however, was a party of one, showing a kind of angry dogmatism and intolerance toward both his NRO colleagues and readers that was most uncharacteristic of him. It got so that even the mild mannered Ramesh Ponnuru had to lecture him: “As for John Derbyshire, he needs to learn to take criticism as well as he dishes it out.” Which makes one wonder: has his coming out as an unbeliever released a hitherto unseen alienated side of Derbyshire, as it has in the case of Heather Mac Donald?

- end of initial entry -

Tom S. writes:

I will repeat my prediction—John Derbyshire will soon “come out” as a Democrat. Democrats believe in Darwinian evolution by random mutation, and this issue seems to be trumping everything else for Derbyshire. As Monty Burns would say on “The Simpsons” “It’s all coming together…”

LA replies:

But what about his absolute denial, the other day at the Corner, of your prediction that he’s moving toward the Democrats?

Well, I’ll answer my own question: he may be a divided person at this point. Perhaps it’s a case of, “The Derb doth protest too much, methinks…”

And the more I think about it, the more it seems to me that there is something to what you’re saying. It is a person’s deepest philosophical commitments, not individual policy issues, that determine his party identification. For example, Andrew Sullivan, after much public agonizing, switched to the Democrats and supported Kerry in 2004 because he could not abide Bush’s having endorsed the Federal Marriage Amendment, even though the endorsement was pro forma and even though Sullivan strongly preferred Bush’s stand on the war in Iraq to Kerry’s. Sullivan could not continue to support a party that opposed same-sex “marriage” and thus, in Sullivan’s mind, was denying the equal humanity of homosexuals. As for Derbyshire, he has recently (and very uncharacteristically, given his usual affable manner) shown deep contempt toward people who believe that intelligence had anything to do with the evolution of life on earth. The denial that God or higher intelligence plays any role in the unfoldment of life forms has become a primary commitment for Derbyshire. Therefore, as you have indicated, it is a reasonable inference that he now feels so alienated from the Republicans with their significant Christian orientation that he will feel unable to continue as a member and supporter of that party.

Tom S. replied:

You said it, exactly. And I think that you’re right about his being conflicted. There is little doubt in my mind that something is going on. I mean, can you imagine the Derb of 2000—or even 2004—defending John Kerry? Besides, if you had asked me back in the early 1980’s if I was going to become a Republican, I would have answered “No Way! I’m a proud Democrat! I’m just voting for Reagan until the Democrats come to their senses on National Defense.” I’m still waiting, and I’ve now been a Republican for 20 years…

National Defense was my “trump” issue, and in the end, it overcame everything else for me. If I’m right, and Darwinian evolution is Derb’s “trump” issue, he’ll move over to the Dems eventually. Oh, he’ll do it kicking and screaming, and he’ll claim that it’s only temporary, and he’ll say that the ignorant Bible-thumping Christers made him do it… but he’ll do it, just like I did. That’s the way I’d bet right now; heck, he’s only been “out” less than a week, and already he’s defending John Kerry! What will the harvest be in a year?

Too bad—he’s an entertaining guy, and from what I understand a fine husband and father. He’s just mesmerized by modern genetics, and is drawing unjustified conclusions from some pretty speculative research…. It can’t be any fun, thinking that life has no meaning.

Rodney J. writes:

He would have had to have consciously decided to deviate from his script specifically to denigrate the American millitatry. The script makes it explicitly clear that Bush was the intended target. It is hard for me to believe that Kerry is this stupid or even this arrogant. It is more plausible that he botched the line. This is more in line with his stupidity level.

I personally have found millitary folk to be much more interested in fighting than learning. They are bright, but very incurious. I know someone in Iraq who hasn’t read a book since high school. If he were the reading type, he would probably have decided against volunteering in Iraq.

The same goes for most millitary folk I meet.

LA writes:

> The script makes it explicitly clear that Bush was the intended target.

Ok, let’s say that’s true. Why then did Kerry, who had no intention to insult the troops, not immediately see that the words as he had spoken did seem to insult the troops? Why did he not immediately explain what had happened and apologize for his error?

The reason I can see is this. Though Kerry did not intend to insult the troops, he most certainly has anti-troop attitudes within him. THAT is why he did not immediately see that his spoken words had insulted the troops and that he must apologize for this. How could he see and feel badly about the objectionable nature of a statement that he actually agrees with? He still harbors within himself—though he had not intended on this occasion to express it outwardly—the same attitude of condenscesion and contempt for the U.S. Armed Forces that he expresed before Congress 35 years ago.

This is the best explanation of his behavior that I can see.

Tom S. writes:

I must say that my experience with military personnel is somewhat different than Rodney J. I have worked with military people quite a bit, and do not find them particularly “incurious,” at any rate no more incurious than the general population. I’m also not sure that being “incurious” is the only explanation for volunteering for Iraq. There are a number of possible reasons for doing this, some of them reflecting quite well on the person doing it …

As for Kerry, who can say what he intended? But what cannot be disputed is that he is primarily responsible for this whole thing blowing up, for two reasons: first, his botched “apology,” which reached a level of tone-deafness almost unbelievable in a public figure; and secondly, because of his past behavior, criticizing our soldiers is the sort of thing people expect him to do. Had Bush said something similar, the media would have screeched, but the public as a whole would have ignored it, because everyone knows that Bush, for all his many faults, genuinely respects the military. Kerry, due to his past criticism of our soldiers, gets no such pass. It may or may not be fair, but Kerry has only himself to blame in the long run.

Michael K. writes:

In response to Tom S. and his prediction that “the Derb” will “soon come out” as a Democrat: Given his views on race, massive Third-World immigration, “multiculturalism,” “political correctness,” homosexuality, feminism, sexual egalitarianism, innate sex differences, and related matters -issues on which left-liberal democrats have been the most fanatical and intolerant of heresy over the last four decades- I rather doubt that “the Derb” is about to join the party of Ted Kennedy, Michael Moore, Jimmy Carter, Al Franken, Hillary Clinton, Barbara Mikulski, Janet Reno, Jesse Jackson, Al Sharpton, and Barack Obama simply because he disagrees with the religious right and mainstream “conservatives” on abortion, embryonic stem cell research, Darwinism and evolution, and keeping alive a brain-dead women who had languished for years in a vegetative state with absolutely no hope of even partial recovery.

And I rather doubt they would welcome him into their narrow tent even if he lost his mind and wanted to enter and mix with such company.

If “the Derb” came out in favor of open borders, amnesty for illegal aliens, the Kennedy/McCain/Bush immigration bill (like all neoconservatives), racial and sexual quotas, women in combat (like Michelle Malkin and George Allen), homosexual marriage (like Max Boot and David Brooks), reparations for slavery (like Alan Keyes and Charles Krauthammer), “hate-crime” laws, and such, then he’d be ready to join the Democrats and they to lovingly embrace him.

Derbyshire is the only race realist at NR, a “party of one” in calling for an end to massive nonwhite immigration, and doing so on racial grounds. For this reason alone, I’m surprised he hasn’t been purged from NR and the “conservative movement.”

LA replies:

I think your main point is right. Just to clarify, in my agreement with Tom S., I did not agree with his statement that Derbyshire would come out as a Democrat, only that he would feel unable to continue as a Republican. My point was that, while I had initially dismissed Tom’s prediction, I realized that it was based on a reasonable argument, namely (1) that people choose parties based on their most fundamental commitments and allegiances; (2) that Derbyshire’s most fundamental commitment is to Darwinism and materialist reductionism; (3) that he therefore has a major problem with people who believe in God in any more than a nominal sense; and (4) that he therefore would start to gravitate away from the Republicans.

Would this be toward the Democrats, as Tom thinks? As you point out, it would seem that Derbyshire’s race realism would squash any possible connection between him and Democrats. So it would seem more likely that he will just leave the Republicans and seek some “third way” where he will feel comfortable, as so many people do. However, as I’ve indicated before, Derbyshire’s realist position on race may not be very deep: it tends to be anecdotal and personal, rather than a principled position he takes seriously. And this, by the way, answers your question as to why NRO allows him to publish his stuff on race: his position on race is not deep or serious, so it is not threatening to liberal/conservative orthodoxy. For the same reason, his position on race may not be an obstacle to his supporting the Democrats or to his getting published in liberal publications, should he decide to relocate from NRO, which, given the unprecedented bitterness in his recent comments to his NRO colleagues (even on such a trivial matter as Kerry’s joke), is not impossible. Derbyshire is passionate about Darwinism; he is not passionate about race. Therefore the former position will determine his future direction, more than the latter.

A fact or insight is one thing; a prediction based on that fact or insight is another. It’s a fact that Derbyshire now has a major problem with religious conservatives, and thus with the Republican party. Predicting how he will resolve this problem in reality is a matter of guesswork or intuition, based on the things we already know.

Posted by Lawrence Auster at November 03, 2006 05:03 PM | Send

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