One of the many suspended GB News presenters, Laurence Fox, had a rather good coinage the other day for a colleague too obviously eager to take advantage of the many suddenly vacated primetime slots:
Cos play freedom fighter.
"Yes, boss. Whatever you say boss. Please keep paying me boss!" https://t.co/5yLLnzgZEx— Laurence Fox (@LozzaFox) September 27, 2023
"Cosplay freedom fighter". That's good. But there's a lot of that about, don't you find? For example:
~Did you catch that Republican "debate"? Nah, me neither. Tried watching the morning after, but didn't last long. The experts assured us that Trump's decision not to participate would make him look weak. Why, in the words of Chris Christie's painstakingly rehearsed but pitifully stillborn gag, he would be "Donald Duck"!
Because he's a man called Donald and he ducks debates, see? It's a play on the pop culture icon Donald Duck, who was a big Hollywood movie star as recently as ...oh, 1934.
That's American politics for you. You give the big bucks to the consultant-industrial complex, and they assure you that that leaden jest is comedy gold.
On the other hand, here's Donald Duck lui-même, a day or two after skipping the debate:
Don't just watch the bit at the front. Stay tuned after the fake rewind to see how it arises in context - "I've never been on this stupid stage before..." I've no idea whether Trump's shtick was as laboriously rehearsed as Christie's dud, but, if it was, he's much better at integrating it into the rest of the pitch.
~Be that as it may, and contrary to all the experts, Trump turns out to be a genius for refusing to participate - and not just because there's no point being Gulliver on a stage of Liliputians. This was a Fox Business debate, moderated by Stuart Varney, Dana Perino and some gal from the Spanish-lingo network Univision. One accepts, I suppose (although I don't, not really), that come the Dem/Rep debates in the general election next fall, all the questions will be framed from a leftist perspective - so lotsa climate change, etc. But Republican primary debates are supposed to afford GOP voters the chance to weigh how their candidates stand on the issues that are of concern to them.
Fox scuttled that. The Univision chick was a one-issue bore ("dreamers"), and even Stuart Varney, whom I regard as one of the best broadcasters in America, wimped out. I was honoured to do Stuart's show on and off for fifteen years or so, and it was always a gas. My youngest kid says that the key to success on telly is the ability to banter. He was with me in New York one time and accompanied me to the studio to watch Varney and I thwacking the ball back and forth in a tremendous Centre Court rally. Afterwards, he declared Stuart the all-time great "banterer" of American TV.
There was none of that at the GOP debate. Instead, half his questions sounded like winning entries in a Least Likely Stuart Varney Question competition - particularly the one idiotically comparing striking UAW workers with Reagan's air traffic controllers.
Incidentally, twelve years ago, when I was on his show to promote my bestselling After America, Stuart corrected my pronunciation of "bananas", which he felt was insufficiently American. I responded: "What are you - the Professor Higgins of Brooklyn?"
If "insufficiently American" pronunciation grates on Varney, the Univision lady's English-as-a-third-language routine must have been sorely trying. He is to be congratulated on his forebearance. But that's a Univision of America's future right there.
~The simplest way for a principled Republican not to play along with this rubbish is by not being there. That's why Trump's margin over the Liliputians rises with every debate. The first post-debate poll has "Donald Duck" up over 50 points on the second-place candidate: 63 per cent to Ron DeSantis's 12 per cent. Not so long ago, on The Mark Steyn Show, I was asking Michele Bachmann about why DeSantis was stalled at only 20 per cent. Boy, those were the days: he's half that now. The second post-debate poll shows DeSantis in danger of slipping down into single digits: He's at just 10 per cent.
Ah, but what about Nikki Haley? According to Conservative Inc, she wins all these debates ...and that's sent her rocketing up to, er, 5 per cent - only 2 per cent behind the bloke no one had heard of until twenty minutes ago, Vivek Ramaswamy. At this stage, Ms Haley is basically running as the Hindu Hillary - all the wars, none of the warmth and personal charm. So naturally Conservative Inc wants us all to get behind her. It's proving a tough sell.
That 63 per cent is not merely a vote for Trump but a vote against the whole rotten worthless racket of stilted US political debates. This is no time for cosplay candidates stringing along and pretending that what's going on in America is normal. Some hack judge in New York, for example, has just cancelled Trump's business licenses because he supposedly committed the crime of "overstating" his wealth.
To get to that decision, Judge Arthur Engoron valued Mar-a-Lago at $18 million.
Really? Earlier this year, Kathryn Limbaugh sold her beloved Rush's rather more modest spread down the road for $155 million. Local realtors in Florida think Trump's pad "could be worth almost one hundred times" the valuation put on it by this monstrous perversion of a judge in the New York Supreme Court. I thought I had as low an opinion of American jurists as it was possible to get, but I'm very glad I didn't draw that corrupt slug when I was up before the bench in the very same rotten edifice.
This is where waving your constitution availeth you naught. All constitutions of free nations - whether written out in micro-detail (as in the US) or operating on customary norms (as in HM Dominions) or replaced every couple of generations (as in France) - assume a society, in John Adams' words, of "morality and virtue". You can't have a society of "morality and virtue" with guys like Engoron egged on by his state attorney-general and the dirty stinking rotten corrupt federal Department of Justice. Once you decide you're going to take away the opposition leader's business licenses by valuing his property at a hundredth of its worth then you're in an entirely post-constitutional landscape. And don't call it a "banana republic" - because they're basket-cases way on the fringes of the chancelleries of power. When the so-called dominant hyperpower of the planet does it, we're way beyond bananas of either the Steyn or Varney pronunciation.
Presumably some of these cosplay candidates - most of them? - show up because they think that, if you have a good night against Pence and Asa Hutchinson, then when Trump eventually implodes you'll be well positioned to polevault from your 4.3 per cent into the runaway lead.
But that Fox debate was so godawful I'm wondering if we haven't reached the stage where there's room for another candidate (Vivek? DeSantis?) also to boost his numbers by declining to play along. The post-normal America is arising before our eyes, and standing on stage stringing along with stupid questions about "dreamers" just makes you look like an accomplice.
~Thank you for your kind comments about my weekend piece on the meltdown at GB News. A day or so after publication, I remembered this incident, which part-inspired a character in The Prisoner of Windsor. So I belatedly added it to my section on "the relentlessly vulgar Brit media":
Discussing the [Fox/Wootton] issue, Joan Bakewell - who in my salad days made her name on the Beeb as 'the thinking man's crumpet' (ie, eminently shaggable) rather than merely the Bakewell tart (although Frank Muir liked to call her that, without consequence) - magisterially pronounced that Lozza is a 'dick'...
This is a country in which a female Minister of the Crown (Anna Soubry) can suggest on the BBC's Andrew Marr Show that Nigel Farage looks as if someone has put his finger up Nigel's bottom and 'he really rather likes it':
'Defence minister Anna Soubry stunned TV viewers when she said Ukip leader Nigel Farage "looks like somebody has put their finger up his bottom".
'Fellow guests on the BBC's Andrew Marr Show were taken aback as a laughing Ms Soubry made a gesture with her finger and added it looked as if "he really rather likes it".'
Which doesn't sound Nigel's bag at all. And actually, even if it was, that's rather less kinky than a 'respectable' 'lady' eager to fantasise about such things in front of millions of people on the world's most prestigious broadcast network.
And yet Anna Soubry survived - for a few years, at least. I was so startled by the interview that I put a similarly potty-mouthed Cabinet minister in The Prisoner of Windsor.
But that's UK public discourse for you: it's unutterably vulgar - except that it's uttered round the clock. So the Minister of State at the Department of Defence is permitted to get her jollies slavering over the violation of Nigel Farage's posterior, but Nigel's primetime colleagues are not permitted to express a disinclination to violate at all.
Of course! Because Anna Soubry, Andrew Marr, Joan Bakewell, Adam Boulton and even young Ava Evans are all in the club - and Farage, Fox and Wootton aren't and never will be. That's what Adam Boulton's "delicate ecology" of UK broadcasting boils down to.
~As most readers know, a few weeks back I filed my second Statement of Claim against the UK media censor Ofcom in the King's Bench Division of the English High Court. Many readers, listeners and viewers have inquired about how to support my landmark lawsuit against Lord Grade and his goons over their throttling of honest discussion of the Covid and the vaccines. Well, there are several ways to lend a hand, including:
a) signing up a friend for a Steyn Club Gift Membership;
b) buying a chum a SteynOnline gift certificate; or
c) ordering a copy of my latest book The Prisoner of Windsor. You won't regret it.
With the first two methods, one hundred per cent of the proceeds and, in the last, a significant chunk thereof go to a grand cause - and you or your loved one gets something, too.
~Notwithstanding Mark's one-step-forward-three-steps-back health, we had a busy weekend at SteynOnline, starting with the aforementioned Andrew Lawton back in the anchor seat of our Clubland Q&A. On Saturday, as mentioned above, Mark gave his own take on the meltdown at GB News. Rick McGinnis's weekend movie date considered the remains of Richard III, and Mark's Sunday Song of the Week found him and his late producer Brian Savin suffused in autumnal melancholy.
Even as fall descends, don't forget our summer Tale for Our Time, Steyn's variation on H G Wells's theme of time travel. If you've yet to hear it, you can start with Part One here.
If you were too busy spending the weekend checking if you're on the Totally Unshaggable list, we hope you'll want to check out one or three of the foregoing as a new week begins.