There was a silver lining for Jonah Goldberg in Piers Morgan’s ambush interview of him allegedly concerning his new book, “The Tyranny of Cliches.” Jonah couldn’t have written a better script to illustrate his book’s theme.
Someone really should explain to Morgan that when a host invites a guest to discuss the guest’s book, the host ought to at least make a good-faith effort to pretend he has the slightest interest in allowing the author to expound on the book’s contents — as opposed to using the author as a prop to indulge the interviewer’s own arguments against conservatives and their toxic opinions.
That someone might also inform Morgan that it’s a perversion of the Socratic method for an interviewer to badger a guest into admitting the rhetorical premises of the interviewer’s opinions rather than lead him through carefully constructed logical arguments to those conclusions — never allowing the guest fully to answer his questions, never listening to his responses, making every one of his follow-up questions a classic non sequitur and putting words in the guest’s mouth for the purpose of constructing and then demolishing various straw men.
The central theme of Jonah’s book, which he explained in response to the only germane question Morgan posed in the interview, is that though pretty much everyone is ideological, conservatives are honest about it, and liberals are not. Liberals lie about their own ideological proclivities, mostly to themselves but also to others.
Let me briefly unpack the interview to illustrate precisely how accurate Goldberg is and how, during the interview, Morgan became a personification of the book’s theme — all without having the slightest clue he was doing so.
Early in the interview, Morgan launched into an accusatory tirade about conservatives’ unfair criticism of President Obama for his decision to take out Osama bin Laden. As Goldberg pointed out — in between Morgan’s interruptions — most conservative criticism has been directed not at Obama’s decision but at his unpresidential gloating about it after promising he wouldn’t “spike the football” and at Obama’s ad suggesting that Mitt Romney wouldn’t have made a similar decision.
But Morgan seemed hellbent on proving Goldberg’s thesis by showing he couldn’t get beyond his cliched thinking to deal with the arguments Goldberg was making instead of those he was projecting on to him. Morgan insisted on mischaracterizing Goldberg’s beef with Obama’s decision as a knee-jerk ideological Republican reaction. (Morgan refused to grasp that the criticism was over the ad.) “I can’t understand how any Republican can genuinely criticize (the decision),” pleaded Morgan.
When he finally did belatedly address Goldberg’s actual point, Morgan noted that Obama’s ad was fair game because Romney would have done the same to Obama had the tables been turned. Goldberg explained that the ad unfairly took Romney’s remark out of context because Romney was comparing the importance of capturing a major figurehead (bin Laden) with otherwise successfully prosecuting the overall war on terror. Of course Romney would have given the kill order against bin Laden had he been presented with it.
When Morgan claimed that Romney’s earlier statements implied he wouldn’t have spent the necessary money to capture bin Laden, Goldberg shot back that it was a relatively cheap operation. Morgan, visibly shellshocked, demanded to know how much Goldberg thought it cost.
After being waterboarded into answering, Jonah ventured a guess of $50 million, after which Morgan spent the next several minutes sputtering indignantly about how a Republican such as Goldberg could think $50 million is pocket change. “Wow, and that’s cheap in the Republican world? … No wonder the country got into the mess it did,” said Morgan, the exasperated fiscal hawk. Voila, Goldberg’s nuanced argument about Romney’s actual position was transmogrified by the ideologically cliched liberal Morgan into some bizarre class-warfare screed.
At one point in the interview, the prey (Goldberg) captured the hunter (Morgan), with Morgan exclaiming, “I’m not batting for Democrats or Republicans,” to which Goldberg replied during one of Morgan’s rare pauses for oxygen, “If you’re not batting for Democrats, it’s a wonderful approximation of it.” Game, set, match.
You see, Morgan obviously doesn’t believe he’s displaying a liberal bias. He is, undeniably, lying to himself — again, vindicating Goldberg’s argument.
But Morgan wasn’t finished. He said, “No, I like to deal with reality.” Goldberg may have been thinking to himself, “Wow, he has no idea how thoroughly he is validating my book.” For on Page 14, Goldberg described this very liberal mindset: “They hide their ideological agenda within Trojan Horse cliches and smug assertions that they are simply pragmatists, fact finders, and empiricists who are clearheaded slaves to ‘what works.'”
Perhaps Morgan didn’t get past Page 13 of the book, but you should; it’s a fabulous, trenchant, insightful read, about which I shall have more to say later.