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Pandemic psychology and fear of contagion or psychological fears of disease or virus infections with 3D illustration elements.

P.J. O’Rourke: Power-Hungry Leaders Revel in COVID Shutdowns

Episode #46  |  July 29th, 2021

In This Episode:

American Consequences Editor-in-Chief and best-selling author P.J. O’Rourke joins Trish in this episode as they dive into the broken states of America along with his updated blockbuster book Eat the Rich that he’s giving away at no charge at freepjbook.com

P.J. talks with Trish about the current resident of 1600 Pennsylvania Ave, the state of small businesses, masks, shutdowns, and inflated prices of goods and services. P.J. isn’t President Biden’s biggest fan and worries that the administration will impose more lockdowns should health concerns continue. 

Human nature shows us that people in power like to exercise that power, says P.J., and while politicians attempt to uphold the health and safety of our country (no easy feat), they’re still human and delight in shutdowns… perpetuating said power.

With COVID-19 variants on the rise, small businesses can’t withstand another shutdown, and the country can’t continue to print money and prop them up… It’s a recipe on how to tear this country apart, even more so than it already is. President Biden needs to show leadership that unifies.

Inflation, a pandemic, and how power sours the human condition will have you proverbially hanging on every word. 

Guests:

P.J. O’Rourke

Editor in Chief
P.J. is the H. L. Mencken fellow at the Cato Institute, a member of the editorial board of World Affairs and a regular panelist on NPR’s Wait… Wait… Don’t Tell Me. He lives with his family in rural New England, as far away from the things he writes about as he can get.

Transcript:

Trish Regan:               [Music plays] Oh, we got a lot going on this week… so much, in fact, there’s talk now of the country getting shut down all over again as a result of the Delta variant. We’re going to talk about that. Plus, I’ve got a great piece in americanconsequences.com this week, looking at what exactly Fauci knew. I mean, he may be going down – I’m not even sure the Left can save him at this point. Plus, new data out… a new Gallup poll showing President Biden is not as popular as Donald Trump or Barack Obama was at this time – why would that be? I think it has something to do with inflation.

Hello, everyone. I’m so excited because we have, today, with us, my friend and colleague – the editor in chief of American Consequences, the best magazine on economics and politics that you’re going to find out there. He’s joining us today, and we’re going to talk to him about all of these things. But first, I want to take a moment to just talk a little bit about what’s going on in our economy right now. I mean, there’s one data point that just sticks out at me. And I don’t have little kids. I mean, I do have little kids but they’re not in diapers anymore.

But I’m blown away by this 14% increase in the last year in the price of diapers. Because to me, that kind of says it all, right? Young American families are getting hurt by this massive inflation. And it’s like a runaway train. I don’t see entirely how or when it might stop. Because we have a Federal Reserve that somehow feels empowered to keep printing money. And every time they get an economic data point that they maybe don’t like. Well, it’s licensed to print some more. And you’ve got an administration that’s all too happy to just hand out more money.

In fact, as we look at the onset of the Delta variant I would not be surprised – and we’re going to talk to P.J. O’Rourke from americanconsequences.com about this. I would not be surprised to see the country shut down small businesses all over again. And if that happens, well, you know what’s next, more coronavirus stimulus checks that we can’t afford. I mean, we got a $28 trillion debt still counting on its way to $30 trillion before the end of the year. This is not a sustainable path. What is it doing to the U.S. dollar? It’s hurting it.

I’d predict it’s really going to decimate it. Of course, you got everybody all around the globe doing their share as well… printing, printing, printing. It’s like this race to the bottom, right? I mean, we’re lucky. We’re the world’s reserve currency. Although, if you talk to our friend Ron Paul, Congressman Ron Paul, he’d say, “It’s bad that we’re the world’s reserve currency because that makes it easier to print all this.” You know, look. As Doc Eifrig said – David Eifrig – and by the way, I encourage you to listen to last week’s podcast with him and also to go and read his inflation warning at 2021inflationwarning.com.2021inflationwarning.com.

Doc was making the point that the dollar really has been decimated and that the only thing that’s really been holding up over all these years is gold. And he’s done a really fascinating statistical analysis that goes like all the way back to the Civil War days looking at what $1 could buy you. And increasingly, that’s less. The one thing that has held is gold. So again. Check out his 2021inflationwarning.com for more on that. I do think that we’re entering some pretty challenging times. And this is not – this is not sustainable.

I don’t know how we get out of it. Really and truly. I mean, how do we get out of this massive debt load? You just tax and tax and tax some more? That’s not going to work. We know that. You cannot tax your way to prosperity. You can’t tax your way into paying this debt load off. You’re going to somehow have to grow your economy. To grow your economy, you’re actually going to need lower taxes. But they believe – those in Washington D.C. believe – that you grow your economy by printing more money. I’m sorry, it doesn’t work like that. It just doesn’t. And so, your average American is very much at risk of seeing their retirement savings dwindle.

In other words, the value will be eroded over time. Because if we keep getting this inflation, you’re not going to be able to buy as much with your U.S. dollar. So what do you do? These are important questions that you need to think about. I encourage you to think about. I encourage you to diversify your portfolio. To make sure that you can weather the storm so-to-speak. So again. Go to 2021inflationwarning.com. I am so delighted to have here with me today the wonderful P.J. O’Rourke. He is the editor in chief of – I would argue, and of course I’m a little biased on this given that I publish this [laughs] thing – but the best, the very best, economic-political magazine that you will find right now, American Consequences. P.J. O’Rourke. Great to have you, sir.

 

P.J. O’Rourke:            Great to be there. Glad to be here. Wherever we are.

 

Trish Regan:               I’m just going to remind everybody you are a legend. And one of the reasons why I was so excited to come to American Consequences was because of you. And I have been a long-time admirer of your just extremely witty and fun and rich prose. And I know you’ve got a new edition of one of your most famous books coming out, and I want to get to that. And we’ll talk about that. But just a little plug for you and for the wonderful writing and the wonderful team that you’ve assembled at American Consequences… Because I think anybody who really cares about freedom and economic freedom and wants to know what’s going on in the world – they’re going to get a fair, accurate representation, with some opinion there, that is unlike anything else that I’ve seen on the market, certainly.

 

P.J. O’Rourke:            Well, thanks. [Laughs] Yeah. We do our best. And we try to present all sorts of points of view in the magazine without getting heated. We are medium-cool. No screaming, no yelling, no ranting, no raving.

 

Trish Regan:               Just really articulate information and with a point-of-view, but I should emphasize that there’s a lot of different points of view… which to me is exactly what you want in consuming these.

 

P.J. O’Rourke:            Yeah. So I think the points of view only converge in one way, which is, sort of – small-L – “libertarian,” which is the importance of the freedom of the individual and the dignity of the individual and the responsibility of the individual. Everybody likes two out of three of those things. [Laughs] Yeah. Responsibility part, we’d all like to shirk. But unfortunately, it comes with the territory. And that’s about the only thing that we can say for sure that our American Consequences contributors agree on.

 

Trish Regan:               Sure. No. The individual matters. And, I mean, look. I grew up in “live free or die” New Hampshire. You’re there in “live free or die” New Hampshire now. So there’s a sort of a libertarian streak that you got to have, I think, if you’re in that state. Walk me through, though, what’s going on. I guess we should start with the biggest news right now. I got a lot I want to talk to you about, including inflation, including the Biden presidency and the reaction of Americans to him. But let’s start with COVID and let’s start with the unwillingness of so many Americans now to get vaccinated and how one balances sort of the overall good of society with simultaneously protecting individual rights.

There’s now talk of mask mandates being reinstituted in many communities, including in St. Louis where they’ve just said, “OK. everybody’s going to wear a mask again. Doesn’t matter if you’re vaccinated or not. We’re going to do this.” And I look at it and wonder whether we could actually see a shutdown of the country again because of the COVID Delta variant. Your thoughts on it all.

 

P.J. O’Rourke:            I think it’s a distinct possibility. I mean, people in authority – and of course, the United States is not a totalitarian state and nor is it even a highly centralized nation. So it makes it hard to impose these things from the top down. I have some sympathy for the governors and the mayors and the public health officials and even the Biden administration – which I’m no great fan – is that they are charged with doing what’s best for everybody. On the other hand, we can never forget that people in power love to exercise power and that there is a certain sort of delight that they get in shutdowns.

There is a certain satisfaction in exercising a power that you have that is unfortunately just part of human psychology. And the people that we elect are human and then some [laughs] – or a little less than human even, sometimes. So we certainly can’t rule that kind of Draconian shutdown… I’m more concerned – much more concerned – I’ve learned to wear a mask even though it fogs my glasses and it sort of fogs my mind.

But I’m much more concerned about another shutdown and small businesses that I think would just… so many of them expired during the initial COVID shutdown. So many of them just got by, by the skin of their teeth. Their business is hanging by a thread. If it hadn’t been for government handouts, there might not be any business. You can’t – the handouts can’t continue forever without dire consequences. Another shutdown like that is just going to be devastating.

 

Trish Regan:               You do better if the economy does better. If the economy does better, people will vote you back into office, right? Like, I think there’s a direct correlation, and we can talk about the recent Gallup poll which has Biden actually suffering here with the worst approval rating than either Donald Trump or Barack Obama at this time. And I suspect that has something to do with inflation that people aren’t too happy about. But in other words, as a lawmaker, you should want the economy to succeed because if the economy succeeds, then people are happy. If you shut everything down… I just think it’s going to tear this country apart again.

 

P.J. O’Rourke:            Yeah. Yeah. As if we weren’t torn apart enough. And really, Biden is caught on the horns of a dilemma. If he doesn’t show some sort of leadership with… if there indeed is a serious recurrence to the Delta variant of COVID, people – and so far, we’ve been, touch wood, we’ve been fortunate in the death and mortality rate. But if this continues to spread and the mortality rate goes up and he is seen to not show leadership – which I think is what basically happened to Donald Trump…

Donald Trump was kind of going in all sorts of different directions and sending a lot of mixed messages when this broke out. And I’m not necessarily exactly blaming him. I mean, he’s – well – all too human as we talked about politicians. And the information that he was – some of the information he was getting was highly contradictory. And he’s one of those people who’s terribly decisive and sometimes literally terribly decisive. And so, he would be very decisive about this and then his information would change and he’d be very decisive about that. Then he wasn’t getting much information but he’d be decisive anyway. And I think it lost him the election.

 

Trish Regan:               Yeah. I do think you’re right. It’s one of those moments – right – where if it works for you and you really are able to show that leadership and rally the country, then it works. But don’t forget. It was like he said up, the media said down. For goodness sakes. Remember how he told us how he had seen intelligence that suggested that COVID-19 may have originated in the Wuhan Lab? And then immediately, everybody came out and said, “No. No. No. Conspiracy theory.” Fauci the next day did this big splashy piece in the National Geographic saying “no.”

He was pretty sure all the signs pointed that it came from a wet market. And journalists – and I know this – would be shut down, shadow-banned – you name it – by Big Tech if they dared to even talk about the fact that it might’ve come from Wuhan. And I’ll tell you, P.J., I had sources at the time telling me about how people from the lab had gotten sick with these symptoms. But this was not something that really could be openly discussed. I know we did. We ran a piece in February in americanconseqences.com. And I’m proud of us for being willing to take these chances. But the reality is, at the time it was just like you would get penalized in a huge way for even discussing this. And yet, it turns out – we don’t know. And the intelligence suggests that it could’ve happened.

 

P.J. O’Rourke:            You now, scientists, like detectives and journalists, don’t like coincidence. Coincidence does happen. But this was a little too coincidental for – the suspicions not even to be openly discussed was a tragedy. And a violation of the First Amendment. And also, a symptom of like, “Why doesn’t the public trust the government? Why doesn’t the public trust the media?” It’s a lack of openness about this. The public is not seeing this argument being shut down.

We as journalists are seeing this argument being shut down, or this theory, or just the need for investigation for a closer look at that. I don’t know. I’m no genetic scientist. I don’t know whether it was eating bats. But I do know [laughs] that there was a lab working on this very set of viruses right next door to – right at the center of the outbreak of this virus. And I wouldn’t be a reporter if I liked that kind of thing.

 

Trish Regan:               Right. [Laughs] So you’ve probably seen the Jon Stewart clip. We’ve got to play that right now for our listeners because it’s great. Let’s go do that right now.

 

Recorded Voice:         I work at the coronavirus lab in Wuhan. Oh, because there’s a coronavirus loose in Wuhan. How did that happen? Maybe a bat flew into the cloaca of a turkey and then it sneezed into my chili and now we all have Corona. Oh my god, there’s been an outbreak of chocolatey goodness near Hershey, Pennsylvania. What do you think happened? Like, “Oh, I don’t know. Maybe a steam shovel made it with a cocoa bean.” Or it’s the [beeping sound] chocolate factory. Maybe that’s it.

 

Trish Regan:               So in other words, yeah. I love the Hershey example if there’s a chocolate outbreak in Hershey, Pennsylvania, you might think, ‘Hey. There’s a chocolate factory here in Hershey, Pennsylvania.’ And I guess what’s just amazing to me. And by the way, he was highly… Jon Stewart was criticized for saying this. But look. It’s like they’re trying to tell us one plus one is eight. Maybe we can look at that and we can talk about it, but we should also be able to talk about one plus one is two. It’s just sort of the obvious stuff.

And I think the more you try and fool the American public, the more reticent they become. Like, if you can’t actually read all information, then I guess you start to doubt this stuff. You and I have talked earlier. I was thinking about when people got the polio vaccine. I wonder if there was anywhere near as much doubt. I mean, maybe there was more faith in our government at that point. Because right now, it feels like people do not trust the government period.

 

P.J. O’Rourke:            Even though the government had arguments within it – there was a great deal more trust… more trust in the media, more trust in the government. And I was just of age. I was in fourth grade when the Salk vaccine came along. And I don’t remember there being any controversy. Of course, you wouldn’t necessarily tell it forthright or that there would be any controversy. But they just marched us out of the classrooms onto school buses, took us down to the city clinic where they had a bunch of like half-trained mothers and home keepers using horse-sized syringes, rather, in – who weren’t necessarily too sure to put the end in – ouch, that hurt – and marched us back on the bus and took us back to school.

And I went to fairly diverse, by the standards of the day, grade school. Poor kids and better-off kids and kids from different ethnic groups and religions and so on. And I don’t remember any protests. And I’ve gone back and – I haven’t researched this as carefully as I should. But I have gone back. I don’t see much record of there having been protests. There must’ve been certain groups – Jehovah’s Witnesses, perhaps, and so on –  who refused this vaccination. But it didn’t make a big news splash at the time. It was just a given.

I’m not saying we could necessarily go back to that where we’re not the kind of the nation that was more homogenous in those days and society was less divided. But to come back to the mask mandate, one of the things that really worries me about the mask mandate is it deprives us of the prize. There should be a prize for getting vaccinated. I don’t mean a monetary prize necessarily, although I guess it seems necessary. But the darned thing’s free already. All you have to do is go get it and you can go get it almost anywhere now. There really is no excuse for not getting vaccinated. But you do want there to be a reward.

And one of the primary rewards for this should be to be able to go around maskless. To be able to go to church without a mask, to be able to go to a party and a bar and a restaurant. And things should be opened again. Of course, caution should be exercised. In my mind, private businesses do have a right to say, “We won’t serve you if you aren’t vaccinated.” But if you are vaccinated, you should get some of your freedoms back. And to reimpose a mask mandate is just to say, “You did everything you were supposed to do. You were socially responsible. And screw you for it. You get nothing.”

 

Trish Regan:               You went around the world and you’re looking at levels of freedom, levels of justice, economic freedom obviously. Is there any country that’s doing it better than us?

 

P.J. O’Rourke:            Kind of depends on your definition of better. The little Scandinavian countries probably have a higher quality of life than we do. They have higher taxes. They’re a little poorer than we are. But the income is more widely distributed, more equitably distributed. But what’s important to remember about these countries is that their population is like less than Metropolitan, New York. To take Sweden as a particular example, they’re all Swedish.

They tax themselves at a very high rate, but they all want the same benefits from government – such as free graduate school and so on. And so, they’re all in agreement about what they want back from the government. So they’re willing – and they have a very high level of trust in their government. And so, they’re willing to turn over a large portion of their income to the government knowing that they’re going to get exactly what they want from that government, which is a very good health system, all sorts of daycare, and equal job opportunities for men and women, and free education from pre-K all the way through PhD.

And the thing with America is, you can’t do that with America. We’re like 320-or-whatever-it-is-million very different individuals. We don’t all want the same thing from the government – some people want very little.. some people want nothing… some people want everything. And so, we can’t come to that kind of easy agreement. We’re not all Swedes. We’re not all Danes. We’re not all Dutch. We’re not all Norwegian. We can’t do the same thing.

 

Trish Regan:               Yeah. No. There’s a buy-in there, wouldn’t you say? I mean, although increasingly that’s less so. I have a lot of friends from Sweden, many of whom were here but have parents that are back there. And they said that a lot of the older folks there are getting pretty upset because of the demographic shift and with the introduction of so many immigrants – including many from Syria – that the taxpayers are responsible for.

Again. When you talk about a homogenous group and everybody being on the same page and saying, “OK. We have the same values and we want the same thing out of our government,” and then you introduce culturally different people who speak a different language, have a harder time assimilating into the economy, then you start to get this friction. So it’s very interesting – it has worked for them. I agree with that. But now, it’s more challenging when… look. I think diversity is our greatest strength. And the more different kinds of people we can have here, the better and stronger we will be as a nation. But simultaneously, you also have to recognize, “OK. If we’re going to – if we’re going to agree that the government’s going to do X, Y, Z, we kind of all have to be on the same page with that.”

 

P.J. O’Rourke:            Yeah. There’s a great anecdote about Milton Friedman talking – this is back in the ’60s – talking to a Swedish economist. And the Swedish economist is saying, “In Sweden, we have no poverty.” And Milton Friedman said, “That’s very interesting because among Swedes in America we have no poverty either.” Even though they’re suffering frictions now that they’re becoming less homogenous, and population has grown and demographic shifts have happened.

One of the key things about these tidy, little Scandinavian countries is that they arrived at this system – which the system may seem a little peculiar to us and which wouldn’t work for us. But they arrived at this by thoroughly democratic means. And if they want to change it, they have got the tools immediately at hand to change it. And indeed, since I was in Sweden, 25 years ago, it has become a much more entrepreneurial, much more business-friendly, somewhat lower-taxed country than it was then.

 

Trish Regan:               Well, heck. I mean, we’re becoming [laughs] the highest-taxed place. I think if this administration were to get its way, our taxes would be a whole lot higher. And sadly, you don’t get a whole lot for it. You know, I can remember, P.J., when we moved to Battery Park in New York City, which kind of felt weird, right? Because it wasn’t really like New York City. It was just this sort of enclave that had sprouted up quite recently on landfill, nonetheless. But everything was sort of nice. It didn’t feel like the rest of New York. They had this wonderful park and you could go and you could get games for the kids, and they’d let them play.

And I’m like, “Oh my gosh. My tax dollars are actually going to something.” In a way, I don’t really mind paying as long as I’m getting something in return. But it feels as though this administration and many on the Left want to keep taxing… Keep taxing business, keep taxing individuals. And there’s really nothing to show for it. And I think that’s part of the frustration. Let me turn to – by the way. Just to, again – a reminder. If people want to read your book, they should definitely go to freepjbook.com… Eat the Rich.

There’s a very special chapter only for readers of American Consequences and listeners to this podcast. You can get it – freepjbook.com – his new edition of just a brilliant, brilliant look at the global economy and what works and what doesn’t: Eat the Rich. But you think about the dissatisfaction right now that we’re seeing in some of the polls, and I was a little bit surprised, P.J., because I don’t think Joe Biden is healthy for the economy. I think that he’s taking us down a path that we would most definitely regret. I mean, I look at the $28 trillion that we already have in debt and it’s well on its way to $30 before the end of the year.

And I just don’t see a path out of this, and I’m growing increasingly concerned because I think our currency very much is under threat. And you see it. The price of diapers. I can’t get over that. I was talking with the guest last week, and I encourage people to go back and listen to Doc talking about this. Or if you want to hear more about what he was saying on inflation, you can go to 2021inflationwarning.com. Anyways. I was talking with Doc.

And his concern – rightly so – is just that this is not going to – this is not going to end well. I look at the price of diapers. I don’t have kids in diapers anymore, but a lot of people do – up 14% just in the last year. And you look at food prices that are going up… restaurant prices… travel. Good luck trying to book a vacation. Everything’s like three times what it was. And I guess perhaps, P.J., this is what upsets people right now. I mean, why would Biden’s popularity be so low that he’s lower than Trump and he’s lower than Obama at this stage?

 

P.J. O’Rourke:            Not only the inflation that we’re feeling – which is rough – but the prospect of it running out of hand. I mean, we haven’t as a nation… we haven’t forgotten what happened in the ’70s. And I think people are living in fear of that stagflation. Wages are going up in a way that’s very hard for small businesses to deal with. But at the same time, in fairness, the people making those wages, prices are going up in a way that’s not very accurately reflected in the Consumer Price Index that the government puts out. It’s not exactly fake news, but it’s incomplete news.

And it doesn’t cover a lot of the things that we buy every day. And yeah, I think people are scared. And we have a sort of divisiveness hangover. And we don’t have a constituency of… we don’t have a bunch of cheerleaders for Joe Biden. He was like an acceptable choice for a lot of Biden voters. He didn’t have the kind of enthusiasm that either Obama or Trump was able to generate, albeit not nationwide. They were divisive presidents. But they had their cheerleading team. They had their halftime show. They had their marching band.

 

Trish Regan:               Yeah. They had their base, right? I mean, even Bernie Sanders had his base.

 

P.J. O’Rourke:            They had their base. And Biden doesn’t. Biden lacks a firm base.

 

Trish Regan:               So does he get elected again? I think he runs again, by the way. I can’t imagine him turning over the reins in 2024 to Kamala Harris. If he’s healthy enough, I think he will run again, which would probably be better for the party than her.

 

P.J. O’Rourke:            He may run again even if he is not healthy enough. It seems in the psychology of humanity, never having had any particular power or anything myself other than a couple of editorial jobs – which is[laughs] more a matter of arguing people into… more like being a congressman than being a president. But power seems to be the hardest thing to let go of. I imagine he will. And other than the – unless his health is just terrible, I think he probably will run again. And Kamala Harris has not shown herself to be a… she was lacking in charisma back in the primaries and she didn’t get a big bag of charisma in the mail.

 

Trish Regan:               Oh. [Laughs] I’m looking at her saying, “Gosh. You know, you’re doing everything wrong.” The border has been a disaster… 188,000 now, a record, of people arrested there or apprehended, I should say, at the border trying to come into the U.S.. Meanwhile, by the way – P.J. – it’s not lost on anyone that the Cubans have been referred to as migrants by Secretary Mayorkas. And he’s saying, “Don’t come here. We will turn you away,” yet simultaneously saying, “Well, we’re welcoming” – and he doesn’t refer to them as migrants. The immigrants from Latin America that are coming up from Mexico, etc., and we’re not turning any of them away.

I hate to say this but it is what it is and they have just become so political because the Cubans to me are actually refugees, right? If they go home they’re going to be shot. They don’t have a future… they’re a political refugee, but somehow we’re turning them away while simultaneously welcoming this other group which I fear has more to do with politics than anything else. But it is where we are. She still hasn’t actually gone to the actual border.

She went quite a few hundred miles north of it, but she’s not actually going to the border. This is like low-hanging fruit. This is what you got to do. Here’s a question for you, P.J.. Do you think that Joe Biden had kind of gotten sick of everybody referring to her as President Harris – including himself for that matter. [Laughs] Do you think that – he’s a smart guy politically. He’s like, “OK. You know what? She got this gig. I’m going to give her a real job. And this one’s not going to be fun – the border.” Takes the heat off him, puts a little heat on her?

 

P.J. O’Rourke:            Yes. And it’s also an old political trick to give a large responsibility to somebody who has very little authority. And it’s kind of a mean trick if you think about it. And did he do it consciously because he knew that this would make him look better by comparison or keep her… not exactly out of the limelight but sort of in an unfavorable spotlight? It probably wasn’t a conscious decision. I think that’s just the way the political animal works. I think that’s something that happens at a gut level. And yeah. “She wants an important job, we’ll give her an important job. We won’t give her any authority to accomplish that important job.” And she doesn’t seem to be able to muster any on her own. She, too, has that problem of lacking a base.

 

Trish Regan:               Yeah. That’s a very good point. And there are little things that she might do to improve her likability. And there’s little tricks perhaps that a good television producer [laughs] could tell her about. For example, the laugh and just to be a little bit more empathetic on the border stuff. But apparently, that message has not gotten through. Her staff’s not able to communicate that. But I do think that it takes the heat off of him, interestingly enough, for the border, sort of. And puts a little bit more on her.

But either way, look. If we’re dealing with lots of inflation – a massive increase in the number of people that are here legally because this administration doesn’t want to recognize borders like every other country in the world – then I think that that’s a challenging spot politically. The big elephant in the room as we aptly named it in a recent magazine cover – right – is Donald Trump and whether Donald Trump runs. Because if he runs, he likely becomes the Republican nominee. And that may be the Left’s only way of beating the Republicans again.

 

P.J. O’Rourke:            I’m worried that he may run too. I’m not so sure about his health. And, of course, I personally was never a Trump supporter. I find him – I have character issues. Let’s put it that way to be polite about it.

 

Trish Regan:               Because if you want the independence – right – you need the independence. And the independence, they’re going to struggle on the character front. That nobody’s really – policy or whatever, they maybe can’t get beyond character issues, which the media gins up, etc. So Biden doesn’t have the character stuff, but he doesn’t have the policy chops.

And so I look at it – I don’t know. I mean, there’s other contenders out there. I think that Ron DeSantis – he’s actually got a really incredible background. I mean, graduate of Yale and was in the JAG program, was over there in Fallujah. He’s kind of the real deal and he’s got a pretty good track record on COVID when it comes to keeping small businesses open. So he’s certainly – I think – one to watch. Do you have any other names you’d be keeping an eye on?

 

P.J. O’Rourke:            No. I really don’t. Yeah. I would say he’s the guy. Ted Cruz does not work and play well with others. The various moderate Republicans are just out of fashion with the base. Trump brings his own set of problems. And DeSantis has a – he has a good record. Of course, so did Jeb Bush – has a very good record as governor of an extremely diverse state with lots of difficulties. And he showed common sense and excellent leadership in the COVID crisis in Florida. And that was lacking elsewhere.

 

Trish Regan:               Let me ask you something, just – this is kind of off-the-wall. But you mentioned earlier that American Consequences is kind of something for everyone, right? That maybe has a little bit of a sort of libertarian vent. And there’s a lot of different opinion there, and we welcome that. And there’s a coolness to it. Maybe you were referring to that we don’t get too, too heated. But what about the cool factor among conservatives in general?

Because your background [laughs] quite frankly is pretty cool. You were working for a lot of publications that were part of the cool kids club, whether it be Rolling Stone or Vanity Fair or Playboy. I know you – in Rolling Stone, you were the foreign affairs desk chief there, and you’ve told me how you spent time in Ireland during the troubles [laughs] so-to-speak as they called them.

And so, you’ve got this really fascinating and cool background. And I look at this now, and one of my frustrations with conservatism is, it seems as though the respect for intellect and the coolness around that intellect seems totally gone. How do we – that don’t say “believe in socialism or AOC, Bernie Sanders-style economies” – how do we bring in more people? How do we get more people to recognize that this is a good way of doing things and it is still cool to be a conservative?

 

P.J. O’Rourke:            It’s with a soft voice. Speak softly and carry a big club. I mean, a big intellectual club. But I think that one of the reasons that conservatism lost its cool was, it got caught up in a lot of angry populism, and too many conservative commentators and libertarian commentators went along with that angry populism. It’s one thing to understand the angry populism and even to sympathize with it and to try and address its causes. But the very opposite of being conservative is being a member of a mob. And there was a sort of mob mentality that kind of took over conservative positions starting back in about 2015 or so.

 

Trish Regan:               Do you think that or do you think that’s sort of always – I think it got augmented, for sure, in 2016. But it’s always been a little challenging, right?

 

P.J. O’Rourke:            It always has. Yes. Yes. Going back to Goldwater days is that a big tree attracts squirrels. And you don’t want the squirrels to take over. And one of the reasons that Goldwater lost so decisively back in 1964 was that his big intellectual tree had attracted way too many squirrels. John Birch Society, even though he denounced the John Birch Society. All sorts of people were anti-civil rights even though he was pro-civil rights.

But it all got a little muddy because he was also in favor of states’ rights. And that was – he was against him. But it was… yeah, being squirrely is not the answer. And it wasn’t until we got Reagan – I’m good friends with Christopher Buckley, Bill Buckley’s son. And he and I have been buddies for a long time. And I knew – and I knew his dad. When Trump was running, Christopher said… and he got in trouble with the National Review and various other conservatives. He said, “My dad spent his whole life trying to chase the nuts and the weirdos out of the conservative movement, and I’m not going to vote to let them back in.”

 

Trish Regan:               Well, look. I think the conservative movement is certainly at a crossroads. There’s some real hurt out there. You travel… I was recently up in the Upstate New York area. And I saw a lot of Trump signs. And I think that people feel like a lot of the establishment just wasn’t looking out for them. And whether Trump was or not, he somehow conveyed this message to the average American that, “You know what? You deserve your” – it’s similar in some ways… I got to tell you. Bernie Sanders. I mean, I’ve often thought this.

They’re kind of birds of a feather in that they’re both – and you know what else is fascinating is, I knew a lot of Bernie Sanders supporters that came over and supported Donald Trump. Because it’s like, “OK. Let’s look out for your average working American.” And so, what I’d like to see – and I don’t know if it really can be done. Maybe DeSantis can do it – you got to be able to tap into this concern that is legit, that Michael Moore – by the way, P.J. – completely understood. Of your everyday folks feeling like they are not being represented by their government and that they’re kind of getting shut out.

 

P.J. O’Rourke:            He’s actually a very smart and perceptive guy. And he called Trump’s election very early. I mean, he said back in 2015 that Trump was going to get elected.

 

Trish Regan:               Pretty amazing. Pretty amazing. Well, he was right. We’ll see where we go from here. I’ve said I think he might run, but increasingly I’m wondering. In terms of getting elected, I think that there’s a certain fatigue factor. The only way it would ever, ever happen is if the economy was just really and truly in shambles. But I think that there’s a lot of people in the middle that just can’t take four years of the constant, constant, constant sort of headlines that were being generated. It was [laughs] exhausting for a lot of people that really didn’t follow politics.

And I think that that could come back to haunt him. But anyway. We’ll see. P.J., it’s so good to talk to you, as always. I love it. And I want to encourage everybody to check out your website, pjorourke.com. You can follow P.J. O’Rourke on Twitter. You’ve got to go and check out his new book – well, I should say new edition of a wonderful book, Eat the Rich –  freepjbook.com… for anybody who is an American Consequences subscriber. And of course, americanconsequences.com, where P.J. is editor in chief. You can get some wonderful, wonderful information there – including his articles and mine. So I encourage everyone. And P.J., I want to thank you again.

 

P.J. O’Rourke:            You are very welcome, Trish.

 

Trish Regan:               My thanks to the wonderful P.J. O’Rourke. Just a brilliant writer. I’m so happy that we can offer this extra edition, this extra chapter, in Eat the Rich that is just special for American Consequences subscribers. americanconsequences.com. Go there. It’s free. and go to freepjbook.com  to read this. I think you’re really going to like it. Anyway, we will see you back here next week on American Consequences where I’m going to continue to talk about this massive inflation crisis. In the meantime, check out 2021inflationwarning.com and I’ll see you next week. [Music plays]

 

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