John Podhoretz, the Commentary magazine editor and writer for Ricochet and Weekly Standard, attacked Breitbart News as a “clown site” on Monday afternoon after reading an article about Donald Trump and George Will that was written a month ago.
The article that put Podhoretz over the edge was a straight news story that simply reported on a Donald Trump Tweet in which Trump asked the question: “Shouldn’t George Will have to give a disclaimer every time he is on Fox that his wife works for Scott Walker?”
The article was not an opinion piece and noted that Will has been a strident Trump critic while his wife was, indeed, working for Walker.
Perhaps Podhoretz was upset that Trump, like Breitbart News, called out a fellow establishment pundit like Will, who supported George H.W. Bush and Howard Baker while conservatives were lining up behind Ronald Reagan, for not disclosing that his wife was working for a candidate whom Will has lavished with praise. Maybe Podhoretz does not think Trump’s Tweet was worth reporting because he believes the “unwashed masses” should not know about the cozy and incestuous relationships in the permanent political and media class that Trump is exposing.
Or perhaps Podhoretz–like many in the political establishment who have been flummoxed and distraught by Trump’s rise in the polls and resonance with everyday Americans who could care less what Podhoretz and his peers think–just likes to throw hissy fits when reading any straight news story about Trump. Podhoretz even tweeted to Breitbart News Editor-at-Large John Nolte, who was one of the first people Andrew Breitbart hired, that he “knew Andrew Breitbart” and the late Breitbart “would vomit over what you’ve done to his name.” Exhibiting all of the boorishness the GOP establishment ascribes to Tea Partiers and Trump supporters, Podhoretz also attacked Breitbart News readers as “rape-loving.” (You can read more on that here.)
Establishment pundits and consultants often love to dismiss voters they can’t control and new media outlets that report inconvenient truths–and threaten to undermine their influence–as “clowns.” And though the publications for which Podhoretz writes were not included in Pew Research’s study of of news outlets (Breitbart News was included), perhaps Podhoretz nonetheless insists on referring to Breitbart News as a “clown site” because Breitbart News holds establishment politicians like Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI), pundits, and consultants to account in a way they have never been before.
Paul Singer, the pro-amnesty and pro-gay marriage billionaire who has tried to move the GOP to the left on these issues, sits on the board of Podhoretz’s Commentary magazine. So perhaps Podhoretz thinks Breitbart News is a “clown site” because of its defense of religious liberty or because Breitbart News’s Brandon Darby broke the story about illegal immigrants from Central America being warehoused in Texas. Darby’s story drove the national news cycle for months, ensured that Singer’s coveted comprehensive amnesty legislation would not pass, and contributed to the political climate that led to House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA), whom Podhoretz has insisted was not an “establishment” Republican, being ousted.
Breitbart News was certainly not considered a “clown site” when it was one of the only outlets that covered how Cantor’s support for amnesty was fueling Dave Brat’s insurgent candidacy while the mainstream media and Podhoretz’s “smart set” in the Republican establishment ignored the race. As the New York Times, whose opinion establishment Republicans value more than those of conservatives like Mark Levin, noted after Cantor’s defeat, “Breitbart flew a reporter to Glen Allen last week to cover the [talk radio host Laura] Ingraham-Brat rally, providing some of the scant media attention the event received. Over the course of the campaign, Breitbart writers churned out dozens of articles about Mr. Brat.”
Or maybe Podhoretz feels that Breitbart News is a “clown site” because, when Donald Trump was appearing at GOP forums at the beginning of the year, Breitbart News did not treat his potential candidacy–or the issues he was highlighting in his speeches–as a joke, like nearly every other media outlet and those in the bipartisan permanent political and punditocracy class did. Trump subsequently entered the race and has rocketed to the top of nearly every state and national poll. Podhoretz’s “smart set” clownishly thought Trump would never run for president and treated him as a joke. Turns out the joke’s on them.
Podhoretz has claimed that Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) is the GOP’s brightest star and lavished praise on Rubio’s “fluid speaking style.” So maybe Breitbart News is a “clown site” to Podhoretz because Breitbart News relentlessly reported on the details of Rubio’s “Gang of Eight” comprehensive amnesty bill. Rubio has never recovered from the hit he took in the polls after he joined the Senate’s Gang of Eight, and Breitbart News relentlessly reported on the massive amnesty bill he tried to get through Congress despite the promises he made on the campaign trail.
Or is Breitbart News a “clown site” for leading the way in reporting on the various details in the so-called Obamatrade agreements that would threaten to undermine American sovereignty?
Perhaps Breitbart News should be grateful for people like Podhoretz in the smug establishment commentariat, for they are part of the reason why legacy media outlets on the left and right are on the wane while Breitbart News is exponentially growing. As former Ronald Reagan adviser Jeffery Lord recently wrote, “a serious chunk of the conservative base of the Republican Party looks at the Washington GOP Establishment – defined as everyone from Speaker John Boehner and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell to the Republican National Committee, the US Chamber of Commerce and some quarters of the conservative commentariat – and they see not conservatives but Insiders.”
These are, Lord wrote, “people who have long ago abandoned the field to join – if I may borrow a phrase thrown at Trump – a clown car of Insider-dom. People who spend their time talking to one another in Washington or New York or both and are utterly clueless of what’s going on in everyday America.”
Lord added that “Trump is an establishment GOP political consultant’s worst nightmare” because he “speaks off the cuff, and he speaks bluntly. He could not possibly care less what the GOP establishment, viewing it as he does as corrupt when not incompetent, thinks.” Addressing Will’s strident criticism of Trump, Lord observed that Will gives off the “impression that refined incompetence is preferred to ‘vulgar’ (his word) competence. Or in other words, it’s not about getting things done but the style in which those things are done.”
This is not the first time that Podhoretz has taken cheap shots at politicians or news outlets that may not meet his refined incompetence standards. He once compared former Alaska Governor Sarah Palin to former New York Met baseball player Darryl Strawberry (Strawberry self-destructed after abusing drugs), which prompted Legal Insurection’s William Jacobson to call out Podhoretz, saying he had “zero tolerance” for piling on with his “bad analogy” and “cheap shot.”
Podhoretz’s father (John Podhoretz is an example of someone who represents a regression to the mean) once wrote that “nothing annoys certain of my fellow conservative intellectuals more than when I remind them, as on occasion I mischievously do, that the derogatory things they say about Sarah Palin are uncannily similar to what many of their forebears once said about Ronald Reagan.”
Norman Podhoretz wrote that he “reluctantly come to the conclusion that the same species of class bias that Mrs. Palin provokes in her enemies and her admirers is at work among the conservative intellectuals who are so embarrassed by her.”
“When William F. Buckley Jr., then the editor of National Review, famously quipped that he would rather be ruled by the first 2,000 names in the Boston phone book than by the combined faculties of Harvard and MIT, most conservative intellectuals responded with a gleeful amen,” Norman Podhoretz wrote. “But put to the test by the advent of Sarah Palin, along with the populist upsurge represented by the Tea Party movement, they have demonstrated that they never really meant it.”
Breitbart News does not write for establishment legacy pundits like John Podhoretz and those in his “clown car of Insider-dom.” Its audience is grassroots conservatives and American workers who disdain the bipartisan permanent political class and want establishment Republicans (many of whom pay exorbitant fees to establishment consultants who disdain conservatives and everyday Americans) held to account, especially on issues like illegal immigration, as much as Democrats. Podhoretz may feel that Breitbart News is a “clown site” for not ignoring their voices and concerns, but the joke may ultimately be on him.