From the mixed-up files of Jonah Goldberg

In this week’s edition of the Goldberg File yesterday (subscribe here), Jonah Goldberg packed a lot of wisdom into a jocular critique:

Jonathan Cohn of The New Republic calls our attention to Lyndon Johnson’s remarks when he signed Medicare into law:

“No longer will older Americans be denied the healing miracle of modern medicine,” Johnson said at the signing ceremony. “No longer will illness crush and destroy the savings that they have so carefully put away over a lifetime so that they might enjoy dignity in their later years.”

“Read those quotes carefully,” Cohn advises us, “because they spell out the covenant that Johnson made with the American people on that day: A promise that the elderly and (certain groups) of the poor would get comprehensive medical insurance, no matter what.”
If the suits would pay for the technology, I would have had you read all of that with stirring music in the background and images of fireworks unfolding before you, and then maybe footage of, say, WWII vets or Boy Scouts saluting the flag. Because apparently Lyndon Johnson’s “covenant” with the American people trumps the U.S. Constitution.
Bear with me.
I don’t know what Cohn himself believes about the U.S. Constitution, but his magazine has been churning out highbrow bilge for decades about the “living constitution,” specifically the need for the Constitution to constantly grow, change, adapt, and evolve with the changing times and the new realities that come every generation. To deny this view of the Constitution is to declare yourself a right wing crank of some sort. After all, “everyone knows” the Constitution is a “living document,” and “everyone knows” that times change.
In other words, according to liberal logic, the U.S. Constitution, the fundamental charter of this nation, to which every soldier and statesmen is required to pledge unwavering allegiance: that’s so much clay to be remolded and shaped to fit the contours of whatever form liberal conventional wisdom takes this year.
But LBJ’s “covenant” with the American people? Dude, that is written in stone. His self-serving hot air is the unchanging, unyielding, inalterable Koran of secular liberalism.
For the record, no president forges unbreakable intergenerational “covenants” with the American people. That’s not what presidents are for. Presidents are not gods and their press conferences are not holy pronouncements (in particular, LBJ’s crapper was not the burning bush from which he dispensed divine instructions to his apostles Jack Valenti and Bill Moyers either).
The Founding Fathers weren’t gods either. But they were a far sight wiser and more deserving of reverence and respect than LBJ. And, more important, the U.S. Constitution is a good deal more august a document than an actuarially unworkable scheme of transfer payments conceived of when the young and productive mightily outnumbered the elderly and unproductive.

Well, that made me laugh, and (to paraphrase Henry Kissinger) it has the additional advantage of being true. In the rest of this week’s file Jonah goes a little deeper into the liberal ethos, citing his own Liberal Fascism (now out in paperback! as he reminds us). Jonah concludes with a preview of coming attractions that has a local angle:

I will be at the University of Minnesota on Monday giving a talk co-sponsored by my buddies at C-Fact and the Minnesota Republic. It’s open to the public, so come on down, or up, or whatever. Coffman Memorial Union, President’s Room, 3rd floor, 7 p.m. Parking in the East River Road Ramp. If tradition holds, there will be beers after.
On Wednesday I’ll be at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill. I’m not entirely sure why they want me back to give essentially the same speech I gave two years ago, but I’m happy to do it. It’s also at 7:00 p.m., in Carroll Hall, Room 111.

One last note: Jonathan Cohn’s TNR post, cruelly mocked by Jonah, is available online here. And I subscribe to Jonah’s Goldberg File, but I paid special attention to it yesterday because Ed Driscoll drew attention to another recent edition of the file.


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