Power changes the length of your tie

Los Angeles Times - - OP-ED - JONAH GOLD­BERG jgold­berg@la­times colum­nists.com

Afriend of mine who at­tended the Con­ser­va­tive Po­lit­i­cal Ac­tion Con­fer­ence this year — I skipped it — re­ported to me that the Young Repub­li­can men were “wear­ing their ties down past their [crotches].”

I cleaned up the quote a bit for the ben­e­fit of a fam­ily news­pa­per.

Though I’m not sure why I should bother when a White House com­mu­ni­ca­tions di­rec­tor has helped so many in­sti­tu­tions ex­pand their hori­zons. As my Na­tional Re­view col­league Kyle Smith noted, the New York Times has a long his­tory of in­sist­ing that vul­gar­i­ties do not meet the def­i­ni­tion of news fit to print. For in­stance, it is the Times’ stan­dard prac­tice to ren­der a col­lo­qui­al­ism for speak­ing gross un­truths that com­bines the male of the bovine species with the fully pro­cessed prod­uct of what it con­sumes as a “barn­yard ep­i­thet.”

But in the wake of just-de­posed White House Com­mu­ni­ca­tions Di­rec­tor An­thony Scara­mucci’s pro­fan­ity-laced, on-there­cord tirade with a New Yorker re­porter, the Grey Lady went blue. It printed, sans bowd­ler­iza­tion, words and phrases that surely would have been just as rel­e­vant to its cov­er­age of Pres­i­dent Lyn­don John­son, to say noth­ing of Bill Clin­ton.

My point here is not to crit­i­cize the Times’ dou­ble stan­dards (there will be plenty of op­por­tu­ni­ties down the road for that). It’s to note that pol­i­tics or, more ac­cu­rately, power, has a funny way of chang­ing stan­dards.

Which brings me back to those ties. I’ve been around young con­ser­va­tives since I was one my­self. And it’s al­ways in­ter­est­ing to see how fashion changes. When the first Pres­i­dent Bush was in of­fice, blue blaz­ers were a kind of un­of­fi­cial uni­form for young men ea­ger to mimic what thenBush aide Tory Clarke called “the C-SPAN-and-ga­loshes” crowd sur­round­ing the pres­i­dent.

When the sec­ond Bush was in of­fice, the cow­boy boot re­tail­ers near Young Amer­ica’s Foun­da­tion chap­ters must have seen a huge in­crease in sales.

And now, be­cause the pres­i­dent of the United States wears ab­nor­mally long power ties — pre­sum­ably to hide his girth — one sees more and more twen­tysome­thing men sport­ing the new cra­vat cod­piece.

This is not a phe­nom­e­non unique to con­ser­va­tives. While it’s an ur­ban leg­end that JFK’s al­leged re­fusal to wear a fe­dora to his in­au­gu­ral killed the hat in­dus­try, count­less young lib­er­als with po­lit­i­cal am­bi­tions tried to repli­cate the way Kennedy talked. When Franklin Roo­sevelt was a kid, he os­ten­ta­tiously mim­icked his dis­tant cousin, Teddy, wear­ing those pince-nez glasses and shout­ing “bully!”

So about those barn­yard ep­i­thets. It’s hard to miss how so many rank-and-file Repub­li­cans rel­ish the pres­i­dent’s crude taunts and in­sults. Nor is it easy to over­look the fact that the pres­i­dent seemed com­fort­able with Scara­mucci speak­ing like a “So­pra­nos” char­ac­ter.

Not long ago, it fell to con­ser­va­tives such as Bill Ben­nett, Ralph Reed, Tony Perkins or Mike Huck­abee to de­nounce vul­gar­ity wher­ever they saw it. And while these men don’t pub­licly con­done Trump’s lan­guage they es­sen­tially roll their eyes at any­one who makes much of a fuss. And among the rank and file on Twit­ter and Face­book etc., there’s fierce com­pe­ti­tion to be as vul­gar as pos­si­ble or to be as vig­or­ous as pos­si­ble in de­fend­ing pres­i­den­tial vul­gar­ity.

Of course, the pres­i­dent is not only chang­ing stan­dards — he’s the prod­uct of them. Over the last decade or so, a whole cot­tage in­dus­try of young anti-left sen­sa­tion­al­ists has em­braced the ro­man­tic slo­gan Épa­ter la bour­geoisie! Their crude­ness isn’t a bug, it’s a fea­ture.

The ris­ing vul­gar tide is typ­i­cally jus­ti­fied ei­ther by the need to seem au­then­tic or as gen­u­flec­tion to the sa­cred right to fight po­lit­i­cal cor­rect­ness. Never mind that not ev­ery­thing that is po­lit­i­cally in­cor­rect is there­fore cor­rect. (Wil­liam F. Buck­ley was not P.C., but he had the best man­ners of any­one I ever met.)

And the com­pe­ti­tion to seem ver­bally au­then­tic has spilled over the ide­o­log­i­cal re­tain­ing wall. The Demo­cratic Na­tional Com­mit­tee sells a T-shirt that reads “Democrats Give a S*** About Peo­ple.” Sev­eral lead­ing Democrats have started drop­ping F-bombs and other phrases, seem­ingly as a way to prove their pop­ulist street cred.

I guess we’ll know this race to the bot­tom is over when so­cial­ist hero Sen. Bernie San­ders starts wear­ing his ties past his fly.

Alex Wong Getty Images

THE PRES­I­DENT and his sig­na­ture look.

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