When I first started reading Kurt Schlichter’s political columns, I thought he was a bit of a blowhard and also kind of an evil genius at cooking up big, steaming pies of metaphor scrapple. I also figured he was preaching to the choir. A Schlichter essay can be a tactical victory, but, if you are fighting a war, you have to win a few strategic maneuvers. Would his columnar vitality translate to book length?
In The 21 Biggest Lies About Donald Trump (and You!), the answer is yes and no. The 23 chapters more or less go from general to more specific, and each is an answer to a canard against the president, and, by extension, those who support him.
“Trump is a Racist . . . and You’re a Bunch of Bigots Too!”; “Trump is Stupid . . . and You Idiots Are Too!” Trump is a warmonger, Trump is literally a Nazi, Trump hates the press, is a pawn of the National Rifle Association, is a bully, loves dictators, corrupts Christians, and is tearing our nation apart. And so are you. The theme is defamation of character—against Trump, and, more importantly, against those who voted for or support him.
The liars don’t want to change minds. They want to shame you, their enemy, into submission. Their purely ad hominem debate style does not seek to convert the slandered. Rather, because the lies are so obvious and hackneyed, they want to force the uncommitted to accept the narrative or crush any spirit of resistance in the victim.
Schlichter’s answer to this gambit is, “You think you’re good at this? I will turn it around and destroy you using the same technique.” He mostly does.
He might not succeed so often if the left did not, time and again, put up such ridiculous strawman arguments to begin with, and toss such vicious calumny at conservatives—or, frankly, at anyone who doesn’t agree with them. Even away from Twitter and the like, it can certainly seem these days that every leftist heart is filled near to bursting with a steaming goulash of hatred and contempt.
Taking the Fight to the Enemy
While Schlichter frames the book as an answer to leftist media charges against President Trump and, by extension, the half of the country who voted for him, a lot of it is recasting of old Schlichter columns at Townhall and elsewhere. That is generally a good thing. They made excellent points then, and bear repetition.
Furthermore, I’m a snob about writing and I know it, so after my first impression reading Schlichter at Townhall, I took a chance and kept coming back to see what new shibboleth of the left he was going to blow up next. Because blowing things up is what he does.
True to his years in the U.S. Army, from which he retired a bird colonel, his columns were verbal salvos, kind of integrated land-sea-and-air assaults on the American left. And he was totally okay with the use of battlefield nukes—that is, the forbidden use of ad hominem attacks (off-limits to conservatives only, it seems). In fact, he gloried in it, and the exultation continues in The 21 Biggest Lies.
Yet while it’s a lot of fun to wreak havoc among the enemy, when we aren’t carried along by a Schlichter argument, his “I am everyman” attitude—also relentlessly asserted throughout the book—seems more a schtick than a stance. It’s worth getting through such spots, however, because every once in a while Schlichter delivers a true stunner, a flight of vitriol, bonhomie, and humorously twisted phraseology that rises to the heights of the great essayists of bombast such as H.L. Mencken and, particularly, Thomas Carlyle, of whom he reminds me in a latter-day, sloppy Joe American way.
At his best, he’s a true percussionist with words. Sure, he plays his instrument loudly, but he’s often producing more than one note at a time, and, in his best pieces—which form the best chapters of the book—Schlichter’s points come across more like an orchestral bell tolling than a hammer on concrete—for instance, in this wind-up to the tour de force chapter on sexual and gender identity.
Trump is not bigoted against LGBT people, and his supporters are not either. Our refusal to cater to the taxonomical demands of the left does not make us bigots.
My pronouns are ‘he/his.’ Yours are either that, or ‘she/hers.’ Period. Which is something only a woman can have.
Schlichter is a prose hound dog, in that he meanders around a lot in the same spot and takes off on a false trail or two, but when he’s got the scent of blood or bull, there’s no stopping him, and off he goes baying, with the rest of us galloping behind and enjoying the hunt.
Nowadays, he’s a lawyer by profession, and each Schlichter essay reads like a closing argument in a civil suit where the evil corporate shills have already presented, and the underdog good-guy lawyer in the rumpled suit gets up to twist those goons’ words back on themselves and win justice for his client, the conservative everyman. That is a lot of fun, but reading 21 closing gambits in a row with the rhetorical volume turned to 11 can leave one feeling a bit stunned.
My suggestion is to use the book in a spiritual manner, like a devotional manual. When you can take no more from the mainstream media and left-leaning elites—or, as Schlichter so lovingly calls them, “our so-called betters”—fold yourself into a Zen-like posture, breathe, and read a chapter or two. Or, you know, put the thing in the bathroom and meditate upon it there in timely slices.
Over The Top
On the moral front, Schlichter’s main argument is that a president is a means to a political end for those who vote for him. Trump was not elected because he was a flawless human being. In fact, he is Christlike in the manner of journalist Don Lemon’s Jesus who, “admittedly was not perfect when he was here.”
Likewise, Trump views voters as people for whom politics is not a religion or calling, but part of a vaster social life. “Trump does not think his supporters are stupid. He sees them as he sees most everyone else, as people pursuing their own self-interest,” Schlichter writes.
This is the deep divide between the left and the right that Schlichter divines and exploits in his defense of the right. In politics, conservatives usually make empirical choices. Liberals are fanatics for closed systems. And when lefty acolytes demand everyone else become a political Puritan, it’s virtually guaranteed that they, human beings of the Lemon-Christ variety, are going to end up looking like big, fat hypocrites. For instance, journalists.
The same journalists who refused to publish the whistleblower’s name routinely wet themselves with delight at the thought of revealing confidential information leaked by Deep State bureaucrats. Those same journalists jumped at the chance to plaster the face of a Covington teen on every headline, prime time show, and front page across the country for holding his ground against the fake Indian elder and faker-still Vietnam War hero who beat his ridiculous drum in the kid’s mug. Demonizing a teenager in a MAGA hat is fair game; investigating a Deep State liberal trying to take down the president of the United States is not.
Schlichter is not always about attacking the self-identified left. He makes gleeful and merciless fun of Mitt Romney, The Bush brothers, and Marco Rubio, as well as “former writers for the Weekly Standard.” It’s totally unfair, a strawman case—and pretty funny. For example, he goes to town in the chapter on gender identity politics.
And then there are the extremes: pansexual pretty much covers everything, while asexual means you once wrote for the Weekly Standard.
Just kidding. Real asexuals choose to be without romantic partners.
Or this beauty of a put-down.
There was the Brett Kavanaugh imbroglio, and Trump was labeled a sexist monster for not withdrawing the nomination of a guy baselessly accused of running a teen rape gang. Except no one believed Kavanaugh was Harvey Weinstein in a robe, and Trump looked like a man for not folding under the barrage of lies. Just imagine Mitt Romney in that situation with his binders full of submission.
Schlichter’s most intriguing chapter is his prediction on the Republican Presidential landscape in 2024. We learn earlier in the book that Schlichter is good friends with former American ambassador to Germany and Acting Director of National Intelligence Richard Grenell. After dismissing a slew of candidates—including, he is sorry to say, one of his favorites, Ted Cruz, who “just does not get the pulse running for the base”—Schlichter makes a strong case for Grenell as presidential candidate material.
He’s Harvard-educated and as polished and charming as Trump is rough ’n’ tumble. A familiar face to conservatives from his time as a Fox News contributor, he is conservative woke and delights in verbal combat. Moreover, he is as smooth as silk in front of a mic, funny, and cutting when appropriate. His Twitter game is mighty, but that’s because he gets social media in a way consultant-driven pols can’t. He has a compelling story as a cancer survivor, his pro-military stands have earned him a fanatical following among many vets, and he is an evangelical Christian. He is also a married gay man, which is the least interesting thing about him.
As Schlichter might put it, sounds like he has developed a huge “man crush” on Grenell. But, as with many a Schlichter essay, a reader is bound to say that, even though Schlichter is being totally over the top on this and many other matters, he might very well be right.