The Best Quotes From The James Lileks Newhouse Columns


These quotes all come from the James Lileks: Newhouse: columns. They go from his first one back in 2002 to the present day — August 8, 2003.

“The al-Qaida cell broken up near Buffalo, N.Y., contains some citizens who also found themselves in Afghanistan, training for the Great All-Around Satan Smiting. Treason? Oh, of course not. They were on a religious pilgrimage and got lost. Happens all the time. I knew a kid who went to Lutheran Bible Camp and turned up six years later in a Christian Identity compound with a shaved head and a Hitler mustache.” — James Lileks

“The (campaign) ads all have the same tone — the voice is hushed and amazed when talking about The Enemy, as if you should worry how this amoral, power-mad, extremist puppy-strangler clawed his way out of hell and landed in your district. And the voice is happy and relieved when talking about The Most Noble Candidate, as though he’s Santa, Will Rogers and Lincoln all rolled into one.” — James Lileks

“The not-quite-sort-of lie works here too — often an ad will announce that “Congressman Johnson voted for a bill that gave tax breaks to companies like Enron.” True — although the bill allowed all companies to accelerate depreciation of copying machines. Yes, Enron benefited, but Enron also benefited from the revolution of the Earth around the sun. Hardly an argument to freeze the planet in one spot.” — James Lileks

“The Democrats, like a Mission: Impossible briefing tape, are now set to self-destruct in 10 seconds. The reaction of the Democratic Party to the recent election has been a lurch to the left — more taxes, more regulation, more calls for the United States to let the Syrian delegation to the United Nations shape our foreign policy, more talk about how giant vampire CEOs fly through the night and suck your 401(k) dry. But if Iraq is a peaceable protectorate in ’04, and the economy’s fine, then the Dems’ eternal Chicken Little routine will assure them permanent status as the party of bitter, joyless scolds. This would be too bad. One of the prerequisites of a two-party system, after all, is a second party.” — James Lileks

“Look. Every partisan in every party has to learn one thing: Sometimes your people are wrong. To paraphrase an old retort, saying “My party, right or wrong” is like saying “My Kennedy, drunk or sober.” Credibility is earned, and standing up and saying “Fie!” now and then reinforces your truthfulness.” — James Lileks

“The Trent Lott story showed how the GOP will kick out members of the idiotarian faction when they slip up and speak their mind. The Republicans are no more enamored of segregation than the Democrats are in love with surrender; there are some old-boy dolts on the right who are tone-deaf on race, and when they get a case of the stupids, they should pay. Ditto the Democrats who still think the U.S. military is devoted solely to napalming Vietnamese children. But the latter never seem to suffer. We see how the Dems treat a Bonior, a McDermott, a McKinney, a Murray. Anything short of a Lott-scale internecine purge might suggest most Dems agree with her.” — James Lileks

“(W)hat about total legalization? That will be the next step. Let’s enter that strange libertarian world in which there is no Society, only Individuals, no moral argument for prohibition, only tax money to be made. We’ll have to legalize everything, of course — if the War Against Crack is bad, then the War against every other brain-boiling goofball is bad as well. If tomorrow someone invents a drug that provides untrammeled euphoria but fills half its users with psychotic rage, it must be legalized as well. It’s their bodies, and if they want to take a drug that makes them run through a supermarket with a machete to decapitate the Spider People, we’ve no moral basis for saying no.” — James Lileks

“‘No new taxes’ was the epitaph for Bush 41. ‘No new ideas’ was chiseled on the Democrats’ tombstone last November. You’d think they’d get the message. But still they dig.” — James Lileks

“If the “rich” were swarming into poor neighborhoods and beating the poor until they coughed up the dimes they swallowed for safekeeping, yes, this would be a transfer of income from the poor to the rich. But allowing taxpayers to keep more of their money does not qualify as taking it from the poor — unless you believe that the poor have a moral claim to the money other people earn.” — James Lileks

“The Democrats’ analysis never seems to include the tax revenue generated by the stimulating effect of tax cuts. They assume that the “rich” won’t invest, buy things, hire people, put a few bucks in the bank. No, the rich will light cigars with rolled-up $100 bills, or buy gold shillelaghs for the Prosperity Leprechauns who woke them up one night and showed them where the pots of gold were hidden. We will revert to a Hobbesian state where gouty, dour aristocrats ride carriages over the crackling bones of the destitute. OK, maybe it won’t be that bad. But the recipients of this largess won’t spend the money correctly, some worry. They’ll buy cars! Houses! Boats!So? Why is this your business? The role of government now includes setting the level of taxation so precisely as to keep people from indulging their bass-fishing hobby?” — James Lileks

“When liberal celebs stammer out a litany of shopworn bleats about the administration’s attempt to turn America into a theocratic prison state, people can’t help but notice that these buskers and mummers seem unmoved by the horrors of actual prison states. (Saddam commissioned a copy of the Quran written in his own blood — but John Ashcroft is the real religious nut, don’t you know.)” — James Lileks

“What unnerves so many liberals about talk radio? Simple: It’s the unapologetic nature of the conversation, the unwavering sense of certainty. Where’s the nuance? The shades of gray? We all know truth is a fragile butterfly dancing in and out of shadow and light, and these guys act as though truth is a rhino charging across a sunlit veldt.” — James Lileks

“The United Nations behaves as if an asteroid is headed toward the planet and everyone is arguing about what to name it. (The French would threaten to veto any name that does not assign a gender to the noun.)” — James Lileks on the UN in the build-up to the war in Iraq

“You can imagine what the advisers are telling Junior Assad: “Your statues are much stronger than Saddam’s. His were hollow, and bolted in place with inferior metal; yours are solid, and are anchored to a depth of three feet. Let the American tanks come! Their gears will strip and their engines whine in defeat as they attempt to pull down your statues!” — James Lileks

“The popular Arab imagination is a pliant and inventive thing; it can explain any defeat. It is a compass that always points toward the Jew.” — James Lileks

“The International Criminal Court, like most international institutions, is a wonderful idea. A noble idea. All it needs to work is planetary government, worldwide democracy and the triumph of reason over tribal loyalties, political doctrines and individual ambition. In other words, it requires that we all live in the world described by the “Star Trek” television shows.” — James Lileks

“Baghdad Bob recently surfaced in Iraq and gave a press conference on behalf of an old comrade. “Jayson Blair did not forge any sources!” he insisted. “The reports that he falsified events are totally false — he did not have 50 corrections, but 500 citations for accuracy! Those who say that he falsified key details of many stories will find their bones bleaching in Times Square!” — James Lileks

“Even if al-Qaida is crushed, it doesn’t mean the war on terrorism is over. Demolish the Muslim Brotherhood, and the Brotherhood of Muslims takes it place. Smash The Army of God, and say hello to God’s Army. Moroccan officials speculate that the Casablanca bombings might have been the work of Salafia Jihadia, a group that sounds like it took its name from rejected automobile brands. There are dozens and dozens of these groups. As long as those pesky Jews refuse to load their pockets with bricks and hop in the ocean, there will be terrorists. As long as the West refuses to close down the cathedrals and put the crescent over all the parliament houses, we’ll have to deal with these guys.” — James Lileks

“One got the impression (the French) were peeved that America did not realize what it meant to be graced by a stream of French spittle. Why, it was an honor. Most nations France ignores. To be spit on by France is a mark of some distinction. Here is a cloth. Wipe it off. Not with that hand! What are you, a Pole? The other hand! Left to right! Now fold the napkin into the shape of a dying swan!” — James Lileks on France’s actions in the build-up to the war in Iraq.” — James Lileks

“So now we’re after a constitutional amendment that defines marriage as a guy-and-gal thing. To the founders, this would have been like an amendment requiring the sun to rise in the east; it would fall under the category of obvious truths that the Constitution need not address.” — James Lileks

You can read more from Lileks at: Newhouse: or at: The Bleat.

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