That's Bill Clinton on the (again, not politically) far right. You may recall he won that election.
O'Rourke. A former writer for the National Lampoon, in the early 1980s he was named head of the Rolling Stone "Foreign Affairs Desk", but he wrote quite frequently about domestic affairs as well. He's been described by himself and just about everyone else as the RS token conservative, and there may be some truth to that. Voters under 25--Rolling Stone's target audience--chose Reagan over Mondale by 2-to-1 in 1984 election, so a little tokenism at the time might have made good business sense, and no conservative was better suited to the magazine than O'Rourke. He's often been compared to Hunter S. Thompson, but I've always found both writers to be quite different. Thompson's prose was mostly stream-of-consciousness played for laughs. Despite some occasional salty language and scatological references, O'Rourke took the more traditional route of a humorist: one-liners. He was less a right-wing Hunter Thompson and more a right-wing Dave Barry. There also was a certain difference of experience between Thompson and O'Rourke that wasn't entirely political but played into their political views. For instance, both Thompson and O'Rourke have admitted to taking drugs (not that such an admission has ever gotten anyone ostracized in the offices of Rolling Stone.) But Thompson's drug-taking was in the here and now. What you read by him was on drugs. O'Rourke's drug-taking, however, was all in the past. As was his radicalism. In his prose, O'Rourke often makes mention of just how steeped he was in the 1960s counterculture during his college days. But as I suspect was often the case with college students steeped in the 1960s counterculture, he was a Lefty Until Graduation (I'm tempted to call him a LUG, but that acronym has already been taken.) Once out of college, he took a turn to the Right and....I was going to finished that sentence with "never looked back" but he DID look back. And he looked back with that most conservative of desires: nostalgia. In a printed exchange between Thompson and O'Rourke, he admitted he rails against the 1960s because he misses them so much. And that, I think, was, and is, the key to his comedy. If he no longer had any use for the ideology of the counterculture, he could still apply its anarchic spirit to his right-wing punditry, making him a hip, edgy alternative to George Will or William F. Buckley. It also meant he could attract readers across the political spectrum. Such as me. I didn't at all share his political views--I was one voter under 25 who chose Mondale over Reagan in the 1984 election--but I still found O'Rourke funny as hell. So funny that when I found out that he was going to give a talk at a Borders bookstore not far from where I lived, I made a point of being there. He attracted a big crowd, and there was a long line after the talk, but I did get to meet him. He seemed friendly enough. As he signed my book ("To Kirk Bon Appetit! P.J. O'Rourke 9/22/98"), I asked him whatever became of the National Lampoon. Betraying a bit of annoyance, not towards me personally but at the thought of what happened, he explained that some scumbag--his characterization, not mine--had bought the name just so he could make movies with National Lampoon in the title, and published the actual magazine just once a year to keep the copyright fresh (ironically, the book O'Rourke was signing was Eat the Rich, an endorsement of the free enterprise system.) Now, this was 21 years ago. Two right-wing presidencies, several right-wing congresses, and a few right-wing acts of violence later, I'm not so sure I'd want to see him if he showed up at some local bookstore (which at any rate wouldn't be Borders since the whole chain has gone belly up.) I wouldn't find him as funny. All that conservatism is to me now a very old, and very bad, joke. That said, I can't quite bring myself to throw away his book. After all, it has his autograph.
|William Greider 1936-2019|