A Penn Law Professor Wants to Make America White Again
Amy Wax, a professor at the University of Pennsylvania Law School, is the academic who perhaps best represents the ideology of the Trump Administration’s immigration restrictionists. Wax, who began her professional life as a neurologist, and who served in the Solicitor General’s office in the late eighties and early nineties, has become known in recent years for her belief in the superiority of “Anglo-Protestant culture.” In 2017, Wax said, in an interview, “I don’t think I’ve ever seen a black student graduate in the top quarter of the class, and rarely, rarely, in the top half.” The dean of Penn Law School, Theodore Ruger, said that Wax had spoken “disparagingly and inaccurately” and had been barred from teaching core-curriculum classes.
Last month, in a speech at the National Conservatism Conference, in Washington, D.C., Wax promoted the idea of “cultural-distance nationalism,” or the belief that “we are better off if our country is dominated numerically, demographically, politically, at least in fact if not formally, by people from the first world, from the West, than by people from countries that had failed to advance.” She went on, “Let us be candid. Europe and the first world, to which the United States belongs, remain mostly white, for now; and the third world, although mixed, contains a lot of non-white people. Embracing cultural distance, cultural-distance nationalism, means, in effect, taking the position that our country will be better off with more whites and fewer non-whites.” In response to her remarks, Ruger issued a statement, saying that Wax’s views “are repugnant to the core values and institutional practices” of both the law school and the university.
After the National Conservatism Conference, I wrote to Wax to request an interview. I wanted to understand the basis of her thinking and find out how she views President Trump’s leadership. When we first spoke, on the phone, Wax explained that she was wary of the media, which she claimed has sometimes misquoted her and has frequently taken her comments out of context. Therefore, she was going to record the formal interview. She also said that she planned to occasionally adopt the role of interrogator and ask me questions, such as why some countries were “shithole countries.”
During our conversation, which has been edited for length and clarity, Wax expounded on her belief that people of Western origin are more scrupulous, empirical, and orderly than people of non-Western origin, and that women are less intellectual than men. She described these views as the outcome of rigorous and realistic thinking, while offering evidence that ranged from two studies by a eugenicist to personal anecdotes, several of which concerned her conviction that white people litter less than people of color.
Wax, a tenured professor at one of the most prestigious American universities, is not a fringe actor. Her arguments about “cultural-distance nationalism” have been published by the Georgetown Journal of Law & Public Policy. At the National Conservatism Conference, she spoke alongside Tucker Carlson, Senator Josh Hawley, and President Trump’s national-security adviser, John Bolton. In some respects, her proposed immigration policies are not as extreme as those of the Trump Administration. This week, President Trump proposed a new regulation that would allow the government to indefinitely hold immigrant families, and threatened to revoke birthright citizenship, a fundamental American right enshrined in the Fourteenth Amendment.
At the conference, it seemed like you were embracing what you define as “cultural-distance nationalism.” Are you?
Well, I think that there is something to be said for it, and I think that we should at least be talking about it. And, if you read the rest of my talk, from start to finish, and you read it carefully, then you will see me saying that. I am saying this is a neglected dimension that gets no attention, no discussion. We just assume in a very, I think, unexamined and optimistic way that it doesn’t matter at all. And I think it might matter. I was basically speaking to my fellow-conservatives. I was speaking bluntly, and with elision. I was saying, “Well, if you do discuss it or you even advocate for it, people are going to say, ‘Oh, you are saying we are better off with more whites than non-whites. That is the equivalent of the position you are taking, and that is going to spook conservatives.’ ” Not knowing that there would be this limousine-liberal meltdown, I probably should have spelled out in more explicit terms that the media and people on the left are going to interpret your neutral criterion as a racial one, or at least they will be upset that it has racial effects, and you will be tarred with that. That is essentially the gist of what I was saying to them, and, at the time, everybody understood that I was saying, “Here is why you guys are not going to go down that path.” I think it is going to be very hard for you to go down that path.
So you are saying that conservatives can’t pursue immigration policies with racial aspects to them in 2019?
No, racial effects, not racial aspects. Or potential racial effects. Actually, it could play out with no racial effects, because if people from Europe have no interest in coming, it’s not like we would exclude people from the rest of the world. We would just very much limit the numbers who come. We’d take it low and slow. And we would have a much better chance to incorporate and assimilate those people to whatever system we have left.
Actually, many people wrote me to say we should have a moratorium like we had from 1924 to 1964, because that would do an even better job. [The Immigration Act of 1924, also known as the Johnson-Reed Act, set extremely low quotas for immigration from Eastern and Southern Europe and blocked immigration from Asia.] Well, I haven’t advocated for that. But, frankly, the racial impacts of taking a more cultural-similarity-factor view—that is up for grabs in a way. You can see that by looking at Australia and Canada. If you think the Australia and Canada points system and restrictions don’t have a differential racial impact, you are kidding yourself. They do. But nobody calls them white supremacist. Well, a few people do. [Laughs.]
You followed up by saying, “And as long as these taboos exist, and respectable mainstream conservatives defer to them, it will be hard—maybe impossible—to change course. Our country’s future trajectory, however, will not be determined by political correctness but by reality and facts on whether cultural differences really matter, whether they are stubborn, and whether they have consequences. And, by the time that that becomes clear and the dynamic plays out, it may be too late to turn the ship. And it may well be too late already: our legacy population is demoralized, beleaguered, and disorganized.” My reading of this was that you are not only embracing cultural-distance nationalism but saying it may, in fact, be necessary to save the country. Is that correct?
Well that’s a little bit of an overheated way of saying it. It might be one tool in the toolbox for preserving a lot of what I think is desirable and what I think is responsible for our signal success. You have to understand that I come to this whole question of immigration with an unanswered question in my mind, something I got interested in years ago, and I have tried to get people to answer it. And the question is: Why are successful, peaceful, orderly, prosperous, technologically advanced, democratically sound countries so rare and so few, and why do they clump up in one tiny corner of the globe, namely Europe, the Anglosphere? We also have Japan, which is a wonder, I think, in many ways, a very admirable country. Perhaps Taiwan. And why is the rest of the world essentially consisting of, in various degrees, failed states? Why do we have a post-Enlightenment portion of the world and a pre-Enlightenment portion of the world? And I guess, to be really crude about it, you would use Trump’s succinct phrase: Why are there so many shithole countries? Of course the moment you say that, people just get outraged: Oh, my God, you are a racist for saying that. And that, of course, lets them off the hook; they don’t have to answer the question, which is convenient.
People do get outraged about that. You are correct.
I have asked many sophisticated, knowledgeable people that question, and I have never gotten anything close to a plausible answer, because of course any answer has to be subject to the strictures of political correctness. I have had a couple of really smart people, people on the left, say, to me, Hey, you have a point: we don’t have an answer, and we are not allowed to think about it rigorously and realistically because there is a code of things you do say and things you don’t say.
What is your answer?
I don’t have one. I mean, my answer is this term “culture,” which consists of so many different things, from top to bottom, so many different aspects of the society. It is this very complex amalgam that holds people back on all sorts of levels. And I am not an anthropologist, I am not a political scientist. I just think that is where the answer lies. And then the question is: Do the people make the culture? Is it something that drops from the sky, or is it something about how people think, what they do, the habits that they have, the values that they have, the practices that they engage in?
When you are casting doubt on the idea that it “drops from the sky,” are you trying to say that it is something innate, or that it is the result of history and experience?
I think the word “innate” is terribly mischievous.
I would not use the word “innate.” To me, “innate” is a term that looks to heritable, or genetic factors. Now you can broaden it and say innate to a culture, but I would probably not say that, because it is so misleading. So, I’m really not saying anything about biology. Nothing at all. I mean, this is not a race-realist question or point of view. It’s totally agnostic on that question. It pushes that question aside and says, What is it about cultures that hold people back?
Let me give you a concrete example. I was reading an article about the Malaysia airliner that went down in the Indian Ocean. It describes how Malaysia went about “investigating” this accident. Well, basically, it was a total sham. It was a hideous mess. There was no attempt to get to the bottom of what really happened, no rigor, no scrupulosity, no care for the actual event. It was performance art, useless, completely useless. And the author said, Let’s face it, in Malaysia the truth is not welcome. That sentence really deserves contemplation. “In Malaysia, the truth is not welcome.” [The article makes that statement only about “official circles” in Malaysia.] Isn’t one enormous difference between the First and the Third world, between the West and the rest—
So, it reigns supreme in America right now, in contrast?
No, I am saying that it is an accepted ideal, an accepted standard that we try to get at the actual reality. We are committed to empiricism. Now, do we fall short of it quite frequently? Have we slid toward Third World standards when it comes to truth and rigor? Very unfortunately, in some respects, yes. But, in other pockets of our society, hopefully in science and investigating air crashes and other sectors where we really have an incentive to get it right—
—we still do a pretty good job. Now, I don’t think you would want a team from Malaysia, their investigative team, coming over and taking charge of an accident in which a dear one, a loved one, died of yours. I honestly don’t think so. And you have to ask why. Why?
If you’re putting aside the racial question, you’re essentially saying that it’s a matter of different cultures, which are, essentially, matters of history and experience, right? Because those cultures have to come from somewhere. So it seems then that what you’re saying is not so far from what a lot of people on the left, who I think you probably disagree with, are saying. They would more likely say it’s a history of colonialism, or has to do with unfairness built into natural resources where people lived. But it seems then that everyone is commenting or arguing over how history shapes who we are as people.
I think colonialism as an explanation is just a nonstarter. Colonialism came very late on the scene. It took advantage of these discrepancies in sophistication and modernity, in advancement in technology, in science. One thing that’s quite striking is there is essentially no science being done in a place like Malaysia. No science, no technology coming out. I consider that very closely related to the lack of commitment to empiricism, the lack of a cultural practice of attention to evidence, rigor, analysis, facts. They all work together, so I think that when we say colonialism, do they mean that if it weren’t for colonialism, Malaysia would be Denmark? Does anybody really believe that, honestly and truly? I think it’s a nonstarter.
There are countries with terrible geography that are at the top of the charts. Israel has terrible geography. They are a leader in science, in innovation, in technology, in drug development, in medicine. Geography, I think, is a nonstarter, and the people, I have heard through the grapevine, that the people who have pushed geography, they don’t really believe it either. O.K.? I won’t give you my sources. So what else is there?
You said one person who pursued a version of cultural-distance nationalism was Enoch Powell, who you call a “prophet without honor.” You said he is an “outcast—unjustly I think.” And you added that “I think this is the only conference in the continental United States where Enoch Powell gets two honorable mentions,” and someone answered, “Might make it the last.” You replied, “I hope not.” Do you think Powell was a racist?
There you go again. Can you define racism for me? Is so-and-so a racist? Where are we getting with that? Define racist. I have no idea what you mean. It is a bludgeon that is a promiscuous term. You define what a racist is, and I will spend two seconds addressing that question because it is sterile.
You think that in the U.S. today that’s a sterile question?
Yes, I do, because it prevents us from dealing with real, down-to-earth, concrete problems. I don’t go on Twitter. I don’t have a smartphone, but the stuff the people send me. Is he a racist? Is she a racist? Is this person a racist?
Well, let me answer your question. Powell himself famously stated, “What is wrong with racism? Racism is the basis of nationality.”
Who said that?
Enoch Powell, who you were talking about.
Well, ethnicity is. He certainly believed that. He believed one of the elements of the culture was a so-called “common ethnicity,” that is, descending from certain ancestors going back. People do cluster in that way. He assigned some significance to that, no question about it, as part of the cultural mix, yes.
Hard to know. I’ve actually been in conversation with Eric Kaufmann about this. What is the significance of a common ethnicity in producing a common culture or a sense of solidarity with other people? I guess I would have to say it doesn’t have zero role, but all it means to me is that it’s important for the group that produced the culture that we value to be numerous, to have a dominant, numerical role, to be most people. So I would say our country’s culture is best preserved if most of the people in our country are of European origins, because those are the people that created our system, but that certainly doesn’t exclude bringing in other people.
You said in your talk, “But these are toxic topics that lie outside the Overton window in polite society, as evidenced by the outraged reaction to Trump’s profane and grating question, ‘Why are we having all these people from shithole countries come here?’ That needs to be regarded as a serious question and not just a rhetorical one.” And, “One [explanation] I favor is that cultural transmission is importantly shaped by the small-bore interactions within families, or mother-child, and that flies under the radar screen of the big-think theorists who tell us about cultural significance. And, if you doubt that, just go to the South of France, where I was recently, and you watch three-year-olds sitting for two hours at the table, their mothers prodding them every step of the way. Somebody ought to study that.” Is this something you have studied? Is there some data you are referring to?
[Laughs.] What I find really interesting—and it’s incredibly under-studied, frankly, that’s one of my points, that people don’t seem very interested in this topic, and you would think it would be absolutely vital—is how do big Swiss people produce little Swiss people? How do little Swiss people become big Swiss people? Because we do associate a certain profile, a certain type, a certain set of priorities and orientations and behaviors and beliefs to Swiss people. Swiss people are radically different from, let’s say, Somali people or Indonesian people, on average. We’re not talking about individuals here. We’re talking about a distribution, right? So let’s get that straight. People have a lot of trouble thinking about distributions and generalizations.
I’m Jewish. Why are Jews so Jewy? How did that happen? Why do French women, at least until recently, look so French? I mean, what is going on? I have a friend who’s Dutch, a Dutch artist, and he’s very well off, and, every morning, he gets up and cleans the front window of his house. It sparkles. I said, “Why are you doing that?” He said, “Because I’m Dutch.” So people do differ, there are these differences, and we just take them for granted. We don’t really interrogate them and examine them, we don’t look closely at their origins, once again, because a lot of it isn’t big-think stuff; it’s the little stuff that goes on in the family or civil society. How is the persona of each nationality preserved? That’s the question that has fascinated me for a very long time.
When you were in France, what did you witness that you thought was so interesting?
Well, I wasn’t at the table. I witnessed people, children, behaving in ways that I rarely see American children behave. When I go to the opera in Munich, an afternoon performance, full-length, designated for children, of “The Magic Flute” or something, I also notice it. These young children sit quietly, well behaved. They wouldn’t dream of creating a ruckus, just like they wouldn’t dream of littering.
So white French kids wouldn’t dream of littering, you mean?
Well, certainly, in Germany, I don’t think they would. I’ve seen them being upbraided on the street for doing that by other people. I just think there are differences in behavior that track culture, that track nationality. They’re not perfect. There’s a range. If you want to deny that they exist, you know . . . [Laughs.]
You were asked about the possibility of the right losing the immigration debate and where that would lead. You said, “I think we are going to sink back significantly into Third Worldism. We are going to go Venezuela, and you can just see it happening. One of my pet peeves, one of my obsessions, is litter, and if you go up to Stockbridge, Massachusetts, or Yankee territory, versus other places that are ‘more diverse,’ you are going to see an enormous difference, I’m sorry to report. You know, generalizations are not very pleasant, but little things like that, which aren’t little, they really affect our environment, attitudes towards public space. I think Adam Garfinkle did a piece in The American Interest where he talks about this—about noise levels, about the public space, about people’s deportment in public spaces, about respect for other people’s privacy, about things like heckling and sexual harassment. All of this stuff sounds really silly, but, when you add it up, these cultural habits make a difference to our environment.”
Is this something you have data on, that white Europeans litter less, or Americans of European ancestry litter less than people who come from elsewhere? [In the article that Wax referenced, Garfinkle, who served as a speechwriter for the State Department during the George W. Bush Administration, argues that white Americans did not vote for Trump because of anxieties about race but because of anxieties about “boisterous, emotionally ‘out there’ conduct,” including shouting, catcalling, and littering.]
Sociologists don’t study this stuff, because sociology now is so politically valenced that these topics just don’t get looked at. The data just doesn’t get looked at, so I can’t give you data. I can give you this, though, which is just, it’s anecdote, no better or worse, observation. I’ve been in many different places. I’ve been all over the world and all over the country. I notice differences. There are differences. Now, what accounts for them, it’s probably complex.
One possibility is that people really do differ in their care for the public space. Adam Garfinkle said that if you go, for example, to Muslim countries or Arab countries, the indoor spaces are impeccable. People’s homes are pristine, but the outdoor space is a mess. These are hoary generalizations. I had a relative who went up to North Dakota, to a very poor part, and said, “My God, it’s so clean there you can eat off the street. There’s order. There’s care.”
We can make observations about this, and, frankly, every summer I do the grand tour of the upper-middle-class, cognitive élite watering holes to visit all my friends, and I notice that these are places that people love to go. They love to go and hang out with other people from the quote-unquote “same ethnicity” in nice, quasi-European, decorous, neat, clean, quiet, litter-free, beautifully maintained, orderly places. That’s where they like to go.
People like to hang out with people of the same ethnicity. Is that what you said?
Yes. Yes, they do. I mean, I was recently in the Berkshires. If you look around, it’s ninety-eight-per-cent white. Why do people go there? It’s not very vibrant. It’s not very diverse.
You think they go there to be with other white people, you mean?
Well, I don’t think they think about it that way, but that’s the result.
Is that why you go there, or that’s why you think other people go there, or both?
I go there because it’s nice.
When you asked—
That’s how we have nice things. It’s nice. We go to places that we consider nice.
Do you think that there’s some problem or some concern that one can shade into racism by making generalizations without data about people of different races and about things like litter or what makes a place nice?
You’re back to racism again. Can I ask you a question?
Whether or not something is “racist”—I put it in heavy quotes, because I think it is a protean term, it is a promiscuous term, it is a term that’s trotted out as a mindless bludgeon, whatever. The question is, is it true? And, in fact, it’s emblematic of sliding toward Third Worldism that we now have this dominant idea that to notice a reality that might be quote-unquote “racist” is impermissible. It can’t be true.
If a politician with a history of anti-Semitism says, “The Jews control a giant chunk of Hollywood,” and he starts ranting about that, do you think that the proper response is to say, “Well, let’s investigate exactly how much power Jews have in Hollywood, and, if it’s true that Jews have a lot of power in Hollywood, we should let this person rant about how much power the Jews have in Hollywood, because, after all, it is true?” And so anything that is true can’t be racist. What do you think of my example there?
Well, here you go with the “racist” again. I mean, is it true? Are there a lot of Jews in Hollywood? Yeah, there are. Let’s start with that—there are a tremendous number of Jews, out of proportion to their numbers in the population within the universities, within the media, in the professions. We can ask all of these questions, and you know what? They admit of an answer. But essentially what the left is saying is: We can’t even answer the question. We can’t. Once we’ve labelled something racist, the conversation stops. It comes to a halt, and we are the arbiters of what can be discussed and what can’t be discussed. We are the arbiters of the words that can be used, of the things that can be said.
I can tell you, and, once again, this is just from the mail I get, from the e-mails I get, from the people I talk to, that kind of move is deeply resented.
I’m just trying to make a point about how something could be true but still racist or used in a racist manner. Not that I think that everything you said is true.
Once again, you’d have to define racism. You’re basically saying any generalization about a group, whether true or false—and we know it doesn’t apply to everybody in the group, because that’s just a straw man—is racist. I mean, we could do “sexist,” right?
So, women, on average, are more agreeable than men. Women, on average, are less knowledgeable than men. They’re less intellectual than men. Now, I can actually back up all those statements with social-science research.
You can send me links for women are “less intellectual than men.” I’m happy to include that in the piece if you have a good link for that.
Okay, well, there’s a literature in Britain, a series of papers that were done, and I need to look them up, that show that women are less knowledgeable than men. They know less about every single subject, except fashion. There is a literature out of Vanderbilt University that looks at women of very high ability—so, controlling for ability—and, starting in adolescence, women are less interested in the single-minded pursuit of abstract intellectual goals than men. They want more balance in their life. They want more time with family, friends, and people. They’re less interested in working hard on abstract ideas. You can put together a database that shows that. The person who has the literature is a man named David Lubinski, and he shows that intelligence isn’t what’s driving it. It is interest, orientation, what people want to spend their time doing.
Now, is that sexist? We can argue all day about whether it is sexist. We can argue from morning till night. And it is sterile. It is pointless. Let’s talk about the actual findings and what implications they have for policy, for expectations.
[Wax sent links to two studies whose lead author is Richard Lynn, a British psychologist who is known for believing in racial differences in intelligence, supporting eugenics, and associating with white supremacists. (She also shared the Wikipedia page for “general knowledge,” which cites several of Lynn’s studies.) David Lubinski, a professor of psychology at Vanderbilt, clarified that his research was about the life choices of men and women and did not address claims such as women being less intellectual than men.]
It seems like you want to say, Let’s look at the studies. But, on things like littering, you want to say, Well, there are not studies, but we should just speculate on them.
No, let’s do the studies. But they never will be done. They never will be done. You’re not going to get a grant to do a study on ethnic correlates or diversity correlates of littering, of the quality of social spaces. Nobody gets ahead by doing that sort of thing. No sociology graduate student is going to advance his career. Sociology is really in trouble as a field. I can tell you, because I’ve known young people who have wanted to go into it, and they have been uniformly advised, if you are a free thinker, stay away from sociology.
This question about whether someone is racist. Do you think that’s a helpful question to ask about the President?
No. Because that’s the only question that gets asked. I mean, I don’t look at the New York Times. For my mental health, I’ve stopped reading it—
Are you sure you have stopped reading it?
I’ve tried. I’ve really tried. It’s like a bad addiction. But there’s so many articles that are just obsessed with whether Trump is racist or not.
Is it a question that doesn’t interest you one way or the other? Or you think it’s obvious that he’s not racist, and so why are we discussing it? Those are two different things.
Well, I guess, until I see a definition of racist that I think is reasonably precise, no, it does bore me, because I think it just becomes a weapon that anybody can use to blast him, to bludgeon him.
But I’m sure you think that Hitler or the K.K.K. were racially bigoted, right? So you have some definition in your head. It’s not that you don’t think anything is racist. I assume you think the K.K.K. is racist?
Well, I certainly think that somebody who advocates violence, genocide, and killing people of a certain group is—do we even need the word racist? That person is evil. That’s an evil philosophy.
What about saying, “I don’t like the way black people look, and so I don’t want this black person marrying my daughter?” Is that racist?
Well, I don’t know. I guess it’s racist, but I think people are entitled to have preferences about who they marry. It’s on a basis of race, and it’s a broad generalization on the basis of race.
So it is racism?
Once again, I don’t think every generalization on the basis of race is racist. I really don’t. So we can argue about these niceties.
But you haven’t seen anything that makes you think the President is a racist?
Well, what would you have in mind? I mean, you’re going to have to give me examples, because I can’t think of one.
Calling into question where President Obama was from repeatedly.
I don’t think that’s racist. Where is Obama from?
I mean, it’s obvious that Obama was born either to an American mother or in the United States. It’s kind of a stupid question, isn’t it? You’re flying in the face of facts.
I thought you just said, “Where is he from?”
Well, where is he from? I mean, what are the facts?
He was born in Hawaii.
O.K. So he was born in the United States. It’s kind of dumb to say, “Well, he’s not American.”
What about calling into question whether a judge of Mexican heritage could make a fair judicial decision? Do you think that is racist?
Well, first of all, Mexican is not a race. It’s an ethnicity. It’s actually a national identity, isn’t it?
I think if the person had been from El Salvador or Venezuela, the President would have made the same comment. I think we’re getting lost in niceties here. We’re both smart people, Amy, or at least I’m somewhat smart. You know what he was saying. Come on.
O.K., but you’re patronizing me because you’re trying to use the word “racist”—
Okay, bigoted, would bigoted help with this?
—where race is not the operant category. You see, you’re saying, “Oh, you have to expect that, when you say something about a Mexican, it’s something about race.”
So what do you think Trump was trying to say there?
Well, I don’t really know. I guess he was trying to say something like, “I worry that people from particular backgrounds might have divided loyalty.” Just like people who are Jewish are sometimes accused of being too loyal to Israel, to the detriment of the United States. That is not a racist question. That is a question where the answer to that is, No. 1, both normative and positive. Normatively, we, as a country, give the benefit of the doubt to people from different backgrounds that they are loyal to our country, without evidence to the contrary, so that’s a presumption that a President shouldn’t be indulging.
Once again, I think we’re now having a discussion about the content of what he said, and we can’t have that discussion if you just go off on this ridiculous heresy hunt: “Is he a racist? Isn’t he a racist? Is that racist? Is this racist?” That’s really, as far as I can tell, eighty-five per cent of what the discussion now is about on the progressive left. It is so pointless, and it’s so shallow. O.K.?
Trump is someone who doesn’t seem to have much respect for science, or for women, or for these things you talk about as being the best parts of Western culture. And the fact is that the majority of white voters in this country seemed to embrace that. I was wondering if that made you think differently about what Western culture was, or that these things are malleable and changeable and not hardwired into us, and that things change with historical circumstances, and historical circumstances are what we should try to understand.
Well, first of all, the word “hardwired” I never have used. You put words in my mouth.
That was my word.
Yeah. It’s a dumb word. I mean, the President is impulsive, crude, boorish. He’s indecorous. That whole indictment is absolutely right. But, on the other hand, there are many things he says and does that I think are completely consistent with our core values. He engages in locker-room boasting about grabbing women, but, the fact is, he’s a serial monogamist but at least he’s gotten married. He’s never fathered a child out of wedlock.
Is that something you have research on?
Not that I know of. Maybe he has. I don’t know. But, anyway, he does believe in freedoms. He does believe in free speech. He does believe in democracy.
Did you say he was or wasn’t a serial monogamist? I just didn’t hear you.
He’s a serial monogamist. He’s been married several times.
You know he slept with a porn star during his current marriage?
Yes. That’s true, but he does at least get married. We have to give him that. I mean, everybody exemplifies some ideals and not others.
But, you know what? I just don’t want to go down the road of defending President Trump. He’s just one person. The real reason President Trump was elected, I think, to the extent I know anything about politics at all—and I know very, very little—is that a lot of people really were relieved to see someone stand up to the thought police of the progressive left wing.
This doorman in New York recognized me the other day, and he said, “How you doing?” And, “I hope you have a long life.” But he said to me, “I’m very disappointed about what happened to you, because I thought, when Trump was elected, we could say whatever we wanted.” And I said, “Well, obviously we can never say whatever we want. That’s called civilization.” But I was very interested in that. He said, “We are totally scripted for what we can say and what we can’t say, regardless of what reality presents to us.” This guy was a person of color. I don’t know where he was from.
He just recognized you because he knew about your academic work?
No, he knew about my whatever has been about me in the news, I guess. It’s amazing how often that happens.
I don’t doubt it.
And people say revealing things. I have people coming up to me and saying, “Why are academics trying to turn this country into the country we just tried to get away from?”
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