In This Episode
In a week where Alex Jones of Infowars gets banished from Facebook and YouTube, while a strongman survives an assassination attempt under suspiciously lucky circumstances, nationally syndicated radio host and former CIA officer Buck Sexton has plenty to unpack for listeners.
Joining him is American Consequences editor and best-selling author P.J. O’Rourke. Together they make sense of the latest shot in the PC wars, from the debate over male cheerleaders to the T-shirt that got banned at Washington’s “Newseum.”
Later they’re joined by Andy Ferguson, national correspondent of the Weekly Standard and author of books such as Fool’s Names, Fool’s Faces. Andy gets right to the politician of “Oops!” fame who’s now heading the Department he vowed to eliminate, probably as a sly, sick joke on President Trump’s part.
After you hear the inside story of how Governor Rick Perry – once the Republican Party’s great white hope in 2012 – became seduced by the very office he promised to destroy, you’ll have new insight into how bureaucracies take root.
Voiceover: Broadcasting from Baltimore, Maryland and New York City, you’re listening to the Stansberry Investor Hour. Tune in each Thursday on iTunes for the latest episode of the Stansberry Investor Hour. Sign up for the free show archive at InvestorHour.com. Here are the hosts of your show: Buck Sexton and Porter Stansberry.
Buck Sexton: Hey everybody, welcome to another fantastic episode of the Stansberry Investor Hour. I am a nationally syndicated radio host, as well as co-host of Rising with Crystalline Buck on Hill.TV, Buck Sexton.
With me, not our fearless leader, Mr. Porter Stansberry. No, I will not get in trouble by calling him a nickname that he has now said is forbidden. Instead, we have with us the one and only P.J. O’Rourke.
Mr. P.J., good to have you, sir, and a new book, no less to talk to us about?
P.J. O’Rourke: Hi Buck, yeah, I got a new book to pimp coming out in September and it’s a collection, speaking of Porter. Porter is the genius, also the wallet behind our free web magazine, American Consequences, which I added, and this is a collection of stuff that has appeared in American Consequences, and also in Stansberry Research’s digest.
I used to write it Friday. Before I took over American Consequences, I wrote a weekly column for the digest, and so this is a collection of my deep thinking on political economy and finance business, and it’s therefore called None Of My Business, because I have no idea what I’m talking about.
Buck Sexton: Awesome. Well, we can get a little more of some of that going on, but we also have a guest joining us. You know him better than I do, P.J., Andy Ferguson from the Weekly Standard.
P.J. O’Rourke: One of my oldest friends, and also one of my idols as a writer, Andy Ferguson started out at the American Spectator a million years ago, and was one of the founding people at the Weekly Standard when it was started in the ‘90s and he’s been a Senior Editor there every since, and there are not many people who know more about Washington than Andy does.
He’s got a piece in the upcoming issue of the – of American Consequences, which will go live in a week on the website, and it’s about the Department of Energy, and poor Rick Perry who first forgot which government agencies he was going to eliminate, one of which was the Department of Energy, and then took over as the Head of the Department of Energy and forgot to eliminate it.
Andy does a pretty good job ripping a new one and Rick, but you know, one of the things I know we wanna talk about today a little bit is we’re coming up on the midterm and we should also tap Andy on that. He probably knows more about that than you and me put together.
Buck Sexton: Fantastic. Well, we’re excited to be joined by him in a little bit. You know, P.J., I wanted to start off if I could, to offer up a slew of different events that have happened in the last – you know let’s say in the last few days, last few weeks that bring up the issue of free speech.
You know, this is a podcast, we do a lot of stuff on finance and obviously when Porter is around, people actually can learn things about finance, unlike when us political journalists are the ones that are actually taking the helm.
But all of that is only possible because of a culture that respects free speech, and the First Amendment, and believes in a free press which by the way does not mean you have to be a member of the press. I’m always kind of amazed at how many people who work in media seem to think that there’s a special Constitutional protection for them.
P.J. O’Rourke: That’s right, yeah.
Buck Sexton: Anybody who writes a --
P.J. O’Rourke: Yeah, yeah, we have the badge that lets us say anything, and other people don’t have that badge.
Buck Sexton: Yeah.
P.J. O’Rourke: Which is baloney.
Buck Sexton: There’s no such – there’s no such special carve-out for the speech of people that just happen to have --
P.J. O’Rourke: No, there is not.
Buck Sexton: -- an editor and maybe press credentials, but a few things happened, P.J. You had the first time – I think this is a really big deal and I haven’t had a chance. So this is – we’re all flying without any – is it maps? I don’t know what you fly within the air but anyway, we got no --
P.J. O’Rourke: [Laughter.] I don’t either.
Buck Sexton: We’re not short of character here.
P.J. O’Rourke: Which is why I’m not allowed to be a pilot.
Buck Sexton: Yeah, I’m mixing metaphors. I have no idea what’s going on, but I haven’t talked to P.J. yet about this. P.J., Alex Jones, who has actually come after me in the past for a whole bunch of different reasons. So there’s – just for full disclosure, there’s that out there. Alex Jones, who is a right wing conspiracy.
P.J. O’Rourke: Nut I think is the word you’re searching for [laughter.]
Buck Sexton: Yeah, he is a – I mean he’s a straight-up whacko.
P.J. O’Rourke: Yeah.
Buck Sexton: You know, he’s not on the fringe of ideas. He’s in another stratosphere of ideas.
P.J. O’Rourke: Yeah, yeah. He’s wrong planet [laughter.]
Buck Sexton: Yeah, you know, and actually Porter does a pretty good impression of him: build a burge, illuminati and the global elite, you know, the whole thing, but he has been kicked off of Facebook and You Tube, and I think he’s just hanging by a thread on Twitter, and in the new digital media environment, that’s essentially – he’s teetering on what in sports would be a lifetime ban from the sport, right. He’s for all intents and purposes out.
P.J. O’Rourke: Yeah, I mean if you’re – if you’re not I guess – I mean I’m an old print journalist and I have the bank account to prove it but the – basically these days, if you’re kicked off of these major social media platforms, it’s as good as having duct tape slapped across your mouth.
Buck Sexton: Now, you’re a guy who’s been around and you’ve seen some of these free speech battles play in the past, P.J. I see this – I see this as troubling in a bunch of ways. One of them though is that because it’s Alex Jones, the normal mechanisms of outrage or the normal mechanisms of defense that a lot of people in the press might have here, they’re just gonna say yeah, it’s Alex Jones. Now you know, he’s so fringe.
P.J. O’Rourke: Yeah, this is a Nazis marching in Skokie situation and back in the good old days when the ACLU meant what they said about being the American Civil Rights defenders, the ACLU at great cost to themselves, great cost to their reputation, at great cost to their donations; at the cost of some threats to the people in charge, backed the right of the American Nazi Party to march through Skokie, Illinois.
A place with a – this is back a few years, a place with many living survivors of Hitler’s holocaust, and with a large Jewish population, it was an incredibly offensive thing to do.
The – there is absolutely nothing you could say in favor of the Nazis in any way, shape or form, but the ACLU said there’s the First Amendment and it says you have the right to free speech and free assembly, and we’re backing that right, even when it comes out of the sewer.
Buck Sexton: So does it trouble you that in an era when the same way that the major newspapers, when people were still reading things that were printed on a printing press and the broadcast networks had tremendous control over the national narrative and conversation, Facebook and Twitter, and Google, and these digital platforms are as powerful as any media monopoly in the past.
And by the way, that word, monopoly comes in here, I think that people really need to see this as --
P.J. O’Rourke: Yeah, that’s not – you’re not just throwing that word around.
Buck Sexton: Yeah, I think – I mean P.J. I think that this deserves really urgent national attention because this is determining what you are seeing for all the folks listening, the news that you’re getting, how it’s being distributed, how it’s being funded.
I mean the advertisements that are all on-line, that goes through places like Google and Facebook. They’re the ones that are placing these ads, and they’re way over the marketplace of ideas is I think a big issue for us. P.J.
P.J. O’Rourke: Oh, it’s a huge issue and I am really disturbed by this on a number of different levels. First place, there is the nature of these platforms. Now look, these platforms are private property, and they have a – besides free speech question, they have a fundamental right, the owners of this. Let’s just come right out and call them Mark Zuckerberg.
Mark has got a fundamental right to put up or keep off anything that he wants on his platform, except the next thing that upsets me is that these platforms are essentially monopolistic.
I mean they’re monopolistic not on theory, because in theory, you and I can go out and start Buttbook [laughter] about all the people we – going out to all the people we don’t like and compete.
I mean there’s no law. In fact, there’s no – even no insurmountable, technical barrier to our competing with Facebook but the fact of the matter is that the way social media turns out to work, this is evident with Google, it’s evident with Facebook, it’s evident with Tweeter, Twitter, or whatever that thing is called, bird noise, is that only one of these platforms predominates at a time, because it’s kind of like a phone line.
You know, and it’s sort of Ma – back in Ma Bell day, you know, you didn’t have six phones belonging to six phone companies on your desk, because that would be inconvenient and confusing and people – you didn’t say to people I want you to call me on AT&T, don’t call me on IT&T or don’t call me on local bell, or don’t call me on you know whatever the phone company names might have been.
So for practical purposes, people only use one of these platforms at a time. Now that time may be limited. Facebook may go out of fashion like – you know I don’t know.
You know I mean I know how maturical kids are because I’ve got three of them, like next week Facebook may be something of the past that nobody uses again but I can guarantee it will be replaced by something else that everybody uses.
So that – it disturbs me on those two levels and then of course there’s – you know the – there’s the free speech question. The First Amendment does not say and anywhere shall not ban speech we don’t like.
Oh, I know what to say. The other thing that really bothers me is the paternalistic attitude that’s being taken when it comes to some nut on the Internet. It just assumes that we ordinary people aren’t smart enough to tell a nut when we see one.
Buck Sexton: Yeah, well hey, if speech that is unpopular is not protected, then there’s no point for free speech, right?
P.J. O’Rourke: Absolutely not.
Buck Sexton: I mean you don’t have consensus.
P.J. O’Rourke: Absolutely not.
Buck Sexton: Consensus does not need defenders. It is dissent.
P.J. O’Rourke: Yeah.
Buck Sexton: It is people that break from the norms that need defenders and you know that people do.
P.J. O’Rourke: Yeah, and that’s the Voltaire. It’s actually wrong. Voltaire did not say --
Buck Sexton: I’ll defend your right to speak to the --
P.J. O’Rourke: I’ll fight to the death to defend your right to say it. What he did say, he wrote to somebody who was an idiot reactionary and said I loathe everything that you write but I would gladly die that you be able to write it.
Buck Sexton: Yeah, and I gotta tell you P.J., that sentiment, you know and it’s always – it gets tough and I think people intentionally confuse this discussion right now, and especially in the cable news cage match-o-sphere which I’m a participant in you know in many cases myself.
But the reality is that people should understand that there’s the principle of free speech in our society, right, that we would allow people – and that then deals with you know corporations and social pressure, and what’s acceptable in polite society versus what we have to make allowances for, and then there’s the government non-intervention legal component of free speech as enshrined in the First Amendment.
I think when we’re looking at the territory of the former though, this notion that people should be able to speak their minds without suffering undue consequences from the public and also from censoring, I mean I think that a lot of journalists quite honestly, look, they’re cheering.
I see them at CNN, they’re cheering Alex Jones getting pushed off of these platforms and I think to myself okay, well if they can push Alex Jones off, can they push off Moncha Nuaz who talks about radical Islam as a former Islamic radical himself?
Can they push off Ian Hersee Ali, can they push off – you know and people who say no, no, no, I then push them P.J. to say well, tell me why, and I don’t get good answers.
P.J. O’Rourke: Oh no, no, there is on answer to this, It’s one of these things that you just – you know a lot of freedom, not only freedom of speech but like freedom – sexual liberty, all sorts of stuff; freedom to eat what you want comes with consequences and we’ve got to decide do we live in a society where the government tells you what to eat, what to – who to sleep with, what to say, or do we live in a society where we leave this up to individuals?
Even though it’s gonna result in AIDS and obesity and lunatic conspiracy theories about the Rothchilds sinking the Titanic. You gotta take the consequences of freedom and we seem to have forgotten that basic idea.
And the reason that we have to take the consequences of freedom is not so much because the government is bad. Let’s stipulate that the government is good. It’s a ridiculous stipulation but let’s do it anyway.
Let’s pretend that the government is good, and that all the things that the government tells us to eat are good and all the things it tells us to say are good, and everything that – and all the people that we sleep with that the government instructs us to sleep with, that’s good too.
Okay, so it’s -- but it’s a government. It can change hands. We live in a democracy. What if some idiot gets elected and changes the government? And of course some people would say that idiot has already gotten elected [laughter] but you know what if like I’m conservative, what if we get like some Bernie Sanders in telling me.
It’s the power of the government itself in the abstract that has to be limited, that forces us to take the consequences of or freedom.
Buck Sexton: Did you see this dust-up by chance, P.J.? It wasn’t nearly as much of an issue as some of the other first round of things I want to get to with you, but it really did catch my eye. So the Newseum, are you familiar with the Newseum?
P.J. O’Rourke: Oh yeah, I have spoken there, as a matter of fact.
Buck Sexton: Here we go, I figure you might have. So the Newseum is a news museum. It’s pretty straightforward.
P.J. O’Rourke: News museum, which of course --
Buck Sexton: It’s telling us you know what is the spy museum? A museum of --
P.J. O’Rourke: Because if it’s old news, it isn’t news.
Buck Sexton: Yeah.
P.J. O’Rourke: So if it’s a museum, never mind [laughter.]
Buck Sexton: Anyway, yeah, you get the idea. So the Newseum was --
P.J. O’Rourke: Let them face that existential quandary.
Buck Sexton: They were selling a t-shirt that said Very Fake News and this got a little bit of attention because some journalists, especially in the post-Acosta rendering of garments and gnashing of teeth on T.V. with how mean the president and the president’s press secretary are to this chief white horse – or white house correspondent, Jim Acosta, but they essentially you have people in the press.
I even saw a journalism professor comparing a t-shirt that says Very Fake News to a swastika, and the KKK.
P.J. O’Rourke: [Laughter.]
Buck Sexton: And this is a professor of journalism. You’d think that he would care a bit about free speech and expression. P.J., the Newseum pulled the t-shirt.
P.J. O’Rourke: You’d think he’d care a little bit about clear thought, wouldn’t you?
Buck Sexton: They pulled the t-shirt.
P.J. O’Rourke: Did they?
Buck Sexton: They gave in.
P.J. O’Rourke: Oh, I thought – yeah, I guess I haven’t been following this story very closely but I thought they had decided to tough it out, but of course not [laughter.]
Buck Sexton: Oh no, no. They no longer will sell the Very Fake News t-shirt. They’ve decided that that is too inflammatory and I just – I just think that it’s a particularly – it’s one of these little things that illustrates a bigger truth because I think a lot of journalists right now, they’re cheering for Alex Jones getting banned.
They don’t want the Very Fake News, you know, in the Newseum. I have a colleague here at The Hill who was surrounded while he was eating breakfast. He’s a conservative, a young pundit named Charlie Kirk. He also runs an organization called Turning Point USA. He had a flash mob of leftist agitators.
P.J. O’Rourke: Oh, I heard about this.
Buck Sexton: Yeah, yeah, they circled him in Philadelphia and threw water on him and were screaming at him, and I have to hear Jim Acosta say that he doesn’t feel safe at Trump Rallies, where no journalist has been – to date, not a single journalist has been physically accosted in any way, at any Trump rally.
P.J. O’Rourke: You know, something bad is afoot in society [laughter.] It’s just – it’s absolutely no doubt about it. You know that – I mean you know it’s amazing to me how people yearn for unfreedom, as long as they get to dictate the terms of the unfreedom, as long as they get to dictate the terms of society’s constriction.
Most – people do not really like freedom very well because along with freedom comes responsibility, and everybody knows that everybody hates responsibility; and one of the responsibilities that comes with freedom of speech in these particular cases that we’re talking about here is the responsibility to leave other people the F-word alone.
Buck Sexton: It’s like there’s not a lot of that. You get a lot of nannying these days but you know we don’t have Porter with us today, P.J. So I gotta – this is one that I was keeping in the – I was holding in the wings for Porter but I do want the O’Rourke take on the beginning of male cheerleaders in the NFL, P.J. Very important topic.
P.J. O’Rourke: [Laughter.] Well, of course you know male cheerleaders, cheerleaders started out as male. I mean this was when you go back to the days when colleges were predominantly all male, and the cheerleaders were there with their megaphones.
So you know, in one way you could say it’s sort of traditionalist. I would personally say it lacks visual appeal but that’s just me, just gender hetero-normative as I am.
Buck Sexton: I do feel the patriarchy creeping into this conversation.
P.J. O’Rourke: Yes, yes, privileged too, yeah. Patriarchy and privilege, yeah, I mean you know if the NFL wants to lose more viewers, hey, you know, free country, go right ahead, go for it dudes, you know.
Buck Sexton: Yeah, I think that – you know it’s interesting to see an organization like the NFL with so much money at stake, I understand with the kids call it wokeness, right, to be woke, to be social justice aware is I think a pretty good working definition of what it means to be woke.
And for issues that affect the African-American community in this country, for players to get particularly involved in those discussions, I can see how that happens and why that is something that’s been ongoing for a while, but wokeness extends well beyond relationships between the African-American community and police, and police violence, and all the rest of it.
It also includes things like you mentioned being sys-gender and intersectionality, and not being gender-normative or hetero-normative, and I don’t know if this stuff is all gonna filter its way to the NFL too. I do think it’s going to affect some people’s perceptions of the NFL.
P.J. O’Rourke: [Laughter] yeah, I think you can probably count on that. It’s gonna make their – you know assuming that they – assuming that they enforce gender parity, it’s gonna make their calendars half as interesting.
Buck Sexton: What is the biggest news story, P.J., that you’re on right now? What’s the thing that has the highest level of interest for you?
P.J. O’Rourke: Good question, because it’s August and I really wish that the news would observe the old-fashioned silly season, where you went from the end of July to the beginning of September without anything happening, with minor exceptions like World War I.
But so I really wish there were no news to pay attention to. I think though, that Chief on my mind at the moment is what’s happening with the resurgence of leftism in Latin America, notably first, Venezuela, and neck and neck for second place, Nicaragua.
Buck Sexton: Yeah, I mean the Venezuela situation, you know, first of all, for folks who don’t know this, there was an attempt on the life of Maduro using drones packed with a little bit of C4. It didn’t go anywhere but he was at a military parade, and they tried to fly some drones down and blow him up. The one, I know --
P.J. O’Rourke: Actually, Buck, you know this but I mean to ask you this. It wasn’t a tiny bit of C4. It was a kilo. How much destructive power does a kilo of C4 have?
Buck Sexton: Enough to definitely kill somebody. I mean you know C4 at that level, and I haven’t – my explosives training is a little rusty, P.J., but you know I’ll tell you this. If you had a kilo of C4 on the underside of a vehicle, it would be little bits and pieces. So it would be gone. So you can imagine what he would be.
P.J. O’Rourke: So these actually were pretty well-armed drones. I would have consoled the people attempting to assassinate Maduro, something to which I am not radically opposed. I would have consoled them about drones because my son has one, and it is up a tree.
Buck Sexton: Yeah, well that’s why it’s --
P.J. O’Rourke: In fact it has been up a tree since he got it for Christmas two years ago. It has spent, I would say on the up-side of 90 percent of its lifespan to date up a tree.
Buck Sexton: This is why I felt a little bit like you know this is a very high profile – look, it was at a parade. I’m not one who tends to the conspiratorial but the chances of this being a successful assassination attempt were very, very low from what – and if you have the wherewithal to come up with this idea and also to get the plastic explosives, I would think you’d be smart enough to realize that unless you have direct line of site and a really skilled drone control, this is very unlikely to work.
In fact, there are probably easier ways, now we’re getting into a really weird conversation, P.J. Probably easier ways to go about going after people.
P.J. O’Rourke: We are and I myself would favor my deer rifle, a 30-aught-six with a scope, you know [laughter.]
Buck Sexton: Yeah, but that’s you know trying something out like this, it almost seems like – I’m not gonna say that it’s a false flag but it does feel – it does feel a little too sloppy.
P.J. O’Rourke: Right.
Buck Sexton: But who knows? Venezuela is a total --
P.J. O’Rourke: Suspicions are raised.
Buck Sexton: Yeah, Venezuela is a total mess, as folks listening to already know.
P.J. O’Rourke: People don’t seem to get it through their skulls, and I’m talking to you, all you progressives out there – and not probably too many of them are listening to us but on the off chance that somebody has stumbled onto the wrong podcast, and have been looking for the how to prepare kale for your rescue cats, all you progressive have got to get it through your head that socialism always winds up – there are two outcomes to socialism and they go together.
They are twinned, and one is economic disaster, and the other is accumulation of authoritarian political power in one place, and it’s rarely a good place. In fact, arguably, it’s never a good place.
Buck Sexton: And it’s amazing for a country that has the largest proven oil reserves in the world to be in a place where you have Venezuelans who are try – who try to get access to Aruba, which is known as a vacation destination but it’s very near the Venezuelan coast.
So they can get toilet paper. That’s been happening. They’ve been showing up to buy.
P.J. O’Rourke: I mean come on, Venezuela ought to be Saudi Arabia with pork tacos, you know.
Buck Sexton: Indeed, it should be. It is not though. So one should ask why. You know what’s always been at the --
P.J. O’Rourke: No, it’s not.
Buck Sexton: You know what never gets enough attention in this is how did the – how did they really crush the Venezuelan – or crush the Venezuelan economy? And you look back, the New York Times was publishing granted editorials, but even as recently as 2012 there were people who were supposedly experts in economics and geopolitics who were saying that Chavez, who came before Maduro, you know as onto something.
You know, this is – he’s doing things for the people, doing things for the workers and I mean he’s – they’ve done things for workers all right. They’ve impoverished them and now starvation is a problem, and people are actually losing lots and lots of weight in very unhealthy fashion in Venezuela, because they don’t have access to food.
But you know a big part of this was the price controls that they put in place, which is just from a politician’s perspective, and I think of this whenever people say oh, we should – wages are flat. Let’s just raise the minimum wage, right.
Unfortunately, the price is the price, and in Venezuela, the price of a dishwasher is not what Maduro says it is, via his various – you know little thug armies that run around. The price is whatever the person who had to get it had to pay to get it, and then can sell it to you and still make a profit and stay in business.
P.J. O’Rourke: This – you know the – and this is like the fundamental illusion that underlies all socialist and for that matter liberal Democrat, or for that matter, just plain Democrat, the illusion that underlies their idiocy is that there is something you can do about supply over demand equals price.
If you set the price for something above its market level, there you will have a tremendous overabundance of that product. In the case of the Soviet Union, that product was atomic bombs.
If you set the price of something below its market value, you would – oh, no matter what else you do, no matter how hard you enforce this, there will be an immediate scarcity of that product; food and toilet paper.
I was gonna make some sort of darkly humorous joke about I guess it’s just as well they’re starving since there isn’t any toilet paper but that offends even me.
Buck Sexton: All right, well P.J., for folks that wanna check out the book just give me that one more time before we get to Andy.
P.J. O’Rourke: Yeah, the book will be out in September. It can probably be pre-ordered now. It is called None Of My Business, and it’s all about economics and finance, and me having fun with those things.
It’s available from Grove Atlantic is the publisher, my publisher forever. It’s P.J. explains money, banking, debt, equity, assets, liabilities, and why he’s not rich and neither are you.
Buck Sexton: All right, so this week we have our guest, Andy Ferguson with us. Andy’s an American author and writer who’s the national correspondent at The Weekly Standard, and has written a few books, including Fools, Names, Fools, Faces; Land of Lincoln, Adventures in Abe’s America, and most recently, Crazy You, One Dad’s Crash Course in getting his child into college.
And he’s also been a contributor to American Consequences on several occasions with articles such as Social Sciences, Not Science, Not Social, Not True; that’s awesome, and The Political System couldn’t get any worse, and he’s back at it for American Consequences with a featured article in our August issue, which comes out on the 18th about Rick Perry and the Department of Energy that we will discuss on this podcast. Andy, great to have you.
P.J. O’Rourke: Andy, good to hear your voice.
Andy Ferguson: Yeah.
P.J. O’Rourke: You’re back from – you’re back from Nashville?
Andy Ferguson: Back from Nashville where it was almost as hot as it is here in Washington, D.C.
P.J. O’Rourke: Andy was, for our listeners’ benefit, Andy was moving his son and his daughter-in-law out to Nashville for mystery – I understand they’re not getting involved in country music.
Andy Ferguson: [Laughter.] Well, if you’ve ever heard him sing, you wouldn’t and I have.
P.J. O’Rourke: [Laughter] yeah.
Andy Ferguson: No, he’s got a job lined up and he’s looking for an apartment, and then his wife’s gonna join him in a week or two, and it will probably be the last I see of him.
P.J. O’Rourke: Oh, not at all. He’ll be dragging the grandchildren back for you to babysit.
Andy Ferguson: And just leave them here probably.
P.J. O’Rourke: Yeah, you’ve got a wonderful piece in the upcoming issue of American Consequences about how the guy who was going to eliminate the Department of Energy, if he could remember its name, got appointed to the Head of the Department of Energy, and then forgot to eliminate it. Is that about right?
Andy Ferguson: That’s about right, yeah. We’re talking about Rick Perry, who was Governor of Texas for about 12 years and somehow got the bug to run for President back in the 2012 campaign and he was – he accounted for the most memorable moment in the 2012 campaign, which of course nobody remembers.
And that was when he got up in a debate with his Republican – fellow Republican wanna-bes and said he was such a Libertarian, such a small-minded government guy, when he got to Washington, he was gonna eliminate three departments, and he held out his little chubby fingers and he said one, Department of Education, two, Department of Commerce, and three – and three, and three, and he couldn’t remember.
P.J. O’Rourke: [Laughter.]
Andy Ferguson: And so he came up with the – in politics anyway, the death list line, oops, I forgot, and that has sort of followed him throughout his career.
P.J. O’Rourke: [Laughter.]
Andy Ferguson: The third department that he wanted to eliminate and forgot about was of course the Department of Energy and President Trump I think maybe with some kind of knowing kind of sadism decided to nominate Perry to of all places the secretary ship of the department, where of course he has not become a great booster of all of the undertakings of the Department of Energy.
P.J. O’Rourke: We must never forget about Trump, that it’s an odd sense of humor but he does have one.
Andy Ferguson: Yeah, yeah. It’s odd in that it appears so infrequently, but when he’s got it, there always seems to be kind of a cruel streak in it too, which is why I think he’s kinda rubbing Perry’s nose in his, the most famous moment of his career.
P.J. O’Rourke: So what happened? How was it that Perry bought into the swamp or the swamp bought Perry, or was there a visible process involved here?
Andy Ferguson: Yeah, it’s actually a moment that I think should be even more humiliating than his oops moment but I don’t know if other people would feel that way, he got nominated. He went before the committee that had to approve his nomination and send it to the Senate floor, and of course the Democrats were loaded for bear, and said that you know we’re gonna hit him over the head with the thought that he wanted to eliminate the Department he was now gonna lead, and he just – it was total capitulation.
He sort of came in on his hands and knees, and said how much he regretted that he had ever wanted to eliminate such a great department, and it turned out what – what turned him into such a big booster he said was that someone actually took him aside and told him what the department does, which you think he might have tried to get straight before he wanted to eliminate it but anyway --
P.J. O’Rourke: Quick aside here, Andy, what does the Department do?
Andy Ferguson: Well, that’s a very good question. The first thing to know about the Department of Energy is that it doesn’t have much to do with energy. Two-thirds of its budget go to managing the country’s nuclear stockpiles, and cleaning up nuclear waste sites, which of course were created by the very same Federal government that has now said it’s going to clean up.
After that, there’s a third of the budget left. It’s about a $30 billion budget. The rest of it goes to the usual sort of busy-body making of grants, writing of regulations, guaranteeing of loans, all that kinda stuff that sort of wraps like a tentacle around the American public and squeezes it, and butts into every aspect of their business.
P.J. O’Rourke: So what was it that Rick Perry liked best about these things that the Department of Energy does?
Andy Ferguson: I think the thing he liked best was that he got to be secretary of it. If you read his --
P.J. O’Rourke: Ooh, a car and driver, big office?
Andy Ferguson: -- Twitter feed, there’s really nothing about the Department that doesn’t just attract his glowing recommendation. He’s particularly – and this is sort of ironic. One of Perry’s qualifications, if that can be said for his job was that he was the Governor of an oil-producing state. He had some familiarity with big oil, and businessmen in the oil and gas industries but as the secretary, he has become really in love, all in love with the renewable types of energy, which of course are sustained purely through government grants.
They’re – you know the government has propped up the solar industry and the wind energy industry for years, and then in fact it’s the only reason that those industries exist is because of the government meddling in the marketplace.
And so Perry just goes on and on, and waxes poetic about how terrific all these renewable sources of energy are. Of course they’re not so terrific that anybody would invest in them without a huge government grant or tax exemption, but that’s beside the point.
P.J. O’Rourke: [Laughter.] But I’m still wondering about his renewables come to Jesus moment here is that could I venture to say that the main appeal for someone in government of the renewals is the fact that they depend on government?
Are we seeing here Perry doing the usual thing of the public choice economics thing of trying to expand his power and purview?
Andy Ferguson: Well there’s a phenomenon that in Washington we call bureaucratic capture, which is when someone takes over a department like Perry has, the Department of Energy, they lose all objectivity and become – it’s actually kind of a form of Stockholm syndrome.
They actually begin to identify with their captors and indeed become the defenders of all the bureaucrats that they are supposed oversee but which in fact have captured him, and turned him into a big government zombie, and that’s happened a lot with Republicans especially over the years.
Democrats are more inclined to just – you know they’re government people. The thing about Perry is he was always a government guy too. He’s really never had a job outside of public office and he wasn’t all that much of a small government kind of guy either when he ran Texas.
P.J. O’Rourke: Not with Texas, certainly.
Andy Ferguson: Yeah, that type of switch for him, it’s not a great come to Jesus moment that he had. Basically he – as I say, he just said somebody told him what the department actually did, and he decided well, this is the department for me and there he is.
He gets to travel a lot and he’s got a security detail, and gets driven around in a car. So it’s probably almost as good as being governor of Texas.
P.J. O’Rourke: Yeah, I’m – why does this remind me of Bill Bennett and the Education Department under the Reagan Administration?
Andy Ferguson: Because it’s exactly the same phenomenon. You know I have to say one thing about Trump is he has – this whole administration has many fewer examples of bureaucratic capture than you’ve seen in any Republican administration in memory because – you know you have Betsy DeVos at education.
You had the new EPA administrator is just as hostile to the EPA as the last administrator was. So you really do have people who have somehow managed to enter into the bureaucracy as kind of an adversary, and stay adversarial and really try and reign in the bureaucrats that they employ, and Perry isn’t one of those people but there are lots of them scattered around the --
P.J. O’Rourke: Wilbur Ross would be another. I was talking to Wilbur Ross several months ago and the thing that struck – besides the fact that he’s just an awful nice guy and an incredibly smart guy, he seems sort of annoyed by his job.
Andy Ferguson: It’s a good sign.
P.J. O’Rourke: Which I took is a good sign [laughter.]
Andy Ferguson: Yeah. Yeah, well you know if candidate Rick Perry had had his way in 2012 he would have eliminated Wilbur Ross’ department too but actually he probably wouldn’t have, but he said he wanted to get rid of the Commerce Department anyway.
P.J. O’Rourke: Okay, I think that listeners have gotten a pretty good preview of the kind of thing that you get at American Consequences, and what you get at American Consequences, you don’t know until you get it. We are not – we’re not a cookie-cutting magazine.
We don’t have our mind made up about subjects before we start writing about them or researching them. We – I hate to borrow a line from Karl Bernstein but we do try and produce the best available version of the truth.
Buck Sexton: Thank you so much, Andy for joining us. That was a lot of fun.
Andy Ferguson: Thanks.
P.J. O’Rourke: If you don’t read him in American Consequences, go over and read him in the Weekly Standard. You will never be disappointed and I would just like to give Andy, you’re doing more great stuff about the social sciences. Will you please write the book that kills them all forever.
Buck Sexton: I love that there’s somebody else who says that the social sciences are neither social nor sciences. I totally agree, so that makes me happy.
P.J. O’Rourke: Not social, not science, not true.
Buck Sexton: All right, with that, let’s get to our mailbag. What do you say, P.J.?
P.J. O’Rourke: You bet, email number one. Hi, has anyone at Stansberry commented on Facebook since earnings yet? I haven’t seen anything says Liz. Liz, we have covered Facebook a bit on the podcast, but one way to follow all of Stansberry’s universe is to follow a team of ex-traders that Porter hired, that run a service called the newswire.
Scott Garliss and team report and comment on all of our positions and much more on a daily basis in the newswire. If you are an alliance member, it’s free and if you aren’t an alliance member, you should become one.
Just go onto your account and start following. Call our sales team and they can assist you. Believe me, can they ever.
Buck Sexton: Yeah. Wez-O from Michigan, Toskee, Michigan writes greetings, love the investor hour. It was with great pride that I was able to tell folks after having paid to send the youngest son to Le Cordon Bleu in Orlando that my son is a chef at the Melting Pot, where they make you cook your own food.
He says he learned more about chef stuff working at Galley Gourmet in Bay Harbor, Michigan where he started as a 14-year-old dishwasher and rose in the organization to trusted shoe – sous chef. Shields high from Wes, I would say Shield side is a reference to some radio stuff. No worries about that.
I would say this, P.J., doing is better than being told to do in a whole bunch of areas: cooking, definitely one of them.
P.J. O’Rourke: And it’s certainly doing is a lot better than like asking other people to do, although that’s not true with cooking at my house. I regularly ask everybody in my house to cook, because I can burn spaghetti [laughter.]
Buck Sexton: One more here. Greetings, Matt Lauer was one of those overpaid host-anchor, whatever guys. Interesting case because he was removed from his exalted perch.
Otherwise, he’d still be there. Now that he’s gone from the Today Show, have the ratings changed one bit? Probably not but I did not look it up. Just a guess. I would gladly do his job for only $360,000 annually. That’s very specific, except for the skeety parts.
And this one’s another one coming to us from Wes. I would say this, P.J. One remarkably not – not particularly studied or covered part of media is how you have these people that are considered irreplaceable, and in the last five to 10 years, a lot of them have been replaced, only to have actually everyone find out, oh no, they were more than replaceable.
P.J. O’Rourke: Yeah [laughter.] Let it be a reminder to us all, I suppose. I think one of the things that is supposed to give us all Christian humility is knowing that we can be replaced [laughter.]
And of course then there’s those of us who should be replaced but yeah, the other thing is about well, these news readers who they’re essentially actors. There was a day when news broadcasters had real experience as reporters in the field.
That day is gone, you know I mean Peter Jennings had actually spent a long time covering the Middle East, getting shot at and stuff, and you know he brought some authority to the news desk.
I mean these – just replace these people at random. Go over to the high school for the performing arts and pick out any three of the brighter kids, and there’s your morning show.
Buck Sexton: Indeed. Speaking of morning shows, those who want to see a great one, Hill.TV/Rising. They could check out the latest there. That’s gonna be it for us this week in the Investor Hour, everybody. Be sure to check out our recently re-vamped website and listen to all of our episodes. See show transcripts. We get a lot of emails about that and where you can enter your email to make sure you get all the latest stuff. Just go to InvestorHour.com. That’s what we got. P.J., do you know the Porter battle cry?
P.J. O’Rourke: No, I don’t.
Buck Sexton: Well, I will teach it to you right now. Love us or hate us, just don’t ignore us. That is what Porter says.
P.J. O’Rourke: Bless his heart. I’m with him.
Buck Sexton: There we go. Thanks for listening, everybody. Mr. P.J. O’Rourke, thank you. One more time on the book, what’s the title?
P.J. O’Rourke: You’re welcome. The book title is None Of My Business and it won’t make you rich, but it will make you laugh.
Buck Sexton: Ironically named, because you all should make it your business by buying it and reading it, and with that, we’re gonna sign off. P.J., thank you so much. Everybody, see you next week.
P.J. O’Rourke: You are welcome.
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