How to interview P.J. O’Rourke on drugs while getting your mind blown and not embarrass yourself

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Mike Riggs
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      Mike Riggs

      Mike Riggs is a staff writer at The Daily Caller. He has written and reported for Reason magazine and reason.com, GQ, the Awl, Decibel, Culture 11, the Philadelphia Bulletin, and the Washington City Paper, where he served as an arts and entertainment editor.

Last week The Daily Caller sat down with P.J. O’Rourke to discuss his new book, “Don’t Vote It Just Encourages the Bastards,” his tenure at Rolling Stone magazine, his shift from left to right, and the real threat posed by government (hint: maybe you should sweat the small stuff).

You can read part one of this interview here.

P.J. O’Rourke: I said this at the beginning of the book, but after 40 years of talking about this stuff, it was time for me to figure out what I was talking about.

TheDC: Shit or get off the pot!

P.J.: Shit or get off the pot, yes. Try to put my thinking into some sort of order.

TheDC: Do you think you were successful?

P.J.: Not for me to judge. But it was an interesting exercise. I really had to think through a lot of things that I had approached mostly on a certain gut level. Or I’d thought about parts of them but I hadn’t thought about all of them. I had to sort of get my logic in order.

TheDC: Did you find that be a dispiriting exercise?

P.J.: No! It was fun, but it was difficult. I don’t claim to be the kind of deep thinker that Michael Oakeshott was, but I came away from the experience of trying to formulate my political thought with more sympathy for Oakeshott’s crap prose style. [Laughs]

It’s not easy to do. The ideas at the core of one’s political view beliefs are not easy to explain.

And if you’re going to try to do that and make jokes—

TheDC: –then you need Fuck, Marry, Kill!

P.J.: Exactly! [Laughs] Fuck, Marry, Kill!

TheDC: So, you use that game in the book as a way to organize ideas into freedom, responsibility, and politics, but you don’t say where you first heard about it.

P.J.: I guess I didn’t explain it. I got it from my wife.

TheDC: Had she read about it on the Internet or something?

P.J.: No, no it was a game she and her friends played.

TheDC: No way.

P.J.: Yeah, yeah. Though not as teenage girls, apparently. Some friend of hers worked for a big PR company here in town, and they were out on a boat some time drinking, and some friend of hers said it was a game from her teenage years.

TheDC: That’s the kind of game that will get a man fired in corporate America.

P.J.: Though not a woman.

TheDC: No, because it’s charming when women talk about fucking and killing.

P.J. Exactly! If a man were to pick three women—

TheDC: –one of whom he would kill!—

P.J.: Oh yes. [Laughs] And the other he would…well, yes…have his way with…well, he would go directly to, uh–

TheDC: –to jail!

P.J.: Yes, yes.

TheDC: To prepare for this interview, I re-read most of “Parliament of Whores.” You’re much more sympathetic to government in that book than you are in “Don’t Vote.”

P.J.: I think it’s always easy to be sympathetic to parts of the government in detail; in their concrete manifestations. Because obviously, we don’t have government for no reason.

TheDC: When writing about the phantom acceleration problem that Audi had in the 80s, you come across as sympathetic to the Department of Transportation (DOT), for instance.

P.J.: Yes. I found myself surprised by how much I liked the guys—and they were mostly guys—at the DOT. They were real engineers; real car guys. And they were faced with what to them was an interesting engineering problem, and they were honestly trying to figure that out.

And you can’t go out on a missile cruiser, like I did for “Parliament of Whores,” and come back without saying, “Wow, that is really cool.”

Even the dumber parts of our government are not run by idiots. These are ordinary people like us, doing a job. By and large, they’re trying to do it as well as they can. Or at least as often as people in the private sector try to do as well as they can.

So, I’m fond enough of government in its concrete manifestations. When you stand back and look at it in the abstract, that’s how you see where the damage gets done. Then it’s possible to have a kind of generalized anger about it.

Sometimes you get individuals with really bad ideas who are really good at acting on those bad ideas, like [Democratic Massachusetts Rep.] Barney Frank. But by and large, people in mid-level and lower levels of government are just people trying to do a job as capably as they can, not thinking about the big picture more than the rest of us think about the big picture.

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  • maladroit

    I am a huge fan of P.J.’s as well. PJ shaped my political views and I have read (almost) all of his books.
    Every now and then, I’ll pop open an oldie and re-read it.

    When I was a senior in HS, I knew what day of the month the magazine distributor would show-up at my local small town grocery. I’d ride my bike (my car had broken down) and I’d be there waiting for the driver to unstrap the stack of “National Lampoons.”
    I’d eagerly check to see if PJ had written a piece for that month, then rush home to read it.
    When PJ left NatLamp, so did I. When he went to C&D, I subscribed and became a car nut.
    Safe to say, PJ molded my life in many ways; I wrote a book on American cars which was published in ’06. Thanks, PJ!