Ask Matt Labash

Ask Matt Labash: Building bridges back to the 20th century, and how not to love too much

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Matt Labash
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      Matt Labash

      Hi, welcome to “Ask Matt Labash.” I’ll be your host, Matt Labash. The idea for this column – if idea isn’t too strong a word – is that it is not a column at all. Rather, it’s a conversation. One in which I do ninety-five percent of the talking. If you did most of the talking, you’d have to watch my eyes go dead and my attention wander until it was my turn to talk again. So trust me, it’s better this way.

      For those unfamiliar with me from my day job at The Weekly Standard, I’ll give you a capsule bio by way of introduction: I have the gift of wisdom. Does that sound arrogant? I’m sorry, that wasn’t my intention. I didn’t choose wisdom. It chose me. If I had my druthers, I’d have chosen another gift, perhaps the untold riches of Lil’ Wayne, whose teeth are made of actual diamonds, or to be the sexiest man alive, like Rachel Maddow. But wisdom is what they gave me, so wisdom is all I have to give back to you.

      This is not, you should know, a mere advice column. If you need advice, I’ll give it. But the only rule here is that there are no rules. You can ask me a question about anything that’s on your mind: current events, pop culture, media, theology, string theory, fishing tips, wicker repair. The only limits we have are those of your imagination. And those of my knowledge base. Which is considerably limited, truth be told. So try not to ask me anything that requires research. Though they tell me I have access to Google on this computer if we need it.

      If all goes according to plan, ours will not be a traditional writer/reader relationship. It’s more complex than that. I might empathize or cajole. I might educate, instruct, or inspire. I might pretend to answer your question while actually reporting you to Social Services, since you’re a dangerous person who should not have contact with children. I might tell you to climb up on my shoulders, that you’re not heavy, you’re my brother. Or I might tell you that you are heavy, and that you should hop down until you lose a few pounds. I might just sidle up behind you, put my big strong man hands on the small of your back, and whisper in your ear the words of the poet, Kenny Rogers: “We’ve got tonight, who needs tomorrow?”

      To which you’ll say something like, “I can’t, I’ve got to go home and wash my hair.”
      To which I’ll say something like, “Shhh. We’ve got tonight babe, why don’t you stay?”
      Wherever this takes us, our journey begins now:

      <i>Matt Labash is a senior writer with The Weekly Standard. His first book, <a href="">Fly Fishing with Darth Vader: And Other Adventures with Evangelical Wrestlers, Political Hitmen, and Jewish Cowboys</a> will be published next month by Simon & Schuster.</i>

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Since Obama seems to be making the rounds speaking from bridges, and you are always “in-the-know” — do you know when Obama will speak from that sagging, rope & wood walking bridge over the Missouri River in western North Dakota? It will be winter here soon, so he has to hurry. – Ron

Since Obama’s jobs bill stalled in the Senate, and he’s vowed to try to sneak it over the goal line in smaller separate bills, I am not privy to his future bridge-engagements schedule. So we’ll just have to anticipate. I’m personally looking forward to catching Obama on the Route 4 overpass in Waysons Corner, Md., as I’m pretty sure I noticed a rust spot on one of the guard rails the other day. My family will be bringing lunch-buckets and wearing pro-Works Progress Administration sandwich-boards to the speech, harking back to our blue-collar roots, thus helping President Obama carry out his F.D.R. role-play fantasy.

I’m not quite sure what it is about politicians and bridge fetishes. Bill Clinton had his “Bridge to the 21st Century.” Sen. Ted Stevens had his “Bridge to Nowhere.” Woodrow Wilson has his “Woodrow Wilson Memorial Bridge.” Now, every time Obama passes a bridge, he has to pile out of his motorcade and tell us how he wants to put Americans back to work fixing one. Fix it yourself, Barack Obama. I’m busy.

But even if I wasn’t living like the Sun King as one of The Daily Caller’s two or three premier advice columnists — an exorbitant lifestyle littered with 24-karat dookie ropes and the finest Le Coq Sportif athletic wear (I dress like a rapper from the ‘80s, since it reminds me of Reaganism and happier times) — I’m not so sure that the dreams of our fathers, who wanted better lives for us, would entail us all donning fluorescent orange vests and pouring hot asphalt all day in jobs created out of the taxpayer kitty. In fact, if you translate Obama-ese into Chinese, then use your imagination, his plan for an economic recovery kind of starts to look like this.

Mister President, if you’ve never listened to me before (and you haven’t — you seem to do most of the talking in this relationship), then please listen to me now. Our middle class is disappearing at an alarming rate. Unemployment is rampant. Confidence in our institutions is reaching historic lows. And your remedy for this malaise is putting us to work filling potholes? Not that bridge-and-road construction isn’t honorable work. More honorable than writing faux advice columns or puttering around the White House, certainly. But I’d much rather have one of those Clinton-era, Bridge to the 21st Century private-sector jobs that used to exist by the bushel. I want to be one of those fin de siècle self-satisfied tech entrepreneurs who rides his Razor scooter around his workplace, crashing into the foosball table which proves that I’m a fun, non-hierarchal kind of guy who enjoys drinking Acai Berry smoothies from our office juice bar while taking snoozes in my company’s nap room on one of the beds made of IPO money.

So as long as you’re planning on bringing jobs back, why not look into bringing back those kinds of jobs? People say we don’t make anything anymore. Nonsense. We certainly do. We make decadent children, every generation of whom think it is their birthright that their lives will be happier and more prosperous than the preceding generation’s. So while looking for your lost mojo, see if you can help America find her decadent streak again. It’s by no means what made her great. But it’s what kept America thinking she was great, even when she had, in retrospect, already hit the skids. Still, never underestimate the salutary effects of self-delusion. Ninety-five percent of happiness is fooling yourself into thinking that you are. America has forgotten how to forget its own deficiencies. We need to remember that again. Denial got us this far. Why not play through? In our worst-case scenario —  if say, we become Greece — the Germans can just bail us out. We saved them from themselves with a market correction called “World War II.”  So maybe it’s high time that, like the remaining rich people you so detest, Germany starts paying its fair share, too.