Ask Matt Labash

Ask Matt Labash: To Iowa — a hate letter, a New Year’s resolution, and liberal media suppression

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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>

Editor’s Note: Have a question for Matt Labash? Submit it here

What’s your favorite thing about the Iowa caucuses?  – M. Berry

When they’re over. As the Iowa-born writer Bill Bryson once apologetically wrote, “I come from Des Moines, somebody had to.” Bryson added — understatedly — that Des Moines was “the most powerful hypnotic known to man.” Not that you’d know it from the amount of column inches his seedy little home state generates. For roughly two years out of every quadrennial, groveling politicians, not to mention journalists and the electorate at large, have to pretend to give a rip what Iowans think. Which is unfortunate, as even Iowans don’t know what Iowans think. I’m not saying they’re dumb. But in the nineties, Iowa experienced the second largest brain drain of any state in the nation, with its young educated classes fleeing in droves. Economists say it was to find better employment or higher education opportunities. But one could hardly blame the evacuees for just wanting to get away from other rubber-necking, carb-loading, undecided Iowa voters.

Even as late as this past Saturday, a Des Moines Register poll showed 41 percent of Iowans could still be persuaded to change their minds. This, after every man, woman, and child in the state had benefited from 17 or 18 opportunities apiece to eat pancakes, have their photos snapped in front of butter sculptures, or to otherwise be sucked up to, back-slapped or belly-scratched in person by or with every single candidate, plus their spouses. If you don’t know what you think of a candidate after watching Marcus Bachmann deep-throat a foot-long corn dog just to impress you, then maybe you don’t deserve first-in-the-nation privileges.

And we continue this charade every four years, why? So that we can pretend as though Iowa is the rural, Platonic ideal of America, when its hype isn’t even accurately representative of itself, according to my Wikipedia sources. While reporters are fond of interviewing salt-of the-earth farmers over Iowa’s bevy of meth dealers or government employees (the latter of which account for 10.4 percent of their economy), over 60 percent of Iowa’s population now lives in urban areas, and only 3.5 percent of its gross domestic product is attributable to the production of raw agricultural goods. Meanwhile, less than one percent of the tallgrass prairie that formerly covered the state remains intact. The better to plant more corn to suck up ethanol subsidies (one third of Iowa’s corn is consumed  by ethanol production), subsidies which until recently being allowed to expire, were a $5-billion-a-year-racket that caused corn prices to surge as much as 17 percent for the rest of us. Thanks, Hawkeye State!

So we are again encouraging the funny little people of Iowa to pack their school gyms with their aluminum-foil covered sheet cakes and pork products so they can jawbone at each other before holding their adorable little non-binding vote. Meanwhile, the punditry dutifully stands by in stuck-record fashion, dusting off all the old cliches, such as “There are three tickets out of Iowa.” Really? Tell that to Fred Thompson, who finished third in Iowa in 2008 with 13 percent of the vote, went on to a resounding 1 percent finish in New Hampshire, and quit the race by Jan. 22. Thompson, however, was one of the lucky ones. He at least put himself out of his misery, and returned to some semblance of a normal, happy life. But in two more years, ambitious politicians will again start flocking to Iowa, and our misery will begin anew.