Ask Matt Labash

Ask Matt Labash: Fly fishing through Armageddon and important questions for conservatives, a post-election edition

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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 burning sensation? Consult your doctor. Have a burning question for Matt Labash? Submit it here.

Mr. Labash, As a fly fisher yourself, I am sure you are familiar with the conservationist theory behind catch and release. I am a strict proponent of catch and release, being a bit superstitious in believing that is what makes me a lethal fly fisher…. However, following Tuesday’s election results, I am thinking of “John Galt(ing)” it and packing up and moving, pulling my hard working contributions to society. I am a successful fly fisher and believe I could rely on the land, in say Alaska, catching salmon and living off the flora and fawna there. However, I am a strict catch and release girl…. Do you think that catch and release for the good of the country should be relinquished until America learns that IQ tests should be used to qualify for voting rights? Thanks! – Displaced Fly Fisher

I will get to the fishing in a minute. But you strike some other important themes that require addressing. Over the last few days, I have witnessed sadness, revulsion and desperation from those who cannot bear to wrap their head around the reality of a second Obama term, as they mutter dark curses while begging their Creator to smite them. And that’s just Karl Rove, who is still manning the election desk at Fox, crunching and re-crunching those Ohio numbers. (“Speak, Cuyahoga County!”)

Me? I think there are two ways of looking at this. On the downside: we have just reelected a president who has compounded our debt, who has demonstrated zero willingness to honestly confront runaway entitlements, whose only animating issue seems to be espousing class warfare with tax hikes on the rich (whatever’s left of them), and who has helped destroy the confidence of the investor class, small businesspeople, and job creators in the future of our ailing economy.

On the upside, we don’t have to pretend to be enthusiastic about Mitt Romney anymore. So maybe it’s a wash.

But after the events of recent days and weeks, it might be worth it for conservatives to ask themselves a few important self-searching questions, such as:

1. If Chris Christie is against gay marriage, why does he keep hitting on Bruce Springsteen?

2. Should Republicans step up the so-called War on Women? Women voted for Obama by a 55-43 percent margin. Eliminate women, and we could eliminate the Democrats’ electoral advantage. We’ve largely whiffed in Iraq and Afghanistan. But maybe it’s time to escalate this war, and let The Surge start working.

3. Do we need to make more Republican Latinos? We have clearly not attracted enough of them to the party. Obama won a whopping three-quarters of Latino voters. Solution: if we can’t attract more Latinos, we need to make our own. I will lead by example. From here on, I’m only making babies with Latina women, then reading our children Friedrich von Hayeks’s “Road to Serfdom” as their bedtime stories. We will all move to San Antonio, and lobby to get the voting age lowered to six, so that Texas doesn’t go blue within two election cycles. We will build a firewall of sorts. Or as we Latinos say, a “fuego wall.”

4. Should our pundits be allowed to predict elections? I don’t pretend to be nearly as smart on the subject of electoral politics as Karl Rove, Charles Krauthammer, Joe Scarborough, Peggy Noonan, George Will, and a host of others. And yet some two-and-a-half months ago at the height of Paul Ryan mania, I did one thing in this very space that none of them managed to do. I correctly predicted that Obama would win. And I did it using this old-school method that few on the right seemed to favor this cycle: I read the swing-state polls, and believed them! My advice to the winger punditocracy: stop practicing how to whine about perceived liberal media/pollster bias. Start practicing how to count.

That settled, onto the fishing. I like to think that if this election had a prom-like theme, it would be “Managing Decline.” As a country, we’re arguably on our way down. Our financial systems are failing. Our unemployment rate is high. Our military is fatigued and about to see its numbers reduced. All this, as we blithely lollygag toward a fiscal cliff. But unless you live in certain parts of Mayor Bloomberg’s post-Sandy New York (where if you’re lucky enough to get a storm-relief Coke, you know it will not be in a large-sized cup, as he has outlawed those), reverting to survivalism in Obama’s second-term America is probably not necessary just yet.

I, too, am a catch-and-releaser. I’ve caught over 2,200 fish this year by fly rod, and haven’t kept a one of them. Partly, this is because I enjoy holding writhing life in my hand rather than extinguishing it. Partly, as I’ve written here before, because if I ate even one-tenth of the fish I catch, I’d be so chock-full of mercury that the only work I’d be suited for is as a neon sign or a rectal thermometer.

But during Armageddon, you have to do what you have to do. Of course, when everybody’s doing it, the fish population will quickly dwindle. So look at the catch-and-release fishing of today, 2012, as a down-payment on the Armageddon of tomorrow (let’s call it, 2015, in the interest of optimism).

Continue buying your farm-raised tilapia at Safeway, while we still have grocery stores and you still have a job. Then, when the wheels come off, you can start conking out those retention-pond bluegill. They don’t call them “panfish” for nothing. You might even have a few of your fellow sufferers over for a bipartisan fish fry as we celebrate the divisiveness that unites us. We can eat like there’s no tomorrow, because there likely won’t be. Though as can-do Americans, we will still hold out “hope.” Which we’ll come to think of as Obamaism distilled to its raw and vital essence. Since at the rate we’re going, that little four-letter word that kicked off these eight years might be all that is left.

Matt Labash is a senior writer with the Weekly Standard magazine. His book, “Fly Fishing With Darth Vader: And Other Adventures with Evangelical Wrestlers, Political Hitmen, and Jewish Cowboys,” is now available in paperback from Simon and Schuster. Have a question for Matt Labash? Submit it here.