Remembering P.J. O’Rourke

A year ago, this past week, we lost one of the funniest, wisest, and keenest intellectuals of the conservative movement. Whether it was his irreverent commentary on the utter absurdity of the modern progressive Left and their idiotic socialist schemes, his apt descriptions about his travels to warzones and impoverished Third-World hellscapes, his hilarious observations about ignorant pampered college students and their woke grievances, or his whimsical musings about philosophy and life in general, no one was more entertaining to read than P.J. O’Rourke, who passed away last February at the age of 74.

For O’Rourke, no topic or politician was off limits. He authored more than 12 best-selling books and became famous for his satirical pieces at National Lampoon in the 1970s. He would later write for Playboy, Vanity Fair, Rolling Stone, and the American Spectator. Although the young O’Rourke famously described himself as “a leftist anti-war hippie,” for much of his life he identified as a libertarian.

Perhaps no single self-aggrandizing leftist found himself on the receiving end of O’Rourke’s jokes more often than Al Gore. And for good reason. Anyone who has listened to that grifter pontificate about “global warming” for the last quarter century, or “climate change,” or whatever they call it these days knows Gore is an unserious person. His recent shriek attack at Davos only further confirmed that he is well deserving of whatever mockery comes at his expense.

O’Rourke facetiously “dedicated” one of his national best sellers to Gore for providing him with such good material. Writing in the acknowledgments of All The Trouble in The World, O’Rourke noted this book also required an enormous amount of help from enemies. Particularly, I’d like to thank Vice President Al Gore for being the perfect straw man on such subjects as the environment, ecology, and population. Sorry, Al for repeatedly calling you a fascist twinkie and intellectual dolt. It’s nothing personal. I just think you have repulsive totalitarian inclinations and the brains of a King Charles spaniel.”

Maybe Gore is useful for something after all.

O’Rourke was also a master at pointing out how ridiculous, cruel, and economically illiterate the Left’s confiscatory taxation schemes of taking from Peter to pay Paul really are, writing as only he could:

The poor of the world cannot be made rich by redistribution of wealth. Poverty can’t be eliminated by punishing people who’ve escaped poverty, taking their money and giving it as a reward to people who have failed to escape. Economic leveling doesn’t work. Whether we call it Marxism, Progressive Reform, or Clintonomics, the result is the same slide into the stygian pit. Communists worship satan; socialists think perdition is a good system run by bad men; and liberals want us to go to hell because it’s warm there in the winter.

And while anti-American Jew-haters from Somalia currently roam the halls of Congress and bash this great country at every opportunity, it’s not hard to see why they would have boarded the Titanic to flee their point of origin. It turns out, voluntary starvation is not in vogue, as O’Rourke deadpanned on a trip to Mogadishu.

Famine is too close to dieting. We snap at our spouses, juggle on the scale, and finish other people’s cheesecake. If we’re turned into angry, lying thieves by a mere forgoing of dessert, what must real hunger be like? Imagine a weight-loss program at the end of which, instead of better health, good looks, and hot romantic prospects, you die. Somalia had become just this kind of spa. I went there in December, 1992, shortly after U.S. troops had landed in Mogadishu.

Perhaps one day Ilhan Omar will realize we actually have it pretty good here. Then again, admitting so would lead to an automatic loss of street credibility within her radical party and would likely result in the revocation of her membership in the “Squad.”

For the Left, apparently, telling the truth about other impoverished countries is always racist. Who could forget the collective legacy media freakout in 2018, when a Democrat aide leaked that former President Trump supposedly referred to Haiti as a “shithole country.” According to O’Rourke, Trump may have been onto something. Here is how he described his visit:.

I’d been in Haiti for about six hours when I gave up the idea of investigating infant diarrhea or Third World sanitation or medical care in underdeveloped nationswhen I gave up the idea of writing a chapter about plague at all. Haiti was too far gone in entropy. Investigating public health, when the public obviously didn’t have any, left me nothing but that public to investigate.

Surely O’Rourke would be maligned for noting the obvious: putting the government in charge of our healthcare system—or anything else for that matter—is probably not such a great idea, especially when the people in charge are corrupt ideologues at worst and grossly incompetent at best.

When O’Rourke wasn’t exposing the dire living conditions in Haiti, he had a suggestion for how the Bangladeshis could enjoy a more pleasant existence: 

Bangladesh has some 118,000,000 people, nearly half the citizenry of the United States, all in a nation the size of Iowa. It’s crowded. The population density of Bangladesh is 2,130 individuals per square mile. Of course, if the Bangladeshis would just spread out, that’s enough space for each man, woman, and child to occupy a football field up to the eighteen-yard line. Plenty of room to fall back and punt. But this particular afternoon they were piling on.

Although in the present day, there has been more scrutiny of our students’ woke curriculum, and of divisive teachings including critical race theory, O’Rourke long ago observed that our college campuses had become leftist indoctrination camps. Returning to his alma mater in the early 1990s, O’Rourke had a field day with one section in the student handbook, titled, “assertion of respect” which he characterized as, “a dog’s breakfast of sanctimonious intellectual offal mixed into virtue stew,” and noted that “Invidious prejudice results from categorizing people rather than treating them as individuals. But here people are categorized exhaustively.”

In other words, the students at Miami University were told to act in accordance with the exact opposite of Martin Luther King’s credo of judging people by the content of their character and not by their skin color. Nowadays, assessing people solely by the color of their skin, or whatever species they identify as, is all that matters. At least that’s what the diversity experts keep telling us.

Aside from college campuses training students to become activists offended by everything, O’Rouke noted that they also don’t teach anything useful, which may explain why people with degrees in lesbian gender studies may have a hard time finding gainful employment. As he observed in his alma mater’s campus bookstore. “I wandered into the textbook department. Some prof had put Invasion of the Body Snatchers on his required reading list. Nice that the university is sensitive to the needs of every group of students, including the very stupid.”

While O’Rourke was a libertarian who believed in our country’s founding principles, he was not afraid to admit that he was also a capitalist who put more faith in currency than in the government.

Money is preferable to politics. It is the difference between being free to be anybody you want and being free to vote for anybody you want. And Money is more effective than politics both in solving problems and in providing individual independence. To rid ourselves of all the trouble in the world we need to make money. And to make money, we need to be free. But, oh, the trouble caused by freedom and money.

O’Rourke had a unique ability to blend humor and intellect without deliberately trying to seek laughs or cheapen what he was trying to articulate.

One wonders what musings O’Rourke would have to offer about the current miserable state of affairs we now find ourselves in; including Joe Biden’s senility, garagegate, or our government’s newfound hobby of shooting down Chinese spy balloons and other extra terrestrial objects.

Something tells me it would be pretty amusing.

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About Carpe Diem

Carpe Diem is the pseudonym for a writer who was a speechwriter in the Trump Administration.

Photo: David Howells/Corbis via Getty Images