Top 100 Jacob Weisberg Quotes of 2020

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“Nearly everyone who chooses to work for Donald Trump is disreputable in one way or another; Ali Baba didn’t find 40 wise men in the cave. But to label everyone in Trumpworld a grifter misses important subtleties. It conflates grifters and grafters, and it ignores the crucial distinction between the two.”

― Jacob Weisberg

“The worst thing you can say about libertarians is that they are intellectually immature, frozen in the worldview many of them absorbed from reading Ayn Rand novels in high school. Like other ideologues, libertarians react to the world’s failing to conform to their model by asking where the world went wrong.”

― Jacob Weisberg

“Raised in a house filled with old books, I’m drawn to them: the dust jackets that call out a historical moment, the marbled boards, the words pressed into the page with movable type.”

― Jacob Weisberg

“For the grifter, ripping people off is seldom the point. The grifter is an artiste who invests in the long con.”

― Jacob Weisberg

“The leader who loves books that tell him he is great and right may be worse than the leader who does not love books at all.”

― Jacob Weisberg

“People who live in hermit states like North Korea, Burma, and Cuba already suffer from global isolation. Fed on a diet of propaganda, they don’t know what’s happening inside their borders or outside of them. By increasing their seclusion, sanctions make it easier for dictators to blame external enemies for a country’s suffering.”

― Jacob Weisberg

“All kinds of gambling, from bingo to baccarat, are benign entertainment for most people, dangerously addictive to a few, and capable of breeding unwanted side effects for society.”

― Jacob Weisberg

“Whether couched in terms of envy, admiration, or derision, celebrity fascination begins as an exercise in imagining what it would be like to lead a more carefree and pleasurable life.”

― Jacob Weisberg

“Paternalism is the method of government activism most amenable to an impoverished public sector.”

― Jacob Weisberg

“Middle-class Americans really don’t want to hear about sacrifices or trade-offs – except as flattering descriptions about how ready we, as a people, are, or used to be, to accept them.”

― Jacob Weisberg

“The tone of good web writing grows out of email. It’s more direct, personal, colloquial, urgent, witty, efficient. It doesn’t waste your time. It reflects that engagement, responsiveness, and haste of web surfers, as opposed to the more general passivity of print readers.”

― Jacob Weisberg

“Northeastern conservatism is moderate, accepts the modern welfare state, and dislikes mixing religion with politics. Western conservatism is hawkish, hates government, and embraces individual freedom. Southern conservatism is populist, draws on evangelical Christianity, and plays upon racial resentments.”

― Jacob Weisberg

“The first conversation I ever had about the Internet was in 1993 with Robert Wright, who was then a colleague at the ‘New Republic.’”

― Jacob Weisberg

“Thanks to Twitter, I learn about the revolutions in the Middle East via Arab activists and writers, not just from American foreign correspondents.”

― Jacob Weisberg

“In authoritarian societies, cultural institutions tend to become ideological proxies – think of the National Ballet in Cuba or the East German gymnastics team.”

― Jacob Weisberg

“Academic Marxists were never going to be convinced that anything that happened in the real world could invalidate their belief system. Utopians of the Right, libertarians are just as convinced that their ideas have yet to be tried and that they would work beautifully if we could only just have a do-over of human history.”

― Jacob Weisberg

“As with the government failures that made 9/11 possible, neglecting to prevent the crash of ’08 was a sin of omission – less the result of deregulation per se than of disbelief in financial regulation as a legitimate mechanism.”

― Jacob Weisberg

“The best thing you can say about libertarians is that because their views derive from abstract theory, they tend to be highly principled and rigorous in their logic.”

― Jacob Weisberg

“Of the alternatives we face in controlling long-term spending growth, moving Medicare to a voucher system seems only mildly unfortunate – and nothing as compared with a debt-driven economic crisis that could stem from inaction.”

― Jacob Weisberg

“Where the grifter is shameless, the grafter shrinks from exposure, which could only endanger the racket. He is greedy but not creatively ambitious. He toils in mundane self-dealing, insider trading, bribe taking, witness tampering, and other forms of workaday corruption.”

― Jacob Weisberg

“Donald Trump is an archetypal grifter. Using the presidency to promote your golf courses, hotels, and real estate business is grifting. So is getting people to pay a premium for buildings with your name in big, gold letters. Licensing your name is what every grifter dreams about.”

― Jacob Weisberg

“While ‘The Wire’ feels startlingly lifelike, it is not, in fact, a naturalistic depiction of ghetto life. That kind of realism better describes an earlier miniseries of Simon’s, ‘The Corner,’ which was based on the book of the same title that he and Ed Burns wrote, set in the same Baltimore ghetto.”

― Jacob Weisberg

“What ultimately makes ‘The Wire’ uplifting amid the heartbreak it conveys is its embodiment of a spirit that Barack Obama calls ‘the audacity of hope.’ It is filled with characters who should quit but don’t, not only the boys themselves but teachers, cops, ex-cops, and ex-cons who lose their hearts to them.”

― Jacob Weisberg

“Israel never meant to take over the West Bank and Gaza – it got stuck with them after the 1967 war.”

― Jacob Weisberg

“American liberals are an external part of Israel’s conscience, and when it disdains them, it becomes a harder and more isolated place. The support that Israel has gained from millenarian American conservatives is no substitute, in part because such allies aren’t persuasive global advocates for Israel.”

― Jacob Weisberg

“Objecting to someone because of his religious beliefs is not the same thing as prejudice based on religious heritage, race, or gender.”

― Jacob Weisberg

“As far apart as they are theologically, Mormons and evangelical Christians may have more in common with each other anthropologically than they do with secular Americans watching ‘Big Love’ on HBO.”

― Jacob Weisberg

“Not applying a religious test for public office means that people of all faiths are allowed to run – not that views about God, creation, and the moral order are inadmissible for political debate.”

― Jacob Weisberg

“In George W. Bush’s case, the public paid far too little attention to the role of religion in his thinking. Many voters failed to appreciate that while Bush’s religious beliefs may be moderate Methodist ones, he was someone who relied on his faith immoderately, as an alternative to rational understanding of complex issues.”

― Jacob Weisberg

“Paradoxically, I think working at an Internet magazine intensifies the attraction of beautiful printed objects.”

― Jacob Weisberg

“I hope my children will grow up to love literature, but I expect they will absorb it as readily via a screen or pod as from glued quires of printed pages.”

― Jacob Weisberg

“The book has had a good run. For 550 years, it was the most practical way to deliver writing to multiple readers.”

― Jacob Weisberg

“Political assumptions can remain constant for long periods and then change very quickly.”

― Jacob Weisberg

“Obama is the rare Democrat who talks easily about faith and values and who does so without upsetting those offended by the mixture of religion and politics.”

― Jacob Weisberg

“Closely allied to the assumption that Democrats can’t win because they’re too secular is the view that they can’t win if they’re too liberal. This assumption has steered Hillary Clinton toward the center, following her husband. I tend to share this view myself.”

― Jacob Weisberg

“To count as transformative, a president needs to synthesize the moment and mood of the country.”

― Jacob Weisberg

“Where Reagan channeled disenchantment with overweening government, Obama symbolized America’s transformation into a multiracial country.”

― Jacob Weisberg

“Like other forms of gambling, wagering on the Internet isn’t illegal because it’s bad. It’s bad because we’ve chosen to make it illegal.”

― Jacob Weisberg

“The conservative position that all spending is evil obliterates any distinction between investment and consumption, between the long-term and the short-term.”

― Jacob Weisberg

“Book collectors are thrill-seekers. It is a vegetarian hunt to be sure, without much exertion or risk, but the endorphin rush of the chase and the adrenaline high of the capture are much the same with first editions as I imagine they must be in the pursuit of 10-point stags, largemouth bass, or 20-foot waves at Maverick’s.”

― Jacob Weisberg

“Despite all the Internet has done to make prices transparent and bibliographic information universal, you can still find – at book sales and thrift shops, auctions and even fancy dealers – unrecognized or underpriced rarities. Getting something valuable for cheap is the basic, greedy thrill of book collecting.”

― Jacob Weisberg

“Book collecting is a largely solitary, mostly male, and completely absorbing activity.”

― Jacob Weisberg

“The use of torture on suspected terrorists after Sept. 11 has already earned a place in American history’s hall of shame, alongside the Alien and Sedition Acts, Japanese internment during World War II, and the excesses of the McCarthy era.”

― Jacob Weisberg

“Unlike the Japanese internment, water-boarding was ordered and served up in secret. But it, too, was America’s policy, not just Dick Cheney’s. Congress was informed about what was happening and raised no objection. The public knew, too.”

― Jacob Weisberg

“By 2003, if you didn’t understand that the United States was inflicting torture on those deemed enemy combatants, you weren’t paying much attention.”

― Jacob Weisberg

“It’s tempting to dismiss the debate about the National Security Agency spying on Americans as a technical conflict about procedural rights.”

― Jacob Weisberg

“I don’t think Kanye West can support his view that George W. Bush just doesn’t care about black people. But it’s a demonstrable matter of fact that Bush doesn’t care much about black votes. And that, in the end, may amount to the same thing.”

― Jacob Weisberg

“Blacks as a group have voted Democratic since the 1930s. The GOP has not courted them in any real way since the 1960s, focusing instead on attracting white constituencies hostile to civil rights and African-Americans in general.”

― Jacob Weisberg

“You may or may not agree with Obama’s policy prescriptions, but they are, by and large, serious attempts to deal with the biggest issues we face: a failing health care system, oil dependency, income stagnation, and climate change.”

― Jacob Weisberg

“Southern conservatives care about government’s moral stance but don’t mind when it spends freely on behalf of their constituents. Western conservatives, by contrast, are soft-libertarians who want government out of people’s way on principle.”

― Jacob Weisberg

“Southern Republicans are guided by the Bible. Western Republicans read the Constitution. Seen in historical terms, it’s the difference between a movement descended from George Wallace and one that harks back to Barry Goldwater.”

― Jacob Weisberg

“Many reporters have gone to Tea Party rallies looking for expressions of bigotry. What they have tended to find instead is a constitutional fundamentalism that argues that Washington has no right to tell individuals or states what to do.”

― Jacob Weisberg

“Sexual signals can be received without being consciously sent.”

― Jacob Weisberg

“If the creators of cartoons are intentionally or unintentionally giving children the idea that gay people are part of the big, happy human family, that’s a good thing, not a bad one.”

― Jacob Weisberg

“Running a magazine is a journalistic assignment, and part of the fun of being a journalist is that you get to change jobs every so often. Though there’s no stated term limit, four or five years should be plenty of time to put your stamp on a publication.”

― Jacob Weisberg

“I think ‘Slate”s editorial staff understands the intersection of journalism and technology better than any other.”

― Jacob Weisberg

“Being editor of ‘Slate’ is the best job I’ve ever had because of the freedom and support given to me by Don Graham and the Post Co. and because of the opportunity to work with colleagues I admire and adore.”

― Jacob Weisberg

“Members of Congress are less beasts of accumulating burden than computational machines designed to win re-election. Their sense of their own political interests is acute.”

― Jacob Weisberg

“Only when legislators judge that the risk of continuing to support Trump outweighs the risk of abandoning him will they begin to jump ship.”

― Jacob Weisberg

“Essential to the self-image of conservatives is the notion that they are enemies of an established orthodoxy, insurgents against the dogmatic political correctness that predominates on the Left.”

― Jacob Weisberg

“The party where humorless thought police work to enforce a rigid ideological discipline isn’t made up of Democrats. It comprises Republicans.”

― Jacob Weisberg

“Conservative journalists don’t just have the inside track on Republican strategy – they help devise it.”

― Jacob Weisberg

“Seeing the rich and famous screw up makes us feel superior, or at least not quite so inferior.”

― Jacob Weisberg

“We’re quick to describe politicians whose views we find extreme or whose behavior seems odd as ‘crazy,’ and perhaps anyone who runs for president in some sense is. But I’ve long wondered whether Newt Gingrich merits that designation in a more clinical sense.”

― Jacob Weisberg

“Without medical records that he hasn’t released, we can’t know whether Gingrich may have inherited his mother’s manic depression. Nevertheless, one observes in the former House Speaker certain symptoms – bouts of grandiosity, megalomania, irritability, racing thoughts, spending sprees – that go beyond the ordinary politician’s normal narcissism.”

― Jacob Weisberg

“Because conscription appeals to essentially no one, the United States has lived with the All-Volunteer Force since the end of the Vietnam War.”

― Jacob Weisberg

“America’s sanctions policy is largely consistent and, in a certain sense, admirable. By applying economic restraints, we label the most oppressive and dangerous governments in the world pariahs. We wash our hands of evil, declining to help despots finance their depredations, even at a cost to ourselves of some economic growth.”

― Jacob Weisberg

“Though there are some debatable exceptions, sanctions rarely play a significant role in dislodging or constraining the behavior of despicable regimes.”

― Jacob Weisberg

“Trade, tourism, cultural exchange, and participation in international institutions all serve to erode the legitimacy of repressive regimes.”

― Jacob Weisberg

“To describe Peter Thiel as simply a libertarian wildly understates the case. His belief system is based on unapologetic selfishness and economic Darwinism.”

― Jacob Weisberg

“If you want to go around saying that giving women the vote wrecked the country and still be taken seriously, it helps to be handing out $100 bills.”

― Jacob Weisberg

“Most people prefer living in a healthier town.”

― Jacob Weisberg

“Both Left and Right take pleasure in mildly persecuting those who fail to meet their civic ideals.”

― Jacob Weisberg

“Political analysts tend to overinterpret the results of isolated elections.”

― Jacob Weisberg

“The invasion of Iraq was, in ways that have since become hard to dispute, a terrible mistake.”

― Jacob Weisberg

“Vietnam was a terrible mistake for the United States. But like Iraq, Vietnam was a badly chosen battlefield in a larger conflict with totalitarianism that America had no choice but to pursue.”

― Jacob Weisberg

“Joe Lieberman can be cloying and sanctimonious.”

― Jacob Weisberg

“Where Republicans encourage popular myths about taxes, spending, and climate change, Democrats tend to stoke our fantasies about the sustainability of entitlement spending as well as about the cost of new programs.”

― Jacob Weisberg

“People tend to throw up hands at Michael Jackson’s multifarious bizarreness. But is it really so strange? The boy was forced to work by a cruel and physically abusive father starting at the age of 7.”

― Jacob Weisberg

“To describe the world Michael Jackson has created around himself as a childhood fantasy isn’t quite accurate. Thanks to wealth and celebrity, he has been able to live as a superannuated child. With the help of plastic surgery and dramatic affectation, he has made himself look and sound pre-pubescent.”

― Jacob Weisberg

“Libertarianism, the political philosophy of rugged individualism, ought to hold a natural appeal to tolerant, anti-statist, free-trade conservatives who deplore the turn taken by the party of Abraham Lincoln toward racial prejudice, authoritarianism, and mercantilism.”

― Jacob Weisberg

“Republicans with any moral sense are desperate for a supportable alternative to Donald Trump.”

― Jacob Weisberg

“As a political party, the Libertarians have always been more party than political.”

― Jacob Weisberg

“Like academic Marxists, who are their sisters under the skin, libertarians are far more interested in an ideal world than in the one where ordinary humans live.”

― Jacob Weisberg

“Professional politicians often claim they are not professional politicians. Trump genuinely isn’t one.”

― Jacob Weisberg

“Politicians try to make friends, build constituencies, and avoid gaffes. Trump does the opposite, seeking out land mines in order to detonate them.”

― Jacob Weisberg

“To Trump, being a billionaire means plating everything in gold and slapping his name everywhere in huge block letters. It means that he gets to say whatever pops into his head and never has to say he is sorry.”

― Jacob Weisberg

“Members of the middle class do not have to worry about falling off $250,000 sailboats because they don’t have $250,000 sailboats to fall off of.”

― Jacob Weisberg

“If Obama succeeds in turning health insurance and funding for college into universal entitlements, he will have expanded Washington’s obligations on the scale of an LBJ or an FDR.”

― Jacob Weisberg

“The cradle-to-grave welfare state diminishes individual initiative and can breed a pervasive sclerosis.”

― Jacob Weisberg

“Americans are defined by a history of immigration in pursuit of freedom and opportunity. We are more individualistic, enterprising, and protective of liberties that most Europeans do not expect, such as owning guns, working 70-hour weeks, or appreciating nature as it goes by at 60 mph on a snowmobile.”

― Jacob Weisberg

“Founded in rebellion against colonial tyranny, our country is naturally suspicious of government intrusion, interference, and snooping. European systems, by comparison, grow out of a tradition of the state providing social benefits for workers that stretches back to Bismarck and Germany in the 1880s.”

― Jacob Weisberg

“Abandoning traditions of responsibility and civility won the GOP control of both houses of Congress in 1994. Rejecting any compromise brought Republicans the perks and power of majority control for the first time in 40 years. Thus did the politics of total resistance become their path of least resistance.”

― Jacob Weisberg

“Within half an hour of posting a piece on ‘Slate,’ I get a direct, often hostile and personal, response from readers.”

― Jacob Weisberg

“I think part of the reason anyone goes into journalism is to get a response to what they write.”

― Jacob Weisberg

“Online, you can’t be scooped. If you are scooped, it’s no one’s fault but your own.”

― Jacob Weisberg

“The most important newspapers in this country need to exist. Our democracy needs them. Life as we know it would be unthinkable without them.”

― Jacob Weisberg

“If there’s one epithet the Right never tires of, it’s ‘elitism.’”

― Jacob Weisberg

“Writing that’s native to the web is different in ways that are crucial but subtle enough that you can miss them if you conceive of your audience as reading a printed product.”

― Jacob Weisberg

“In practice, conservatives are no less inclined than liberals to adopt superior stances or to tell people how to live their lives.”

― Jacob Weisberg
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