P.J. O’Rourke: RIP

It was my great fortune to have known P.J. O’Rourke. We served on panels, did media together and hung out some. He died last week at age 74 from lung cancer. P.J. will be missed.

He made a generation of us, minimal government (libertarians), freedom-lovers who broke with the ultra-conservative, boring dogma of the right, feel cool. He was the first to demonstrate that we could have our beliefs and have fun, too.

P.J. was nice enough to “blurb” my book, No Such Thing as a Pretty Good Alligator Wrestler. It helped it win the Ben Franklin Award for humor. He said, probably in a hurry, about the book, “Hart isn’t ‘Hartless’ or ‘all Hart’ (although he does produce ‘Harty’ laughs). Unlike certain organic-type commentators, Ron uses his head. He exhibits guts aplenty, but what we get most from Ron is brains.”

I asked him if that was a blurb or if he was conjugating an adjective in the 8th grade. He answered, “You get what you pay for.”

I say as heartfelt a compliment as a writer of satires can: P.J. was my hero, and my safe word.

I wanted to be like him: not famous enough to be bothered in public, but just famous enough to get a kidney if I needed one.

Here are some of my favorite quotes of P.J.’s:

“You’ve got to understand, people are motivated by fun. And they should be.”

“Giving money and power to government is like giving whiskey and car keys to teenage boys.”

“Whatever it is that the government does, sensible Americans would prefer that the government does it to somebody else. This is the idea behind foreign policy.”

“The best and brightest don’t go into politics. The best and brightest go to Goldman Sachs.”

“Fiscal conservatism is just an easy way to express something that is a bit more difficult, which is that the size and scope of government, and really the size and scope of politics in our lives, has grown uncomfortable, unwieldy, intrusive and inefficient.”

“The mystery of government is not how Washington works but how to make it stop.”

“People will tell you anything, but what they do is always the truth.”

“When the government runs out of lenders, it can do something that households are forbidden to do: print money.”

“If we’re looking for the source of our troubles, we shouldn’t test people for drugs, we should test them for stupidity, ignorance, greed and love of power.”

“In theory, taxes should be like shopping. What I buy is government services. What I pay are my taxes.”

“The two most frightening words in Washington are ‘bipartisan consensus.’ Bipartisan consensus is when my doctor and my lawyer agree with my wife that I need help.”

“The whole idea of our government is this: If enough people get together and act in concert, they can take something and not pay for it.”

“There is only one basic human right, the right to do as you damn well please.”

“I’m not a tech-savvy parent. I communicate with my children via the old-media format called yelling.”

“Even the most left-wing politicians worship wealth creation — as the political-action-committee collection plate is passed.”

“Cars let us out of the barn and, while they were at it, destroyed the American nuclear family. As anyone who has had an American nuclear family can tell you, this was a relief to all concerned.”

“The Nobel Peace Prize has always been a joke – albeit a grim one. Alfred Bernhard Nobel famously invented dynamite and felt sorry about it.”

“There is no virtue in compulsory government charity, and there is no virtue in advocating it. A politician who portrays himself as ‘caring’ and ‘sensitive’ because he wants to expand the government’s charitable programs is merely saying that he’s willing to try to do good with other people’s money.”

“Is Bill Clinton so good at politics, or are other politicians so bad?”

“Liberals have invented whole college majors – psychology, sociology and women’s studies – to prove that nothing is anybody’s fault.”

“Seriousness is stupidity sent to college.”

“Fascism is very much a mob movement.”

“Staying married may have long-term benefits. You can elicit much more sympathy from friends over a bad marriage than you ever can from a good divorce.”

“The Clinton administration launched an attack on people in Texas because those people were religious nuts with guns. Hell, this country was founded by religious nuts with guns. Who does Bill Clinton think stepped ashore on Plymouth Rock?”

“Hillary Clinton is America’s ex-wife.” I feel ya P.J.


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