The Rees Stuff; Star Gored

by Jonah Goldberg

THE REES STUFF
Finally, someone has had the courage, the fortitude, the (dare I say it?) chutzpah, to peel back the corner on the fetid swamp that is The Weekly Standard. We at National Review have always maintained a professional respect and bonhomie for our fellow conservative journal. We have long struggled to bite our tongues, believing in what one might call “Il n’y a pas d’ennemi à droit” (Since this is French there is of course a double meaning. The obvious translation is “I surrender” but in this case I mean: “There is no enemy to the right.”). But we can maintain our silence no further.

Matt Rees (sad to say, a good friend of mine and G-File reader) wrote a piece a few weeks ago on the Secretary of Housing and Urban Development, Andrew Cuomo. Rees’s “reporting” and “research” revealed that Cuomo is a political hack.

I know, I know, how someone could say that about the scion of New York’s Democratic party and George Stephanopoulos’s ally in the Clinton administration is unfathomable, and, well, downright offensive. But who has the courage to say why it’s offensive?

Joseph Cerrell does. He is the president of the National Italian American Foundation. In the current issue of The Weekly Standard he writes a letter in protest to Rees’s bilious and slanderous assault. “The National Italian American Foundation resents the fact that The Weekly Standard targets the only Italian-American member of the Clinton cabinet for a highly personal attack…. If there is a vendetta here it appears to be against Andrew Cuomo.”

In response, Rees says “…And as for the article being motivated by animus toward Italian-Americans, the charge is so silly it doesn’t merit a response.”

Not so fast.

After I read this exchange of conscience versus bigotry, I leapt to my feet and grabbed my collection of Standard back issues (I call it the accordion file of hate). And yes, yes, a pattern does emerge. Rees clearly had been waiting in the tall grass. For nearly the first five years of the magazine’s existence he bided his time, writing profiles of politicians, digging for dirt, covering legislation on the Hill and around the country. What better cover than that of a mild-mannered and decent guy who tackles his job with professionalism and style?

But it is just a cover, a lid on the Mount Vesuvius of loathing (oh, the indignity he must feel of being compared to an Italian volcano). Pull back that veneer and you find a man who relaxes by throwing darts at a picture of Enrico Fermi.

If you look closely at his writing, the hate is there. Oh, yes, it’s there. The article on Cheryl Mills? Clearly a Trojan horse. I mean if you write negatively about a black woman who helps sweep the president’s crimes under the rug, how could anyone suspect you of going after your real target — the dreaded Italians? The piece on Jeffrey Fieger’s run for governor of Michigan? Littered with code words. No, not in the text per se, but definitely between the lines. Even in the current issue Rees does it again. He goes after Janet Reno’s role as Beijing’s woman in Washington. She’s the only female cabinet member with Parkinson’s disease. You see what I mean? He doesn’t say what he’s up to, but don’t be surprised by the next letter to the editor.

STAR GORED
Okay, no secrets: I have been known to have a passing interest in Star Wars lore. Okay, actually, I guess you could say I know some people who, like me, also have more than a casual affinity for the films, as well as perhaps Star Trek. All right, all right, I have fraternized with one or two individuals who, if called “geeks,” would not have a viable libel case against the accuser. Fine, no point in hiding anything now; I have sheets with Yodas on them; I know all the codicils to the Organian and Kittimer Peace Treaties, and I spend a big chunk of the day talking into a fan so I can sound cool when I say: “Luuuuuuuuuuk, I ammm yor faaaahhhthhherr.”

So it is with no small amount of reluctance that I once again criticize The Phantom Menace. Below are my top ten plot problems with the movie, in no particular order. This is not exhaustive of my criticisms, merely indicative. And, obviously, if you have not seen the movie, you shouldn’t read any further:

1. What happened to the Clone Wars? In Star Wars (down, geeks, down! I also know it was called Episode 4: A New Hope so send me no e-mail) Obi Wan suggests that he fought in the Clone Wars. And he suggests, I think, that Vader did too. He also implies that the Clone Wars were like Waterloo for the Jedis. But, according to the Star Wars timeline, the Clone Wars take place before Phantom Menace. How come nobody mentions this big famous war that just recently concluded?

2. In Phantom Menace it is hoped that Aniken Skywalker is “The Chosen One” who will bring balance to the Force. Great. But where exactly is the imbalance? The Jedi say they haven’t seen an evil Jedi (aka a Sith Lord) for a millennium. Seems to me things are going pretty well. Why do we need this little Aryan boy who can’t act to save his life to bring balance to the Force, if we haven’t seen an evil Jedi in a thousand years?

3. Speaking of the kid, they say he’s too young to undergo Jedi training. If that’s the case, how could Luke ever be trained as a Jedi at all? He must have been, what?, at least ten or fifteen years older than Aniken when he started his training.

4. What the hell is going on with these “mitochondriles”? (No, I have no idea how to spell it). We learn that young Aniken’s got “almost 20,000” of them, which is more than “even Master Yoda.” Liam Neeson explains that these little things are what connect us to the Force, they talk to us about the will of the Force, yada yada yada. Well, was Yoda just lying in The Empire Strikes Back when he said the Force runs through the rocks and stones and the ship? The old notion of the Force was pretty transcendentalist — anyone could be part of it. Now all of a sudden we find out that if you’ve got this Zen futuristic version of sickle cell anemia you’ve got what it takes to be the next Yoda. I don’t like it.

5. How the hell can Aniken Skywalker be the creator of C3PO? Okay, I know later they can erase his memory circuits or something. But if he was “born” on Tatooine, how come he didn’t say, “Tatooine? Tatooine? There ain’t no *%^%#%#@ way I’m going back to Tatooine!” at the beginning of Star Wars?

6. The Phantom Menace allegedly takes place just 30 to 40 years before the original Star Wars. So how is it they refer to Jedis as that “ancient” and “long dead” religion in Star Wars. Just, say, 35 years ago the Jedis were the Texas rangers of the galaxy. But in Star Wars they talk about it like they only heard about Jedis in their ancient history classes.

7. Back to this C3PO being Aniken Skywalker’s erector set. So let me get this straight. C3PO knew all along that Darth Vader was Aniken Skywalker? Did he know that he, Darth, was Luke’s father? Did he know that Luke and Leia were siblings? Exactly how much was he keeping secret when he met Obi Wan that first time? Again, I know they can fix this with a memory-chip scrub brush. But was it really worth the plot problems just to have C3PO and R2 meet a long time ago? I for one didn’t spill my popcorn at the moment the droids said “hi.”

8. So this thing with Luke and Leia being siblings wasn’t really that big a secret, was it? Or at least it wasn’t that big a surprise. I mean, it couldn’t have been. Queen Amidala and Aniken are almost passing notes and making fish eyes at each other in study hall. Yoda must have known. Obi Wan, the droids, the Emperor must have known too. Hell, the Matt Drudge of the Planet Naboo would have nailed that item a long time ago.

9. So how old is Obi Wan anyway? In Star Wars he’s supposed to be like an ancient warrior, his life probably extended by his mastery of the mysterious Force (which is now something you can get a booster shot for like vitamin B-12). In Phantom Menace Obi Wan doesn’t look much older than twenty-five. If Star Wars takes place a mere 35 years later, that makes Obi Wan a sprightly 60 years young.

10. And finally, is the Republic, if not the Galaxy, a hotbed of racism? Humans seem to run the show. The rebellion is disproportionately human(oid). The Supreme Chancellor is human. And yet, we see hundreds, nay, thousands of other races all over the place. They are clearly just as smart as the humans and yet they are relegated to crowd scenes or, if they’re lucky, to the role of sidekicks and functionaries. Sure there are plenty of token aliens on the Jedi Council and everywhere else. But the assumption of the film is that humans are just one of thousands of races. How come there are so many of them in positions of power? Why isn’t a puddle of moldy yogurt the Supreme Chancellor? How come the role of Liam Neeson wasn’t filled by a German Shepherd? And why isn’t there any interracial loving going on? Would it be so strange for Leia to take a gander at Chewie and say, “Now, he is all Wookie!”