Droning on, &c.

by Jay Nordlinger

From 2001 to 2008, a lot of us at National Review said, “American liberals won’t really support the War on Terror until they’re in charge. They have to run it. Then they’ll be okay. Guantanamo, the Patriot Act, all that — those things will look better to them, once they’re in charge, as inevitably they will be.”

Sure. I must say, though, that I’m a little surprised at the calm with which liberals have taken drone attacks — particularly attacks on U.S. citizens. They went nuts over waterboarding. But zappin’ ’em dead? No problem.

If Republicans were doing this, oh, man: We’d be called the worst thing since Hitler. (You say that we’re called that anyway? Well, you have a good point.)

I was talking about this with a friend recently: After Election Day, Mitt Romney was perfectly gracious, as you would expect him to be. Barack Obama was peevish, bitchy, partisan.

And the thing is, he had won! And Romney had lost! If Obama is that ungracious in victory — can you imagine him in defeat? (Sadly, we will never get to see that.)

One more thing: You know the old chestnut about how a president is the president of all the people? I’m not sure Obama has ever learned that, or accepted it.

On reading this headline, “Bulgaria links Hezbollah to attack on Israelis,” I had a bitter thought: Will Obama’s secretary of defense concede that Hezbollah is a terrorist group? Or will he cling to his principles, or biases, or ignorance, or whatever it is?

I confess, I can’t recite Hagel’s latest position on Hezbollah. He is a position-shifter. But I do know this: These are parlous times, what with O in the Oval, Kerry at State, and Hagel at DoD.

He’ll be there, almost certainly: because the American people have seen fit to give Democrats a majority in the Senate. That’s interesting, by the way: If the Republicans had the majority, Hagel would probably fail. And he’s a Republican! But he will be confirmed by the majority Democrats, in all likelihood.

Again, interesting, I think.

A word about Kerry: I had many words to say in this piece, published in NR during the presidential year of 2004. We republished it here on NRO in mid-December — by which time it was clear that Kerry would become secretary of state. I read the piece for the first time in all those years. And I must say, I was shocked: shocked at the degree of Kerry’s leftism. I had forgotten most of the things in that piece. He is a genuine, bona fide leftist — no liberal, in any JFK sense. (Kerry’s initials are JFK too. I was talking about the 35th president, as you know.)

Kerry could not quite be president: The American people said no to him, barely. But he is now secretary of state. Last November 6, Election Day, was a hugely important day. It will shape our world for a long time to come, I’m afraid.

The difference between Obama, Biden, Kerry, and Hagel, and Romney, Ryan, Bolton (let’s say), and Portman (let’s say), is a very, very big difference indeed. The American people did a momentous thing.

Speaking of liberals and leftists, I noted something that Andrew Gilligan, of the Telegraph, wrote the other day. He sang a song that I have been singing for a long, long time: “For reasons I can’t quite understand, the Guardian newspaper, ‘the world’s leading liberal voice,’ has appointed itself spokesperson for some of the most illiberal forces in London . . .”

That’s a big reason I rejected “liberalism” a long time ago: the sheer illiberality of the “liberals.” True liberalism was more evident among those called “right-wingers.” So weird.

I noticed that, in defending himself against recent charges, Senator Menendez said those charges were “unsubstantiated.” “Oh, dear,” I thought: “That’s a little like saying, ‘You got nuthin’!’ It’s different from saying, ‘I would never!’” Perhaps the senator hadn’t thought that through, and he is, in fact, innocent.

Which we should all hope.

I remember hearing a veteran Washington reporter say something, long ago. He was miffed. He said that someone had engaged in “ideological editing.” I remember his tone of voice. He said “ideological editing” as though it were a grave failing.

Nothing in the world is easier to do than ideological editing. Every journalist knows this. My question: Are NBC and its offspring making a habit of ideological editing?

Last week, the father of one of the victims in the Newtown massacre was testifying about guns. MSNBC edited a video in a way that made it look like an audience member heckled him. MSNBC’s anchor, Martin Bashir, commented, “A father’s grief, interrupted by the cries of a heckler.”

This provoked cries of — well, ideological editing. Which led MSNBC to air the video in full. Good for them: They let people decide for themselves whether heckling had occurred (though they did not acknowledge, in airing the full video, that they had run the fishy one).

A year ago, their parent network, NBC, aired a doctored version of a 911 call placed by George Zimmerman, the shooter in the Travyon Martin case. The object of the doctoring was to make Zimmerman look like a racist. Three employees were fired over that — which was good news.

It may sound treacly to say, but journalism is a public trust, and that goes double for reporting. Triple for reporting that involves corpses.

In recent weeks, I have had occasion to think about Max Kampelman and Benjamin Britten. Kampelman because he died. Britten because I’ve read, and reviewed, a big new biography of him, by Paul Kildea. This is the composer’s centennial year. (His dates are 1913 to 1976.)

Britten has always been lauded for his pacifism, and for being a conscientious objector. (At least I have always heard such lauding.) He was in America from the beginning of the war until 1942. When he returned, he was given a complete exemption from service by his country. He would not even play the piano or something like that for the troops. He considered such service a betrayal of his ideals.

 

As Kildea says, a tiny number of Britons were granted complete exemption — even a tiny percentage of “conchies,” i.e., conscientious objectors (6 percent). Britten was very lucky.

Kampelman, too, was a pacifist, and a conscientious objector during the war. But he did not do nothing: He volunteered for the starvation experiment at the University of Minnesota (an experiment that would prove helpful in treating former POWs, concentration-camp survivors, and others after the war). He went from 160 pounds to 100.

Later, of course, Kampelman changed his mind about pacifism, and became a reserve officer in the Marines. In the ’80s, he was a Reagan arms-control negotiator.

In any case, two different ways of being a conscientious objector.

As you’ve heard, there will be no Saturday mail. I’ll save my numerous and longstanding beefs with the Post Office for another day. For now, I’ll just say: I’ve never liked not having Sunday mail — though I would not be in favor of Sunday delivery. And I’ll not like going without Saturday mail.

When will they nix Friday? Or Monday?

I saw this headline a couple of days ago: “At 900 years, Knights of Malta confronts modernity.” I thought, “No, no! Can’t you guys hold out another 100 years? Can’t you at least make it to 1,000 before dealing with modernity?”

Incidentally, you will not necessarily want to be interviewed by the reporter (Associated Press) who wrote the story. She begins, “Matthew Festing — aka His Most Eminent Highness The Prince and Grand Master of the Knights of Malta — bounds into the sitting room of his magnificent Renaissance palazzo sweaty and somewhat disheveled, and asks an aide if he should take off his sweater to be photographed.”

Nice, Nicole.

Let’s end with some sports. I’ve always liked Jalen Rose, a lot, and like him even more now. He was a basketball star at the University of Michigan — one of the Fab Five. Those were the guys who took Michigan to great heights in the early 1990s. Rose went on to have a substantial NBA career.

Michigan has a very, very good team once more. And Rose was talking about that team earlier this week, in the presence of a couple of the players. He was comparing the current team with the Fab Five. And he said, “The thing we love about you guys the most is that you’re nothing like us. This guy [meaning, Glenn Robinson III] does a 360 dunk and runs back just like, ‘No big deal.’ I made one shot, and I’m showboating.”

(For the article I’ve quoted from, go here.)

Once upon a time, on the basketball court, I was called “Jalen,” in honor of Rose. Needless to say, I could not live up to the billing. I think I could live up to the showboating, though.
 

To order Jay Nordlinger’s book Peace, They Say: A History of the Nobel Peace Prize, the Most Famous and Controversial Prize in the World, go here. To order his collection Here, There & Everywhere, go here.