Impromptus

Again, ‘moral equivalence,’ &c.

by Jay Nordlinger

Last week, there was a typically interesting piece by my friend Allan Kozinn in the New York Times. It was about Laurie Anderson, the American musician, and Ai Weiwei, the Chinese artist. (Ai, you may remember, was “disappeared” by the Chinese government in 2011. He was released not long after.) The two have engaged in a collaboration. Anderson said, “My idea was that he would do a rant about China, and I would do one about the United States, and we’ll trade lines.”

During the Cold War, anti-Communists lamented and blasted what was called “moral equivalence”: constant equations of the Free West and the Unfree East. Moral equivalence, of course, lives.

It certainly lives in the Obama administration. In 2010, the State Department had “human-rights talks” with the Chinese government (a one-party dictatorship with a gulag, as you know). We were represented by an assistant secretary of state, Michael Posner. At a press conference, he was asked, “Did the recently passed Arizona immigration law come up? And, if so, did they bring it up or did you bring it up?”

Posner answered, “We brought it up early and often. It was mentioned in the first session, and as a troubling trend in our society and an indication that we have to deal with issues of discrimination or potential discrimination, and that these are issues very much being debated in our own society.”

Uh-huh.

Arianna Huffington was on television the other week. She was condemning our immigration system — specifically, a “detention and deportation system.” “It is an absolute nightmare for families,” she said. “It’s a bit like a gulag.”

No, it isn’t — even a bit. As those familiar with gulags know.

In my experience, Democrats don’t like it when you point out that some of their ranks are baldly, and despicably, pro-Castro. When you point out certain facts, they get flustered.

How about this? Two Democratic congressmen hosted a reception for Castro activists supporting the regime’s spies imprisoned in the United States.

Look, I didn’t force them to host that reception. Rush Limbaugh didn’t. The National Security Agency didn’t. They just did.

Oddly, the two congressmen were not Charlie Rangel and José Serrano — two of the Castros’ best friends in the American political establishment. Their friends are many, sorry to say.

A number of years ago, Representative Eliot Engel, the New York Democrat, told me that his party had a “blind spot” on Cuba. We all have blind spots, of course. But ignorance of a totalitarian dictatorship 90 miles from our shores? That’s a sorry blind spot to have.

And ignorance is not the worst thing: Support — full and knowing and unblinking support — of that dictatorship is.

Above, I mentioned the National Security Agency. And I’d like to recommend an article by Michael Mukasey on the data-mining scandal. That article is here. We should all do a mix of reading, I think — and Mukasey belongs in the mix.

He understands that the NSA program is subject to abuse. So are most things. But he also believes that this is a right and justified program, and that the revelation of it has done us harm.

Four years ago, I wrote a piece on Mukasey for National Review: here. As you remember, he was a federal judge in New York. Then he served as attorney general, in the last year of Bush 43. I wish Mukasey had had a solid four years — or more.

After his article on the NSA came out, there was some snorting among my brethren: Mukasey cares more about government power than about individual liberty. He is willing to overthrow the Constitution in pursuit of that chimera, security.

This is nonsense. And think for a moment about his background: While a judge, Mukasey presided over several terror trials. Terrorists do not take kindly to judges in terror trials. Because of threats against him and his family, Mukasey had to have bodyguards.

I remember judges during the Shining Path trials in Peru: They wore hoods, because neither they nor their families would have survived if their identities had been known.

Sometimes it takes guts to be a judge — to make the system work, so to speak.

Furthermore, it’s no easy task to defend the United States: to defend people who are screaming at you to protect them and at the same time to safeguard their liberties. “Connect the dots!” “No, don’t connect the dots that way!”

All of us are screamers. It is our right — our duty, in a way. But, as we scream, we should spare a thought for those who are actually in positions of responsibility. Me, all I do is sit and type.

I found the Mukasey article learned, balanced, and wise. And his reverence for the Constitution is at least as great as his critics’ — his understanding of it too. Frankly, I’d trust him with my liberty over the Guardian and Mr. Edward Snowden.

I give the Guardian credit for this, though: It published an article by John Bolton. Headline: “Edward Snowden’s leaks are a grave threat to US national security.”

Nice goin’, John (as usual).

One more article, before I move on — an article by Norman Tebbit, blogging for the Telegraph. “As for Mr Edward Snowden,” he writes, “I find that the most revealing and powerful statement about his motivation was probably made by his choice of the place to which he fled to avoid justice.” Oh, yes: He fled to those great protectors of freedom, the Chinese Communist Party.

“For my part,” says Tebbit, “I prefer life here . . .” He is more disturbed by the implantation of “cookies” on his computer than he is by the work of our intelligence services. He talks about “the price of not being blown up by a terrorist bomb.”

And he concludes, “Perhaps I am a bit eccentric, or perhaps it is the scars which I bear that influence me.”

Lord Tebbit, recall, was in Brighton when those lovely IRA men set off their bomb, killing five and injuring more than 30 — one of whom was Tebbit. Another was his wife, who was left disabled.

For my money, Tebbit is the kind of man who knows what it takes to keep a country free.

Did you see this picture, of an Iranian voter last week? He is wearing an American-flag T-shirt. Kind of nervy, I thought.

I was thinking about Jeb Bush the other day — and the fickleness of the world. All his life, he has been told, “Your name is an advantage. No fair!” Now he is being told it’s a disadvantage.

Sometimes, the world won’t allow you to be an individual.

Shall we talk some sports? In 2002, Serena Williams won the French Open. She has just won it for a second time, in 2013. To win an event like that eleven years apart: very, very hard. Extraordinary.

A little language? I was reading an article about Erika Harold, a former Miss America who’s running for Congress in Illinois. (She’s a Republican, incidentally.) I almost fell off my chair when I read this comment by her: “I view this primary process as being very healthful to the party . . .”

I have long regretted the loss of an important distinction: that between “healthful” and “healthy.” Miss America may be bringing it back! (The distinction in a nutshell: “A healthful lifestyle will make you healthy.”) (I’m not endorsing that statement — I’m just illustrating a language distinction.)

A little music? For my “New York Chronicle” in the June New Criterion, go here. For an article in CityArts, go here. It’s about Conrad Tao, an 18-year-old pianist and composer.

Let’s close with a letter — from a reader who says,

Pulled into a quaint little seaside village in western Ireland today on my way to the Cliffs of Moher. First thing I saw was the familiar picture of Che Guevara, stenciled into the wall of a building downtown. I didn’t let it kill the buzz.

Not letting an error or evil kill the buzz — way to go!