No joke, &c.

by Jay Nordlinger

Reading a column by Charles Moore, I thought of a joke. The column was not funny, though. It was headed “Woolwich outrage: we are too weak to face up to the extremism in our midst.” Woolwich is the district in London in which Lee Rigby, a drummer in the Royal Regiment of Fusiliers, was hacked to death by Muslim extremists.

Moore wrote,

It is less than a month since Drummer Lee Rigby was murdered in Woolwich, yet already the incident feels half-forgotten. In terms of the legal process, all is well. Two men have been charged. There will be a trial. No doubt justice will be done. But I have a sense that the horror felt at the crime is slipping away.

The media, notably the BBC, quickly changed the subject. After a day or two focusing on the crime itself, the reports switched to anxiety about the “Islamophobic backlash”.

Oh, yes. Would you like to hear the joke? Two “progressives” are walking down the road. They come upon a man in a ditch, who has been beaten to a pulp. He is bleeding, broken, and moaning. One progressive says to the other, “Quick, we have to find the people who did this. They need help.”

You know where I heard that joke? From Mark Shields, the liberal commentator, appearing on MacNeil-Lehrer many years ago.

Reading what Mick Jagger said about meeting Margaret Thatcher, I thought of the time I met Michael Bloomberg, the mayor of New York.

Said Jagger about Thatcher, “She struck me as a peculiar politician.” (I’m quoting from this article.) “She was quite brittle. Most other politicians like to be liked. Most of them, even if you don’t like them before you meet them, are still likeable when you meet them, because that’s their gig — to be liked, and by people like me.”

Exactly so. Well, one time, Bill Buckley had Mayor Bloomberg to dinner. As we were all leaving, I said to Bloomberg, “I appreciate the way you’re standing up to the teachers’ union.” He would have none of it. He started to argue with me: “They’re just looking out for their interests, as is their right,” etc., etc. We stood in the vestibule, arguing about whether Bloomberg deserved credit for his stance toward the teachers’ union.

I had never before met a politician who would not accept a compliment, and I have not met one since. I suspect I never will. Bloomberg was a prickly, vinegary little SOB. He was the least ingratiating politician imaginable — not ingratiating at all, in fact the opposite.

I admired that. The mayor of New York ought to be a prickly, vinegary, tough SOB.

The world tires of hearing, “If George W. Bush had said that, or done that . . .” — but here I go again. At the recent G-8 summit, President Obama repeatedly referred to Britain’s finance minister, or the Chancellor of the Exchequer, as “Jeffrey.” His name is actually George Osborne. Obama said “Jeffrey” over and over. Later, he explained that he was confusing the chancellor with Jeffrey Osborne, the American R&B singer.

I am indulgent — very indulgent — of mistakes like that. The media are indulgent too, where BHO is concerned. But where GWB is concerned? It’s the differing standards that I detest.

The headline read, “One dead as shooting mars Albania’s election.” (For the article, go here.) The election was on Sunday. Elections in Albania mean something to me, because I have some experience in that country, and in fact was present for the 2005 election. To see the piece that resulted — “Albania Votes: An emerging democracy, emerges” — go here. It’s really interesting. Not because of me, but because of the country.

Albania endured just about the worst of Communism. Only North Korea, probably, has endured tighter, more stifling, more psychotic Communism. The people have made a brave effort since freeing up 20 years ago. They have farther to go, of course.

How long will it take Cuba to recover, when the Castros and Communism finally fall? That is an interesting and fearsome question, one that has been much thought about and debated. To be continued . . .

Here is another headline: “Pew: Every TV News Outlet Had Coverage Supportive of Same-Sex Marriage.” Wow: “Every” is a lot. (For the article, go here.)

Wanna have some sports? Ray Allen of the Miami Heat, the NBA champions, said he was inspired by SLAM magazine. When he was drafted, the magazine labeled him “the most likely to fade into obscurity,” or something like that. This motivated Allen to excel, which he surely has.

To read about this, go here.

I was reminded of Jack Nicklaus and the 1986 Masters. A writer for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Tom McCollister, said Nicklaus was washed up, not a contender. That column was taped to Jack’s refrigerator. He looked at it every day for a while.

After he won the tournament, he said, “Thank you, Tom.” The writer returned, “Glad I could help.”

Wanna have some sports and music? At one of the championship games between the Heat and the Spurs, a fan walked by Nicklaus. He said to Nicklaus, “Hey, you’re Arnold Palmer!” “No,” said Nicklaus, “but close.” (To read about this, go here.)

I’m going from memory, but here’s the story as I recall it: Leontyne Price (the great soprano) was in a department store in New York. Someone said, “You’re Joan Sutherland!” “No,” she answered, “I’m Beverly Sills.”

The other week, I was e-mailing with Jonathan Foreman, the noted Anglo-American journalist. (Son of Carl Foreman, the screenwriter and producer.) He was talking about the Beatles song “Taxman.” He suggested it ought to be the Tea Party’s anthem.

To hear the song, go here. The Taxman says — among other things — “If you drive a car, I’ll tax the street. If you try to sit, I’ll tax your seat. If you get too cold, I’ll tax the heat. If you take a walk, I’ll tax your feet.”

Sounds almost like Dr. Seuss — Hayekian Dr. Seuss.

I wanted to say something about Jean Stapleton, who passed away a few weeks ago. I knew her a little. (Remember, she was the actress best known for Edith — Edith Bunker, Archie’s wife — on All in the Family.)

When her face was in repose, it was ordinary. Even a little homely, you might say. When she smiled, that smile was dazzling, and she looked absolutely beautiful. She looked like a star, when she smiled. I have never seen such a contrast between a face in repose and the same face smiling.

Once, I was out on the street with her (Manhattan). A woman came up to her and said, “Are you Edith?” Instead of being peevish or something, she thought for a second and said, “Yeah” — a confirming, kind of drawn-out “Yeah.”

I loved her.

In a Paris Journal earlier this month — here and here — I told a couple of Buckley stories. These were stories about William F. Buckley Sr., father of our friend WFB Jr., and nine other sparkling kids. One of the tales involved Chantilly cream.

As I remember — and I may be misremembering — Bill told me that WFB Sr. imported Chantilly cows to his estate in Connecticut. He liked the cream, and he wanted to have it authentic. Problem was (according to this telling), the cream did not taste the same in Connecticut: because of the grass the cows were eating.

I have contrary testimony from one of Bill’s brothers, the senator and judge James L. Buckley. I will leave you with Jim’s letter, below — and I’ll talk to you soon.

Dear Jay,

In correcting the record on crème Chantilly, I do not intend to cast a shadow over brother Bill’s reputation for absolute accuracy. I merely point out that our father’s importation of cows and love of this cream all date back to years when Bill was ages four and six — too young to get all his facts straight. I am the reliable chronicler as I was almost three years older.

For reasons exotic, our family moved to Paris in 1929. Even though this was the home of Pasteur, pasteurized milk was unavailable there at the time. As a result, we were condemned to drinking a miserable powdered substitute called “KLIM” (the real thing spelled backwards). After watching his children suffer for almost a year, our father traveled to the Isle of Jersey, where he purchased a disease-free cow for importation to Paris, where it was stabled in a garage. The cow remained in France when we returned to the United States a couple of years later.

(While in France, my father did fall in love with fraises des bois slathered over with crème Chantilly. On returning to Sharon [Connecticut], he imported fraises des bois seeds, not a cow. Although in time the seeds produced reasonably tasty fruit, he was never able to recreate a proper crème Chantilly from milk produced by our American cows.)

As you can see, our father was a perfectly normal American parent, not exotic at all.

Respectfully yours,

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