For New York Democrats, it is a proud season. Anthony Weiner is running for mayor. (That’s of New York City, I should say. We’re not talkin’ Poughkeepsie.) Eliot Spitzer is running for comptroller. (Not of the state. Of the city.) Each of them left public life because of a sex scandal. (What a weak phrase.) And here they are again.
Actually, I don’t think Weiner needed to leave in the first place. His fellow House Democrats forced him to resign. I believe he could have hung on in his district in Queens and been reelected. Anyway, he is now running for a higher officer, a big office: mayor of the city. Spitzer, though, was governor. He was a very big deal. He was going to be the first Jewish president, some said. And now he’s running for an itty-bitty office, comparatively.
These guys can never give it up. I believe in redemption. Who could not? And maybe Weiner and Spitzer are wonderfully reformed. Hurrah. But do they have to run for office again? Yes, they do, apparently. Take Spitzer: Given his smarts and drive, he’d be a dynamite businessman. Or he could be managing partner of a top law firm. But such things are never good enough, for a certain type. The will to power — to political power — is overwhelmingly strong.
Mark Sanford is back too. He’s the South Carolina Republican who was once governor of his state. Before that, he was in the U.S. House. A few months ago, he ran again for that same seat in the House, in a special election. Prior to the election, I wrote about him, in this column. The relevant bit:
I hadn’t heard the phrase since the Clinton years, I believe. Clinton said, on at least one occasion, “I believe in a God of second chances.” And here comes South Carolina’s Mark Sanford: “I believe in a God of second chances.”
Fine. I believe in second chances, and third chances, and fifth chances, and hundredth chances. But I would rather Sanford not be elected again.
He was. In a democracy, elections are a reflection of a people. I wouldn’t bet against Weiner and Spitzer, in their respective runs this year. If you thought about it, you could be kind of discouraged.
Now to our hero Edward Snowden — the “whistleblower” who makes a zillion hearts go pitter-pat. As of this writing, he will wind up in Venezuela. He has already sung to the Chinese Communists. Then he sang to Putin and the KGB (or whatever they’re calling it these days). In Venezuela, he would be able to sing to Fidel Castro (President Maduro’s leader).
That’s our Eddie, Great Defender of Liberty.
Last Sunday, the Washington Post asked a good question: With Egypt in crisis and Syria in hell, why is Secretary of State John Kerry spending his time on the Israeli-Palestinian “peace process”? As the Post put it, why would Kerry “so intently pursue such an unpromising initiative, even as the United States refuses to exert leadership on crises of paramount importance to the region?”
I have an answer: Because the “peace process” is easier, in a way. You can always put pressure on Israel. You can always mouth the language of Oslo, which we have been mouthing since the early 1990s: “the table,” “settlements,” and all that. This is automatic. It’s what we know. We do it almost robotically. Problems such as Syria, Egypt, Turkey, Iran: Those daunt our professionals.
In a world of lawless and murderous men, people like to focus their wrath on the law-abiding and peace-desiring — especially when the law-abiding and peace-desiring want to stand up to the lawless and murderous. This is a persistent human phenomenon. Remember when Obama and Sarkozy were caught complaining about Netanyahu? I have to wonder: Do democratic statesmen ever complain about Morsi, Erdogan, Assad, Khamenei . . .?
You perhaps know what I’m talking about, without further elaboration. Let’s move on to China (as Edward Snowden did).
I quote the Associated Press: “China’s top official for ethnic affairs indicated Tuesday that there will be no softening of the Communist Party’s struggle against the Dalai Lama by the country’s new leadership.” Well, that’s a relief. I was worried that the new bosses would shrink from doing their totalitarian duty.
One of these bosses said, “We must open a clear and profound struggle against the Dalai clique.” Whew.
You know, the Dalai Lama is a teddy bear. He’s always saying nice things about Mao. He describes himself as a Marxist — or “half Marxist, half Buddhist.” He pals around with Desmond Tutu.
And still, the very thought of him makes the ChiComs wet their pants. Sort of interesting.
In this article, I learned of a charge in China — a criminal charge: “causing a disturbance.” That’s nice. But it’s still not my favorite charge. No, my favorite charge, by a long shot, is found in Cuba: “pre-criminal social dangerousness.”
So, President Obama has declared that his favorite food is broccoli. If he’s telling the truth, we should be concerned, very concerned. Twenty-some years ago, of course, President Bush (41) declared something like the opposite. He said that he did not like broccoli, had never liked broccoli, and now that he was president, would not eat it.
I mentioned this to Jeb Bush a while back. He said, “Yeah, he liberated us all from that one.” (All the Bush family, he meant — not the nation at large, necessarily.) (I myself like broccoli, smothered in cheese.) (Years ago, I attended a southern wedding. The vegetables tasted almost as good as dessert — glazed with brown sugar, graced with marshmallow, and so on.)
Sometimes we do items on sports, sometimes we do items on music — let’s do one that combines the two subjects. I was interested to see that the Cleveland Indians have a second baseman named Jason Kipnis. You don’t see too many athletes named Kipnis. You see musicians, though: There was the great Russian basso Alexander Kipnis, and his son, Igor, who did not sing: He played the harpsichord.
Anyway, I have not heard of Kipnises since. And, lo, one is playing for the Indians. Only in America?
Here is a musical item that does not include baseball: For my latest article in CityArts, go here. It’s about two concerts of the New York Philharmonic.
Let’s do another musical item — one that involves politics. Identity politics (one of the most poisonous kinds of politics). I am jotting this column in Miami. The other day, I was listening to the radio, and there was a program called Concierto. A regular program, I have the impression. They play music from Spain and Latin America. Okay.
But Concierto is more than that — they play recordings by Spanish-speaking musicians, whether the music is “Hispanic” or not. For instance, they had Martha Argerich playing Richard Strauss’s Burleske. (Argerich was born in Argentina, although she hasn’t lived there in a million years.)
As they might say in this town, Ay, caramba.
It is such a pleasure to be here. It’s like visiting an American city that is not quite an American city — or at least a marvelously distinct American city. Flavored by the Caribbean, Central America, and elsewhere. When I was in my teens and early twenties, I visited New Orleans a couple of times. I was delighted to find a city that was not “American,” fully (though it is, of course). It was redolent of the Mediterranean (and of the Caribbean).
What was an “American” city, to me? Well, Toledo, Columbus, Cincinnati, Akron. Frankly, I’ve long thought of Ohio as the most “American” of states. I could get into this, but I think we’ve done it before, in this column.
(I always said that Ohio’s license-plate boast was probably the most justified of any such boast: “The heart of it all.”)
Miami is a city with flair, a festive city. I can hear people say, “Oh, you think there’s no sorrow in Miami? No crime, no hatred, no pain? No problems of assimilation? You think it’s just a 24-hour party?” I didn’t say that. Once in a while, it’s all right to point out the good. Even emphasize it!
Cafés that resemble Havana in the Fifties — pre-Castro — are very pleasant. But they are also poignant, with a strain of sadness in the air. Everyone knows that monstrousness enveloped Cuba, making exile a necessity.
Here was a sight: a portly middle-aged lady, smoking a cigarette, as she bobbed in the surf. (Not every woman who frequents the beach is ready for Vogue, although at least half of them are.)
A friend of mine, a Miamian, discusses the city’s distinctive English. What does it sound like? He gives me a few examples. Later, he sends me a YouTube send-up, which is hilarious: not a mockery of Miami-speak, but more like a loving tribute to it. Here.
Thanks so much for joining me, y’all. (Not what they say in Miami.) In the next issue of National Review, we’ll have a piece for you on Felix I. Rodriguez, the legendary CIA man who helped track down Che Guevara. Catch you soon.