Some media-bashing, &c.

by Jay Nordlinger

People grow weary of a familiar formulation: “If George W. Bush had said that . . .,” “If George W. Bush had done that . . .” Let them be weary, I say.

This article is about President Obama’s “about-face” on Syria. (The word “about-face” appears in the article’s title.) It provides a chronology. The article ends, “Then Obama and Biden left the White House by motorcade to play a round of golf.”

I am perfectly fine with Obama’s golf, and Joe Biden’s, for that matter. (I didn’t know he played golf.) In 2010, I wrote a piece called “Hail to the Golfer-in-Chief: Barack Obama tees it up, no matter the winds.”

But what if Bush and Dick Cheney had skipped off for golf at such a critical hour? What would the media have said?

After our people were murdered at Benghazi, Obama flew to Las Vegas for a fundraiser. Maybe he was right to do so: business as usual. But if George W. Bush had done that . . .

What I ask of the media is what Obama asked, absurdly, of the Jews of Israel: that they engage in some “serious self-reflection.” (The Israelis are the most seriously self-reflecting people in history — self-reflecting to a fault.)

Stay with the Middle East for a moment: Three years ago, as you remember, Israel and Egypt had a joint blockade on the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip — and the world shook with anger. Turkey launched an international flotilla, to condemn and provoke the Israelis. (It worked.) The eyes of the media were riveted.

Since Egypt’s military coup in July, Cairo has had a staunch blockade on Gaza. A Hamas official complained that Egypt had turned Gaza into a “big prison.” But as Khaled Abu Toameh, the invaluable Palestinian-Israeli journalist, says, there are no flotillas. The world averts its gaze.

“The activists do not care about the Palestinians’ suffering as much as they are interested in advancing their anti-Israel agenda.” They “rarely have anything good to offer the Palestinians.”

Yes. And “rarely” is being polite, I think.

Dennis Rodman has returned to North Korea, to frolic with his friend, Kim Jong-un. Kim is a blood-soaked tyrant and world menace. Rodman considers him an “awesome guy.” To read a story, go here.

There are always people in free countries who lend their support to dictators — to the worst of them. Think of all the people who have trooped to Havana, to sit at Fidel Castro’s feet: Robert Redford, Steven Spielberg, Jack Nicholson, Leonardo DiCaprio, Kate Moss, and on and on. Carole King crooned to him “You’ve Got a Friend.” He sure does — many of them.

The other day, I was talking to my friend and colleague David Pryce-Jones about Winifred Wagner. She was the composer’s British daughter-in-law. She presided over Bayreuth. And, boy, did she love Hitler. Loved him. As I wrote recently, she gave him the manuscript of Rienzi (a Wagner opera) for his 50th birthday, in 1939. (True, he requested it. But she was happy to give it, I believe.)

David met her sometime in the 1950s, I think. Her love of Hitler was undimmed. There was another British lady who loved Hitler: Unity Mitford. (David wrote a biography of her.) Winifred hissed at David, “I knew Hitler much better than she did.”

That, I believe. Anyway, there will always be people who lend whatever glamour, prestige, or fame they have to dictators. I wish they paid a greater penalty — or any at all.

This interview with John McCain is absolutely fascinating. Often, I am so frustrated at McCain, I forget how interesting he is. (Frustrated as I may be, from time to time, I wish he had beaten Obama in 2008, and that he were in his second term now. I also wish Romney were in his first term.)

I was jolted by what McCain had to say about Iraq. He says that Obama failed to secure victory. Then he says that our sacrifice — the sacrifice of all our soldiers — was “for nothing.” People lost their lives or limbs “for nothing,” and “we had it won.”

Can that possibly be true? That the Iraq War, because of how Obama handled the endgame, was in vain? If this is true, why aren’t Americans at large incensed by it?

McCain says very interesting things about sequestration, and about Sarah Palin, and about some friendships in the Senate. Then there’s this little tidbit. His interviewer brings up gay marriage, which McCain opposes. The interviewer says, “It seems like you want to keep your position . . .,” and McCain interrupts him to say, “It’s not a position. It’s a fundamental belief.”

Anyway, read the whole thing, no matter what your politics are. I am reminded — not sure how I forgot — that McCain is one of the most interesting, and definitely one of the most candid, politicians around.

In early 2010, Vice President Biden was on Meet the Press, crowing about what a great job the administration was doing in Iraq. He said that Iraq was turning out to be a big success. This prompted the host to ask, “Was the war worth it?” Biden answered, “No, I don’t think the war was worth it, in the sense that we paid a horrible price.”

So, might as well lose the war, right?


On to something lighter — words. In this column about Gibraltar, Boris Johnson uses the word “botheration.” The Spaniards “are causing delay and botheration and they are now threatening a tax on goods vehicles going to the Rock.”

I never knew about botheration (the word, I mean — I was well acquainted with the state). I’m glad to know.

Furthermore, I loved something that Torii Hunter said — quoting Kirby Puckett. Hunter is an outfielder for the Detroit Tigers; Puckett was an outfielder for the Twins. Let me give you some of an Associated Press report:

After Miguel Cabrera was walked intentionally, Prince Fielder struck out, but backup catcher Ryan Doumit let the ball get past him and relief pitcher Caleb Thielbar didn’t cover home plate. That mistake gave Hunter a clear path to score.

“I was always told by Kirby Puckett, ‘Be a hyena. Always take advantage of the weak link,’” Hunter said.

I’m going to remember that: “Be a hyena.”

No, I can’t explain the spelling of Torii. But I’m so glad he’s on our team. (Meaning, the Tigers, of course. Aren’t we all Detroiters, when it comes to baseball?)

Let’s do some names: I saw an article, about the Kurds, by Lazar Berman. Whoa, Lazar Berman? He was a great pianist, especially in Liszt. Problem is, he died some years ago.

I was reading an article about a great, and evidently heroic, long-distance swimmer: Diana Nyad. For real? She’s an important swimmer, and her name is Nyad, like naiad? Terrific.

Something I saw in an obit of Lindy Boggs, made my heart swell for her. Apparently, she was under consideration for vice-presidential nominee in 1984. Mondale picked Ferraro instead. What ruled Lindy out, it seems, was her pro-life stance.

Good for her.

This reminds me of something else: When Bill Clinton became president, it was thought that Lee Hamilton would be secretary of state. But Democrats couldn’t stand that he was pro-life. (I think he was kinda sorta pro-life.) So they ruled him out — for secretary of state.

That’s commitment.

I’d like to close with a letter from a reader — a most unusual and interesting letter. Its Subject line is “I’m back.” And he writes,

Hi, Jay,

I know, I know. You didn’t know I was gone.

I haven’t read you or NRO or NR — they’ve gone unread into my recycling bin — or Ricochet or Powerline. I haven’t listened to you or Hinderaker or anyone else on Ricochet since the election. That’s almost a year ago, and frankly, I miss you.

I was so [ticked] off at the election results that I blamed you all for falsely building up my hopes. I was certain Romney had the election tied up in a neat knot. I still don’t know what happened, in spite of many post-mortems. But I’ve decided, “Screw it. Enough nose removing.”

So I’m back and looking forward to NR and the rest of ’em. Sorry I was so childish.

I tell you, I know exactly how this reader feels. That’s a lengthy discussion — but I know exactly how he feels.

Thanks for joining me, friends, and check you soon.

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