A blood-boiling story, &c.

by Jay Nordlinger

Years ago, I saw an ad repeatedly in National Review, and other conservative publications, I think. It was for a book about Chappaquiddick. I don’t remember the title or the author. But I remember an endorsement for the book. It went something like, “Every once in a while, you should read a book that makes your blood boil. This is such a book.”

Well, every once in a while, you come across a news story that makes your blood boil, whether you like it or not. Recently, I came across one, and I’ll retell it, briefly.

In Oregon, a lesbian couple, Rachel Cryer and Laurel Bowman, asked a bakery called Sweet Cakes by Melissa to bake them a wedding cake. The owners, Aaron and Melissa Klein, said no. They said they were happy to sell items to anyone — but would not bake wedding cakes for homosexual couples, because homosexual marriage goes against their religious beliefs.

The lesbian couple filed a complaint with the state. They bought their cake from another baker, Pastrygirl. They also accepted a free cake from Duff Goldman, star of the TV show Ace of Cakes. Goldman had heard about the Oregon controversy.

Gay-marriage activists began a campaign against Sweet Cakes by Melissa. And, oh, what a campaign. They threatened to boycott anyone who did business with the offending bakers: florists, wedding planners, and so on. The Kleins received death threats on their children.

The State of Oregon launched a formal investigation into them — into the Kleins, I mean. The commissioner of the Bureau of Labor and Industries said, “The goal is to rehabilitate. For those who do violate the law, we want them to learn from that experience and have a good, successful business in Oregon.” (I saw this in an article by Todd Starnes, here.)

In Vietnam, the Communists did not use the word “rehabilitate,” to my knowledge. The word was “reeducate.”

Sweet Cakes by Melissa has now shut down. Mrs. Klein will try to do a cake business from her home; Mr. Klein has had to take another job. They said that the gay-marriage activists killed their business through “militant, mafia-style tactics.” The Kleins posted a quotation on their Facebook page: “Better is a poor man who walks in integrity than a rich man who is crooked in his ways.”

So, the lesbian couple and their allies have won. They got their wedding cake — two of them, actually — and got the Kleins, too. Way to go, guys!

Advocates of gay marriage always say, “All we want is individual freedom.” You can tell, can’t you? You can tell by the way they act. For years, the question has been asked, “Can there be a decent Left?” I suppose there can, in theory. Dorothy Day? But I have seldom come upon such a Left. Instead, I have seen bullying and nastiness of varying sorts.

And I remark, once more, on the speed with which American society moves. The sheer speed of things. Two seconds ago, no one thought of gay marriage. It would have been an absurdity — a contradiction of what marriage is. But today, if you don’t bake a wedding cake for a gay couple, you’re toast.

Will Americans at large simply swallow this, accept it? I think they will.

Several weeks ago, I saw something on Mitt Romney. I’d like to spend a little time on it. Dan Balz, the Washington Post reporter, has written a book on the 2012 presidential campaign, and his paper ran an article fashioned out of it.

Sometime after the election, Balz asked Romney why he’d run for president. Said the former candidate, “. . . because I believe that my background and experience and my perspective and point of view would be helpful to get America back on track, to keep America the economic powerhouse it’s been and the champion of freedom here and around the world. I happen to believe that America is on a course of decline if it continues with the policies we’ve seen over the last couple of decades, and we need to take a very different course, returning to more fundamental principles, if you will.”

Balz asked him whether he ran for president because of his dad, George Romney, who also tried to be president. “I love my dad,” said Mitt. “It’s fair to say that I probably would not have thought of politics had I not seen my mom and dad involved in politics. . . . But my decision to run for office was really in no way a response to my father’s campaign. It was instead a recognition that, by virtue of a series of fortunate events, I was in a position to run for president and potentially become president. And I felt if I didn’t do so, given that opportunity, I would have been letting down my country, my family and the future.”

He further said, “I got into this out of a sense of obligation to the things I believed in and love for the country, but not because it was something I desperately wanted so that I could feel better about myself.”

I recommend the entire article. Romney has interesting things to say about his “47 percent” comment and other matters. It sometimes seems that Romney is friendless: Many conservatives gripe that he was a marshmallow who was inept against Obama; the Left, of course, is ever toxic.

But there are many, I know, who admire and appreciate Romney. They tend to be quiet. They cling to their guns and religion — not necessarily in that order — waiting for the day when America will make better choices.

Australia has made a very exciting and commendable choice: electing Tony Abbott and his Liberal party. (Down Under, they use language sanely. So the Liberals are Reaganites, Thatcherites — true liberals — not illiberals.) I remember when I first heard Abbott’s name. I’d known nothing about him. It was when Daniel Hannan, the brilliant member of the European Parliament from Britain, said that Abbott was his favorite politician in the English-speaking world. (Mine is Michael Gove, the British writer and education secretary.) When someone like Hannan says something like that, you sit up and take notice — which I did.

I’m so glad Abbott is PM. A worthy successor to John Howard (though there were a couple of Laborites in between).

I’d like to give you a couple of notes on New York City politics. I saw a sign that advertised a candidate as a “Progressive Democrat.” It’s not good enough to be called a Democrat these days — you might be an Ed Koch type, marred by sanity. You have to be a “Progressive Democrat.” You have to make it clear to one and all, “I’m a left-wing nut!”

This was really sad, and frustrating: I saw the back of a guy’s T-shirt. He was campaigning for a City Council candidate named Helen Rosenthal. On the back of the T-shirt was a blank white strip, and then the words “for Helen.” He had filled in “Indians” — “Indians for Helen.” (Indians as in South Asians, not as in Iroquois.)

It’s not enough, apparently, to say that you’re for one candidate or another. You as an individual. No, you have to speak for an entire group — including racial and ethnic groups, evidently.

Ethnic blocs have always been a factor in American politics. I’m not naive or utopian. But wouldn’t it be a better, happier, and calmer country if we could cool some of the bloc-headedness?

Ordinarily, I wouldn’t spend time on an old Nazi like the Hitler bodyguard who just died at 96. But something in an article jumped out at me: The guy said, “I signed up in the war against Bolshevism, not for Adolf Hitler.”

I remembered something from my researches into the Nobel Peace Prize. In 1926, the German foreign minister, Gustav Stresemann, shared the prize, for the Locarno Treaties (which were supposed to prevent a second world war, and which, of course, would fail). He gave his Nobel lecture in June 1927. And he spoke of “the great tide of Bolshevism” that broke over Germany a few years before, “appearing on the left as Communism and on the right as National Socialism.”

Exactly so. Exactly so. Nice going, Stresemann. (Those interested in my history of the Nobel Peace Prize may find it here.)

Let’s end with a man to remember — Maurice Tiefenbrunner, who died about a month before the Hitler bodyguard. They were two very, very different men. This obit is a stirring thing, about a stirring, tumultuous, almost unbelievable life.

The obit begins, “Tiefenbrunner was born in Germany, but in 1939 he fled to Palestine to escape Nazi persecution. In March 1942 he was recruited by the Special Interrogation Group (SIG), the name given to a small force of German-speaking troops assembled to carry out raids in North Africa while disguised in enemy uniforms.” As I said, that is only the beginning.

Maurice Tiefenbrunner died in Israel, where he spent the last 30 years of his life. “He considered the large family surrounding him his personal revenge against Hitler.”