Impromptus

Liberty and security, &c.

by Jay Nordlinger

Lately, I’ve been seeing the phrase “liberty versus security,” and there are debates being held with titles like “Liberty or Security?” This doesn’t sit very well with me. I don’t like that word “versus,” or “or.”

Not being blown up or enslaved? I consider that a part of my liberty — a significant part.

I’ve never been quite sure what the cliché “false dichotomy” means, but I suspect “liberty or security” is one. (At the same time, I’m not a naif, I hope: I know there are trade-offs, as there are in nearly every department of life. I just think “or” or “versus” is too stark.)

(You could even say: liberty because of security.)

Let me take you back to 1961. Che Guevara’s plane is grounded at Shannon Airport, in Ireland. So he and his posse spend the night in nearby Kilkee, a seaside resort. (This is County Clare, we’re talkin’.)

At some point, someone paints a mural of the great man, to commemorate his visit.

But now, local authorities have painted over the mural — because, in the words of news reports, it “upset American tourists.”

This amazes me. I’m surprised that anyone, apart from Cubans and Cuban Americans, knew to be upset. Maybe a Kilkee artist could paint a mural of Beria or Himmler or whoever their Khmer Rouge equivalent was, and see if anybody notices.

Further in Che news: I got a letter from a reader who says, “Jay, have you ever heard of the TV show Motive?” No. “It’s a police drama set in Vancouver, B.C.”

In a recent episode, “the female detective, the star of the show, came home and found her 17-year-old son wearing a Che shirt. She actually asked him whether he knew about the guy on his shirt. He said, Not really, but it’s just a T-shirt, not a manifesto.”

Okay, “fast-forward to the end of the show: The kid is no longer wearing the T-shirt, and, from the conversation between the mother and the son, it’s clear that he has taken the time to research Che, and decided on his own to get rid of the shirt.”

Wow. Our reader says, “You could have knocked me over with a feather.” Ditto. Terrific.

I am grateful, not for the first time, to Ben Stein. He has written the absolute truth about Detroit — its decline and fall.

When Detroit burst into the news a couple of months ago, I found it depressing to read reports and opinion, especially opinion, on the subject. I even found conservative opinion depressing to read. There was a lot of talk about the auto industry and the UAW.

And, you know? The collapse of Detroit is all about race. Poisonous, insidious race. Ben Stein knows this — how, I’m not sure (I grew up in the Detroit orbit) — and he tells it perfectly.

Hang on, he says in his column that his father was born in Detroit. (By “column,” I really mean “diary.”) And I have a memory — just thought of it: I met Stein once in the Detroit airport. This was one of the handful of times I have approached a celebrity. Bet I haven’t done it more than three, four times. I told him how much I admired him.

He said, “What do you do?” I said, “I work at a golf course.” He said, “You look like a golfer.” (I was sunburned, probably.) A high compliment.

Ben’s father, the late economist Herb Stein, has been in the news lately. It was he who said, “If something can’t go on forever, it won’t” (I paraphrase). Conservatives have been quoting this a lot, particularly where federal money issues are concerned. (Where the EU is concerned, too.)

I spend a fair amount of time blasting the “mainstream media,” and I reserve special blasts for Democratic politicos, operating in the media. Operating as “mainstream journalists.”

So I’d like to tip my hat to George Stephanopoulos, host of ABC’s This Week. (It’s still hard for me not to think of the show as the David Brinkley show.) He interviewed the man known as the “Benghazi whistleblower”: Gregory Hicks, the former deputy chief of mission in Libya. I imagine the interview was not entirely comfortable for Stephanopoulos. I imagine he supports and roots for the Obama administration, as a Democrat naturally would. Still, he did it.

By the way — this does not surprise you — the left-wing media hate, hate, hate Greg Hicks. He is the skunk in their garden party.

For a transcript of Stephanopoulos’s interview with Hicks, go here. In the interview, Hicks reviewed what happened in Benghazi a year ago. This makes for pretty unsettling reading.

Our security in Libya was weakened, and the ambassador, Christopher Stevens, warned against this before he was killed.

When the attacks began, Hicks informed the State Department of this fact: Our consulate was under attack. He told them repeatedly. Later, the White House, through then-U.N. ambassador Susan Rice, said that Libyans were protesting an anti-Islamic video. But the video, Hicks told Stephanopoulos, was “a non-event” in Libya.

He expected the besieged consulate to receive aid, but it did not. An awful question: Could the four Americans who were killed have been saved?

“Sadly,” said Hicks, “I think that Ambassador Stevens and Sean Smith, maybe not. Ty and Glen of course were killed in the mortar attack that took place eight hours after the initial attack. It’s possible they could have been saved, I think.”

Smith was a member of the diplomatic team; Glen Doherty and Tyrone Woods were former Navy SEALs who were working in security.

Last May, Hicks testified before Congress. Since then, he has been without an assignment from the State Department. He told Stephanopoulos he had been “punished,” “shunted aside,” “put in a closet, if you will.” He was speaking on the show without State’s knowledge. He said he was doing so because “the American people need to have the story” of Benghazi. Also, because the four dead should be remembered “for the sacrifice that they made.”

You might say that Hicks is being disloyal to Hillary Clinton, the former secretary of state, and the Obama administration. But he is being loyal to the country, I think, and to the truth. The administration has emitted so much fog about Benghazi. This one man is trying to clear the air a bit.

Again, good for Stephanopoulos, for giving him some time. Presidential-debate hosts can’t interfere every time someone gets close to the truth about Benghazi.

This is kind of funny: Doctor Who has been running on British television for a half-century. Many actors have played the doctor: eleven of them. A twelfth has just been hired.

And some people aren’t happy about this: because, like the previous eleven, the twelfth is a white man.

For example, the actress Dame Helen Mirren said, “I do think it’s well over time to have a female Doctor Who. I think a gay, black female Doctor Who would be the best of all.” Of course.

(For an article about this, go here.)

This provoked a memory in me. A few years ago, I was talking to a Norwegian friend of mine about the 2009 Nobel Peace Prize. Why would the Norwegian Nobel Committee have chosen the U.S. president, Barack Obama?

We went over all the reasons — he was a social democrat, like them, he was skeptical of American power, he revered the U.N., etc. At the end, I said, “And he’s even black! He’s perfect!”

My friend said, “No, he could be gay. Then he’d be perfect.” I stood corrected.

From time immemorial, golfers at a range have done this: They hit the last ball in their bucket, and it’s a bad shot. They encroach on the range, retrieve another ball, and hit it.

Some years ago — let’s say, eight — I did this, and a range employee called me on it. He rebuked me for it. I was mightily abashed. I vowed (internally) never to do it again, no matter how bad the final shot of my session was.

I had not gone to get another ball until about two weeks ago. I was at a range far from home. As I ventured forth for the extra ball, I said, out loud — I swear — “Argument from tradition.”

Sophistry in action? Thanks for joining me, Impromptus-ites, and catch you soon.