Impromptus

If you were Obama . . ., &c.

by Jay Nordlinger

The other day, I was ranting about something in a podcast with Mona Charen. (Nothing new there.) Let me give the same rant, slightly cooler.

In the 2008 campaign and the years thereafter, Barack Obama said something over and over: Under the health law of his and Democrats’ dreams, premiums for average families would fall by $2,500. He said this until he was blue in the face — that health insurance would be more affordable, and he put a specific number on it.

He also said, over and over — and over and over — that, if you liked your plan, you would not have to give it up. Nothing would change for you. No, we were just going to help some folks who were down on their luck and did not have access to health insurance. But rest assured: If you liked your plan, nothing would change for you.

Now, both of those things turn out to be untrue: Health premiums are not going down, by $2,500 or any other number; they’re going up. And it’s not true that you won’t be forced off your plan: Some are.

Okay, the rant (cooler version): If you were President Obama, don’t you think you’d feel the need to address these things?

Well, first, if you were a reporter in the White House press corps, you’d ask the president about them. You’d say, “Mr. President, you said over and over that health-insurance premiums would fall by $2,500. More like the opposite seems to be true. How do you account for that?” And, “Mr. President, you promised over and over that no one would have to leave his plan, if he didn’t want to. Yet this proves not to be the case. What do you say to that?”

I’m not sure those questions have been asked. Have they? I haven’t heard them.

Anyway, back to being President Obama — I mean, your being President Obama. Even if no one challenged you, wouldn’t you feel the need to address these points, about the $2,500 and the “no one has to leave his plan”? Wouldn’t you feel compelled by conscience? Lying in bed at night, wouldn’t you think, “Gee, I made these promises over and over, and they appear to be broken. I’d better say something”?

I think you would. But Obama says nothing, so far as I’m aware. He doesn’t even spin or prevaricate. He just lets these points lie. Which I think is strange.

In the Telegraph the other day, I was reading a column by Theodore Dalrymple (the pen name for Anthony Daniels — he writes under both). He was writing about the Marxism of Ed Miliband’s father. (Miliband is the leader of the Labour party in Britain, and therefore a possible prime minister.) Also the Marxism of his own father. Tony said,

I saw that his concern for the fate of humanity in general was inconsistent with his contempt for the actual people by whom he was surrounded, and his inability to support relations of equality with others. I concluded that the humanitarian protestations of Marxists were a mask for an urge to domination.

Amen. Anyway, I’ll tell you what I told the author: His words reminded me of the old saying, “A Marxist is someone who loves humanity in groups of 1 million or more.”

Still on the subject of friends of mine who write: Martin Bernheimer, the music critic, reviewed Anna Nicole, the opera by Mark-Anthony Turnage about Anna Nicole Smith, the late American tabloid personality. Smith was known for, among other things, un grand balcon, as the French say (or used to): a sizable bosom.

Martin began his review, “Anna Nicole Smith, the, er, titular heroine of Mark-Anthony Turnage’s quasi-opera . . .”

I think that wins the prize for best opening sentence of 2013.

Speaking of singing, and writer friends of mine, I very much liked Bob Costa’s title over a blogpost: “Cantor’s Pitch.” He was writing about the House majority leader, Eric Cantor, and his thoughts on education. And, of course, cantors sing.

Some more music? I got a press release for Joshua Bell’s “first holiday CD.” (Bell is a violinist.) Perhaps wickedly, I thought, “What holiday?”

Some more music? For a “Salzburg Chronicle,” published in the current New Criterion, go here. For a second piece on the Salzburg Festival, published in National Review, go here. For an article in CityArts, go here. That one’s about Tchaikovsky’s Eugene Onegin at the Metropolitan Opera and 2001: A Space Odyssey at the New York Philharmonic.

What the . . .? The Philharmonic played the soundtrack of the movie as the movie unspooled on a big screen overhead. The Philharmonic has been doing this in recent years: playing soundtracks of movies before the (formal) beginning of the season.

Kubrick made 2001 in 1968, the year before the moon landing, and 33 years before the year 2001 itself. How distant that year must have seemed! How marvelous the possibilities! I wonder: Have we made all that much progress in space exploration since?

Orwell wrote 1984 in 1948, and the book was published the next year — 35 years before 1984 itself. Again, how distant that year must have seemed.

As I was watching 2001, I had a thought, and not a light one: The movie shows the first men, savages. And these men, I suppose, are contrasted with the progressive wonders of 2001. But what happened in the year 2001? Well, for one thing, 9/11. On that day, barbarians cut the throats of stewardesses with box cutters, causing great carnage, a great convulsion.

My thought: Barbarism, savagery, still plays a very big role in human life (and, of course, there are new toys).

Oh, hang on, I wanted to tell you something about the Onegin review. First, I’d better quote from that review. Here is a comment on the production, or stage direction:

A successful small touch, I think, is the handshake and hug that Onegin gives Lenski before the duel. Less successful, I think, is the long smooch that Tatiana plants on Onegin at the end. It’s a little gimmicky and suspends the opera, marring Tchaikovsky’s pacing.

A friend of mine, who had listened on the radio, e-mailed, “I thought Kwiecien [the baritone portraying Onegin] may have fainted or just forgotten to sing. The only sound I heard was coughing from the house! I replayed the broadcast and counted: There was 49 seconds of silence. Stupid idea.”

I wrote back to him, “Yeah, but Rose Mary Woods had a full 18 and a half minutes!” I wonder how many understand this today: Rose Mary Woods was personal secretary to Richard Nixon, and she was associated with an 18-and-a-half-minute gap in the Watergate tapes.

How quickly the famous, and infamous, are forgotten . . .

Have you had enough music, and enough Nixon? Let’s do some baseball. I enjoyed seeing Bartolo Colón pitch against my Tigers. (I write before the final game of this series, by the way.) I thought, “Lolichesque.” Colón’s physique is like that of Mickey Lolich, one of my boyhood favorites. (He was best known for winning three games in the 1968 World Series, the Tigers versus the Cardinals.) Lolich was portly. So is Colón. Evidently, pitchers can live with that. Would they be even better fit? Worse, for some reason?

Let’s go back to Obamacare for a second. Last year, before the presidential elections, I reviewed the 2008 debates — kind of a useful exercise, I think. For National Review, I wrote a piece called “Four Years Ago” (available here for a little $). Let me quote a bit of that piece:

On the subject of health care, Obama could not have been more reassuring: “If you’ve got a health-care plan that you like, you can keep it. All I’m going to do is help you to lower the premiums on it. You’ll still have choice of doctor. There’s no mandate involved.” Moreover, “we estimate we can cut the average family’s premium by about $2,500 per year.”

Uh-huh.

A little language? The other day, I was ordering lunch and had to use the word “croissant.” I was paralyzed with doubt: How to pronounce the word? I never know. I don’t want to say it with a French pronunciation, because that would be annoying and absurd. So what do we say in English? “Cruh-SAHNT”? I guess so. But I’ve never been really sure.

Actually, I’m sorry we can’t use an English version: “crescent roll.” That’s what it is.

Let’s close with something related to the Tigers. (I’m not talking LSU football. I’m talking Detroit baseball.) Gates Brown died a couple of weeks ago. I was going to tell you a story about meeting him — but then I got the feeling I’d told it before, in this column. So, I Googled.

And I told it in a June 2001 Impromptus. (This column started in March of that year, I believe.) I told it when Ike Brown died. For the New York Times obit of the Gator (Gates Brown), go here. And let me cut and paste from the June ’01 column:

I would like to close with an obit, little noticed by most people, no doubt, but acutely noticed by me. He rated about two and a half inches in the New York Times, which was pretty good. He was Ike Brown, a pinch hitter for the Detroit Tigers during my formative years. I loved Ike Brown, and also another Brown, Gates Brown, who, like Ike, was a pinch hitter for the Tigers. In addition, these two Browns looked alike. I somehow got it into my head that they were brothers.

One memorable afternoon, I walked into the home of a friend of mine, whose father was a coach. And there, seated at the kitchen table, was Gates Brown, big as life (and he was big, period). I was startled and thrilled to see him, being a Tiger . . . fanatic, is the only word, and, of course, that is the word from which we get the simpler “fan.” (The Italian word for “fan” is tifoso, or a victim of typhoid fever.) Trying to make conversation, I chirped to Gates Brown, “How’s your brother Ike?” He wearily informed me that Ike was not his brother. He had probably gotten this many, many times before. I was absolutely mortified, wanting to die. To compound the matter, there was the racial aspect — both men were black. Again, I wanted to die. But Gates, bless him, went on to tell me how Ike was: where he was, what he was doing. That salved things somewhat.

The obit said that the Browns roomed together. According to a former teammate of theirs, “Ike would wake up every morning saying, ‘It’s a beautiful day,’ whether it was or not.” What a beautiful guy — both Browns.

Yes. Thanks for joining me, y’all, and have a good weekend (whether Detroit has won or not).