Impromptus

An unsayable truth, &c.

by Jay Nordlinger

I was reading about a new book on the 2012 presidential campaign. I was particularly disgusted by this passage, from the report:

. . . Mr. Clinton’s praise, in the spring of last year, of Mr. Romney’s business record as “sterling” infuriated top Obama advisers and even prompted Mrs. Clinton to tell her aides that “Bill can’t do that again.”

Yes, the truth must not be blurted out.

I was quite surprised to read the below, given my general views on Canada and its political culture:

Toronto police said Thursday they have obtained a video that appears to show Mayor Rob Ford smoking a crack pipe — a video that Ford had claimed didn’t exist and has been at the core of a scandal that has embarrassed and gripped Canada for months.

Holy mackerel. (I’m quoting from this report, by the way.) You know what I’m reminded of? Years ago, there was a man elected to the Senate from Louisiana, and he seemed utterly bland. I thought, and probably wrote, “This is a Louisiana politician?” And then the guy had a prostitution scandal. And I thought, “Ah!”

Anyway, maybe the mayor of Toronto could run for office in Louisiana and increase his vote?

Lately, there has been a lot of chatter about ally-on-ally spying. We’ve been bugging Merkel’s phone and whatnot. Hearing about stuff like this, I’m always reminded of Richard Helms on the David Brinkley show.

Helms, you recall, was DCI (director of Central Intelligence) under LBJ and Nixon. I think that the topic on Brinkley was the Jonathan Pollard affair. Helms probably said that it was routine for allies to spy on allies. Sam Donaldson said, with maybe some mock theatricality, “Well, surely, Mr. Helms, the United States isn’t spying on its allies, is it?” Helms answered, matter-of-factly, “I certainly hope so.”

I loved the guy. (Had some correspondence with him once.) (Do you know that in his career as a journalist, he interviewed Hitler?)

Every now and then, I write about a case in China — although you could write about 100 of them a day. There is a brave woman named Cao Shunli. She was at the Beijing airport on September 14, to fly to Geneva for human-rights work, when they “disappeared” her. What that means, of course, is that the Communist authorities caused her to disappear.

She has now resurfaced, in prison. She is in bad shape, as you’d expect.  Sick, weak. On October 21, they asked her to sign an official arrest document charging her with “picking quarrels and provoking troubles.” She refused.

How in the world do people summon that sort of bravery, that sort of defiance in the face of a gigantic police state? They just do. To read a report on Cao, from the organization called Human Rights in China, go here.

Every now and then, we should probably inquire into what is happening in North Korea — although not wanting to inquire is perfectly understandable. Recently, a defector gave testimony. I will quote just one paragraph, just the opening paragraph, of a news report — nothing more:

Her father was tortured in detention in North Korea and died. Her elder sister went searching for food during the great famine of the 1990s, only to be trafficked to China. Her two younger brothers died of starvation: one of them a baby without milk, whose life ebbed away in her arms.

Some years ago, I did a study (just a minor one) of the genocide in Darfur. (For the piece, go here.) Very commonly — I imagine this is still going on — a woman or girl would have to venture forth for firewood. She’d have to venture farther and farther. And rape was something like inevitable.

Will no one stop this evil? No, actually.

Just one more item on evil from the East, and then I’ll move on. There has been a development in the Khmer Rouge trials. Two old genocidalists are protesting their innocence — although one of them said something slightly, just slightly, interesting. He said he accepted “moral responsibility.” And he said he wanted “to sincerely apologize” and to “pray for the lost souls.”

For a news report, go here. And for a piece I did earlier this year, on that tribunal in Phnom Penh, go here.

Shall we have a little language? A report out of Rome begins, “The Dallas Museum of Art has agreed to return six antiquities that were looted illegally from Italy.” Can you loot something legally? Maybe, under very odd circumstances.

A little more language? This has to do with pronunciation. The New York Times published an obit about Robert Rheault, a controversial officer in Vietnam. They said his name was pronounced “row.” I would have used “roe” — because “row” can be pronounced like “wow,” you know?

Let’s stick with obits, but not with language: I was fascinated to read about Bill Sharman, the great hoopster. He was both a player and a coach. He is one of the three men to be voted into the Hall of Fame as both a player and a coach. (The others are John Wooden and Lenny Wilkens.)

I’d like to offer two more facts about Sharman: Maybe the greatest rivalry in professional basketball was the Boston Celtics versus the Los Angeles Lakers. Sharman was on both ends of that: as a player in Boston and a coach in L.A.

Finally, he played pro baseball at the beginning of his career. When you got it, you got it, I guess. Wow (speaking of that word).

Let’s see, do I have any music for you? Not at the moment, it seems. I’ll have a couple of reviews later this week. Care for some Nobel Peace Prize? I did a piece on this year’s prize, announced last month, for the website of The American Interest. Go here, if you like.

Let’s end with some food — some food mixed with politics and journalism. Last week, I was in Houston. I did not go to Bubba’s Texas Burger Shack. (“Home of the Buffalo Burger.”) But someone told me about it — said that National Reviews were strewn around the place, for reading material.

How gratifying. I wasn’t able to go this time, but will next time, for sure. Thanks much, everyone, and catch you soon.