One of the reasons I became a conservative, way back, is that I believed in the old liberalism — a liberalism that included colorblindness. I believed in E pluribus unum (“Out of many, one”). I believed in the melting pot. I believed in a Martin Luther King vision, expressed most famously as follows: “I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character.”
By the time I came of age, the old liberalism was dead. In its place was a new liberalism that believed fiercely in color-consciousness. Previously, it was people like George Wallace and Orval Faubus who were fiercely color-conscious. Now it was people called “liberals.”
The principal sent an e-mail to the entire staff of the school, saying of the offending teacher, “Personally, I’m embarrassed when she says our teachers and students are colorblind. As if our students don’t know enough to honor the beauty of their complexions.” The principal went on to say that colorblindness “suggests racism.”
Al Gore is an expression of the new liberalism, the color-consciousness that overthrew colorblindness, tragically. Gore once said to the NAACP, “I’ve heard the critics of affirmative action. They talk about a colorblind society. Give me a break! Hel-lo? They use their ‘colorblind’ the way duck hunters use their duck blind: They hide behind it and hope the ducks won’t figure out what they’re up to.”
Several years ago, I quoted a book by Zev Chafets about Rush Limbaugh. I’m going to quote it again. I have a lot in common with the author and his subject (both of whom I know and admire).
Rush and I were both raised at a time of racial optimism and naïveté, when the goal of decent white people was an integrated society. We were taught that skin color shouldn’t matter, that we were all basically the same, that we should judge others not by their color but the content of their character. And if we didn’t achieve this in practice, or even try very hard — and most of us didn’t — it was, at least, the ideal that decent people subscribed to.
But things changed.
Did they ever. As Zev says,
the American intelligentsia stopped talking in terms of an integrationist, national melting pot and adopted a tribal model, in which righteously disaffected minorities (blacks, women, gays, Hispanics, and Native Americans) made group identity the basis for their politics.
What about Rush?
While all this was going on, [he] was in the studio spinning oldies or selling tickets for the Kansas City Royals. When he emerged, blinking, into the harsh light of political combat in the mid-1980s, he came armed with the belief in color-blindness that had been in vogue twenty years earlier. Mort Sahl once said that anyone who maintains a consistent position in America will eventually be tried for treason. Or racism.
This subject is never-ending, of course, but I will close with a story from a few years ago. I participated in a debate at Yale (an odd experience, but that is another story). In the course of my remarks, I expressed my usual support for E pluribus unum, colorblindness, etc. Talking the old liberalism these days is like talking Sanskrit or something.
After the debate, a lovely girl came up to me and said that she was Hispanic and that was that. That was her identity, period. She would never give it up (she said).
People will see themselves as they will. And they will see others as they will. But we have a right to repine over the decisions they make, or are led to make by the opinion-shapers.
Last week, I did a podcast interview with John McCain, the senior senator from Arizona and the 2008 Republican presidential nominee. Here in Impromptus, I’d like to highlight a few things from it.
I asked McCain whether he thought Iran, once nuclear, would be deterrable. He said, “No,” and said it with something like the definition of a bitter laugh.
When he said “negotiations,” in the context of what the Obama administration is doing with the Iranian government, he added, “I use the term loosely.” (I loved that.)
He spoke of the president’s “idiotic behavior” toward Israel. “He’s obviously much more angry at Bibi [Netanyahu] about the elections than he is at the Iranians and ISIS or Bashar Assad, who has slaughtered over 200,000 people. It is unbelievable.”
On Libya, after the NATO operation there: “We all walked away. Guess what happened?”
About Iraq: “Barack Obama wanted out.” And when administration officials tell you “that they tried to leave a decent force behind, a stabilizing force, they are lying, and I don’t say that very often.”
I brought up an obit that I had read the day before (here). “Robert Hite, 95, Survivor of Doolittle Raid and Japanese Imprisonment, Dies.” The airman “was imprisoned for 40 months, 38 of them in solitary confinement. His weight had dropped to 76 pounds from 180 when the war ended.”
Hite went on to live a very long life — to 95, as you saw. McCain is now in his late 70s. Did he expect to live, when he was in those Vietnamese prison cells and torture chambers? “Obviously, I didn’t know, but we all hoped. . . . We stuck together, that was the main thing.”
On Admiral James Stockdale, that great man: “He motivated us and caused us to do things that we otherwise would never have been able to do because of his inspirational leadership.”
I asked McCain about his loss to Obama in 2008. It seemed to me he bounced back pretty quickly from that. “Yeah, you know, the best cure, I found, for something like that is: Get goin’. Don’t look back. It’s so mentally harmful for you to look back — I shoulda, coulda, woulda. . . . The best thing to do is press on.”
McCain further said, “I do not know anyone alive — I’ve never heard of anyone — who is as lucky as I am. I crashed airplanes. I was a terrible disciplinary problem at the Naval Academy. I managed to avoid being killed in a fire on the Forrestal. I was shot down. I had the honor of winning the nomination for the presidency of the United States. The honor of serving in the United States Senate. And now following in the footsteps of one Barry Goldwater as chairman of the Armed Services Committee. I am exuberant and so fortunate. I’m telling you, I wake up every morning and go to bed every night saying, ‘Thank you, God . . .’”
On Sarah Palin: “You will never hear me say anything negative about her, although I can tell you, one of my great regrets is she was put through this kind of attack, with cruelty the likes of which I have never, ever seen before, so sometimes I regret selecting her just because of what she was put through.”
That said, “she invigorated and energized our campaign. She beat Joe Biden in a debate. She was tireless. She is a wonderful family person, her husband Todd is a wonderful person. To my last breath I will be grateful to Sarah Palin for agreeing to be my running mate.”
On the 43rd president: “I’m a big fan of George W. Bush, and, by the way, I think he’s getting a raw deal, and I think history will judge him much more generously than some of the liberal media is today.”
Toward the end of our interview, McCain spoke of “the most disturbing briefing that I have ever received.” It had to do with cyberwar, and the capabilities of the Russians and the Chinese. “We better start paying attention” to the issue, said McCain, and “we better start doing a helluva lot better job” in this arena.
Anyway, these are just snippets, and that interview, again, is here.
Ask Rob Long and other satirists on the right: It gets harder and harder to keep up with real life. For instance, a conservative satirist in Britain might say, “The Labour leader wants James Bond to be a woman!” And yet, he does . . .
In an article about one of her former colleagues, I read something astonishing about my (soul) sister Rachel Noerdlinger. “One day last spring, when Ms. Noerdlinger accidentally stepped on Ms. Katz’s foot with a stiletto heel, Ms. Katz was rushed to the doctor for X-rays.”
Via Twitter, I said, “Rachel, you don’t sharpen your heels like Ty Cobb did his cleats, do you?!”
Every once in a while, I’ll point to an item and say, “That is so American.” Well, check out this little kid, who has his tooth pulled by his dad, who has hooked up the tooth to a Camaro. The kid is so American — a Huck Finn type — and so is the family and so is the situation.
Finally, an expression I encountered — in this obit, of Miriam Bienstock, “a co-founder of Atlantic Records who ran the business side of the company in its formative years.” Like other companies, Atlantic engaged in “payola”: They bribed radio stations and disc jockeys to play their records. When the feds investigated, Atlantic had an answer (and here comes the expression that amuses me): “We didn’t do it. But we’ll never do it again.”
Thanks, everyone, and catch you soon.