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Impromptus
Mimi 'n' Monica, Moseley Braun and Sharpton, Vijay 'n' Annika, and more


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By now, you’ve probably read about the 19-year-old intern who had an affair with President Kennedy. She was — is, rather — Marion “Mimi” Fahnestock, and she works at the Fifth Avenue Presbyterian Church in Manhattan. (That “Marion” is probably Marian, I would think.) Her story was told yesterday in the New York Daily News.

Democrats must take some comfort in this: See, all their favorite presidents do it! I had a memory — maybe you did, too. It’s September 1998, and Clinton is conducting a cabinet meeting. Donna Shalala, the health and human services secretary, has the temerity to say, Surely, Mr. President, a president has some obligation to provide moral leadership. Clinton wheels on her, furious, and says, By that logic, you’d have preferred Richard Nixon in 1960 to John Kennedy.

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I always thought that was one of the most telling statements ever uttered about contemporary liberalism. Nothing, I suppose, could have decreased my respect for President Kennedy — it was at rock-bottom anyway. But to fling with a 19-year-old intern is pretty sorry.

But then, would adultery with a 45-year-old matron have been better? Not much, in my book. (But then, it’s not my book that counts, is it?)

I know that Donna Shalala is a terrible left-winger, but I always thought, or hoped, that that episode — in the cabinet room — indicated that she was a human being, after all.

The Democratic presidential candidates continue to cover themselves in glory. Here is Carol Moseley Braun, that stateswoman: “This administration chose to pursue oil and revenge rather than the terrorists who attacked our country on 9/11.” Let us not forget the divide that marks our country’s politics (as though it were possible, to forget). Sometimes I think it’s not so much between conservative and liberal as between sane and . . . well, Carol Moseley Braun.

But Al Sharpton is worse — at least she’s got that going for her. “The Rev” told a crowd in South Carolina, “In the ’60s, we had to fight the remnants of the KKK. Today we have the challenge of the RRR” — meaning “rich, right-wing Republicans.” This is sheer hate speech, and hate thought, which could easily be translated into hate action. (Think Freddie’s Fashion Mart, where Sharpton incited homicide.) Will no decent Democrat stand up against Sharptonism? Will none of them say this is wrong — even dangerous?

Sharpton continued, “They lock us up while others go home.” I guess that’s a reference to the imprisonment of criminals. “They love to wave the flag of America in Baghdad, but they have come back to South Carolina and wave the Confederate flag.” Etc.

I say again: Don’t be lulled, folks. He may be cute and cuddly and quippy once in a while, but he is sheer poison, one that people are loath to acknowledge, even as it spreads.

If you’re ever in Budapest, you owe it to yourself — and to humanity, in a way — to visit the House of Terror. This is the museum that commemorates the victims of Communism in Hungary. To visit this museum — with its cells, instruments of torture, photographs, films, and documents — is a grueling experience. But well worth it: just so as not to forget, to borrow a relevant phrase.

One distinctive part of the museum is a wall of victimizers — not victims (there are plenty of those), but victimizers. There are hundreds of photos of those who did it, with their names, positions, and dates. But here’s the really exciting part: Many of them are still alive — and unprosecuted and unbothered, of course. You see the birth year, then a hyphen, but no death year. These SOBs are still around, toasting one another with the best wine, no doubt.

I saw a similar display in Tirana, Albania — an exhibition meant to commemorate the Communist period. This exhibition takes up about half a floor in the National Museum, as I recall. (My visit was last September, whereas my time in Budapest was much more recent.) Same deal: instruments of torture, mock cells, documents, photos, names — the works. All of this is vital to record before it has a chance to disappear down the memory hole.

And that’s just what the Left in Hungary would like: for the House of Terror to disappear. Every day, the authorities do something to harass the museum, with the aim of shutting it down. These authorities come from Left parties, ones that are called “post-Communist.” Many people wonder just how “post-” they are. This museum, you see, is embarrassing to them, because it lays bare their past — and their responsibility. It is, in fact, housed in the old headquarters of the secret police, at 60 Andrássy Street.

The director, Mária Schmidt, is a wonderfully bold and clear-sighted person. All honor to her. She says that people come from all over the country, often breaking down, wanting to tell their own stories — which staff are on hand to take. These testimonies become a part of formal national history. The House of Terror’s website, by the way, is found here. I think it should be a conservative — no, a freedom-loving — cause, to preserve this museum, and to keep Communism’s heirs from obliterating it. This is a project to support with one’s heart, voice, and wallet.

My friends in the Cuba-freedom movement are up in arms again, as they should be. There is a group called the National Network on Cuba. It is a Castro-support organization, based in San Francisco. This weekend, they are holding a meeting in New York at Local 1199 of the SEIU — the Service Employees International Union. This is the union from which John Sweeney, the current head of the AFL-CIO, sprang.

As one Cuban democrat said, “Just ask yourself: Why is a union hosting the thugs from a nation that does not allow union representation of workers or freedom of speech or freedom from fear?” Castro’s personnel themselves will be involved in this meeting.

It begins with a reception at the Cuban mission to the U.N. tonight. Attendees have been asked to read several documents in advance, including a “speech given by Dr. Fidel Castro Ruz, President of the Republic of Cuba, at the May Day rally held in Revolution Square, Havana, May 1, 2003.”

A letter from the National Network begins, “Dear Brothers and Sisters: [The organization] will be holding its semiannual meeting on May 16th through 18th 2003, in New York City at the offices of SEIU Local 1199 at 310 West 43rd Street. We are proud and honored to be hosted by this union that has such a long history of leading struggles for the rights of working people.”

Of course, the AFL-CIO — of which SEIU is an important member — has a long history of resisting the totalitarianism that Dr. Fidel Castro Ruz and his claque represent.

As a presidential candidate once asked, Where’s the outrage? The vigorous support of tyrannical regimes in free countries, like the United States, is one of the most depressing facts of modern times — and maybe (who knows?) of all times.

On to something lighter. Vijay Singh, the Fijian champion, complained about the participation of Annika Sorenstam, the world’s best female golfer, in next week’s PGA tournament. He said, essentially, that it was a pointless stunt. He later retracted his comments, in the now familiar fashion.

But perhaps Vijay should have stuck to his guns. He seems to have a very un-PC cast of mind (which is one reason I’m so fond of him). Let me give you an example. I found this when working on pieces about Tiger Woods. He was once asked about Tiger and his color, and he said, “When I first came to the United States, they [the press] approached me about the subject of my race . . . [Vijay — of Indian extraction, of course — is quite dark.] I just said, ‘Hey, listen, I’m here to play golf.’” As for Tiger, “he’s the best thing that’s happened to golf in [years]. Let’s leave it at golf, not color.”

So, that’s Vijay. As for Annika, I can’t get too exercised about her participation in the Colonial. I’m sort of eager to see how she fares. And if she flames out, nothing lost, really. Sure, this is a stunt — but not on the same level as, say, Jesse Owens against a horse, or Eddie Gaedel at bat. (Recall that he was the midget installed by Bill Veeck — “Veeck as in ‘Wreck’” — at the St. Louis Browns.)

I noticed in USA Today that a man named John Hickenlooper is running for mayor of Denver. Do you perhaps know the name of Olga Samaroff? She was a pianist and pedagogue, the wife of Leopold Stokowski — one of his wives, that is, because Stoki wasn’t exactly a one-girl man. “Olga Samaroff” bespeaks an exotic foreign background. But she was born Lucie Hickenlooper — not even Lucy! — and she came from Texas.

Wonder if the Colorado candidate is any relation.

Wanna hear a quote from George McGovern? I didn’t think so, but you just have to get a load of this. Here is what he wrote in a recent op-ed piece for the Washington Post: “It is true that I opposed the American war in Vietnam, but not because I had ceased to be an internationalist. [Someone had made such a charge.] That war was a disastrous folly, as all literate people now acknowledge. [Literate people? Literate? My gosh, I haven't heard that kind of left-wing snobbery — which was a staple of my youth — in . . . in a long while, actually. The Left is more likely to say we're evil than illiterate.] We were never more isolated from the international community than when our troops were deepest in the Vietnam jungle. A close second in isolating us from the international community was the invasion of Iraq, a largely defenseless little desert state that posed no threat to us and had taken no action against us.”

You couldn’t parody “Sen. McGoo” if you tried — he does it to himself. And a president who will lead the “international community” instead of submitting to it, in a false comity, is what we have now — and it is sorely needed.

Wasn’t that “largely defenseless little desert state” supposed to be a great military monster, poised to humiliate us? If I weren’t so lazy, I’d look up what McGovern had to say in 1990-91.

In Britain, a teenager has been forced to pay a policeman about $160 — for calling him “fat.” This was supposed to have caused the copper “mental anguish.”

The patrolman, Jack Montague, said, “Coppers have feelings too, and I’m glad that the magistrates have taken the unusual step of recognizing that.” According to the Daily Telegraph, Montague is 5′8″, and 196 pounds. “Sure, I enjoy the odd curry and a pint or two,” he said, “but I am not fat at all. That’s unfair. I play cricket for my local club and coach junior football, so if anything, I think I am quite sporty.”

As for me, I’m a little torn: I hate dumb litigiousness, but I also hate teenagers — or anyone else — who calls policemen — or anyone else — fat. And I like the spirit of this Jack Montague.

So, there you are.

P.S. Didn’t you like that “odd curry”? Curry!

A pair of my homeboys, Matt Continetti and Jaime Sneider, have started a new publication, called The Dissident. It is available both as paper and here, online. These men are former — recently former (formerly recent?) — NR interns, and each is lovable and smart. One of the best things about their magazine? The masthead, which has the usual titles: Editor, Senior Editor, and . . . Sugar Daddy. I just love that. Their patron is Jeremy S. Davis, and he’s happily listed as Sugar Daddy.

A magazine with that kind of spunk undoubtedly has a lot on the ball.

Let’s have a little mail. Boy, did I get a lot of mail concerning President Bush’s height. Let’s recap for a second. On Monday, I was talking about a Frank Rich column, in which he said, “Against the cultural backdrop of war-on-terrorism America, it doesn’t matter that Senator Lieberman is Jewish; what does matter is that he’s short.” Rich was saying that the Connecticut senator would not look so good in a flight suit, à la W. aboard the Lincoln.

Then I wrote, “Make no mistake: George W. Bush is short. He just carries himself tall (which is wonderful).”

Then, bango, did it hit the fan. I got a crush of letters saying, “Short? Short? Whaddya mean, short? His bio says he is . . .” Now, the most popular answer was 5′11″. The second most popular answer was 6 feet (smirk). The third most popular answer was 5′10″ (more like it, but . . .).

I don’t really care what the bio says. Bios exist to lie, in matters of height. Even in the NBA (I remember Isiah Thomas, in Detroit). Even I have an “official” height, thank you very much (and it may not be strictly, strictly accurate). All I’m saying is: I have my doubts. I have my doubts. ‘sall I’m sayin’. Yet Bush carries himself very tall, which is the main thing.

But it was amusing how I’d touched, er, the Napoleonic nerve of my readers. Several gave their heights. It was sort of touching, really.

Let’s leave it at this: The President of the United States is not as tall as his father. He is taller than his mother (I’m pretty sure, but I can’t verify it). I think he’s in between. And he’s way shorter than Jeb, simply as I eyeball it.

And yet: Standing tall is what the president is doing, in the current mortal struggle.

“Dear Mr. Nordlinger: A couple of weeks ago, my son called here at home from somewhere near downtown Baghdad. It was in the middle of the night and I was a bit groggy. My boy is a 2LT and a Tank Commander in the 3-7 Cav. He told me, ‘Pop, no matter what you hear or read in the media, remember this one thing: The Iraqi people are ecstatic to have us here.’

“I will tell you that these last few months have been very stressful for me. I will be glad when my boy is home.”

This note was sent to me in response to my comment that, no matter what the Dowds say, the United States and its allies have done a very good thing in Iraq, and we shouldn’t be talked out of a recognition of that.

“Dear Jay: The University of Michigan is complaining now that the current members of the (men’s) basketball team are being made to pay the consequences for the wrongdoing of a previous generation of ballplayers. Contrast this with the affirmative-action proponents who think nothing of making my kids pay for the ‘sins’ of their great-great-grandparents.”

A marvelous point. Wish I’d thought of it.

“You wrote about the late Russell Long. He’s the one who said — as chairman of the Senate Finance Committee — ‘Don’t tax you / Don’t tax me / Tax that fella / Behind the tree.’”

In my last column, I remarked that supporters of Social Security reform are being accused of coming from the “far Right” — accused by, among others, Rep. Clay Shaw (a Florida Republican). The confusion of political terms is an ongoing sadness, and hoot.

A reader writes: “Some years ago, I had a conversation with a medical doctor who accused Rush Limbaugh of being ‘to the right of Stalin.’ After I stopped laughing, I explained to him that as Stalin was about as far to the left as it is possible to be, hopefully everyone is to his right. The doctor was very confused. To him the terms ‘left’ and ‘right’ had no meaning other than left is good and right is bad.”

Want some more on this subject — the confusion of terms?

A reader writes, “During a recent visit to my liberal homeland of Minnesota, and despite my best effort to avoid a conflict at a rare family gathering, the topic of the liberation of Iraq came up. One of my sisters blurts out how disturbing it is that our foreign policy is being decided by ‘dangerous evangelical neocons.’ I was kind of stunned. I thought the liberals we were suppose to be outraged over the Zionist neocons. Then I realized it doesn’t matter. Targeting neocons is just the latest demonization effort by liberals. It works so well for them because invoking the dreaded neocon is just vague enough so that this monster can be morphed into whatever the sender or receiver imagines it to be.”

Exactly.

About the Post Office’s abbreviation of states: “When the two-letter abbreviations were relatively new, owners of a business called Me Too looked for their listing in the phone book but found nothing. It turns out that the phone book people put the listing in as Maine Too. I believe the business owners sued but got no place.”

“Hey, Jay: If Cheney really wanted to reward Halliburton, why didn’t the administration allow more oil fires to be started? Has Maureen Dowd thought of that? Seems to me that the quick capture of the oil fields basically took money away from Halliburton.”

Nice point.

“About what you say regarding Jayson Blair and his desire to ‘help people’ as a journalist: I was in an advanced reporting class in 1969 — University of Nebraska School of Journalism. Neale Copple, head of the school, was lecturing. He asked us why we wanted to be journalists. One young lady answered, ‘I want to make a difference!’

“Mr. Copple shot back, ‘You want to make a difference? Go volunteer downtown at a soup kitchen! Journalism is about reporting the news — not about making a difference!’

“I don’t think she took his advice. Nor did thousands of other Woodward/Bernstein wannabes. Alas, the last 30 years could have been the golden age of soup kitchens.”

I myself could only add: Better Copple than Koppel.

Been a long column, y’all, sorry about that. Much more to say, naturally — but will save it for later (if I remember).

Have a “blessed” weekend, as I sometimes hear in the South.



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