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Impromptus
A difference, a pitch, a little language, and more


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Once in a while, it’s right to remind ourselves of elementary points — lest we forget.

Last week, Israel struck against Hamas, killing a top terror leader (Yasser Taha), but also, inadvertently, killing his wife, Fatima, and their daughter, Asnan. Israel defense officials apologized for this mistake. According to Uri Dan, writing in the New York Post, the officials said that “faulty intelligence” led the Israeli strikers “to believe Taha was alone in his car.”

At the same time, Hamas leader Mahmoud Zahar said on television, “You Israelis have to know that all of you are targets — children, mothers, and fathers.”

I thought that was a neat illustration (if I may): faulty intelligence and an apology; “all of you are targets — children, mothers, and fathers.”

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You may wish to remember that the next time someone tries to force moral equivalence — or worse — on you.

I note another article — this one from the New York Times. It appeared on Friday and was headed, “A Sudden, Violent End for a Promising Youth.” That referred to the homicide bomber who killed 17 Israelis on a bus in Jerusalem. The dateline: “HEBRON, West Bank, June 12.” Hebron, of course: a Jewish town, the burial place of the patriarchs, the seat of King David — now off limits to Jews, regarded as inviolable Arab land! (Meanwhile, Israeli police protect Muslims as they visit their holy sites in Jerusalem.)

This news article said, “The night before Abdel Madi Shabneh, just 18, blew himself up on the No. 14/A bus in Jerusalem, killing 17 others in the process, he sat preparing for his final high school English examination.”

“Killing 17 others in the process” — does it seem almost an afterthought to you, something secondary? I repeat what I’ve said before: It’s not so much that I mind their blowing themselves up (although that is horrible and tragic); it’s that they’re murdering so many others — which is their main point, one would think.

I know that you know, Impromptus-ites, that Saudi PR face Adel al-Jubeir is a reprehensible, morally idiotic hack. But just to confirm what you already know:

“Asked about the controversial payments [to the families of suicide bombers], which critics call an incentive for [the bombers], al-Jubeir said, ‘Do you punish the family because their son did something you disapprove of? I think, morally, guilt should not transfer. Osama bin Laden was a murderer who murdered several thousand people. Do we go out and punish the rest of the bin Laden family? I don’t think that’s morally right.”

That report comes from the New York Post. Note that al-Jubeir believes — or says he believes — that not to pay suicide bombers’ families would be the equivalent of “punishing” those families. This must pass for unimpeachable logic in Riyadh.

And to be lectured about moral responsibility by the Saudi government . . . why, that’s like “being called ugly by a frog,” as Bert Lance — and Jody Powell — used to say.

Folks, we are trying to raise money here on NRO. We need it. That’s the straight, unadulterated dope. If you could contribute to NRO — or subscribe to NR — or both — that would be much appreciated. We would like to keep going, and we would like, even, to expand.

You remember Alex P. Keaton’s father on Family Ties? Ran a PBS station, I recall. I feel a little like him at the moment. But I believe in the cause (so did Mr. Keaton, I realize). Additionally, I believe in paying for that which is good and edifying and gladdening and useful. I have contributed to a website — one — which is free and which I use and greatly enjoy. (I guess I shouldn’t name it in the middle of my own pitch!) I make so bold as to suggest that you do likewise.

As for National Review — the magazine itself — I can assure you that we strive to make it as good and golden as possible. I think it’s a sterling publication (hey: no switching metals!). But then I would, wouldn’t I? (Not necessarily.) Again boldly, I would suggest that, in doing us a favor — by either contributing to NRO or subscribing to NR (or again — ideally — both) — you would be doing yourself a favor, too.

End of pitch — and back to our regular programming.

Thanks much.

Eight days ago, Fred Hiatt published a provocative column in the Washington Post. It was called “Challenging Bush’s World View” — I like to spell it one word, incidentally: worldview — and I’ll take a moment to examine it.

Hiatt wrote, “From the midterm election to the sunlit carrier landing, the war seems to have worked maddeningly well for George Bush.” Catch that maddeningly. Maddeningly for . . . those who wanted the War on Terror to go deliciously badly?

The columnist puts his finger on something important: that many, many Americans — particularly among our elites — hope that Bush fails. And that is a horrible, shudder-making hope.

Hiatt further wrote, “Substantively, as 9/11 recedes and no follow-on attack occurs on American soil, the depiction of al Qaeda as primal enemy comes into question: Did we overreact?” Here, the Bush administration may be seen as overreacting if al Qaeda fails in its designs on us. But we want al Qaeda to fail, right? It’s not “maddening” that we thwart them — is it?

Later on, Hiatt writes, “[T]he president’s blithe and sweeping statements on the subject [of WMD] (‘we found the weapons of mass destruction’) stoke doubts about many other airy claims, including his warnings about a wider terrorist threat.” In my view, there is nothing blithe or airy about these claims — but I know what the author means.

Hiatt gives his own view at the end of his column: “In the end, though, those who hope the terrorist threat has been overstated are likely to be as disappointed as those who believe Saddam Hussein had no chemical or biological weapons program. Given the catastrophic damage that a small group could wreak with a biological agent or nuclear weapon, and the hatred of the West still being taught in schools in Saudi Arabia, Pakistan and elsewhere, today’s vigilance is preferable to yesterday’s complacency, and the reorientation Bush imposed after 9/11 was as justified as it was belated.”

That is perfectly said.

This next item, I don’t know whether you’d file under COMEDY or TRAGEDY. Perhaps TRAGICOMEDY.

Yesterday, the Detroit News carried the following five headlines concerning the big University of Michigan/affirmative action Supreme Court case:

“Racial equality at stake with Supreme Court’s ruling”

“Society may change course if affirmative action dies”

“Cohesiveness of military ranks at risk”

“Courts could lose trust, confidence of minorities”

“Corporate innovation in peril”

I could comment on this, but I’m not sure I have the heart, wit, or stamina. Please make your own comments, internally.

I have long thought that nothing will stop affirmative action in admissions — I should have said “race preferences,” or, more bluntly, “race discrimination” — no matter what the courts say. Admissions officers will always find a way to tilt the scales on the basis of race. They will do so because they will regard it as right, and it will make them feel virtuous, even heroic. They may even get the frisson of civil disobedience. “Martin sat in on lunch counters; I’m admitting this one, instead of that one, because I, too, have a saintly heart!”

It should be clear to all that the only remedy for our education woe is the betterment of primary and secondary education: By college, it’s (way) too late. And if blacks and Hispanics are given a satisfactory education, why would they need discrimination in college admissions?

I hope you all had a chance to read Peter Kirsanow’s excellent column on this site last week. It concludes, “Regardless of whether [various] efforts are well intended, they all fail to address the underlying problem: abysmal K-12 education and family environments not conducive to academic competence. This is where the focus should be, not on the latest admissions gimmick offered up to the diversity gods. [What a wonderful phrase.] The hope is that the Supreme Court will confound the smart set and issue a decision that will compel abandonment of preference in exchange for an insistence upon excellence. As Abigail and Stephan Thernstrom would say — no excuses.”

Indeed.

I learned something fascinating from Jonah Goldberg’s column about Hillary (“Enough with the Hillary Hoopla”). He writes, “I have no doubt she doesn’t like it when Bill cheats on her. But it’s clear, to me at least, that she considers the various costs of being married to Bill the price of doing business with him. Heck, when Barbara Walters asked her what would happen if Bill cheated on her again, Hillary responded, ‘You know, that will be between us.’”

Will? Not would? Boy, that was an amazing tense.

But enough with the Hillary hoopla.

I’m sure that each of you has his least favorite example of the usage of Howard Baker’s famous formulation, uttered all those years ago (boy, that was a miserable sentence, but I’m not going back — sorry). Baker said, “What did the president know, and when did he know it?”

I have an entry — it comes from the irrepressible Howard Dean: “We’re losing eight soldiers [in Iraq] every week, and we were sent over there without knowing the facts. What did the president know, and when did he know it?”

Sick of Dean? Too bad. In his Iowa campaign ad — dubbed “Straight Talk” — he says, “I’m Howard Dean. It’s time for the truth. Because the truth is that George Bush’s foreign policy isn’t making us safer. His tax cuts are ruining our economy and costing us jobs. . . .”

My only point (for the moment): A Democratic candidate actually said “tax cuts.” Usually, they say something like, “The Republicans’ tax giveaways to the super-rich . . .”

As much as the Howard Baker formulation — absurdly applied — sets my teeth on edge, I’m even more hostile to cutesy or offensive uses of jihad (or the like): “Some in the Bush administration are in an ideological jihad against this court,” said Richard Dicker of Human Rights Watch, about the administration’s (quite justified) skepticism toward the International Criminal Court.

No, Richard (Dick Dicker?): The administration is busy putting down a real jihad.

Guys, I would like to call your attention to an article by Eliana Johnson at David Horowitz’s FrontPageMag.com. The author is a student at Yale, and she has detailed an appalling incident on that campus, causing me to ask — in my best Dole imitation — “Where’s the outrage?” (The incident concerned a professor who e-mailed around a list of Jewish students in a most unfriendly way. Lovely.)

Now the Chi-Coms have gone too far! They have banned China’s Shakespeare Association, founded in 1984 (pregnant year). And a country that bans the Shakespeare Association — no matter what else it does — can’t be anything be awful. And trouble.

(Incidentally, when I used the term “Chi-Coms” at the Davos Forum, to a fellow American journalist, I believe he spat out what he was drinking, in shock, mirth, and wonder.)

So now Tom Daschle is complaining about tax cuts going to the “wrong people”?! But that was Al Gore’s trick, back in the 2000 campaign — and we (on the Bush campaign) ripped ‘em pretty good for that. So they’re coming back for more, huh?

Bring it on. (Ah, Kirsten Dunst.)

I mentioned, above, my preference for “worldview” as one word. Such things evolve, as you know: usually from two words, to a hyphenated word, to one word. A classic example would be wild life, wild-life, wildlife. Wild life, at the moment, could only refer to — say, Ft. Lauderdale at Spring Break time.

Well, I was reminded of all this while watching, over the weekend, Life with Father, the nifty 1947 film with William Powell, Irene Dunne, and Elizabeth Taylor (and with a score by Max Steiner — which is pretty annoying, actually). As the opening credits rolled, I saw “Screen Play by . . .” Screen play — now, that dates it!

Another language note: Once, someone wrote to congratulate me on a correct and illuminating use of “hopefully” — he had always wondered when, how, it was permitted. Behold this excellent usage from Friday’s New York Times: “Envoys Hopefully Hit Road on Behalf of Imperiled Map.”

Exactly.

Another headline — from yesterday’s Times — to warm the cockles of (just for instance) the Nation of Islam’s heart: “City Milestone: Number of Jews Is Below Million.”

Finally, a prime example of GWB’s humor (on which I’ve always been high): Before visiting Kennebunkport, he told a crowd of elderly Americans, “I’m going to spend the weekend with one of my favorite seniors. He is turning 79 today. I’m not going to tell you how old my mother is because I want to have a place to sleep.”



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