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Our man at Turtle Bay, &c.


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U.N. ambassador John Bolton was on the horn yesterday, with some of us webby types. As always, he was interesting, articulate, direct, and well-informed. Would you care for a little taste?

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One of us mentioned that President Bush has called a nuclear Iran “unacceptable.” “What does he mean by ‘unacceptable’?” was the question. Bolton answered that “the president is a man of his word.” And when he says unacceptable, he means unacceptable.

Okay, then.

The ambassador was further asked about Ahmadinejad, and his role in the hostage-taking 25 years ago (more than). Has that been forgotten, swept under the rug? No way, said Bolton. In fact, he met with an ex-hostage recently who had recognized Ahmadinejad, when he became Iranian president — same, awful guy.

This was a “very emotional” meeting, said Bolton.

And how about Mr. Malloch Brown? Mark Malloch Brown is deputy secretary general of the U.N., and it was he who knocked “Middle America” in a speech a few weeks ago: Thanks to Fox News and Rush Limbaugh, these Americans are ignorant, of all the blessings that the U.N. brings. Any consequences of that speech (which Bolton criticized sharply)?

Yes, said the ambassador. Some congressmen aren’t very pleased, and will remember this insult.

But don’t forget the “fundamental point,” said Bolton: An official of the U.N. Secretariat has no business giving such a speech, about the citizens of a member state. It is “illegitimate” for a U.N. bureaucrat to operate this way.

And this is a problem that “occurs again and again and again,” said Bolton. It’s not just Malloch Brown, but other officials as well. “Some people in the U.N. Secretariat have the idea that they can criticize the United States and get away with it. And the United States should not be a well-bred doormat. I’m going to respond every time they do this.”

How about that?

Critics of Bolton portray him as a rogue agent — who, for example, went farther in his opposition to the new U.N. Human Rights Council than the administration desired. How about that?

Nonsense, answered Bolton. “Some people may find it unfortunate, but I actually follow my instructions, and the positions we took here on the Human Rights Council were the positions of the U.S. government” — period.

Bolton left no doubt that there is zero daylight between him and the president.

A word about the New York Times and the L.A. Times, and their recent exposure of another secret anti-terror program. Do we have the World War II spirit, asked Bolton, where everyone knew that loose lips sank ships? The answer is obvious. And “we can’t calculate the negative effect” of this latest betrayal — that’s how bad it is.

A final question for the ambassador: What will the U.N.-ers say, when you’re gone? That you were a short-lived annoyance, breathing down their necks, quickly dispatched? Or will the work you do have some lasting effect?

Bolton observed that he has about six months left (at least) — and the U.N. is “a target-rich environment.” He will keep at it, trying to get the U.N. to reform, come hell or high water. And he will leave the assessing for after that.

Oh, just one more thing about John Bolton: He’s as American as apple pie, just about as American as you can get. But he has one un-American habit: He pronounces negotiate “ne-go’-see-ate,” as Brits do, rather than “ne-go’-shee-ate,” as we do.

Odd. At least he didn’t say “ta” as we broke off.

How long has it been since I said how lucky we are to have John Bolton as U.N. ambassador, and George W. Bush as a president willing to appoint such men to such posts? Couple of days?

Please consider it reiterated.

Some readers have asked me to comment on the New York Times, and the “liberal media” generally, in light of the latest outrage. But what can I say? As on the subject of Jimmy Carter, I’m a bit spent. Remember when, years ago, I swore off Maureen Dowd and Thomas Friedman forever?

Well, those two are mere components of this large paper, the Times. And, for a while now, I have felt about the paper the way I do about those columnists.

I have fulminated against the Times, in its most treacherous and galling acts, for years. And — though I can fulminate with the best of ’em — I am almost fulminated out. (Plus, the repetition starts to get to you — you, the writer, and you, the reader.)

It seems to me, everyone’s playing his part. The Bush administration is trying to prevent another 9/11. And the New York Times and similar organs are . . . how would you put it?

The Bush administration is trying to “connect the dots,” as the whole world screamed at them to do. And the New York Times et al. are saying, “No, don’t. We won’t let you.”

And so it goes, as that lady with the glasses on television used to say (tiresomely).

(Oh, my gosh, I’ve become Linda Ellerbee!)

I’m a little bit disappointed in Mitch McConnell, long one of my favorite senators (and favorite politicians, and favorite Americans). He says he’s against the flag-burning amendment because he doesn’t want to tamper with the First Amendment.

Fine. But who’s done the tampering with the First Amendment? Misguided courts, I would say.

To repeat, for the umpteenth time: People like me favor the flag-burning amendment not because we give a rip about flag burning. We don’t. But it’s the only option the citizenry has, in the face of what the courts have done, and in particular the Supreme Court.

The judges say that the First Amendment forbids states and municipalities to pass laws against flag burning. That opinion strikes many of us as inane.

So, the only way to rebuke, correct, or override the Supreme Court is to pass an amendment. The Court says, “This is how we interpret the Bill of Rights.” My side says, “Oh, really? Well, if that’s your game — eat this (amendment).”

Come on, Mitch — sing along!

There are second acts, and third acts, in American life — witness the election of Ron Dellums as mayor of Oakland, Calif. In the Cold War, there was no congressman softer on the Reds. If this sounds McCarthyite — so be it. Sometimes candor is clunky.

And if you doubt what I say about the Dellums record — well, look it up. (You will find plenty of articles in the archives of National Review, The American Spectator, and other righteous rags.)

In a way, Ron Dellums ought to be mayor of Oakland. I mean, in the same way Dan Rather ought to be anchorman of CBS News, and the Supreme Court reporter of the New York Times ought to march in pro-abortion rallies.

Still, the people of Oakland deserve better (despite their vote), and they had better, in Jerry Brown, speaking of second acts, or third acts. If he had been as good a governor of California as he proved a mayor of Oakland — he might have moved on up to the Big Job!

(A little joke from Johnny Carson: “I don’t know if Governor Brown’s running for president, but his mother’s in the green room, knitting an oval rug.”)

I was delighted to see Ben Wattenberg’s article on Friday’s NRO — in part because he said what I’ve been saying, for ages, and in vain. (Isn’t that the way? “The article was great because I agreed with it, and it agreed with me.”)

Anyway, here is what Wattenberg said:

President Lyndon B. Johnson lost no opportunity to explain why we were in Vietnam: from major speeches to arrival and departure statements for important visitors. I was on his staff from mid-1966 to the end, and at parties and dinners in Washington I would repeat the president’s rationale with gusto. Many times, people would respond, “Gee, I wish LBJ would explain it that way.”

Sound familiar? President George W. Bush always talks about Iraq — yet we keep hearing the same line: “Why doesn’t he explain the war?” With the exception of one paragraph (on the “ownership society”), Bush’s Second Inaugural was entirely devoted to the rationale for the war.

Etc. And hallelujah. Thank you, Ben.

To continue beating my drum: Bush talks about Iraq until he’s blue in the face, over, and over, and over. I often link to whole speeches in this humble lil’ column we have here.

But, still, people say, “Gee, Bush never says anything about Iraq. Is he embarrassed by it or something? And when he does talk about the war, it’s all rah-rah, rosy-scenario stuff.”

Which is another falsehood.

But, oh, people cling to it.

A reader referred to his NR subscription as a “prescription,” rather than a subscription. I thought that was one of the finest compliments this magazine (or any) has ever been paid.

And I know just how he feels.

A reader writes, “Jay, I recently saw a bumper sticker that would have been funny if it was not so sad. It read, ‘My child is a honor student at [Smith, let’s say] Elementary School’ (emphasis added). Has the rule changed? Or is this another sad and ironic comment on our public schools?”

The latter — it’s a outrage. (As Oscar Hammerstein II, actually, wrote — in Oklahoma!)

The other day, I was in Elm Grove, Wis. — what a lovely place, by the way — and took a ride with a gentleman of a certain age. As we walked to the van, the sliding door opened automatically. “How did you do that?” I asked. “I pressed the button on this key fob,” he said.

I don’t know which was more delightful: the use of that fine old word, or the distinctive Upper Midwestern way in which he pronounced it! (That pronunciation is impossible to reproduce in writing, I’m afraid — but you sure know it when you hear it. You can hear it, for example, in the phrase “honest to God,” where you really hit those o’s, Midwesternly.)

(I say this as a native, recall.)

Met another gentleman in Elm Grove, early in the morning — this was at a driving range. “How’re you doing?” I asked. “Pretty good for an old fart,” he answered, dismounting his tractor.

How many times have I heard that, particularly in my native region? “Pretty good for an old fart.”

He warned me that the yardage signs at the range weren’t accurate. I said, “That’s okay, I’m not either.” He said, “You know what I tell people, when we’re out on the range, picking it? I say, ‘We don’t want you to hit us, so please aim at us.’”

Beautiful.

Have just a little music: For a review of Tony Palmer’s new documentary on the Salzburg Festival, published in the New York Sun, go here.

Finally, consider Letterman’s Top Ten List, which I read the other day. At issue were “Top Ten Other Changes in the United States Army.” (I don’t know what the change was, that sparked this list.) Most of the ten were suitably funny. But when we got to #1, we read, “For a limited time, all enlistees get to kick Rumsfeld’s a**.”

Hmm, that was strange. From everything I have gathered — and I have been gathering — the SecDef is very popular with the enlistees. I can understand that he is not popular with Letterman jokewriters. I imagine they think, “He’s the one makin’ ’em die.”

And I know that you’re not supposed to analyze humor, or comment earnestly on it. But, to be funny, shouldn’t you touch reality? Sort of?

Anyway, on that leaden note . . . see you. At least the Bolton bits were good!



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