An inscribed grenade, &c.


Friends, as you know, I have a piece on John Bolton in the current issue of NR. And you know this because you’re subscribers, right? Ahem. Anyway . . . I have this piece on Bolton, describing and analyzing his tenure as U.S. ambassador to the U.N. Before writing, I was interested to come upon a piece about Bolton published in NR back when Bush was president — I mean, the first Bush. The year was 1990, and Bolton was an assistant secretary of state. The secretary of state, of course, was James A. Baker III.

And the title of NR’s piece was — get this — “Jim Baker’s Right-Hand Man.” Baker was no favorite of conservatives, then as now. And Bolton was very much a conservative. The author of this piece was William McGurn, who is currently chief presidential speechwriter. He asked, “How does a man who wears Adam Smith ties survive in a Bush administration?” The answer was: Just fine, thank you very much. Bolton was doing a cracking job.

And McGurn imparted a lovely bit of color: Bolton had in his office a gift from his colleagues in the Reagan administration. (He had worked in the U.S. Agency for International Development.) And what was the gift? A dummy grenade, inscribed, “John R. Bolton, Truest Reaganaut.”

I have no burning point to make — just thought you’d enjoy that.

In yesterday’s Impromptus, I commented on President Bush and Mary Cheney’s baby. I mean, I remarked on Bush’s reaction to same: how warm and gracious it was. I said, “Sheer class, sheer class.”

I print the below letter because the letter-writer had the exact same thought I did. I didn’t express it, however, because a) I was a little lazy, and b) these columns run on long enough, don’t they?

Dear Mr. Nordlinger:

The president’s response to Mary Cheney’s baby reminded me of his response to his Yale classmate — the one who had a sex-change operation. At their reunion, this woman was explaining to the president that he had known her, in college, as a man. “And now you’ve come back as yourself,” said the president.

Sheer class, indeed. Weapons-grade class.

In recent days, we have had two notable columns from two big-time conservative writers: Bob Novak and Pat Buchanan. In his, Novak insisted on “linkage” between the Palestinian-Israeli conflict and the troubles in Iraq. In brief, unless Israel makes concessions to Palestinians, there can be no progress in Iraq, or in the Middle East at large. What the bombers and beheaders in Iraq care about the Palestinians is beyond me — but that’s not my main concern here.

My main concern is linguistic. Novak wrote that “there is no chance whatsoever for essential Israeli-Palestinian peace without American brokerage. The Israeli ruling class and its U.S. outriders do not want that to happen . . .”

I am interested in that “the Israeli ruling class and its U.S. outriders.” Years ago, at the time of the Persian Gulf War, Pat Buchanan put it differently: “There are only two groups that are beating the drums for war in the Middle East — the Israeli Defense Ministry and its amen corner in the United States.”

Outriders. Amen corner. Take your pick.

Yesterday, Buchanan had a column saying that Time should have made Ahmadinejad its Man of the Year. That is an interesting and credible proposition — consider (as Buchanan does) that Time made Khomeini its Man of the Year in ’79.

But I am mainly interested in a couple of specific lines in this column. Buchanan wrote that Ahmadinejad had hosted “a conference of Holocaust skeptics.” Skeptics? That seems to me rather too polite and generous a word. “Deniers,” I believe, would be more apt.

And then Buchanan wrote this: “[Ahmadinejad] inspires all who hate Israel and Bush’s America.” I hear this a lot at Davos and other such places — that Arabs, Muslims, or all the world’s people hate “Bush’s America,” not America itself. You have to question the wisdom of this.

Ahmadinejad and his fellow extremists took over the American embassy, and held our people hostage for 444 days, when Jimmy Carter was president. And Carter was no big booster of Israel, and no enemy of Muslims, including the extremists. Did it make any difference? Iranian radicals were burning our flag, and calling us “the Great Satan,” when Jimmy and Rosalynn were sittin’ pretty in the Oval. The radicals cut us no slack.

Jump forward, now, to the Clinton years. There was the first World Trade Center bombing, and Khobar Towers, and the African-embassy bombings, and the Cole — sure. But think about Arafat, too. During the eight years of Clinton — from 1993 to 2001 — the PLO boss was the most frequent foreign visitor to the White House. Clinton and his team spent night and day trying to make the Palestinians happy.

And what did Arafat do? He intensified the PLO war against Israel, and fanned hatred against the United States.

No, it’s not merely the evangelical cowboy from Texas “they” hate. To think so is to indulge in a fantasy. And, by the way, don’t be so sure that “they” hate the evangelical cowboy from Texas. Consult millions of Afghans and Iraqis, to begin with. And a great many others, too, appreciate his freedom push, even if they don’t feel absolutely comfortable saying so when Christiane Amanpour comes calling.

Incidentally, have you ever read Pat’s memoir of his D.C. boyhood? Called Right from the Beginning, it’s one of the most beautiful and absorbing memoirs you’ll ever read. He and Bob Novak were two of the greatest Cold Warriors among all writers. And I learned a huge amount from them — a huge amount of good. I will ever be grateful.

I think I mentioned Jimmy Carter a bit ago. Many readers have e-mailed me to say, “Jay, won’t you please say something about your favorite ex-president and his recent outrages!” And the answer is — I think other people got that covered. I can continue my Carter sabbatical, can’t I? I mean, he hasn’t changed an iota, in many, many years. My copious writings on him still stand. There has always been little daylight between him and Hamas. Every couple of years, he has a media push — but Jimmy is Jimmy, and what (more) can I say?

Gosh, he loves that word “apartheid”! Wish he had some concern about how minorities are treated in Arab and Muslim countries. Ain’t many Jews in Damascus these days, are there? And how about the Christians?

James Earl Carter Jr.: What a huge, tragic waste of talent. And don’t think he doesn’t have it, either.


Want to share with you what a reader said about Jeane Kirkpatrick. (This followed the memoir, of a sort, I wrote about her here.)

Dear Jay:

There are three people I hold responsible for my conversion to an assertive conservatism. First is WFB, but the two others were Democrats and, by happenstance, came to my attention when they served as our truth-telling ambassadors to the United Nations: Daniel Patrick Moynihan and Jeane Kirkpatrick.

I remember, vividly, early on in the Gipper’s first term, when I was at the Industrial College of the Armed Forces at Ft. McNair, studying our esteemed “adversary,” the Soviet Union. What a contrast between Ambassador Kirkpatrick et al. and the Carterites! Jeane K. was, in the simplest terms, a morale booster for those of us who made our careers in national security. R.I.P.

I loved that phrase: She was “a morale booster.” Yes, she was.

And who is your choice, dear readers, for our next U.N. ambassador? Congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen of Florida? Yeah, that’s a fine nomination.

As Argentina’s Roberto de Vicenzo said, after signing an incorrect scorecard to cost himself the 1968 Masters tournament, “What a stupid I am!” In yesterday’s column, I wrote of the Ladies in White, one of Cuba’s “little platoons.” They are wives and mothers of political prisoners, who, after Mass, walk down a Havana street in dignity, reminding the country of the prisoners’ plight. I said, “W
ouldn’t it be nice if the Ladies won the Nobel Peace Prize, or some other international recognition? Don’t hold your breath.”

Well, the Ladies did win international recognition — last year, when the European Parliament gave them the Sakharov Prize. (By the way, Cuba’s dissident Pro-Human Rights party is an affiliate of the Andrei Sakharov Foundation.)

That ought to teach me to be so snippy and flip. Whether it will is another question . . .

Want to say a couple of words about the Christmas Spectacular at (New York’s) Radio City Music Hall.

1) Nice gams. Really, really nice gams. Man, can those Rockettes kick — and more.

2) You might expect the Spectacular to be glitzy, kitschy, and tacky. There’s a little of that. But, in the main, it is brilliant. It pours on brilliant dancing, brilliant choreography, very clever use of music. Anyone who mocks the Spectacular either hasn’t seen it or is a fool.

3) You’ve never seen a show more Christmassy. It’s “Merry Christmas” this, “Merry Christmas” that. I don’t think I heard the word “holiday” once.

By the way, someone said “Happy Holidays” to me in church the other Sunday. I swear!

4) When they played a video showing Santa flying into New York, everything was blurry, out of focus. My friend and I said, “That’s kind of unfortunate.” But, after, we discovered that it was a 3D video — and we were supposed to use the glasses supplied in our program. Oh. All the four-year-olds around us seemed to know that, but . . .

5) In the video, Santa swoops past the Statue of Liberty into southern Manhattan. And the Trade Towers, of course, are not there — which makes me burn, every time.

6) The Spectacular ends, as you may well know, with a living nativity — camels and all. The Christmas story is narrated, and, indeed, the story of Jesus’ life and career. It ends this way: “When he was dead, he was taken down and laid in a borrowed grave.”

That’s it? The end? Nothing after that? Just stayed there in that grave, a-moulderin’, did he?

Oh, I must give you a seventh point. After seeing the show, I was enthusing about it to an old friend. She said that she herself had had a friend, in the ’60s, who married a Rockette. “Actually,” she said, “he was living in sin with her, in the Village. Then they got married.”

Living in sin with a Rockette in the Village — is that not the dream of millions?

See you soon, dear hearts.


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