Back in the campaign of 2000 — seems like a while ago, doesn’t it? — George W. Bush talked a lot about how he’d gotten along with Democrats in Texas. He was almost above party politics. He was going to shove all that bickering aside, and do the people’s business. Just as he forged ties with Democrats in Texas — Bob Bullock and all that — he was going to forge ties in Washington.
And a lot of us said, “Fat chance, pardner.” Bush’s father had tried to do that during his own years as president. He even made a show of reaching out his hand — literally reaching it out — to Speaker Jim Wright, on Inauguration Day. And Wright was not only to bite that hand; he was to chew it up, spit it out, and cackle.
I thought of all this when Rep. Pete Stark (D., Calif.) made his remarks about Bush and Iraq — how Bush liked to send kids over there to get their heads blown off for his own amusement, etc. No, Dorothy, no, Toto: You’re not in Kansas anymore. And George W. Bush is not in good ol’ Austin, where the most you had to fear was the occasional tart quip by Ann Richards (R.I.P.).
In the main, Democrats aren’t as blunt or crude as Stark (good name, huh?). But he expresses the spirit of the thing.
As you may have heard, Rep. Charlie Rangel (D., N.Y.) was blunt about Rudolph Giuliani, and the feelings of his son, Andrew, toward him: “Sons respect and admire their fathers, but they love their mothers against cheating god**mn husbands.”
Quite right. Truer words were never spoken. Unfortunately, Rangel will never betray his great love: Castro.
I got all excited when I saw this headline: “CNN Takes Stock of a ‘Planet in Peril’” (over this article). “Hurray!” I said. “The mainstream media are now taking the global threat of Islamofascism and nuclear proliferation seriously.” But wouldn’t you know? The article turned out to be about the environment. Of course.
A word about Rush Limbaugh: This recent episode — Rush’s auctioning off of the Senate Democrat smear letter against him, netting millions for the Marine Corps/Law Enforcement Foundation — gives us the man in a nutshell: He is audacious, energetic, kind, mischievous, personable, pugnacious, brilliant, fun — generous. Very generous. To my mind, this one episode sums up an entire character and career.
Hats off. Seldom in life have I seen someone take a little adversity and make such sweet — mightily sweet — use of it.
A couple of side notes, please: I noticed this article in the New York Times. It begins, “After Rush Limbaugh referred to Iraq war veterans critical of the war as ‘phony soldiers,’ he received a letter of complaint signed by 41 Democratic senators.”
Is that the way it happened? No. Rush wasn’t complaining about war veterans critical of the war; he was complaining about people pretending to be war veterans, and making things up. In addition: The Senate letter, as I understand it, was not sent to Limbaugh, but to the CEO of the company that syndicates him.
Also, a reader wrote to ask me this: “Dear Jay: After the Senate threatened Rush — and remember the vast regulatory power of the federal government — did anyone utter the words ‘chilling effect’?”
Not that I heard, no. Because free speech is for liberals and leftists — for Izzy Stone and David Halberstam and Sy Hersh. Not for the likes of thee and me.
Years ago, Rick Brookhiser examined Bill Buckley’s reader mail, and came to these conclusions: The most interesting letters were from prison; and the least interesting were the ones signed “Ph.D.”
I thought of this the other day, because some of the worst mail I have ever received — nasty, stupid, sneering, demanding, persistent — came from someone who signed himself both “Dr.” and “Ph.D.” Now, you’re supposed to have one or the other: You’re supposed to have “Joe Blow, Ph.D.,” or “Dr. Joe Blow” — not “Dr. Joe Blow, Ph.D.” Similarly, you’re supposed to have “Marcus Welby, M.D.,” or “Dr. Marcus Welby” — not “Dr. Marcus Welby, M.D.”
So, I’m just warning you: If you receive mail from anyone signing himself “Dr.” and “Ph.D.” — watch out.
P.S. Have you read my 2002 piece on the honorific “Dr.”? There is much Impromptus-reader participation in it. If you’d like to, go here. (And, no, we’re not reopening the subject! But thanks.)
It has been much remarked that Al Gore has won an Oscar, an Emmy, and a Nobel, in rapid succession. And doesn’t that validate him! Not really — not as far as I’m concerned. For Gore, those constituencies are very, very easy. The people who give those awards are his peeps, for sure. Fortunately, Floridians were just a little bit harder.
Not that you’re ever validated, or invalidated, by those who approve of you, or disapprove.
Thought I’d throw a language note at you. The other day, someone objected to the phrase “Please RSVP.” This someone noted, quite correctly, that “please” is embedded in “RSVP” — which means, Répondez, s’il vous plaît, or “Respond, please.” But the thing is, RSVP has become an English verb — French aside. So I, for one, find “Please RSVP” acceptable.
Am I just too liberal?