Presidents say the darndest things, &c.


Did you note what our president said in Strasbourg? “I think that it is important for Europe to understand that even though I’m now president and George Bush is no longer president, al-Qaeda is still a threat. We cannot pretend somehow that because Barack Hussein Obama got elected as president, suddenly everything is going to be okay.”

Thank you, Mr. President. Thank you very, very much. Thank you ever so much. Gee.

There’s an expression I heard some years ago that I like very much: “Get over yourself.”

In Turkey, a student said this to the president: “First, I will ask about the Bush and you differences at the core, because some say just the face has changed and that — but core is the same still.” (I am just going with the raw transcript, not cleaning up any English.) It seems to me that a president should not criticize his predecessor, certainly on foreign soil. Bush won’t criticize Obama on any soil — and he’s the former president! And the current president has not stopped “running” against him, even though he has been president for more than three months!

I don’t see how Bush can hold his tongue.

Anyway, I think Obama should have ducked or finessed that question, in Turkey. But he said, “The first question, if I understood you correctly, is the suggestion that even though I present a different face from Bush, that the policies are the same and so there’s really not much difference.

“And, you know, I think this will be tested in time because as I said before, moving the ship of state is a slow process. . . . When it comes to Iraq, I opposed the war in Iraq. I thought it was a bad idea. Now that we’re there, I have a responsibility to make sure that as we bring troops out, that we do so in a careful enough way that we don’t see a complete collapse into violence. . . . When it comes to climate change, George Bush didn’t believe in climate change. I do believe in climate change, I think it’s important.”

Etc., etc. If you would like to see the transcript, go here. The big thing about Obama was supposed to be his temperament — no matter what his policies, he had a “first-class temperament.” I don’t know. As I see him cavort around the world, I think of JFK’s famous putdown of Nixon: “No class.”

(And the secretary of state is even worse, where the trashing of her predecessors is concerned.)

In the three presidential debates, Senator Obama played a very moderate game. Often, he sounded like a conservative Democrat: a Sam Nunn or a David Boren. At times, he even sounded like a moderate Republican — a Richard Lugar (and he in fact cited Lugar, favorably). I was particularly struck by Obama’s saying, “We need missile defense.” I thought at the time: “I’m not sure Obama really believes that. But if he did — how wonderful.”

All this was brought to mind when I read Charles Krauthammer’s column of April 10. He was writing about Obama and North Korea — particularly North Korea’s launch of a long-range missile: “Having thus bravely rallied the international community and summoned the United Nations — a fiction and a farce, respectively — what was Obama’s further response? The very next day, his defense secretary announced drastic cuts in missile defense, including halting further deployment of Alaska-based interceptors designed precisely to shoot down North Korean ICBMs.”

Great. Just great.

It occurred to me that, while in Europe, our president did everything but slap a maple leaf on his backpack.

Lately, I’ve been writing about school choice — have been on kind of a kick. I guess it’s because the Democrats are killing the D.C. school-choice program — which I think is downright mean (even though “mean” is supposed to be the Republicans’ specialty). I’m particularly interested in a case at the Sidwell Friends School. This is the private D.C. school where the Clintons’ daughter went, and where the Obamas’ daughters are going now. As it happens, two kids are going there thanks to the D.C. school-choice program. But that is coming to an end. The carriage is turning back into a pumpkin. So long, Sidwell. Hello, good ol’ violent public schools, where no learning can go on: only a struggle for survival.

(I had a Corner note about this here.)

One thing I keep saying is, “The problem with school choice — the problem with getting it enacted, and keeping it, once you’ve managed to enact it — is that it involves caring about other people’s children. And that is very, very hard for a lot of folks to do.”

Well, a reader wrote to remind me of what the current secretary of state used to say: “There’s no such thing as someone else’s child.” Oh, yes there is. Oh, yes there is.

You know my favorite Phil Gramm story, right? (One of them, anyway.) He’s on MacNeil-Lehrer (I believe) with some woman from the education establishment (what Bill Bennett used to call “the Blob”). Gramm says, “My educational policies are based on the fact that I care more about my children than you do.” The woman says, “No, you don’t.” Gramm says, “Okay: What are their names?”

Got a note from someone I know, a man who is exceptionally principled and thoughtful: “A friend gave me a T-shirt with a picture of Che Guevara wearing a Che Guevara T-shirt. Claims it mocks the commercialization of his image. Wearable? You’re the authority on this stuff, I think.”

Well, thank you. My view: Borderline. I’d lean against wearing. But I would not strongly object if someone did wear it.

Boy, what a murderer he was. What a murderer, imprisoner, and enslaver. And how widely celebrated he is.

A reader sent me a letter, which I found both touching and bothersome. See if you agree:

Dear Mr. Nordlinger,


I just came across this USA Today story about a 21-year-old Brown student who “infiltrated” Liberty University for a semester and then wrote a book about his experience. I find more and more disturbing the way in which the mainstream press lends credence to the idea that conservatives — and especially conservative Christians — are like aliens. They are so strange that their ways must be studied using participant observation, and this young Margaret Mead has bravely journeyed into their midst to try to understand them.


How many college students write books featured in a national newspaper? 

Yeah, I know. Old story. Incidentally, in 2000 — when the university was going through one of its periods of being reviled from coast to coast — I traveled to Bob Jones, and wrote this piece. (I did not pretend I was anything but who I was, FYI: a reporter-essayist from New York.)

Oh, and, by the way, Margaret Mead was a shocking liar — either a complete naïf or a shocking liar. And, giving her the benefit of the doubt, I vote (b). Don’t you?

In Impromptus last week, I wrote about the Bay of Pigs, an episode our president treated with flippancy when it came up at the Summit of the Americas. A reader reminded me that Bay of Pigs returnees gave President Kennedy a flag: their brigade flag. This occurred in an emotional ceremony in the Orange Bowl, December 29, 1962. The president said, “I can assure you that this flag will be returned to this brigade in a free Havana.”



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