A McCarthyite smell, &c.


It’s an old song, and I have sung it many times: Liberals can get away with all the McCarthyism they want; conservatives, no. (Thanks a lot, Tailgunner Joe.) In attacking Republican budget plans, President Obama has been saying, basically, that they’re un-American.

Here is a cutesy line: “To restore fiscal responsibility, we all need to share in the sacrifice, but we don’t have to sacrifice the America we believe in.” Here is another line, cutesy or not: “We’re a better country because of these commitments” — meaning a slew of social-welfare programs. “I’ll go further. We would not be a great country without those commitments.”

Meaning, I guess, that America was a nothing before 1965 or so (or maybe before 1961, year of our president’s birth?).

You remember Howard Dean, that liberal avatar, right? He said of John Ashcroft, attorney general of the United States, “not a patriot.” Man, if a Republican had said that about, say, Janet Reno . . . And you remember Joe Biden, saying that those who resisted higher taxes were unpatriotic?

I often recall Charlie Rangel, who denounced tax cuts as, not quite unpatriotic, but racist: “It’s not ‘spic’ or ‘nigger’ anymore. They say, ‘Let’s cut taxes.’”

A weird country. Listen, Paul Ryan and his brethren may be wrong in their solutions (although I’m confident they’re not). But what is perfectly clear is that they’re trying to save the country.

This report on North Korea is worth a skim. The beginning:

Visitors paying their respects at the memorial palace housing the body of North Korea’s late founder patiently waited through security checks and scans along a winding corridor. Their shoes were dusted before they stepped through a fierce wind tunnel to sweep away any remaining specks.

Man, that’s security, or should we say fussiness? Some more:

So revered is the former leader that he remains the nation’s “eternal president” 17 years after his death, his beaming face on billboards, portraits and the small pins every North Korean wears affixed to their shirts and jackets.

Jeane Kirkpatrick once said, “North Korea is a psychotic state. And we have very little experience of dealing with psychotic states. They are rare in history.”

On this matter of reverence for Kim Il-sung, I remember Jimmy Carter’s trip to North Korea, one of his most sickening ever. Carter claimed he had been able to “observe the North Koreans’ psyche and their societal structure and the reverence with which they look upon their leader.”

Yes, because if there’s one thing Carter’s great at, it’s observing an entire people’s psyche, plus their societal structure. And he knows reverence when he sees it.

Can you imagine him in Stalin’s Russia in, say, 1936? (Yes.)

Talking about Kim, Carter said, “I find him to be vigorous, intelligent, surprisingly well informed about the technical issues, and in charge of the decisions about this country.” Funny thing about monstrous, totalitarian, absolute dictators: They tend to be in charge.

Carter also said, “I don’t see that they,” meaning the North Koreans, “are an outlaw nation.” Of course not. A wonderful international citizen, North Korea. And he described Pyongyang as a “bustling city,” where shoppers “pack the department stores.” Why, he was reminded of the “Wal-Mart in Americus, Georgia.”

In truth, North Korea was a starving and pulverized nation. Same as it is now. A Potemkin village had apparently struck Carter as real.

If you’d like to know something of North Korea, I recommend Aquariums of Pyongyang: Ten Years in the North Korean Gulag, by Kang Chol-hwan, an incredibly brave and valuable man. I shook his hand last year, in Oslo. A great honor.

Have one more article on North Korea:

North Korean defectors in South Korea flew propaganda leaflets across the border Friday to denounce the North’s third-generation political succession, drawing the ire of locals wary of possible retaliation.

A group of about 10 defectors and activists used large helium-filled balloons to send what they said were about 200,000 leaflets and 1,000 U.S. dollar bills from near the heavily fortified border. Another group of South Korean activists sent more balloons with leaflets.

South Korean citizens sympathetic to the North and residents of the border city of Paju tried to stop the leafleting, blocking a road with a large truck. Scuffles erupted as the activists prepared to float the balloons.

Much to think about there. You know who I think are the “South Korean citizens sympathetic to the North”? The ones doing the leafleting. (What I mean is, they are sympathetic to the people — who need sympathy — not the dictatorship.)

And hats off to those North Korean defectors who have not forgotten their suffering fellows back home.

Have another article, this one out of New Delhi, and concerning Tibet:

The Dalai Lama on Friday asked the international community to persuade the Chinese leadership to exercise restraint in handling the latest troubles at a blockaded Tibetan monastery in western China.

That is pure Dalai Lama, isn’t it? Let me retype the sentence, using italics to emphasize what I mean by “pure Dalai Lama”: “The Dalai Lama on Friday asked the international community to persuade the Chinese leadership to exercise restraint in handling the latest troubles at a blockaded Tibetan monastery in western China.”

A very polite man, the Dalai Lama. In 1989, he won the Nobel peace prize, you may recall. The chairman of the Nobel committee, Egil Aarvik, gave the presentation speech. May I quote a little?

This is by no means the first community of exiles in the world, but it is assuredly the first and only one that has not set up any militant liberation movement. This policy of nonviolence is all the more remarkable when it is considered in relation to the sufferings inflicted on the Tibetan people during the occupation of their country. The Dalai Lama’s response has been to propose a peaceful solution which would go a long way to satisfying Chinese interests. It would be difficult to cite any historical example of a minority’s struggle to secure its rights, in which a more conciliatory attitude to the adversary has been adopted than in the case of the Dalai Lama.