Joe Citizen, &c.


Now and then, I feel within me a conflict between a journalist’s impulse — which wants everything revealed and talked about — and a citizen’s impulse. The latter impulse is almost always stronger.

Here is a headline from yesterday: “Inside the spy unit that NYPD says doesn’t exist.” Well, I wish it were still under wraps.

At some point in the mid-2000s, I was at Davos, making some comments on the War on Terror. I said that I was not a “neutralist” in this matter — that I was on a “side”: the side of the United States and civilization against barbarism. I also said that I was a citizen before I was a journalist.

The gasps in the room were audible, as were the groans. As was the scorn. I think one or two people may have had heart attacks. I had simply scandalized the room — which seemed so weird.

Long ago, I read something somewhere — don’t know whether it’s true. I read that Edward R. Murrow had a sign in his London office, saying, “It is more important to win the war than to report on it.”

Sounds right to me.

Part of me sort of admires President Obama’s determination to go ahead with his Martha’s Vineyard vacation. He is a liberal elitist. And that’s what they do: spend August on Martha’s Vineyard. He wasn’t going to let political considerations deter him from this.

Bill Clinton, you may remember, took a poll to decide where he should go on vacation in 1996. That was his reelection year. Like a good liberal elitist, he had vacationed on the Vineyard. But he decided that he needed to do something a little less posh for the reelection year.

So he went to Jackson Hole.

Dick Morris tells the following story. The president calls him one day and says, “Can Chelsea go whitewater rafting?” Morris says, “Well, sure — I’ve done it, it’s not that dangerous.” The president says, sternly, “No, that’s not what I mean.  You know: ‘Whitewater’?”

In other words, would the media make jokes about the rafting excursion and the Clinton scandal known as “Whitewater”?

This year is not President Obama’s reelection year. Next year is. We’ll see whether it’s still the Vineyard. If it is: The man is stubbornly heedless of political exigencies, which makes me kind of smile.

Here is an Associated Press report out of Tripoli. It begins,

Libyans on Wednesday wept over the graves of those killed in their six-month war against Moammar Gadhafi, then celebrated their newfound freedom with morning prayers and joyous chants in the capital’s main square — bittersweet rituals marking the start of a major Muslim holiday.

A little more from the article:

Women in black robes ululated, rebel fighters fired guns in the air and people burst into spontaneous chants of “Hold your head high, Libya is free!”

In one corner, five rebel fighters formed a reception line, like at a wedding, and civilians walked up to them, shaking their hands in gratitude.

And just a little more:

Adel Taghdi, 47, choked back tears as watched the festivities. Having spent long years in Canada, he said he had felt no sense of belonging when he saw Gadhafi’s green flag. Now, he said, he is proud of Libyans and his country.

“I never felt that way before,” said Taghdi, who owns a tile shop in the capital. “We just want to live free.”

Yesterday, a friend and I were talking about some “fun facts.” Qaddafi was apparently smitten by Condi. His son Mutassim paid Beyoncé a million dollars to sing at a party. Bin Laden was obsessed with Whitney Houston. (Well, join the club.)

Mutassim had a Dutch girlfriend, a nudie model. Here is a snippet from a Telegraph article: “The hedonist son also had ambitions for power, inspired by his father’s example. ‘He worshipped his father,’ Miss Van Zon said. ‘He talked a lot about Hitler, Fidel Castro, Hugo Chavez. He liked leaders who had a lot of power.’”

Oh, yeah.

By the way, what must a certain class of liberal think, when they see their heroes Castro and Chávez grouped with Hitler?