Getting away with it, &c.

Bashar al-Assad


As regular readers know, I think a lot of Directorio Democrático Cubano, the Cuban Democratic Directorate in Miami. I think it’s one of the finest human-rights organizations in the country, or anywhere else.

They had an event on Thursday, at which Lincoln Diaz-Balart, the former congressman, introduced John Bolton. To see a press release, go here.

Bolton noted the increasing protests across Cuba, and the corresponding crackdown by the dictatorship. He also noted the importance of what other countries do in response, or don’t do. He said, “If the Castro regime, which is of the same ilk as its close historical ally, the Assad regime in Syria, perceives a lack of resolve on the part of the international community, the loss of invaluable human life will continue . . .”

Oh, yes. If Assad can get away with his killing of 5,000 to 10,000 so far, the Castros can get away with their smaller numbers, no problem. When have they ever not gotten away with brutalizing and killing the people under their control?

They can even kidnap and hold hostage an American development worker, and — nothing.

They can blow out of the sky, in international airspace, three U.S. citizens and one permanent resident, and — nothing.

You know this song, and can sing as many bars as you like . . .

A few words about James Q. Wilson, the great social scientist who died last week. Needless to say, I was in awe of him, learned a ton from him, and am deeply grateful to him.

When I was at Harvard, there were about three conservatives: Harvey C. Mansfield, Martin Feldstein, and Wilson — “Jimmy Q.,” some of us called him, later (with huge affection). I believe that Edward C. Banfield had retired.

I was leaning conservative in a big way, and you know what academic prejudice said: Conservatives were stupid (along with racist, callous, warmongering, and other unpleasant things). Yet Mansfield, Feldstein, and Wilson — they weren’t so stupid, were they?

That meant a lot to right-leaning young people. It said, “Come on in, the water’s fine. And you will not be entirely alone.”

What Wilson said and wrote — it simply made a lot of sense to me. It was true to the world I saw around me.

A memory from the Nineties, I believe: George Will gave a speech in Washington. He was supposed to be introduced by Wilson, but Wilson couldn’t make it, so Wilson’s prepared introduction was read by Gertrude Himmelfarb.

After she was through, Will said — this is close to verbatim — “To be praised simultaneously by James Q. Wilson and Gertrude Himmelfarb is to experience an almost physical pleasure.”

A final word: When I was starting out in conservative journalism, I joked about writing a little book of trivia to be called “What Does the ‘Q’ Stand For? And Other Conservative Questions” (or something like that). (The “Q” in James Q. Wilson stood for Quinn.) (One of the great middle initials ever.)

A couple of words about Andrew Breitbart — so, so great to have on your side. An American original. Fearless, daring, thrilling. You had a feeling that, with a few more like him, nothing could stop us.

The first time I met him, he came barreling toward me in a big gathering. Looked like a Viking, electric eyes. He had in tow a friend of his who for years had wanted to meet me. Depositing him, Andrew said, “I feel like the Make-a-Wish Foundation.”

Now, it’s obnoxious to cite praise of yourself when praising another. But I think the episode says something about Andrew too — he made me grin.

On a National Review cruise, he made everyone grin, being the life of the party. A room felt more alive when he was in it.

“The graveyard is full of indispensable men,” goes the old saying. No one is indispensable, no one is irreplaceable, sure. I know that theoretically. But sometimes it’s hard to believe.


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