Reagan and Obama, &c.


I recently reviewed a book by Mark Mazower, a brilliant but leftist historian. One of the points I made was that, for him, the opposite of Communism is never democracy or freedom — it is “capitalism.” He’ll speak of “the Communist countries” and “the capitalist countries,” of “Communist policies” and “capitalist policies.”

Is Obama of the same mindset? Let’s hope not, for he is, after all, president of the United States. In last week’s podcast with Mona Charen, I said that if I could ask Obama one question, it might be, “Are you a capitalist?”

Now, if I am being disgustingly McCarthyite, please forgive me. But I find it hard to read Obama’s heart. With Reagan and W. — no problem. No problem even for those who hated them. Maybe even especially for them!

You know what I mean?

I was a little startled by an Associated Press report headed “Pussy Riot members face tough life in penal colony.” See if you are too.

It’s a far cry from Stalin’s gulag, but the guiding principle of the Russian penal colony — the destination of two members of the punk band Pussy Riot — remains the same: isolate inmates and wear them down through “corrective labor.”

Maria Alekhina and Nadezhda Tolokonnikova will have to quickly learn the inner laws of prison life, survive the dire food and medical care, and risk bullying from inmates either offended by their “punk prayer” against President Vladimir Putin or under orders to pressure them.

“Everyone knows the rule: Trust no one, never fear and never forgive,” said Svetlana Bakhmina, a lawyer who spent three years in a penal colony. “You are in no-man’s land. Nobody will help you. You have to think about everything you say and do to remain a person.”

Say what you will about the propriety of these women’s protest. I find the above horrifying. Unjust.

In American politics, some things never change. It’s the same old, same old, year in, year out, decade in, decade out. Zzzzz . . .

I thought of this when Representative Elijah Cummings, a Maryland Democrat, said “witch hunt.” He was talking about a probe into the Benghazi disaster.

That’s what you do when you don’t want something investigated: say “witch hunt.” If you fear the consequences of an investigation, say “witch hunt.” If you like the investigation, say “necessary oversight” and “proper accountability” and “right to know.”

I had a friend — liberal Democrat — who had a refrain during the China fundraising scandal of the Clinton years: “Witch hunt! Witch hunt!” She continued this refrain, I’m sure, when Lewinsky arose: “Witch hunt! Witch hunt!” At the same time, if a Republican failed to put the cap back on his pen, she would want that investigated.

I suppose this is natural to all partisans, whatever they’re partisan about. (By the way, in those Clinton scandals? There were a lot of witches — skinny, ghastly creatures, cackling as they zoomed about on their brooms.)

For the last couple of days, I’ve said, “I’m going to watch the Tiger game — or the Yankee game, as you say here in New York.”

The Latinization of baseball is an amazing development. Last night, watching the game, I thought of the Asianization of music — classical music, I mean. Once, I asked Lorin Maazel (the famed conductor) about the future of classical music. The first words out of his mouth were, “Thank God for China.”

In the same spirit, I say, “Thank God for Latin America.”

Can it really be true that none of the major networks — CBS, NBC, ABC — is carrying the championship series? Can that really be true? What a commentary, on the state of baseball in our national life. On the national pastime, as we used to call it.

But maybe cable networks are just as “major” as any. I know, I know: Get with the times, daddy-o. Anyway, thank goodness for TBS.

But do they have to do interviews with managers and coaches during the game itself? Why do the managers and coaches accede to this? Life today is loaded with commentary. (I ought to be grateful, given my job.) Can’t an event simply occur, with commentary after, maybe? Does life have to be accompanied by running commentary?

You know what I’m getting at. If I weren’t rushing, I’d put it better . . .

This morning, I was on Canadian radio, talking about the Nobel Peace Prize. I was asked, “Who will accept for the EU?” I then quoted my mother, for the first time on radio or television, I think: “Might as well be Angela Merkel, who pays for the thing.”

Thanks for joining me, and if the scheduling stars align, I’ll be yakking at you again tomorrow. (Consider it a warning.)

To order Jay Nordlinger’s new book, Peace, They Say: A History of the Nobel Peace Prize, the Most Famous and Controversial Prize in the World, go here. To order his collection Here, There & Everywhere, go here.


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