Cruise Journal, Part I


In Fort Lauderdale, I see one of the groan-makingest puns ever. I see it on a boat. It is the name of the boat: Hugh-Manatee.

To quote an old line, Oh, the Hugh-Manatee!

A bunch of us — hordes of us, actually — board a ship for a Caribbean cruise. This is National Review’s biennial post-election cruise.

I meet a man from North Carolina. He tells me a Buckley story. The gist of it is, he got Bill Buckley and Jim Buckley mixed up. He thought he was talking to Bill; he was talking to Jim. He was never so embarrassed in his life. That was many years ago.

Jim Buckley — Senator Buckley, Judge Buckley — is aboard this ship. He is a guest speaker of ours. A delight and a sage. I’ll have more to say about him “in due course” (as Brother Bill frequently said).

In the first few days, I meet several people who immigrated to America from troubled countries — countries afflicted by socialism and worse. They are worried about the future of America. “Been there, done that,” one says.

These people are alarmist, you might say. You’d probably be right. But their concerns aren’t totally stupid, in my opinion.

I think of something Marco Rubio said in his convention speech. He was talking about the basic Obama worldview. “These are tired and old big-government ideas that have failed every time and everywhere they have been tried. These are ideas that people come to America to get away from.”

Upon the stage, I interview Bing West and Daniel Hannan. Bing is a Marine, a writer, and an hombre. Dan is a writer, a British member of the European Parliament, and a YouTube sensation. (An hombre in his way.)

You might think that Dan would have the most interesting and enjoyable accent on the stage. But that honor may go to Bing, who has a classic Boston accent. An accent that is dying out, I’m afraid. We should enjoy it while we can.

Thinking about Dan Hannan, I think about all the writers who have entered politics over there — over in Britain. One second, Michael Gove was one of my favorite writers (certainly one of my favorite journalists). The next second, he was in Parliament. The second after that, he was education secretary.

People are talking about him for prime minister. (I’m one of those people.)

And consider Boris Johnson! BoJo. Just plain “Boris.” Although there’s nothing plain about the mayor of London. He too may wind up in Number 10.

I, on the other hand, could not be elected dog-catcher — unless I ran in a very odd jurisdiction. Now that Mia Love has lost in Utah, is there any territory left for us?

Hannan is quite moving when he talks about Anglo-American civilization, and the need to press on. He quotes Tennyson and Kipling. He also provides his own poetry, so to speak — poetry in the prose that is natural to him. The Brits and their fluency: I ask for the millionth time, what’s in the water over there? Some special fluoridation?

Paul Revere could not have said, “The British are coming! The British are coming!” says Hannan. Why? Because people in America considered themselves British. It would have made no sense for Revere to say, “The British are coming!” What he said, according to Hannan, was, “The Regulars are coming!”

Huh. If I knew it, I forgot it.

Another lesson from Hannan: At Gettysburg, Lincoln spoke of “government of the people, by the people, for the people.” Lincoln was reaching way back, says Hannan — back to Wycliffe and his Bible of 1384. This was a Bible, said Wycliffe in his prologue, “for the Government of the People, by the People, and for the People.”

Runnymede, where the Magna Carta was sealed? In his “constituency,” says Hannan (constituency meaning parliamentary district). (Incidentally, British people say “Magna Carta,” by and large, while we Americans place a “the” beforehand: “the Magna Carta.”)

This document was sealed in 1215. Century after century, there was no monument in Runnymede. One was finally erected in 1957 — by the American Bar Association.

Hannan’s point: Americans often care more about British history than Brits do.

I wonder whether they love Churchill as much as we. Who could?

Will we soon love the National Health Service as much? Never mind, will think about that another day . . .

British elites may feel closer to Europe than to their American cousins, says Hannan, but that is not true of British people in general. I think of something Paul Johnson says: The English Channel is wider than the Atlantic Ocean. “When I land somewhere in America, I feel I’m at home — with my own kind.”

Our ship lands in Ocho Rios, Jamaica. I have always had a very romantic view of Jamaica — of Ocho Rios in particular, frankly. I’ll have to come again sometime, to try to regain a romantic view . . .

Over the years, I’ve seen some aggressive vendors and would-be providers of services. I’ve seen some tenacious and obnoxious swindlers. I’ve seen harassment on an appalling scale.

I think of India. I think of Egypt. I think of the Pyramids, in particular! There are people there who are determined to spoil your time.