Against the Tide, Part I

A post-election lunch meeting, November 29, 2012


Dear friends: In a recent issue of National Review — the one dated December 3 — I had a piece called “Against the Tide: Notes on the culture and what’s possible.” I’d like to do a “blowout” of this piece here in Impromptus — give you what’s in the piece, essentially, and more. If you’re up for it, I think I’ll just begin . . .

Do you remember what our president said about Mitt Romney in one of his campaign ads? “Mitt Romney. Not one of us.” That was pretty blunt of him. Maybe Obama can be credited for that.

Nixon talked just the same way. “That guy they want me to appoint: Is he one of us?” Thatcher talked just that way as well. There’s a biography of Nixon called One of Us. There’s a biography of Thatcher called One of Us.

Here’s the thing: They both talked that way in private. But Obama talked that way in a campaign ad.

What did Nixon and Thatcher mean? They meant, “Is he a conservative, like us? Is he on our team?” (We won’t get into the debate now over whether Nixon was a conservative. He was certainly seen as a right-winger in his time. The Left hated no one more.)

What does Obama mean by “us”? Who are the “us” that Romney is not one of? I’m not completely sure. But I know that I’m not one of them either. Neither, possibly, are you.

You’ll recall John Edwards, the 2004 Democratic vice-presidential nominee. He went around saying there were “two Americas.” He meant rich and poor. He was a bald class warrior. (Bald even though he had excellent, and famously pampered, hair.)

There is another way of seeing two Americas: two Americas where culture and morality are concerned. What a scary word, “morality”! How un-modern.

Anyway, it is perfectly clear — a Nixon phrase: perfectly clear — which of the two Americas is on top.

Romney was a man out of his time. (Funny how the tendency is to refer to a losing candidate in the past tense. Romney seems to me full of magnificent life.) He was out of his time, and out of step. A throwback: a conservative businessman who believed in free enterprise, loved his church, gave a ton to charity. He didn’t even drink, poor bastard.

People said of him, “He went through the Sixties and was completely untouched by them.” Some meant this admiringly, others damningly.

I mean it admiringly, of course.

Let me spend a moment on this business of charity. Charity strikes me as very old-fashioned. I remember Michael Kinsley on Firing Line, sneering at charity. People shouldn’t receive charitable funds or charitable goods; they should get checks from the government, because it’s their right.

Joe Biden talks constantly about caring for the poor. He brays about “the social doctrine.” What he means is, people should pay more and more in tax, and the government should be the dispenser of charity. Biden has given scandalously little to charity in his life.

Here’s a paragraph from a USA Today article, published during the ’08 campaign: “The Bidens reported giving $995 in charitable donations last year — about 0.3% of their income and the highest amount in the past decade. The low was $120 in 1999, about 0.1% of yearly income.”

And yet our vice president wants to make you look like a Scrooge and a sinner if you balk at paying higher taxes.

Well, to hell with him. I’ll take a Mitt Romney any day, who makes a ton of money, gives a ton of it away — and gives his time as well.

Hang on, let me give you a quick update on Biden — here’s a line from a Politico article published in September: “Biden and his wife, Jill, gave 1.5 percent of their income away in 2011, with charitable donations totaling $5,540 out of $379,035.”

More Mitt Romney, a man out of his time, and out of step. Toward the end of the campaign, the New York Times ran a (very good) article that marveled at the candidate’s language. It was called “Gosh, Who Talks Like That Now? Romney Does.” The paper observed that, “in Romneyspeak, passengers do not get off airplanes, they ‘disembark.’ People do not laugh, they ‘guffaw.’ Criminals do not go to jail, they land in the ‘big house.’ Insults are not hurled, ‘brickbats’ are.”