Against the Tide, Part I

A post-election lunch meeting, November 29, 2012


Here’s another word or phrase that Romney is “guilty” of: “Darn good question.”

To me, Romney talks absolutely normally. Remember when he went to Michigan and said that the trees were all the right heights? I (a native Michigander) knew exactly what he meant. Yet Romney was supposed to be exotic, idiotic, or both.

Well, if he is, I am. “Mitt Romney, Jay Nordlinger, and lots and lots of others. Not one of us.”

Good. Glad of it. I would much rather be part of Romney’s minority than Obama’s majority.

I have never seen Mad Men, but I understand it’s an excellent show. I also understand that it’s the Left’s view of what America was like before the Left took over everything, basically. (Do you know what I mean by that?) Mark Helprin says that the show is, at its core, a lie. He knew the world depicted in the show very well; the show smears that world.

Anyway, you may remember something that David Axelrod, the president’s political strategist, said about Romney: “I think he must watch Mad Men and think it’s the evening news. He’s just in a time warp.”

After the election, the Washington Post ran an article headed “The Republicans’ 1950s campaign.”

During the campaign, Obama ran an ad featuring an actress named Lena Dunham. It was pitched to young women, and to the hook-up culture they inhabit — and that almost everybody inhabits.

“Your first time shouldn’t be with just anybody,” said the actress. “You want to do it with a great guy.” She was not talking about a husband. (Hope I haven’t given you too great a shock.)

Question: In a country in which that ad doesn’t backfire but succeeds, can a man like Mitt Romney be elected?

“The culture is a sewer.” I heard Mark Helprin say that, some years ago. It hasn’t gotten any less sewer-y. Almost everywhere I walk, certainly in Manhattan, I see ads — just ads, now — that are frankly pornographic. No one bats an eye, I guess. It’s just normal, the new wallpaper.

“Paganism holds all the most valuable advertising space,” wrote T. S. Eliot. That was a long time ago. He hadn’t seen anything.

This business of two Americas, in the cultural-moral sense, is a familiar subject. I mean a much-examined subject. One of the best examiners is Gertrude Himmelfarb, who in 1999 published a book called One Nation, Two Cultures. There is the dominant culture, she said, which used to be the counterculture. Then there is a more conservative culture, which is now a kind of counterculture. Or a “dissident culture,” to use her words.

Her book came out in the wake of the Lewinsky affair, which pitted Bill Clinton versus Ken Starr. There could hardly be two more different Americans. One as decent as the other is not. Which one reigns as the nation’s political sweetheart? And which was thoroughly demonized?

Ken Starr is so decent, he probably saved Clinton’s presidency — in this sense: He told the president what evidence he had, though he didn’t have to. That allowed Clinton to shape his testimony — his lies — just so.

You will find this story, the full story, in a book called Truth at Any Cost, by Susan Schmidt and Michael Weisskopf.

Bill Clinton was, I guess, the star of this year’s Democratic convention. George W. Bush did not attend the Republican convention. They probably wouldn’t have wanted him there.

George W. Bush — one of the most admirable Americans — a kind of pariah?

Clinton remarked later, mischievously and also truthfully, I think, that he, Clinton, was the only person to say anything good about George W. Bush at either convention.

Screwy old world.

Okay, I think that’s enough for today, ladies and gents. Thanks for joining me. I’ll continue tomorrow.

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.