A scary friendship, &c.

Mohammed Morsi and Mahmoud Ahmadinejad


In a recent issue of National Review, I had a piece called “Defense Is Different: A lesson learned, unlearned, relearned, painfully.” Go here, if you like. The piece is about defense as a core responsibility of the federal government, and the danger of massive cuts to defense, as proven by the 20th century.

A reader sent me a letter in response to that piece — to this, in particular: “Soon came the collapse of the Soviet Union, the end of the Cold War, and the ‘peace dividend’ — that bonanza of money that no longer needed to be spent on defense and could be devoted to light rail and the like. (The question of returning money to taxpayers never really arises.)”

The reader’s letter included a link to an article written in 1999, and published in The Freeman. It is by Lawrence W. Reed, who begins as follows: “In a post-State of the Union speech in Buffalo, New York, on January 20, 1999, President William Jefferson Clinton was asked why Americans shouldn’t get a tax cut since the federal budget is in surplus and the share of personal income taken by the federal government is at a post-World War II high.”

What did Clinton say? He said, “We could give it all back to you and hope you spend it right” — but that would be way too risky.

Reed contrasts Clinton with an earlier Democratic president, Grover Cleveland — who, in 1886, said, “When more of the people’s sustenance is exacted through the form of taxation than is necessary to meet the just obligations of government and the expense of its economical administration, such exaction becomes ruthless extortion and a violation of the fundamental principles of a free government.”

I remember something Arthur Schlesinger Jr. said about Jimmy Carter: “the most conservative Democratic president since Cleveland.” He didn’t mean that as a compliment. He was lamenting.

Care for some music? For my “New York Chronicle,” published in the February New Criterion, go here. (These “chronicles” cover the New York music scene — classical-music scene, I should say. Sometimes there’s a speck of jazz or something. Even James Taylor.) (One of the most gratifying musicians we have.) (Yes, I know about his politics, thanks — you can’t ask too much.)

Some more music? When watching Alicia Keys, who sang at the Super Bowl, I thought of something I have long noticed, and written: When pop musicians sing, they often screw up their faces as though it hurt — as though the act of singing hurt. Their faces are often contorted in pain.

So strange. Bears analysis.

In the next issue of NR, I’ll have a piece on lip-synching — the ethics of it, basically. And related matters. The trigger for this piece, of course, was Beyoncé’s lip-synching of the national anthem at the inauguration (or “inaugural,” as everyone’s saying now).

Speaking of language, a reader writes,

I saw an excerpt from the 60 Minutes interview and noticed that Obama made the plural of “secretary of state” “secretary of states.” [“Hillary will go down as one of the finest secretary of states we’ve had.”] I think they should convene a couple of court martials and try both him and his brother-in-laws for that . . .

I just want you to know that I condemn this typically racist attack on our first African-American president.

(Our reader also noted that Obama gets away with stuff that George W. never could — that W. would be hooted at for. We have often heard that point. I have often made it. People are sick of it. But it’s still true.)

Finally, I smiled a bit at this headline: “PM: Horsemeat scandal harming Ireland’s reputation.” (Article here.) Maybe so, but the PM need not worry about me: I think of Ireland for lush green landscapes; pretty, freckled, green-eyed girls; and poetry.

Thanks so much for joining me today. See you soon, I hope.

To order Jay Nordlinger’s 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.