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Stuck in the Middle with Miguel



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I know you wingnuts think it’s easy being a stalwart man of the Left — just de-activate your brain, pump up your crocodile tears, and give vent to your free-ranging rage — but it’s not. If you think of us as Gordon Gekko in Wall Street, explaining to Bud Fox that the reason he wants to take over and wreck a particular company is “because it wreckable, all right?” you’ll be part of the way there, for we are constitutionally incapable of leaving well enough alone. Happy with your doctor? You need insurance reform! Electric bills too high? Let’s raise ‘em via cap-and-trade! Glass ceiling got you down? BO2 will invite a woman along for his weekly golf outing and the New York Times will slobber all over him. Problems solved!

Still, we progressives wander through a dark and lonely wood, beset by invisible enemies on all sides, quivering atheists and mainstream Protestants (same thing) for whom the sunny uplands of security remain forever out of reach. We live our lives in terror — it’s no accident that two of the Times’s favorite words in headlines are “fears” and worries” — and constantly seek the solace of the strongman to tuck us in at night and make it all better. From Rousseau to Marx to Chomsky, from Vlad the Impaler to Mussolini to Lenin, there’s hardly a totalitarian philosopher or fascist dictator we don’t admire, unless of course he’s one of yours, like Franco.

Which is why, unless you count Eliot “Client No. 9″ Spitzer’s obscenely premature attempt at a comeback, liberalism is no laughing matter, especially to us. So when everybody’s favorite tub of Kerry Gold butter, Michael Moore, went on Jimmy Kimmel the other night to crack wise about his hot date with Hugo Chávez, nobody was more outraged than me. Making fun of el Caudillo, the man who sniffed the air at the U.N. after $#%&BUSH@#$! had been there and said he smelled el Diablo, is simply not done. But my outrage was nothing compared to that of Ms. Eva Golinger, lovingly described by the Times as “an American lawyer who lives in Caracas and who is one of Mr. Chávez’s most prominent defenders in international leftist circles.” In the crusading spirit of Wolf Blitzer fact-checking a Saturday Night Live Obama skit, Ms. Golinger was quick to point out that el Jefe is a teetotaler, and you don’t just wander into his quarters in the middle of night, tequila bottle in hand, and expect to swap “Yanqui go home” jokes. What does Moore think Venezuela is — a Dolores del Rio movie as produced by Serge Bondarchuk and directed by Oliver Stone?

In other words, there are times for humor — say, when you’re bravely speaking truth to power by making fun of Sarah Palin and her children — and times when an utter Politburo, five-year-plan seriousness is de rigueur. And when it comes to our compadres and comrades south of the border, joking is never allowed. Why, just the other day, former NFL great Bob Griese got himself in hot water by joshing on air that race-car driver Juan Pablo Montoya’s picture was missing from a NASCAR promo because the Montoya was “out having a taco.” Can you imagine — I mean, they don’t even have tacos in Colombia, where Montoya’s from! You start with taco jokes and the next thing you know we’re on the slippery slope to the Frito Bandito, Señor Wences, Jose Jimenez, and former attorney general Alberto Gonzales. Naturally, Griese groveled and apologized for his reflexive racism once it was pointed out to him, but the damage was done, and those norte Americanos who persist in conflating everybody from ciudad Juarez to Tierra del Fuego were at once reinforced in their vicious, hurtful cultural stereotypes. ¡No pasarán!

Well, Griese’s just a former jock who doesn’t know any better, although he is white and thus forever suspect. But Michael Moore? You can practically hear Ms. Golinger’s heart break as she notes:

The interview ended with Michael fully praising himself for yet another one of President Chavez’ brilliant United Nations’ speeches. ‘When I heard the first few lines of his speech,’ says Moore, ‘it was exactly what I had written for him!’  Michael, Michael. Don’t you know that Chavez doesn’t use a teleprompter? Where we come from, speeches are made from the heart and soul, and not written by an elite team of 20 writers and then read from transparent screens. And Michael, do you really think that flattering yourself at this point, after you have lied so tremendously, is appropriate? Arrogantly, Moore joked that Chavez should give him a ‘year of free gasoline’ for writing his speech. At least he didn’t say bananas.

Better watch that banana stuff, lady, before the Josephine Baker Fan Club gets on your case, and cracks about teleprompters in the Age of Obama are never allowed, but we take your point. So ¡ay, caramba! and please pity Ms. Golinger: Down in the west Texas town of El Paso, or wherever she is, when you’ve got clowns to the left of you and jokers to your right, it’s tough to be pegado en el centro con Miguel.

— David Kahane is the nom de cyber of a writer in Hollywood.



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