I wanted to write about Colin Powell in Impromptus today — his latest remarks on the Republican party, which I found bizarre, puzzling, and reprehensible. But Victor Davis Hanson had written on the subject. And I thought, “He has said essentially what I’d like to say. I have little to add. Victor has done the job, as usual.”
For the post I’m talking about, go here.
From time to time, it has occurred to me that I don’t praise VDH often enough. And the reason is this: He is so predictably, and prolifically, excellent. Over and over, he says exactly what ought to be said about a given issue. He’s almost automatic. Therefore, you can take him for granted — but we shouldn’t.
Bill Buckley once spoke of Paul Johnson in the way I’m now speaking of Victor. You’ll find it in WFB’s introduction to The Quotable Paul Johnson, published in 1994. Enjoy:
Many years ago somebody wrote to me apropos the public neglect of I forget who, complaining that his subject suffered from his absolutely predictable excellence. As so often happens on hearing an insight that comes to you with aphoristic distinctiveness, this one settled quickly in my mind as a cliché: Why hadn’t I realized this, this . . . truism?
Well, I hadn’t, and very soon after I began to wonder what would have been the reaction to Shakespeare if one of his sonnets were grievously disordered, or Bach if one or two cantatas had been just awful. The man who wrote to me (it was Alistair Cooke, as a matter of fact) used Trollope as his example. After a while, Trollope lost the attention of much of his public because he was too regularly wonderful. You will have guessed that I am putting Paul Johnson in this category, which is correct. His performances are unvaryingly (boringly?) extraordinary.
Shakespeare, Bach, Trollope, Johnson, VDH — let’s not overlook ’em, just because they routinely score. Of course, I could say that about others of my colleagues too.
WFB said the following, a thousand times: Inclusio unius est exclusio alterius. To include one is to exclude others, and therefore buy yourself problems. But I thought I’d offer a little Wednesday-afternoon toast to VDH, regardless. The Powell thing is what spurs it. I simply didn’t feel like writing what I had in mind. Victor’d done it.