Clowning Around

by Jay Nordlinger

Vladimir Putin had another press conference, and these can be interesting. He said, “I don’t know Mr. Trump. I have never met him.” How can this be true? I remember Trump in a debate last year, on the subject of Putin: “I got to know him very well because we were both on 60 Minutes. We were stablemates.”

A pause for a language note: It was at this moment that “stablemates” entered my vocabulary. I enjoy TV lingo (and other lingo).

At the latest press conference, Putin also said that Moscow’s hookers “are undoubtedly the best in the world.” I hope our new president does not take this lying down. Are New York, New Orleans, and our other cities that far behind? Obama can’t leave office fast enough.

I joke, but I shouldn’t. In Impromptus today, I lead with an item about presidential character — and presidential behavior, and presidential language. Does all that stuff matter? Does it trickle down to the rest of the country? Does it set an example, good or bad?

We certainly said so in the Clinton years.

I’ll give you something specific: Should the president, or president-elect, be calling the Senate minority leader the “head clown”? Or should that be left to people like me (wiseasses without responsibility)?

Charles Moore is probably the most esteemed conservative in Britain, along with Roger Scruton. He had a column on Saturday that raised uncomfortable questions for us on the American right. (Here it is. It is behind a paywall, unfortunately.)

For instance: “Conservatives who — particularly in America — speak of the importance of character, graciousness and religious faith, are mostly weighing in behind a coarse and boastful libertine. Everything is back to front.”

As I say in Impromptus, I am not for a prissy political culture. I understand rough-and-tumble, and like it. (No, I’m not back on Putin’s subject.) I also like a politician who will take it to the opposition. Many of us thought that the 2012 GOP nominee, Mitt Romney, was polite to a fault. America seemed to be in no mood for a gentleman.

I quote Ted Cruz, after Election Day 2012: “By the third debate, I’m pretty certain Mitt Romney actually French-kissed Barack Obama.”

Maybe Romney learned this while serving as a missionary in France?

In any case, I don’t think a politician, even a president, has to be a moral exemplar. Your George Washingtons, your Abraham Lincolns — they are rare birds. But I still think that all the things we conservatives said back in the Clinton ’90s are true.

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