Did you note what our president said in Strasbourg? “I think that it is important for Europe to understand that even though I’m now president and George Bush is no longer president, al-Qaeda is still a threat. We cannot pretend somehow that because Barack Hussein Obama got elected as president, suddenly everything is going to be okay.”
Thank you, Mr. President. Thank you very, very much. Thank you ever so much. Gee.
There’s an expression I heard some years ago that I like very much: “Get over yourself.”
In Turkey, a student said this to the president: “First, I will ask about the Bush and you differences at the core, because some say just the face has changed and that — but core is the same still.” (I am just going with the raw transcript, not cleaning up any English.) It seems to me that a president should not criticize his predecessor, certainly on foreign soil. Bush won’t criticize Obama on any soil — and he’s the former president! And the current president has not stopped “running” against him, even though he has been president for more than three months!
I don’t see how Bush can hold his tongue.
Anyway, I think Obama should have ducked or finessed that question, in Turkey. But he said, “The first question, if I understood you correctly, is the suggestion that even though I present a different face from Bush, that the policies are the same and so there’s really not much difference.
“And, you know, I think this will be tested in time because as I said before, moving the ship of state is a slow process. . . . When it comes to Iraq, I opposed the war in Iraq. I thought it was a bad idea. Now that we’re there, I have a responsibility to make sure that as we bring troops out, that we do so in a careful enough way that we don’t see a complete collapse into violence. . . . When it comes to climate change, George Bush didn’t believe in climate change. I do believe in climate change, I think it’s important.”
Etc., etc. If you would like to see the transcript, go here. The big thing about Obama was supposed to be his temperament — no matter what his policies, he had a “first-class temperament.” I don’t know. As I see him cavort around the world, I think of JFK’s famous putdown of Nixon: “No class.”
(And the secretary of state is even worse, where the trashing of her predecessors is concerned.)
In the three presidential debates, Senator Obama played a very moderate game. Often, he sounded like a conservative Democrat: a Sam Nunn or a David Boren. At times, he even sounded like a moderate Republican — a Richard Lugar (and he in fact cited Lugar, favorably). I was particularly struck by Obama’s saying, “We need missile defense.” I thought at the time: “I’m not sure Obama really believes that. But if he did — how wonderful.”
All this was brought to mind when I read Charles Krauthammer’s column of April 10. He was writing about Obama and North Korea — particularly North Korea’s launch of a long-range missile: “Having thus bravely rallied the international community and summoned the United Nations — a fiction and a farce, respectively — what was Obama’s further response? The very next day, his defense secretary announced drastic cuts in missile defense, including halting further deployment of Alaska-based interceptors designed precisely to shoot down North Korean ICBMs.”
Great. Just great.
It occurred to me that, while in Europe, our president did everything but slap a maple leaf on his backpack.
Lately, I’ve been writing about school choice — have been on kind of a kick. I guess it’s because the Democrats are killing the D.C. school-choice program — which I think is downright mean (even though “mean” is supposed to be the Republicans’ specialty). I’m particularly interested in a case at the Sidwell Friends School. This is the private D.C. school where the Clintons’ daughter went, and where the Obamas’ daughters are going now. As it happens, two kids are going there thanks to the D.C. school-choice program. But that is coming to an end. The carriage is turning back into a pumpkin. So long, Sidwell. Hello, good ol’ violent public schools, where no learning can go on: only a struggle for survival.
(I had a Corner note about this here.)
One thing I keep saying is, “The problem with school choice — the problem with getting it enacted, and keeping it, once you’ve managed to enact it — is that it involves caring about other people’s children. And that is very, very hard for a lot of folks to do.”
Well, a reader wrote to remind me of what the current secretary of state used to say: “There’s no such thing as someone else’s child.” Oh, yes there is. Oh, yes there is.
You know my favorite Phil Gramm story, right? (One of them, anyway.) He’s on MacNeil-Lehrer (I believe) with some woman from the education establishment (what Bill Bennett used to call “the Blob”). Gramm says, “My educational policies are based on the fact that I care more about my children than you do.” The woman says, “No, you don’t.” Gramm says, “Okay: What are their names?”
Got a note from someone I know, a man who is exceptionally principled and thoughtful: “A friend gave me a T-shirt with a picture of Che Guevara wearing a Che Guevara T-shirt. Claims it mocks the commercialization of his image. Wearable? You’re the authority on this stuff, I think.”
Well, thank you. My view: Borderline. I’d lean against wearing. But I would not strongly object if someone did wear it.
Boy, what a murderer he was. What a murderer, imprisoner, and enslaver. And how widely celebrated he is.
A reader sent me a letter, which I found both touching and bothersome. See if you agree:
Dear Mr. Nordlinger,
I just came across this USA Today story about a 21-year-old Brown student who “infiltrated” Liberty University for a semester and then wrote a book about his experience. I find more and more disturbing the way in which the mainstream press lends credence to the idea that conservatives — and especially conservative Christians — are like aliens. They are so strange that their ways must be studied using participant observation, and this young Margaret Mead has bravely journeyed into their midst to try to understand them.
How many college students write books featured in a national newspaper?
Yeah, I know. Old story. Incidentally, in 2000 — when the university was going through one of its periods of being reviled from coast to coast — I traveled to Bob Jones, and wrote this piece. (I did not pretend I was anything but who I was, FYI: a reporter-essayist from New York.)
Oh, and, by the way, Margaret Mead was a shocking liar — either a complete naïf or a shocking liar. And, giving her the benefit of the doubt, I vote (b). Don’t you?
In Impromptus last week, I wrote about the Bay of Pigs, an episode our president treated with flippancy when it came up at the Summit of the Americas. A reader reminded me that Bay of Pigs returnees gave President Kennedy a flag: their brigade flag. This occurred in an emotional ceremony in the Orange Bowl, December 29, 1962. The president said, “I can assure you that this flag will be returned to this brigade in a free Havana.”
Like you, perhaps, I read the excerpt from Christopher Buckley’s new book: Losing Mum and Pup: A Memoir. That excerpt was published in The New York Times Magazine, and you may find it here. Like most everything else Chris writes, it is dazzling: dazzlingly written. The apple didn’t fall very far from the tree.
There is only one thing wrong with the excerpt: Chris writes that the tenses in a particular paragraph are screwed up. They are not. That paragraph is perfect, like the excerpt at large.
I’ll tell you, my readers, what I told Chris: Reading the excerpt made me miss them all the more: made me miss Bill and Pat all the more, despite the awfulness.
Re awfulness: It may come as a shock to some readers to read this excerpt, and book, and come face to face with this awfulness. Perhaps, from the outside, you loved Bill and Pat. You were right to. And I, from the inside, loved them too — more than I can say, even with my powers of expression (if I may). There is nothing in this excerpt that surprised me in the least, because I saw it all: everything in it. Every failing. But I loved them anyway, as you would have, a lot.
There is a Robert Graves poem: “Despite and Still.” (Samuel Barber made a song of it, which is how I know it. That’s how I know just about any poem I know, frankly: through music.) You love despite and still. I know Chris does.
His parents, my beloved friends, were big, big people with big flaws. “Issues,” we might say in today’s parlance. You could feel the sting of those flaws, or issues. But, more than that, you felt the love and the warmth and the fun and the huge, huge humanity. I think of this couple regularly: not just Bill, as you would expect, but Pat, too.
She could be furious with me — furious with me like anything! — but then she would love me like anything. She could be at my throat, ready to slit it, one minute, and then the tenderest person the next. It is the love that remains, believe you me. All the rest simply washes away.
Holy Moses, do I miss them. I’d take them at their worst, right this second, just to sit down with them again.
One more point — or rather, one more point, and then a quick story. During the years I spent with Bill and Pat, I would think of Christopher, occasionally. I mainly got the fun: the fun and the love of Bill and Pat. And when they were being impossible, I could simply walk away: go home. They weren’t my parents. But they were Chris’s. And, as much as I loved them, I would sometimes think, “Damn, it couldn’t have been easy: could not have been easy to grow up in this household.” For one thing, you had to share your parents with about 8.5 million other people, constantly.
And the quick story? One time, I was kind of mad at Bill — can’t remember why. Doesn’t matter. But I was sure I disguised this from him entirely. And then when I next saw him, he leaned in and said, “You’re not mad at me, are you?” And I said, “No: mad about you.” He threw back his head and laughed, and on we went . . .
Oh, hang on — one final point, for now: There is no doubt — none — that Bill and Pat were very, very proud of Christopher and his accomplishments. Someone would send Bill an adulatory e-mail about Chris. Then Bill would forward it, far and wide — beaming through the computer. Etc.
In a column last week, I had a little item about environmentalist alarmism: the practice of scaring the bejesus out of children, particularly. This item attracted a lot of mail: most of which provided examples of green psychological warfare (for lack of a better, or pithier, phrase). I would like to publish just one letter — lightish. It goes,
I coach my eight-year-old daughter’s soccer team. [This is a mom writing -- a soccer-mom-coach.] Wednesday at practice, my daughter bent down and picked up a stick and started drawing out a play in the dirt for her teammates. With one voice, at least three of the girls howled, “What are you doing?! It’s Earth Day! You’re hurting the Earth!” Indoctrination works.
Don’t it ever — on many.
One more letter? A letter and a visual? A man wrote,
I made a “demotivator” poster for that idiotic “Earth Hour” event where the greenies told us to turn off our lights for an hour. As I work for [a state environmental agency], you can imagine the general reaction I got. Like I give a rat’s behind, as I have 30 years in the harness . . .
I just loved that letter — and the “demotivator” is even better: here. It shows the famous satellite image of the Korean peninsula at night, with the north all dark and the south all lit up. And the poster says: “Earth Hour: Guess which Korea is free and which is a Stalinist dictatorship. Guess which Korea eats and which one starves. Electricity is good. Choose freedom, and build more power plants.”
As long as there are still Americans like that about, you almost — almost — almost — have hope . . .
Was just proofreading this here column — yes, I do that once in a while — and I was reminded of something, when looking at the Liberty U item: One of my favorite WFB columns of all time was about what used to be known as the Campus Crusade for Christ. He was taking to task the disparagers of this enterprise. Wish I could find that column — must be in one of the early anthologies . . .
When I wrote, “more than I can say, even with my powers of expression (if I may)”? Sheer homage to WFB. Remember what he said about Carl Sagan? (I’ll paraphrase.) “He was so arrogant, as he testified before the Senate committee, he reminded me of — well, me.”
Why and when does President Obama say “Barack Hussein Obama”? (I’m thinking of my first item now, way up top.) Is only he allowed to say it, or is it free for others, too? What are the rules? Kind of confusing. Maybe Joe Klein or somebody can lay them out.