Let me begin with something obvious (a specialty of this column): The visit of the Iranian president, Ahmadinejad, to Egypt is a very big deal. No such visit has taken place since 1979, the year of the Iranian revolution. That revolution has proven one of the worst and most consequential events of modern times.
Here is a snippet of a news report from yesterday: “Egypt’s Islamist President Mohammed Morsi gave Ahmadinejad a red-carpet welcome on the tarmac at Cairo airport, shaking the Iranian’s hand and exchanging a kiss on each cheek as a military honor guard stood at attention.”
This ought to make the world quake, or at least swallow hard.
For these 30-plus years, the difference between Egypt and Iran has been very important. I remember something Professor Richard E. Mitchell said — he was a leading expert on Egypt’s Muslim Brothers. When Khomeini and his crew were taking over Iran, American officials phoned Mitchell nervously, asking, “Can it happen in Egypt? Will it?” No, no, no, Mitchell said.
But that was a long time ago.
Since 1979 — March 1979 — the Egyptian-Israeli treaty has been a bulwark of peace in the Middle East. Or, perhaps better put, a bulwark of non-war. Egypt had triggered four wars against Israel. And now Sadat was reaching out for peace, for particular reasons. (He was a patriot and did not want his country to become a Soviet colony, which it was indeed becoming.)
In my view, the Nobel Peace Prize given to Sadat and Begin is the best, most justified Nobel Peace Prize ever given. These days, of course, the Egyptian-Israeli peace is in question — because Egyptians have elected the Brotherhood.
The political class — certainly the Sadat-Mubarak camp — wanted peace. Do the people? Don’t people everywhere want peace? That is a tricky and painful question . . .
Friendship is usually a good thing, but friendship between Egypt, the most important Arab state, and Khomeinist Iran would be catastrophic. That friendship seems to be taking shape. These are dangerous times, not just for Israel, but for us all.
I believe that the Israelis have the right man in place — or a right man — in the prime minister’s office. Do we Americans have the right man in place, in the Oval Office? And at the State Department? And in the Pentagon? And elsewhere?
When reading some stories, you don’t know whether to laugh or cry. This one is headed “Totals of number of Hispanics in House differ.” Racial and ethnic totings up can be so hard. Who qualifies as a Hispanic, who doesn’t? I have an idea: Why not just let House members be men and women, citizens of this country, children of God?
Oh, no — that would not be American.
Here is a related story: “More diversity likely in next Obama job selections.” You mean, some of the people might be more conservative or centrist? Some of them may think differently? Oh, no — diversity never means that!
As he prepares to announce a new wave of Cabinet and other senior posts, President Barack Obama is aiming to put a more diverse face on his administration — an image that was missing as he filled the first round of vacancies of his second term with a parade of white men.
Obama is said to be looking at women, Latinos and openly gay candidates for top slots at the departments of Commerce, Labor and Interior, and for his own White House budget office.
Some of us thought that race, etc., would fade out in importance, as America marched on. The opposite may well be happening.
What did you think of that phrase “a parade of white men”? The horror!
I got a kick out of the opening of this news report. See if you get a similar kick:
To say merely that Wyoming is a conservative state doesn’t begin to capture it.
Republicans hold nearly every elected office. Lawmakers squirrel away much of the revenue from the state’s mineral wealth in a multi-billion-dollar savings account they can’t touch without voters’ OK. And gun ownership and hunting are as much a part of a cherished way of life as are ranching and rodeo.
Wyoming seems a kind of paradise, from those brief paragraphs. Didn’t you love those words “squirrel away”? And not being able to spend money “without voters’ OK”?
What delightful, sensible, democratic people those weirdos out West evidently are!
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.