Politics & Policy


"Running free." Infamy on the air. Things I wish I'd written. And more

What was the most offensive part of Gary Locke’s speech — his “Democratic Response” on Tuesday night? It’s hard to choose, but I nominate: “while Osama bin Laden runs free.”

Now, I know that the uncertainty about bin Laden is a big Democratic talking point, a rare war point to score against Bush, but runs free? My goodness. If he is alive, I would say he’s pretty well cooped up, not runnin’ free.

But will anyone in the Big Press call Locke and the Dems on this? Are you crazy?

Speaking of the failure of the Big Press to call somebody on something: We all owe a debt to NewsMax.com for covering a story that has gone virtually unnoticed. In Miami, a radio station ran a vile parody song against Condoleezza Rice. The lyrics went,

“Condoleezza, Condoleezza, what you be doin’? That neo-fascist black-haired token schwarze dog.

“Is you there ’cause you a high-toned public Negro? Is you their black-haired answer-mammy who be smart? Does they like how you shine their shoes, Condoleezza? Or the way you wash and park the whiteys’ cars?”

Etc. This was pretty disgusting stuff. And, as the NewsMax story recounts, the Florida NAACP did nothing to stop it, despite being asked to do so. Remember: There is nothing — nothing — so wrong and repugnant that you can’t say it with impunity about a Republican.

Imagine, just for a moment, a white radio station’s running such a thing against, say, Donna Brazile (who was the Gore-Lieberman campaign manager). It would have been on the cover of Time magazine — and then some.

I was moved by Ariel Sharon’s words following his crushing victory over the Israeli Left: “This is not a time for celebration. This is a time for soul-searching, to close ranks, and to stand side by side.” That is the way to talk in time of war, in a country under siege.

Talk about Not Getting It (and, no, I don’t mean that dirtily, for once): As she pooh-poohed George Bush’s case for war, Nancy Pelosi said, “I have seen nothing that connects Saddam Hussein to September 11.” She is blissfully, or willfully, unaware of the new challenges we face, countering the world’s Islamic terrorists and their state supporters — beginning with Saddam. In this, she’s perfectly representative of the party she leads in the House. Really, she might as well be French — or German. But not Italian, stand-up as Silvio has been!

Forza, Silvio!

Reason #4,012 for loving Sen. Zell Miller (D., Ga.): “I’m going to support each and every tax cut that comes before the Senate. [As with] my grandchildren, I love them all [equally].”

“Fabola,” as a friend of mine says.

How pleasant it is to live in free country. How pleasant, in particular, when you’re in the journalism biz. I was reminded of this elementary fact when reading a story out of a not-quite-free country, France. A magazine has been crippled because someone in it referred to a Beaujolais wine as a “vin de merde.” As far as I’m concerned, French law is a droit de merde. And long live Lyon Mag, which could use a little First Amendment protection, trust me.

So, the Raelians say that these clones are in Israel. Ooh, I can think of many people whom that would make unhappy!

Have you noticed how the Left cares about the stock market again — or for the first time, for all I know? They use the woes of the stock market to bash this Republican administration. But when I was growing up, the Left had nothing but contempt for the stock market, whether it was up or down. It was simply a measure for rich people, anyway — for Thurston Howell the Third and his ilk. And now, every leftie in Congress weeps for the stock market.

Progress, no doubt. We’re winning, I suppose.

At a recent master class, I read the following in Grace Bumbry’s bio (N.B.: Bumbry is a famous American mezzo-soprano): “As a teenager, she won a scholarship which she was unable to accept because of her African-American heritage.”

Let me translate from contemporaryese: They screwed her on account she was black.

When did we get so weird, linguistically?

In Europe last week, I had a chance to look at Match magazine, for the first time in years. And the Delon family was still on the cover! Why is this significant? Because the Delons were all over Match when I was a student, which was — um, not yesterday. I guess that’s why the French have the expression Plus ça change . . .


AND I REALLY WISH I HAD WRITTEN THIS: I’m referring to Fouad Ajami’s piece in the current Foreign Affairs. Let me type up a few excerpts:

Above and beyond toppling the regime of Saddam Hussein and dismantling its deadly weapons, the driving motivation of a new American endeavor in Iraq and in neighboring Arab lands should be modernizing the Arab world. The great indulgence granted to the ways and phobias of Arabs has reaped a terrible harvest — for the Arabs themselves, and for an America implicated in their affairs.

Holy mackerel. I had to rub my eyes. More:

[A] great power’s will and prestige can help tip the scales in favor of modernity and change. “The Americans are coming,” the Islamists proclaimed after the swift defeat of the Taliban. They scrambled for cover as their “charities,” their incitement, and their networks of finance and recruitment came under new scrutiny. . . .

The “axis of evil” speech of President George W. Bush last January had caused among the Islamists genuine panic. A measure of relief came in the months that followed. They drew new courage from the bureaucratic struggles in Washington and from the attention that the fight between Israel and the Yasir Arafat regime attracted some months later.

Ladies and gentlemen, this piece says it all. In my copy of the magazine, I have highlighted so much of it, I’d have to type out the entire essay. Better to read it in full. The best sentence — or clause — in the whole thing? “Given the belligerence and self-pity in Arab life, its retreat from modernist culture, and its embrace of conspiracy theories . . .”

This is an incredibly brave and clear-eyed piece, from an incredibly brave and clear-eyed guy.

I pause to remind or inform readers that, if they wish to receive Impromptus via e-mail, they may sign up for such service using the mechanism at the upper right.

Care to read an alternative take on this Jerry Thacker/AIDS Council fiasco? Try Jonathan Pait at CommonVoice.com. Jonathan is spokesman for the fiercely hated Bob Jones University, about which I wrote a piece in the summer of 2000. If you’re up for a little diversity in your media diet . . .

I was reading an article about that marvelous new instrument the Segway. The writer said, “The word is pronounced like ‘segue.’” I thought: That’s a switch! Ordinarily, probably, one would write, “‘Segue’ is pronounced ‘segway’”!

Let’s have a little mail. In yesterday’s Impromptus, I wrote a little sumpin’ on the pronunciation of niche. A reader writes, “I had an editor boss correct my ‘nitch’ with ‘neesh.’ I didn’t say it (since he was my boss), but wanted to remind him that real men don’t say ‘neesh.’”


Another reader says, “The definitive statement on the pronunciation of the word niche was made by Dorothy Parker in the ’30s. According to David Niven, Miss Parker was a guest of William Randolph Hearst in his mansion. Mr. Hearst, it seems, discouraged sex among his stayovers, in spite of the fact that he was living with a lady without benefit of matrimony. Wrote Miss Parker, ‘Upon my honor I saw the Madonna / Standing in a niche / Above the door of a high-class whore / and a first-class son-of-a-bitch!’

“Who could say ‘neesh’ after that?”

Yes, who?

Re my comment on State of the Union standing ovations, a reader wrote: “In 1991 my senator gave me a gallery ticket to watch the first Bush at the conclusion of the Gulf War. In the midst of that joyous and important occasion I got a fit of the giggles as the assembled listeners popped up and down like so many jack-in-the-boxes with standing ovations for this general, that general, the generals’ wives, the First Lady, the guy sitting next to the First Lady, and on and on and on. That was before the repeated standing ovations for the applause lines (about every other line, as I recall) in the main body of the speech. Anyway, I never attended another one of those in my four years in Washington. I found other ways to get my exercise.”

Check this out, y’all, concerning what I have dubbed “contemporaryese”: “In the late 1960s or early 1970s, the student health service at UC Berkeley had a clinic known as the Conception Control Center or something. In the first full flowering of PC language, this clinic provided instructions in applying a condom to ‘a person’s penis.’”

I’ve heard it all.

“Hey, Jay, I thought of you when I saw this. I had the opportunity to travel to Ann Arbor this evening to accompany my wife to dinner. She works at the university, but I generally try to avoid the place as it makes me feel somehow ‘dirty.’ [Know what you mean.] As I was driving up State Street toward the hospital complex, I saw a relatively new-model car with — you will love this — a Jimmy Carter for President bumper sticker, circa 1976. It had been taped to the back window, obviously dusted off from some box in the attic. Knowing your personal feelings about the esteemed former president/Nobel laureate, and given that you hail from this town, I thought you would find this amusing, if not entirely surprising.”

I remember those Carter-Mondale bumper stickers very well. They were green and white.

Yesterday, I related a famous — or infamous — Groucho Marx crack: “Why is it easier to get the ivory from the elephant in Alabama?” “Because the tusk are loosa.” My friend, the NR publisher Ed Capano, shared another one: In Cocoanuts, a lady rings the hotel desk asking for ice water. Groucho replies, “I’ll send up some onions: That’ll make your eyes water.”

In my discussion of niche yesterday, I mentioned that I pronounced hors d’oeuvres in the English fashion, not à la française. (This is in speaking English, of course.) A number of readers wrote to ask how, in fact, I pronounced this phrase. Even John Derbyshire — a George Bernard Shaw for our time — raised the issue in The Corner. I pronounce hors d’oeuvres “or-’dervs” (rhymes with “deserves,” sort of). And I pronounce maître d’ “mayter dee.”

By the way, when I likened Derb to G. B. Shaw, I didn’t mean the latter’s political naivety — I was just trying to think of a man of dazzling versatility and genius.

Last, because I ended yesterday’s column “Au revoir, y’all,” a reader wrote in to say, “No, no! As my college French professor used to say in the ’80s at the small state school in Americus, Ga., it’s: ‘Au revoir, vous’all’!”



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