Politics & Policy


A shield for Japan. A new birth for Kenya. A drill for ANWR! &c.

Four years ago, when I joined National Review, associate publisher Jack Fowler — my hero — greeted me with the following words (uttered in glorious New York accent): “Welcome aboard and all that sh**.” In the same spirit, I say to you, Happy New Year and all that . . .

Now, where was I? Oh, yes, in my previous column I was Lotting — making some points about the recent unpleasantness. I should have made the most basic point of all (as I see it): If this had been a football game, the ref would have thrown a flag for piling on.

See how regular-guy I am?

Frankly, the smothering attack on Lott offended my sense of fair play. Now, there’s an old-fashioned term: fair play. Remember the Fair Play for Cuba Committee (they weren’t interested in fair play — they were interested in the welfare of Castro)? And remember who one of its great devotees was (hint: He assassinated a president)?

As I may have mentioned before, one of my favorite news stories in recent weeks is the one about Japan’s desire to develop an anti-missile defense with the United States. Japan wants an SDI of its very own, and it wants it ASAP: and why not, with North Korea so crazy and bellicose?

What I especially love about this story is that it must make the Left extremely uncomfortable: For years now — more than half a century — Japan has been kind of a holy anti-nuclear nation. This is the only nation in the world that has suffered a nuclear attack (although sadly, it will probably not be the last). Japan’s views on all questions concerning the A-bomb are of utmost importance. How many times, in how many concert halls, did I have to sit through Penderecki’s absurd Threnody for the Victims of Hiroshima? Believe me, in certain American towns, in the 1970s and ’80s, it was played more than The Star-Spangled Banner.

Anyway, Japan — this holy, reverenced nation where nuclear issues are concerned — is begging for — nay, demanding — SDI. In doing so, it is affirming everything Ronald Reagan always said: that an anti-missile defense was a necessary and moral thing; that we needed “a shield, not a sword” (the title of one of Edward Teller’s books); that such technology should be shared with all nations. Only a fool or a villain would stand in the way of an SDI system. It may not work, no — but if undeveloped, and undeployed, it will surely not work.

And who will answer for the consequences? Not the Left, who never have to answer for anything.

That was a terribly moving ceremony out of Kenya — they’ve had a real election there, and Moi and his cronies have been forced out.

As the Daily Telegraph noted, “Nearly four decades ago in the same [Nairobi] park, Prince Philip handed over power to Jomo Kenyatta at a ceremony to end British rule in Kenya.” But one Kenyan commented — about Mwai Kibaki’s inauguration day, Dec. 30, 2002 — “Today is the first day in our history that we can call ourselves free. It is not even our second liberation: It is our first.”

As Moi’s car entered the park for the transfer of power, it was “pelted with clods of mud.” Supporters of the new president shouted “Thief!” In his address, Kibaki remarked, “I have inherited a country that has been ravaged by years of misrule.” According to the Telegraph’s report, Daniel arap Moi “looked on, expressionless.”

Very cool.

Now, might not some other countries in Africa have their own liberation — and, as the man said, their first, not their second?

The New York Times ran an article about alumni of the Ford administration in the current administration. In it, the historian Douglas Brinkley was quoted spooning out some conventional wisdom: “Centrist Republicans are never comfortable with right-wing conservatives. Gerald Ford doesn’t like Ronald Reagan.”

He may not — but not because Reagan is a “right-wing conservative.” I suspect it has something to do with the ability to win presidential elections. And to go on to repudiate détente and accomplish historic things. And to capture the heart of a party and nation.

Referring to the Fordies, Brinkley said, “They’re conservative, but they’re flexible.”

That’s roughly the equivalent of, “For a fat girl, you don’t sweat much.” And remember when GHWB said, “I’m a conservative, but I’m not a nut about it”? I’ve always loved that.

Thing is, people — including, I guess, the historian Brinkley — forget how very flexible and pragmatic Reagan was. That’s why so many “true-blue” conservatives spent those two terms mad at him. They’d say things like, “This wouldn’t be happening if Ronald Reagan were president” (ha ha). Howard Phillips, an important conservative activist, denounced Reagan as “a useful idiot for Soviet propaganda.” (And weirdly, he did so smiling.)

Only now is it thought that Reagan was some unbending ideologue.

But — to echo Bob Dole, as I so often do! — I remember! I was there!

Incidentally, as for these Ford moderates, does that include Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld? It’s amazing how far people will go just to jab Reagan.

Some Democrats have tried to tag Bill Frist — the new majority leader — as a racist because, in his campaign against Sen. Jim Sasser, he referred to Washington, D.C., as the home of Marion Barry — and why should dollars flow to him and his crooked band and not to Murfreesboro (or something like that)?

Barry, you see, is black — and that is mainly what liberals care about. That he was a thief, a liar, a druggie, and a divisive demagogue is of little importance. Even so, establishment Democrats never liked to embrace him much (although the Clinton administration had to issue formal endorsements of him). I used to delight in referring to Barry, to my Democratic friends or interlocutors, as “the four-time nominee of your party.” That would bring them up a little short — for a second or two.

Anyway, Mark Steyn should have the last word on this little Frist flap: “If Democrats really want to take the view that an incompetent crackhead is beyond criticism because of his race, then feel free.”

On this same topic: I have always wished that Willie Horton — the Dukakis-furloughed criminal, not the beloved Detroit Tiger — were white. That way you could make the soft-on-crime point without wading into that morass, race. But that’s a whole “nother” column, or book.

My baffling sentence of the week (or recent period or whatever)? It comes from an article by Katharine Q. Seelye of the New York Times, about Frank Murkowski’s appointment of his daughter to the Senate (from Alaska): “She opposes affirmative action, but backs special hiring requirements for Alaska Natives.” Huh?

On the subject of Alaska: Nicholas D. Kristof wrote a fine and surprising column in defense of snowmobiles in national parks. At the end, however, he sort of took some of it back by saying, “It’s fine to emphasize preserving roadless areas and fighting development in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, both of which are good causes . . .”

Development in ANWR? Is that what you call a little drillin’, which would be so sophisticated that the elk (or whatever) would barely know you were there? Development? Gimme a break. We right-wingers are right: This is religion, not policy or politics.

Over Thanksgiving, I noticed that people were saying “Happy Holidays” or “Have a happy holiday” — not even waiting for Christmas. Neutering Thanksgiving! And, of course, if you said “Merry Christmas” at Christmas, you revealed yourself as something of a Crusader.

A reader sent me an interesting video clip from Apple Computers’ “switch” series — it had apparently never been aired, which was too bad, because it’s hilarious. The ad features Will Ferrell — of Saturday Night Live and Night at the Roxbury fame — as Santa Claus. And he gets into this whole PC “Happy Holidays” thing — says he can’t say “Merry Christmas” anymore, because it’s too dangerous in the present legal environment.

A friend of mine was noting the other day that, in her opinion, the tide was turning against political correctness — people were starting to get tired of it, and bridle more and more visibly at it. Dunno. She may be right. But would it make a difference? That is, wouldn’t elites still “set the tone”?

Also, a reader wrote to me, “Jay, I’ve got you beat. A couple of years ago, I saw a sign, at Christmas, on the University of Toronto campus. It said, ‘Happy Significant Days.’ I guess that just about covers it.”

I guess it does!

I have a new hero (other than Jack Fowler): That’s Ma Ying-jeou, mayor of Taipei. In a speech earlier this week, he stuck it to the Red Chinese and stood up for liberty and tolerance.

Addressing a gathering of Falun Gong followers, he said, “Freedom of religion and freedom of belief are common values of a free society. Taiwan is a place where freedom of assembly and freedom of religion are respected. People are pained to see the mainland’s persecution and killing of students of Falun Gong.”

He continued, “I’m not worried about offending any government or regime. I attend June 4 memorial services [marking the Tiananmen Square massacre] every year and openly declare that before the rehabilitation of [Tiananmen demonstrators] reunification cannot be discussed.”

And then, “The importance of human rights should exceed national borders and both sides of the [Taiwan] Strait.”

Wow. He’s practically into Wilson territory now — in fact, he is. And hats off to him.

Look, you may think that the Falun Gongers are a bunch of nuts and kooks: but they have been beaten, tortured, jailed, murdered, and persecuted in every other way imaginable, and they are resilient and daring and brave. All decent people should leap to their defense and protect them in any way they can. I made these points in a speech two years ago. To echo Niemoeller, today it might be Falun Gong; and then underground Catholics; and then Protestant “house” churches; and then — how ’bout you, homie?

Anyway, I like this Mayor Ma — who, for what he said, should be at least as honored as Yo-Yo Ma.

Speaking of music: News is that John Adams is composing an opera on the life of J. Robert Oppenheimer. Great: Wonder what line on the late scientist that one will take! (Adams, remember, is the composer of Nixon in China and The Death of Klinghoffer.) One thing I can tell you: Admiral Strauss will be sung by a villainous, mustache-twirling baritone. And Dr. Teller? Another evil baritone (or perhaps bass-baritone).

We’ll see. But then, we probably don’t have to. And just imagine the moral equivalence (between the Soviet project and the American)! And how about a saintly soprano for Oppenheimer’s (undeniably) Stalinist wife! And . . .

There’s so much more, folks, but you’ve undoubtedly had enough. See you.


The Latest