Politics & Policy

Impromptus

Me and (C.) Hef; CBS and the DNC; "Give me an F, Prof. Bloom"; and more

Forgot to tell you guys about something strange that occurred the other night. (By “guys,” of course, I mean regular Impromptus-ites. To all newcomers: I apologize for the familiarity. But get used to it, please.)

Okay, so it was “Interlochen Night at the New York Philharmonic.” (Interlochen, recall, is the camp/school in the woods of northwestern Michigan.) They’re having a nice little ceremony featuring some alums, and who should be called on after me but Christie Hefner (daughter of Hef)? What a pair: the CEO of Playboy Enterprises and an NR anti-porn crusader. You’ve gotta love the “gorgeous mosaic.”

When I told my grandmother about this, she said, “Well, you can’t blame the daughter for the work of the father.” I said, “Yeah, but, come on: She’s the head of the company!” And my grandmother said, “Well, you can’t blame her for that either, can you? I mean, it’d be hard to pass up!”

(To all you itchy-fingers out there: This was a light conversation. If you send me any preachy e-mails about personal choices, I’ll ban you, I swear.)

Also present was Mike Wallace, who was at Interlochen in the 1930s. I want to tell you something lovely about his remarks. He was talking about a conversation he’d had with the founder of the camp, and the founder said, “‘Now, Myron’ — because that’s my name: Myron . . . ” I loved that about Wallace: that he said, pointing to himself, “that’s my name.” Notice the tense.

Conservatives — my fellow conservatives — might be disappointed to know that Wallace is absolutely charming and engaging and fun. He, of course, teased me about being a “right-winger.” And he knew Nancy Davis before Ronnie did. Wallace told me about her mother, one of the great earthy talkers of all time.

Additionally, Wallace is a handsome devil, in his 80s. How in the world did he get all that hair? Or keep it, I should say?

Maddening.

Get a load of this, from Reuters: “The three NATO rebels [France, Germany, and Belgium], trying to slow the rush to war . . . “ The rush to war. Do you love it? This is the slowest “rush” in world history. David Frum’s column in the current NR, by the way, is all about this silly rush-to-war business. Excellent column.

Did you also notice Reuters’ “rebels”? That’s a term of praise in that context, naturally.

Kudos to the Wall Street Journal for reporting on a jailhouse cleric who specializes in converting cons to Wahhabist Islam. And kudos to the New York Post for following up on the story.

Warith Deen Umar has now been banned from New York’s prisons. According to a Post article, Umar had said, “Without justice, there will be warfare, and it will come to this country too.” He also said that “even Muslims who say they are against terrorism secretly admire and applaud” the 9/11 attacks.

More from the Post:

[Umar] said the Koran . . . does not condemn terrorism against oppressors of Muslims, even if innocent people die. “This is the sort of teaching they don’t want in prison. [That’s a relief.] But this is what I’m doing,” said Umar, who recruited scores of Muslim clerics to state prisons and helped convert thousands of inmates to Islam.

Umar himself — born Wallace Gene Marks, and once dubbing himself Wallace 10X — found religion in jail as a teenager. The Saudi government has paid for several trips to the kingdom.

Again, the guy’s (current) first name is Warith. Shouldn’t that be “warreth”?

The Palestinian Authority has admitted that there were at least 31 “honor killings” in that land in 2002 — the murder of women alleged to have committed a sexual peccadillo. According to the PA’s Ministry of Social Welfare, “Most of the victims are adolescent girls who were sexually abused or raped by members of their families and later killed for bringing shame.”

Good for the PA for reporting this. I’m surprised, frankly.

More on this sordid story, as discussed in the Jerusalem Post: “According to figures released by women’s organizations, there has also been a significant rise in the number of cases of incest in Palestinian society. One of the women’s groups reported more than 400 cases in the West Bank during 2002.”

I was intrigued by a remark made by a Democratic pol (anonymous), as reported in The Nation. Hillary Clinton will have her big chance in 2008 because “04 is the year of clearing out the white guys.”

Why oh why is it always racial with these people? Why is it always “white” this and “white” that? Why not say that they are simply men? And is Sen. Clinton exempted from being white because she’s a woman, a leftist — and a Clinton?

(BTW, Hillary Rodham Clinton is about the whitest white woman I’ve ever seen — I don’t care who she hangs out with.)

So here I am, on a Sunday afternoon, reading the Vows section of the New York Times. It concerns a longtime Democratic activist named Dotty Lynch. She is now married to a man named Morgan Downey. They met on the George McGovern campaign. Lynch then became a Democratic pollster. She joined CBS News in 1985 — and is now that network’s “senior political editor.”

Of course, I thought. Of course, of course. What were the chances that CBS News’s senior political editor was not a longtime Democratic activist?

Below is the first paragraph of Christopher Benfey’s review of Ian Buruma’s new book on Japan. It was published in the NYT.

After Pearl Harbor, the Emperor Hirohito . . . was in a “splendid mood.” The well-traveled poet-sculptor Kotaro Takamura, who had visited New York and London, and lived for a time in Paris, the city of his idols Baudelaire and Rodin, wept with joy. The distinguished literary critic Takao Okuna, a witness to the devastating dive bombers and torpedoes in Hawaii, described the “sense of euphoria that we’d done it at last. . . . All the feelings of inferiority of a colored people from a backward country toward white people from the developed world disappeared in that one blow.”

Were you reminded of the aftermath of 9/11? Me too.

There is no more admirable group in the world than Brothers to the Rescue. This is the Cuban exile group that has flown thousands of patrols in search of those fleeing the homeland, on anything that can float. If any group ever deserved the Nobel peace prize or something — it is this one.

I was saddened to learn that Brothers has suspended its missions, because it can no longer afford to fly them. May they be up in the air soon. And may that tyrant be overthrown, so that the missions would no longer be needed.

I was also interested to learn that four members of the Cuban Coast Guard defected in Key West. After docking in a hotel marina, they flagged down police, seeking asylum.

Why do liberals never ask themselves why so many undertake the desperate act of trying to leave their country? But then, they know the answer, don’t they? Because they’re all racist, greedy, criminal Batista stooges.

If you’re interested in the Enron case — beyond the agreed-on national myth — check out this fascinating New York Times story by Kurt Eichenwald. The reporter recites the accepted version of the Ken Lay saga. He then writes, “But this story of a hypocrite unmasked suffers from one significant flaw: it appears to be untrue.”

Fascinating.

I had a memory the other night, as I was attending a performance of Barber’s Dover Beach (the string-quartet-and-baritone setting of Matthew Arnold’s great poem “Dover Beach” by Samuel Barber, the American composer). In fact, I think I’ve told this story in Impromptus before.

In college, I had a class titled “The Ordeal of the Union.” It was about the run-up to the Civil War. The class ended — and climaxed — on the eve of the Civil War, and the professor — an Alabamian — read the portion of “Dover Beach” that deals with “ignorant armies clashing in the night.” He cried.

That’s something one can never forget: a professor weeping. You had the idea that this was really, really . . . horrible and important.

Reviewing a children’s autobiography of Marian Anderson in the New York Times, Ellen Feldman wrote that a photo of the Lincoln Memorial concert “pulses with the courage and dignity of a Diego Rivera mural.”

What a minute: A Diego Rivera mural pulses with courage and dignity? Gimme a break. It pulses with cartoonish, agit-prop BS.

Oh, that movie was annoying too — it’ll win several Oscars, no doubt.

In my Davos Journal last week, I mentioned that I’d never been able to get past the beginning of Thomas Mann’s Magic Mountain. (The topic came up because I stayed in the very sanitarium — now a hotel — that Mann depicts in the book. I stayed, in fact, on der Zauberberg — the Magic Mountain — which in reality is the Schatzalp.)

I got a ton of mail saying, “You couldn’t get past the beginning? Me too. I’m so relieved.” One correspondent suggested a support group, or some kind of brotherhood, for people who couldn’t get past the opening of The Magic Mountain.

I shouldn’t bring this up, but, what the hell — seeing as I’m on the subject. Many years ago, I read Harold Bloom’s Western Canon. In that book, he delivers the judgment that the two greatest novels in English are Middlemarch and Bleak House (Eliot and Dickens).

Now, I revered Bloom and I revered that book, so I rushed out and bought copies of the two novels. (I think I had tried Middlemarch before and failed.) Mind you, it was very unusual of me at the time to buy books. I had no money; I borrowed from the library. But these novels, I bought — because of what Bloom had said.

Folks, I gotta confess: I started those novels many times — many times — and couldn’t continue in either. I intend to someday. I do not, mind you, allege that there’s anything wrong with the books. Only that there’s something wrong in me, preventing me from persevering in H. Bloom’s Two Greatest Novels.

So sue me.

Speaking of support groups, or brotherhoods: Based on my Impromptus of yesterday, someone wrote to say that those of us who suffered in Middle Eastern Studies programs should form a union or something — to demand a refund of our tuition. It took a long while to unlearn all that garbage we were fed in those classes. You can forgo an entire Middle Eastern Studies curriculum just by buying one book of Bernard Lewis — or by reading the papers, really.

Now, a couple of corrections. Well, one correction, really, and then a helping hand. In yesterday’s column, I criticized Sen. McCain for saying that France and Germany had acted out of “calculated self-interest,” when calculated self-interest, of course, is a sine qua non of any nation’s foreign policy. In a news article, I had read only those two words, in isolation.

A fuller context changes the picture, however. McCain actually said, “The French and German objection, for reasons of calculated self-interest — a very flawed calculation, I fear — to a routine American request to the North Atlantic Council to upgrade Turkey’s defenses against the military threat from Iraq was a terrible injury to an alliance that has served their broader interests well.”

I stand corrected, and am happy to do so.

Also, I said in yesterday’s column that Ron Radosh’s excellent column in the New York Sun — on appeasement past and present — could not be found online. Fortunately, it can be found at David Horowitz’s FrontPageMag.com: here.

A speck of mail? A reader from California writes: “Friday (2/7) the New Roads High School marquee on Olympic Boulevard in Santa Monica displayed neither ‘Basketball 7:30’ nor ‘SAT this Saturday’ or some other prosaic yet functional text. Instead it commanded all passersby to ‘Support the UN.’ I suppose it’s a sliver above ‘We’re with you all the way, Saddam,’ but it nevertheless left me disgusted and angry, souring an otherwise pleasant drive home.”

Know what you mean.

This is George W. Bush’s fault, by the way: going the “U.N. route” and making it seem that its support was vital to a U.S. war of self-defense.

On that super-inflammatory and debatable note . . .

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