Politics & Policy

Impromptus

That ol' devil, equation. How's Koch doin'? A little practical politics — and more

I know I swore off Tom Friedman criticism — as well as Maureen Dowd criticism — but I’m going to backslide, just a little.

In his Sunday column, he wrote the following flabbergasting passage. Or rather, it would be flabbergasting, if it weren’t typical of Friedman, part of whose shtick is that “extremists” on “both sides” of the Arab-Israeli conflict are to blame for perpetual heartbreak.

”. . . the Israeli and Palestinian mainstreams spent the last 36 years, since Israel’s victory in 1967, avoiding any clear decision over how to govern [the territories]. So those extremists who had a clear idea, like the settlers and Hamas, hijacked the situation and drove the agenda.”

Meditate on that: “like the settlers and Hamas.” You may not like the settlers. You may think they’re “an obstacle to peace” (which they’re not). But “the settlers and Hamas”? Co-extremists? Hamas dedicates its existence to killing dozens and scores and hundreds of innocent people — in pizzerias, at bus stops, wherever they may be. The settlers dedicate their existence to not being killed.

This reminded me of Anthony Lewis’s statement, on retiring from the New York Times, not long after September 11: “Certainty is the enemy of decency and humanity in people who are sure they are right, like Osama bin Laden and John Ashcroft.”

Hamas, the settlers; bin Laden, Ashcroft — thinking like that can get you employment at the New York Times, and Pulitzer prizes.

In his column, Friedman continued,

“Israel has been trying to get rid of Yasir Arafat for years, but it was a legitimate process, managed by the Palestinian legislature, that last month produced the first legitimate alternative: the first Palestinian prime minister, Mahmoud Abbas.”

Sorry, Charlie: What caused that was pressure from George W. Bush and, secondarily, from Ariel Sharon. Firm, unappeasable anti-Arafat pressure forced that reform. The Palestinians did not wake up one morning and feel like doing it, rather like Sen. Byrd seeking more pork for West Virginia.

I could go on, but . . . my much-abused pledge.

Regular readers know that one of my favorite politicians — retired or active — is Ed Koch, ex-mayor of New York. Yesterday, the New York Sun published an interview with him, which included the following:

Q: “How’s the war in Iraq going?”

A: “I think it’s gone exceedingly well. I think that the media in substantial numbers are fools and are just simply showing their left-wing bias against Bush and those Republicans and Democrats who support the war against Iraq for all the reasons set forth in U.N. Resolution 1441. I think the president did the right thing, is doing the right thing, and I think the war is going quite well. . . .

Q: “What is next after Iraq?”

A: “I believe the president announced the policy of the country in a succinct way when he said that we will go after the terrorists and the countries that harbor them. I’ve got great confidence in what I think is the finest cabinet on security and defense matters ever assembled in Washington.”

Q: “You’ve crossed party lines in the past. Will you do it again?”

A: “Yes. I’m probably going to vote for George Bush next time. All things being equal, even though I disagree with President Bush on a whole host of domestic matters, from taxes and Social Security and prescription drugs . . . Nevertheless, the single most important matter to me, and one that should be to the whole United States, is terrorism, security of the country, security of the homeland, standing up to those who want to destroy us, and he’s doing that better than Gore would have, and I don’t know anyone who would do it as well at this moment in the Democratic party.”

For those who care intelligently about the security of the country, it’s just not safe yet to vote Democratic.

For many years, a lot of us were troubled by anti-Iraq sanctions. Were we responsible for a humanitarian disaster there, given widespread starvation and medical woe? No, came the reply: Iraq has all the humanitarian supplies necessary. If the people aren’t getting them, it’s the fault of the regime.

I’m glad to have confirmation of this view from Vince Morris, a New York Post reporter on the ground in Iraq. Traveling as an embed, he beheld great quantities of food stockpiled by the Republican Guard: so much “that it’s piled to the rafters at an air base — sitting unused and slowly being spoiled by rodents.”

This, apparently, is what Saddam did with assistance provided through the “oil for food” program.

“‘Saddam gave all the food to the Republican Guard to keep them fat and happy,’ said [Maj. Mark] Stainbrook, standing watch over 173 bags of flour, 45 bags of rice, 18 bags of lentils, 15 bags of salt, 130 bags of dried dates, and 40 cans of vegetable oil, alongside 15 cans of molasses.”

As I said, interesting and good to know.

(Incidentally, the Post headline over that story was “Starving nation’s oil bought food for fiends.”)

Marwan Barghouti, a Palestinian terror leader, is on trial in Israel, for murder. He has refused to contest the charges, instead preening for his supporters and the cameras. He said, “This court only represents the Israeli occupation. I do not relate to this dirty process of lies.”

That’s our old theme: Liars calling others liars, tricksters expecting others to behave as they themselves would, in the same circumstances.

A trial in most (all?) Arab countries, of course, would be a “dirty process,” filled with “lies” (most of them official). No wonder the subjects of such countries have trouble adjusting to a more honest process.

Several readers have asked me to comment on John Kerry’s call for “regime change” in the United States — an echoing, of course, of a cute line uttered by many since September 11 (ever since the administration started using the phrase “regime change”). Frankly, I don’t know why a U.S. senator — especially one running for president — would joke about “regime change” when American troops are fighting and dying to achieve the real thing. But then, I don’t understand a lot about the Democratic party. I’m sorry.

A reader sent me some statements about the emperor Caligula in 41 A.D. He said they seemed especially relevant now, and I agree.

“The condition of the times could be judged by the sequel: at first no one would believe that he had really been assassinated, and suspected that the story was invented and circulated by himself to discover what people thought of him.” (Seutonius)

“There was consternation and incredulity. Some, who heartily welcomed his assassination and would have regarded it long since as a blessing to themselves, were incredulous with fear. [Others] did not credit it, because it seemed to them impossible for any human being to have the courage to kill him. . . . Some of the army were of this mind because they were mercenaries, and no less than partners in his tyranny — by playing the lackey to his insolence, they gained both honor and profit, for the noblest citizens were in terror of them.” (Josephus)

ATTENTION PENNSYLVANIA VOTERS: Rep. Pat Toomey is challenging Sen. Arlen Specter for the Republican nomination. Toomey is a Reagan conservative; Specter is . . . not. The White House is backing Specter because it’s reflexively pro-incumbent; but surely George W. Bush’s heart — and Karl Rove’s — is with Toomey.

Toomey is a sterling guy — smart, principled — who was reared in a patriotic Democratic union household. With a little backing and attention, he can win the Republican senatorial nomination. Specter is not inevitable. Only the lazy acceptance that he is will make him so.

Go, Toomey.

Further on the subject of politics (I would say intra-Republican politics, but that would dignify Specter): Reagan conservatives like me are going to have a devil of a time in the Indiana governor’s race next year. It seems that two of our best — Dave McIntosh and Mitch Daniels — are going to run for the Republican nomination. Each is bright, engaging, experienced — true blue. “One of us.” McIntosh won the nomination last time and lost the general; Daniels — who is now Bush’s OMB director — would be a fresh candidate. (Bear in mind, however, that it often helps to have run and lost, voters wanting to look you over once or twice — or thrice.) Either would be a splendid governor.

Pity that two stars have to go after the same prize, when the usual case is that you have no star in the race at all!

Impromptusites may recall an interview I did recently with the Canada-based webzine EnterStageRight. Roger Kimball — the super-brilliant editor and writer at The New Criterion — has also done an interview, found here. After reading it, and digesting it, and incorporating it, one should be awarded some kind of degree. I myself intend to read it again.

An Iraqi citizen was quoted as saying that he wanted from the Americans “democracy, whisky, and sexy.” Quipped Bill Maher, “I hate to break it to you, pal, but Clinton isn’t president anymore.”

Last week, a reader informed us that “the original commander of British forces in WWI was Sir John French.” Another reader — from Germany — adds, “There was a German general named Hermann von Francois.”

Curiouser and curiouser!

A reader writes, “While we’re changing the names of things — French fries, chicken French — let’s tackle French roast coffee. Should be known as: ‘coffee that leaves a bitter taste in your mouth.’”

“Hey, Jay: I just got done listening to Tchaikovsky’s ‘1812 Overture,’ and nothing gets me more pumped up. I guess any piece of music celebrating a victory over the French will do that to me.”

“Jay, I have underestimated French efficiency. I just realized that the red, white, and blue panels of their flag are perfectly designed. It only takes two quick folds to make it a white flag of surrender!”

“Jay, I thought you would ‘love’ this. I went to a New York Times story about Bush 41 not liking Rumsfeld that much, and in the margin there was an ad for an item in the NYT store. It was a picture of Castro and Che in an embrace. Cost: $195. It has the feel of, “There’s unrest in the administration and while you’re here, how about this sweet picture of two ‘revolutionaries’?”

Finally, since we’re being rather classical today, a reader paraphrases Juvenal to sum up a certain ex-president from Georgia: “He spoils his virtue with pride.”

Nice. I mean, the insight, not the malady.

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