Politics & Policy

The ring of truth, perversity in America, California crabbing, and more

You will be deluged with commentary about Bush’s speech last night, so I will be brief: It was powerful because it was true. It wasn’t powerful because it was particularly well delivered or particularly well written (although it was adequately delivered and quite well written). What power it had — and it had a lot — sprang from the fact that it was true. Almost self-evidently true.

That’s my two cents — although, succinct as that was, maybe even less than that.

The New York Daily News had a screaming headline excoriating George W. for not coming to New York on September 11 (for the second anniversary). Bush is attending services in Washington; Cheney is coming to New York; someone else is going to Pennsylvania.

When Bush comes to New York (as for the ‘04 convention), his critics excoriate him for that; when he doesn’t come to New York, they excoriate him for that. All the more reason to just go ahead and do what you think is right.

USA Today carried a column by Constance Hilliard, an associate professor of history at the University of North Texas, complaining that Bush ends his speeches, “May God continue to bless America.” Said the teacher, “For all his political adeptness, Bush sometimes seems to lack the capacity to perceive the world beyond his immediate cultural realm. The fact that he tags every speech with some variant of ‘God bless America’ reinforces my unease.”

So it has come to this — or maybe it came to it a long time ago. No surprise that this is the sort of mind charged with educating young people. But I think the Democratic candidates — who have lurched so far to the left — ought to be asked, “Do you think Bush is wrong — culturally insensitive — to say ‘May God continue to bless America’? Could you possibly disagree with the good professoress?”

I also think they should be asked, “What would your tax scheme be, if you could simply impose your will, without political opposition, without a Congress, etc.?” But that — dream questions to Democratic candidates (especially if they were injected with truth serum) — is “a whole ‘nother” column.

I should really say something about Miguel Estrada, but I am too burned by it to talk coolly. Sometimes we conservatives are accused of running down America, of claiming that the country is going to hell in a handbasket, and so on. I believe that’s untrue (on the whole). I don’t think that most of us are so gloomy. But I must say: A country in which Miguel Estrada can’t become a judge is a country that is perverse.

Israel will be blamed for Mahmoud Abbas’s departure, and so will Washington (in the second instance). But he was run out — for how long, no one can say — by the usual thugs, bullies, and intimidators among the Palestinians. They’re big on masks, those symbols of cowardly terror: Said the New York Post’s report, “Abbas’s decision to step down came after a wildly negative reception by the Palestinian parliament on Thursday, when dozens of masked, chanting members of Arafat’s Fatah organization razzed him, calling him a collaborator with Israel.” Abbas almost certainly feared for his life.

This man — sometimes called “Abu Mazen” — was thought to be the Great Moderate Hope, of course. And it says something that the Great Moderate Hope was a professional Holocaust denier (check out his dissertation).

I think I’ll simply note this event without comment — for if one doesn’t understand the power of it, there is little anyone else can do to explain it: “Three Israeli F-15 jets piloted by descendants of Holocaust survivors circled [Auschwitz] to pay tribute to the victims” last week. “During the flyover, some 200 Israeli soldiers stood at attention at the former Birkenau death camp, adjacent to Auschwitz.”

Predictably, some imbeciles at the Auschwitz Museum objected, decrying the flyover as a “demonstration of Israeli military might” at “a place of silence.”

You’re damn right it was a demonstration of Israeli military might: and, as such, it was a demonstration of the refusal to die. Far be it from me to speak for the dead, but I would be shocked if they objected — if they could know about it.

Oh, and, by the way: Why should Auschwitz be a place of silence? There’s enough silence about genocide — don’t you think?

The killer of an abortion doctor was put to death in Florida. I might have missed it, but I didn’t hear any protests over this instance of capital punishment from the usual quarters.

On a vote of 205 to 203, the House of Representatives approved a school-voucher bill for D.C. I will quote from two die-hard opponents: Eleanor Holmes Norton: “If you vote for vouchers, you will send a signal to every private school in the country, to every organization of private schools, that this is the time to bring pressure to get the same private-school deal that the District of Columbia got.” And Rep. Danny K. Davis (D., Ill.): “It’s D.C. today. It’s Chicago tomorrow. St. Louis, New Orleans, Los Angeles next week. Then it’s all of America” — for the message of the House’s bill “goes far beyond Washington, D.C.”

They are right, my friends. Blessedly right. Let it roll.

I ought to nip something in the bud. Lots of people will want to write in to chew me out for appropriating the 9/11 call “Let’s roll.” Actually, I was echoing Churchill’s “Let it roll . . . inexorable, irresistible . . .”

On Saturday, I was walking in midtown Manhattan and ran into a lot of Labor Day-associated rallies. You couldn’t have called it a parade — it wasn’t festive, fun, and benign enough for that. The scene was bunches of people who reminded me of everything I dislike about unions. I hate to be a union-basher — I’m a southeastern-Michigan kid, after all — but, jeesh . . . It was the bullying, the air of menace, the T-shirts with hateful slogans, the extreme selfishness, the bellowing through a bullhorn, “What do we want, when do we want it?” Yeah, well, a lot of us want a lot of things, and we would like them now — but the rest of us have to be grown up.

Anyway, the teachers’ unions were out in full force, with their T-shirts, shouting, slogans, scowls, and it really hit me: These are the ones with the supreme responsibility of educating children. The signs of one group said, “Spend on Education, Not War.”

And I practically broke into hives. The asininity of this sentiment — this imperative — on every level: the idea that it’s either-or; the notion that spending money on “war” doesn’t contribute to their safety — their very lives, in the most basic sense. Were they perhaps asleep on 9/11? Did they not read about it in the papers? What would they do about the groups and states that would do us harm — that would (why perfume it?) kill us or subject us? What our administration did in the 1990s?

I was taught to revere unions — essentially not even to question them — but we are a long, long way from Walter Reuther and the Battle of the Overpass.

A couple of notes on California. Gray Davis is scoring points — I doubt it will work — by claiming that Schwarzenegger can’t pronounce the name of the state. He is also refusing to call him by his own name — Davis refers to his chief (Republican) opponent as “the actor.”

I’m reminded of the 1966 race, in which the incumbent governor, Pat Brown, ran against “the actor,” Ronald Reagan, and lost by a million votes. Gov. Brown was responsible for probably the most despicable television ad in the history of American politics (not counting, I would say, LBJ’s Daisy Ad and the NAACP’s lynching ad against W. in 2000). Brown had a little black girl on his knee and he said to her, “You know, it was an actor who shot Lincoln.”

You probably read that someone pelted Schwarzenegger with eggs. The candidate responded, “This is all part of free speech. I think it’s great.”

No, egg-throwing is not part of free speech, no matter what Ruth Bader Ginsburg tries to tell you. This is a misunderstanding that the Left has inserted into the national consciousness. But Arnold, as a candidate, responded just as he had to.

While I’m on California: I recommend to you all Jill Stewart’s superb piece over at The New Republic, detailing how the press is avoiding asking Cruz Bustamante pertinent questions, while constantly lamenting Schwarzenegger’s unavailability: here.

Finally, I was going to report that Thomas Sowell, in a column, disclosed that he was going to vote for Arnold — and that Sowell’s word was good enough for me. There is maybe not a person in the country whose judgment I respect more.

But then this came in — a few minutes ago. Schwarzenegger was questioned about Prop 54, the Ward Connerly-spearheaded measure that would make it illegal for governmental agencies to collect racial statistics on the population, with some prudent exceptions. This is the Racial Privacy Initiative.

Schwarzenegger said, “I’m against it. It looks good on the surface, but when you study it you see its true intentions. It was a no-brainer, once I looked at all the reading and all the materials. I do a lot of work with after-school programs, a lot of these kids are minorities, and we need to know how they’re doing and bring them up to the starting line. It was a no-brainer. And if the right-wing crazies have a problem with that, so be it.”

I have gone back and forth on Schwarzenegger, so much that I almost have whiplash. But my new — my current — position on him is: To hell with him.

My friends, there is good news today. NR is going digital. That is, National Review is going to be available online, for the first time. That is, the whole magazine — from soup to nuts, from cover to cover. Many, many people have been asking for this, for a long time. And now the great moment has arrived. I will rejoice along with you.

I am the managing editor of National Review, and can be expected to say positive things about it. But I was a fan of National Review long before I ever worked for it, or even entertained the notion of doing so. In fact, National Review was probably more important to me years ago than it is now (if I may). Someone once called it “that blue-bordered oasis of light, fact, and inspiration” (or something — I’m paraphrasing). The magazine was a great friend to me, and a great teacher of me, through critical, often trying years. (I was not born with a conservative spoon in my mouth, you know.) To borrow language from WFB, National Review — and Buckley in particular — didn’t teach me what to think, but did teach me how to think, a priceless lesson. (National Review — online or not — does have a price, however!)

Let me say — not to sound too much like a politician — that all of us at NR are endeavoring to keep the magazine as good as its reputation, as good as its past, as helpful and honest and inspired as it has always been. I think it’s a wonderful magazine (sorry). And I’m grateful that many people agree — and if others don’t, why, there are innumerable publications out in the sea.

So, read it, click it — draw from it as I did, and I doubt that you will be disappointed.

I was going to end with a few funny headlines, but may I give you a funny and warming personal story instead? I have a friend who’s the mother of three. She was reading to her youngest — her three-year-old boy — and the text was Pinocchio. The story was all about right and wrong, and she stressed this theme many times. At the end, she said, “All right, and what have we learned? That every boy has to know all about right and . . .”

And the dear child beamed and exclaimed, “Right and left!”

I like to think that that was, at least in part, a political commentary.

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