Politics & Policy

The way they cartoon in Palm Beach. A little more from the president, please. Watching Dean — and more

For years, conservatives have said that liberals feel free to be as racist as possible toward black conservatives. I’ve never quite believed it — thinking it an exaggeration (although on its way to a good point).

But I think I’ve changed my mind. And I’ve changed it because of a cartoon — an odious, vile cartoon — drawn by Don Wright of the Palm Beach Post. I could not find this cartoon in an archive of Wright’s oeuvre, but I will describe it.

It has a big Antonin Scalia with a little Clarence Thomas puppet on his hand. Scalia is saying, “Therefore, having clearly established precedent in Florida, it is my belief, Clarence, that we simply call the Court together and declare Arnold Governor of California.” A bubble-lipped, grinning Thomas puppet says, “Oh, yeah! Say what?”

This took my breath away when I first saw it. I could scarcely believe that someone would publish it in the year 2003. The image of Thomas alone — forget the words — was fantastically offensive. A throwback. And that “Say what?” business . . .

But, of course, a liberal can get away with virtually anything, especially if he is beastly to a black conservative, who is considered, by much of our dominant class, the lowest of the low — a mental defective, a sort of traitor.

This Wright is obviously a fevered left-winger — the kind who draws a cartoon of John Ashcroft driving a truck bomb into the Constitution. (Nice, Don.) But there’s a difference between good, sharp left-wing commentary or polemics and the raw hate that comes from Wright, or from his fellow cartoonist Jeff Danziger.

Oh, well.

[Late note: A reader has advised how to view the Scalia-Thomas cartoon: Go here, find the current Wright cartoon, which is prominent, and, under “Archive,” click “Fri.”]

A bit on President Bush. In the 2000 campaign, I took this line: that Clinton had been in our faces all the time, dominating the scene, demanding attention; and that Bush would be a humbler, more respectful president, not in our faces all the time, understanding the proper role of the president in society. For Clinton, everything is The Bill Clinton Show, a personal drama (or often melodrama). He is exhausting. George W. Bush would be something of a break, more in line with a constitutional republic.

But now we are at war: and I’m not sure Bush is visible enough. To husband your presence and impact is one thing; to sort of linger on the sidelines is another. Bush is getting attacked on all fronts, by implacable enemies. He needs to fight back, not least rhetorically. He must not leave the field to others.

The instinct is to say, “Oh, everyone knows Howard Dean is a nut, and everyone knows that the media are biased.” No, they don’t: They have to be told, or reminded. Otherwise, the folderol sinks in, and people are apt to think, “Say, maybe there’s something to this Bush-lies stuff.”

We always said that people, in general, would forget September 11. Nonetheless, some of us were surprised at how quickly it happened. Dean et al. go around as if our enemy were George W. Bush and John Ashcroft. And these are two men who, faced with colossally difficult jobs, have done their utmost to keep America safe.

No, the danger isn’t that the Justice Department will find out what library books you’re checking out (a canard, anyway); the danger is that America’s real, terrorist enemies — and their state supporters — will get the better of us, especially as Americans themselves run down the War on Terror, which, contrary to what you may hear, has everything — everything — to do with September 11.

I was saying to a friend the other day, “Look, I’m a partisan Republican — a terrible partisan. More partisan than I would like to be, really, or feel comfortable being. But I don’t like it when an entire party, in our two-party system, goes wacko. It can’t be good for the country. Do you realize that Al Gore — the former vice president, the man who won the majority of votes, nationally, in 2000 — asked to speak before the group MoveOn.org? I mean, this is a fringe group — or ought to be. It’s as though a Republican figure had asked for time before the John Birch Society. The Democratic party is in the grip of something sick.”

And my wise friend responded, “Yes, and another problem is that, when the other party goes nuts, you have no leverage over your own party, or your own president. You certainly have no place else to go. You’re stuck.”

True.

A question: Howard Dean is saying all sorts of nutso things in this primary campaign — sort of left-field, Christic Institute stuff. Semi-LaRouchie. If he wins the nomination, he will of course moderate, and present himself as just a commonsensical Vermonter, nothing crazy-Left about me, boy, nosirree.

And, of course, the press will bring up none of the earlier talk that, though mad, won Dean a following among Democratic activists in the first place.

So my question is: Is someone — over at the RNC, for example — keeping a record of choice Dean statements, as he drives toward the nomination? Something that he will have to answer for, in the event he makes the general? Because the media will not — trust me on this — make him answer. No chance.

The other day, Dean said, “I admire George Bush’s father [which has to be BS, but let that go]. There were some things I strongly disagree with him on . . . but he tried to be a good president. This president is not interested in being a good president.”

Someone simply has to examine this doctor.

I have harped on the New York Times sports pages before — they are amazingly politicized, and the columnists are usually knee-deep into race (and needlessly so). Last week, Harvey Araton — commenting on Larry Bird’s firing of Isiah Thomas as coach in Indianapolis — wrote, “. . . here came Bird, in his first bold move as the Pacers’ general manager, to fire an African-American legend, intending to replace him with Rick Carlisle, his very white friend and former occupier of space at the end of the Boston Celtics’ bench.”

A couple of questions: Why can’t Isiah Thomas just be a legend, instead of an “African-American legend”? And why is Rick Carlisle “very white” — not just white (if he has to be a color, instead of a person or coach, at all)? And would Harvey Araton, or any other New York Times sports columnist, or any other human being, ever, ever write the phrase “his very black friend”?

In several columns, I have remarked the animosity directed at Ahmad Chalabi — leader of the Iraqi National Congress and now a member of the Governing Council — for, among other things, being in exile during the Saddam years. His critics act like he was some kind of coward — as though he could have done his countrymen more good in a dungeon, or dead, than as leader of the most prominent and most promising Iraqi exile group.

A reader of mine pointed out: Do they feel the same, these critics, about the Dalai Lama? Is he a coward or a weakling or a softie or a traitor for carrying on his work outside of Tibet, instead of languishing in some PRC dungeon (like my friend Jian-li Yang) — or resting in the grave?

And how about leftist idol Willy Brandt during the Nazi years?

Etc., etc.

Take a little walk down Memory Lane with me: Last week, I read, “If California were an independent nation, its fiscal imbalance would qualify for International Monetary Fund intervention.”

I remember Reagan — I remember Mama, I remember Reagan — in the ‘80 campaign. He was trying to convey to people what a big deal having been governor of California for two terms was. (Reagan’s credentials were being questioned — he was “just an actor,” as though he had stepped off the Warner Brothers lot to run for president.) Reagan would say, “If California were its own country, it would have the eighth-largest economy in the world.”

Funny, I can’t remember what I had for breakfast this morning, but I can remember that — and most other things about RR.

I realize I’m a little late to the “Women are so thin these days, and they’re being presented as models to others” party, but allow me to mention this: I was in line at the grocery store the other night and saw a magazine called Town & Country. Courteney Cox — the beautiful Courteney Cox — the once-beautiful Courteney Cox — was on the cover, and I was shocked. I mean, I practically had to turn away. And then I got angry. Her anorexia (or whatever it is) is so terrible, she is painful to look at. She was beyond gaunt — she looked like a famine victim. Nearly a corpse. Sally Struthers should be rushing her food. She had no business being on the cover of a glossy magazine; she should have been in a hospital.

And yet they, in fact, put her on the cover of a magazine — as though she looked normal! As though it were okay! I must say — although this is not my usual area of holding-forth — that a country that would put this poor woman on a magazine cover is a country with problems much more serious than a fondness for fast food.

The New York Post did the wonderful favor on Sunday of reprinting a column by Jimmy Cannon, the great sportswriter — written on July 26, 1953. The entire column was a gem, but I would like to highlight this, for contemporary relevance. As you read, think Kyoto and all that:

Maybe the Gulf Stream shifted on me. I’ve been hearing all that jazz about atomic dust polluting the atmosphere and tampering with the seasons. The climate’s changed. We don’t have winters anymore. I remember when the corner loafers, called skelly bums in my neighborhood because that was the name of a saloon that sold five-cent whiskey years ago, made flop money shoveling snow every winter. They would starve today if they depended on snow shoveling.

Yes, atomic dust, the American economy — whatever. Climate jitters, apparently, are not new. Perhaps we should all relax? And read our Bjorn Lomborg?

My boy Haley Barbour is proving a natural down in Mississippi. Long a Republican-party operative, he is now running for office himself: for governor. And the reports I receive maintain that he takes to the campaigning like a duck to water. (Wish I could think of a more original simile, but I’m a little tired.) At the height of the Ten Commandments brouhaha, Barbour said, “Tell Judge Moore, who is a hero to so many of us, that if they don’t want the monument in Alabama, we want it in Mississippi. I’ll send a truck over today to pick it up, if they’ll let me have it for the governor’s mansion.”

I think we have a winner.

There is a group called the Drum Major Institute — I don’t think it has to do with marching bands — and it ran an ad the other day trumpeting an appearance by Paul Krugman. It said, “Progressives should be paying attention.”

“Progressives,” huh? What an interesting word. Well, they’re sure not liberals, these people (Krugman et al.). But why is it that all the “progressives” I know oppose Social Security reform, Medicare reform, welfare reform, school reform . . . ? And why is it that all the “conservatives” favor such reform?

While I’m at it, we see John Howard described as “the conservative prime minister of Australia.” I suppose he’s that, according to America’s screwy taxonomy. But he is, of course, the leader of the Liberal party. Down under, they use terms correctly. Here, we say “liberal” to mean speech codes, “race norming,” and confiscatory taxation.

So weird.

A reader sent me the following statement from the BBC: “A day of two halves — the first in West Jerusalem canvassing Israeli views of the current state of the peace process, and the second in East Jerusalem with Palestinians on the receiving end when that process has broken down.”

Amazing. Just amazing. Eye-rubbing. “On the receiving end.” And what end are the scores of dead Israeli men, women, and children on?

The BBC reporter continued: “I must say it was a struggle finding Israeli Jews who were keen to talk to the BBC. And most of those who would talk began their responses with robust critiques of our coverage and detailed explanations as to why we were so ‘biased’ against Israel.”

“Doncha just love it!” asked my reader. Yeah, well — sort of.

I’ve gone on far too long, folks, but I thought I should end with something lightish — this has been a rather grim, angry Impromptus. Sorry about that.

Anyway, in a previous column, I published a funny headline or two. Now, one reader has written, “I’m reminded of a newspaper ad the day after Mike Krzyzewski’s Duke Blue Devils won the NCAA tournament in ‘92 (I think). The headline read: ‘Congrakrzyzulations, Duke!’”

And one other reader has written, “Two neighboring small towns in Iowa are named Manly and Fertile. So the local headline for many engagements/marriages is often ‘Manly Man Marries Fertile Woman.’ I’ve always loved that.”

So do I — and certainly can’t improve on it!

Bye.

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