May I start with something disgustingly old-fashioned? When the Marlins beat the Yankees in the final game of the World Series–on the Yankees’ field–they mobbed each other and exulted. I view this, believe it or not, as an example of the coarsening of the culture. They didn’t shake the other team’s hand. They didn’t save their mobbing and exulting for . . . later, like in the clubhouse. They donned those ridiculous new T-shirts and hats. There was no sense that the other team–and its many thousands of fans, there gathered–had lost. It was just: me, me, me. To hell with anyone else present.
And, Cotton Mather that I am, I think that stank.
Say this for golf: When Tiger wins, he takes off his hat and shakes his opponent’s hand (also his opponent’s caddy’s hand). Granted, each sport has its own traditions . . . but still.
‐In an arch and overwrought piece in yesterday’s New York Times, Frank Rich bemoaned the administration’s attempted “management” of the news and declared another Vietnam–while denying that he was declaring another Vietnam (a neat trick). There were many hilarious things in this piece–inadvertently hilarious–but I direct your attention to the ending:
“At the tender age of six months, the war in Iraq is not remotely a Vietnam. But from the way the administration tries to manage the news against all reality, even that irrevocable reality encased in flag-draped coffins [ooh, what pathos!], you can only wonder if it might yet persuade the audience at home that we’re mired in another Tet after all.”
And the joke of it is–as my grandmother would say–that Tet, as all good NRO readers know, was not a setback for the United States: It was just rendered so by Uncle Walter and other influential folk at home.
‐I trust that you have read Secretary Rumsfeld’s leaked memo, in full. For the life of me, I don’t know how anyone, reading it, can think anything other than that Rumsfeld is the right man for this crucial job. As a wise friend of mine said yesterday, at lunch, “We should be tearfully grateful that he’s secretary of defense.”
‐I have one point to make about Seth Faison’s long and fascinating obit of Madame Chiang Kai-shek, in the Times: As he was chronicling the wrongs of the Nationalists, there was no sense that they were up against a movement that, in power, would kill 60 million people, being the most prolifically genocidal regime in history. No sense of that whatsoever. Rather like enumerating the faults of the Nazis’ opponents without any suggestion that it would have been better if they, the opponents, had prevailed.
Also, the author repeats with what seems like relish the old ditty about the Soong sisters (including Madame Chiang Kai-shek): “One loved money, one loved power, one loved China.” That third one is supposed to be the one who went Communist. But no one who loves China can love the wholesale murder of Chinese people. Or can they?
‐In this column, I have written many times about Dr. Oscar Elias Biscet, the Cuban physician who is an oppositionist and a prisoner and altogether one of the bravest and most impressive people alive. He would be world famous–particularly as a black man–if not for one stubborn thing: He is an opponent of a Communist regime, and, in particular, a Communist dictator, loved by a great many throughout the United States and the West at large. If not for that . . . he would be the subject of Movies of the Week and endless 60 Minutes segments/appeals. Instead, the likes of Barbara Walters fly to Havana to play kissy-face with the persecutor of Dr. Biscet and countless others.
Biscet has written a document that deserves some kind of fame–or at least a modicum of attention. Again, if he were not a Cuban, this would be compared to the Letter from the Birmingham Jail or something. I offer it to you–here–as an example of what a great mind and spirit can do, even from a dungeon. It is a statement to savor.
‐Meanwhile, Jesse Jackson–a longstanding ally of Castro’s–has written a column warning that President Bush may be planning the overthrow of the Cuban dictator, to deflect attention from alleged failure in Iraq. Jackson compares this to Reagan and Grenada, after the Lebanon disaster. (This is a classic talking-point of the Left: that Reagan “did” Grenada in order to cover for the failure in Lebanon.) You may have thought that Jackson had disappeared, what with Al Sharpton in the national limelight–but no. He’s still peddling the same, noxious junk.
‐Emily Eakin had a long piece–partly an interview–in the New York Times about Charles Murray, the great social scientist, who has a new book out (Human Accomplishment). I want to say one quick word about Murray, in part because I will be speaking for many others as well, I know.
Murray had an inordinate amount to do with my becoming what we now call a “conservative,” with his mid-1980s book Losing Ground. This is the book that examined social-welfare policy. What impressed me was that Murray was an old liberal–a former Peace Corps volunteer–who didn’t much care about the national budget and who wasn’t looking to save a dime in taxpayer money: He had just determined, after careful and dispassionate study, that the welfare program hurt more people than it helped. He articulated this view not only in that book, but in one memorable session on Bill Buckley’s Firing Line.
As I said, that made a tremendous difference, which I was so happy to report to Murray, several years ago, when I first met him.
‐Another great man? Okay, have a little of Thomas Sowell, I mean, his recent column on the fierce Democratic campaign against Justice Janice Rogers Brown, the Californian who is one of Bush’s embattled nominees. When Sowell gets a head of steam–a frequent occurrence–no, a permanent state–there’s really no one like him:
What the left wing can never forgive [Brown] for is upholding the right of California voters to ban racial quotas. More than 4 and a half million Californians voted for Proposition 209, which outlawed group preferences and quotas. But liberals wanted the state Supreme Court to over-rule the voters. Janice Rogers Brown refused and instead wrote the majority opinion upholding the voters’ right to make the laws under which they live. . . .
What really scares the Left about Janice Rogers Brown is that she has guts as well as brains. They haven’t been able to get her to weaken or to waver. Character assassination is all that the Left has left. . . .
Have you seen anything by anybody, anywhere, defending [Brown]? The attackers have been mobilizing for months but there is very little sign that those who nominated Justice Brown have made any timely efforts to mobilize counter forces.
‐An article in the New York Times yesterday said, “Abortion rights advocates, well aware that they lost the public relations battle [over partial-birth abortion], are now trying to recover. Naral Pro-Choice America is planning to air television advertisements when Mr. Bush signs the ban. The ads do not mention the word ‘abortion.’ Rather . . .” Yup, funny: and the group’s name doesn’t mention the word ‘abortion’ anymore either! (“Naral Pro-Choice America” used to be plain ol’ NARAL, standing for the National Abortion Rights Action League. He who controls the language . . .)
‐Good news: Italian police arrested six members of the Red Brigades, a trendy, romantic terror group that specializes in kidnapping and murder.
‐Weird news: “He does not like people calling their products ‘Gorby’–or ‘Gorbachev,’ for that matter–so the former Soviet president, Mikhail Gorbachev, is trademarking his name, his nickname, and his distinctive forehead, with its ornate birthmark. He has lent his image to Pizza Hut and Apple computers, but he was paid well for that. When he recently came across his face on a brand of Russian vodka, he decided to take control and allow himself to be associated only with what a spokesman called ‘respectable products.’ Mr. Gorbachev has no plans to put out his own brand of vodka, the spokesman said.” (This from Seth Mydans of the New York Times.)
‐The (London) Spectator has a fascinating, though repugnant, story on how Robert Mugabe is the toast of Africa. Shortly after I read that story, I saw this headline in the New York Times: “Rights Group Says Zimbabwe Starves Dissidents.” (Article here.) Great.
‐I was interested in the following, from a David Boaz column on Louisiana’s Bobby Jindal, and, tangentially, Arnold Schwarzenegger: “[Arnold’s] story was improbable enough to impress even the French: ‘American democracy has tremendous resilience,’ said French interior minister Nicolas Sarkozy. ‘Someone who’s a foreigner in his country, who has an unpronounceable name and can become governor of the biggest American state–that’s not nothing.’”
Very nice–but notice the last name of that French interior minister. And recall that France recently had a prime minister–Pierre Beregovoy–whose father was an immigrant from Ukraine.
The truth is, no matter what we’re told in kindergarten: There are lots of nations of immigrants, thank goodness. (As long as I’m playing this: Edward Seaga, leader of Jamaica, was of Lebanese origin, and Carlos Menem, leader of Argentina, was of Syrian origin.) (And how about–for goodness’ sake–Alberto Fujimori?)
‐I’d like to weigh in with a little art criticism, or currency criticism, or whatever: Is it just me or does the new 20-dollar bill look a little . . . fruity, a little arty? Like a pretty Caribbean bill, for heaven’s sake!
‐Finally, I’d like to note that the New York press is giving my gal Rosie O’Donnell a tough time over her producership (or whatever) of Taboo, her Broadway show (about Boy George). Seems that she is micromanaging, that she is giving “suggestions” on staging, writing the ad campaign, dictating the marquee, etc. Well, every cent in the production–$10 million–is hers. Every cent. And I think of Ronald Reagan, in 1980, in Nashua, N.H. (where he and a gang of about five ambushed poor George H. W. Bush): “I’m paying for this microphone, Mr. Green!” (Man’s name was Breen, but who cares?)
You go ahead and have it your way, Rosie.