When I was younger, there was a very popular expression, usually used on the left: to “speak truth to power.” I’m not sure I’ve ever seen a more stirring example of speaking truth to power than Iraqi foreign minister Hoshyar Zebari at the U.N. two days ago. In the present age, what could be more powerful than the U.N., especially in the eyes of Europe?
Zebari said–you can just see it–”The United Nations as an organization failed to help rescue the Iraqi people from a murderous tyranny that lasted over 35 years. Today we are unearthing thousands of victims in horrifying testament to that failure.” And “the U.N. must not fail the Iraqi people again. So we ask you today, please put aside your differences, pull together, and work with us and all those who have contributed and sacrificed so much to realize our shared objective of a sovereign, united, and democratic Iraq.”
Later on, Zebari explained that “we were critical of not only the U.N. but many other nations . . . for doing nothing to help us overcome those years of dictatorship and tyranny and utmost brutality.” (Actually, some nations did worse than “nothing”: They propped up Saddam and did everything possible to keep the United States from toppling him.)
Poor Kofi Annan–for once not so silver-tongued–responded, “This is not the time to pin blame and point fingers.” Oh? Then when is that time, Mr. Annan? Ever?
We are living in awesome and stimulating times, ladies and gentlemen, and we should be awed and stimulated by Hoshyar Zebari. His clear words of truth cut through the fog of the U.N.–whose specialty is fog and moral fudging–like an angry, just sun.
‐Speaking of clear, angry, and just, did you catch Donald Rumsfeld on Saddam? He twitted him in the most humiliating fashion possible. Said Rummy, of our captive, “He had a pistol, but he’s alive. That’s got to tell you something about him. He’s clearly not like the folks he gave $25,000 to, to go do suicide bombings and kill themselves and be done.” Ouch, ouch: putting Saddam lower than those Palestinian girls (in many instances). Bravo, Rumsfeld.
‐On Tuesday, I twitted John Kerry spokesman David Wade for saying–with regard to a pheasant-hunting Dick Cheney–”The Bush administration says the economy is improving, but their millionaire vice president has to hunt for food.” I thought that John Kerry’s spokesman shouldn’t be talking about millionaires. But many, many readers reminded me that he ought not to be talking about pheasant hunting, either. Kerry did a photo-op pheasant hunt, and proudly records it on his website.
I might have mentioned something else, too: “The Bush administration says the economy is improving . . . ” Excuse me, but does the John F. Kerry campaign doubt it?
‐Readers are surely familiar with Roger Kimball, the brilliant managing editor of The New Criterion. One of the most talented and indispensable intellectuals we have today, he writes on anything and everything, including art, about which he is just about the final word. Art’s Prospect is a book that anyone with an interest in the subject should have; but now we can have it on tape, or CD, too, from Blackstone Audio Books. My guess is, it’s just as pleasurable to listen to Kimball’s writing as it is to read it.
‐Please make way for a guest report, courtesy of my colleague Jason Steorts: “Ah, our friends the Saudis. The Kingdom’s rulers proclaim their alliance with the U.S. almost hysterically, but do little to stop the spread of the Wahhabist ideology, that homegrown Saudi weed now choking the Muslim world. Its spread has been accomplished not least through the ‘Islamic affairs’ divisions in Saudi embassies. The ‘diplomats’ who work therein dole out money to Islamists in order that they might better spit their venom. Worse, the divisions have been linked to terrorism. One Saudi man had an audience with an Islamic-affairs official in L.A. just before meeting with two of the Sept. 11 hijackers. Another such official left Germany after authorities suspected him of plotting terrorist attacks–and after his business card turned up in the apartment of a 9/11 accomplice. The Washington Post recently quoted a Saudi official as promising that the Islamic-affairs divisions would be closed. Good–except that a later report had the Islamic-affairs minister denying any such plans. Ah, our friends the Saudis.”
Our friends indeed (and thanks to James Taranto for giving us so useful and natural a phrase).
‐Did you spot this little item some weeks ago? The Queen–the one who lives in Buckingham Palace–wanted to give Benjamin Zephaniah the Order of the British Empire. Who is Mr. Zephaniah? He is described in the press as “a Rastafarian poet.” He would not accept the award, however, saying, “Stick it, Mr. Blair and Mrs. Queen. Stop going on about the empire.”
Do you agree that it says something important about a country that it tries to bestow awards on people who are openly contemptuous of it? Don’t read about that kind of thing much in, for example, the Middle East (outside of Israel, of course).
‐You hear it said that Sen. Charles Schumer, the arch-liberal from New York, was sobered by Sept. 11–that he grew, that he woke up a bit about the nature of the world. I believe it’s true. Addressing the capture of Saddam Hussein, he said, “The terrorists had this view before 9/11 that America would not defend itself. They hit us on numerous occasions and we did nothing. Now we have shown them–don’t mess with us. This will make America safer for generations.”
Contrast that with the words of his party’s–the Democratic party’s–leading presidential candidates. Now if Schumer would only wake up about Miguel Estrada.
‐Think the birth of flight is something to celebrate, do you? Well, think again. A reader has sent me this priceless article from Reuters, that reminds us of the Enola Gay, AIDS, and everything else wicked that those damn brothers from Dayton brought about.
You can’t parody this stuff. You cannot.
‐Please make way for a second guest report, courtesy of my colleague Meghan Clyne: “Many feminists complain that co-education makes girls afraid to speak up in class. Yet at all-female Wells College, a student confesses: ‘I’ve gone from being an outgoing, outspoken person to someone who is now more reluctant to express [herself] in class.’ The problem here isn’t male dominance, of course, but hostile liberalism. Last month, the Wells College Republicans investigated political bias on campus, and announced that 92 percent of the humanities and social science faculty belonged to left-leaning political parties. The group then used this finding to call for political pluralism on campus, in keeping with the school’s ’stated commitment to diversity.’ In response, a professor sent out a campus-wide e-mail calling Republicans ’stupid,’ ending his note with ‘Lobotomies for Republicans: It’s not just a good idea; it’s the Law!’ What’s more, the college’s student government denied the group official recognition. Why? Maybe it’s because, as Ann M. Rollo, Wells’s vice president for external affairs, said, ‘no groups with political affiliations are currently recognized as clubs by the college’s student government.’ Perhaps, although the Wells Democrats are unmistakably listed on the school’s student-organizations web page; noticeably absent are the Wells College Republicans. So much for equality, and sisterhood, and all that jazz.”
‐Correct me if I’m wrong, but I think the following is culturally clangorous: NASCAR is a glorious manifestation of American conservatism. (Bear with me–and you know that John Derbyshire addressed this on the cover of National Review recently.) Ben Affleck is not a glorious manifestation of American conservatism. As I read my celebrity pages, he is a card-carrying member of the Hollywood Left, showing up at all the right fund-raisers, contributing to all the right candidates, etc. And Affleck has been named Grand Marshal of the Daytona 500, to be held in February. It is he who will get to say, “Gentlemen, start your engines.”
Of course, it’s none of my business: but, again, isn’t it kind of culturally clangorous?
‐Well, it’s the end of an era: no longer can we learn about the last meals of condemned men via the Texas prison system’s website. This was a firm part of Americana. Explained a spokeswoman for the Texas Department of Criminal Justice, “We had some complaints from people in both the U.S. and abroad that it might be in poor taste to distribute that information on the website.” Yeah, well, tough noogs: It’s our system, we have many defenses of it, and last meals have always been fascinating, if a little macabre. The Reuters report I read said that the meals have ranged from “the simple”–”John ‘Jackie’ Elliott requested a cup of tea and chocolate chip cookies before his execution”–to “the extravagant”–”Richard Head Williams [did he decapitate someone?] asked for two chili cheese dogs, two cheeseburgers, two orders of onion rings with French dressing, a turkey salad with fries, egg rolls, chocolate cake, apple pie, butter pecan ice cream, one peach, three Dr. Pepper sodas, jalapenos, ketchup, and mayonnaise.”
Savor it while you can.
‐I will now define for you cutting to the chase (this, again, from Reuters): “A new hockey tournament proposes to skip the finer points of the high-speed sport to get straight to . . . the brawls. The ‘Battle of the Hockey Gladiators,’ planned for a new arena in Grand Forks, North Dakota, for early next September, will pit denizens of the penalty box at center ice, in full hockey gear, for two minutes of pure pummeling. ‘Two minutes is an eternity in a hockey fight,’ said Darryl Wolski, a promoter from Brandon, Manitoba, speaking from experience. ‘It’s mentally and physically so draining after that first minute, just because you have to concentrate on so many things.’”
Yeah, I know. A political equivalent of cutting to the chase would be for the Democrats just to condemn Republicans as racists and elderly-haters, and be done with it–no proposals, no reforms, no fuss, no muss. Every campaign ends in some James Byrd-like ad anyway, and Grandma tossed into the snow (particularly in Florida–where there is none, but never mind).
‐About my prior Impromptus: Citing a book of Dick Gregory’s, I wrote “Up from [N-word].” A great many readers wondered why I didn’t write it straight out. After all, that’s Gregory’s title. Well, I know that, but the N-word is, in my opinion, the nastiest, most awful word in the entire English language–at least in America–and I don’t care to write it, even between quotes, even in titles. And that’s that, thanks very much.
‐Also on Tuesday, I wrote about the lengthy discussion we had in this column about college applications, and other things, and whether to identify one’s race. What would happen if we all kind of rebelled? Would the machinery of race preferences break down? The letter that launched this discussion, I believe, was from Henry Stephenson of Monterey, Calif.–and the valiant NoRace.org was founded by Jeremy Yoder. Points of light.
‐A letter–just one–on the above subject:
“I have to admit to you that I am example of affirmative-action civil disobedience. Back in 1990, when I was an undergrad, I changed my race in my files at my undergraduate institution simply by requesting that it be done. Then I applied to law school in 1994. I was accepted, and I am not sure I would have been if my race had been otherwise. I am pretty sure the administration was aware of it after I started classes, but didn’t mention it to me either out of embarrassment or indecision.
“Before I did this, I did a little research on the law in my state, Georgia. As far as I can tell, race is a ’self-designated’ category, without legal definition.”
‐Okay, two letters–but no more.
“My oldest child is in the middle of the college-application and interview process. While the race issue is not a player for us–we are white-trash migrants from the South to the Rust Belt–it is disturbing that race can be such a huge advantage for those who have one [!].
“Many of my daughter’s friends are already accepted to several colleges with offers of financial aid owing to their race. One young lady and her brother have been offered full-ride scholarships to several colleges because they are a quarter Hispanic. Their parents and grandparents are upper middle class, and, even though they are my friends, it still seems very unfair that the offspring of people who are clearly above my financial level should get early acceptance and financial aid based solely on a factor that has not had an adverse impact on them. On the contrary. I envy their luck.”
‐Well, we can’t end on something like that, at Christmas, can we? Let me show you a photo that I love: It’s here. It depicts Vaclav Klaus, president of the Czech Republic, on a sleigh, pulled by a reindeer (this is in northern Sweden). This is such a cheery picture. And the man’s name is Klaus! And he is a hero of liberal democracy and anti-Communism! Vaclav Klaus, Santa Claus–yes, a wonderful time of the year.
Merry Christmas, dear hearts.