Politics & Policy

Howard Dean, Christian; Michi’s Gift; Feathers in His Cap–and More

Howard Dean’s timing was kind of unfortunate: He had just come out of the closet as a Christian, sort of–saying he was going to talk up Jesus big in the South–and then he goes and bellows–twice–”George Bush is not my neighbor.”

As I said, sort of bad timing, poor guy.

‐May I make a point about Michiko Kakutani’s attack review of the Frum/Perle book in the New York Times? (If I were the Gephardt campaign, I’d called it a “negative attack review.”) (To know what I’m talking about, please see yesterday’s Impromptus.) The lady may have meant to rip the book, but the quotes she provided from it sort of thrilled me. And I imagine they thrilled others as well. She said, “Isn’t this passage terrible?” and that quote seemed utterly persuasive; then she said, “And isn’t this terrible?” and that quote was marvelous too. My guess is that the review sold a lot of books, or at least made a lot of people curious.

I learned quite a bit in this fashion, when I was younger. The liberals and leftists around me would rip certain conservative views and statements, and maybe I’d even mouth the ripping along with them–but I was intrigued by those very conservative views and statements.

An illustration: “Isn’t that Buckley guy just appalling on that TV show?” “Yeah, yeah. Let’s watch some more!”

And I’d like to say this about the Frum/Perle book: At least they have an idea. An idea of how to combat terrorism, how to keep America safe, how to navigate the daunting new world. To their critics, one should say: Okay: What’s your idea? Very, very often, they don’t have one. They wish basically to continue the policies, and to sustain the attitudes, of Sept. 10 and before. And that’s no good.

Is it?

‐From Democrats and others, you hear that the Bush administration has used 9/11 and the War on Terror to intimidate opponents, in McCarthyite fashion. I wonder whether the administration has actually done this–or whether the Left merely wishes it were so.

In The New Republic’s editorial endorsing Joe Lieberman, it said, “Since 9/11, George W. Bush has ruthlessly turned the country’s fear and rage into a wedge issue, sacrificing national unity but recreating the visceral flag-politics of the 1980s.”

Is this so? Or does The New Republic merely wish it so? Maybe I’ve been asleep at the switch, but I have not noticed that the president has done this, to say nothing of “ruthlessly.” Some would point to the debate over the Department of Homeland Security–whether the old union rules would apply. I believe the president’s language and arguments were within bounds. They were tough and direct, but not illegit, in my view (partisan as I am).

Anyway, when I read a passage such as The New Republic’s, I think to ask myself: “Now, Jay, when you write it, is it really so, or is it something you think, actually, ought to be so, and is not?”

A good exercise for all of us.

‐Every, oh, 2.8 months, I read about some American Indian group outraged at the use of a headdress–perpetuating a “stereotype” of the Natives. Just an Instant Indian Kit, you know, and very insulting.

Well, what am I lookin’ at here? It’s a picture of Dennis Kucinich with one Chief Arvol Looking Horse, in Des Moines, Iowa–and the Chief is wearing one whoppin’ headdress, lemme tell you.

Which makes me even less willing to stand for anthropological lectures delivered by some mock-aggrieved activist.

‐Speaking of lectures: I’m willing to hear criticism of President Bush’s space proposals from dyed-in-the-wool fiscal conservatives–real penny-pinchers. But from Democrats? No, uh-uh, sorry: They would hate anything Bush proposed, including a sure-fire cure for the common cold. One of the Democratic arguments–if you can dignify this babbling with that word–is that space exploration is folly with “so many problems here at home.” First, America has blessedly few problems at home, compared with most countries on earth. Second, there will always be problems at home–there were during the Apollo period. If you hold off on space exploration until you have heaven on earth, you’ll never go anywhere.

‐New York’s Mayor Michael Bloomberg, continuing to stand up to the Education Blob, has come out against “social promotion” in schools. (This is the practice of passing students on to higher grades, even if they have not learned what they should in a particular grade.) He happily made this announcement to Herman Badillo, the veteran New York pol, and arch-foe of the Blob, for whom–by the by–I voted, in the Republican mayoral primary (and against Bloomberg).

Actually, I voted for Badillo twice: once on the morning of September 11. That day’s voting was canceled, of course. And then again, when we all reconvened to vote.

And it pleases me greatly that, in respect of education, Bloomie has been positively Hermanesque.

‐It also pleases me–as it does you, I know–that this infernal Rita Algranati has at last been caught. She is one of the Red Brigades terrorists who kidnapped and murdered Italian PM Aldo Moro in the late ’70s. Where’s she been hanging out all this time? In Arab lands, it appears–where else? (The lady was finally nabbed in Cairo.) We must keep at it, this War on Terror.

In NR’s current issue, Mark Steyn has a column arguing that this is properly called a War on Terror, not merely a war against particular terrorists, to wit, Islamist ones.

Check it out. But then, you do subscribe, don’t you?

‐More that pleases? This installment of the comic strip Mallard Fillmore, drawn by Bruce Tinsley. It’s about the Thernstroms’ fabulous and deeply important book No Excuses (reviewed by me in October–go here, if you wish). I often complain that the Left owns the culture. Yes, but there’s Tinsley, and Johnny Hart, the B.C. guy, and . . . So we should celebrate what we have! (Before returning to complaining.)

‐More that pleases? An old, dear friend sent me this article from the Detroit News (a paper with which I grew up). It’s about a Vietnamese-American who, as a boy, in Vietnam, fell in love with Mustangs. Now, as a Ford engineer, he’s in charge of them. This story threatens to bring tears to one’s eyes. My friend wrote, “Jay, does this not say it all? I wonder what Jane Fonda thinks of this Vietnamese–now an American citizen–spending his life improving an American icon.” A marvelous, uplifting read.

‐More that pleases? We’ve discussed in this column the Harvard student who stood up to the Chinese premier, on behalf of Tibet. She is Meghan Howard, and you may read her here. While you’re at it, you will want to read my main man Duncan Currie–another Harvard student–on the same topic, in the same paper: here.

I hate to sound like a Hallmark card or something, but it’s nice to know that someone cares.

‐More that pleases? The civil libertarian Nat Hentoff, longtime columnist for The Village Voice, had a column sticking up for the independent librarians of Cuba–some of whom suffer in jail–and sticking it to the American Library Association, for being patsies for Castro. It seems that Bill Moyers (of all people) is awake on this issue too.

And someone very awake is actor Robert Duvall, who stuck it to the most powerful man in the movies–Steven Spielberg–for being a patsy for Castro (despite Spielberg’s denials). This hardly makes Spielberg unique in Hollywood; indeed, it makes him de rigueur. But Duvall is damn near unique.

‐Something that displeases: In the New York Post, I was reading 50 Things You Didn’t Know About Oprah Winfrey. No. 35: “She had an affair with a married man for four years while working in Baltimore.” Say it ain’t so, O.

She hadn’t struck me as the type.

‐Y’all, have you ever tried to give things away to the Salvation Army (at least in New York)? My goodness, are they persnickety. They won’t take things unless they’re fresh from Nieman Marcus or something. This is supposed to be a Christian group that distributes items to the neediest and most desperate. Instead, they’re like a buyer for Ivana Trump or something.

To hell with ‘em. But I feel sorry for the poor.

‐Guys, I know I keep calling leading Democrats crazy–or implying such a condition–and I feel a little sheepish about it, because I hate to sound Soviet. But, according to The Drudge Report, Al Gore said to advisers, “The Bush policies are leading to weather extremes.” This apparently is what he is also telling MoveOn.org (speaking of crazy).

Look, is it my fault that leading Democrats–including former vice presidents–are saying lunatic things to groups happy to link Bush to Hitler?

I mean, come on!

‐In yesterday’s column, I gave a little credit to Wesley Clark, saying that, for all the horror of his campaign, at least he gave us one marvelous phrase: “to shake it like a Polaroid picture.”

Well, roughly 1.7 million Impromptus readers wrote to say, “That’s not Clark, that’s a hip-hop group called Outkast, whom he was quoting, in an effort to be cool!”

Okay, gotcha: but it was Clark who introduced the phrase to me, so . . . I’ll associate it with him. And it’s funnier out of his mouth, don’t you think?

Have a mighty fine weekend, dear hearts.

Members of the National Review editorial and operational teams are included under the umbrella “NR Staff.”

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