Politics & Policy

“If Quayle Had Said It . . .”; 9/11 Democrats; Overcredentialization–and More

Can you imagine–can you imagine–if Quayle had said that his favorite New Testament book was Job? Can you imagine?

Of course you can.

For the past, oh, 15 years, I’ve had many occasions to say, “If Dan Quayle had said that . . .” I suppose that I, and other Quayle-defenders, will be saying it for the rest of our lives. We said it when Al Gore talked about a leopard changing its stripes, and when he interpreted E pluribus unum to mean “Out of one, many.” We have had several occasions to say it during the current Democratic primary campaign. (Dean rivals W. as a syntax-mangler, and he may surpass him.)

Youngsters will tire of hearing the oldsters say, “If Dan Quayle . . .”–but I have a feeling that I, myself, will never tire of it. The Establishment abuse of Dan Quayle is one of the most disgraceful things I know.

‐Let me express my opinion that Bush will have to deal with these Paul O’Neill charges. He and his people can’t just let them lie and say, “Oh, the public’ll figure out that this is just an embittered old guy who was fired.” O’Neill has made quite serious charges, and they deserve quite serious answers. Mr. O’Neill is not a left-wing, Bush-hating flake. (Well, he may be Bush-hating, but the other things, he is not.)

In my view, the White House often takes the doctrine of non-response too far. “Oh, the public’ll see through it.” No, they won’t. Why should a former Treasury secretary be automatically dismissed? Bush himself should answer O’Neill’s accusations, if only to shake his head and sigh over them.

‐The psychology of the Clintons is fodder for endless commentary, but let me say something brief: A lot of people speculate that President Clinton is trying to arrange it so that the Democratic nominee fails this year, setting the stage for Hillary in ‘08.

Okay, want to get deeper in psychology? What makes us so sure that Clinton is eager for his wife to win?

‐Yesterday, I was having breakfast with a friend of mine, a lifelong Democrat–but not a leftist Democrat, more like an admirer of FDR-Truman-JFK. Explaining his intention to vote for Bush in ‘04, he said approximately the following: “All that matters is our security. Other issues and policies are small change compared with, ‘Who’s going to do his utmost to keep us alive? Who’s going to be most serious about those who would kill us?’ There’s only one issue in this campaign: who understands the threat, and who doesn’t.”

I have a feeling that he is not alone in that. In fact, I know it. Let me share with you a note from a reader, received last week:

“I am a registered Democrat, though more what I would call a 9/11 Democrat–still more liberal than your average bear, but awakened from a knee-jerk leftist slumber by the events of that day that struck at the heart of my great and beautiful city [New York].”

That phrase “9/11 Democrat”–I like it. It may be the new “Reagan Democrat.” And let’s hope that, as in the former case, there are tons.

‐A Harvard student wrote me the following:

“A few weeks ago the premier of China came to speak here and was interrupted by a single protester with a Tibetan flag. (Someone actually mentioned this on NRO, I believe.) Well, I just discovered that this girl is now facing disciplinary action by the university. This is my fifth year at Harvard [the writer was an undergrad at the school and is now doing something else] and I have watched the administration do nothing to eject the loud mob of ‘Progressive Student Labor Organization’ protesters who disrupted all of Harvard Yard for an entire month. I have seen nearly every conservative speaker at every Harvard school booed and harassed with no consequences. And I myself have been jeered at and called a ‘pig’ by an assembled group of College Democrats while simply walking into a building where the undergrad Republican organization was having a meeting. All of this the university has allowed in defense of free speech, but one girl waves a flag at a dictator and she’s going before the Administrative Board. I have never been so disgusted to be a student here.”

I have much to say, but maybe we should just absorb that letter. A story in the Harvard Crimson, incidentally, is found here.

Oh, let me add one remark: In my own day, I saw every conservative speaker at Harvard disrupted, and sometimes worse. Indeed, I believe that the contra Adolfo Calero was physically attacked. And to think that this one brave, anti-totalitarian girl . . . Well, at least she’ll be able to claim some sort of solidarity with the PRC’s many political prisoners.

‐One quotation from the latest John F. Burns report from Iraq, published in the New York Times: “In a conversation at his headquarters in the Republican Palace in Baghdad . . ., [General Sanchez, our commander in Iraq] said that despite the scale of warfare that has disappointed and even shocked many Americans, allied forces here could fail only if the political will of the United States faltered. ‘I really believe that the only way we are going to lose here, is if we walk away from it like we did in Vietnam,’ he said. ‘If the political will fails, and the support of the American public fails, that’s the only way we can lose.’”

Better be sure we don’t. Somehow.

‐Did y’all know that India is building a 435-mile fence through Kashmir, to keep Muslim terrorists from killing its people? How dare they “predetermine” borders, the imperialist, colonialist thugs (not to mention “unhelpful” to U.S. efforts in the region)!

Oh, that’s another country, excuse me.

‐As regular readers of this column know, one of my pet peeves is the overcredentialization of American life–the idea that you have to have a diploma, or some other certificate, to do anything. Let’s not get started, just now, on ed schools, journalism schools, and social-work schools, those crocks (sorry).

The New York Post carried a story the other day about Michael Freeman, a veteran sports reporter. For eleven years, he was at the New York Times, and today he was to begin a job as a sports columnist for the Indianapolis Star. But–and here I am quoting the Post’s reporter, Keith J. Kelly–”on his job application, he said he had graduated from the University of Delaware. But a tipster called the paper and said it wasn’t true. When the paper investigated and found he had not graduated, Freeman resigned.”

Freeman had spent four years at U-Delaware but had not obtained a degree. Of his representations, he himself said, “These were lies. This was a terrible and unforgivable manipulation of the facts and I have resigned from my newly accepted position.”

It was indeed terrible to have lied, and I’m sure that Freeman was right to resign, and that the Star was right to accept that resignation. But think about it: The man was a proven reporter, for eleven years at the most prestigious newspaper in America. (Sorry–please don’t send me any mail. It’s just true, whether it should be or not.) Shortly before this scandal broke, the Star’s sports editor called him “one of the best sportswriters in the country.”

And he needed a college degree? I mean, wasn’t his record enough?

The overcredentialization of American life is an ongoing sadness.

‐Pity Howard Dean, for just a moment: those transcriptions from that show in Montreal, coming back to bite him. That’s what he gets for committing punditry.

Can you imagine what would happen if I (for example) ran for office? Talk about a paper trail! Or would that be a Google/Nexis trail?

Here’s the most fascinating thing that Dean said on that show, in my opinion–not the (true) remarks on the Iowa caucus, not the other more publicized stuff: “I don’t happen to agree with the [tax] deduction for people with children because I think that it does discriminate against people without children [so far, so good], and I also think that at a time when population control is a major issue in the world that that’s not a good idea.”

Uh-oh. Uh . . . oh! Dean has just got to be one of those anti-population types–one of those “too many people” types, let’s not encourage ‘em to breed, or maybe . . . Hell, I don’t know. How does he feel about China’s one-child policy? My guess is, pretty good. I’m sure most of his Med School classmates agree.

I take Dean’s comment to be yet one more piece of evidence that he is a nearly perfect specimen of contemporary leftism, in all his attitudes, prejudices, and beliefs.

Of course, they need representation too! And, boy, do they got it.

‐I have a heck of a lot more in the bottomless grab-bag, but you’ve had enough, for one day. Let me share a couple of letters, and then split.

“Dear Jay: I live in the lovely Bay Area (physically lovely, that is, but filled with many unlovely people). Lately I have read letters to the editor, or heard comments such as ‘Why are we spending our money on the people of Iraq when we have so many here without health insurance,’ etc. etc. I’m sure you’ve heard the same sentiments expressed.

“It just hit me the other day. Twenty years ago I was a Peace Corps volunteer, teaching in Liberia (not a lovely country). Never did I or any of my fellow volunteers believe that our efforts would be better put to use back in the States. Most of us realized what a blessed gift we had been given, and we were happy to share our gift of a good education with those who had so little. What has happened to the liberals in the last 20 years? Do they realize what they are suggesting? Should we cut off funding to the Peace Corps and any and all foreign aid programs because we can spend the money here instead? I guess I am just astonished at how low these people will go to try to undercut our efforts in Iraq simply because a Republican is leading the country.

“I should add by the way that some of those making such snarky statements are the same people I was in the Peace Corps with. Very sad.”

Very sad, yes–and very, very well said, by this dear lady. They don’t make liberals like they used to, do they?

‐And check this out: “How on earth can they call it a ‘Capitol Holiday Tree’? As far as I can remember my family has never lit the eight pinecones of Chanukah. Do you think the secularists are referring to the Burning Bush? My Buddhist friends do not have a decorated tree for any winter event nor as far as my readings tell me does the Koran make mention of a tree or even a shrub as part of Islam’s observances.

“I relish the joy that my children and their children take in the celebration of Christmas (my ex was Christian). As long as I can publicly observe my religion in this one nation under God why would I object to the public celebration of Christmas or any other religious observance? This is not France. We need to take pride in who we are and not hide in the shadows as so many must in not-so-free nations.

“While we are on the subject of holidays, permit me to make clear my annoyance with Presidents’ Day. There is absolutely no reason to celebrate every president of the United States. Many of the beggars shouldn’t have been in any public office. Why would I want to commemorate Martin Van Buren, William Henry Harrison, Millard Fillmore, William McKinley [hey, hey, now], Richard Nixon, and Jimmy Carter, among others? George Washington and Abraham Lincoln certainly deserve their own days, as will Ronald Reagan. Let us stop this insipid march to mediocrity.”

You heard it.

‐Okay, one more:

“Your observation about the London Daily Mirror describing its own story as ’sensational’ made me smile. (‘Prince Charles is the person Princess Diana claimed in a letter wanted to kill her, the Mirror sensationally reveals today.’) I am a North Korea watcher, and they recently described their own offer to negotiate over their nuclear program as ‘bold and magnanimous.’ The press may be loopy on occasion, the tabloid press more so–but you still can’t beat genuine commies for absurd, over-the-top statements that are intended to be taken seriously. Offering to negotiate over the program they swore they’d dismantle in 1994, the last time we negotiated–bold and magnanimous indeed!”

Boldly and magnanimously yours . . .

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

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