Politics & Policy

Oh, Teresa (Part Cclxvii)! Bush in (Oratorical) Action. Watt’S Up! and More

Ready for a little Teresa, the lady who would be First Lady? Okay, check her out. First, in response to Bush’s gay-marriage position, she says, “It’s divisive politics.” Oh, sure: divisiveness. Because it’s only supporters of a marriage amendment who are acting divisively, not those who would impose a radical redefinition of marriage. “You wish to thwart my staggeringly revolutionary action, therefore you are divisive.” What a lovely way to argue!

And here’s Joe Klein, in the Quote of the Day from yesterday’s Hotline (a political compilation from the National Journal people): “[Bush] said he was a war president, but apparently the war he wants to fight is a culture war.” Actually, Bush did not want to fight this war. (He didn’t want to fight the other wars, either.) But he was pushed into it, and he has taken a position, as has the mayor of San Francisco, as has the Massachusetts supreme court, as must we all, eventually.

But more Teresa: “What has been most damaging, I think–to all of us–about many of the actions of this administration has been the cynicism with which they have perpetrated [perpetrated!] their positions and with which they have used us to trap us and to, in a sense, terrorize us, because they paralyze us. [Now we’re sort of rhyming, like Jesse Jackson.] And do you know what? [What?] That is un-American, in my book.”

Terrorize, un-American . . .

I know this is an old theme of mine, folks, but can you imagine–can . . . you . . . imagine–if a Republican candidate’s wife had called the Democrat “un-American”? Can you imagine?

Sure you can. Armageddon.

‐Speaking of terrorizing: Education secretary Rod Paige made that boo-boo, characterizing the National Education Association as a “terrorist organization.” He immediately apologized. But the way in which he did it was a bit disappointing. He said, “As one who grew up on the receiving end of insensitive remarks, I should have chosen my words better.”

Oh, come off it, Rod: Who among us hasn’t been “on the receiving end of insensitive remarks”? You don’t have to be a black Mississippian to experience that end. Being human is usually enough. If you have said something impolitic, you really should refrain from trading on your blackness in retracting it.

Please.

‐About the NEA and its . . . er, sinisterness. I know of a public-interest lawyer who fought this union in court–school-choice case. My guy wanted to give poor black kids a break; the other side was willing to die for the status quo. When the NEA’s lawyer walked into the room, said my guy–not wanting to be histrionic, just relating his honest reaction–”I swear, I could smell the brimstone coming off her.”

You really have to have tangled with the teachers’ union to know that that remark is not so over-the-top and awful as it must first appear.

‐More Kerry? Okay, this time John. Said the Big Guy, “I think George Bush is on the run. And I think he’s on the run because he doesn’t have a record to run on.”

What a queer thing to say. You may deplore George Bush’s record, as the Democrats do (and as some Republicans do)–but it is undeniably a record! The War on Terror, including the toppling of two governments; sweeping tax cuts; the Department of Homeland Security and the Patriot Act; missile defense; education reform; immigration reform; the prescription-drug entitlement; the faith-based initiative; etc.

Odd that a candidate should think he has to say the other guy has no record, when the raison d’être of the first guy’s candidacy is to oppose and overturn the record of the other guy.

‐Speaking of the record of the other guy: It would behoove all interested to read the speech the president gave before the Republican Governors Association the other night. It was a beaut. It laid out the rationale for the Bush presidency, and the 2004 reelection. I’m hard pressed to say how it could be put better: more clearly, more beautifully. There is no real need to give any other speech this year. From now until November, it’ll be variations on this thing. Little more can be said.

(I interrupt this impromptu to deliver a commercial: Remember the NR book “We Will Prevail”, our collection of Bush speeches, foreword by the incandescent Peggy Noonan, introduction by the less candescent me. Only $24.95. A steal.)

Let me quote a little from the Republican Governors speech. First, a little wit: “The governor of California is new to politics, so he’s still getting used to all the cameras and lights. I used to think the coolest governor was from Florida.” Very nice.

Some more wit? “I also want to acknowledge a man who is not here: Vice President Dick Cheney spent the day campaigning in Minneapolis and Wichita. But he’s recently completed another important assignment. Once again, I put him in charge of my vice-presidential search committee. He tells me he’s reviewed all the candidates, and he’s come back with the same recommendation as last time. [Turning serious.] In fact, I made the choice myself, and I have taken the measure of this man. They don’t come any better, and I am proud to have Dick Cheney by my side.”

Aw. Nice.

And get this: “The last three years have brought serious challenges. [No kidding, Sherlock.] We’ve given serious answers [yes] and the strong leadership these times of extraordinary change demand [braggy, but true].”

And this, sports fans, is very, very key: “Great events will turn on this election. The man who sits in the Oval Office will set the course of the War on Terror and the direction of our economy. The security and prosperity of America are at stake.” I wish it weren’t true, but I fear it is. If only Ralph Nader were right, that the Democrats and the Republicans are merely Tweedledum and Tweedledee!

Bush goes on to say, “In the next four years, we’ll keep our enemies on the run, and extend the frontiers of liberty.” And the other side won’t? Yes, that is the implication, and not an unfair one, in my view.

The following lines, I thought, were particularly effective: “On issue after issue, the American people have a clear choice. Our opponents are against personal retirement accounts, against putting patients in charge of Medicare, against tax relief. They seem to be against every idea that gives Americans more authority and more choices and more control over their own lives. We’ll hear them make a lot of promises over the next eight months–and listen closely because there’s a theme: Every promise will increase the power of politicians and bureaucrats over your income, over your retirement, over your health care, and over your life. It’s that same old Washington mindset–they’ll give the orders, and you’ll pay the bills. I’ve got news for them: America has gone beyond that way of thinking, and we’re not going back.”

Hmm. We’ll see.

Bush’s was an honest speech, as in the line, “Al Qaeda is wounded, but not broken.” And the White House has found a way to say, briefly and well, why we went into Iraq, with the intelligence we had: “September the 11th, 2001, taught a lesson I have not forgotten. America must confront threats before they fully materialize. In Iraq, my administration looked at the intelligence and saw a danger. Members of Congress looked at the intelligence, and they saw a danger. The United Nations Security Council looked at the intelligence, and it saw a danger. The previous administration and Congress looked at the intelligence, and made regime change in Iraq the policy of our country. We all knew Saddam’s history well. He waged aggressive wars against neighboring countries, and aspired to dominate the Middle East. He cultivated ties to terrorists. He built weapons of mass destruction. He hid those weapons. He used chemical weapons against thousands of Iraqis and Iranians.

“In 2002, the United Nations Security Council yet again demanded a full accounting of Saddam Hussein’s weapons programs. As he had for over a decade, Saddam Hussein refused to comply. So we had a choice to make: either take the word of a madman or take action to defend America and the world. Faced with that choice, I will defend America every time.”

Fine. And a little scalding sarcasm? “Others would have chosen differently. They now agree that the world is better off with Saddam Hussein out of power; they just didn’t support removing Saddam from power. Maybe they were hoping he’d lose the next Iraqi election.”

Bull’s-eye.

And how about a touch of Reagan? A letter from a real live tear-jerking serviceman: “The men and women who are fighting the war and who have seen the enemy understand the stakes. Last year, in a letter home from the Iraqi theater, a Navy corpsman named Lonnie Lewis wrote this: ‘We have to remind ourselves of what this country stands for: life, liberty, and justice for all. In order to maintain those rights, we have to stop the threat of terrorism.’ Corpsman Lewis’s letter concludes: ‘My family is first. My country is where they live. I will defend it.’”

Dynamite. Remember RR’s “Hello, freedom man”? (An impromptu concerning same is here.)

And a strong passage of “social conservatism”: “We stand for a culture of life in which every person counts, and every person matters. We will not stand for the treatment of any life as a commodity to be experimented upon, or exploited, or cloned.”

By the way, Bush’s “culture of responsibility” stuff is pure Campaign 2000, which he is repeating, because he obviously believes in it: “We stand for a culture of responsibility in America. We’re changing the culture of America from one that said, ‘If it feels good, do it,’ and, ‘If you’ve got a problem, blame someone else,’ to a culture in which each of us understands we’re responsible for the decisions we make.”

And the Big Close: “None of us will ever forget that week when one era ended and another began. On September 14, 2001, I stood in the ruins of the Twin Towers. I remember a lot of that day. Workers in hardhats were shouting, ‘Whatever it takes.’ One man pointed at me and said, ‘Don’t let me down.’ As we all did that day, these men and women searching through the rubble took it personally. I took it personally. I have a responsibility that goes on. I will never relent in bringing justice to our enemies. I will defend America, whatever it takes.”

Folks, if he can’t win with this, he ain’t gonna win. Period.

George W. Bush has now begun to campaign, after leaving the field essentially to the Democrats, and their supporters in the media, for months. Once a conservative begins to speak, the other side says, “Eek, a mouse!” They can accuse you of historic lies and treason and “un-Americanism” and all the rest, month after month, but you throw up one ad, or give one speech, and they get dizzy with indignation.

Bush always said there would be “plenty of time for politics.” I think he has started sooner than he expected to start, and I think he is right. I’m not sure he’ll get much lower, poll-wise, than he is right now. John Kerry is barely scrutinized. Relatively few know him. I believe that Kerry will be ahead when he finishes his convention, in Boston. But I think Bush will catch him and overtake him in September, and go on to win.

Of course, I’m someone who predicted to everyone who would listen that Bill Clinton would be a one-term president: an accident of the Perot candidacy (19 percent of the 1992 vote). So, consider your source!

‐You might want to consider a vote for Al Green, running for Congress in the Ninth District of Texas. Why? Well, as this story relates, he is campaigning with Maxine Waters at his side–that’s “Kerosene Maxine,” in the unforgettable appellation of radio commentator Larry Elder, alluding to the congresswoman’s cheerleading role in the L.A. riots. In addition, Green is saying, “I have been to Cuba and I’ve met with Fidel Castro.” Somehow, I don’t think the purpose of that visit was to chide or correct the Cuban dictator.

Maxine, Fidel–what more could a candidate want, really?

‐You may remember James Watt, secretary of the interior from the first Reagan administration–he was sort of the John Ashcroft of his time, the Left’s favorite bogey. Well, he was on NPR recently, believe it or not, and my homegirl Sarah Bramwell alerted me to the following exchange:

NPR: “Mr. Secretary, let me pose to you, if I can, the point of view of some environmentalists. When you talk about states’ rights, I think what some environmentalists hear is the concept that there are companies that want to develop land, that want to change the land, that want to mine; who have difficulty with federal environmental regulations. . . . They listen to ’states’ rights’ as environmentalists, and what they hear is ‘more strip mining,’ basically.”

Watt: “That’s a false assumption. You have framed the question as it has been framed, and it’s framed in error and intentionally framed in error to whip up a fight. Reasonable people can balance the demands to use the people’s land, the federal lands . . . And that requires that some of the lands be set aside as wilderness, and some lands need to be mined for coal. And common sense and reasonableness can reign if we can limit the influences of the selfish interest groups from across the spectrum, from left to right, from industry to purist preservationists who think only a 22-year-old with a backpack is entitled to see a national park.”

He’s still got it, James G. Watt. Marvelous.

‐A friend of mine from Switzerland gives us a nice nugget: “I saw the most remarkable thing last night on German TV. [Foreign Minister] Joschka Fischer actually told an audience of Greens that the U.S. has been a force for peace in the world. He said that Pakistan and India had been on the verge of a nuclear confrontation and the only thing that stopped them was U.S. intervention. He also said that Israel had the right to exist, and to be left in peace. Who’d’ve thunk?”

Who, indeed?

‐Finally, a word from a reader responding to material re “9/11 Democrats”: “Dear Mr. Nordlinger: I am a new ex-Demo. My dad was one of FDR’s Secret Servicemen, and my mom was a poor immigrant in the West. Both my parents were almost crushed by the Depression, and so great was their sense of relief when FDR was elected that I tear up as I write these words, because their memories of despair and hope were so vividly passed on to me that they became my memories, too.

“We were the quintessence of FDR/Truman/JFK Demos, and at some point I all but vowed to myself never to vote Repub, a promise I kept until 9/11. I’ve been voting straight Repub tickets since, even when I disagree, just to convey my newfound sense of contempt for my old party.

“I also have many male friends who have made a similar move. Meanwhile, our wives maintain the old faith, leading to heated discussions when we blunder into the political territories we have come to avoid for the sake of domestic peace.”

Thanks for tuning in, Impromptus-ites, and see you soon.

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

Most Popular

There Is No COVID Plan

The 2020 campaign for president has been surprisingly empty of substance since Joe Biden became the nominee. The Republicans notably didn’t even bother updating their party platform. Donald Trump’s team has spent many of the last days of the campaign making personal attacks, focused on the alleged financial ... Read More

There Is No COVID Plan

The 2020 campaign for president has been surprisingly empty of substance since Joe Biden became the nominee. The Republicans notably didn’t even bother updating their party platform. Donald Trump’s team has spent many of the last days of the campaign making personal attacks, focused on the alleged financial ... Read More
Elections

What Trump Needs to Win

On the menu today: walking through President Trump’s not-so-implausible route to 270 electoral votes, state by state, and taking a look at the gubernatorial races this year -- where GOP candidates from deep red states to a few blue ones are polling considerably ahead of Trump this cycle; and how the country ... Read More
Elections

What Trump Needs to Win

On the menu today: walking through President Trump’s not-so-implausible route to 270 electoral votes, state by state, and taking a look at the gubernatorial races this year -- where GOP candidates from deep red states to a few blue ones are polling considerably ahead of Trump this cycle; and how the country ... Read More
U.S.

The Lies We’re Told about the American Story

Editor’s Note: The following essay was adapted from remarks delivered to the annual dinner of the Lincoln Club of Orange County, in California, on October 4. Every American heart must break when lies are told to boys and girls, who then grow up to think the worst about their past: that the American ... Read More
U.S.

The Lies We’re Told about the American Story

Editor’s Note: The following essay was adapted from remarks delivered to the annual dinner of the Lincoln Club of Orange County, in California, on October 4. Every American heart must break when lies are told to boys and girls, who then grow up to think the worst about their past: that the American ... Read More