Politics & Policy

A Boy’s Cry, An Anchorman’s Choice, a Governor’s Modesty, &C.

A quick word on that shattering story about the Palestinian boy whose explosives belt did not go off. (Yes, it would have been a lot more shattering if it had.) He cried to Israeli soldiers, “Please! I want to live! Get me out of this!” Might that not be interpreted as representing the Palestinian majority, a silent majority, to be sure, crying–to Israelis, no less–”Please! We want to live! Get us out of this!” In other words, “Get us out of this trap of death and rejectionism in which Yasser Arafat and all our other leaders have placed us.”

Then again, that might be imagining too much.

‐Not long ago, John Fund of the Wall Street Journal floated the idea of Tom Brokaw for vice president–suggested that NBC’s anchorman might make a running mate for John Kerry. When you think about it, the Democratic party could do worse.

I talked to Brokaw once about the intersection of the media and politics. He related that, when he was working for KNBC in Los Angeles, Richard Nixon asked him to be his press secretary. The young Brokaw declined–an undoubtedly wise career decision.

‐In a column by the nearly all-knowing Amir Taheri, we find the following: “The fall of Saddam Hussein closed what had become the single biggest source of funds for Hamas in the past five years. Several other Arab countries have been forced to close channels through which funds were collected for and directed to Hamas.”

Someone ought to do a catalogue of all the good that has flowed from “the fall of Saddam Hussein.” Hmmm. Sounds like a job for . . . no, I don’t have that long an attention span. Not in this column.

‐Have you gotten a load of Bush spokesman Terry Holt? He’s far blunter than the usual spokesman, and therefore much more fun. He said, “John Kerry’s campaign seems to be summed up this way: ‘I went to Vietnam, yadda, yadda, yadda, I want to be president.’ He would have the American people ignore his 19-year [Senate] record.”

I like him–Holt, that is. Hope he isn’t muzzled, any time soon.

‐Actually, Terry Holt could be a woman. I don’t know. Sorry–have only read his/her name. You’re talking to someone who, based on phone conversations, is sometimes known as “Jane Ordlinger.” And I always think of my voice as deep! I like to think of myself as Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau–sort of a tenorial baritone. (DF-D is thought by some to have been a lazy tenor who chain-smoked to keep his voice down.) But when I hear myself on some recording, such as a phone greeting: cripe, I could be Lily Pons or something.

‐Another Bush spokesman, in a way–Ed Gillespie, chairman of the RNC–has said, “I think it is important to . . . make sure the American people understand just how big a government a Kerry administration would create.” That’s important, to be sure: but George W. Bush hasn’t exactly been Milton Friedman (or National Review). Back in 2000, GWB campaigned with the line, “President Clinton declared that ‘the era of big government is over.’ If Al Gore is elected, it won’t be.” You might say that big government has returned with President Bush–but would it be bigger under a President Kerry? Yes, indeed–probably a lot bigger. Even if a GOP Congress fought like hell.

‐I rather like the modesty of Pennsylvania governor Ed Rendell. Now, don’t break out into hives or anything. I know what a Democratic, partisan menace he is–always has been; have always known. But consider this: When asked about his suitability as a Kerry running mate, Rendell said, “I think it should be someone who could be president, and that’s where Bob Graham and Bill Richardson have a tremendous advantage over someone like me. They both have foreign-policy experience. They both have real homeland-security and domestic-terrorism experience. And I think both would be excellent choices.”

Now, there might be some deep cunning involved in this reply–but I admire it, so help me. And Rendell would be infinitely better, as a candidate, vice president, or president, than Bob Graham, who proved as obnoxious as anybody on the Democratic (presidential) campaign trail. Well, not as obnoxious as Wesley Clark–but a strong runner.

‐I am in high dudgeon, and want to alert you to a statement by the chairman of the Massachusetts Democratic party, Philip Johnston. He described Mitt Romney, the Republican governor of Massachusetts, as “the Paris Hilton of state government. He looks good on the outside, but there isn’t a whole lot going on on the inside.”

Can’t we get this fellow for sexism? Or something? I mean, the Democratic “chair”–as they would say–in Massachusetts? Come on!

‐There’s a story I’ve been scratching my head over. You remember Jim Johnson, the Mondale aide who went on to make a zillion dollars as head of Fannie Mae or something, and who is now leading Kerry’s veep search? Well, an ex-Mondale speechwriter, Martin Kaplan, praised him for one strength in particular: “He can keep his mouth shut.” Kaplan elaborated, “When he and Mondale could sit quietly for what seemed like hours on end, people understood. It was just the secular equivalent of ice fishing.”

The secular equivalent of ice fishing? Meaning that ice fishing is . . .

Could be you have to’ve done it.

‐It was interesting to hear good news out of UNESCO. This is the organization that President Reagan withdrew from–a wonderful stroke–and that President Bush (George W.) had the United States reenter, after it was judged to have sufficiently reformed. The other day, they gave their press-freedom award to Raúl Rivero, the jailed journalist in Cuba. The Castro regime had a fit. Good for UNESCO. The regime has fewer friends than it once did. Too many, of course–deplorably many. But fewer.

‐Less good news–but utterly expected and typical. Tufts University gives a course on “Special Topics in Cuban Culture,” which has all the usual garbage, including trips to Havana to hear about the glories of Castroite health care, etc. A recent issue of The Chronicle of Higher Education had a feature column on this course, “a great course,” it said. The Chronicle listed a single book as required reading: To Speak the Truth: Why Washington’s ‘Cold War’ Against Cuba Doesn’t End, by Fidel Castro and Che Guevara (Pathfinder Press, 1992). No doubt the class does more reading than this–but something tells me that this particular volume is most important to Teacher!

‐I rather like Bill Frist, especially after his eloquent broadside against Richard Clarke. But the following gives one pause (or, to be accurate, gives me pause): According to Roll Call, the majority leader has handed out pedometers to his staff, to “encourage [them] to get serious about exercise.” He plans to bestow an award on the staffer who logs the most miles.

Health fanaticism–particularly from a political leader–makes me shudder. Sorry, but it does.

‐Do you remember Sen. William Proxmire (D., Wis.) jogging everywhere, this haggard, leaned-over figure who always looked like he was going to collapse? That made me shudder a little, too.

‐How about President Carter, when he got the running bug–the Fixxian virus–collapsing in that race? Huh?

‐As long as I’m on Memory Lane (not jogging): Jesse Ventura is serious about running for president in 2008, and apparently he’s serious about tapping Charles Barkley, the retired NBA star, as his running mate. Everyone has his favorite Barkley story, and favorite Barkley remark. But I think mine occurred when Ricky Mahorn was traded from the Detroit Pistons–my Detroit Pistons–to the Philadelphia 76ers, which had Barkley at the time. Barkley was asked whether he was glad that Mahorn had joined the Sixers. He said, “Yes–because this means I no longer have the biggest behind on the team.”

‐Speaking of Michigan: Aaron Bailey, production manager of NRO, is my fellow Michigander, and he has a hot blog, www.601am.com. I like it, and so will you–especially those of you in New York, because this is a very New Yorky blog. Aaron’s a New Yorky guy–Michigander though he is. I say it of myself too: You can take the boy out of the Mitten, but you can’t . . .

‐My favorite ad of the recent period? I thought you’d never ask. It is for The Post House, a steak joint here in Manhattan, and it reads–this is a print ad–”Horrifying Vegetarians Since 1980.” Pictured is a great big serrated knife. Very effective.

‐In a column last week, I referred to the Bush people as Bushies, and several people wrote to say, “Don’t use that word, Jay: It’s Maureen Dowd’s word!” or, alternatively, “It’s Molly Ivins’s word!” Boy, those readers must be young. Actually, “Bushies” has been around since 1980, when those associated with George H. W. Bush had to be distinguished from Reaganites (or “Reaganauts,” as Richard Allen had it). No disparagement is implied in the term. In fact, I’m a bit of a Bushie–a George W. Bushie–myself.

Later, y’all.

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

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