Politics & Policy

Rhymes With . . . ? Is Bush Allowed to Campaign? Diplomat, My . . . and More

Well, Martha has been convicted and the world is abuzz. Should she have been? I didn’t follow the case closely, but I spoke with my most trusted legal source–an exceptionally judicious federal judge–and I can only parrot what he said. She should never have been indicted; she was indicted on baloney stuff (statements made during the course of an investigation), not on the real deal (i.e., insider trading). But the verdict was correct, if you had to try those charges.

#ad#This case features many emotional, psychological, and political overtones. What you’ve heard, over the last weeks, is not so much, “Did she break the law?” as “They’re doing it to her because she’s a woman, because she’s famous, because she’s rich, because she’s . . .” I talked to a very dear relative over the weekend–female–who swore, “They’d’ve never done this to a man. They can do whatever they want with their billions.”

Well, then, don’t I feel lucky? (But where are the billions?)

It is always helpful to fasten on the law. You’re stopped for speeding, and you may want to say, “I was going 74, officer, but everybody else was going 80, and you’re bothering me only because I’m black, or because I’m a Republican, or because I’m driving a red Corvette . . .” But did you break the law?

This brings me to golf. How, you say? Bear with me. I have a friend who’s a professional golfer and a philosopher of sorts–very right-wing–and he loves golf in part for the purity of its rules, and the execution of same. If you ground your club in a hazard, it’s a two-stroke penalty. It doesn’t matter what color you are, or what age you are, or what sex you are, or whether you got hot school lunches as a kid. It’s a two-stroke penalty.

Furthermore, if doesn’t matter whether you feel bad about grounding your club or are indifferent to it. It’s a two-stroke penalty.

And, hey: It doesn’t matter whether you intended to ground your club; a rattlesnake could have bitten you. Sorry, it’s a two-stroke penalty. Nothing personal; it’s entirely an impersonal matter.

Now, I realize that the law, in general, can’t function so coldly. Human beings must take into consideration the varying circumstances and dispositions of other human beings.

But you have to give my right-wing sweet-swinger his point, I think.

‐A question: Is George W. Bush allowed to campaign? I mean, many Democrats act as though he isn’t. They pummel him–accuse him of treason, of lying us into war–for months, and he airs one little ad, and they go “Eek.” He gives one little speech, they go “Eek.” He airs more ads recalling 9/11, and they go “Eek, eek, eek.” It must be illegitimate to campaign. John Kerry says, boldly, that Bush–and I quote–”f***ed up” Iraq. Okay. Is Bush–just to ponder one example–allowed to say that he isn’t (effing it up, that is)?

Like it or not, 9/11 and Bush’s response to it are the central event–the central fact–of his presidency. This is an awkward thing simply to airbrush out of history. It is not impolite to mention September 11 and all that flowed from it.

I quote from a Wall Street Journal editorial (and bear in mind that, given their location in lower Manhattan, they were yards away from getting it): “The threat of another . . . assault, and how to prevent it, has dominated our politics for three years. From tax cuts designed to save the economy from the double-whammy of terrorism and recession, to the Patriot Act, to regime change in Afghanistan and Iraq as part of Mr. Bush’s ‘forward strategy of freedom in the Middle East,’ just about every recent major policy is inextricably linked to the event so mildly depicted in these Bush ads. Isn’t an election supposed to be about such things?”

Yes, so bring it on. And speaking of that phrase, here’s the New York Sun, in its own editorial: “Maybe it’s time to amend Mr. Kerry’s now famous ‘Bring It On’ rallying cry, meant to welcome a debate on national security between him and Mr. Bush, to ‘Bring it on, and watch me whine.’”

Exactly. Big babies. Can’t talk about 9/11, can’t have your convention in New York, can’t . . . (Of course, the city implored the Democrats to hold their convention here, but the DNC refused, not wanting to share a city with the Republicans.) A debate about the War on Terror–including the question of whether to conduct it–is necessary. But that debate needs at least two sides.

Or am I just a jingo for saying so?

(There’s a song: “I’m just a jingo” rather than “I’m just a gi-go-lo.” I can hear Louie Prima now.)

‐Michiko Kakutani, chief book critic of the New York Times, had the following line in a recent review: “[Author James Mann] points out that [Condoleezza] Rice evolved from being a pragmatist (in the tradition of Henry A. Kissinger and her mentor Brent Scowcroft) to being ‘the prime mover behind the drafting of a new National Security Strategy that laid the framework for a preventive war.’”

Um, sorry, but such war is pragmatic, or so say its advocates. We do not wage such war just for kicks, or out of some natural belligerence–most of us hate war, shocking as that may sound. No, we wage it so as to spare ourselves much graver, more destructive problems later. This is, in fact, pragmatic.

‐The headline in the Times said, “For a Diplomat, Task Is Quelling Disney’s Unrest.” The “diplomat” referred to was George Mitchell. Funny, but I don’t think of him as a diplomat; I think of him as a bare-knuckled Democratic partisan who, as majority leader of the Senate, did everything he could to ruin the first Bush’s presidency. He would give it no air at all; he choked it to death.

Sure, he dabbled in a little diplomacy for Clinton . . . but Mitchell? “Diplomat” is not the first word that comes to mind. I would think of him as a former federal judge first.

I will forgive Mitchell a lot, however, for one thing I heard him say once. When he first came to the Senate, there was some all-night drama, and the senators had to sleep there. He felt sorry for himself, until he saw Virginia senator John Warner sacked out on some cot. Said Mitchell (and I paraphrase), “Now, Warner at the time was married to Elizabeth Taylor. And I thought, ‘If he can bear to be away from his bed . . .’”

In any event, it was very amusing–and I still hold it in Mitchell’s favor (though the other side of the ledger groans).

‐You may have read that Iraqis–initially–failed to sign an interim constitution, because prominent Shiites objected to certain language in it. You may also have read that the Americans were miffed about this. You may have further read that one of the Shiite leaders who refused to sign was Ahmad Chalabi. But you had read before–over and over–that he is nothing but an American stooge. A puppet on Donald Rumsfeld’s hand.

Were you confused?

‐Several friends and colleagues sent me the story about Mark Swed, the Los Angeles Times, and Die Frau ohne Schatten, saying, “You’ve got to write about this.” So I oblige.

I will recap (and for details, you may wish to go here). Mark Swed is music critic of the L.A. Times, and Die Frau ohne Schatten (The Woman Without a Shadow) is a great opera by Richard Strauss. Swed wrote that Frau is “an incomparably glorious and goofy pro-life paean.” (I can’t concur with the “goofy” part, but be that as it may.) Some editor changed “pro-life” to “anti-abortion”! Later, the paper ran the following correction:

“A review of Los Angeles Opera’s ‘Die Frau Ohne Schatten’ in Tuesday’s Calendar section incorrectly characterized the work as ‘anti-abortion.’ In fact, there is no issue of abortion in the opera, which extols procreation.”

There’s more to the commedia, but that’s enough for now. Buffo!

Funnily enough, I used to joke, when I was younger, that Frau is an anti-abortion opera. It has Voices of Unborn Children in it, for heaven’s sake! But what it is, chiefly, is an opera that celebrates–nay, glorifies–marital love and everything wonderful that goes with it. It joins Beethoven’s Fidelio as the greatest such opera.

Last November, I reviewed a performance of Frau at the Met, and wrote, “[This] is a fantastical opera, but also a deeply true one, about fidelity and temptation and the ability of love and moral sense to overcome error, no matter how unconquerable it seems. We wouldn’t want to do without the sensual beauty of Strauss’s ‘Rosenkavalier’ or the mad genius of his ‘Elektra,’ but it is in Die Frau ohne Schatten that he–with [librettist Hugo von] Hofmannsthal–touches something purely and permanently right.”

Well said. Oh, sorry, that was me.

‐Speaking of love and marriage, let me leave you with this: A reader of this column, reacting to an item about the gay-marriage debate, wrote, “If marriage is a civil right, can I sue the government to appoint me a spouse?”

It just may come to that, homie.

See you soon.

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

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