Politics & Policy

Boots On The Ground, The Ladykillers, The Open-Minded Dutch–and More

For many months, the president and the secretary of defense said, essentially, “I’d be happy to put in more troops, but our commanders on the ground say we don’t need more, and they should know.” In November, Rumsfeld told me he’d be “the first one in the world” to push for more troops, if his commanders gave the word.

This always struck me as sensible. Why shouldn’t military leaders know better than civilian leaders what strict requirements on the ground are? Isn’t this supposed to be a lesson from Vietnam: that Lyndon Johnson and Bob McNamara, sitting in Washington, don’t necessarily know best?

Well, those commanders have now stated the need for more troops. And the president and the secretary of defense have responded with alacrity.

I don’t see why that’s so shameful. I don’t know how many troops are necessary; and neither would George W. Bush. But the likes of John Abizaid would know–and their word should count for a lot. The notion that Bush and Rumsfeld are somehow grudging about furnishing the tools–and the men–to finish the job is absurd.

‐For me, the most memorable line in Condi’s opening statement was, “The terrorists were at war with us, but we were not yet at war with them.” That describes the situation perfectly. And, after 9/11, President Bush made sure we were at war with them–not doing law enforcement and court trials. We were at war with them. And we are–until at least next January.

‐There is a movie called The Ladykillers, and it is a crackling one: funny, surprising, well made. It has a running gag, about Bob Jones University. You see, the old southern black woman in the movie thinks that Bob Jones is a good thing–she gives money to it–and isn’t that a hoot?

This allows me to say that one of the most satisfying journalistic experiences I ever had was a trip to Bob Jones to talk to the students and others there. This was at the height of their vilification. The piece–found here–was entitled “Most Hated U.”

Let me say merely this, in this space: Every person I met there was better than the school’s mockers and haters.

‐There was another oddity about The Ladykillers. The lead character, played by Tom Hanks, comes in and announces that he is the leader of a Renaissance musical ensemble. The old southern woman says (approximately), “You mean, like a band?” The Hanks character recoils in horror: No, you’d never affix the word “band” to this ensemble.

But, in fact, such groups are routinely referred to as bands: Renaissance bands.

Again, odd.

(Plus, the music these folks play–on a stereo, it turns out–is not Renaissance music at all.)

‐While I’m on the subject of the pop culture: Every now and then, I check into Saturday Night Live, via The Hotline (the political compilation put out by National Journal–it includes snippets from comedy shows). Weirdly enough, SNL has a reputation for being edgy, risky, nervy. But it is numbingly politically correct. I mean, all the humor–as far as I can tell–is Bush-is-stupid, Ashcroft-is-a-prude, Richard-Clarke-is-a-truth-teller, etc., etc. This is Big Bad Saturday Night Live?

I mean, come on! It’s late night. You can do something a little different. Go wild! Instead–again, as far as I can discern–it’s straight orthodoxy. What a shame, and what a waste.

‐My friend Duncan Currie alerted me to something astonishing. The New York Times editorialized, “The administration’s defense of its ‘partial birth’ ban and the new ‘unborn victims’ law have a common theme: profound disrespect for women.”

You can go cuckoo trying to comprehend that statement.

But remember this: The extremists in the abortion debate are on the pro-life side; not on the other. Don’t forget!

‐I had a naughty thought, and I might as well blurt it out, in this peculiar column: The administration has a “no fly” list, and the ACLU has lodged suit against it. So everybody’s playing his role: The administration is trying to protect us from mass murder, and the ACLU is trying to thwart that effort.

Pardon my crudity, but . . .

It would be easier to support the ACLU in its good works if it exercised a little sobriety.

‐An item out of Cuba:

“HAVANA (Reuters)–Managers of Cuba’s state enterprises have been told to hand over their expensive cars like Toyotas and Mitsubishis and stick to the more proletarian Russian-made Ladas or smaller vehicles. Nor can they drive cars with decorations or air conditioning, which has set them apart from ordinary Cubans in the sweltering heat of tropical summer.”

Funny, but I grew up with much that same mentality in Ann Arbor. I kid you not. I remember the scoffing when someone drove by, in the summer, with his windows rolled up.

Really.

But I have to save some things for my autobiography!

‐A correspondent sent me an article from the Associated Press, which had the following lead:

“Havana–Hundreds of U.S. farm representatives hoping to build long-term trade relationships with Communist Cuba traveled here for a new round of talks opening Tuesday.”

As my correspondent pointed out: The miracle is that the AP referred to the place as “Communist Cuba”!

‐Can I just point out how all-fired weird it is that J-Lo’s mom hits the jackpot? To the tune of $2.4 million? She did it in Atlantic City. And this was J-Lo’s mom!

Ah, the world of probabilities.

‐”Dear Mr. Nordlinger: New York Times, Friday, April 2, A16, continuation of ‘TV Shows Take On Bush, and Pull Few Punches.’ Toward the end, one Tom Fontana trots out the usual line, ‘Why does it have to become unpatriotic to do something that is our inherent right, which is to debate issues?’ But earlier in the article there is the wonderful sentence ‘[Network executives] added that these examples should not be seen as reflective of a supposed liberal agenda in the entertainment industry, an argument they said was undercut by shows with patriotic streaks like “J.A.G.” on CBS.’ Ponder that phrasing! Thought you would enjoy.”

Indeed. Nice.

‐”Jay, just wondering if you noticed the story about Bob Knight’s correcting one of his Texas Tech players during a postgame press conference after Tech’s loss to St. Joe’s in the NCAA tournament. His player, in response to a question, said, ‘Me and . . .,’ and Knight jumped in and said, ‘. . . and I.’ Later in the press conference, the kid said, ‘. . . and I,’ and Knight said, ‘Now he’s getting there.’ Seldom will a coach have the guts–or the interest–to do that. It was also a little gesture that spoke volumes about why so many men are glad to have played for Knight (and why so many parents have been glad, too).”

‐Okay, buckle your seatbelt:

“Dear Sir: Indeed here in Holland there is a discussion at the moment about bestiality, and I think I know your view on this matter. Because of my work, I know an elderly man living alone in an apartment (the institution of marriage has been practically dead since the Sixties, so we are confronted with many aging singles). I know you know it’s coming, so, yes, here it is: This man has a dog. Diana the Retriever lives in a dog’s paradise, and although said man is definitely not well-to-do, the best of the best is not good enough for her. Every Sunday he drives to the beach to walk his dog. I went along once and it was great fun.

“Now, Diana always sleeps on his blankets, but I am quite sure she sometimes sleeps under his blankets. So what have we here? A pervert, a criminal?!

“Here in Holland there are many intensive pig-breeders (I hope this is the right word!). They keep thousands of pigs in appalling conditions, and after a short unlife these pigs are slaughtered. I am sure God the Father never wanted His Creation to be perverted like this.

“I wrote you this (I always read your column, I sometimes agree) because you think too often in black and white. Of course this does not mean that I condone bestiality; in fact, it makes me rather ill. But after the dog for the blind and the dog for the handicapped, I think the time has come for the dog for the lonely.”

Now, don’t I feel close-minded? The Dutch always make me feel that way.

‐”Dear Jay: I heard something from a hospital maintenance man in Oak Ridge, Tenn. Thought you might appreciate it. It was, ‘Ain’t as hot as it’s been bein’, is it?’”

Beautiful. Simply beautiful.

‐While on a plane the other day, I heard something I thought was very American. Peculiarly American. A stewardess (sorry) was passing out drinks, and when a boy of about five, sitting with his mother, said “Orange juice,” the stewardess said, “What’s the magic word?”

There was nothing bossy or huffy about this. The woman just corrected–and helped–the boy, sweetly, cheerfully, and confidently. Right in front of his mother. Hey, maybe it does take a village! (Sorry again.)

‐ONE SIGN THAT THE REPUBLICANS ARE IN CHARGE OF THE SENATE: You call the majority leader’s office. You get put on hold. You hear marching-band music.

But Barbara Boxer would do that too, you say? Um, dunno.

Later.

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

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