Politics & Policy

Blamin’ America First, An Old Line Rethought, Is It 1992?–and More

Begin with a complaint about John Kerry, who seems to belong to the Blame America First crowd–those Democrats who see the U.S. at the root of every trouble. Jeane Kirkpatrick identified this group in her famous convention speech, 1984.

#ad#The other day, Kerry said, “The fact is that they have broken alliances across the planet that have served us well for years. They’ve left our reputation in tatters.”

Who’s they? The Republicans now in office. It’s interesting that Kerry thinks that the United States broke those alliances (if they are, indeed, broken). France had nothing to do with it; Germany had nothing to do with it. The worst thing about the French, may I remind you, is not that they opposed us on Iraq–not that they refused to join us in the liberation of that country–but that they worked very, very hard to thwart us, which is a different matter altogether.

But, again, note the Kerry instinct: to blame the United States (or certainly George W. Bush). Whenever there is a dispute between the United Nations and Washington, Kerry seems to blame Washington. Whenever there is a dispute between a foreign government and Washington, he seems to blame Washington.

Call me a McCarthyite for pointing this out, but I detect that tendency, and it is one I am quite familiar with, having grown up with it, and regarding it as a fixed quality of Democratic thinking.

‐Since I play with notions in this column, let me play with this: Talk to any conservative, and he will say, “You know, there’s a great difference between black Americans at large and the black leadership–those self-appointed, soi-disant leaders, like Sharpton and Jackson. Black Americans tend to be rather conservative: church-going, traditional. They oppose abortion, favor school choice, would like prayer in the classroom. Yes, there’s a great gulf between the black rank-and-file and those leftist showboats who claim to speak for them.”

I have always followed this line, but I am ever more uncomfortable with it–and believe I must stop mouthing it.

First of all, who permits Sharpton, Jackson, Mfume, and that lot to be leaders, year after year, decade after decade? There’s no hue and cry against them; there is no exaltation of, say, Clarence Thomas, or Ward Connerly. But more important, we have a secret ballot in this country. You get to close the curtain behind you, pull the lever for whomever you want, and no one’s the wiser.

In debate, people have said to me, “Oh, yeah, Nordlinger, if you’re right about the ’so-called’ black leadership and black Americans in general, how do you explain the vote, year after year? No one has a gun to their heads.”

And, you know, it’s true.

‐While we’re on the subject of color: A great no-no in this war is to say that some who oppose it may not be too crazy about freedom and democracy for darker people. That, ladies and gentlemen, is taboo–it’s supposed to be a cheap, discredited talking point.

I believe I dissent here. I would like to quote a (typically) marvelous column by Richard Brookhiser, who says, “We have it on record now that the world is concerned with the rights of Iraqis, at least when they are violated by Americans. Can we extend our sympathy, even in retrospect, to occasions when Iraqis have been abused and murdered by Iraqis? Are the bodies and lives of brown people valuable enough to be protected from other brown people? Abu Ghraib was a prison throughout the quarter-century reign of Saddam Hussein, yet who knew its name?”

This, at a minimum, is an excellent point; it may even be inarguable.

And while I’m extolling Brookhiser columns, please check out this one–against defeatism–which is stupendous. I will quote from the final paragraph:

No people can, with confidence, be put outside the pale. Jihadists would say that Muslims are above the temptations of liberty; skeptics would say that they are beneath them; multiculturalists, who are really skeptics in disguise, would argue that they understand liberty in a different sense. Millions of Muslims conform to these perceptions. But millions also feel the tug, wanting not to be jailed without reason or veiled without choice. That is a factor that must also be entered in our calculations.

‐I’m getting a little nervous, folks. Why, you ask? (Thanks.) I have a feeling of déjà vu, from ‘92 (do you like my rhyme?). Back then, when President Bush was trailing in the polls, I said (to myself), “Oh, he’ll pull it out in the end. The American people could never elect this transparently jerky and oily governor from Arkansas. The voters are just punishing Bush, letting him know that they’re not too happy, that they want him to do better, to be more alert.” The months rolled by; I didn’t worry about the polls; I knew that Americans would never throw out this war hero, this magnificently decent and experienced and capable man, in favor of a wooly ’60s specimen. I don’t know how long I held to this view, but it was perilously close to November–to, indeed, Election Day.

Hmmm . . .

Americans may be a little disgruntled with President Bush now–the news from Iraq is bad, and they want to be reassured–but surely they won’t evict this indispensable, tough-minded, realistic president in favor of a stiff Massachusetts liberal!

Hmmm . . .

‐A reader writes, “Jay, a composer in San Francisco has set some of Rumsfeld’s comments to music.” (A report of this is here.) “The composer is rabidly anti-Bush, but at least he finds Rumsfeld’s words intriguing, and settable. I will wait for your review before rushing out to buy this one!”

And you’ll wait a long time, my brother!

‐May I recommend a few more columns? Mark Steyn on Memorial Day, but much more. John Keegan, teaching key lessons on Iraq. (History is not always bunk, pace Henry Ford.) And I got a kick out of the New York Sun’s defense of New York Times reporter Judith Miller–whose own paper did not see fit to defend her.

‐I will be silly: The author of a story from National Geographic News, titled “Cicada Invasion Begins: Eastern U.S. Beset by Bugs,” is . . . John Roach. (Sorry.)

Michigan Privatization Report, run out of the Mackinac Center (in my home state). Man alive, these boys are for privatizing everything: golf courses, prisons, roadside johns, the University of Michigan (where the quality of the teaching is less high than in roadside johns)! My favorite item, though, concerns a string group–fiddlers–in a little town I love, Saline. The teacher who started the group at Saline High retired; so the fiddlers went private. Fabulous!

‐Sonia Gandhi could have had the leadership of her country, but she refused (in a singularly wise act, I believe). I’m sorry about one thing: She deprived me of the use of a line I had in mind: “An Italian girl from Turin rises to be prime minister of India. Only in America!”


‐That Michelle Malkin: She simply seizes on topics that others don’t, and does so stirringly, and illuminatingly. Did you see her on the dastardly UNRWA, the U.N. Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees? You should.

And Maggie Gallagher on “assisted suicide” in Oregon is stirring, too.

‐Finally, readers may remember the following impromptu, from last November:

. . . I want to quote to you something from the New York Times that moved me greatly–or rather, something that the Times itself quoted. It ran an article on Toshikazu Kase, a 100-year-old veteran of the imperial Japanese government. He would write in his memoirs about the surrender to MacArthur on the deck of the Missouri, “Here is the victor announcing the verdict to the prostrate enemy. He can impose a humiliating penalty if he so desires. And yet he pleads for freedom, tolerance, and justice. For me, who expected the worst humiliation, this was a complete surprise. I was thrilled beyond words, spellbound, thunderstruck.”

Ladies and gentlemen, might not many Arabs–expecting the worst from the victorious Americans, about whom they have been lied to from the crib–feel just this way, in this age?

I had never heard of Kase, but I remembered his name when I read his obit on Wednesday. He was not necessarily our kind of guy–he served some pretty hideous leaders, and placed himself in the service of some pretty hideous ideas. But I’ll always love him for those words.

See you later, dear ones.

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