A sign of the times: A reader writes, “Jay, I was sitting in a Starbucks in Dupont Circle. [This is Washington, D.C.] At the table next to me were three people who had just seen Fahrenheit 9/11. They spent a half-hour ranting about all the bad things George W. Bush has done: ‘Iraq,’ ‘Patriot Act,’ ‘lowered taxes on the rich,’ and . . . ‘ignored the Rwandan genocide’! I leaned in and pointed out that the Rwandan genocide took place in 1994. One called me a ‘right-wing crazy.’ I happen to have worked for years in Democratic politics, but figured there was no point in saying so. This is what it’s come to.”
‐Michael Moore, a nutjob, now sits in the mainstream of the Democratic party, and few seem to be pointing this out. Yet it is extraordinary. Byron York documented that the chairman of the Democratic National Committee buys the Moore theory that Bush went to war in Afghanistan in order to benefit his business pals–nothing to do with Sept. 11, and the Taliban’s sponsorship of al Qaeda, etc.
No one cares about this (and another way of saying “No one cares” is, “The big media aren’t reporting it”).
Why doesn’t the Republican party make an ad based on Chairman McAuliffe’s statement? Why don’t they make an ad about Kerry’s proud stumping with Al Sharpton? Why not find Steven Pagones–the man whom Sharpton accused of raping and mutilating Tawana Brawley (who had been harmed by no one)–and make an ad with him, saying what he thinks of Kerry’s embrace of Sharpton?
The media will do Bush no favors; he will have to fight for everything he gets, all by his lonesome. One report on the Fahrenheit 9/11 premiere in Washington said that the audience was “dominated by Democratic politicians and reporters.” I wondered whether the adjective was supposed to go with both nouns–or would that have been redundant, in the case of the second?
‐It is slightly nauseating that Kerry is going around saying sweet things about Ronald Reagan. During the Democratic primaries–not so long ago–he was patting himself on the back for “standing up to Ronald Reagan and his illegal, unconstitutional activities in Central America.” All Reagan did was implement policies that helped every Central American country become democratic–an extraordinary feat, which is seldom mentioned, because it reflects well on Reagan (and Elliott Abrams, and Otto Reich, and John Negroponte, and . . .).
For National Review some weeks ago, I did a piece on Kerry and Latin America, in which I recalled how fierce a warrior the senator was against the Reagan administration’s efforts. Kerry accused Reagan of every dark thing in the book, of course, but possibly my favorite Kerry morsel from the 1980s has to do with Grenada. He said, “The invasion represented a bully’s show of force against a weak Third World nation.”
That was Kerry’s interpretation of one of the signal events of the end of the Cold War.
Why don’t the Republicans make an ad just on that? Huh?
‐For the life of me, I can’t figure out why the media portray George W. Bush as some hardcore right-winger. In response to this portrayal, many of my friends say, “I wish!” (And sometimes I do, too.)
Last week, Judy Woodruff of CNN said that a Bush “message” had seemed “designed” in part to “resonate . . . with moderates who may be questioning the compassion in Bush’s brand of conservatism.”
Bush’s brand of conservatism. Look, this is hardly a social Darwinist. This is No Child Left Behind guy, Faith-Based guy, Expansion of Medicare guy, Steel Tariffs guy, Big Spending guy.
Why-oh-why the false image? I guess I know: the war; the partial-birth-abortion ban; and the gay-marriage amendment. That, and the demeanor. He just does not respect the announcers and analysts of NPR.
But if Bush’s critics don’t like his “brand of conservatism,” by golly . . . they should try ours!
‐Above, I mentioned Central America, and John Negroponte. Negroponte is one of my favorite diplomats, and one of George Shultz’s. I interviewed the former SecState for a piece I did in June 2001 on Negroponte, and Otto Reich–and how the Left was trying to kill their pending nominations, paying them back for the good work they did under Reagan in the 1980s. (That piece may be found here.)
Now Negroponte, of course, is our ambassador in Iraq–a job of excruciating importance. I doubt there is a finer choice for that position, and President Bush should be credited for that choice, even as he’s hit for his stumbles.
‐A bit more of John Kerry on Reagan, during the Democratic primaries: “My life history is I fought Reagan, fought Nixon, fought the war in Vietnam, fought their struggle against civil rights. I fought for civil rights, and I fought against their tax cuts for the wealthy.”
‐And would you like to hear some words from Monica Lewinsky? I thought not, but just try her out. Reacting to Bill Clinton’s book, she said, “But what I was hoping, and did expect, was for him to acknowledge and correct the inaccurate and false statements that he, his staff, and the DNC made about me when they were trying to protect the presidency.”
Yes, they were trying to protect “the presidency,” not Clinton, is what they were doing. She has certainly internalized the language, and the concept–the lie, in other words.
‐Did you hear Clinton’s “I was pretty wigged out” statement? If so, did you think, as I did, “How can anyone believe this man should have been president? I mean, temperamentally, mentally, morally, logically, aside from his political positions?”
‐We’re a peculiar country about marriage, in so many ways. In some circles–in many–marriage is decidedly uncool, or something not to mention. I have written several times before about the slightly incorrect air surrounding the word “wife.” (“Spouse” is preferred.)
Why am I going into this? Well, the other day I received a press release from the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center. Their artistic director, the great clarinetist David Shifrin, is stepping down, and he is being replaced by David Finckel and Wu Han, a cellist and pianist who will be co-artistic directors. They are husband and wife–but there’s no mention of this in the press release, which is 500 words long. Indeed, they are presented as mere professional collaborators. It is very odd for two people to be appointed co-artistic directors. You’d almost have to be married! But someone not previously informed, reading that press release, would have to scratch his head.
I’m reminded of one of my favorite stories–simply because it is so telling. You know how, for generations, some couples lived together, without benefit of marriage, but pretended to be married? Well, I know of a couple who were actually married: and, in graduate school–I believe it was the University of California, Santa Cruz, but it may have been Santa Barbara–pretended to be just living together. The social stigma of marriage would have been too severe.
As I said, a strange, strange country.
‐We’ve had Reagan out of our ears, but I wanted to share this anecdote from Ed Koch:
Over the years, I had a number of meetings with President Reagan. Whenever possible I would pick him up at the heliport when he came to New York City and drive with him to his hotel. We became friends. On one occasion, we were driving across 42nd Street. New Yorkers had been informed the President was coming, and they were there in the thousands. Reagan was looking out the right side window when he suddenly yelled, “Look, that guy gave me the finger!” I said, “Mr. President, don’t be so upset. Thousands are cheering you and only one guy gave you the finger.” He replied, “That’s what Nancy says–that I always see the guy with the finger.”
‐Care for a little language? My heart leapt a little when I read the following in the New York Times–this was an article by Fox Butterfield about prisons: “But Texas officials say they learned the seriousness of cellphones’ being smuggled into prisons only during a recent undercover investigation of a violent gang . . .”
I could kiss that apostrophe at the end of “cellphones”–exactly right. You would say (should say) “the seriousness of their being smuggled into prisons,” not them.
But on the next page, there was this, in a “White House Letter” by Elisabeth Bumiller: “Michael Sherry, a military historian at Northwestern University, noted that there was a long record of soldiers seizing the weapons of vanquished enemies as the ultimate symbols of defeat.”
No apostrophe with “soldiers”–oh, well.
‐And I learned a fine bit of rhyme from the Times, a rhyme chimed by Snoop Dogg. Yes, it was in the Times: “to be official like a referee’s whistle.”
That is immediately incorporated in my speech at large.
‐Some mail? A reader sent me the lyrics of a song by Weird Al Yankovic, called “Bob.” It is all done in palindromes–rhyming palindromes. Extraordinary.
There is also a song called “Genius in France” (here), which–points out my correspondent–features the line, “I couldn’t pour water out of a boot with instructions on the heel” . . . but “I’m a genius in France.”
Hang on: Water out of a boot?
‐Speaking of France, another reader sent in his favorite quotation from the Duke of Wellington: “We always have been, we are, and I hope that we always shall be detested in France.”
‐ “Dear Mr. Nordlinger: I was just reading your Impromptus of June 17th. Your mention of Ward Connerly reminded me of a conversation I once had with one of my black friends. This friend and I both play in a bagpipe band. (How’s that for diversity? We have blacks, Asians, gays, Hispanics, and whites of both Scottish and non-Scottish heritage. And without affirmative action, too!) While we were in Glasgow for the 2002 championships, my friend started to complain–after a beer or two, or more–’How come I have to be an “African-American”? Why can’t I just be an American who happens to be black! I mean, you never hear about “African-Scots” or “African-English”!’ And people wonder why I like playing in a bagpipe band.”
‐Finally, “Sir, I came across a truly American name when I saw it on a campaign sign. The man is running for mayor of our little township in San Antonio, Texas. I thought you would get as big a kick out of it as I did: John Patrick Martinez. Isn’t that great? God bless America!”