Politics & Policy

Questions For Kerry, Mr. Hollander’s Latest Opus, Journalistic Fun, and More

I will apply an old journalistic technique: posing questions that we wish asked of a candidate. George F. Will is especially good at this, sometimes devoting a whole column to questions.

I would like to ask John Kerry, oh, just for starters: “What do you think of the Michael Moore movie? The chairman of your party, Mr. McAuliffe, said he believed Moore’s theory about Afghanistan–that President Bush went in and toppled the Taliban, not to advance anti-terror objectives, but to benefit his business pals. What do you think of that?”

“What do you think of MoveOn.org? Do you approve of their activities? Are they a welcome part of the Democratic party?”

“While addressing them, former Vice President Gore spoke of ‘Bush’s gulag’–he was referring to U.S.-controlled prisons in Iraq. What do you think of that?”

“When President Clinton spoke of America as an ‘indispensable nation,’ you deplored what you called his ‘arrogant, obnoxious tone.’ Tone aside, do you think America is an indispensable nation or a dispensable one?”

“President Bush has a doctrine: that the United States shall treat terror-sponsoring regimes like terrorists themselves. No distinction. Do you support such a doctrine? If you become president, will you uphold it?”

And I’m just getting started. Unfortunately, Democrats never seem to be asked good and necessary questions. Republicans? Don’t worry–they’ll be carefully vetted.

‐Oh, here’s another one: “You say you oppose gay marriage. Why?”

And: “If you had your way, what would the top marginal tax rates be?”

‐My friend Mike Potemra forwarded to me a fascinating article from the AP. Marking the 25th anniversary of their seizure of power, the Sandinistas asked the Nicaraguan cardinal, Miguel Obando y Bravo, for forgiveness. The cardinal, of course, warmly obliged. Maybe I missed it, but I didn’t see that the Sandinistas ever acknowledged that they’d done anything requiring forgiveness.

When I was in school–during the Nicaraguan war — oh how they deplored Obando y Bravo, branding him a Somozista stooge! (And by “they,” of course, I mean the campus Left–our Left.)

‐You well know of Paul Hollander, the University of Massachusetts sociologist who is one of our finest chroniclers and analysts of Communism, among other things. Two years ago, he published a collection, Discontents: Postmodern and Postcommunist, which I enthusiastically and admiringly reviewed. It is an excellent overview of his thought, and of the fruits of his research. Paul was born in Hungary, and spent his youth staying clear of Nazis and then Communists. The story of his survival and flight–which I make him tell and retell–is thrilling, as they all are (all the successful ones).

Anyway, he has a new book out, a volume edited (and introduced) by him. This is Understanding Anti-Americanism: Its Origins and Impact at Home and Abroad. Among Paul’s specialties is anti-Americanism, the diagnosis of. He, indeed, published his study Anti-Americanism: Irrational and Rational in 1995.

The new volume is first-rate, illuminating, as I said in a review that appeared in the New York Sun three days ago. I might single out the essay by Professor James Ceasar, the University of Virginia political scientist. It is called “The Philosophical Origins of Anti-Americanism in Europe,” and I bet you never knew it was so broad, or so deep (anti-Americanism in Europe, that is). This essay includes countless quotable sentences, but I will give you only one: “Anti-Americanism is the political religion of modern times.”

Another essay to single out is that by our friend Roger Kimball–”Anti-Americanism Then and Now.” Roger is that rare writer who manages both to crackle and to edify.

He ends his essay by making something of a pitch for strength: “Time and again history has shown that strength legitimately exercised has a pacifying effect. It instills a sense of security, backed up by an attitude of respect. And in that atmosphere anti-Americanism ceases being a threat to world stability and recedes to its proper role as the pastime of cranks and impotent malcontents.”

Amen.

If you have the time, and the interest–and you should certainly have the latter–give yourself this book. That’s what I suggest.

‐Have you seen Pants on Fire, the anti-Bush website? It is passionately dedicated to the proposition that Bush lies.

It is important for them–for the Left–to allege that Bush lies. Because Clinton actually lied, over and over–about as naturally as the rest of us scratch (no comment). Gore, too, lied, repeatedly–and about things small, not just large. So it is vital to the Democratic psyche, I hold, to believe that George W. Bush is a liar. It sort of absolves them. Kind of like the burning hatred that Europe has for Israel, if you can follow me.

‐My Naughty Boy of the Month Award (did you know we had one?) goes to Mark Steyn, for his column in The Spectator. He quoted Jodi Wilgoren of the New York Times, talking about the man who is obviously her preferred candidate: “Like a caged hamster, Senator John Kerry is restless on the road. He pokes at the perimeter of the campaign bubble that envelops him, constantly trying to break out for a walk around the block, a restaurant dinner . . .”

Then he wrote, “Why couldn’t he have been a caged tiger? Isn’t that what she’s getting at? A noble beast, restless and prowling? A caged hamster’s never struck me as being that interested in poking at the perimeter. He’s happy on his little hamster wheel, going round and round and getting nowhere, occasionally pausing to chew his nuts. But he’s not constantly trying to break out, unless he happens to be at a Hollywood fundraiser and a certain male movie star asks him back to his pad for a nightcap.”

I really like British journalistic relaxedness.

‐Speaking of The Spectator, try out Bruce Anderson, who wrote one of the most intelligent and stirring articles about abortion I’ve read in a coon’s age.

“Those who deny that foetuses have [a right to life] ought to be grateful that someone else took a different view when they were foetuses.”

“We [British] are at least more squeamish than the United States, which allows ‘partial birth’ abortions. As long as the infant has one foot in its mother, it can be condemned to two feet in the grave . . .”

Excellent stuff.

‐The other day, I was doing one of my favorite things–reading Jonah Goldberg–and came across this: “Did you know that conservatives had a ‘youth movement’ all their own in the 1960s? You don’t hear too much about it because those who control the commanding heights of the popular culture were involved in the other youth movement.”

I’ve told this story in Impromptus before, but I’m going to tell it again. Years ago, when I was at The Weekly Standard, Jonah reviewed for us a book on exactly this point–it was called The Other Side of the Sixties: Young Americans for Freedom and the Rise of Conservative Politics.

Now, sometimes we editors amuse ourselves, and one another, by putting fake titles on pieces–titles we have no intention of using, of course. Richard Starr put a doozy on Jonah’s review: “Goldwater: Our Kind of Jew.”

Unfair, maybe, but unforgettably hilarious.

He had some other funny mock titles, too, but I must not divulge . . .

‐Couple of weeks ago, I had a column that included some opinions about Dick Cheney and his dismissal of Sen. Pat Leahy. Ed Koch had some thoughts of his own, in his column, and I’d like to share them with you:

Are there many of us, on being insulted and speaking directly to the insulter with the latter adding to the injury with his fawning behavior, who has not felt the urge to respond using an obscenity and given in to it? I have. Let me recount the incident.

A week after I left office on January 1, 1990 — having lost the Democratic primary in September 1989 to David Dinkins — I went shopping. My destination was Balducci’s, a food market on Sixth Avenue and Ninth Street. On the way, a number of neighbors welcomed me back to the neighborhood with generous comments like, “You were a good mayor, welcome back, we really like you, we will miss you as mayor.” As anyone can appreciate, I felt good at being so well received. Then I arrived at Balducci’s and there at the door was a young man in his 30s sitting on a bicycle, looking a bit disheveled. He saw me and wagging his finger at me said, “You were a terrible mayor.” Without hesitation, I responded, “Expletive you!” I felt liberated.

Sixteen years earlier, in 1974, I similarly gave vent. I was a congressman at the time and acting as an advance man for Robert Morgenthau, who was running for the first time for Manhattan district attorney. I was introducing him on a hot August Saturday morning to my constituents walking down Lexington Avenue from 86th Street to Bloomingdales on 59th Street. As we got within a half block of the store, I heard the strident call, “Here they come, the two war criminals, Morgenthau and Koch.” The reference was to the Vietnam War and was repeated by the four young men several times, using megaphones. Finally, one approached me and yelled close to my ear, “War criminal, war criminal.” I turned to him and said, “Expletive off!” He, about 25 years old, was startled by my reply and cried to the now sizable crowd standing at the corner, “Congressman Koch just told me to ‘expletive off.’” The crowd burst into applause.

Ah, Koch. Perfect.

‐Want to hear about something tragic? Well, not really tragic, but sort of too bad.

On Tuesday morning, I was in the CNN studio, in New York, and a guy was telling me, “Todd Hamilton was just here, and I was holding the claret jug–bearing it aloft!”

Okay, who is Todd Hamilton? The winner of last week’s British Open. What is the claret jug? The item you win, when you win–the most storied and treasured trophy in golf.

And if only I had been there 20 minutes earlier . . .

Well, to hold it, I’ll just have to win it.

Ha!

‐The Wall Street Journal told us something interesting: Fox News is unavailable in Canada–except in the parliament, which last summer requested a feed.

So, has this had a happy effect on the legislators in Ottawa? And why can’t the rest of Canada have Fox?

A puzzling country, up there.

‐Now, I know you think that the New York Times is utterly fair, but hear me out. On July 9, they had the headline “Conservatives Press Ahead on Anti-Gay Issue.” The paper was referring to the FMA.

No matter what you think of that amendment–is that a headline a mature newspaper runs?

‐Said Jay Leno, “First Lady Laura Bush said the job of being president is ‘not for the faint of heart.’ How the hell does Dick Cheney qualify?”

I just want to ask: Since when is it so cool to joke about other people’s health problems? I mean, is a heart problem an exception? Are conservative Republicans excepted?

What? You think I’m being sensitive?

‐My friend and colleague John Virtes pointed out to me that, at Radio City Music Hall recently–no, not during the Whoopi/Kerry-fest–Elton John sang a duet with Renée Fleming, the great, and luscious, operatic soprano. New York Post critic Dan Aquilante wrote, “As unlikely as it may seem, the pair’s unusual version of [“Your Song”], sung as a conversation between lovers, had sexual tension.”

What a marvelously written sentence–all the more effective for being the last one of the review.

‐As long as we’re talking about entertainment, politics–and golf: Linda Ronstadt has been in the news, as you know.

That allows me to share with you some golf talk. After a big drive, you can say to your partner, “Sorry, fella, that was a Ronstadt: I blue bayou.”

Later, y’all.

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