Politics & Policy

My Least Favorite Genre. a Political-Science Chairman. a Trip to The Bookstore–and More.

May I tell you what my now-most-hated journalistic genre is? The piece by the New Yorker who says, “Boy, these dolts from Flyover Land don’t have a clue. Here’s how you gotta behave in New York, buddy–or else!” There have been roughly 8.5 million of these pieces published in the last couple of weeks; each one of them has been nauseating. It’s enough to make me want to order a pastrami sandwich on white bread, with mayo.

I vowed, when I moved here years ago, that I would never become that kind of New Yorker, even if I stayed here till I reached 102–the kind that sneers at everyone else as a provincial.

Of course, in one breath, these New Yorkers say that their city is the most tolerant, most diverse place in the world, the place where you can be whatever you want to be; and in the next breath they say, “Don’t you dare eat white bread,” or “Don’t you dare say ’Greenwich Village’ [instead of merely “the Village”],” or “Don’t you dare wear lime-green pants.”

Some tolerance; some diversity.

When the Republicans chose New York as the site of their convention, so long ago, it seemed like a good idea. That was before the anti-war movement got going and the Democratic party got Fahrenheited. ‘Bout now, San Diego or Salt Lake City is sounding pretty good to me, for a GOP convention.

Many New Yorkers seem to feel that they have to do everything possible to tell the delegates, and the world at large, that they hate Republicans.

I have a message for them: We know. We know.

‐Michael Riedel reported in the New York Post that many Broadway actors were planning to go on strike, in a way, in order to spare themselves the ignominy of performing before Republicans. Stagehands et al. were planning to wear anti-Bush T-shirts. A website, according to Riedel, “is urging protesters to show up at Broadway theaters before the shows start and ‘remind the forgetful old elephants that they are not welcome in this town.’”

That’s the spirit.

Shortly after Sept. 11–I mean for like two seconds–New York was as American and determined as any other town. That seems like an eternity ago. It is barely a dream.

‐Last week, I discussed the fact that the New York Choral Society pulled out of the convention at the last second–they were scheduled to sing “Anchors Aweigh,” “From the Halls of Montezuma,” and other such songs in honor of America’s armed forces abroad. They had no trouble performing in Communist China (do they know what they do to homosexuals there?)–but their collective conscience in the end would not let them perform before Republicans.

Enjoy a letter from a reader:

“Dear Jay: As a West Point grad (1978), I say, bring down the West Point Glee Club to take up the slack. They are just up the road and are just now reporting in from their summer assignments. They won’t even have trouble singing ‘Anchors Aweigh,’ although they might have to rinse with Listerine afterward. (You know, the whole Army-Navy thing.)”

‐I suggest that you watch the media (and I know you do, Impromptus-ites): When violence occurs in the streets–if it does–will they report it? Will they perfume it? Will they–as they have done in the past–portray the protesters as peaceful anti-war advocates? Or, if they’re fiercer–anti-American, lunatic–will the media reflect the ugly truth?

I wonder.

‐Speaking of the media: It’s funny how quickly things can change. About two seconds ago, the media were shuddering in horror at the idea that Arnold Schwarzenegger would be elected governor of California. It seemed the end of the world–this bodybuilding boob from Austria, governor of one of the bluest, fairest, Left-owned states.

Now, oddly, he’s used as a club to beat Bush with: Arnold the wise, popular moderate, deigning to help Bush a little bit by speaking at the convention, but not too much, by campaigning for him elsewhere. Oh-why-oh-why can’t the rest of the GOP be like that good, tolerant, gay-loving, abortion-condoning Arnold?

And two seconds ago, he was a mindless, drooling beast.


‐Boy, is this a dyspeptic Impromptus–I didn’t plan it that way. Honestly. We’ll see how it develops.

‐Pundits have had a lot of fun saying that this convention will be a dishonest one–a masquerade–in that there will be moderates on the podium, speaking to an assemblage of rabid right-wingers, in a party that is rabidly right-wing. “The qualification for speaking at the convention is to be against Bush-administration policies!” goes the quip. Ha, ha, ha.

Well, you could look at it that way. Or, more generously, you could say that the GOP is the more tolerant, more diverse party. Would an anti-abortion speaker be permitted at a Democratic convention? Who pitches the bigger tent?

And the media like to stress the areas of disagreement between Bush and–pick one–McCain, Giuliani, Pataki, Bloomberg. Actually, the one big issue of 2004–the one big issue of this age–is the War. Where do you stand? Do we prosecute it the Bush way? Or do we go back to law enforcement–go back to our responses, or non-responses, to the ‘93 World Trade Center bombing, Khobar Towers, the African-embassy attacks, etc.–as Kerry promises? And on the One Big Issue, these moderate Republicans are foursquare behind Bush.

‐In that aforementioned Impromptus last week, I talked a little bit about Americans abroad–I mean, Americans resident abroad–and how, well . . . not very pro-American they often seem to be. They often seem to be ashamed of their country, particularly when a Republican is president. (For the millionth time, I will mention my piece “Love on the Arno,” in which I crystallized my views on this subject, and how my own time abroad sort of made a “conservative” out of me.) Often when I’m in Europe, I’ll talk politics with people, and they’ll say, “I’ve never met an American like you. I’ve never met an American who expresses the views you do.”

Of course they haven’t. They meet the American Left. They must wonder how a conservative ever gets elected. It would almost be like meeting exclusively anti-socialist Frenchmen here in the United States (and, yes, I meant to have that “s” in socialist lowercase–both the Conservatives and the Socialists in France are socialist).

Anyway, this is leading up to something: I’m going to write more expansively about this subject, of being a Republican abroad, or observing the behavior of Democrats abroad. Do you have something to relate? Please let me know at jnordlinger@nationalreview.com. Thanks.

‐While I’m speaking in this vein, I said last week that I believe reports about Unfit for Command: that liberals in bookstores are making it hard for the book to reach customers’ hands, that attempts at suppression are going on. Why do I believe this? In part from my own experience of working in a bookstore: The manager there wouldn’t put out conservative magazines, or gun magazines. He just took the matter into his own hands.

And, hey: Wasn’t it Ashcroft who was supposed to be preventing us from reading books? Wasn’t he instituting the new Salem?

Anyway, I received many letters from readers detailing their own trouble with bookstores, e.g., in trying to buy Unfit for Command. I will publish an amazing letter (not related to this book) below.

Do you have your own experience, or experiences, to share? I would like to know–jnordlinger@nationalreview.com. Thanks again.

‐The Ann Arbor Observer, in my hometown, has an article called “The Loneliness of a College Republican.” (Subhead: “Conservative students complain that the [University of Michigan] faculty lacks political diversity. They may be right.” To borrow from James Taranto: You don’t say?)

But check this out, kiddies: The chairman of the political science department–of course the Observer says “chair”–Daniel Levine, “has little sympathy for conservative students who incur the wrath of their classmates.” He says, “If I would’ve announced myself as Students for Apartheid in South Africa, I would’ve gotten a negative reaction too.”

Consider that. Consider that long. Forgetting the insult–the chairman of the political science department of the University of Michigan equates us Republicans with apartheidniks–what about the grammar? What about the English? “If I would’ve . . . I would’ve . . .” (This is a scourge of the modern age: The correct construction is, of course, “If I had . . . I would have . . .”)

This is exactly the University of Michigan I know. It’s not enough that they’re stiflingly left-wing–they’re stupid, too. Left-wing and stupid, a lethal combination.

I’ve never been to the place, but, in my imagination, at Bennington–or Reed College–they’re stiflingly left-wing but not stupid!

‐an “alternative rock” song that pays homage to Ronald Reagan. A hoot.

Some lyrics:

She had hair under her arms

And hair on both her legs,

And her hate for you was never-ending.

She was socially aware, yes,

And I really couldn’t care less,

But her chest kept me pretending.

She always said that she wished you were dead,

And I nodded so she’d shut up and hop into bed.

But that’s the part that I’m sorry for now

Because I love you more than I loved her anyhow.

Ronald Reagan,

Please forgive me–

Too dumb to see

What you were trying to give me.

Ronald Reagan,

You showed me this land’s mine. . . .

I saw her once and said, ‘Let’s be friends,’

But she said I’d rather hang out with stupid white men.

Maybe it’s true–

Wish I could’ve hung out with you,

’Cause you were cooler than Bowie, Springsteen, or U2.

It’s my new favorite song. And, if I’ve read their website correctly, these guys have got a couple of songs about WFB coming out soon!

A dream come true.

‐Speaking of music: You may have heard by now about Donald Runnicles, the Scottish conductor. (I mention him in my current NR piece, written from, and about, the Salzburg Festival.) Runnicles holds posts in San Francisco, New York, and Atlanta, and he told the Austrian press recently that, if Bush wins reelection, he may well quit those posts, because once could be a mistake, but twice would mean “they actually want him.”

You betcha, baby! As I say in NR, I believe music in America would struggle on, even without the services of Donald Runnicles. And I have a list of other musicians whom I might like to see leave the country! Just in case anybody asks!

‐Well, there’s lots more, folks, but I’ve kept you long enough–for one thing, this is convention week. Oh, just a couple of more things (and then that letter). I was reading about this pro-abortion rally–pro-choice rally, whatever–and noted that the protesters were carrying signs that said, “Abort Bush B4 His Second Term.”

I mention this because pro-choicers often like to say that they’re not enthusiastic about abortion, that they consider it a great sadness, blah, blah, blah. And then, “Abort Bush . . .!” They don’t seem too sad!

And may I register one language note? (Well, I guess I’ve already had one, but anyway . . .) You’ve seen that film of young John Kerry, testifying before the Senate and denouncing American soldiers as war criminals, baby-killers, etc.? (Remember when liberals thought baby-killing was bad?) Anyway, he pronounces “Genghis Khan” with a soft “G”–like Jenghis. Now, I don’t know how Mr. Khan himself pronounced his first name–or what Mama Khan said. I don’t know how they taught the pronunciation at St. Paul’s and Yale. But I had never in my life, before seeing this film, heard “Jenghis.”

I’m out–except for that promised letter:

Mr. Nordlinger:

A while back I paid a visit to our local bookstore (I live in southern New Jersey) with the intent of checking out the new release Michael Moore Is a Stupid White Man. I looked on the new-release, bestseller, new-non-fiction racks–nothing. I wandered around for a while and then headed up to the information desk. The clerk, a thirty-something reject from a Grateful Dead concert, smiles at me. Here’s a fairly accurate transcript:

CLERK: How may I help you?

ME: I’m looking for Michael Moore Is a Stupid White Man.

C: (still smiling) You mean Stupid White Men by Michael Moore . . .

M: No. Michael Moore Is a Stupid White Man. It’s a new release.

C: We don’t have it.

M: Are you sure? It’s very popular.

C: (taciturn) Never heard of it. (Looks past me) Can I help the next person, please?

M: Excuse me, but can you check on your computer?

C: (very annoyed) Fine. (Bangs away at the keyboard. Scrolls down the screen at warp speed) No. Doesn’t exist.

M: Wait–there it is.

C: (extremely annoyed) Oh . . . um . . . Yesss. We only received one copy. It’s in the back.

M: Where in the back?

C: (loudly) In the political science section!

M: Thanks!

I checked out the section. The book was nowhere to be found. I walk back to the desk.

M: Pardon me, but I couldn’t find it.

C: (Curses under her breath and slams her pen on the counter. Slams swinging door. Marches to the back of the store)

I could not believe what she did next. She grabs a step ladder and climbs up. The book was lying flat on the top row of books–with the spine toward the back so you couldn’t see the title. She grabs the book, climbs down, slams it into my chest. Her face is beet red and she screams: “HERE!!! ARE YOU HAPPY NOW, YOU FRIGGIN’ FASCIST!??!”

I was shocked, Mr. Nordlinger. This wasn’t a mom-’n’-pop outfit. It’s one of the largest booksellers in the Northeast that aren’t Barnes & Noble.

So I figured, Okay, time for some Brooklyn diplomacy. I walked up to the counter again.

ME: Excuse me: Do you have Treason by Ann Coulter? In the bestseller section? I couldn’t find it . . .


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