Politics & Policy

Zell, Dick, Life!

Before getting on to Wednesday’s business, can we discuss a little of Tuesday’s? Yesterday, I was hard on the Bush twins’ performance, and a lot of my readers were, in turn, hard on me. One woman likened me to the music critic (Paul Hume) who criticized Margaret Truman’s singing–the president threatened to punch him in the nose, or something.

Others said I was disloyal: “Lefties never slam the children of their leaders. In fact, they defend their own. Perhaps conservatives can learn something from that sense of loyalty.”

I must tell you, it’s a joy to be an independent journalist. Confusion comes, I think, from the set-ups on television. When I go on television, I’m almost invariably put up against a Democratic-party worker–not another independent journalist, who is a liberal, but a professional Democrat. I am free to say whatever I wish–and sometimes that cuts against the Republican party–but the Democrat must always toe the line. I feel sort of sorry for him (or, more often, her).

One of the things I found unfortunate about the Bush twins’ performance is that it sort of detracted from the atmosphere that Schwarzenegger had established. The arena became nervous, tittery, sort of alarmed. One source-on-the-floor told me that some delegates were on the verge of booing. What saved the day, said this source, was that President Bush (41) shook his finger at the girls, scoldingly, or mock-scoldingly. I did not see that–but I’m glad about it!

Care to hear something positive about Jenna and her sis? Okay, here’s a letter:

Hi, Jay:

I was watching the twins last night with my mom (a staunch lib), and I looked over and saw that she had a small smile on her face. I asked her what gave, to which she replied, “Jenna reminds me of Vicky” (my younger sister). She sat that way throughout their remarks. I said to myself, “Mission Accomplished!”

‐In his Diary yesterday, David Frum remarked on the sheer niceness of the Republican throng. (David knows a thing or two about niceness–I know no one nicer.) I have picked up on this too. I was especially aware of it in 2000, after attending both the Republican and the Democratic conventions. I’m biased, sure, but the Republicans struck me as the kind of people you would want to happen by, if you were broken down on the road. They would stop and help. And yet, the national press continually characterizes this party as “mean-spirited.”

We will have plenty of time later to discuss the meanness factor in Democratic politics (and I know our party has some beauts, too). Now we will move on (to coin a phrase).

‐Speaking of nice: Larry Kudlow, with his television partner Jim Cramer, hosted a lunch yesterday, at the famed French restaurant Daniel (as in the chef Daniel Boulud). Larry, who has been through fire, spreads light and love wherever he goes. So does his wife Judy, the picture of serenity. I asked Larry, “Is she always so serene?” He chuckled and said, “Pretty much, yes.”

Dick and Betsy DeVos, the Michigan Republicans and activists, are also conspicuously nice. They hosted a gathering at which they celebrated All Children Matter (whose website is here), dedicated to education reform, and especially to school choice. They are a couple who have put a fortune to excellent, public-spirited use. And as Dick says, school choice, in addition to being an education issue, is a justice issue.

At an NR party, we had roomsful of wonderfully nice people, including my beloved friends Ted and Heidi Cruz (he is solicitor general of Texas, and almost surely a future governor of Texas, and quite possibly a future president; Heidi is a financial whiz, late of the White House, now a mover-and-shaker in Texas). And I will say something about Mona Charen, who was present: Acquire her book, Useful Idiots. It’s about who said what, during the Cold War. Keep it for reference, all your life–it will come in handy, I assure you. (My review of that book, incidentally, is here.)

End of social notes (for now).

‐At the convention, Paul Ryan, the Wisconsin Republican, comes off as impossibly young. He looks and sounds like a fellow who just won a Rotary public-speaking contest. He is speaking against a background of a Wisconsin farm (I assume it is a Wisconsin farm). Those clever convention maestros: They can make the podium background–with that screen–whatever they want. Congressman Ryan talks about small business and the travesty of the “Two Americas” argument and the ignominy of class warfare. He makes a sparky, likable speech.

And by the way, have you ever noticed that Wisconsinites pronounce “Wisconsin” in that special Wisconsin way? No one else says that word that way. I’m not even sure I can imitate it.

‐On the subject of pronunciation: One of those RNC “correspondents,” Yohana de la Torre, insists on saying her name in spectacularly Spanish style. In this, she reminds me of that Saturday Night Live character. Remember her? (I think it was Saturday Night Live–I think it was Gilda Radner, too, but I can’t be sure.) A TV reporter, she would give her report in perfectly standard American English, then sign off by pronouncing her name ultra-Spanishly. Hilarious. And Yohana de la Torre is a trip (and sort of a hot tamale).

‐Immensely likable is Renee Amoore. She said of herself (and I paraphrase), “You’re probably asking, ‘Who is this black woman up here?’ For one thing, I’m a third-generation Republican–and my 20-year-old is a fourth-generation Republican. We love being Republican. And I’m not only Republican, I have the nerve to be African-American. And guess what? I’ve been black a long time. People say, ‘How dare you? How could you?’ And I say, ‘I believe in George W. Bush, because he believes in small business’” (pronounced “bidness”).

I hope you caught it–rousing and satisfying.

‐In television interviews, Terry McAuliffe consistently refers to Vice President Cheney as “Mr. Halliburton.” It’s a little silly, but this is Terry McAuliffe (“The Macker,” he calls himself). My question: Should Republicans not feel free to call him “Mr. Global Crossing”?

‐Michael Reagan hit some very nice notes, like right here at the beginning of his talk:

I am truly the luckiest man in the world. I am lucky for so many, many reasons. First of all, I’m lucky because my mother, my father, my birth mother, and my birth father all had something in common. You know what it was? They were all pro-life. And they were pro-adoption.

Because they were, I stand before you tonight as Michael Edward Reagan.

A little later, Reagan said, “I’ve come tonight to honor my father, not to politicize his name.” Okay, okay, but really: Ronald Reagan was twice the GOP nominee for California governor; he was twice the GOP nominee for president. It’s okay to “politicize” his name. He was, after all, a politician, and a not unproud one.

After the Reagan video tribute, the convention played the Republican anthem, Lee Greenwood’s “God Bless the U.S.A.,” which–I’m sorry–holds up, after all these years, and probably always will. May it always be the Republican anthem, especially when things Reagan come into play (and may they always–speaking of wishes).

About Reagans: I think it’s a shame that Nancy Reagan has not come–if even to give a little wave. Why has she not? Is it because 1) she’s frail, 2) her anti-Bush juices are flowing, 3) she did not want to appear to contradict her son Ron (who spoke at the Democratic convention), or 4) for some other reason?

No idea.

‐Saw a little item on Fox News (I say “saw,” because it was on the “crawl”). Jack Nicklaus spoke at a Bush rally in Ohio (Jack’s native state). I had never heard of the Great One’s having anything to do with politics. If this is true . . . I’m sort of amazed, and awed. Look, if Jack wants Bush to be reelected, what more is there to discuss?

‐Also on Fox News, I saw Newt Gingrich interviewed, and he was–what? Dazzling. I had forgotten–forgotten, really, how talented, how knowledgeable, how powerful, in argument, he is. It’s one of the crying shames of history that that speakership did not work out.

‐A few words about Zell Miller, if I may–”Give ‘Em Zell” Miller. I thought he was thrilling. Whether the rest of America will think so, I don’t know. I am hardly a national gauge. (I find no politician more likable than Phil Gramm, who is almost universally agreed to be unlikable.) Miller was stern and scalding. He was full of righteous indignation. That indignation did not seem manufactured, it seemed genuine.

He came out firing, not even waiting for applause to stop–not waiting for it even to subside! In the course of his speech, he seemed unwilling to accept Republican applause. It was almost as though he had resolved to say his piece, then get out of there. He tore the bark off Kerry–as no Republican would have been quite allowed to do, strangely. He will probably prove the most potent anti-Kerry speaker of the convention.

He gave the kind of speech that simply isn’t made anymore–not in the Age of Oprah. At political conventions–especially Republican ones–a niceness pervades. Also a caution, a sense of “Play it safe.” Well, into this atmosphere of nice, Senator Miller poured a bucket of vinegar. The astringency of his speech was one of the most glorious things about it.

In what he said, Miller reminded me of a dear friend of mine–a lifelong Democrat, for many years an aide to an extremely prominent Democratic politician. Over a year ago, my friend told me that he was voting to reelect Bush, because “when I look at my children, I want a president who will do the utmost to keep them safe–and that can’t be a member of my party. At least no plausible member.”

From Miller’s lips, I was especially taken by, “In the summer of 1940, I was an eight-year-old boy living in a remote little Appalachian valley. Our country was not yet at war, but even we children knew that there were some crazy men across the ocean who would kill us if they could.” The current relevance is overwhelming. And I think a good many of us liked Miller’s insistence that American soldiers in Afghanistan and Iraq are liberators, not occupiers (although a type of occupation necessarily followed liberation). And, “Never in the history of the world has any soldier sacrificed more for the freedom and liberty of total strangers than the American soldier.” Plus, “our soldiers don’t just give freedom abroad, they preserve it for us here at home.”

Which was a nice segue to: “It has been said so truthfully that it is the soldier, not the reporter, who has given us the freedom of the press. It is the soldier, not the poet, who has given us freedom of speech. It is the soldier, not the agitator, who has given us the freedom to protest. It is the soldier who salutes the flag, serves beneath the flag, whose coffin is draped by the flag, who gives that protester the freedom to abuse and burn that flag.”

And can anyone really doubt the truth of the sentence “In [the Democratic leaders’] warped way of thinking, America is the problem, not the solution”?

Out of the blue–completely out of the blue–came Miller’s attack on Kerry and Ted Kennedy, jointly: “No pair has been more wrong, more loudly, more often than the two senators from Massachusetts . . .” I was thinking that Miller must have a special antipathy to Kennedy, to call on him like that.

Miller’s most southern-sounding line? “I could go own and own and own.”

And you must have liked that crack about outsourcing: “John Kerry, who says he doesn’t like outsourcing, wants to outsource our national security. That’s the most dangerous outsourcing of all.”

Myself, I had never heard the “same man on Saturday night as he is on Sunday morning” line, and I enjoyed it. And I thought this was a good and affecting sentence: “I have knocked on the door of this man’s soul and found someone home, a God-fearing man with a good heart and a spine of tempered steel.”

It would have been wise, I think, for Miller to say something like, “I’m a Democrat, and I will remain one–but the overriding issue of this age is the war.” Whatever my criticisms, however, Miller gave us–certainly gave me–a memorable oratorical thrill.

Play it again, Zell!

‐Dotting the arena were signs that said “Let freedom reign!” This is what President Bush scribbled, of course, when Condi passed him a note saying that authority in Iraq had been transferred. Some twitted him for saying “reign” instead of “ring”–but Bush got it exactly right: Government in Iraq will be consensual; what will reign is freedom, not dictatorship (if all goes well).

‐Cheney did something at the beginning of his speech that his introducer, Mrs. Cheney, did not do: He acknowledged that Miller speech, which was advisable, even requisite. Some (further) notes on the VeepSpeech:

When Cheney said, “I have an opponent of my own” (meaning Senator Edwards), a low-voiced (male) delegate said, “No, you don’t”–marvelous.

“From kindergarten to graduation, I went to public schools, and I know that they are a key to being sure that every child has a chance to succeed and to rise in the world.” A wonderful, sort of old-fashioned phrase: “to rise in the world.”

Cheney plugged tort reform, which Republicans have done too little of.

And wasn’t that an interesting fact about Libyan nuclear materials “locked up and stored away in Oak Ridge, Tenn.”?

The “USA, USA,” and “Four more years, four more years,” detracted from Cheney’s speech. He did not manage applause, either. He let applause smother his lines, disrupt his thoughts. The pace was not super-good–and I am a huge fan of Cheney as performer, thinking him grossly underrated in this department.

I would not go so far as to say that Cheney disappointed in this speech–but his was maybe my favorite in Philadelphia, four years ago, and his was the one I was most looking forward to in Madison Square Garden. And it was okay–no, quite okay. But I had saddled Cheney with the non-bigotry of high expectations.

‐I’m fairly sure I spotted former QB Jim Kelly in the arena, and I think I spotted former WR Lynn Swann–but I can’t swear to it.

‐It semi-saddens me that no one uses my favorite–because most damning and emblematic–Kerry quote: “The invasion [of Grenada] represented a bully’s show of force against a weak Third World nation.”

‐Shall we deal with a little mail? I should have put the following at the top, with the Margaret Truman bit: In yesterday’s Impromptus, I referred to George P. Bush as “a little brown one, all grown up” (or something like that). Several readers wrote to say they found this offensive, and how could I? I find their offendedness offensive. The first President Bush, their grandfather, said “little brown ones” with affection, and probably pride. (He said this to President Reagan, pointing out his son Jeb’s kids.) I recall it in the same spirit. Enemies of President Bush spun this ugly. I don’t have to accept their spin–and neither do you. These children are brown and beautiful. So f***ing what? (Pardon my French–but I speak it in honor of John Kerry. And Dick Cheney!)

‐Also in yesterday’s Impromptus, I mentioned Elizabeth Dole’s line about staying behind the podium, or coming out from behind the podium. Many readers objected that she meant “lectern,” not “podium,” and what a shame that I failed to rip her for it. But note the second definition of “podium”: “a stand for holding the notes of a public speaker; a lectern.” Lectern may be more precise, and preferable, but I think podium is kosher–from usage.

‐I also mentioned the Republican party’s “ground game”–its get-out-the-vote effort, which had been lagging behind the Democrats’. I received several letters from Republicans who are actually players in the ground game–this one, for example:

I am involved with state legislative races in Wisconsin, and work closely with the Bushies here. . . .

In 2000, Bush had three paid field staff for the entire state. In fact, I don’t recall ever seeing any of the staff for the entire campaign. Bush lost Wisconsin by around 5,700 votes.

This time, between Bush-Cheney and the Republican party of Wisconsin, there are nearly 50 paid field staff working to reelect the president. In the Green Bay area–which is the battleground area of this battleground state–they have had three paid staff for months. By comparison, the Kerry team now has one field staffer in Green Bay, and that person just got here in the last couple of weeks.

The Bush team has out-hustled, out-organized, and generally creamed the Kerry team here in the ground game. I am very confident that Bush will win Wisconsin, and much of the credit will go to beating the Dems at their traditional specialty.

Music to Republican ears!

‐”Dear Jay: This is such a small thing, but it drives me crazy: John Kerry may have the sloppiest, most unsatisfactory salute I have ever seen. I’m ex-Navy, and while I didn’t make it a career or even love it that much, I always took a little pride in giving a proper salute. The forearm and hand should form a perfectly straight line from elbow to fingertips, the thumb should be bent tightly into the side of the hand (karate chop style), and the palm should be turned just slightly in toward the face. The tips of the middle and index fingers touch the temple just above the eyebrow. Kerry’s salute is about as limp and sloppy as I’ve seen–right up there with Bill Clinton’s!”

‐”Jay, a Sacramento radio talk show interviewed California Democratic honcho Bob Mulholland about the Republican convention yesterday. When asked what he thought about Zell Miller’s crossing party lines to give a keynote address, Mulholland dismissed Miller as a ‘70-year-old white male.’ Way to go, Bob! Incidentally, aren’t you a white male? Isn’t stereotyping a bad thing, as in bigoted and divisive? My father is a 70-year-old white male, which is the most superficial label one could ever dream of for this inventor, grandfather, engineer, bicyclist, etc., etc. I’m sure there’s a lot more to Mr. Miller than his skin color, sex, and age. For one thing, he’s a lot smarter than that partisan gasbag.”

Amen, brother.

‐”Jay, you were talking about Bush’s alleged gaffe, and the winnability of a war on terror. A former student of mine spent five years with Special Forces, and he went beyond Bush to say (accurately, in my opinion), ‘There is no such thing as peace.’”

‐”Hey, didn’t you like that Arnold Schwarzenegger pointed a lot during his speech? This was completely unlike the politicians who have bought into the notion that pointing is demeaning to the listener, and who show instead wimpy gestures as if they had palsy. Maybe Arnold will bring back real gestures.”

Good point (so to speak).

‐Oh, I loved this from John J. Miller’s interview of Zell Miller:

NRO: Why don’t you just switch parties?

MILLER: I will always remain a Democrat. I’ll meet my Maker as a Democrat.

NRO: If you were a younger man, would you consider switching?

MILLER: If I were a younger man, I’d think about a lot of things.

‐”Mr. Nordlinger: I believe I must speak out about the very strange neglect, by all the media, of a speech given at the convention on Monday night. A very lovely Iraqi woman gave a short but heartfelt talk. She said, in part, ‘I want to thank President Bush and the American people for giving the greatest gift one country can give to another: freedom.’ My gosh, don’t you think someone should have commented on this?”


‐”Jay, here’s another reason to enjoy being a Republican. When addressing the female presiding officer at the convention, the delegates almost always say ‘Madam Chairman,’ not ‘Madam Chairperson’ or ‘Madam Chair.’ Isn’t that great?”

Now that you mention it–yes!

See you tomorrow, dear hearts (Republican or Democratic).


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