Politics & Policy

A City Tunes in, Two Wives Gross Out, Sinclair Flakes Out, and More

Want to begin with something soft ‘n’ cultural? (Not that sports isn’t supremely important.) Last night, as I was wending my way home, I heard the game–the Yankees-Red Sox game–everywhere. (I’m in New York.) I mean, it was out of every car radio. Everyone was aware of what was happening, when it was happening. An entire city seemed focused on one thing (as much as New York can ever be).

This reminded me of stories I used to read about the Tigers in 1967 and 1968. (I’m a native Michigander.) For years, journalists told stories about those summers–particularly the post-season–when Detroiters, black and white, rallied around the Tigers, and, in a sense, around one another. For example, a black driver would give a white driver thumbs-up at a stoplight. That sort of thing.

Those were feel-good stories. And then Detroit went bam–and every story was feel-bad. Those that weren’t, were forced.

‐Can you imagine Teresa Heinz, a billionairess, cuffing little Laura Welch Bush for never having had a “real job”? (Forget, for a moment, that this charge was absurd.) But then, can you imagine Teresa doing most anything she does? And the other Democratic wife–Edwards–saying that Mrs. Cheney must be ashamed of her daughter?

If there was one thing we were all taught, it was that we must admire Democratic women–the greatest women in the history of the world. (Unlike those Stepfordy, brainless, dutiful Republicans.)

Well, as usual, I was carefully taught–but somehow it didn’t take.

‐By the way, should that word up there have been “billion-heiress”?

‐In the last day or so, Pat Robertson has received something I never thought he would receive–respectful attention from liberals. And all for putting George W. in an unflattering light.

See what that can getcha? Pat may begin to like it!

‐I suspect that many of you were nauseated, as I was, by the story of the Sinclair Broadcast Group–its backing off from the airing of Stolen Honor. The Left really plays rough when it comes to a free press. But they spend much of their time preening as defenders of that sort of press. If a Republican fingernail is lifted against, say, Fahrenheit 9/11, they scream Thomas Jefferson. But should Swift boat vets want to publish a book, or Sinclair broadcast a documentary–they’re Torquemada.

Which reminds me: We are now “celebrating” the 40th anniversary of the “Free Speech Movement” at Berkeley, that crock. Josh Gerstein had an article about this in the New York Sun, a portion of which I’d like to share with you:

In 1966, Ronald Reagan won election as governor of California on a platform that included a promise to “clean up the mess at Berkeley.” He later forced [university president Clark] Kerr’s firing.

“My own view is the best thing that came out of the Free Speech Movement was the election of Ronald Reagan,” said [Berkeley professor Martin] Trow, who described himself as a Humphrey-Jackson Democrat. “You can draw a straight line between the Free Speech Movement and the fall of the Berlin Wall. How’s that for irony?”

Pretty good, I’d say. Pretty good.

‐A question: Wouldn’t it be damn strange if the election, in the middle of a war–or what Bush supporters think of as a war–turned on . . . flu shots?

‐In his now infamous–or should-be infamous–New York Times Magazine article, Ronald Suskind alleged that Bush had told a group of supporters that he would “privatize” Social Security. A Bush campaign spokesman said, “The president has never used the word ‘privatization.’ The Kerry campaign is taking third-hand, made-up quotes to scare seniors.”

So true–and especially true that Bush doesn’t use the word “privatization.” Anyone who knows anything about the Bushies knows this is true. They don’t say “privatize,” ever. They don’t say “vouchers,” ever. They don’t even say “tax cuts,” much.

In approved parlance, it’s a) reform (or “personal accounts”); b) school choice (or “options”); and c) tax relief.

Just so you know.

‐Years ago, I knew someone who quit his job as a congressional reporter because the stories never changed. Year in, year out, he was writing the same stuff, though the names of some of the players changed (and even those changed seldom). I thought of this the other day when hearing John Kerry warn of a “January surprise,” a Bush plot to throw Grandma into the snow by depriving her of her Social Security. The Democrats do this in every campaign, especially in October, especially in late October. They play Social Security. In fact, in 2000, their party chairman, Joe Andrew, bragged that the Dems would fry us on that third rail of American politics.

They also play the race card in October–the dirtiest card in the deck. As you know, Democrats nationwide have been instructed to claim that Republicans are preventing blacks from voting. Truth is irrelevant.

I mean, it becomes boring–and yet it’s still outrageous, and must be decried.

I guess.

‐According to National Journal’s Hotline, The American Prospect, a liberal magazine (“liberal” in the sense in which we’re forced to use it now, meaning, illiberal), published an article that says the following: “Ironically for a man who once famously named Jesus as his favorite philosopher during a campaign debate, it is remarkably difficult to pinpoint a single instance wherein Christian teaching has won out over partisan politics in the Bush White House.” And so on.

File this in what you know as my favorite category: “Can you imagine if we said this (the conservative equivalent)?”

(How many times, by the way, during the Democratic primaries, did Kerry et al. call Bush & Co. “unpatriotic”?)

‐You won’t find it in many mainstream outlets, but investigators in Iraq have discovered that Saddam arranged for the PFLP to have $72 million in oil vouchers. (This was under the gaze of the U.N., recall.) The PFLP is the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, a longtime terror group. But they kill a lot of Jews, so we know that these people really don’t count as terrorists.

And, as Teresa Heinz Kerry has instructed us, there was “zero”–”zero”–connection between Saddam and terrorism.

What would silly old investigators know?

‐Secretary Powell was almost sarcastic in an interview with USA Today, saying, “I’m not sure how much broader an international conference others may be talking about, the suggestion being that if only there was an international conference, then perhaps the French and Germans would send troops. Really?”

Nice.

‐You’ve seen that Mahathir, the Jew-baiting former chief in Malaysia, has come out strongly for Kerry. When I think of Mahathir, I can’t help remembering him at the World Economic Forum in Davos. My, how the swells fawned over him! My, how they swooned around him! You should have seen the journos, at his feet (or elsewhere). He is an international superstar–which is a clue about the character of the world.

‐They were even worse, if possible, about Khatami, president of Iran. He, Mahathir, and Lula da Silva–those were the darlings of the Davosers. I remind you of what Khatami said recently: “Hezbollah is the pride of the Muslim and Arab world, and the pride of Iran.”

Yes, they sure know how to pick ‘em.

‐Sorry that Impromptus has turned so crabby. Or did it begin crabby? I can’t remember.

‐I’d like to share an AP item with you, without comment. I suspect that it will affect you as it did me.

A Holocaust-era diary and love letters written by a Jewish teen to her Dutch boyfriend while she was imprisoned in an internment camp in 1943 have been donated to a Dutch archives.

Archivists in the Dutch city of Tilburg on Tuesday announced the rare discovery with parallels to the famed diary by Anne Frank.

The journal was kept by 18-year-old Helga Deen during the final month of her detainment in a Dutch internment camp in April-July 1943. That July, she was shipped off to a Nazi concentration camp in Sobibor, Poland, with her brother, father, and mother. All four died at the camp.

“She kept the secret diary for her boyfriend in order to help him understand what she was experiencing,” said Yvonne Weling of the Tilburg Regional Archive.

Deen recorded some of her day-to-day experiences for her boyfriend Kees van den Berg, but even more of her emotions, Weling said.

“Maybe this diary will be a disappointment to you because it doesn’t contain facts,” Deen wrote to Van den Berg. “But maybe you’ll be glad that you find me in it: conflict, doubt, desperation, shyness, emptiness.”

“If my will dies, I’ll die too,” she wrote in another.

The story goes on, but that’s enough.

‐Do you care for some music? Rather, not music, sadly, but writing about music–here is the Montreal Symphony Orchestra, in a Russian program; here is Ian Bostridge and Leif Ove Andsnes in Winterreise; here is the Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra, Herbert Blomstedt conducting, with Mikhail Pletnev as soloist; and here is Maurizio Pollini.

That oughta hold you.

‐As I noted earlier in the week, readers at or near Harvard with nothing better to do at 4:00 today may wish to come to the Law School–specifically, to Griswold Hall, Room 110, where I will be the guest of the Harvard Law School Republicans.

Didn’t know they existed, did you? Well, they do (although, admittedly, I have not yet seen physical evidence).

‐Want a little language? The New York Times began with this the other day: “Having equipped most adults and half of all teenagers with cellphones, the mobile phone industry is turning its attention to the last untapped demographic–people over 65.” Um, does that sort of imply that we’re not counting senior citizens as adults? Believe me, I know that finding the right words–and a mix of words–can be awkward, but . . .

‐Want a little mail? In a recent Impromptus, I mentioned WIN buttons, President Ford’s wearable exhortation to “Whip Inflation Now.” A lady writes, “Jay, my husband and I worked for the government when Ford was president and WIN buttons were passed out with alarming frequency. Many of us turned them upside down. NIM stood for ‘No Instant Miracles.’”

‐”Jay, it’s time to rally the troops. Our family of homeschoolers will be doing all we can right up until the election. Chester County must have a near-perfect turnout to counteract Philly. Think of it: Even the Amish are coming out this time to vote!”

Even the Amish! We need every last one, bless ‘em. Go, Chester County.

‐”Dear Mr. Nordlinger: It occurs to me that the differences between our two candidates’ stands on how to better the conditions for our country’s future can be summed up as: ‘Give a man a fish and he eats for a day’–Kerry’s stand on raising the minimum wage–and ‘Teach a man to fish and he’ll eat forever’–Bush’s stand on education. I’d like to see someone say that in print.”

You got it, ma’am!

‐Finally,

As a resident of Durham, N.C. (and a quondam Ph.D. student), I often have what I’ve come to think of as “Nordlinger moments”–that is, moments when I am suddenly startled by and reminded of my distance from the prevailing vision of the mostly leftist, mostly privileged community I inhabit.

I had such a moment–and I’ve already trademarked the term, by the way, so we can discuss money later–the other day on Duke’s campus, as I was leafing through the university’s faculty newsletter, the “Faculty Forum.” In an unsigned editorial called “Die Fahne,” we hear of the writer’s recent trip to Nuremberg, where he visited the site of the Nazi rallies in the ’30s.

So we hear some potted history and the expected shudder-inducing moment: “But standing where Hitler did, I could imagine the huge crowds singing, marching, and shouting Sieg Heil! It was chilling.” Then comes the payoff. In the last two paragraphs, we get the fishhook at the end of the line:

“My Nurnberg friend is worried about the recent political direction taken by the USA. She hears faint echoes of the same attitudes that Hitler fed upon: a kind of paranoid nationalism, a desire for safety and order above all else, an arrogant disregard of what people in other countries say or think, and a tendency to equate dissent with disloyalty.

“A few days later I tuned in to watch the U.S. Open tennis final. Before the match a group of marines marched out carrying a gigantic flag, covering the court, which they held horizontally while a pop singer gave a mangled version of ‘God Bless America.’ I found it quite depressing.”

My question to you is, do you think this well-educated, “sophisticated” person really can’t tell the difference between an orgiastic fascist-government rally and the display of an American flag at a privately run sporting event? Does he really think there’s even a meaningful similarity? I even tend to think that rather than being truly “depressed” by what he saw on TV, he actually got a little zing–”Hey, I can get a column out of this!” And along the way, demonstrate his superiority of mind over those vulgar, sheep-like countrymen of his.

Anyway . . .

Yes, anyway . . .

Catch you later.

‐Sorry, I need to add something. As I was sending this column away, I learned that Paul Nitze had died. I met the Great Cold Warrior once, in 1992 or 1993, I think it was. It was at a reception in the Russian Embassy–the old Russian embassy–before a concert of Rachmaninoff. (The concert was at Constitution Hall.) At least one of Rachmaninoff’s descendants was there. Anyway, I met Nitze, and, seizing my chance, asked him every question I could. One of those questions was, “Were you surprised to see the end of the Soviet Union?” And he said yes–he was surprised. Very. Had never been so surprised by anything in his life.

I loved the humility of that answer. He could have said, “Actually, I had a sense . . .” Who could have contradicted him? But he gave a frank expression of surprise, and gratitude.

He is always described as “urbane,” and that he was–but I will always remember that humility, that frankness to a total stranger and nobody. He was a great man–and he was right. And his critics–who are now forgotten or embarrassed, or both–were wrong.

Nitze, born under Theodore Roosevelt, did more for his country, and the civilized world, than the average 100 men even aspire to do.

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