Politics & Policy

As in Life, So in Death; Two Bucks For Pol Pot; The Eternal Breast–and More

Yes, the coverage of Arafat’s death has been sickening–but so was the coverage of him in life. So this is of a piece.

As you may have read, a BBC reporter started to cry when speaking of Arafat. They loved him so, as much as they loved Guevara, and probably a little more than they love Castro–for Arafat’s primary enemy was Israel, the nation they just may hate most.

A reader e-mailed me, “Jay, I was watching CBS News, and the anchor described Arafat as ‘a dedicated thorn in the side of the Israelis.’” Yes, that’s what he was: a thorn in Israel’s side. That’s what all murderers are to their victims: thorns in their sides.

But Arafat did much more than murder Israelis, of course: He kept an entire people–the Palestinians–in an unchanging condition of grievance, penury, and statelessness. He must be one of the worst men ever to have power, which is saying something.

I’m through with Arafat now, except to say that I thought our president’s statement upon Arafat’s death was perfect–pitch-perfect.

The death of Yasser Arafat is a significant moment in Palestinian history. We express our condolences to the Palestinian people. For the Palestinian people, we hope that the future will bring peace and the fulfillment of their aspirations for an independent, democratic Palestine that is at peace with its neighbors. During the period of transition that is ahead, we urge all in the region and throughout the world to join in helping make progress toward these goals and toward the ultimate goal of peace.

Bush didn’t tell any lies, unlike Carter (natch). But he was gracious, turning his attention to Palestinians at large. For all the hatred that so many Americans and so many throughout the world have for Bush, I’m not sure that anyone else could have responded so well. It was–I will repeat–a simply perfect response, in every way: human, moral, geopolitical.

‐As they loved Guevara on campus, so they love Arab terrorists. See–in this FrontPageMag article–what they did at San Francisco State. Notice how the kids dress in Arafat-style scarves. See what they do when College Republicans dare set up a table.

And remember that this is America in which all this is happening–America the Beautiful. Funny thing is, the Left spends all its time saying how intolerant and “theocratic” we conservatives are.

Yeah, right.

‐The ferocity of the Left, post-election, continues unabated–in fact, increased. Flying around the Internet is a kind of IQ chart purporting to show that the idiots voted for Bush, the brighties for Kerry. “Liberals” seem more eugenics-minded than ever. Garrison Keillor–one of America’s Sweethearts–said that the franchise ought to be taken away from born-again Christians. Geraldine Ferraro said that, if the “blue states” seceded, the “red states” would be up a creek, for they have no “talent.”


And let’s turn now to Jon Stewart, who, apparently, is America’s favorite person. I saw an extraordinary–but typical–remark in The Hotline (National Journal’s political compilation). Stewart said, “Ashcroft was a proponent of the USA Patriot Act, which critics say has curtailed civil liberties while doing little to impact the War on Terror. While supporters say, ‘Stop saying that.’”

Which I’m sure makes many of you want to release the Lackawanna Six and send them to Stewart’s house.

But, of course, the Patriot Act–and U.S. law enforcement generally–leave Stewart free to make ignorant and slanderous jokes till the cows come home.

One thing I wish about the Patriot Act: that it outlawed the (incredibly vulgar) use of “impact” as a verb.

‐I am indebted to The Weekly Standard for publicizing the words of Howell Raines, written just before the election. Raines, as you know, was until recently the top editor of the New York Times. Here is how the Standard talks about Raines’s wisdom:

“If George Bush wins the presidential election, Americans can mark it down as a triumph of thug politics,” Raines suggests. The “altruism and good government” of the New Politics 1960s “has been displaced by an intellectual crudeness that was inherent in the modern American conservatism that began slouching toward Washington after the Republican convention in San Francisco in 1964.” This phenomenon is malign from below: Its base voters–”‘God’s People,’ as they call themselves”–are in one of their “frenzied national revivals” and now seek to legislate “theologically based cultural norms.”

And the conservative leadership is malign, as well, Raines adds, having been produced by a horrible genetic mutation in America’s once-noble aristocracy. “Who could have guessed that such a proud, powerful know-nothing as George W. Bush would be a scion of the great Industrial Age fortunes and a graduate of our second oldest university?”

It’s good that Raines is away from the Times and able to speak his mind, in this unrestrained way–because we see what kind of man inhabits the Times, and is chosen to lead it. Howell Raines, Maureen Dowd–they are that paper’s ethos, its Geist.

Just in case you were wondering.

But you weren’t, were you!

‐Back to the Middle East for a moment. As I wrote in a piece published two years ago, MEMRI–the Middle East Media Research Institute–was founded to help Arab liberals, dissidents, moderates, and reformers. It was not founded primarily to expose the rot in the Arab world, although that it does–it was founded for that other purpose.

I was reminded of this when I spotted this MEMRI item concerning a petition by Arab liberals. This blessed group has asked the U.N. “to establish an international tribunal which would prosecute terrorists, as well as people and institutions, primarily religious clerics, that incite terrorism” (the words are MEMRI’s).

Lotsa luck. But what invaluable people–both the petitioners and MEMRI.

‐There’s good news about Oscar Biscet. No, he hasn’t been released from Castro’s gulag; but he has been taken out of isolation. He now shares a cell with “an American citizen charged with human trafficking.” (For a report, go here.) Biscet is an exemplification of the ability of the human being to defy tyranny. He ought to be sung in poems, demonstrations, 60 Minutes segments. But because his persecutor is Red, he is unknown, except to a few.

Anyway: Biscet, out of isolation.

‐Care to hear from a friend in the Far East? He writes,

I was in Macau over the weekend and met a woman from the Brazilian state of Goias. She said something that I thought you’d like: “Lots of people don’t like Bush, but I like him. Lots of people don’t like America either–they say America is always doing this or that somewhere in the world. But I like America a lot. The thought of China dominating the world frightens me.” Not bad, huh?


One of my cab drivers told me he’d lived in Macau for 25 years but was born in Zhuhai, the city in China just across the Macau border. I asked him how he managed to get out of the mainland. He made a swimming motion. I was highly impressed, and thought perhaps I’d found a new hero. When I told him he must have been very tough to do that, he just shrugged and said, Mei banfa, which does not literally mean, but connotes, “What else was I supposed to do?”

The sad thing, though, was when he told me that, despite his great admiration for American democracy, he did not think China would be ready for democracy for another hundred years. What he meant was that the people of China weren’t sufficiently prepared for it. I would have liked him to be more generous in assessing his kinsmen’s ability to make good use of the freedoms to which he swam two and a half decades ago.

Freedoms to which he swam — what a wonderful phrase.

‐Speaking of Asian despotism: The Daily Telegraph had an interesting story, reprinted in the New York Sun, about the spot where Pol Pot was cremated–you can see it for two dollars. Yes, dollars, that’s what they take. In the piece, Cambodia’s tourism secretary, Thong Khon, is quoted. He lost 18 family members to the Khmer Rouge. He says, “I don’t think about the money” generated by the Pol Pot site. “I want to educate my younger generation to know what [the dictator] has done.”

The article notes that “twenty-five years after a Vietnamese invasion ousted the regime, none of its senior commanders have faced justice.” Says Kek Galabru, president of a human-rights group called Licadho, “They killed almost 2 million people and no one has been tried. We have to do something to be able to look at the new generation and say, ‘Impunity is not acceptable.’”

To quote someone earlier: Lotsa luck.

And, oh, by the way: You know Noam Chomsky, the great defender and admirer of the genocidal Khmer Rouge? He was an honored and fawned-over guest of Bill Maher on HBO the other night. Nice, huh?

‐Speaking of honored and fawned over: Barack Obama is the man of the hour, touted as the great new “star” of American politics. He is black, and he is a Democrat. He’s talented, too, but if you think this counts more than the other two data . . . Anyway, in her usual fashion of addressing sticky issues head-on, Michelle Malkin had a fabulous column on this subject.

I especially loved this sentence. Michelle is one of the few who would have had the guts to write it: “The biracial Obama is the son of a Kenyan immigrant and a rarely mentioned white mother (who raised him after his father ditched the family and returned to Africa when Obama was two).”

She also writes of Van Tran and Bobby Jindal. Who are they? They’re a rising Vietnamese-American politician, and a rising Indian-American politician. They would be national stars . . . but, you know: They’re solid Reagan Republicans. Therefore, they are “untrue” minorities.

Nice going, Michelle–as usual.

‐Governor McGreevey has taken his leave, still talking his special McGreevey talk. In his farewell address, he said, “I am not apologizing for being a gay American”–a “gay American”!–”but rather for having let personal feelings impact my decision-making”–ugh, “impact”–”and for not having had the courage to be open about whom I was.” (Yes, that’s what he said, “whom,” at least according to the transcript I have.)

Concluded McG, “With these thoughts, then, I begin my own new journey as an American who just happens to be gay and proud.”

Okay, but one question: Proud of what?

Time magazine had a long report on the presidential campaign–although not as long as Newsweek’s traditional one–and it chronicled Kerry taking a hard, late turn against the war. Kerry is reported to have said this: “This is a f***ing war, and kids are dying over there. You’d have to be out of your mind to have gone to war knowing there were no weapons of mass destruction or ties to al-Qaeda.” Oh, that’s what they did?

You would have to be “out of your mind” to believe that. Apparently, Kerry does–or at least he did at that millisecond.

‐I’ve mentioned some pretty bad actors in this Impromptus–how about Abimael Guzmán, Castroite leader of Peru’s Shining Path? He appeared in public for the first time in twelve years, facing a new trial. There he was, beaming, pumping his fist. According to Reuters, he “turned his back to the bench,” and “several allies joined him,” chanting, “Long live the Peruvian Communist Party,” and, “Glory to Marxism, Leninism, and Maoism!”

The judge suspended the trial for a week. “It’s not the best start,” he observed.

Oh, how they loved the Shining Path, when I was in school–along with Castro, Guevara, Arafat . . .

‐A couple of law students of my acquaintance have thought about the question, “What if O’Connor steps down and Bush has”–you know, has–”to appoint a female justice?” Who’s the pool (if I may)? You will find the results of that inquiry here. And don’t worry–there are plenty (of female candidates).

Still, at the top of my list–my dream list for the Court–remains Judge Mike Luttig, a combination of character, principle, and intellect rare in this world.

‐I can’t believe I’ve gone this far without talking about Ashcroft–in particular, about the Breast. You know the Breast–the one he was supposed to have covered up, those years ago. This is a legend that dies hard, or rather, will not die, ever. It has been mentioned in almost every story and commentary about his impending departure from the Justice Department. It is a big fat lie, of course–that, given his Pentecostalist sensibilities, the AG ordered the veiling of a classical statue’s exposed mam. But Maureen Dowd doesn’t care, Jay Leno doesn’t care–the world doesn’t care. Therefore, till the end of time, John Ashcroft will be known as the prudish attorney general who covered the Breast.

I address this issue, among others, in my May 2002 piece, “Ashcroft with Horns.” I am under no illusion, however, that I can make a dent in the myth. They love it too much.

‐A little music? For a review of Verdi’s Vespri Siciliani at the Met, please go here.

And I’d better say this as well: Every few days, I get e-mails saying, “What do you recommend I listen to? What should I read, about music? What should I do with my young ones? What, what, what?”

I regret that I lack the time to answer these letters. So allow me to issue kind of a general statement. First, don’t read anything (including me!). Listen. I say, pick up any of the greats–Bach, Mozart, Beethoven, Schubert, Brahms, to name just a few–and see what you think. Don’t worry about what the particular pieces are, or who the performers are. Over time, you’ll know what you especially like.

I will indulge in one specific recommendation. Someone asked me what my favorite Messiah recording was. (By the way, if you want to be cool, don’t ever say The Messiah. It’s Messiah, no article.) I will tell you what my favorite is, but please send no further requests. (Gosh, that sounded a little harsh–sorry.)

I favor Colin Davis’s first recording, with London Symphony Orchestra forces. But I caution you: That could be because this is the recording I “grew up on,” as we say. But I know I admire it on the merits, too.

‐Last, I’ll be away for a bit, and may not be back at you until Thanksgiving, or after, but let me tell you this: Bush won the election. Had you heard?


Oh, hang on, I’d like to say just one more thing, about the Kerry presidency: It’s a little like preemption. You don’t know how bad it would have been; you can’t prove that it would have been a disaster. But thank goodness it did not come to a test.


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