Politics & Policy

My Two Favorite Lines, Newsweek‘S Greatest Hits, Jokes From Cuba, &C.

So, why don’t we start today, not with me, but with my brilliant friend Eddie Krause. He left a message on my voicemail: “Reelecting President Bush and defeating Tom Daschle is like finding Saddam Hussein with Osama bin Laden’s address in his pocket.”

Eddie also spotted a campaign billboard in western Michigan he loved: It pictured Bush and Kerry, asking, “Boots or flip-flops?”

‐On Saturday, the New York Times had an article about Hollywood’s funk following Bush’s victory. My favorite part was a movie executive’s reference to Republican voters: “those people.” Those people.

Very revealing, oh, yes.

‐The panting public has been asking, “Jay, what are your two favorite lines from the campaign?” Okay, I have the answer.

1. “Can’t we get any of my water?”

2. “Need some wood?”

I hate to explain, but just to refresh: The first is Kerry, when he is confronted only with bottles of Evian. Obviously, he has his own brand.

And the second is Bush, speaking to debate moderator Charlie Gibson, after–to Bush’s puzzlement–Kerry has said that the president owns a timber company.

‐Friday’s economic numbers were very, very, very good. Can you imagine their coming out just as Bush had been defeated and Kerry elected? Would have been shades of ‘92–when Clinton inherited a robust economy, after saying it was Hoover-like all campaign.

‐Years ago, at the Oscars, Sally Field said, “You like me, you really like me!” Well, I now say, “They hate us–they really hate us.” I’m talking about the Left, and the media elite, of course, and the “us” is . . . Bush supporters.

They really let it all hang out, after Tuesday. A certain amount of politeness or restraint might have prevailed during the campaign, but no longer. They hate us, calling us dumb, dumb, dumb–a bunch of Bible-thumpin’ boobs.

I think I’ve watched Jon Stewart’s show twice, both times because a friend was on. I watched it the other night, and there was this comedian–a sidekick of Stewart’s, apparently–saying, “We have heard the voice of the American people. I would imitate it, but I don’t like to make fun of the retarded.”

And on and on.

Maureen Dowd wrote a column that should not have appeared in a respectable newspaper. So did Thomas Friedman. So did Paul Krugman. Of course, all three columns appeared in the New York Times. The Left has a term for the way those three write: “hate speech.”

In the Washington Post, E. J. Dionne was Dowd-, Friedman-, and Krugman-like, saying, in part, “This is no time for the independent media to be intimidated by trumped-up charges of liberal bias.” “Independent media”? Who’s not independent? NPR? PBS? The Stars and Stripes?

And “trumped up”? What do you mean, “trumped up”? Trumped up like CBS’s National Guard papers?

Harold Meyerson–also in the Washington Postwrote that “the Democrats must be able to come off as Americans behind the other guys’ lines [i.e., in the red states].” They have to “come off as Americans”–so it’s come to that, huh?

Garry Wills–we’re back to the Times now–likened us to al Qaeda, which is rapidly becoming a standard line:

Can a people that believes more fervently in the Virgin Birth than in evolution still be called an Enlightened nation? . . .

In fact, we now resemble [modern Europe] less than we do our putative enemies.

Where else do we find fundamentalist zeal, a rage at secularity, religious intolerance, fear of and hatred for modernity? Not in France or Britain or Germany or Italy or Spain. We find it in the Muslim world, in Al Qaeda, in Saddam Hussein’s Sunni loyalists. Americans wonder that the rest of the world thinks us so dangerous, so single-minded, so impervious to international appeals. They fear jihad, no matter whose zeal is being expressed.

And on and on. (Have I said that already?)

Oh, let me give you Hunter Thompson, too. He said over the phone to Sean Penn, “I’ve got the worst possible news. Colorado has gone to hell like all the other states. They must have all voted the same way they pray.”

I love that: They voted the same way they pray.

Yes, people: They hate us, they really hate us. Lots.

Did you doubt it?

For good measure: Let me leave you with Jane Smiley (“The unteachable ignorance of the red states”). (Ms. Smiley started out in Missouri; now she’s in California, where she feels that she is with actual human beings.)

‐Shall we check in with Michael Moore? A reader noted that Moore wrote the following, listing good things–from the Left point of view–about Nov. 2: “Five more African Americans were elected as members of Congress, including the return of Cynthia McKinney of Georgia. It’s always good to have more blacks in there fighting for us and doing the job our candidates can’t.”

“Our candidates”? Our?

I also heard from a reader who said this:

“You might have noticed Moore’s near-blasphemous collage of President Bush, consisting of pictures of the Iraq War’s fallen soldiers. My friend, Spc. Ryan Doltz, was included in the collage, and I suspect that he would be absolutely horrified that his memory was being used as ammunition against his commander-in-chief. As hard as I tried to ignore him, Michael Moore has finally succeeded in making me physically ill.”

‐You recall the furor over the lines in President Bush’s jacket during one of the debates. I was at a dinner party (the Upper West Side) at which a distinguished lady said she was sure that these resulted from a device that allowed Bush to cheat. She was not alone, of course. Now it is revealed that the lines came from a bulletproof vest. Will the conspiracy theorists eat their words? Blush a little?

Really, if “The Paranoid Style in American Politics” were written today, it would have to be about the Left, not the Right.

Have I said that before–in the last 20 minutes, that is?

‐Jewish Americans voted in huge numbers against President Bush, giving him only 24 percent. (This was after it was predicted that Bush would soar among Jews.) I thought, “Well, Milton Himmelfarb’s old quip still holds true: that Jews earn like Episcopalians but vote like Puerto Ricans.” Then I thought, “Hey–is that fair to Puerto Ricans? What percentage of their vote did George W. Bush get?”

‐A reader sends me a report from the AP, which goes, “For 2008, the presumptive leading presidential candidates are New York Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, a Northeastern centrist and . . .” Whoa, whoa, whoa: Is that what she is? So that’s the new line, huh? This child of Marian Wright Edelman, and, before that, the hard-Left law firm of Robert Treuhaft.

Gimme a break.

‐Another reader writes, “Jay, I just realized whom the GOP should nominate in ‘08–George W. Bush! Paul Begala and the rest of the lefty talking heads have been saying all week that 2004 is the first election that GWB actually won, since he ’stole’ the 2000 election–so let’s agree with them, and go ahead and make this Bush’s first official term!”

A fine idea.

‐Guys, I write this on Saturday, so if I miss something big on Sunday, please forgive me. (If the president asks me to replace C. Powell as secretary of state–I’ll have to discuss it in a subsequent column.) (You think I lack the diplomacy?)

‐The White House has its hands full with Senator Specter as chairman of the Judiciary Committee, and so do the rest of us. But it’s their fault–the fault of Karl, GWB, and all of them. They could have had both: They could have had a Republican win in Pennsylvania, and a Bush-supporting conservative, Pat Toomey. But no.

Toomey would have won that general, I believe, though more narrowly than Specter. And it was the president’s boostering that made the difference for Arlen, in the primary.

Damn Sam (as my mother would say). (Or would that be, “Damn, Sam”? I have never seen it written.)

‐account of the ‘04 campaign, a few observations. (Where have you heard that before?) The account is absorbing, as the magazine’s post-election specials always are, but it reflects a clear left-wing bias. (This may relate to the fact that the Kerry people gave Newsweek far more access than the Bush people. Of course, the mafia would give more access than the Bush people–to the Bushies’ detriment, I think, but that’s another argument.) For instance, the magazine simply assumes that the Swift vets’ ads and charges were illegitimate. No serious examination of them is made.

And the Republicans–at large–are always campaigning scurrilously, while the Democrats remain honest, nuanced, etc.

Anyway: It is, as I stated, an absorbing account, as always.

For one thing, it reminded me of what a lefty Kerry is. What a surprise, to hear that from me, right? But bear with me. I had forgotten that, in the Democratic primaries, he campaigned with Peter Yarrow, of Peter, Paul, and Mary. He didn’t do anything like that in the general, did he, when he was Mr. “I’m No Sixties Liberal” Tough Guy. And, during the primaries, as Yarrow sang “Puff, the Magic Dragon,” the candidate mimicked the smoking of a joint.

Yes, that’s Kerry.

At an Election Night party, a very, very, very senior figure in American politics said–indignantly–”John Kerry would be the most left-wing president this country has ever elected,” and don’t anyone know it (or rather, too few do). Consider merely his trip to the Vietnamese Communists in Paris, never repented of.

Peter Yarrow and this senior figure reminded me of what we have dodged.

So too, the Newsweek account reminds us of the herd mentality of the press corps–to wit, “No hint of the Kerry-Heinz domestic discord crept into their stories, and the reporters sometimes gave [Kerry] the benefit of the doubt when he rambled or talked in circles. Reporters on a campaign plane are usually not competitive loners; over the days and weeks, they bond and at deadline time compare notes, out of a sense of collegiality and mutual self-defense.” That’s putting it nicely, I think.

I was reminded, too, that Kerry got very, very few challenging questions. After Charlie Gibson, one morning, asked him something mildly challenging, Kerry snapped, “Thanks for doing the RNC’s work for them.”

Our people would never respond that way–because we get challenging questions, as we ought to, I’m sure, and the questions the DNC would want asked.

Also, check this out:

The attack of the Swift Boat vets did not catch the Kerry campaign by surprise, not entirely at least. Kerry’s operatives had worried from the beginning that some right-wing group would try to use his old Vietnam antiwar speeches against him. In the summer of 2003 the Kerry campaign had quietly made some inquiries with C-Span, asking the cable network not to release old videotapes of Kerry as an angry young vet fulminating about war crimes and atrocities. Portions of his sometimes overwrought testimony before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee in 1971 could be twisted into an attack ad, the Kerryites feared. They were told not to worry: the rules prohibited the use of the tapes for political advertising. (When the Swift Boat vets made ads attacking Kerry with images from his 1971 testimony, they used a voice-over, an actor reading Kerry’s words.)

We see a lot that’s revealing in there, don’t you agree? It would be “some right-wing group,” huh? Like only right-wingers could object to what Kerry did after Vietnam? I doubt it. And what if our side had asked a network not to release old tapes? The media would be fine with that? And we right-wingers would have “twisted” Kerry’s testimony into attack ads? Look, what Kerry actually said is damning enough. No twisting necessary.

Believe me, folks, if there were equivalent Republican tapes out there, we would have seen them 24/7. I believe Kerry was protected.

Finally, how about this? “Historian Douglas Brinkley, author of a wartime biography of Kerry, cautioned that Kerry’s diary included mention of a meeting with some North Vietnamese terrorists in Paris. Edwards was flabbergasted. ‘Let me get this straight,’ the senator said. ‘He met with terrorists? Oh, that’s good.’”

Forgetting the memorability of Edwards’s response, what about the propriety of Brinkley, the historian, acting as Kerry-Edwards op? Isn’t Brinkley’s obligation to his readers, and–not to be too grandiose about it–to the truth, whatever the consequences?

Geesh.

‐A reader asks a darn good question: “Jay, both [Donald] Runnicles and [Christoph] Eschenbach [a Scottish and a German conductor, respectively, who work in the United States] said they would leave this country if we had the audacity to reelect Bush. So, have you heard anything about their plans?”

No, I haven’t–but I’ll let you know, soon as I do. Recall what I said in an article for National Review, however: Music in America will survive–and thrive.

‐Speaking of which: For a review of the organist Anthony Newman, please go here. For a review of the clarinetist Richard Stoltzman, and another of the cellist Truls Mørk (no Robin Williams jokes, please), please go here.

‐Folks, I have to say this periodically, and I should say it again now: Thank you so much for your letters. I wish I had time to read them all, to say nothing of answer them. Thank you, and forgive me.

‐But speaking of letters–I wish to conclude with this:

Dear Jay,

I just received news that Luis Dominguez, my great-uncle, died last week. My father sent the news along with some of Luis’s favorite jokes about Cuba. These are jokes told by Cubans to illustrate their disgust at the Castro regime and conditions in their country. . . .

Luis died without ever seeing his country regain her freedom. I pray he is the last in my family to do so. As my father said in his letter, “Que Dios lo tenga en la gloria”–”May God keep him in glory.”

*****

A Communist stands on a street corner yelling, “Fidel delivered us from our chains!” A drunk stumbling by answers, “And our watches, rings, bracelets, and necklaces.”

Before the revolution, people died and became skeletons. After the revolution: skeleton first, die later.

For the new year, Cubans will receive two rice sacks each. One to wear as pants, and one to wear as a shirt.

Fidel makes a speech and declares, “In Cuba, nobody goes to sleep hungry!” One disheveled man raises a hand and says, “Commandante, I haven’t eaten in days. I’m very hungry.” Fidel says, “Then, true to my word, you will not go to sleep!”

The teacher asks Pepito, “What systems are incompatible with the Communist system of government?” Pepito answers, “The digestive system and the nervous system.”

Another teacher asks Pepito, “Tell me three benefits of the Communist revolution.” Pepito answers, “Nationalized health care, education, and defense.” “Great! Now tell me three challenges the country faces.” Answers Pepito, “Breakfast, lunch, and dinner.”

Still another teacher shows her class a photograph of President Bush and asks if anyone recognizes him. Absolute silence. She continues, “Let me give you a hint: It is because of this man that we Cubans go hungry.” Pepito jumps up and says, “I didn’t recognize him without his beard and uniform.”

Thank you, Uncle Luis.

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