Politics & Policy

Rumbling With Rummy, Remembering Pickering, Saying The C-Word, &C.

John McCain says he has “no confidence” in Don Rumsfeld. I so, so wish Rumsfeld were at liberty to speak of his own confidence in McCain.

Too bad.

‐P.S. Maybe Rumsfeld will be able to say something in his memoirs! Then again, he may just wish to rise above.

‐My friend and colleague Mike Potemra hands me something called the Left Business Observer. Its lead article is “The Horror,” and it begins with an epigraph: “‘Today I hope that we can begin the healing.’–John Kerry, in his concession speech.” And the opening sentence of the article proper is: “F*** the healing.” (But without the asterisks.)

That’s the spirit–the Democratic party and Left I know!

‐So, Judge Charles Pickering is retiring from the bench, reminding us–reminding me–of one of the most disgraceful episodes in modern Democratic history: the tarring of Pickering as a racist to prevent his rise in our judiciary. Bob Bork, Miguel Estrada, Pickering–there is something about judges that brings out the worst in Democrats.

I won’t refight this battle, except to recall what is probably my favorite line of this decade so far. As the Pickering attacks were taking place, Charles Evers, brother of the murdered civil-rights hero Medgar Evers, had this to say, from Mississippi, where both Pickering and Evers are from: “The NAACP and the Klan are the only two organizations that are against him down here.”

I swear, I will love that for the rest of my life.

‐My Impromptus on Monday moved a reader to send in this picture. His accompanying note says, “Here is my homemade campaign sign–now proudly displayed in my tack room. Enjoy: A great many other folks did.”

I had to look up “tack room” (that is revealing): “a room in a horse stable where bridles, saddles, etc. are kept.”

‐Speaking of horses’ rear ends (were we?) . . . Speaking of Democrats and what they do to judges: The Senate minority leader, Harry Reid, as you know, dumped all over Clarence Thomas, calling him “an embarrassment to the Court” and a justice whose opinions “are poorly written.” What has Reid been smoking? Has he ever read a Thomas opinion? Thomas is an embarrassment to whom? Not to me, and not to that court, if quality of mind means anything. What Reid did was disgusting, and we–the Republicans, the conservative journalists–should have made more of it.

Bob Tyrrell, thank goodness, wrote an excellent column, for Thomas and against Reid, in the New York Sun: Enjoy, and burn, all at once.

‐You may have forgotten, just for a second, what the Iranian regime is like. I will remind you, with a line from the Daily Telegraph: “A 19-year-old Iranian girl with a mental age of eight who was forced into prostitution by her mother has been sentenced to be flogged and executed for ‘morality-related offenses,’ Amnesty International said yesterday.”

Just so you remember. Remember, too, that, according to our State Department, Iran is a democracy. You have it right from the horse’s mouth, that of Deputy Secretary Richard Armitage. Well, it’s a democracy of some kind, maybe–but not any kind worth having, or supporting, or excusing.

‐So, I’m reading The Hotline, and I see bits of an interview Chris Matthews did with Norman Schwarzkopf. Here is Chris, according to The Hotline: “Those intellectuals, those ideologues in the Department of Defense, Paul Wolfowitz, Doug Feith, etc., etc.–have they learned their lesson? Have they sent the message to the generals, saying, ‘You know what? We had this all wrong. It’s actually our country against their country, it’s not simply us against Saddam Hussein.”

That is a slippery way of thinking: What would Iraqis say of it, all but the Baathists and terrorists who want to bring that country back into subjection? When we fought against the Vietnamese Communists, was it us against Vietnam, as our leftists claimed? How about the million or so who took to the South China Sea, on anything that might be able to float, after “peace” came to their country? Had we been “against” them?

Nothing is so maddening as to hear someone say, “See? They don’t want us there. Did you see that they blew up more Iraqi cops?” What do you mean, “they”? The Baathists and terrorists, sure. But how about all the Iraqis–including the blown-up policemen–who want a chance to lead a decent life? Surely they are a great majority. Are we to forget them, just because they may be on the news less?

The U.S. president, thank goodness, has his head on straight.

‐Turn, now, to some domestic politics. Jay Leno made a joke (read that in The Hotline, too). The joke went, “President Bush was here in California today. He was addressing the troops at Camp Pendleton. While there, Bush took a moment to thank all the people in California who voted for him. That is all it took: a moment.”

Nice line, I guess: but Bush, while losing to Kerry 54 percent to 45 percent, received 5.1 million votes in California. Not enough to win, of course–but that’s sort of a lot of Californians, isn’t it?

I know that it’s stupid to analyze comedy–much of the time–but I, personally, would have been embarrassed to make that joke.

‐Since I spend a fair amount of time knocking the Times–ask not which Times: the New York Times–I thought I should say this about it: It maintains pretty decent standards of language. I was gratified by this, in particular (from a story about outgoing HHS secretary Tommy Thompson–and, no, I don’t mean “outgoing” in the sense of gregarious): “. . . with the knowledge that terrorists can strike the food supply without anyone’s noticing.” Thank you, Mr. and Mrs. Times, for that apostrophe-ess.

‐While I’m on the Times: They had a pretty interesting piece on the effort to rename everything whose name has the word “Squaw” in it, in Oregon. Squaw Creek, Squaw Meadow, Squaw Flat–all verboten.

I’m a little confused by something. The article says,

“Squaw” originated in a branch of the Algonquin language, where it meant simply “woman,” but it turned into a slur on the tongues of white settlers, who used it to refer derisively to Indian women in general or a part of their anatomy in particular. The settlers liked the word so much that there are now more than 170 springs, gulches, bluffs, valleys, and gaps in this state called “squaw.” All must be renamed under a 2001 law . . .

Okay, my confusion: Why would people use a word they regarded as a slur to name so much around them: their springs, their valleys, etc.? It doesn’t make any sense.

But this does: Some Indians have proposed names difficult or impossible for most Oregonians to pronounce. “Mr. Pitt of the Confederated Tribes dismisses those concerns as ‘ethnocentric,’ saying ease of pronunciation for English speakers is ‘not one of our criteria.’”

Of course not: Consideration of others is never a criterion for the hard-bitten activist.

‐Some of you may have read my piece in the 11/29 NR, called “Button It”–it stemmed from the discussion we had on this site of political buttons, bumper stickers, and the like. Well, a reader sent me an editorial from the Richmond Times-Dispatch, objecting to that piece (and not objecting to it very reasonably, but that is a different point). The editorial begins, “In one of those snippy columns that does not flatter its source, National Review’s Jay Nordlinger writes . . .”

This will sound snippy, but that should be, “In one of those snippy columns that do not flatter their sources”–no matter how many doofuses would do it the Times-Dispatch way, misled by the word “one.”

And about “snippy”: Wasn’t that the word Al Gore used to describe George W. Bush, when Gore called to “un-concede” in November 2000?

I kind of like that company!

‐Was very sorry to hear of the death of Frederick (Freddie) Fennell, at 90. He was around some, when I was young. He was a real-life Harold Hill, a–the–Music Man, the leading wind-ensemble man in America. He looked like a wizard, too (long white hair), which I liked.

‐Speaking of music: I wanted to throw another batch of reviews your way: For the Boston Symphony Orchestra, James Levine, and Berlioz’s Roméo et Juliette, please go here. For a Midori recital–you know she uses just one name, like Cher–please go here. For a review of the New York Philharmonic under Sir Colin Davis, with violinist Hilary Hahn playing the Elgar concerto, and for a review of the Metropolitan Opera’s Tales of Hoffmann, please go here.

And for my latest archived “New York Chronicle,” in The New Criterion–this would be November’s installment–please go here.

‐Let’s have some mail (and we’ll end with Christmas–boy, has there been mail on that). A reader writes,

I recently read an interesting article in The Guardian about a paralyzed Texan pro-lifer who went to China to receive injections of fetal stem cells. What struck me as the most interesting part of the article is this bit by the authors: “In the West, the debate about using cells from foetuses looks set to continue for decades. In China, it is a non-issue.”

I should expect so. It seems to me that debate is almost always a non-issue in China.

Very, very nicely observed.

‐”Jay, put this in your interesting-tidbit file: You mentioned in a recent Impromptus that Seattle elected a black mayor in the late 1980s. Not that it was a contest or anything, but Spokane–very conservative, and with a much smaller minority population–elected a black mayor, Jim Chase, in 1981, eight years before Seattle elected Norm Rice.”

‐And now, we need a little Christmas, right this very minute: “Jay, we took my son to see Santa last night. As we made our way out, he said, ‘Have a good holiday.’ I give up.”

I do too.

‐”Jay, I read your piece “December’s C-Word,” in which you wrote about my workplace, where all the holidays are called by name, except Christmas, which is referred to as ‘December 25th.’ This year, the situation is even more laughable. Since Christmas falls on the weekend, the page of our internal website was changed to read, ‘December 25th (observed on December 24th in 2004).’ What nonsense! Anyway, Merry Christmas to you.”

‐”Dear Jay: My wife and I have been buying Christmas cards from the NRA for the past few years. Besides offering beautiful traditional designs, they offer unabashed Christmas greetings. This year, we actually found a design that manages to get traditional Christmas decorations, an American flag, and ‘Merry Christmas’ all in one card! Add that to the big ‘NRA’ printed on the back, and it’s a liberal’s nightmare.”

I should say!

‐”Dear Mr. Nordlinger: I have to write to brag about the courage of our county officials here in JesusLand, [identification of county was provided here]. Obviously, please don’t mention our location, as the ACLU will be on us like a hobo on a ham sandwich. Anyhow, a Nativity scene is displayed every Christmas on the sidewalk outside the courthouse in our town. It is owned by private individuals; the county simply allows them to place it there.”

I publish this letter for a couple of reasons: First, because a celebration of Christmas has almost an underground feeling; and second–you know it–because of the phrase “like a hobo on a ham sandwich.”

I’ve got millions more on Christmas, but I should go, reminding you that I’ve said about all I can say on the subject in “December’s C-Word.” All the rest is repetition and (slight) variation.

Without which, we’d have no column, right?!


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