Politics & Policy

The Bashing of Bolton, &C.

The John Bolton mess tells us a lot about the current debate over U.S. foreign policy, and about the differences between the two political parties. James Taranto, at OpinionJournal.com the other day, had a great catch. Washington Post reporter Dana Milbank had written, “Democrats . . . assailed Bolton’s knack for making enemies and disparaging the very organization he would serve.”

That encapsulated perfectly the Democratic mindset. You see, we Neanderthals think that the purpose of the U.S. ambassador to the U.N. is to serve the United States, particularly its foreign policy, as made by the government’s executive branch. It is the other view that the U.S. ambassador is to serve the United Nations–to be part of that clique, that bureaucracy. That is why Barbara Boxer and others shudder so at Bolton’s “contempt” for the United Nations. They love that body, and value it as a check–or a brake–on U.S. foreign policy.

I believe that Bolton will be confirmed, in large part because Bush is the kind of president to stick by a Bolton. If anything, Democratic behavior has made Bush more pro-Bolton than ever, I wager. Years ago, I often said about Bush 41, “No matter what you think of his presidency, he must be hailed for two things: the Gulf War and sticking by Clarence Thomas.” I once said this in the presence of several men who had worked in the Bush (41) administration. They said, “No, no: Don’t credit Bush with the Thomas victory. He was ready to bail, but Thomas stood tall and immovable, in effect saving himself.”

Oh, well.

Anyway, I believe W. will go to the mat for, and with, John Bolton.

A final word about this mess: It would be nice if Democrats would merely say that they can’t stand Bolton’s foreign policy, and his conception of the U.S. place in international institutions, and the place of those institutions in U.S. foreign policy. (Of course, Bolton’s views are the same as Bush’s.) Instead they have to trash his character–making mountains out of little employee grievances, and so on. This has been the Democratic modus operandi for many years. I’m reminded of what a Hill Republican once said to me about Sen. Patrick Leahy. (You’ll find this in a piece called “The ‘Nastiest’ Democrat,” published in 2001.) Said this Republican, “Leahy always likes to have an ethical veneer for his purely partisan attacks. He can’t just say [for example] that he despises Ted Olson’s views, that he resents his representation of Bush in Bush v. Gore, that he’s sorry there has to be a conservative solicitor general at all. No, he has to say that Olson lacks integrity, that he lacks honesty, and that’s what stinks about Patrick Leahy.”

That’s what stinks about a lot of them, too.

‐Speaking of the stinkin’ U.N.: The vote on the human-rights committee to condemn Castro’s Cuba was 21 to 17, with 15 abstaining. That is, 21 countries voted for the resolution of condemnation, 17 voted against, and 15 abstained. Let’s have a look at the roll call, shall we? It makes for interesting reading. I’ll go alphabetically.

Argentina abstained–bastards. Brazil abstained–ditto. (Lula really protecting his left flank, huh? His core supporters must love torture, murder, and total repression. At least Lula didn’t vote no.) Canada voted yes–sort of shocking. What is Canada’s beef with Cuba? They have warm trade relations, warm tourism relations, warm everything relations. Hell, Castro was a pallbearer at Pierre Trudeau’s funeral. (So was Jimmy Carter.) I find it amazing that Canada voted yes.

China voted no, of course–the Communist brutes sticking together. Congo voted no–beautiful. Cuba–guess what?!–Cuba voted no! (You knew that Castro sits on the human-rights committee, right?) Egypt voted no. Yep, good boy, Hosni: You need to stick with the likes of Fidel. France voted yes–a little surprised. I’m pretty sure that the entire French establishment thinks better of Castro than of, say, President Bush. And Germany voted yes.

India voted no. India! Why? This great democracy, this glorious chunk of the Anglosphere, this recipient of the liberal democratic tradition. What are they doing, going and voting for Castro’s gulag, and against its innocent inmates?

Indonesia voted no, which is perfect–confirming my view of that government. Nigeria voted no–and President Obasanjo seems like such a nice man, when he visits Davos, in his flowing robes.

Russia voted no–does Putin realize that Castro is no longer a client? Saudi Arabia voted yes! Very interesting, that. Must be a matter of U.S.-Saudi relations. Sudan voted no–thank heavens. Ukraine voted yes–Yushchenko and that government have no truck with Castro at all. Yushchenko is a democrat.

Finally–down to the Z’s–Zimbabwe voted no: Again, like sticks with like. Bob M. and Fidel: a beautiful couple.

Anyway . . .

‐One reads that Sen. Chuck Schumer called the head of the Family Research Council “un-American.” Ho-hum. That will hardly even raise a journalistic eyebrow. Remember when Howard Dean declared, “John Ashcroft is not a patriot”? Remember when John Kerry said he would “appoint a U.S. trade representative who is an American patriot” (meaning that Bob Zoellick wasn’t)? But nothing ever happens to these Democratic McCarthyites. You will never hear a peep of protest from the media establishment. A right-winger asserts himself this way, and, oh, boy: The Tailgunner has arrived, firing.

I mentioned Howard Dean. He recently announced, “We’re going to use Terri Schiavo later on.”

But wait a second: I thought it was evil to “use” Terri Schiavo. That must apply to Republicans only.

Dean also said, “This is going to be an issue in 2006, and it’s going to be an issue in 2008, because we’re going to have an ad with a picture of Tom DeLay, saying, ‘Do you want this guy to decide whether you die or not? Or is that going to be up to your loved ones?’”

Um, excuse me, but Terri’s mom and dad wanted her to live, and so did her siblings. Whether Michael Schiavo at that moment qualified as a loved one . . . I don’t know. Beyond which, an individual has rights simply because she exists.

‐The concerted hatred against Tom DeLay is sort of breathtaking–and I expect the worst, when it comes to this kind of thing. Stands to reason, though: DeLay is the perfect hate object. He’s 1) Texan, 2) a former businessman, 3) a Republican leader, 4) a religious conservative (apparently), 5) populistic, 6) unawed and uncowed by those who regard themselves as his betters, and 7) effective. So the word has gone out: Kill ‘im.

You have no doubt noticed the ridicule over his having run an extermination business. I have recounted several instances in Impromptus. Not all the ridiculers are on the left: I knew a conservative editor who, pretending not to remember DeLay’s name, referred to him as “the bug guy.” I always wish such ridiculers a houseful of termites.

Remember that ad that Bill Richardson ran against his opponent in New Mexico? The opponent–John Sanchez–had worked as an airline steward. (He had done a lot of other unglamorous work, too.) Said Richardson in an ad, “While I was cutting taxes for the people of New Mexico, my opponent was serving orange juice at 30,000 feet.”

Never, ever let it be said, however, that the Democratic party is anything but the champion of the working guy. That’s their self-delusion, isn’t it?

‐I’ve been reading a lot of articles–mainly by liberals–fretting about what the military thinks of Donald Rumsfeld. For example, we need a chairman of the Joint Chiefs “who will stand up to Donald Rumsfeld.” All of a sudden, the Democratic party is very, very, very respectful of the military.

But that’s not how I was raised! No, it was all, “To hell with the military,” and, “Civilian rule is holy,” and, “How dare a general ever raise his voice to a representative of the people, to an agent of the Constitution!”

Funny, stupid old world.

‐In a previous Impromptus, I talked about Charlie Rangel, and how he considers opposition to Social Security reform a civil-rights imperative, and how he regards Social Security reform as “an impeachable offense.” To make the picture even prettier, New York city councilman Charles Barron said, “It’s bad enough they won’t pay us our reparations. Now they’re trying to take away our Social Security.”

Therefore, it was especially helpful to have this piece in the Wall Street Journal, by HUD secretary Alphonso Jackson, arguing that “private Social Security accounts will help lift minorities out of poverty.”


‐According to The (National Journal) Hotline, Chris Matthews said this to Lesley Stahl the other night: “Let me ask you about the news industry itself. And it’s taken a lot of wrath, because we have such a wide definition of what news is today, with, you know, stuff coming across the cable industry. And it’s coming out of the blog sites and stuff that is unedited in a lot of cases, which is my big problem with it. There’s no editors around. What do you make of what we’re doing right now?”

Well, here’s what I make of it: Editors can be just as irresponsible–as biased, as careless, as base–as reporters. Didn’t CBS have editors, as it brandished fake documents? And who caught them out on that? August editors or bloggers? Didn’t the New York Times have editors, as Jayson Blair was typing away?

Etc., etc. You would think the big media and their supporters would learn a little humility. But they don’t, ever.

‐In that previous Impromptus, I quoted a very famous and influential editor, Michael Kinsley. He said, “Every time George W. Bush hears ‘Hail to the Chief,’ the odds go up that some unsuspecting country is going to find itself getting democratized–with all the violence, anarchy, foreign occupation, arbitrary arrests, torture of prisoners, suppression of dissent, and random deaths that word has come to imply.”

I thought of that when news came that further mass graves had been discovered, in southern Iraq. Those graves contain the remains of about 5,000 Iraqis–you know, those happy kite-fliers depicted in Michael Moore’s movie. All told, Iraqis, Americans, and their allies have found some 290 graves, enclosing about 300,000 corpses.

You may wish to remember those corpses next time someone like Michael Kinsley tells you what he thinks of George W. Bush’s foreign policy.

‐Let’s lighten up, just a little bit. I was thinking about pope names–because of the Joseph Ratzinger/Pope Benedict XVI development. When I was young, a friend and I would talk about becoming president, and whom we would name to our cabinets: Elliott Abrams as secretary of state, Martin Feldstein as Treasury secretary, and so on. You know–just fantasizing a bit. And who hasn’t thought of names for his children?

Well, I had a question: Do Catholic boys, and priests, and cardinals–certainly cardinals–think about what their “pope name” would be? They must. It must be utterly commonplace, whether they talk about it or not. I would think that anyone, if elected pope, would be ready with his papal name.

Just a musing (if not amusing).

‐Just received this note from my friend Rahul–no, not Raúl (different name, different culture)–and must share it with you:




Saw this tidbit from Bill Simmons of espn.com and thought you would find it funny. He writes a Impromptus-esque column, covering all sorts of topics:

“We finally have a new Pope: Benedict XVI. Strange process. My buddy Gus kept waiting for the Vatican to announce that they were interviewing Chris Chambliss and Ray Sherman, just to fulfill the minority requirements.”


To appreciate this fully, you have to be familiar with hiring practices–and rules–in professional sports. A year and a half ago, I wrote a piece on the subject, called “Color in Coaching.”

‐Opposing the repeal of the death tax, a Massachusetts Democrat, Rep. Jim McGovern, said, “This is not about family farms or small businesses [the hell it isn’t, but never mind that]. We are talking about Paris Hilton.” Singing from the same hymnal, another Democrat–Lincoln Davis of Tennessee–said, “Our friends across the aisle want to make sure that the Paris Hiltons of the world are fully covered.”

Nice rhetoric, if cheap. But the best line of the debate belonged to a Republican, Rep. Kenny Hulshof of Missouri: “The death of a family member should not be a taxable event, period.”

Right on, Kenny.

‐Did you hear President Bush at the Abraham Lincoln dedication in Springfield the other day? He began,


In a small way, I can relate to the rail-splitter from out West because he had a way of speaking that was not always appreciated by the newspapers back East. A New York Times story on his first inaugural address reported that Mr. Lincoln was lucky “it was not the constitution of the English language and the laws of English grammar that he was called upon to support.” I think that fellow is still writing for the Times.


Here Bush managed to do two things (at least): deprecate himself, and deprecate the Times. Perfect.

And let us remember my beloved quote from the Chicago Times (a Democratic paper): “The cheek of every American must tingle with shame as he reads the silly, flat, and dishwatery utterances of the man who has to be pointed out to intelligent foreigners as the President of the United States.”

This Democratic editor was talking about the Gettysburg Address.

‐Two items above, I mentioned that Tennessee congressman, Lincoln Davis. You might have noticed that, in his name, he covers both Civil War presidents.

‐Was reading Hillel Halkin’s column Tuesday, and he cited “Irving Kristol’s famous quip that Jews earn like WASPs and vote like Puerto Ricans.” No, that wasn’t Irving Kristol: It was his brother-in-law, Milton Himmelfarb, who said that Jews earn like Episcopalians, vote like Puerto Ricans. Kristol, Himmelfarb, Podhoretz–whatever, right?

‐I never had the pleasure of meeting Saul Bellow, but I talked to him on the phone, once. For our millennium issue, David Pryce-Jones induced him–Bellow was an old friend–to write an essay on the future of literature. I edited the piece, and did not understand something in it: I called Bellow to talk to him about it, and I still didn’t understand it, but I was sure that Bellow knew better than I.

We NR-niks also had the privilege of working with Adam Bellow, the novelist’s son, who was our literary editor.

That’s all I can say–but I am grateful for that one conversation. And to know Adam.

‐I have gone on, haven’t I? And I’ve got tons more items–for example, Richard A. Clarke, the accusation-filled former terrorism official, is coming out with a new book. It’s a novel (The Scorpion’s Gate). The cover says, “Sometimes you can tell more truth through fiction.” Oh, boy! That’d be worth an impromptu or two, wouldn’t it? And the actress Lucy Liu is the new Audrey Hepburn, in that she has been appointed UNICEF ambassadress. And . . .

But we’re out of time. I’ll give you a little music. For a review of the Dresden Staatskapelle, under Myung-Whun Chun, with piano soloist Emanuel Ax, please go here. For reviews of the New York Philharmonic under Riccardo Muti, and a recital by violinist Viktoria Mullova and pianist Katia Labèque, please go here. And for a review of an evening of Lalo Schifrin, courtesy of the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center (and Schifrin himself), please go here.

May I tell you something about Lalo Schifrin? Two things, actually. Three things. 1) Lovely man. 2) Came on a National Review cruise. 3) Wrote the theme to Mission: Impossible, among many, many others.

Whet your appetite for a cruise?

‐Speaking of helping us out, and enjoying yourself at the same time: If you’re in or around Atlanta, please consider coming to our multipart, gala event on May 5 (details of which can be found here). I’m almost 100 percent certain you won’t be sorry. In fact, I am certain. What did that old Cajun chef say? “I guar-ohn-tee.”

‐Last, got to tell you a story. When I wrote that review of the Dresden Staatskapelle, I mentioned something about Chung’s family, and was a little sheepish about it. See, he is a well-known conductor. His sister Kyung-Wha is an even better-known violinist. And their sister, Myung-Wha, is a cellist, much less well-known than either of her siblings. I referred to her as Myung-Whun’s “other” sister–apologizing for it.

Which reminded me of the story about the Kalbs. You know it, don’t you? I believe it is apocryphal, but it’s still charming. Marvin Kalb was a big, big star at NBC News; Bernard Kalb was a less prominent figure there. One day, goes the story, their mother phoned, and she said to the receptionist, “This is Marvin Kalb’s mother. Is Bernie there?”

Rough stuff, probably not true, but I couldn’t resist, and I’ll see you later.


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