Politics & Policy

Singing Along With Mitch, &C.

How often do you read a statement from a politician and think, “That speaks for me”? That seldom, huh? Anyway, I felt this way when reading an excerpt from a letter sent by Sen. Mitch McConnell to the Louisville Courier-Journal:

”Why is it that whenever a Democrat speaks before a religious audience, he is ‘reaching out,’ but when a Republican does it, he is ‘divisive’? . . . I can recall many instances of Democrats visiting churches over the years, not just to speak on a policy matter but even to outright plea for votes. Either I’ve missed the angry editorials in this paper and others over those events, or there’s an astonishing double standard afoot here.”

I know which option I vote for.

Do you recall when Jesse Jackson equated Dan Quayle with Herod, at the 1992 convention? Most Democrats thought that was sort of cool, I believe.

Remember the rule: Black people are allowed to mix religion and politics, because, why, it’s just their way, and they’ve got those cute lil’ spirituals and so on. (I am expressing what I consider to be the liberal-Democratic mindset.) And the religious Left, such as it is, can participate in politics, because that is a matter of conscience. But everybody else: Butt out.

‐By the way, I’m not sure that Mitch McConnell is the Senate’s MVP–I’d have to do a careful study (looking hard at Kyl, Brownback, and others)–but if he’s not, no one is.

‐Here is Senator Leahy, on Bolton: “Even if he came to the floor, I would suspect he’d be voted down on the floor, because there are enough Republicans who express concerns about him.”

Okay, let’s test it: Allow the nomination to proceed to the floor. We’ll see.

‐I offer you a typically perspicacious comment from Mark Steyn: “Sinking Bolton means handing a huge psychological victory to a federal bureaucracy which so spectacularly failed America on 9/11 and to a U.N. bureaucracy eager for any distraction from its own mess.”

‐If I were Senator Chafee, I’d be a touch embarrassed. The Senate minority leader, Harry Reid, went to Chafee’s home state, Rhode Island, to campaign against Social Security reform. (Noble effort there, Harry.) He said, “[Chafee] is a good man. He needs to be directed to do the right thing.”

Yeah, directed by the Democratic leadership. Will Chafee stand for such directing? Can he afford not to, politically? Even more basically, why is he in politics? George W. Bush wanted to do more than follow in his father’s footsteps. How about Lincoln Chafee?

What has he to say about all this?

‐It is said that Hillary Clinton has a “moderate” position on abortion because she has made some classically Clintonian noises–”safe, legal, and rare,” blah, blah, blah.

It should not be forgotten, amid this talk, that she is a firm supporter of abortion on demand. To my knowledge, she would not prohibit any abortion whatever–even unto partial-birth abortion.

I believe this makes her an extremist. But even if it does not do that, to call her a moderate, simply on the basis of some semi-artful rhetorical fragments, is bizarre.

‐Let me give you a little Newt Gingrich. It is from a white paper of his, available on his website. (If I were on the left, and a snarky jerk, I’d say, “Yeah, all his papers are white.”) I was struck by this sentence, an amazing sentence:

“Only the past has lobbyists who protect what they already have; the future is unrepresented unless citizens engage.”

Newt continues,

“. . . to rally the country to change Washington, we must follow Prime Minister Thatcher’s rule that ‘first you win the argument, then you win the vote.’”

And this very interesting parable:

“Reagan proposed welfare reform at the National Governors’ Conference in 1970. No one supported him. By 1996, polls showed that 92% of the country favored welfare reform, including 88% of the people on welfare. By then, it was virtually impossible for the Congress to avoid passing it or for President Clinton to avoid signing it, which he did after vetoing it twice. We must again define the debate about winning the future and not let the elite media or our opponents derail us into an argument about defending the past.”

Whatever his shortcomings as a politician, the man can talk–and (first) think.

‐This week in The Spectator, we find Paul Johnson at his most cheerful: “I foresee a sorrowful procession of events in which the triumph of the Darwinians may ultimately lead to the extinction of the human race. Evolution to destruction, or self-destruction, is part of the Darwinian concept, but if the theory itself should bring it about, that indeed would be a singularity. Not inconceivable, though.”

Thanks, Paul! See you next week.

‐Also in The Spectator, we find Germaine Greer, who–whatever else we may think–is a highly skilled writer. Consider the following:

Unlike his fellow dramatists, Shakespeare never became a Londoner, but returned whenever possible to the Warwickshire of his birth. He too had been treated as an outsider and subjected to calumny and insult. He had also written the first English play with a black man for a hero. Throughout his work, inferiors–children, servants, fools and vagabonds–instruct their betters, implicitly calling into question the inevitability of the established order. Patience in enduring inconsistency and contradiction, an awareness of the contingency of all things, is the soul of irony; it is also what makes Englishness both so enduring and so difficult to grasp.

Incidentally, have you ever noticed that it’s seldom tiring to read about Shakespeare, just as it’s almost never tiring to read Shakespeare?

‐After the fact, I heard about a rally staged in New York by China-freedom groups. It took place on April 23, and celebrated an amazing development: Almost a million people have quit the Chinese Communist party since November (so say the rally organizers). I quote a flier: “For even one person to dare to leave the CCP and publicly announce their departure would raise some eyebrows. Now almost a million Chinese, both from overseas and inside China, have posted their resignations on-line at www.epochtimes.com (click on ‘English’).”

And “to find out what started it all,” please go here.

‐In a previous Impromptus, I quoted a few humorous words from President Bush’s speech dedicating the Lincoln museum in Springfield. I wish to give you a link, however–here–because the entire speech is remarkable. Indeed, I think it one of the best and most interesting of Bush’s presidency (which is saying something).

Toward the end, he slides into foreign policy, and what he’s trying to accomplish, in the wake of 9/11. Have a taste (but do try to imbibe the whole thing, when you have the time):

“The convictions that have guided our history are also at issue in our world. We also face some questions in our time: Do the promises of the Declaration apply beyond the culture that produced it? Are some, because of birth or background, destined to live in tyranny–or do all, regardless of birth or background, deserve to live in freedom? Americans have no right or calling to impose our own form of government on others. Yet, American interests and values are both served by standing for liberty in every part of the world.”

And some more:

“Our interests are served when former enemies become democratic partners–because free governments do not support terror or seek to conquer their neighbors. Our interests are served by the spread of democratic societies–because free societies reward the hopes of their citizens, instead of feeding the hatreds that lead to violence. Our deepest values are also served when we take our part in freedom’s advance–when the chains of millions are broken and the captives are set free, because we are honored to serve the cause that gave us birth.”

And a little more:

“Sometimes the progress of liberty comes gradually, like water that cuts through stone. Sometimes progress comes like a wildfire, kindled by example and courage. We see that example and courage today in Afghanistan and Kyrgystan, Ukraine, Georgia and Iraq. We believe that people in Zimbabwe and Iran and Lebanon and beyond have the same hopes, the same rights, and the same future of self-government. The principles of the Declaration still inspire, and the words of the Declaration are forever true. So we will stick to it; we will stand firmly by it.”

(That last is an echo of Lincoln himself.)

‐The invaluable MEMRI.org has brought us a speech by the Arab League’s ambassador to Britain. And what did the ambassador say? Well, many things, including,

“. . . Washington entered actively into the fray after the terrorist events perpetrated on its own soil on 9/11/01. This was not a good justification for its enmity towards Arabs and Muslims. Israel’s hand in the matter is clear.”

Ah, of course! Thank you, ambassador.

There was also this lesson:

“Had Britain encouraged education and the development of a true liberal democratic process in the Arab region, instead of combating any independence of thought, the Arab region would have today become an extension of the West, and things would have been very different today.”

Oh, dear one, Britain did its best–better than Arab rulers and elites have done, for their own countries. When are you going to start to take responsibility for your own record?

Finally, toward the end,

“We would like you to know us through headlines other than those of terrorism, despotism and fundamentalism. We would like to know you through other headlines than those of hegemony and the beating of the drums of war. We would like you to read about our state of affairs through what we ourselves write, not through what others write about us.”

Oh, we do, baby, we do–through MEMRI.org. But be careful what you wish for.

(The ambassador’s lecture is here.)

‐Funny transcription error in The Hotline: It had Brit Hume saying, “Well, it seems like much adieu about not very much” (referring to “Justice Sunday”). Much adieu!

Who says it’s hard to say goodbye?

‐Speaking of news anchors, Bob Schieffer was quoted as saying, “I’m a firm believer in plain talk. It’s just sort of who I am.”

Um, isn’t it better to leave that to others to say?

Maybe that’s just who I am!

‐I give you an excerpt–printed in a Spectator review–from Reindeer People, a new book by Piers Vitebsky. This people in northeastern Siberia has been decimated by drink. (There’s always some jerk who writes in to say, “‘Decimated’ means one in ten”–which it did about a billion years ago. Etymology is bunk, as I don’t believe Henry Ford said.) Vitebsky writes,

As the 1990s progressed, the village came to resemble a horror movie in which people succumbed one by one to a zombie plague. Nice people, people who had been my friends for years, people who cared about their families, became unrecognisable. Each time I returned, I found that someone who I thought would hold out forever had gone under . . . It was said that smallpox had always left some people alive to bury the dead: would alcohol be so gracious?

A stunning line, that last one.

‐But the Line of the Month, as far as I know? From Mark Steyn (of course): “I’m a huge non-fan of [Nick] Hornby.”

‐Another marvelous phrase: Golf Digest refers to Vijay Singh’s “killer calm.” That is exactly, exactly right.

‐On Monday, I said that José Saramago, the Nobel-winning novelist from Portugal, had–at last–given up on Castro (following the March 2003 crackdown). Some readers have now disabused me. Damn.

Just recently, Saramago signed a pro-Castro petition, along with other giants such as Nadine Gordimer, Harry Belafonte, Danny Glover, Alice Walker, Ramsey Clark, and Danielle Mitterrand.

Oh, well.

‐Some mail? On Monday, I spoke of Prof. Liam Kennedy, who is standing (bravely) against Gerry Adams in Ireland. (We’re talking about the current election.) “At last a Kennedy I can admire!” I said.

I received many letters on this subject, particularly from Minnesota. Here’s one:

Dear Jay,

I kid you not, I have another Kennedy you really will like. Mark Kennedy,

the U.S. congressman and solid conservative from Minnesota (and likely our next junior senator) . . .

As an aside, my wife likes the name Kennedy for our daughter due in July. I said no.

‐A reader wrote me to tell of meeting a Communist in Italy, who “told us that he loved America and Americans–he just didn’t like Bush. I am always surprised when Europeans say that to me. I would never think of volunteering to them what I might think about their leaders.”

Such a good point. When I was a student (in Italy), it was always, “Love America, hate Reagan.” Plus ça change, as they say in Italy (don’t they?). And the reader/writer is absolutely right: Has an American ever said, “I’m a big fan of France, but I can’t stand Chirac [or Mitterrand, or Giscard, or . . .]“? I mean, ever, ever, ever?

‐And another letter on NPR incentive gifts!

Dear Mr. Nordlinger:

The week after the election last fall, Wisconsin Public Radio was doing its fundraising, and on Monday, November 8, the guest on their 8 a.m. talk show was Greg Palast, who styles himself an investigative reporter, hawking the thesis that John Kerry actually won Ohio.

WPR was offering as a premium Palast’s CD Weapon of Mass Instruction, an anti-Bush (whole family) and anti-Iraq-war rant, with chapter headings such as “Who Won the War, Daddy?,” “Perle of Arabia,” “The Bush Family Frankenstein Factory,” etc.

Then they spend a significant portion of the contributions fighting the charge that they’re biased.

I loved that last line.

‐A reader encountered a friend who gushed over The Motorcycle Diaries (the flick glorifying Guevara): “The only thing I could think of to say was, ‘What’s next, Adolf: The Vienna Years?’”

‐”Jay, when is someone in the blogosphere or elsewhere in the media going to do something about the Forbes report of Castro’s half-billion-dollar personal fortune? When one considers the degraded conditions Cubans have to contend with, it boggles the mind that no one has explored this anomaly.”

A) Neat that the blogosphere is considered part of the media! B) It’s actually $550 million. C) If you think too much about the Castro regime and the American media, you’ll go bonkers.

‐”Jay, you mentioned running across two young women named Nettie and Hildie [in the Milwaukee airport]. Well, my mom’s name was Nettie! She was Nettie Ida Boggs, a good southern name for a good Georgia girl from Duluth (just outside Atlanta). She was working with the Corps of Engineers in Atlanta when she met a young lieutenant from Minnesota who was stationed in Atlanta before shipping out to Europe to fight the Nazis. And that is how she became what was surely the only Nettie Bennewitz in the world.”

Lovely, lovely, lovely.

I was going to rant a bit, but we should end on that.


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