Politics & Policy

Who You Gonna Call? &C.

So, Al Sharpton is going down for a meeting with Vicente Fox. Jesse Jackson has already beaten him to it–but Sharpton’s following suit (as he usually does with Jackson). The Mexican president, as you know, said something judged offensive to black Americans, and he phoned both Sharpton and Jackson to apologize. That’s covering your bases! Now the Rev. Al–like the Rev. Jesse–is milkin’ it, traveling down Mexico way.

You know what I’m unhappy about? If Fox insulted Americans, and had something to apologize for, he should have called George W. Bush: the president of the United States. I abhor this notion that we have Black America and White America, and that Jesse Jackson–or Al Sharpton, or the media mouth of the day–is president of the former.

No, Bush is president of all Americans, and he’s the one who should have received a phone call, if Fox needed to place it.

Damn.

‐Can you believe DNC chairman Howard Dean? Of course you can–because you know him, after these two or three years. He can’t stop popping off, saying Tom DeLay belongs in jail, that the Republicans are “evil” (while the Democrats represent “good”), that “George Bush is not my neighbor,” etc., etc. He must have learned some weird stuff when he was reading Job, his favorite New Testament book. (Remember that?) Of course, if Ken Mehlman, the RNC chief, talked like Dean . . . he would be run out on a rail. Or at least run out of his job.

So too, the Democratic leader in the Senate calls President Bush a “loser,” and the reaction is basically inaudible.

Look, we’re all grownups, but the media’s double standard yawns at us again: No injury done Republicans can really count. And if a Republican leader so much as looks cross-eyed at someone media-approved . . . Scandal City.

I think the press has simply accepted that Dean is a little “touched,” or alternatively “passionate,” freewheeling, and that his outrages aren’t really news. If Ken Mehlman were grossly insulting or irrational–that would be “Man Bites Dog.”

But is no Democrat embarrassed by Dean?

Then again, as we’ve said about them before–they don’t embarrass easy. (Lovely phrase.)

‐You’ve heard me speak of Ileana Ros-Lehtinen. She’s a congresswoman from Miami, a Cuban American (an exile), and one of the clearest, bravest voices in Congress. She figured in the piece I did for NR recently, on “Congressional Champions” of human rights.

Well, she’s been givin’ it to the Syrians lately, and Syrians–Syrian citizens, or subjects, not the ruling machine–have reacted joyfully.

Please glance at a report from the Reform Party of Syria, known as RPS (its website is here):

On May 11, Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL) delivered a speech on the floor of the U.S. Congress in which she asked [Congress] to stand by the people of Syria and to assist them to bring to justice ex-Ba’athists who have committed atrocious crimes against the Syrian people, mainly the massacre of Hama, Tadmur, and the thousands of incidents of torture of Syrians at the hands of government intelligence and security personnel.

This is the first time that the U.S. Congress actually names individuals when it comes to human rights in Syria. From the reaction RPS is getting, the Syrian street is abuzz with this explosive news. Syrians are discovering slowly that the United States wants their freedom and is willing to stick its neck out to show the people of Syria that it is not working against their interests.

I am reminded, as I often am, of Jeane Kirkpatrick, who, on the floor of the U.N., named the names of Soviet prisoners. (This was from 1981 to 1985.) The naming of names was crucially important, as Sharansky and others have testified. I’ve told you this story before, but listen to it, briefly, again: When Jeane K. was in Moscow, Andrei Sakharov sought her out, and said, “Kirkpatski, Kirkpatski! I have so wanted to meet you and thank you in person. Your name is known in all the Gulag.” It was because of her simple moral attention at the United Nations.

Ileana Ros-Lehtinen is another woman who knows what political prisoners and other oppressed persons need–that simple moral attention, for one thing. They will love her in Syria, as they do Kirkpatrick, Robert Conquest, and blessed others in the ex-Soviet Union.

‐Tomorrow, an astonishing event is scheduled to take place in Cuba: the General Meeting of the Assembly to Promote Civil Society in Cuba. This is a great democratic gathering, and those participating have put themselves at great risk: For days, Castro has been arresting democratic activists, and otherwise flexing the muscles of his police state.

Various groups and institutions around the world have expressed their solidarity with the Cuban democrats, including the U.S. Congress. The House passed a resolution–and 22 congressmen voted against. Oh, yes.

Who were they? Oh, you know–the usuals: Charles Rangel, Dennis Kucinich, Maxine Waters, John Conyers, Barbara Lee, Jim McDermott, Cynthia McKinney, Pete Stark . . .

You’ve heard me say a thousand times before that Rangel is about Castro’s best friend in the United States–at least in the political class. This is doubly a shame, because Rangel is so beloved of the American media. “Good ol’ ‘Chollie,’” they say (because Rangel is a New Yawker, and he talks like that–irresistibly charming guy, most people find).

Guess what he told Meghan Clyne of the New York Sun? He said that he voted against the Cuba-democracy resolution because American politicians “refuse to give the government the respect that it deserves.” He was referring to his friend Fidel’s regime, of course: a regime that imprisons, tortures, and executes at will. That denies its subjects all rights. That is listed by the State Department as terrorist.

We hear all the time that all Americans–certainly those in our political class–love freedom and democracy. We’re all joined in the same cause, no matter what our (minor) differences.

But guess what: It isn’t so. It just isn’t. We are not all on the same side, even broadly speaking. It is sometimes called McCarthyite to point that out. I regard it as realistic.

‐I wish to share with you some correspondence from Faith J. H. McDonnell, who is director of the Religious Liberty Programs and the Church Alliance for a New Sudan, at the Institute on Religion and Democracy. This followed the publication of my piece on Sudan in the current NR.

In that piece, I mention a celebration held on Capitol Hill, to mark the coming of peace in Sudan’s south. (Darfur, which is in the west, is another, horrific story.) Faith writes,

“I wish you could have been at our celebration. As you say, the mood was jubilant. I wish you could see the gift for President Bush that the Lost Boys from Nashville brought–an amazing painting (by one of the Lost Boys, Bol) of an elephant, on a very, very heavy piece of Tennessee rock.”

Let me interrupt for a moment. The Institute on Religion and Democracy describes the “Lost Boys of Sudan” as “the group of some 17,000 orphaned boys from Southern Sudan who wandered for a decade throughout the region seeking relief after their families, homes and villages were destroyed by Sudan’s government and its proxy militias.”

Faith continues, “They chose the elephant because it is strong and powerful, like America, they said, and like President Bush, who is a strong and powerful leader. When I also pointed out to them that the elephant is the symbol of the President’s party, they were delighted! They had not realized that.

“I also wish that you could have heard the Southern Sudanese from Kansas City, who are reaching out to the black-African Muslims from Darfur in the refugee camps–even though at one time, before the Government of Sudan turned its guns on them, the Darfurians constituted over 75% of the Sudanese Army (use a slave to kill a slave), and many of those who are now reaching out lost their families in Southern Sudan to Darfurian soldiers. These Darfurian refugees, rebel leaders included, are saying to the Southern Sudanese that they believe that President Bush–because of his stand against Islamist terrorism–is their only hope. They do not expect salvation from the Arabs. They expect it will come from America.”

And a follow-up: “We’re still trying to figure out the best way to get the elephant into President Bush’s hands! A couple of years ago, when we had a seven-day prayer vigil for Sudan outside the State Department, the Lost Boys all put their signatures and thanks to the President on a framed map of Sudan. When I attended the signing of the Sudan Peace Act the next month, I had the presence of mind to bring it with me, and the audacity to ask the President if I could give it to him. He said, ‘You just did,’ and took it. Unfortunately, I don’t think I’m going to any Presidential signing ceremonies again anytime soon, and the elephant rock is a bit heavier . . .”

‐It seems to me I keep talking about NR pieces, but what the hay. (Remember when Johnny Carson used to say that?) I have just written a piece–for the forthcoming issue–centering on Michael Gove. Who’s he? Bite your tongue! He is one of the best writers in all of conservativedom: almost a British Krauthammer. He has been on the Times–of London–for many years, and has just been elected to Parliament. That’s right. He chucked the writing in order to be “in the arena,” as TR famously put it. Well, he’s not chucking writing altogether: He will write a weekly column for the Times, and he is writing a biography of Bolingbroke, for heaven’s sake. But he is definitely in the arena–a member of the House of Commons.

As he told me, “It’s no good doing Monday-morning quarterbacking. If you care about politics–and the condition of the country and world–you should do some actual quarterbacking.” (I am paraphrasing–but Gove did use that American expression, having to do with our football.)

In preparation for this piece, I immersed myself in Gove’s writings, and a splendid, enriching bath it was. His pen is almost as fine as his mind, which is saying something. I wish to share with you a swatch from a piece he did for The Spectator (here). It contained a kind of credo. It reminded me a little of WFB’s famous credo from the end of Up from Liberalism. Anyway, here is Gove. See what you think:

. . . Those Conservative values, which we abandon at our peril, are a belief in the maximum freedom for individuals, a recognition that wickedness should be countered by discipline, not therapy, and an acceptance that the price of progress is a patchwork world.

A belief in freedom is the beginning of my politics. Buried in my soul, at a level too deep to surrender, is my passionate dislike of coercion, conformity and collectivism. I think the inherent dignity of humans depends on the free exercise of their will, and efforts to curtail, corral or conscript for the sake of a greater good not only stifle the human spirit, but also generally fail to achieve the good proclaimed.

To my mind there is a beauty in the quirky, the eccentric, the divergent, which one never sees in uniformity. And underpinning my conviction is the knowledge that progress, from Socrates through Galileo to Václav Havel, has depended on the defiance of consensus, on those who dare to be Daniels. The enemy of progress is the doctrine of knowing your place, the principle that your identity comes from membership of a group, the edict which holds that permission must be sought before you can act in accordance with your instincts.

And so on. Gove is only 37 years old. Will he make it all the way–to the prime ministership? I don’t know, but I’ll sure enjoy reading him, for years to come, I hope.

‐Readers may remember something I quoted David Pryce-Jones as saying: that, in the 1930s, the cry in Europe was, “Jews to Palestine!” Now the cry there is (in effect), “Jews out of Palestine!” I commented, “You can’t win with these people: You just have to beat them, or survive despite them.”

I received an interesting note from Jeff Jacoby, the invaluable columnist for the Boston Globe. He wrote,

“I was in Israel with my family over Passover, and went to see the new Yad Vashem museum in Jerusalem. There is a display of anti-Jewish signs that materialized throughout Germany during the early Nazi years–towns would put these up to publicize their anti-Semitism. One in particular struck me. It said (in German, of course), ‘Attention Jews! The road to Palestine doesn’t pass through this town.’ Another one showed a replica of a railway ticket. It said, ‘Free ticket to Jerusalem–valid from every German station. No return. Fourth Class.’ When I saw them, I said to my father exactly the same thing you heard David Pryce-Jones say . . .”

‐Well, I should wrap up. Do you care for a little music criticism? Here are some items from the New York Sun:

For a review of the New York Philharmonic, with Pinchas Zukerman, please go here.

For a review of Franco Alfano’s Cyrano de Bergerac at the Metropolitan Opera, and for a review of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, Pierre Boulez, conductor, and Daniel Barenboim, pianist, please go here.

For a review of the Met’s gala concert in honor of Mirella Freni, please go here.

And for a review of the mezzo-soprano Sarah Connolly in recital, please go here.

‐Finally, a reader informs me that the La Jolla, Calif., town council has decided to keep the name “Christmas” in the community’s . . . Christmas parade. The vote was 11 to 9. (A story is here.) Whew! Getting close down there, in the San Diego area.

Friends, I’m busier’n a one-armed paper hanger, and don’t know when I’ll write again, but I hope it’ll be fairly soon, and I’ll see you, and you take care of yourselves–and watch Newsweek.

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