Politics & Policy

The Beast From The East, &C.

I figured someone ought to speak frankly about China sometime soon, and who was the one to do it? Rumsfeld, of course. The War on Terror has been an enormous undertaking; China was supposed to be the Main Event, in this decade. Rumsfeld remembers–and I hope very much he serves out this term.

For that matter, Hillary can reappoint him!

(Sorry about that–didn’t mean to give you the heebie-jeebies. Gave myself them, too.)

‐I learned from yesterday’s Hotline that Thomas Oliphant, the Boston Globe columnist, is back. The Hotline quoted him:

For those who have wondered what happened to my musings all spring, the official answer of ‘on leave’ didn’t tell the entire story. So here is what happened. I remember very little of it, but it’s the information I’ve been able to piece together thanks to my wife, my kids, and the others who saved my life. On a sunny Saturday in March, I was dressing for a drive to the country when I went over like cut wood. When I came to, I was violently sick to my stomach with the mother of all headaches. . . . My memory started to disappear, but I pretended to feel better.

I will now start quoting The Hotline: “More Oliphant, on suffering the rupture of a brain aneurysm: ‘Time and place have no grounding. 2005 suddenly becomes 1953. You’re talking about your childhood TV set. And you have no idea who the president is–it really was possible to forget George Bush for a while.’ Oliphant writes that his head ‘felt like Tom DeLay was inside it swinging a pick ax.’ On his recovery, he writes: ‘Miraculously, I can concentrate again and finished reading a book last week. Sadly, I now know who the president is.’”

Um, er, you’d think you would simply be grateful to be alive. But there’s nothing like coming back with Bush-hatred! That is the passion that can survive anything.

Kind of a shame.

‐I quote the New York Times: “Amnesty [International] has fired right back, pointing out that the administration often cites its reports when that suits its purposes. ‘If our reports are so “absurd,” why did the administration repeatedly cite our findings about Saddam Hussein before the Iraq war?’ wrote William F. Schultz, executive director of the group’s United States branch, in a letter to the editor being published Saturday in The New York Times. ‘Why does it welcome our criticisms of Cuba, China and North Korea? And why does it cite our research in its own annual human rights reports?’”

He’s got ‘em there, does William F. Schultz. This is why I never cite Amnesty International, in any of my reporting. (I might say, “Even Amnesty International . . .”) I suggest that the Bush administration do the same. Amnesty deeply, deeply wants the U.S. to be a violator on the world scene, and it will do anything to make it appear so.

‐A couple of columns ago, I told you I had met with Natan Sharansky and Václav Havel on the same day–a lucky day. And then I sort of left you hanging. Well, Sharansky I will deal with primarily in the forthcoming National Review. But let me tell you a little bit about Havel here.

They had a dinner in his honor, at the Czech embassy, in Washington. The embassy is located in one of the most beautiful parts of the city: in a patch by Rock Creek, shielded from everything urban. But the embassy itself is ugly-Communist. Rarely do you get such a contrast between setting and edifice. That’s okay, though, because the thoughts of the people inside were beautiful, indeed.

Attending the dinner was a small army of human-rights figures, from all over the world. On the walls were posters in support of Cubans, Burmese, Chinese. I was struck, once again, by the indivisibility of the Czech approach to human rights: They’re for them, whenever and wherever.

Harry Wu, the great testifier about Laogai, was in attendance–seated next to President Havel. Three senators were present, plus Elliott Abrams, of the National Security Council staff (and formerly of National Review–I hope he’ll rejoin us, when he’s through with government).

At my table were three men who had fought with Castro, then been imprisoned by him, of course–because they were democrats, freedom-seekers. It was inspiring to be among them. To my right was a Taiwanese struggler–it had been necessary in the old days–and to my left was a Belarusian: It is necessary now.

By the way, you should have heard the Taiwanese pour contempt on this idea of “Asian values”–the contention that liberal democracy and Asians won’t mix. Even the look on his face was priceless. And he has equal contempt for the assertion that Arabs are indisposed.

Havel himself was gracious and modest, with a twinkle in his eye. His writings are circulated in all corners of the world–underground in Cuba, for example. Very few political men so great as Havel now exist. (Sharansky is another.) And Martin Palouš acted as host. He’s the Czech ambassador to Washington, and, according to Rep. Lincoln Diaz-Balart, he’s just about the best guy in town, on Cuba. He’s just about the best guy in town on a lot of things.

There are worse ways to pass an evening, than with those men.

‐Look, I’m delighted that Chris Cox has been appointed chairman of the SEC, because he is omnicompetent: He could be chairman of anything. But I will miss his voice in Congress–on China, for example–and I hope that, in either this administration or a future one, he’ll have a foreign-policy role. In the meantime, I fully expect him to be a crack SEC chairman.

‐You know–he’d make an attorney general, too.

‐It is very, very good to be understood by Ruth Marcus, columnist for the Washington Post. Listen to her, about Mark Felt:

“It was not I, and it is not I,” Felt said in 1974 in denying that he was Deep Throat, and there is a sense in which that may have been not so much an outright lie as a deeper truth for Felt: In fact, he was not behaving like himself, or at least like the person he wanted to be. When Slate’s Timothy Noah tracked him down in 1999, Felt said it “would be terrible” if he had been Deep Throat: “This would completely undermine the reputation that you might have as a loyal, logical employee of the FBI. It just wouldn’t fit at all.”

Not an outright lie, but a deeper truth! Yes, it is good to be understood by Ruth Marcus. May she extend that courtesy to . . . to . . . even to those who did not help bring down a hated Republican president.

‐Was disheartened, and slightly peeved, to see this in an AP report, written by Antonio Castaneda: “The joint U.S.-Iraqi force operating in Latifiyah to the south was backed by American air power and said it had rounded up at least 108 Iraqis, mainly Sunnis, suspected of involvement in the brutal insurgent campaign to topple the Shiite-led government.”

Actually, that government should be referred to as the democratic government of Iraq. “Shiite-led” is misleading; it is not Shiite-led like the Syrian government is Alawi-led. You will recall that, in Jordan, for the World Economic Forum, the two leading Iraqi figures were the foreign minister, Hoshyar Zebari, and the speaker of the parliament, Hajim al-Hassani. The first is a Kurd, the second a Sunni. So please . . .

‐How many times have I complained about the following? I ask longtime readers not to answer that.

News leads have become so poetic. You can’t tell what the article’s about. It takes too long to find out.

A friend of mine sent me a report from the Copley News Service. Had to do with immigration. It begins, “In the silvery-blue light of dusk, 20 Brazilians glided across the Rio Grande in rubber rafts propelled by Mexican smugglers who leaned forward and breast-stroked through the gentle current.”

Ay, caramba! The silvery-blue light of dusk! Gimme a break and tell me what you’re reportin’ on, baby! Can you save your poetry for after-hours?

‐In my Impromptus of last Friday, I told you about a card I’d received. The Reagan stamp on the envelope had been defaced. This occasioned many reader e-mails, and I’d like to share a few with you.

One correspondent informed me about this website, at which you can buy a “Reagan envelope,” to go with a Reagan stamp, which will have you depicting the 40th president as a criminal. Very nice.

Another reader writes, “Out here in Oregon, it is near impossible to purchase Reagan stamps at the post office. After many attempts, I finally asked when they would get a new stock of them. I received a tirade on what an evil man Reagan was! Seems most of the postal workers hate Reagan.”

And from another reader: “Jay, you talk about what kind of person would deface a Reagan stamp, comparing it with a JFK stamp, or an LBJ stamp: You would never deface one of them, no matter what you thought of those presidents.

“In a parallel vein, I’m impressed that my lefty friends send me nasty anti-Bush jokes all the time, but neither I, nor any conservative I know, would send anti-Clinton jokes to anyone but another conservative. My sister says her e-mail is always clogged with lefty crud from her husband’s lefty brother. She does not try to send him pro-Bush material in return.

“Is this a phenomenon you have observed?”

In a word–yes.

‐Do you know about our get-together in Chicago? A get-together to benefit NRO and National Review? It’ll take place on June 23, and other details are here. It would be a pleasure to meet you, and gratifying to have your support. I realize that a $500 ticket is not exactly peanuts. And I realize that not everyone can spring for it. But if you can, I hope you will consider participating. The cause isn’t bad, and the night’ll be fun!

‐A cherished reader writes, “As a side note to your Bill-Kristol-pie-in-the-face item, did you know that Earlham College has one of the truly glorious team nicknames in the NCAA? Get this–they are the Hustling Quakers. You know you love it.”

You know I do.

‐Friends, I ended my Davos-in-Jordan series, a couple of weeks back, with the following sentences: “I leave one Muslim state to fly to another, Holland. And then from there, home, to New York. That night, there is a tribute concert to Renata Tebaldi, and the next day I will speak with two of the moral-political giants of our time, Sharansky and Havel (in separate cities). But we will leave that to future articles. I can’t blow my wad all at once, can I? I’ll see you, and thanks so, so much for joining me.”

I received about five letters that said, “Oh, Jay, how could you! ‘Blow your wad’–so vulgar. Not like you at all, and not appropriate for a family website.”

First of all, thanks for assuming that’s not like me! Second: Where I come from, “to blow your wad” means to spend a lot of money, all at once and wastefully. “Wad” refers to a wad of money. As I said a few items ago: Give me a break. Please.

‐A few letters concerning that statesman, Howard Dean, chairman of the Democratic party.

Jay,

On Election Day, there were–or may have been–some two-hour voting lines. This was reported as “delays up to three hours.” Immediately, the DNC complained that every Democrat in Ohio had to stand in line for four hours.

After they lost the election and began alleging fraud, the lines became six hours long. Now the lines are eight hours long.

Yes, kind of like fish stories.

And this:

Jay,

Howard Dean says that Republicans can afford to wait a long time in line, because they don’t make an honest living. I would like to ask Mr. Dean, when do you ever see the orchestrated mass protests–during standard working hours–on the Republican side that I constantly see from Democratic groups, such as Rainbow PUSH and unions? I always find myself asking, “Don’t they have to work?” I mean, the Republicans I know don’t have time to be protesters/agitators.

And,

Jay,

In response to Howard Dean, who thinks a lot of us Republicans have never made an honest living in our lives: Isn’t it Hillary, along with other Democrats, who’s trying to give felons the right to vote?

‐We were mentioning flags, and their importance to Americans, the other day . . .

Dear Jay:

On the morning of September 11, 2001, I was at work when one of my best friends, Steve, called and said to put the news station on the radio. Needless to say, the events that unfolded that morning caused a somewhat less than normally productive work day.

I made up my mind that as soon as I got home that afternoon, I was going to put up my American flag. After work I was rounding the corner onto my street when I saw that my wife Peggy had just beaten me home. And there she was, placing our flag in the holder on the house. Is it any wonder that I love the lady?

Like other Americans, we had flown the flag only on holidays. But since 9/11, the American flag has been proudly displayed in front of our house every day (we’re currently on our fourth Stars & Stripes). In the days following 9/11, our street was awash with red, white, and blue, but, after a month or so, every flag but ours had disappeared.

This past Thursday evening, I received a Gadsden flag (yellow field, coiled rattlesnake, “DONT TREAD ON ME”) as a birthday gift from my aforementioned friend, Steve. I started flying this flag on Friday, 6/3/05. This is only the second day of this display, so I have yet to notice louder grinding of teeth from the lefties on the street, but I’m sure it’s coming. Soon I hope to add a Navy Jack (red stripes, rattlesnake, “DONT TREAD ON ME”) to the collection for more variety.

‐A comment on Vietnam–and the rightness of the cause–elicited this:

Dear Jay:

I can’t help recalling a scene from the early spring of 1968. Long before David Bonior, Port Huron was in Michigan’s Eighth District. The former mayor of Saginaw, Jim Harvey, was the congressman (GOP).

I recall that it was April when St. Clair County was going to dedicate a memorial to those who had already died in the Vietnam War. Congressman Harvey participated, and with his political clout brought with him from Washington the South Vietnamese ambassador to the United States. The monument consisted of two ten-foot high granite pillars with a flame set between them. The soldiers’ names were engraved on the monument.

The Port Huron High School Band was asked to play, and, being in the band, I was present.

The ceremony was short–about 25 minutes. There were about 400 people in attendance. I recall that the mayor and the local VFW and American Legion presidents spoke, as did Congressman Harvey. Finally, the South Vietnamese ambassador was asked to speak. He walked over to the monument, appeared to count the (I believe) more than 100 names, and with tears streaming down his face simply said, “For my country, thank you. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you”–and bowed to those in attendance.

The band was asked to play the national anthem to close the ceremony. I had seen individual adults weep before. I had never seen so many do so at the same time.

‐A speck of music criticism: For a review of a New York Philharmonic Ensembles concert, published in the New York Sun, please go here.

‐Finally, “Dear Jay: Your description of television as ‘a dim and swampy land’ made me wonder if you were channeling the ’60s-era government report that famously condemned television as ‘a vast wasteland.’ [Yes.] I remember an episode of The Monkees in which the boys were to appear on a TV show. Upon arriving at the studio, they look around the set and Peter Tork exclaims, in a pleasantly-surprised tone, ‘It doesn’t look like a vast wasteland!’”

See you.

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