Politics & Policy

Condi Speaks, &C.

You heard Condi Rice in the Middle East, didn’t you? Just in case you didn’t . . .

”We believe any reform will expose the fact that there are universal values and freedoms that people aspire to. We believe the people of the Middle East–we believe the people of Saudi Arabia–are no different in that regard.”

Amazing, for a onetime “realist” starlet who served at Brent Scowcroft’s side.

And how about this?

“For 60 years, my country, the United States, pursued stability at the expense of democracy in this region, here in the Middle East, and we achieved neither. Now we are taking a different course. We are supporting the democratic aspiration of all people.”

I admire a man, or a woman, who can travel far in life, and I’m not talking about trips to the Orient.

About Iran, Rice said, “The appearance of elections does not mask the organized cruelty of Iran’s theocratic state.”

Wasn’t it only yesterday that George W. Bush’s deputy secretary of state–Mr. Armitage–swore that Iran was a democracy?

I was especially interested in this, from the Associated Press report:

“Ms. Rice drew no applause during the university address [her speech at Cairo’s American University]. But there was applause for audience questions about alleged Israeli human-rights abuses against the Palestinian Arabs and about mistreatment of the Koran at American military prisons.”

Oh, yes: Reminds me of every Davos I’ve ever been to, every international conference I’ve ever been to. But I know that Rice reached someone; and if people outside the hall were able to learn a little of what she said–it was not without effect. I guarantee that it caused reflection, changed minds, and lifted hearts.

‐French employees are suing a famed American enterprise for discrimination; they are saying they were fired because of their nationality.

No, the employer is not National Review; it’s 21, the legendary (and criminally overpriced) New York eatery. According to the AP–I’m afraid I can’t find the item online–Rene Bordet, Jean-Claude Lesbre, and Yves Thepault are suing because they feel discriminated against on grounds of both age and Frenchness.

What is my point in raising this? I’m not sure–maybe because I’ve never heard of anyone suing on grounds of Frenchness.

Bonne chance, mes vieux.

‐I once heard from an NRO reader who said he’d canceled NR “after too much untranslated French.” My problem was always with the [expletive deleted] Latin.

‐You might be saying to yourself, “Self, I don’t think American labor-union leaders talk like Bolsheviks anymore”–and you’d be wrong.

I offer the ever-offerable Richard Trumka, of the AFL-CIO. As one report put it, “Mr. Trumka blamed the [labor] movement’s ills on ‘not only the conservative political vise that holds workers in our country captive, but the iron fist of corporate greed that is crushing working families.’”

Pretty good, huh?

‐But hang on, get a load of A. Robert Kaufman, a “socialist and perennial candidate” in Maryland. So the Baltimore Sun described him (here). Kaufman is now running for the U.S. Senate.

Unfortunately, he was beaten and stabbed, and, fortunately, he is recovering. The Sun report included the following: “Dark, dried blood still stained boxes and walls in his dining room, below a poster of Leon Trotsky and Joseph Stalin.” Kaufman said he did not blame his attacker: “I blame the war on drugs, the lack of national health care, the society that didn’t care about this man.”

Yeah, yeah, yeah. Pure Ann Arbor. I had it with my mother’s milk. But I was especially interested in that poster of Leon Trotsky and Stalin. I didn’t know you could admire both! In the old days, you had to choose! What’s the Left coming to, with all this ecumenism?

‐Speaking of the Left: In my Impromptus yesterday, I wrote of James Weinstein, the founder of In These Times, who died over the weekend. I remarked on his running for Congress on the Upper West Side of Manhattan, in 1966.

I heard from Ron Radosh–the great historian of the Left, and other matters–who wrote, “At that time, as you may know, I was still a man of the Left. I was a good friend of Jim Weinstein, too, and an active participant in his congressional campaign. What the [New York Times] obit does not mention is that Jim was running against a liberal Democrat, as a left-wing socialist, on behalf of his own newly created political party. In a nutshell, that is why he did not win. Towards the end of his life, in his last book (which came out a year ago), he argued that socialists like him should only work within the Democratic party. As we know, they seem to have taken his advice.”

‐You’re keeping up with David Gelernter, I trust? He writes and thinks like an angel (a tough one). A couple of shots from this column:

“‘Gulag’ must not go the way of ‘Nazi’ and become virtually meaningless. Europeans love calling Israelis ‘Nazis’–a transparent attempt to slough off their guilt like rattlesnakes shedding skin. (‘See, the Jews are as bad as we were!’)”


There is an ongoing culture war between Americans who are ashamed of this nation’s history and those who acknowledge with sorrow its many sins and are fiercely proud of it anyway. Proud of the 17th-century settlers who threw their entire lives overboard and set sail for religious freedom in their rickety little ships. Proud of the new nation that taught democracy to the world. Proud of its ferocious fight to free the slaves, save the Union, and drag (lug, shove, sweat, bleed) America a few inches closer to its own sublime ideals. Proud of its victories in two world wars and the Cold War, proud of the fight it is waging this very day for freedom in Iraq and the whole Middle East.

If you are proud of this country and don’t want its identity to vanish, you must teach U.S. history to your children. They won’t learn it in school. This nation’s memory will go blank unless you act.

How ’bout that?

‐I was in Washington several weeks ago, and noticed a comic strip I had never seen before. I had a Washington Post in my hands, and this paper has funnies. I miss papers with funnies.

Anyway, the strip is called “Prickly City,” and it’s drawn by Scott Stantis. (Is that the word you use–”drawn”?) On this particular day, a strange-looking little girl was watching television. From it comes, “Liberals are good.” And then, “We have only the purest of motives.” And then, “To question liberalism is to question goodness!” And then, “This is PBS”–to which the little girl says, “This is a crock.”

How in the world did that get in there? (I have no doubt I’m many years behind.)

‐And now a couple of political cartoons (as opposed to strips, I guess): Oliphant showed Chirac agonizing over the Euro-constitution vote in his country. Bush is saying to him, “Not to worry, Jacques–believe me, a constitution is a highly overrated thing.” And then this little duck or whatever, in the bottom corner, says, “Ours is for sale, if you’re interested.”

What put these notions in Oliphant’s head? If professors of sociology at Amherst College could draw cartoons–this is what they’d draw.

A hundred times worse was a cartoon by Mike Lukovich: It showed three bearded, bedraggled prisoners hanging in a dungeon. The middle one says, “I’d like to thank Amnesty International’s head for saying America engages in torture and illegal confinement.” The guy hanging next to him says, “You’re welcome.”

This is the world the way the Left wishes it were: It wishes the Amnesty head could get into some kind of trouble for smearing the U.S. This is pure leftist fantasy: They want a nightmare America, and they want to be martyrs. Reality won’t let them be–so they pretend.

(You see this in people, protesting in the streets, who put tape over their mouths. No one else does this to them, you see.)

I wish Mike Lukovich could know that, in societies like the one he imagines America to be, people like him can’t draw cartoons like that.

And in countries with real gulags–the head of Amnesty International wouldn’t be able to talk like that.

‐Back when I held that Washington Post in my hands, there was a column by David Broder, “dean” of the Washington press corps. This is what I read: “. . . contrary to myth, the heroes of the far right rarely win presidential nominations–as witness the fate of Steve Forbes, Gary Bauer, Pat Buchanan and Pat Robertson, among others.”

Forgetting the other three for a moment: Steve Forbes, far right?

It’s amazing that a man who regards Steve Forbes as far right can be dean of the Washington press corps; can be judged a political sage.

That kind of thinking should make you dean of the U-Mass social-sciences departments or something.

‐Perused a very serious article on internecine fighting among the Iraqi insurgents (which warmed my heart), but I’d like to make a point that’s purely linguistic: “Red on red” is the military term for enemy-on-enemy fire.

Red-on-red: a term so perfect, it’s almost inexplicably so.

‐Have a look at a letter from a longtime, much-valued reader:


My husband was a POW in Vietnam for five-and-a-half years. He is beside himself over this Gitmo stuff. “Honey glazed chicken!” he says. “What about moldy bread with rat turds in it?” And “what about nothing but pumpkin for 45 days?” And “what about getting beri-beri from eating nothing but white rice for months?”

“They complain that the air conditioning was turned up?” he says. They made him live in a box outdoors for months, under the summer sun.

“They are put in uncomfortable positions?” he says. He had to sit on a stool for months, in one position.

And so forth.

He is writing a column on this, but he is recovering from surgery so he is slow writing it. The surgery is his second hip replacement; his hip was eaten up by the beri-beri.

Yet nobody’s asked any of the POWs what they think of the Gitmo thing.

Other than Senator McCain–I guess that’s about right.

‐Let’s clean up some old business. The other day, I mentioned the death of Leon Askin, at 97. He played General Burkhalter on Hogan’s Heroes; I noted that his parents were murdered in the Holocaust, though he himself (obviously) was saved.

A great many readers wrote in to say that several others in the Hogan cast had similar backgrounds: Robert Clary, who played LeBeau, was in Buchenwald. John Banner (Sergeant Schultz) was in another Nazi camp, before the murder machine really got going. And, of course, Werner Klemperer (Colonel Klink) fled with his family (Papa was the famed conductor Otto).

‐On to something a bit lighter, and also television-related: Weeks ago, when I wrote about the Republican honcho in Ottumwa, Iowa, a great many readers wrote in to say, “That’s where Radar O’Reilly,” from M*A*S*H, “was from!”

Did I ever tell you about the time I found myself in Ring Lardner Jr.’s apartment, looking at his Oscar for M*A*S*H? (I’m going to save that for another column. I won’t forget–I swear.)

‐A great many readers wrote in to tell me about TV-B-Gone, a device that’s supposed to turn off televisions, anywhere–like the ones in airports that blare CNN, inescapably.

The wife of a colleague tried that device in an airport recently: and it didn’t work. She got right up to it–brazenly (she had first been discreet)–and she still didn’t get Judy Woodruff (or whoever’s on now) off.

A shame. I’m sure this device has worked elsewhere, and, in fact, many readers testified to that fact.

‐When I wrote about Gabriel García Márquez, his Castroism, and One Hundred Years of Solitude, a great many readers wrote in to say, “You have to separate the artist from the man–that book is a masterpiece.”

Thank you so much for the lesson, dear ones. Are you next going to tell me that you shouldn’t go swimming immediately after eating, and that a stitch in time saves nine?

I remember my baptism by artist/man fire: I was about twelve when Artur Rubinstein’s memoirs came out, and I rushed to get them. They were basically about one (adulterous) affair after another.

Of course, many–most?–would have found that cool.

‐Any more old business? I don’t think so. Let’s have a speck of music criticism: For a review of a concert by the Jupiter Symphony Chamber Players, published in the New York Sun, please go here.

‐And finally, check out an amusing note from a friend: “I saw something funny at Grand Central: The sign on the ladies’ room doesn’t just say ‘Women.’ It says ‘Women ONLY’!”

Catch you soon, y’all.


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