Politics & Policy

The First Principle, &C.

You have to remember this: George W. Bush can do no right. You’ve learned this lesson, haven’t you? It’s the first principle of much of our political discourse.

Consider the case of the Iraqi constitution: For years we heard, “George W. Bush is trying to impose American democracy and American values on Middle Easterners. That’s cultural and political imperialism. It will never work.” Bush et al. always responded, “No, we’re not. We are trying to allow Middle Easterners themselves to enjoy self-government.” So, the Iraqis–after much arduous and noble work–draft their constitution: and then all the critics say, “It’s not American enough, it’s not liberal enough, it’s too Islamic! Why are we not imposing our values?” (They don’t say that last part–but they imply it.)

Don’t forget: George W. Bush can do no right. Cannot be seen to have done any right.

‐In the last five years, we have often said, What would liberals say if George W. Bush weren’t president? For example: Would they not rejoice over the removal of the Taliban and Saddam Hussein, who were responsible for two of the most vicious, illiberal regimes ever inflicted by man? But since George W. Bush did the toppling: They cannot rejoice. They can only carp and nitpick and detract. If Bill Clinton had done this toppling, he’d be hailed as the greatest humanitarian of all time. (And that hailing would not be far off.)

I had a memory the other day: In March 1983, President Reagan announced the Strategic Defense Initiative–a program to build a kind of shield against nuclear missiles. I was in college at the time, surrounded by anti-nuke leftists. And all of a sudden–the day after–these same anti-nuke leftists were defending and praising “MAD,” Mutual Assured Destruction.

I have often thought: What if someone other than Ronald Reagan, whom they hated, had proposed an anti-missile defense? Would they not have embraced it? What is the morality of responding to a nuclear attack by lobbing nuclear missiles at the other side, killing millions of innocents? That’s what Reagan didn’t want to do–wouldn’t do. Hence, the pursuit of a defense system.

But no, the presence of Reagan in the Oval Office made these anti-nuke leftists apologists for, and rationalizers of, MAD. And because George W. Bush is in the Oval Office, truculent or murderous Sunni Arabs are the Left’s best friends.


‐You didn’t find any of us opposing welfare reform or NAFTA, just because President Clinton had endorsed them, did you? Then again, these were Republican initiatives–opposed by a majority of congressional Democrats. So I suppose they don’t count!

‐I will give you a reason–a hundredth reason–that I love Rumsfeld. (I know that “reason why” sounds more natural, but, knowing that it’s incorrect, I can’t quite say it, even in this breezy, colloquial column. Blame my grandmother.) Rumsfeld is openly down on what the base-closings board came up with: because they took into account economic impact, when the issue should have been military value. In other words, do we need it, militarily, or not? Quite apart from the economic effects on the particular community.

Rumsfeld is responding in what I would call an apolitical manner. Because, politician though he once was–he was a congressman, and a million other things–he is a not-very-political cabinet member, I find.

‐In his column yesterday, WFB says, “And it was the chief executive–President Ronald Reagan–who in 1981 fired the [air-traffic] controllers who struck illegally, barring them from reemployment.”

Remember what Reagan used to say? “I didn’t fire them–they quit!” He’d say so because their contract said–if you strike, you’re terminated, period. Reagan interpreted that to mean, if you’re striking, you’re quitting.

Priceless Gipper.

In that same column, WFB also revealed that he was on a panel with Dick Gregory. That stands to reason–WFB has known everybody. I have a lingering affection for Dick Gregory, formed long ago: I listened to his comedy albums in the Ann Arbor Public Library; I read at least one of his books (with a rude title). I know that he is guilty of much flakery and kookery: but I believe he is good at heart, and he has done a lot to help the obese (whom not many care about).

Wish he’d stuck to comedy, though–a fine talent.

‐One of the things I noticed while in Europe this summer was that all the cartoonists drew President Bush as an ape–some kind of primate. Of course, stateside cartoonists do it too. I am looking now at a cartoon on the first page of the “Talk of the Town” in The New Yorker: Sure enough, GWB is drawn as an ape. A knuckle-dragging one, to boot.

Then again–as we’ve noted in this column before–it happened to Lincoln all the time, too. “The Illinois Ape,” they called him. The cartoons we see reproduced in the Lincoln books are nauseating. May future generations find cartoons against George W. Bush equally nauseating.

A friend of mine–a journalist friend of mine–was remarking the other week how infected The New Yorker has become with Bush-hatred. I mean, not just the political columns, but everything: Bush-hatred suffuses The New Yorker the same as it does American liberalism at large.

Were we this bad about Clinton? Hmm. But then, we were less important.

‐I hope conservatives on the Senate Judiciary Committee will question John Roberts, hard. It should not be their primary concern–certainly their sole concern–to protect him from liberal attacks.

When Roberts was at Hogan & Hartson, he coached the plaintiffs in the Colorado “gay rights” case. First of all, does Roberts believe the voters of Colorado acted unconstitutionally when they passed the referendum they did? Second, what did he tell his mentees about Bowers v. Hardwick, the Georgia sodomy case? Apparently, they were concerned about what to say if some justice asked, “Will ruling for you require our overturning Bowers?” Did Roberts advise them to say no? If so, does he believe that was an honest answer? Third, why did he not mention this work in his Senate questionnaire?

Look, for all I know, Roberts is as pure as the driven snow. I hope he is. But liberal concerns should not be the only concerns that get aired about him. The committee’s conservatives should not be “potted plants,” to use Brendan Sullivan’s immortal phrase. Neither should they be nominee protectors, solely.

I realize that Roberts was a true-bluer when he was a lad in the Reagan administration. But sometimes they do “grow,” you know. That’s something that keeps us up nights.

‐Saw this in a Jim Hoagland column–best news I’ve had in ages:

“Chalabi–the target a year ago of accusations of treason and chicanery leveled in the press by anonymous U.S. officials whom he had apparently antagonized–has survived that smear campaign and emerged as a key policymaker in Prime Minister Ibrahim Jafari’s government. Chalabi today works smoothly with U.S. commanders on his primary portfolio: infrastructure protection.”

Whew. They did try to bring him down, didn’t they? Might well have helped him, with his countrymen.

‐Few weeks ago, The New Republic had on its cover “The New New Deal”–this was a cover about “rethink[ing] Social Security, the tax structure, and health care” (in the magazine’s words). You know, in the 2000 campaign, Governor Bush used the phrase “new New Deal,” when discussing his Social Security reform. He meant it, too. Even if that reform is going nowhere–you gain nothing if you venture nothing. George W. Bush did not run for president in order to crown his résumé.

‐The London Zoo has a new exhibit of human beings–or “humans,” as they would say. (That is the dehumanizing term.) Eight men and women, scantily clad, are on display. Why? Well, you can read a news story here. A spokeswoman says, “Seeing people in a different environment, among other animals . . . teaches members of the public that the human is just another primate.”

Maybe I’m making too much of this, but I think this story is emblematic of our age: It used to be that men strove to distinguish themselves from lower animals; now they revel in their likeness to them.

I don’t believe this is progress.

‐Back to Iraq for a minute: You know those three Sunnis in Mosul who were murdered by “insurgents” for putting up posters urging people to vote on the constitution? I would hope that every American–every person–aligned himself with those three, and not with their murderers. But we can of course have no confidence of this.

‐Wanted to mention a headline, in the Financial Times: “Truth, bullsh**, and economic clarity.” There were no asterisks in the original. Listen, I can be as raunchy as the next guy, but I guess I’m a little “prudish” about newspaper headlines (and television shows): Come on! If locker-room talk leaves the locker-room, what fun will it be?

‐Several years ago, I tried to start a sort of “Torino” Watch. (You may wish to see this article.) My purpose was to nip the use of the word “Torino” in the bud, before the 2006 Winter Games (which will be held in Turin). “Turin” has always been a perfectly good English place name. But I fear it’s going the way of the dodo. (At least they still say “Venice,” and not “Venezia”–but just you wait.)

Here’s a sentence, from some wire story, about the winner of the recently completed U.S. Amateur Golf Tournament: “But the absence of the tough finishing holes didn’t take away from what an engineering student from Torino accomplished.”

Super–we’ll start saying “Shroud of Torino” before you know it.

‐Something else offensive about that wire story (speaking of language)? “Molinari became the first Italian male to win a U.S. Golf Association title . . .” Why couldn’t that word be, not “male,” but “man”? “Male” is so biological (as a noun): “And now the male encounters the female, here on Mutual of Omaha’s Wild Kingdom.”

That too, I fear, is a lost cause: “dead white males,” “young black males”–kills me. Start calling them “men,” you might get some improvement.

‐Want to hear something from an exceptionally bright musician friend of mine? “As for the flippant directors [of opera in Europe], the sheiks will have them walking the gangplank soon enough.”

One of the most devastating observations I’ve ever heard.

‐A reader: “James Taranto over at OpinionJournal.com informs us that Cindy Sheehan has said, ‘I’m just so honored that the universe chose me to be the spark that has set off a raging inferno.’ I think this is what is known as ‘believing your own bullsh**.’”

See the workout that word has been getting in Impromptus? (Sorry.)

‐”Dear Jay: I see that, in Louisiana, Wal-Mart is trying to give away supplies. And people–even cops and firemen–are looting them. But never forget that Wal-Mart is a heartless, inhuman organization.”

I never will.

‐By the way, Paul Johnson–in the current NR–writes that hating America is the equivalent of hating humanity. He makes a good case. He notes–as I have noted–that those who hate this country tend to hate people at large. I would make a similar observation about those who hate Wal-Mart. The people who shop there, and work there, are just so icky — you know, the shorts, the tank tops, the accents, the guts. Icky, icky, icky.

‐My comments on American anti-Americanism in Tuesday’s Impromptus occasioned many letters, of which I would like to share this gem:


I’m in the Army and do a fair amount of traveling to all parts of Asia. We were in Starbucks in Chiang Mai in northern Thailand and two stinky hippies walked into the place and ordered. Of course they left no tip. (It would have been so American.) They sit down and start commenting on how the rest of us white folks don’t get a true “Thai experience.” They go on to compare the beauty of everything Thai with the ugliness of everything American. I mean, they put down our healthcare system, our public-transportation system–everything.

Finally, this one well-dressed older Thai man (maybe sixties or seventies) asks the girls when they moved to Thailand. They looked perplexed, then told him they hadn’t, but were there on vacation and would return home in a week. The whole time he had a smile on his face until the end when he got up to leave. He says, “Why are you in such a hurry to return to a place that treats its people so bad?” Then he walked away without waiting for an answer.

Turns out this guy worked as an interpreter for some Special Forces guys during the Vietnam War and has loved everything American ever since.

That letter is manna from heaven.

‐May I hit you with some music criticism, published in the New York Sun?

For a review of the opening Mostly Mozart Festival concert, and a review of a recital by the pianist Marc-André Hamelin, please go here.

For a review of a subsequent Mostly Mozart Festival concert, with Gil Shaham, violin soloist, please go here.

For a review of a concert by the German Chamber Orchestra of Bremen, Paavo Järvi, conductor, and Viktoria Mullova, violin soloist, please go here.

For a review of a concert by the Russian Patriarchate Choir, and a review of the final Mostly Mozart Festival concert, please go here.

‐Did I tell you about the most interesting passenger on a recent flight from Paris? An Italian lady 105 years young, and traveling alone–full of sparkle, beauty, evenness. Yup, a buck-oh-five. One couldn’t help being uplifted a bit.

Anyway, have a most unlaborious Labor Day, y’all, and I’ll catch you next week.


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