Politics & Policy

W. On The March, &C.

It has been a longtime theme of this column: Bush needs to give more speeches, he needs to hold more press conferences, he needs to repeat and repeat and repeat. (And even then he might be ignored.) Bush has been doing all this lately–to very good effect.

Bush does a very good press conference. No, he’s not as smooth as Clinton, but who is? Bush has a way of communicating–he gets his points across. And he did very well yesterday. (Incidentally, if you would like to see my 2003 piece on Bush-speak, it’s here.)

And speaking of repetition: His opening statement yesterday was pretty much his radio address on Saturday–the one in which he defended the “eavesdropping” program, forcefully and indignantly. It’s very encouraging that Bush has been aggressive on that. Any president who would not listen in on al Qaeda would be damnably irresponsible.

And did you hear his answer to the New York Times’s David Sanger yesterday? Sanger asked whether errors in the Iraq intelligence made it harder to conduct diplomacy and warn people of current or future dangers. Bush said–yes.

Good for him, because it’s true. (By the way, for a transcript of the press conference–courtesy of the White House website–go here.)

Anyway, I know that many supporters of the war and the president were pleased yesterday, because Bush was out front, talking about the vital issues. It bolsters, comforts, relieves, and revs up the rest of us.

‐Thought you would enjoy this letter, from an officer at Camp Fallujah:

I can tell you that, contrary to the Dems’ constant caterwauling, most of us are glad to be here, and in incredibly good spirits. But of course, that’s likely because we are culled from the dregs of American society, either a) too unenlightened to realize that we are but pawns in the machinations of an alternately stupid or cunning president (they can’t decide which, can they?) or b) bloodthirsty savages, who want only to kill the locals, or c) any number of other grotesque caricatures the Left foists on us.

Actually, there is much truth to the contention that the military draws from kids who don’t benefit from the American system to nearly the degree of those kids who don’t join up–and instead go to college on Daddy’s dime to get drunk and laid. Nah, the military kids come from rural dots in the South, or from barrios in cities like Phoenix, L.A., and Chicago. They aren’t full of irony and sarcasm, and don’t cream their jeans in anticipation of the next Radiohead album–you get what I mean. They are proud to serve.

Anyway, just ranting and raving. I am constantly dismayed at how the elites look down their noses at all we are doing here.

I’m so sorry for that dismay–but so grateful for his service.

‐Frederick Kempe of the Wall Street Journal conducted an amazing interview–an amazingly wonderful interview–with the great Middle East historian Bernard Lewis (a speaker on a recent National Review cruise, incidentally). An article about the interview is on the web for free–here–but the Q&A itself is not, I regret to say. Try to obtain it, is my recommendation.

Anyway, I’d like to quote just one question-and-answer. No, two. Kempe asked, “What is your general view of the situation in Iraq and the Mideast? Are you growing more or less confident of positive change?”

Answered Lewis, “I would describe my position as one of cautious optimism. My optimism derives from events in the Mideast and my caution derives from observing the United States. [Lewis is British, I might note.] The situation in Iraq is vastly better than what you would know from reading the media, which really do often present a misleading picture of what’s happening. In many, many ways, Iraqi life has improved enormously …”

Earlier, Kempe had asked, “If victory [against the terrorists] is so clear, why aren’t Americans feeling that way?” Lewis answered, “My specialization is the Middle East and not the Middle West.”

Isn’t that marvelous?

‐Here’s what Nancy Pelosi, leader of the Democrats in the House, said after Bush’s nationwide address two days ago: “Tonight the president acknowledged more of the mistakes he has made in Iraq, but he still does not get it. Iraq did not present an imminent threat to the security of the United States before he began his war of choice.”

Here is what Bush said in his 2003 State of the Union address, before we went into Iraq: “Some have said we must not act until the threat is imminent.” But “since when have terrorists and tyrants announced their intentions … If this threat is permitted to fully and suddenly emerge, all actions, all words, and all recriminations will come too late.”

Who is the one who doesn’t get it? Bush or Pelosi?

‐It would be kind of neat to ask Howard Dean this question: Do you hope the United States–and, more important, the Iraqi people–win in Iraq?

I think–I really do–he’d have trouble saying yes.

‐I give you Sen. Carl Levin (D., Mich.) (take him–please). About the majority of Iraqis, and their relations with the Sunnis, he said, “They’ve got to share power, they’ve got to share oil resources.”

Fine, fine–but let me tell you: I don’t think Levin and the other Dems urged much sharing when the minority Sunnis were ruling the roost, dictatorially.

I will say again what I keep saying: Iraqi Sunni Arabs are the most pampered minority on the planet. (When I said this last time, several people wrote in to say, “No–congressional Democrats.”)

‐You know how we on the right have been beating Bush up for ages on spending, and how many on the left have been doing it too? You know how Bush has been a drunken sailor, chastised by pretty much all sides? I always thought that, as soon as he tightened up a bit, he would be blasted as a heartless budget-cutter, willing to throw Grandma in the snow.

Well, whaddya know. I quote the AP report: “The House narrowly passed a plan to cut deficits by almost $40 billion over five years in legislation hailed by GOP conservatives as a sign their party was returning to fiscal discipline and assailed by Democrats as victimizing medical and education programs that help the poor.”


‐Do you remember this old National Review joke? If a tornado ripped through Manhattan, the headline in the New York Times the next day would be, “Tornado Devastates City–Blacks and Hispanics Hurt Most.”

Ha, ha, right? Never a ha-ha. A reader sent me this headline, over this story, at MSNBC.com: “Minorities suffer most from industrial pollution.”

Look, it may be true: I just couldn’t help being startled by the headline, in light of that old joke.

This story, by Scott Shepard of the Memphis Business Journal, may interest you: It’s about a National Guardsman who went to Iraq, saw a need for greater entrepreneurship–and did something about it. It’s the kind of story that lets you know that this is a remarkable country, the United States–or rather, it has some remarkable people in it, like this Guardsman, Wayne Culbreath.

I like to think that he is a typical American. But, almost certainly, there is no such thing.

‐Paul Johnson is about the boldest writer in the world, and also a great generalizer. In fact, his generalizing is linked to his boldness. He says what a lot of us think, but would shrink from writing. And in generalizing, he gets at truths–clear truths–however unfair-seeming he may be.

Let me give you an example, from his current Spectator column:

I have the impression that most PC advocates and enforcers in this country are women in their thirties or forties, with some education of a red-brick or white-tile nature, no longer young enough to be much interested in sex but old enough to have acquired a certain modest authority in their work, which is overwhelmingly in the state sector, and often unmarried or childless (a significant section of the rank-and-file is employed in making it difficult to adopt children, an area where PC rules are enforced with peculiar ferocity). I would also describe these women as unappealing physically, non-orgasmic, disapproving and fastidious by nature, embittered by personal misfortune or slights real or imaginary, overwhelmingly agnostic or atheist, women who in an earlier age might well have been nuns but are now fanatics for whom class warfare and hatred of Christianity form a fulfilling creed.

Sweeping, sweeping–and absolutely true-sounding.

‐But alas, I also found this in The Spectator, in a review of a book called Santa: A Life. It is worryingly deranged:

“Santa cannot even safely go home to the United States, where liberals would like him banned for breaching the constitutional divide between church and state, while neo-conservatives find he offends their religious beliefs.”

What the f…?

But then, we know Brits and their fantasies about (hook-nosed) neocons.

‐I will stay on the British theme, but more congenially: My congratulations–National Review’s congratulations, through me–to The Gramophone magazine on just publishing their thousandth issue. They were founded in 1923, by Compton Mackenzie, who lived on the Channel island of Herm. The Gramophone bills itself as “the world’s best classical-music magazine.” It’s hard to argue with them.

‐A lil’ letter for you:

“Jay, at our school Christmas assembly this a.m.–lots of carols and hymns (this is Georgia)–we had one jarring note. Apparently, it is now ‘don we now our bright apparel.’”

Yes, the loss of the word “gay”–very sad. I use it every chance I get (traditionally), especially in music criticism.

‐Another one, from a reader in Manhattan:

Mr. Nordlinger,

On my way to work today (I was on Lexington Ave. around 62nd St.) I overheard this guy saying how we helped Saddam kill all the people that he killed and that his elections were rigged just like ours. So I turned around and asked him, “If there were an election in this country between Saddam and Bush, who would you vote for?” Without any hesitation, he said Saddam. That is the face of today’s Democrats–so blinded by hatred of Bush that they’d rather have a mass-murdering tyrant as president than Bush.

Not in the least surprised.

‐The below is in response to my item yesterday about global warming as an all-purpose bogey:


I am managing the campaign for one of the Conservative candidates in the current Canadian election, and in that capacity I was at an all-candidates forum last week. There was a blizzard and on the way out I asked one of the NDP (socialist) candidates jokingly why his party had such a problem with global warming. He told me in a very serious tone that global warming was what caused weather like this.

I guess that Canada didn’t have cold and snowy winters before global warming came around.


‐Do you remember that item I had, about a month ago, expressing skepticism that bagel vendors, on the street, ever existed? (Long story, not worth getting into.) I received many, many letters about it, and would like to print a couple, for their charm. Here’s No. 1:

“Don’t know about the rest of the world, but I bought a bagel from a completely stoned young man running a Bagel Wagon in Athens, Ohio, c. 1986 one Halloween. Can’t recall his religious affiliation, but he was hitting on a young woman dressed as a ladybug, complete with a set of ersatz arms attached to her costume.”

Gosh, that letter struck me funny.

And here’s No. 2:

Mr. Nordlinger,

My great-grandfather was a bagel vendor in Reading, Pa. He had ovens in his basement where he made the bagels every day, and then he would put them on long sticks and sell them in the streets. Also, it used to be common in Jewish homes to see small statues or music boxes of bagel vendors. My grandparents had such an object, and my parents have one on a shelf right next to a statue of an old rabbi.

I offer you a picture of one (my parents’ is much nicer): here.

Thank you!

‐On a different subject, still charming:


Just an obituary in case you missed it.

Mike Austin died.

95 years old. World Long Driving Champion.

At age 64 (in 1974) in California playing with friends with a 20-mph tailwind Mike was challenged to try to make the green on a 450-yard par 4.

He didn’t make it. His ball came to rest 65 yards over the green. 515-yard drive. Still in Guinness Book. (Second is Davis Love at 476 yards.)

Now here is the punchline. Mike was using a balata ball … and a steel shaft … and a PERSIMMON driver.

Sometimes life is wonderful.

You betcha.

‐And, to end, some cute kids’ talk?

Dear Jay,

We were putting up our Christmas lights this weekend and my seven-year-old son said, “Look at the lights, they blinkle.” I thought about it, and, you know, maybe that should be the word, instead of “twinkle.” Lights blink, they don’t twink. So that is the word we will use in our house from now on.

Blinkle on, y’all.


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