I guess it’s no secret that I consider the Democratic party a nasty party–vile in its rhetoric, for example. This applies especially to issues of race and issues of national security (e.g., the Terror War).
I further believe that the very worst of the Democrats sit on the Judiciary Committee. This is not an original view, of course. Many have pointed out that this committee, dealing as it does with the most contentious issues, attracts the most biting of politicians. This goes for both parties.
Although I’m not sure that the Judiciary Republicans are such junkyard dogs. I mean, the chairman–Mr. Specter–is a kind of junkyard dog. But he’s as likely to attack conservatives as he is Democrats.
Please don’t get me wrong: I don’t contend that Republicans are angels, or that they always follow Emily Post. But I think back to the confirmation hearings of Stephen Breyer and Ruth Bader Ginsburg. Were the Republicans anything but civil? I don’t think so. An attitude of respect abided.
I think our feeling was: We now have a Democratic president, he has chosen qualified nominees, what can we do? Win elections, that’s what.
Look, I was just grateful that Clinton hadn’t nominated Ron Kuby or someone.
I have argued previously–at greatest length in this 2001 piece–that Senator Leahy of Vermont is the nastiest of all Democrats. What is it about Vermont? Shouldn’t they be all cuddly, what with their syrup, sweaters, and Pepperidge Farm cookies? But then consider Leahy and Dean.
Other Judiciary Democrats include Dick Durbin–the Pol Pot guy–Joe Biden, and Ted Kennedy. The worst face, or faces, of the Democratic party. You could argue, too, that they are the most representative: the purest Democrats, the heart and soul (such as they are) of the party.
By all reckoning, the Republicans should be on the ropes for next November. You got the sixth year of a presidency, you got Jack Abramoff–you got trouble. But then the nation has a chance to see these appalling Democrats in action, and we may–just may–scrape by.
‐What was the most underreported story of last year (besides progress in Iraq)? It was perhaps the Egyptian massacre of Sudanese that occurred on December 30. All that happened was this: Egyptian police assaulted a crowd of Sudanese refugees, people who had already fled mass murder in their home country. Estimates vary on how many were killed, but it was a lot. For more information, you may wish to see the website of the Institute on Religion and Democracy, in Washington, D.C. They do a world of good work.
Reading about these events, I couldn’t help thinking of the Sabra and Shatila massacres, in which “Christian” militias butchered Palestinian refugees. Israel was duly blamed. (As Prime Minister Begin remarked, “Goyim kill goyim, and they come to hang the Jews.”) That story dominated the front pages for–what? Two years? It seems to me the wallpaper of my youth.
Of course, many more Palestinians were killed by their Lebanese foes than Sudanese were killed by the Egyptians, apparently. But you better believe that if any Israelis had been anywhere near the Sudanese bloodbath, this would not be an underreported story. This would be an overreported–and almost certainly wrongly reported!–story.
Anyway . . .
‐Many readers have asked me to comment on the 15 Cubans who were recently sent back to Castro. Fleeing on a small, homemade boat, they reached a bridge in the Florida Keys. Only it wasn’t really a bridge: It was an “abandoned bridge piling,” as the AP account put it. (For that account, please go here.) Under America’s “wet foot, dry foot” policy, the Cubans were sent back–because they had not succeeded in reaching U.S. land.
To me, the most poignant paragraph in the AP story was this: “The Cubans thought they were safe . . . when they reached the Old Seven Mile Bridge. But the historic bridge, which runs side by side with a newer bridge, is missing several chunks, and the Cubans had the misfortune of reaching pilings from a section that no longer touches land.”
Well, readers have asked me to comment on this forcible return of 15 wretches to a vicious police state, where their punishment will be horrendous. I think you know what I think already: It’s disgusting and damnable and immoral, and Americans ought to be ashamed of it. If the Left hadn’t prettified the “Castro revolution” for the last 45 years, opinion leaders would be more sensitive to what Cuba is, and so would our country at large.
‐A reader sent me this story, and I think I’ll print it without comment. You may be especially interested in the second half of it.
A Hawaii Special Forces soldier was shot in the head during a firefight in Afghanistan and lived to tell an amazing story. The military honored Army Master Sgt. Suran Sar at Camp Smith with a Silver Star. The prestigious medal is the military’s fourth highest award.
Sar was leading a 12-member team on an aerial reconnaissance mission in March. When the two helicopters they were in landed, the soldiers came under attack. Sar jumped out and chased an enemy fighter into a bunker.
“As soon as I entered the door, the guy shot me first,” said Sar. “He shot at me three times. Two missed and one hit me in the head.”
The bullet left a hole in the right side of his helmet, but the 39-year-old only suffered a scratch and bump on his forehead. Sar kept fighting to help the rest of his team pinned down by gunfire. The soldiers secured the area and seized several weapons after the fierce fight.
“His actions under overwhelming direct enemy fire, even after receiving a head wound, were instrumental in securing the objective area and the survival of his fellow soldiers,” said Maj. Greg Kalua of Special Operations Command, Pacific.
Sar is from Cambodia. He became an American citizen in 1986 to seek a better life after leaving his war-torn country.
“I lost most of my family there, and nobody here can tell me what it’s like, the loss of freedom,” said Sar. “I don’t have kids, but when my kid comes out, I don’t want him to have to live like me when I grew up.”
After seeing his comrades killed in other battles, Sar is grateful to be alive.
“I’m not a religious man, but that was a turning point for me. I thank God he spared my life so I can come home to my wife,” he said.
This was Sar’s second tour of duty in Afghanistan. He also served in the first Gulf War.
‐Okay, some language. We all know the importance of words, and this lesson has been renewed in the current NSA/wiretapping brouhaha. “Spying” is the word one side likes (or, better, “domestic spying”); “surveillance” is a word favored by others, including me. See how sinister “spying” sounds? And how reasonable–how defensible, how justifiable–”surveillance” sounds?
And, goodness, if you can’t exercise surveillance over Qaedists and their contacts . . .
‐People are always misusing “fulsome”–they think it means “really full”–and I spotted another misuse in an AP story. The story concerned President Bush and Chancellor Merkel–and it stated, “Bush was fulsome in his praise of Merkel as smart, spirited, and ‘plenty capable.’”
“Fulsome” means “offensively flattering or insincere.” I doubt Bush was that.
Anyway . . .
‐I went to see the new King Kong, and was terribly disappointed: Wasn’t Naomi Watts supposed to be in bed with Laura Elena Harring? Oh, sorry, that was another movie . . .
‐I offer some music criticism from the New York Sun: For an appreciation of the late soprano Birgit Nilsson, please go here. For a review of the New York Philharmonic, conducted by Jonathan Nott, with the violinist Joshua Bell, guest soloist, please go here.
‐The great British writer and parliamentarian Michael Gove had a striking sentence, in this column: “England may no longer be the country where old maids cycle through the mist to morning communion, but . . .”
Isn’t that a lovely thought? Old maids cycling through the mist to morning communion? What a lovely country, too.
‐A reader made a fascinating point to me about the Olympics, and language: All male competitors are “men.” But some female competitors are “ladies,” and other female competitors are “women.” The figure skaters, of course, are “ladies.” And those who play ice hockey, of course, are “women.” And so on, through the long list of events. (You may wish to see NBC’s “Torino” site, here.)
As I said, fascinating!
‐Friends, I was going to romp through great names from the sports world, on the order of “Kevin Pittsnogle,” “Mookie Wilson,” and “Pooh Richardson.” (I started this in a previous Impromptus.) But I think I’ll save that for next time.
Let me close with a reader letter:
“Over the Christmas holidays [the what holidays?], my family and I went skiing in New Hampshire and visited relatives in Massachusetts. On returning to Northern Virginia, I noticed that we still have more cars here with Kerry/Edwards bumper stickers than they do in Kerry’s home state. I found that interesting.”
What the reader means is that Northern Virginia is home to many, many servants of the federal government. But he can take heart: Maryland is much worse!