Politics & Policy

Remember The Titanic! &C.

No one likes to say “I told you so,” but . . . (Well, yes, we do, but skip that.) A couple of weeks ago, there was talk of a White House staff shakeup. Should Bush do it or not? I was on the radio, with one of the Great Ones–Bill Bennett. He said, “How about it?” I said, “I don’t think so. You look panicky, it looks gimmicky. You’ll appease your critics for five minutes, tops. Then they’ll say, ‘It’s not enough, they’re rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic,’ etc., etc.”

I had to smile, then, when I read this comment from Senator Schumer, after the Bolten-not-Card deal: “The good news is the administration has finally realized it needs to change its ways. But the problems go far deeper than one staffer. Simply rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic by replacing Andy Card with Josh Bolten without a dramatic change in policy will not right this ship.”

Right on cue, Chuck.

So, my little lesson: Make changes if you think they’ll help you, if you think they’re right. But to appease critics? Puh-leeze, as some say.

‐No, I was not trying to be cute when I put “Card” in proximity to “deal.” In fact, I should go back and change it, but I’m a bit lazy at the moment.

‐Regular readers know that I have sort of sworn off Carter commentary. For years, I observed this ex-president, analyzed him, agonized over him. Then I said, “I ain’t studyin’ that boy no mo’,” as a friend of mine used to say (about me, as it happens). Still, every once in a while, Carter really provokes you, and you can’t help yourself.

Most recently, he said about our efforts in Iraq, “It was a completely unnecessary war. It was an unjust war.” An unjust war? I’d never heard that one.

You can call the Iraq War many things, but I don’t believe that “unjust” is one of them. Consider the security threat. (Would it have been just to leave Saddam in power, driving toward his annihilative goals?) And consider Saddam’s record. Carter is supposed to be a human-rights guy. Okay: With Saddam gone, there are no more children’s prisons, no more rape rooms, no more Uday and Qusay. There’s no more cutting out of tongues for dissent. There’s no more putting of men into industrial shredders, feet first, so as to hear their screams. And so on.

To my knowledge, Carter has never said a word about the blessing of Saddam Hussein’s removal, or the Taliban’s removal. He has just carped and snipped. I’m tempted to say, “It’s so sad.” But Carter ought to be held to a higher standard: He’s not a drooling old fool. The better response is, “It’s an outrage.”

‐Nice that Amr Moussa–secretary general of the Arab League, and exemplar of the Old Arab Establishment–is calling for Arabs to “enter the nuclear club.” Arab states without nuclear means is exactly what’s wrong with the world. Nice, too, that the Arab League held its recent meeting in Khartoum, capital of a genocidal regime.

Anyway . . .

‐On to a lighter topic–Jacques Chirac, the hand-kissing president of France. (I’m thinking of Condoleezza Rice’s hand, in particular.) Did you see the story about his walking out of the room, at an EU meeting, when a French businessman said he would speak in English, “the language of business”? (The AP’s account is here.) Yes: President Chirac could not abide to hear English words, at least out of a Frenchman’s month.

But never, ever forget: It’s America that is chauvinist, ethnocentric, insular, xenophobic, intolerant, and just plain bad. Never, ever forget that.

When Chirac was at Arafat’s bedside: I wonder what language they spoke. Tongues aside, they definitely understood each other.

‐I’d like to call your attention to a speech that Donald Rumsfeld gave in Pennsylvania, on Monday–here. It was a clear speech, and confident, and hard-hitting. I keep asking, as you may know, for spirited defenses of the war (from those who support it). Well, Rumsfeld delivered one, as he has delivered many.

He was unambiguous about the nature of our enemy–their brutality, their savagery, their inhumanity. (Also their implacability.) These are not the kind of people you should want to turn populations over to. And he was unambiguous in taking on the administration’s critics. He said, “In today’s debate, probably the most significant division is between those who realize that we are, in fact, a nation at war, and those who do not realize that fact.”

Rumsfeld is a realizer–really, a realist.

‐The news out of Albania? Not good. Muslims in the (beautiful) city of Shkoder don’t want a statue of Mother Teresa because . . . she was not a Muslim. The last thing Albania needs, as it struggles to regain life, after decades in the dungeon, is religious strife.

Mother Teresa was a daughter of Albania of whom every citizen should be proud. Or so I think, in my innocent, Michigan way.

‐I like a Bush quip, and I missed one, made while the president was eulogizing Coretta Scott King: “It may be your lucky day. I’ve lost a page.”

UPDATE AND CORRECTION: Sorry, guys, that wasn’t the current Bush, as I’d thought. That was Bush 41. I like a GHWB quip, too!

‐Reconcilable Differences.” She said exactly what I would have hoped to say–right-on. About Harris in particular, and running for office in general.

‐A word about Lyn Nofziger? Just a word: David Brinkley once said, on television, “He always looks like an unmade bed.” And I was nuts about him–a Reaganaut to cherish.

‐Caspar Weinberger, I admired immensely, as longtime readers know. He was quite an important figure to me, actually, as I was developing, politically. I could go on at length–but I went on at some length in a review of Cap’s autobiography, which I will simply point you to, if you’re interested: here.

‐In a couple of recent columns, I’ve written about City Hall in St. Paul, where the “human-rights director” ordered a secretary to take down Easter decorations–”offensive to non-Christians,” you know. More like, offensive to the insane.

Anyway, a beautiful thing has happened: According to the AP, “Marshmallow Peeps have been multiplying outside City Hall as a symbol of protest over last week’s decision to evict the Easter Bunny. A handful of employees have placed the spongy chick- and rabbit-shaped candies around a City Hall statue of American Indians, along with two signs that temporarily rename the ‘Vision of Peace’ statue as the ‘Vision of Peeps.’”

Isn’t that fantastic? But you know what else I learned from that article? “It’s not the first time a holiday symbol has been removed from City Hall. In 2001, red poinsettias were briefly banned from a holiday display because they were associated with Christmas.”

No red poinsettias, because they’re associated with Christmas! Ay, caramba!

(I hope it doesn’t make me an evil Anglo that I didn’t put the upside-down exclam. before the “Ay.”)

‐A reader said he was “surprised to learn from Impromptus a few days back that the city in which I live and pay taxes employs a human-rights director.” So, he checked it out, going to the St. Paul website. He found that the Human Rights Department “is divided into two units.” “The Investigative Unit investigates complaints of discrimination within the boundaries of the City of Saint Paul.” And “the Contract Compliance Unit helps City contractors increase the number of women and people of color in their workforces.”

I’m sure. Also, at the website, you can buy “Prejudice Isn’t Welcome” posters, pins, mugs, T-shirts, and sweatshirts. You can also peruse the “Prejudice Isn’t Welcome” reading list, and take the “Prejudice Isn’t Welcome” pledge.

Go crazy.

‐Letter from a reader: “Last year, my son’s elementary-school class (public school) celebrated spring by creating a bunny-rabbit craft piece. The school sent home a note to parents stating that this object was not an Easter Bunny but a Spring Bunny.”

I’m sure.

I shouldn’t say “Ay, caramba!” again, and I think I’m out of Spanish expressions. No, here’s one: Jesús, María y José! (Or do I have the wrong order?) (I’m certainly on the wrong side of the St. Paul human-rights director.)

‐Conservatives have been telling “Can you believe what the European Union has done now?” stories for as long as I can remember. (Well, I can remember before the EU, but barely.) I’m pretty blasé about screwy edicts from Brussels these days. But even I had to rub my eyes a little when I heard about the ban on pipe organs (lead in the pipes) (no, not in the pencil). A musician friend–no right-winger–told me about this, with angry wonder.

To read an article on the subject, go here.

‐Met a major French businessman the other day. When I asked him where he was from, he hesitated just a little, which I thought was odd. Then he said, “Vichy.”

I felt sorry for him, and for his townsmen. Imagine your home city, associated eternally with ignominy. Well, maybe not eternally.

In addition, my new friend told me something fascinating: Vichyssoise, our soup, has nothing to do with Vichy–is unheard of there. It is, indeed, “our” soup–an American invention (or at least a non-French one).

Bizarre.

‐Please have a little music criticism, from the New York Sun. For a review of Lorin Maazel, conducting the New York Philharmonic et al. in the Verdi Requiem, please go here. For a review of the Orpheus Chamber Orchestra, with percussionist Evelyn Glennie, soloist, please go here. For a review of the London Philharmonic Orchestra, under Yan Pascal Tortelier, with pianist Garrick Ohlsson, soloist, please go here.

Thank you.

‐A little language? Let’s have Thomas Sowell do it. In a typically stringent column, he writes,

We can’t even call illegal immigrants “illegal immigrants.” The politically correct evasion is “undocumented workers.”

Do American citizens go around carrying documents with them when they work or apply for work? Most Americans are undocumented workers but they are not illegal immigrants. There is a difference.

The Bush administration is pushing a program to legalize “guest workers.” But what is a guest? Someone you have invited. People who force their way into your home without your permission are called gate crashers.

If truth-in-packaging laws applied to politics, the Bush guest worker program would have to be called a “gate-crasher worker” program.

And so on. RTWT. (Read the Whole Thing.)

‐And let’s let Mark Steyn give us some language. In a Macleans column, he writes, “[Canada is] currently at No. 32 on the hit parade of UN peacekeeping deployments, below not just the Great Satan (31) but also Benin (30), which I, with my typical dead-white-male Eurocentric arrogance, had assumed was the kind of Afro-Marxist basket case to which you deploy UN peacekeepers.”

The phrase “Afro-Marxist”–even forgetting the “basket case”–made my entire day.

‐A reader wanted to weigh in on my discussion of “butcher”/”butcherer”:

Hi, Jay!

For the man who’s a mass murderer: “butcherer”; for the man who slaughters animals designed for human consumption: “butcher”; for (in most cases) “the man in the apron who sells you your lamb chops,” as you put it: “meat-cutter.”

As a youth, I worked at a store that sold meat. In marveling at his talent at using a knife, I once said to the man in the apron, “Larry, you sure are a good butcher.” He immediately stopped and explained to me in no uncertain terms that he was not a butcher, that he did not kill animals, that he was in fact a meat-cutter. He then proudly produced his meat-cutter’s certificate to reinforce this distinction to a startled, now suddenly less ignorant 14-year-old!

‐Finally, I wanted to provide a link to my piece yesterday on Sujiatun, the place in China where practitioners of Falun Gong are allegedly being penned and killed, so that their organs can be harvested. That piece is here. I will have more to say on this matter later.

I hate to end an Impromptus–especially a Friday one, somehow–on a gloomy note. But life on earth isn’t necessarily a ha-ha, is it?

See you.

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