Politics & Policy

What’s in a Headline? &C.

The headline over a recent Richard Cohen column said everything: “Bush Wanted War.” I would so like to read the headline “Bush Thought War Was Necessary.” But I’m afraid we will never read that headline: because the media at large really, really want Bush to have wanted war.

#ad#And when he says he did not want war, they go a little nutso. “Just admit it!” they scream, if only in their reports and columns. But Bush will not admit it, because it isn’t so. He thought war necessary, yes (and so did I, and so did many others).

But wanting? What an accusation. Does anyone want radical surgery? No, but many come to the grim determination that it’s necessary.

You know this elementary lesson, my friends, but sometimes we repeat them here. Elementary lessons, I mean.

‐This relates to a discussion we’ve had many times. (Indeed, it’s the same discussion.) The word “pro-war”–to describe those who are supportive of a certain war–is a real misfortune. It would be better to say “pro-action,” or something. But then you get into real lexical clumsiness.

Same with “anti-immigration.” Those who favor serious restrictions on immigration are called “anti-immigration.” Well, there, at least you have “restrictionist.” Should we talk of the restrictionists versus the lenients?

Everyone is “pro-immigration,” to a certain extent. The question is what the extent is. Indeed, we’re all restrictionists, unless we favor absolutely open borders, and very few Americans favor those.

And, hey: Let’s not even get into abortion-related terminology! (I remember hearing Gary Bauer inveigh against “the pro-aborts”–this was years ago. Got my blood stirring. I use it now and then, in certain company.)

‐Concerning the beginning of the above item: I imagine I’ll get mail from lots of Impromptus-ites–male–who’ll say, “Oh, I’m ‘pro-action,’ all right!”

Well, I’ve said it for you!

‐In a recent column, I remarked on the decision of the New Mexico Democratic party to call for President Bush’s impeachment. I said (approximately), “Why is it that Democrats don’t pay a steeper price for their kookery–or any price at all?”

A friend of mine wrote and said, “Well, what about New Mexico’s governor, Bill Richardson?” Yes, known as an eminently sane Democrat, a real mod (as in “moderate”).

But, the other day, the gov said, “The planet is saying something to us with Katrina and the tsunami. It’s saying we’re not treating it very well.”

Oh, is that what the planet is saying? Well here’s what I’m saying, Bill: Grow up! (With apologies to Joan Rivers.)

‐Another friend of mine heard Newt speak recently (and when you say “Newt,” you don’t have to supply a last name). My friend said, “When you hear him speak, you think, ‘He really should be president. He ought to be president. He is just a wonder.’”

I know that feeling well. In the mid-1990s, I heard him speak at an event in Washington, and I thought, “You know–he deserves to be House speaker. He ought to be. Thank goodness he is–perfect man for the job.”

But then . . .

Look, we’ll have loads of time for ‘08 presidential politics, and maybe even a little time for psychologizing (although I don’t claim to be very good at it). First the (dread) ‘06 midterms.

(“Dread for whom?” a Democrat may well ask, with glee!)

‐Shall we analyze a Letterman Top Ten List, recited a couple of weeks ago? The subject is “Top Ten Reasons Dick Cheney Won’t Resign,” and the first given is, “Trying to fix up Condi Rice with his daughter.”

I see. Is this the way it’s going to be, if Condi throws her hat in the ring, come ‘08? Starting a little early, aren’t we?

I understand that Letterman is merely a late-night comedian, and that his business is joking. But, back in the ’70s, they used to say that Johnny Carson was pretty much the most important political commentator in America.

‐If there were a contest for The Perfect New Yorker Letter, I believe I would enter this one, from the March 20 issue. Behold:

[Presidential speechwriter] Michael Gerson was apparently amused that no one at the New York Times “seemed to know” that he was using a portion of the Sermon on the Mount in one of President Bush’s speeches, but he seemed to forget or overlook the other admonitions made by Jesus in this sermon: that men be peacemakers and seek righteousness, justice, and mercy. If the parishioners of the Falls Church were being bombed, shelled, and tortured like the residents of Iraq, perhaps Gerson could remember the entire sermon.

Yes, the perfect New Yorker letter–packed with as much misunderstanding as you could muster in two sentences.

Two!

‐I liked very much what John McWhorter had to say at the end of his recent interview with U.S. News & World Report. (McWhorter is a scholar at the Manhattan Institute.) Asked the magazine, “Could you make these [conservative] arguments if you were white?” Answered McWhorter, “No, if I weren’t black it would be much harder, and I wouldn’t have so many people listening, so I’m glad I’m black because it gives me a path to tell the truth.”

‐Care for a little music? For a review of the Metropolitan Opera’s new production of Donizetti’s Don Pasquale, published in the New York Sun, please go here.

‐In the last several columns, we’ve been talking about St. Paul and the Easter Bunny. (When I say “we,” I’m not being royal–I’ve published some reader comments on the matter.) In Minneapolis’s twin city, the “human-rights director,” as you know, has banned Easter decorations from City Hall: the bunny, colored eggs, and the like.

(Can I say “colored”?)

One of the points I made, early on, was, “What in the world has happened to the term ‘human-rights’?” It used to mean freedom from torture and so on. Now it means . . . whatever an affirmative-action officer in Minnesota wants it to mean? E.g., freedom from Easter eggs?

A reader wrote to say, “Jay, talk about the dumbing down of ‘human rights’”–and then he supplied this article. Its headline: “High-Tech Alarm Silenced by Human Rights Concerns.” The first couple of paragraphs:

Police say a high-tech alarm audible only to young people under 20, which has dramatically cut unruly behavior outside a British shop, must be switched off over fears it infringes human rights.

The alarm, dubbed “Mosquito,” emits an irritating high-pitched pulse that most people under 20 can hear but almost nobody over 30 can.

The Spar grocery shop in Newport, South Wales, says since the device was installed earlier this year, disruptive behavior has plunged by 84 percent outside the premises.

However, citing concerns over human rights violations, activists have swatted the “Mosquito,” incurring the wrath of the shop’s managers in the process.

Interesting.

‐A reader sends me a note under the heading “Regarding Easter stupidity”:

Jay,

I complained at the information desk of my local mall recently because the signs advertising the arrival of the Easter Bunny didn’t include the word “Easter” anywhere. What the heck does “Have your picture taken with the bunny” mean without mentioning that it’s an EASTER bunny?

Sheesh.

Sheesh is right!

‐I have received much mail concerning Secretary Rumsfeld–almost all of it glowing, incidentally, and almost all of it from the military–and I would like to share a letter here:

My brother, a captain in the National Guard, recently returned from Iraq. His unit, which provided security for convoys originating in Kuwait and traveling to any and all parts of Iraq, had one casualty–a soldier who lost an arm to an IED. While at Walter Reed, the injured soldier was having a conversation with a general and mentioned–somewhat in jest–that he wanted Rumsfeld to deliver his Purple Heart.

Well, the next day, who shows up in his hospital room–without security or photogs–but Rumsfeld? Rummy sat and talked with the soldier and his mother, who happened to be there, for about 45 minutes.

My brother says that the vast majority of the soldiers would crawl through broken glass for either Bush or Rumsfeld. What Rumsfeld did for that soldier–that simple act of kindness–was heartfelt. It cannot make up for the loss of a limb, but it says something about the secretary of defense and how he thinks about the men who serve under him.

‐Reader says,

Jay, how about a little language and a little music at the same time? I’m watching Fox News Channel, and there’s footage from a Paris riot with the heading “French police use tear gas and water canons . . .”

Water canons, huh? A follow-up to Handel’s Water Music?

Cute.

‐Some politicking?

Jay,

Here in Long Beach, Calif., there’s a woman named Stephanie Loftin who is running for city council. Thought you might enjoy what her campaign sign says: “Vote Early, Vote Loftin.”

‐Referring to my column on Friday, the NRO homepage promised comments on “Carter, Chirac, and the Easter Bunny.” A reader wrote, “I realized I believed in the third more than in the first two!”

‐Finally, friends, may I remind you of our party–the big NR/NRO shindig–in Houston, Wednesday evening? Details here.

Be good, y’all.

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