Politics & Policy

The point of preemption, &c.

President Bush marked the end of the daily fast during the Islamic holy month of Ramadan Monday night by honoring Muslims living in the United States and Islamic nations that are helping in the War on Terror.

Bush has hosted an Iftar dinner annually for the last six years in the State Dining Room. This year, he opened with the traditional Ramadan greeting of “Ramadan Karim” and praised Islam for bringing “hope and comfort to more than a billion people around the world.”

Um, how many anti-Muslim leaders do you know who host Iftar dinners? How many anti-Muslim leaders greet crowds with “Ramadan Karim”? How many anti-Muslim leaders praise Islam for bringing “hope and comfort to more than a billion people around the world”?

Can there be an end to propaganda alleging that Bush is anti-Muslim? How many people in the Middle East, and elsewhere in Islamdom, will hear of these dinners he has been hosting? For example: Will — did — Al Jazeera broadcast the news?

Thus ends my smidgeon of commentary.

Uh, no, one more word: How many anti-Muslim leaders free millions of Muslims from two of the worst tyrannies imaginable?

Okay, now I’m really done.

‐But not with Saddam Hussein: Responding to courtroom testimony against him, the ex-dictator said, “The Zionists are the only ones who will benefit from the differences among Iraqis.” Funny, he talks like many people we know here, left and right, in the Western world . . .

‐And, in another session, what did Saddam say — or rather, cry out (before he was escorted from the courtroom, as he has often been)? He shouted a verse from the Koran: “Fight them and God will punish them.”

Funny, but we’ve been told, over and over, that bad old secular Saddam has nothing — nothing — to do with religion and all that Qaedist jazz. Nothing.

Right?

‐It may be too much to speak of a war on the Boy Scouts, but they are certainly being . . . hampered. A couple of items: In Berkeley, Calif., “a Scouts sailing group lost free use of a public marina because the Boy Scouts bar atheists and gays.” (I’m quoting from a news story.) Okay, that’s Berkeley — Berserkley, whatever.

In Connecticut, “officials dropped the group from a list of charities that receive donations from state employees through a payroll deduction plan.”

Okay, that’s Connecticut, land of nutmeg and nutters.

And in Philadelphia? “The city is threatening to evict a Boy Scout council from the group’s publicly owned headquarters or make the group pay rent unless it changes its policy on gays.”

Just a little more quoting: “On a separate matter, federal judges in two other court cases that are being appealed have ruled that government aid to [the Scouts] is unconstitutional because the [organization] requires members to swear an oath of duty to God.”

Etc.

No, it’s too much to speak of a war on the Scouts. But should I say “too much” or “too early”? Will there come a day when the Scouts will be some kind of underground organization?

These are weird times, my friends.

‐You’ve heard my griping about Warren Buffett, Bill Gates Sr., and all those other richies — the richies who glory in the estate tax: If they want to disinherit their children, be my guest. But why should they impose their view of parenting on the rest of us? Why can’t other parents make other choices?

Well, add Bill Clinton to the list of richies. Campaigning in Nevada the other day, he said — of us bad old Republicans — “They may think I should be able to give Chelsea every nickel, but I don’t.”

Well, he’s welcome to give Chelsea whatever he wants, as far as I’m concerned — including nothing. Good for the girl. Whatever. But why does he have to confiscate and redirect the wealth that others have painstakingly earned?

‐In other Clinton news, we understand that Senator Hillary has taken to wearing a cross. Nixon used to say that you could tell Ted Kennedy was running for president when he slimmed down. And speaking of harbingers of presidential runs . . .

‐May I lay some music on you? For the September New Criterion — 25th-anniversary issue — I wrote a piece called “Who’s Good?” This was an audacious, rather arrogant exercise, surveying the world of music and determining . . . well, who was good. You may enjoy the article, if only to argue with it, or produce your own.

At any rate, you may find the piece here.

‐And how about some reviews published in the New York Sun?

For reviews of a trio concert and a recital by Susanna Andersson, soprano, go here. The trio was composed of Maxim Vengerov, violin; Lilya Zilberstein, piano; and Alisa Weilerstein, cello.

For a review of the Met Chamber Ensemble — with Elliott Carter and James Levine at its center — go here.

For a review of the Philadelphia Orchestra, conducted by Christoph Eschenbach, with André Watts, piano soloist, go here.

For a review of the Boston Symphony Orchestra, under Levine, with Daniel Barenboim, piano soloist, go here.

And for reviews of Mozart’s Magic Flute at the Met, and a New York Philharmonic concert under Lorin Maazel, go here.

That’s more than enough!

‐By the way, you know Muhammad Yunus, the winner of the Nobel Peace Prize? A friend of mine wrote me to say, “You know Monica Yunus, the soprano whom you mentioned in your review of The Magic Flute? She’s his daughter!”

I’ll be damned.

‐Let me give you another musical note — although not really: In an early-October review of Gounod’s Faust, I mentioned that the Méphistophélès, in a certain act, looked like “Billy Munster,” the kid on the sitcom. An Impromptus reader wrote me to say, “Jay, you idiot, that was Eddie Munster!” (He used much nicer language.)

I was abashed and appalled. So when I wrote my correction, I said that for an American to forget a Munster’s name was like forgetting Lincoln’s. Which was Ezekiel, of course.

‐Well, you’ve been real nice to hang around. Let me leave you with a cultural note — another one! Picture the scene: You’re in a restaurant across from Lincoln Center. You walk in with Bill Buckley and, as you go to your table, you pass Mr. T and his entourage. Yes, Mr. T (as in, “I pity the fool”). Two cultural icons, brushing shoulders in a restaurant. I mean, it was sort of like Goethe and Beethoven, walking in Vienna . . .

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