Politics & Policy

A certain trio, &c.

If you will allow me to continue a theme from yesterday (Johnny One Note that I am): No one — no liberal commentator, not anyone — is saying that the Pennsylvania gubernatorial election is a test of that state’s racial maturity. No one is saying that Ohio’s gubernatorial election is a test of that state’s racial maturity. No one is saying that the Maryland senatorial election is a test of that state’s racial maturity.

#ad#And why? Because the mainstream media have stopped caring about race? Oh, no. Because the black candidates running in those states — Lynn Swann, Kenneth Blackwell, and Michael Steele — are all conservative Republicans. And if they were liberal Democrats: Don’t you think the media would be saying, at a minimum, what wonderful opportunities the people in those states have? I do.

Now, when those candidates lose — if they lose — I will not be ascribing racism, or racial immaturity, to Pennsylvanians, Ohioans, and Marylanders. But if the shoe were on the other foot? If those candidates were Democrats? What would the media say, in the event of their losses?

I will stop beating this horse (for the time being).

And race aside — two of the most beautiful words in the English language: “race aside” — Swann, Blackwell, and Steele are all superb men, and I hope the voters have the sense to put them in office.

I think if I could command the election of any three candidates this season, I would command the election of that trio — race, mercifully, aside.

‐A reader from Maryland wrote the following — terribly amusing, terribly painful, terribly true — letter:


This is an easy prediction, but it’s worth making: If the Democrats take both houses of Congress, Diebold machines could grow robotic legs and run out of the polls without making national news. But in every close GOP win, voting-machine security will become an issue.

Here in Maryland, there are only two possible headlines on November 8: “Despite Irregularities, Steele Claims Senate Win”; and “Cardin Victory Seen as Iraq Repudiation, Harbinger of ’08.” 

‐Yesterday, I saw this headline — a real headline — and inwardly groaned: “Bush Campaigns for GOP in Rural Georgia.” If the Republican president is campaigning in rural Georgia on the eve of election . . .

That ain’t good news, my beloved fellow elephants.

‐In yesterday’s Impromptus, I said I had “no doubt” that Kerry was referring to President Bush in his infamous remarks — was saying that Bush was stupid and therefore “stuck in Iraq.” Some readers have asked me why I feel so sure.

Well, maybe I’m dumb — stuck in Iraq, so to speak! — but to me it is simply inconceivable that Kerry would have insulted the troops in that fashion, in that setting. He is a very good politician. He has been elected and reelected to the Senate a million times. He won the presidential nomination of a major party. But for a few tens of thousands of votes in one state (Ohio), he would be president today. That is not the record of a bad politician, in my opinion.

If the definition of a good politician is “must have been elected president,” very few people qualify.

A lot of Americans think Kerry feels contempt for the military, or at least condescension toward it. Okay: but would he express that feeling at a campaign stop?

What is absolutely clear is that Kerry has complete contempt for Bush: He thinks he’s dumb and unworthy of the office. As far as I can tell, Kerry feels superior to most everybody. And when you see Kerry’s prepared text — I guess you would have to accept it as authentic — you can see precisely what Kerry meant: Bush is stupid, he has always been a slacker, that left him unprepared to lead in Iraq, blah, blah, blah.

Bush-is-stupid is a constant refrain of Democrats, and of liberals, and of Kerry.

Here I must repeat something I said yesterday: Just because I don’t believe Kerry meant to insult the troops, doesn’t mean I find his comments less than despicable. You see, unlike many liberals, and not a few conservatives, I don’t hate President Bush. On the contrary, I admire him very much. And I think what Kerry said about him is absolutely disgusting. Furthermore, I take offense: because if you insult a person that way — so crass, so vulgar — you insult his admirers as well.

I don’t think Kerry told a “botched” joke; I don’t think he was issuing a “criticism” of the president; I think he was incredibly nasty. Kerry didn’t have to mean the troops, rather than Bush, to be an SOB.

You know?

And Kerry’s response — his initial reaction to the uproar — was as nasty as anything. I will focus on two points: He referred to Rush as “doughy Rush Limbaugh.” It says a lot about Kerry that he would mock another man’s physical appearance. Kerry may be thin, but that doesn’t make him good, or smart, or admirable.

He also referred to the president’s foreign policy as “a Katrina foreign policy.” I guess he is using that phrase regularly. I find that a crude, almost thuggish rhetorical trick. It is the verbal equivalent of a Herblock cartoon.

And you know what it reminded me of — or rather, whom? Bella Abzug. In the early Reagan administration, she liked to go around talking about the president’s “Rambo-Bonzo foreign policy.” (Or maybe it was “Bonzo-Rambo” — I forget.)

For the benefit of the young, ignorant, or forgetful, Reagan once made a movie called Bedtime for Bonzo; Bonzo was a chimp. And Rambo was a kind of super-warrior, played by Sylvester Stallone in the movies.

Frankly, Abzug’s description of Reagan’s foreign policy made more sense than does Kerry’s of George W. Bush’s. Both pretty much stink, though.

By the way, do you remember what Reagan did, when asked to sign a still from Bedtime for Bonzo — him with the chimp? He wrote, “I’m the one with the watch. Sincerely, Ronald Reagan.”

Lord, how I loved him. And GWB will be seen aright too, when passions cool.

‐The Saudi ambassador in Washington, Prince Turki, was jabbing the U.S., for its support of Israel. (A story is here.) He says, in essence, that we have to throw Israel to the jackals, and then we’ll be better liked. Well, of course we would be. Said Turki, “It is no secret that U.S. standing in the Middle East is at an all-time low.”

Okay: Everybody cares about America’s standing in the Middle East (or at least comments on it). Does anyone care — anywhere — that the Muslim world’s standing in the U.S. has never been lower?

I didn’t think so. But it would be super if someone considered that question, just once, ever, somewhere. I would die and go to heaven if an Arab official or intellectual asked, “What can we do to improve our standing on the American street?” Don’t wait up nights, for that question to be asked.

‐I’ve got lots more for you, folks — obscene amounts, backlogged amounts — but I’ve huffed and puffed enough. I’ll check in with you tomorrow. Now, let’s have a little music.

For my October piece in The New Criterion, please go here. It’s a summation of this year’s Salzburg Festival, and includes remarks about Maurizio Pollini, Alfred Brendel, Lang Lang, Anna Netrebko, Nikolaus Harnoncourt, and “a host of others,” as they say in golf broadcasting.

And hey: Size up the November New Criterion — which seems damn, and characteristically, good — here.

‐Want a little language? We often talk about the mysteries of English, in this column — and how a foreigner ever learns to pronounce it. In a letter to me, a reader wrote of a well-known routine by Gallagher, the (one-named) comedian: Consider good vs. food; laughter vs. daughter; comb vs. tomb vs. bomb; and — best of all — go vs. do.

Yes, go vs. do — that takes the cake.

‐Finally, let me say how much I enjoyed being at Stetson University last week. Stetson is in DeLand, Fla., and, yes, the name relates to the hat. (John B. Stetson made ’em.) DeLand is a lovely town, retaining some of old Florida, with stately homes, and stately trees with moss hanging from them.

And the St. Johns River is a treat. I had a wonderful tour of it (or on it, I guess I should say). Saw only a couple of gators, because the weather was cool. But I saw the most striking blue herons you’ll ever encounter.

Even more striking were the students at Stetson: bright, friendly, winning. I would like to matriculate right now and join them. I am especially impressed with College Republicans — on whatever campus they are — because I think they’re markedly brave (and independent and, obviously, nonconformist). They also seem to have a happiness about them. It seems to me that College Republicans have a good deal of fun — like the free-spirited nuns who snicker behind Mother Superior’s back.

I didn’t meet only with political types; I visited a composition class — by which I mean a music-composition class. Those students were a joy, and so were their teachers.

On the Big Evening, WFB and I did our dog-and-pony show upon the stage — actually, I was the dog, and Bill was more like a brilliant stallion. The audience was as appreciative of him as any audience of taste would be. Bill Buckley spreads light and good feeling wherever he goes. I am occasionally afforded the thrill of reflected glory.

If you’d like to read articles about this “show,” go here and here. The first is from the Daytona Beach News-Journal; the second is from the Orlando Sentinel.

The food in DeLand? Excellent, of course. You’ll get classic grub at Sherry’s, and you can griddle your own pancakes at the Spanish Sugar Mill, down by the old swimming hole (which is pretty spiffed up, now).

I simply loved hanging with my friends Martha, Marian, Suzie, Sarah, et al. If you do DeLand with them, you’ve done it perfectly.

And I’ll see you all — Floridians and non- — tomorrow.

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