Politics & Policy

Our DSM? &c.

The Kerry remarks, of course, have been a big deal in Conservative World (where I live, and where a good many of my nearest and dearest live). But I wonder whether the remarks are a big deal in the world at large.

Yesterday, I had this thought: To the Left, the Downing Street Memo was — maybe still is — a huge, huge deal. They even abbreviated it: DSM. (The same way we abbreviate mainstream media: MSM.) The DSM was to bring down the president.

And I have a feeling that many conservatives, if confronted with the issue, would have to ask, “What’s the Downing Street Memo?” (Answer: Not much.)

In the summer of 2004 or ’05 — I forget which — an American lady came up to me at the Salzburg Festival. Knowing I was a journalist, she said, “So, will Bush be impeached?” And I stammered, “Uh, no, I don’t think so, ma’am. Over what?” And she looked at me like I was a complete idiot and said, “You know: the Downing Street Memo.”

Anyway, my thought: Is Kerrygate, for us, what the DSM is, or was, for the Left?

Whatever the case, Kerry proved himself utterly nasty, and, contrary to his own apparent view of himself, none too smart.

‐ How about this school-bus driver who gave President Bush the finger? She was fired, and is now appealing through the union. An AP article is here.

I think a couple of things about this: 1) She should have been fired, because she delivered her bird while transporting children. (They were waving at the president!) 2) The school district made clear that it didn’t matter that the target of the bird was the president; all that mattered was the giving of the bird on the job, in front of children — quite right. 3) The president should probably say the lady shouldn’t have been fired — magnanimity and all.

And 4) I wanted to tell you a story. Actually, Ed Koch’s story. The former mayor of New York was telling some of us NR-niks about the time he picked up President Reagan at La Guardia Airport.

In the streets of New York, many people were cheering Reagan, and all of a sudden Reagan says to Koch, “Hey, did you see that guy who gave me the finger?” And Koch replies, “Mr. President, all these people are expressing their admiration for you, and you see one guy who gives you the finger?” Reagan says, “That’s what Nancy says: I always see the guy with the finger.”

I love that story. And I try not to see — or to see only — the guy with the finger. (This applies to my reader mail!)

(I thought of the Koch story after a public appearance not long ago. One guy, or gal, had hissed at me. Many others had been awfully friendly. But the hisser stayed with me.)

‐ In a recent NR, I had a piece called “‘Poll Tax!’ They Cried.” It was about the federal Voter ID Bill, and the Democrats’ treatment of it. (They cry . . . well, you know what.)

In an article two days ago — here — I read the following about Al Sharpton:

He also criticized Indiana’s new voter ID law, which will be tested in a general election for the first time next Tuesday. He compared it to poll taxes and other barriers to voting that blacks have faced.

“Now we don’t ask you, ‘Did your granddaddy vote?’ when you know your granddaddy was a slave. We ask you for identification that we know large percentages of you would not have, given the social circumstances beyond your control,” Sharpton said.

Do black Americans like having a leader who considers them helpless, hapless sheep? Who implies that they can’t drive a car, or board a plane, or enter a government building, or apply for Medicare, or do anything else that requires a photo ID?

I don’t believe it.

Then why is Sharpton always on center stage?

‐ In the new NR — which will be available in digital form here — I have a piece on a few composers, including . . . Paul McCartney. He dabbles in classical music some, and he has a new oratorio called Ecce Cor Meum (meaning, “Behold My Heart”).

I wanted to make a little point to you here in Impromptus. The oratorio is recorded, of course — this is McCartney — and the CD booklet contains an essay by a man named Peter Quantrill.

He writes,

The final day of [recording] sessions . . . is due to start in ten minutes but, upstairs, Oxford and Cambridge schoolboys are still playing cards, listening to iPods and flicking through the day’s Guardian newspaper. One boy leaves the paper open at “US launches biggest Iraq air assault since 2003” and goes downstairs to sing “Peace and love are our true nature, love is all.”

Apparently, Mr. Quantrill thinks that’s a big yuk. I wonder whether he would ask why the U.S. is launching air assaults. And the answer is: to defeat such people as behead, bomb, and terrorize; and torture, rape, and gas. To defeat such people as have taken their cues from the German fascists, whom Churchill had to defeat, amid the condemnation and accusation of many — many in his own country.

Mr. Quantrill should not imagine that peace and love reigned in Iraq before the U.S. and its allies went there with their air assaults. He wouldn’t have wanted to live in Saddam Hussein’s Iraq.

And I have a question: If that Guardian had fallen open to news about the latest jihadist beheading, or Khartoum’s assault on Darfur, or Beijing’s persecution of the Falun Gong, would Mr. Quantrill have written about that?

One more question: How many CD booklets, and other musical writings, do you know that have been spoiled by sniffy political comments? Not a few, I bet.

I try not to commit the sin too often myself!

‐ Okay, speaking of my musical writings: For a review of Gidon Kremer, violin, and Krystian Zimerman, piano, published in the New York Sun, please go here.

‐ A reader wanted to share the “defining moment” for him — the moment when he became a conservative.

It was in the early ’70s, and I was in high school. I grew up in a small town near Chicago with only one grocery store. Somehow, the store clerks were unionized and were apparently affiliated with the Teamsters. There was a strike, and the Teamsters were picketing the grocery store. Because it was the only store in town, most people did not honor the picket line, including “little old ladies” (one of whom was my grandmother!).

Well, the Teamsters could not abide that, and several people got a flat tire, from the nails the Teamsters threw in the parking lot.

This was my first experience with what I call the one-way street of liberalism. The Teamsters, of course, felt they had the right to picket. But no one had the right to disagree with them — at least not without getting a flat tire.

I remember that union militancy played a role in my development as a conservative, too. When I was in high school, there was a truckers’ strike. And these strikers shot — and killed — drivers whom they called “scabs.” I think I also vowed I would never use the word “scab.”

‐ I have a liberal reader who often sends me what you might call friendly hate mail. He challenged me to publish his own words, which I now do. They concern a moment when he was majorly turned off by the Right:

I was in a tavern in D.C. when the Lewinsky story broke, and some anchor or gasbag pundit was breathlessly saying that Clinton would have to resign. Some College Republicans, or staffers, whatever, began to cheer and call for more rounds. They thought that their president resigning was great, damn the damage to the country. I was repulsed, especially when it came out how many Republicans had fooled around with their non-wives . . .

‐ Another reader wrote to me about an item I had concerning the court-martial of some Marines: They had committed crimes in Iraq.

He said, “I am currently reading some of Teddy Roosevelt’s speeches, and ran across something he said in 1901. I believe it resonates today.” Here is the relevant excerpt, and you may wish to pay particular attention to the last two sentences:

Barbarism has, and can have, no place in a civilized world. It is our duty toward the people living in barbarism to see that they are freed from their chains, and we can free them only by destroying barbarism itself. The missionary, the merchant, and the soldier may each have to play a part in this destruction, and in the consequent uplifting of the people. Exactly as it is the duty of a civilized power scrupulously to respect the rights of all weaker civilized powers and gladly to help those who are struggling toward civilization, so it is its duty to put down savagery and barbarism. As in such a work human instruments must be used, and as human instruments are imperfect, this means that at times there will be injustice; that at times merchant or soldier, or even missionary, may do wrong. Let us instantly condemn and rectify such wrong when it occurs, and if possible punish the wrongdoer. But shame, thrice shame to us, if we are so foolish as to make such occasional wrongdoing an excuse for failing to perform a great and righteous task.

Amen, TR.

‐ Finally, a reader said he liked a sign he saw in a fish-and-chips place. It said, “Thanks be to cod.”

And thanks be to you, too, dear readers. Later.

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