Politics & Policy

Czar Charlie, &c.

We expect today’s royals, such as the Windsors in Britain, to behave democratically, but why should they, when other elites don’t? Prince Charles wants a ban on McDonald’s; he is against their food, apparently, and doesn’t want anyone else to be able to eat it. This is shockingly antidemocratic — or rather, it would be, if so many who think of themselves as democrats didn’t agree with it.

If Charlie wants to stick to the royal kitchens and avoid McDonald’s, that’s fine with me. But he would prevent me from going? Look, there’s a lot of behavior I find appalling — the prince has exemplified some of it — but I wouldn’t make all of it illegal.

I understand this is Politics or Civics 101, but I know that readers forgive me the super-elementary.

‐Less forgivable is John Edwards, the Democratic presidential candidate. He put on quite a performance in New Hampshire the other day (as you can see in this article).

Let’s review a little history: Back in the Carter days, a lot of people said that the presidency had gotten too big and powerful, and that it was too big a job for one man. Maybe we should split up its responsibilities? This was a quite common view, or concern. Then Reagan came along — and, when he ran for reelection in 1984, his men ran an ad that said (something close to), “Remember when they asked whether the presidency was too big a job for one man? They’re not asking that anymore.” Glorious shot of Reagan, waving while riding in an open car, I believe.

Anyway, a lady in New Hampshire says to Edwards, “Would you be willing to say [the presidency] is too much power for one person?” And Edwards responds, “I would absolutely say that.” Not just yes, but absolutely yes. In this case, Edwards perhaps should not be running for the job.

But there is considerably worse. I will quote the AP:

“(Bush) was not given authority to police a civil war, which is what he is doing now,” Edwards said.

He borrowed an analogy from his wife, Elizabeth — sitting nearby on the floor, leaning against a couch — and said the U.S. approach is like a parent scolding a child for not making his bed and then making the bed for him repeatedly.

“We’re continuing to enable this bad behavior,” Edwards said.

Is that not disgusting? Iraqi politicians, and ordinary Iraqi citizens, are putting themselves on the line every day. They’ve made mistakes, sure, but most of us would. And they’re getting shot at — murdered. Blown up. They are facing a vicious terrorist campaign, as they go about trying to reconstitute their country, and this is a problem that John Edwards and the rest of us comfortable Americans will never have to face. And he likens these people to children who won’t make their bed?

What a disgusting way of thinking. Edwards is a man running for president of the United States. If this is what our country has become, then maybe America is as bad as the colleges say, but for different reasons.

One final note from the report on Edwards: A woman at his campaign event said “she sees a bit of her political hero in Edwards. ‘He’s a Jimmy Carter-kind of guy’ . . .”

Yup, he’s a Jimmy Carter kind of guy — my point exactly.

‐I wonder if you noticed this from last Saturday: Richard Holbrooke gave the official Democratic radio address. Who’s Richard Holbrooke? A Democratic foreign-policy guy, former ambassador to the U.N. Now, maybe I haven’t been paying attention — I definitely haven’t been paying attention — but I’ve never known a non-politician to give one of these radio addresses. Holbrooke, of course, called for a pullout from Iraq. He hopes to be secretary of state — for one of those lovely candidates — in 2009.

And if non-politicians — if diplomats — are giving these official addresses: maybe we R’s could have John Bolton?

‐You have surely heard about Bill Clinton and the millions he has made — 40 of ’em, actually. But let’s concentrate on what he said to a Kentucky audience, as reported by the Washington Post, here: “I never had a nickel to my name until I got out of the White House, and now I’m a millionaire, the most favored person for the Washington Republicans. I get a tax cut every year, no matter what our needs are.”

Um, he gets a tax cut every year? Really? That’s news to me. And “no matter what our needs are”? What needs might those be — some additional midnight basketball? What we need, surely, is economic growth (and that we have). At what rate would Clinton like to be taxed? 50 percent? 67? 88? If he would like to give to the IRS more than the tax code demands, I imagine the IRS would accept the dough.

But chew on that statement that Republicans are for millionaires. In fact, we are for everybody. I’ve been a Republican for a long while, since midway through college, I believe. And I spend roughly zero time thinking about millionaires. Furthermore, I don’t know any Republicans who plot for millionaires. I know Republicans who push for a system in which all can prosper.

Rich people always do well, in lean times and fat. The kind of prosperity that Republicans foster — through tax cuts, deregulation, and a general laissez-faire approach — is most important to the modestly off and poor. Reagan helped create an economy in which employment soared, inflation plummeted, and entrepreneurship flourished. Whom did that benefit? Everyone, yes — but the rich can get along okay even when employment is low, inflation is high, and entrepreneurship is hamstrung.

What Clinton is doing is putting out a cartoon Marxism — the kind of thing we saw from “Herblock” in the old Washington Post. Republicans are for millionaires, Democrats are for the common man! This was tired and wrong in the 1920s. And Bill Clinton is talking this garbage today, more than 25 years after Reagan was elected? Bear in mind, too, that Clinton is supposed to be a big New Democrat, an anti-Mondale-ian.

If this is what he thinks of us, of us Republicans — what must Nancy Pelosi and John Conyers think?

‐You may be interested in this column by Anne Applebaum in the Washington Post. (A Post without Herblock and with Applebaum is an improved one.) The column explores the question, Why do they hate Ayaan Hirsi Ali so? And by “they,” whom do we mean? Well, you know: Euros and all others who wish that the Muslim problem would simply go away, yucky as it is. Yes, they hate her — really, really hate her. I have remarked this for years. You can sense their hatred in the many snide things they say about her. They seldom come out and attack her frontally — they just snipe at her, sniff at her.

Hirsi Ali, as you know, is the phenomenally brave woman from Holland, who was born in Somalia and now lives in the United States. And I don’t know whether anyone else in the world so discomforts liberals and leftists. I will indulge in psychological speculation:

She discomforts them because she highlights their own cowardice before the jihad. They would rather not focus on things that Hirsi Ali knows we should focus on. They would rather think about global warming — in which the villains are George W. Bush, the Republican party, and capitalism. You know: very easy. When you criticize Republicans and SUV-drivers, they don’t put a knife through your chest.

I actually think that Hirsi Ali makes them ashamed — makes her critics ashamed. They know that she is courageous, that she has put her life on the line, that she sees into the heart of the major problem of our time. They hate her the way people hate anyone who delivers a message they can’t stand to hear. She says, “Act,” and they don’t want to act, so this beautiful and brave and clear-seeing woman is anathema to them.

She makes them ashamed because she is out there defending the Western liberal values that they themselves should be defending. They know they should be defending and protecting Hirsi Ali against the brutes who would kill her, but they won’t — because confronting radical Muslims is something that disgusting right-wingers like George W. Bush and Dick Cheney do.

In addition, they believe that Hirsi Ali and other frank and fearless people stir them up — stir up the Muslims, stir up the radicals. If only they would pipe down, and keep to their own business, they would leave us alone.

Well, they won’t leave us alone.

Finally, it makes matters worse that Hirsi Ali is black — because it means everything to the Left that they are the friends and protectors of the dark-skinned, while their opponents, the Right, are racist louts. Ayaan Hirsi Ali, a black woman who escaped from the clutches of a savage and “patriarchal” environment, is everything they should love and protect. But they just can’t, because they fear that Pat Robertson would approve.

That’ll be five cents, please (as Lucy used to say, when she played shrink).

‐I wanted to be super-sure that you saw this highly revealing article about the United Nations. It’s by Edith M. Lederer, the excellent U.N. correspondent of the Associated Press. 

The United States criticized the United Nations for refusing to list a panel it organized Tuesday entitled “State-Sanctioned Mass Rape in Burma and Sudan” on a U.N. Web site.

The U.S. Mission to the United Nations arranged to hold the panel on the sidelines of the annual two-week meeting of the Commission on the Status of Women which this year is focusing on discrimination and violence against women. It will include presentations about rape and sexual violence in both countries.

But the U.N.’s Meeting Services branch objected to the title, which was published in the U.N.’s daily journal last Thursday, because it “would be perceived as offensive to named member states,” according to a letter to the U.S. Mission obtained by the Associated Press.

The letter from Sylvie Cohen, deputy director of the Division for the Advancement of Women which helped organize the commission meeting, said Meeting Services noted that “it is not customary to name member states without their endorsement in the titles of United Nations parallel events.”

“In addition, the name of one member state concerned is not mentioned in accordance with its official country name (Myanmar is the officially designated country name),” Cohen wrote.

U.S. Ambassador Grover Joseph Rees, the State Department’s special representative for social issues who heads the U.S. delegation to the commission’s meeting, said the United States had protested to various U.N. officials.

“I think what this comes down to is there is only one building where you can’t say the words rape, Burma and Sudan in the same sentence — and apparently you can’t say Burma at all,” he said in an interview.

Rees said the United States insists on calling the country Burma — not Myanmar — because that’s what the pro-democracy winners of the country’s 1990 elections called it.

This was not only a U.N. item, but a language item — and I offer you my 2002 article “‘Gutter’ Politics,” which is on the subject of country names, the pronunciation of those names, etc.

And don’t you just love Grover Joseph Rees? “I think what this comes down to is there is only one building where you can’t say the words rape, Burma and Sudan in the same sentence — and apparently you can’t say Burma at all.”

‐Speaking of names, a reader sent the following note: 


I know you’ll appreciate this. It’s too wonderful! One of the lovely side effects of genealogical research is happening upon little nuggets like this: Ulrich Himmelberger was born in Berks County, Pa., in 1752. He moved to Kentucky and anglicized his name to Oliver Heavenhills.

Himmelberger, Heavenhills — very nice, indeed. (Sandy Berger: not so nice.)

‐As regular readers know, I habitually take up the subject of Cleo Noel, the American ambassador in Khartoum who was murdered in 1973. Two others were murdered along with him: his deputy, George Curtis Moore, and the Belgian chargé d’affaires, Guy Eid. The three were murdered by Yasser Arafat’s men, on his orders. This has always been clear. And yet the United States — Noel and Moore’s government — made Arafat pay no penalty. On the contrary: He was a perpetual and honored guest at the White House.

In a recent issue of The Weekly Standard, Scott W. Johnson laid out the case superbly — his piece is here.

A couple of footnotes: The late Vernon Walters, once the deputy director of the CIA, told me that he had listened to the intercepts of Arafat giving the orders to kill. The assassins were nervous as hell, down in the basement — didn’t know what to do. Arafat said, Kill. And they did.

The second footnote: About five years ago, I interviewed a senior government official — active — for about an hour. There was only one question the official refused to answer: “Does the U.S. government accept that Arafat is responsible for the Khartoum murders?”

A strange and abhorrent business.

‐Are you interested in being a summer intern at National Review? We take a special look at college juniors — those who have been juniors and are about to be seniors — but other college students are welcome to apply as well. We are looking for someone who loves National Review, knows it intimately, and wishes to make his career in journalism. Please send a résumé and letter of interest to Erica Stalnecker at estalnecker@nationalreview.com.


‐And now a word about the Eric Breindel Award for Excellence in Journalism. It’s given once a year to a journalist who exhibits “love of country and its democratic institutions” and “bears witness to the evils of totalitarianism.” The award is worth $20,000. There is a second award, for undergraduate journalism, worth $10,000 (and the same principles apply). For more information, please contact Germaine Febles at (212) 843-8031 or gfebles@rubenstein.com. The deadline for each award is April 20.

‐Feel like a little music? Well, you’re going to get some anyway — here are a few reviews from the New York Sun.

For a review of the pianist Piotr Anderszewski, go here. For a review of an Opera Orchestra of New York performance of Cilea’s Arlesiana, go here. For a review of the New York Philharmonic, under Lorin Maazel, go here. And for a recordings roundup, go here.

In that roundup are Thomas Quasthoff, the German bass-baritone; an album of music by the 18th-century Czech composer Josef Mysliveček; and Clara Haskil, the historic and great Romanian-born pianist. The Quasthoff album is a jazz album, incidentally — called, in fact, The Jazz Album. As I say in this review, I’m not in love with every track on this CD, but when he sings “Accentuate the Positive,” it’s hard to keep still.

‐End with a little language (or a little further language)? In a previous Impromptus, I wrote about “You’re welcome” — a reader had noted that more and more people were saying “Thank you” instead of “You’re welcome.”

This particular item provoked a lot of mail, with many readers saying they were hearing “No problem” — “No problem,” instead of “You’re welcome,” especially from young people. The readers, in general, did not like this trend. I must say that, for me, it’s no problem! I even like it in Spanish — No problema.

And I thought you would enjoy the below letter:

Dear Jay,

Your item was interesting to me because, as a deaf person reasonably conversant with both American Sign Language and English, I realized that the sign for thank you and you’re welcome is one and the same. I guess we deaf people have been thinking like you for the past 200 years.

Thanks for stopping by, dearhearts, and I’ll see you later.


The Latest