Politics & Policy

An excellent pick, &c.

Just about the only man who can fill Paul Wolfowitz’s shoes is . . . Bob Zoellick. Good for President Bush (who almost never gets credit from the likes of us for the sterling appointments he makes — we would rather dwell on Harriet Miers). A friend and insider calls the Zoellick appointment a “Perfect 10,” and so it is. He will hold the Bank’s feet to the fire — which is what it needs. He is both principled and effective.

A glorious (and not completely common) combination.

‐I was reading about the Democrats and their plan to gut missile defense. (Here.) And I thought, “You know? It hasn’t gone away, and it probably never will.”

When Reagan announced missile defense in 1983, the Democrats were wildly hostile — hysterical. They did everything they could think of to oppose and kill it. But that was on account of Reagan, I thought: If Reagan had come up with a cure for the common cold, they would have opposed it with every breath in their bodies.

All my life, Democrats had railed against nuclear weapons — they were “inherently immoral,” they said. And they also railed against MAD, or Mutual Assured Destruction. But when Reagan proposed a way around MAD, the Democrats turned on a dime: Now MAD was just fine, eminently reasonable.

Simply because it was Reagan doing the missile-defense proposing.

I thought that passions would cool once Reagan left the scene, and that all Americans would embrace missile defense as logical, necessary — and moral. But no: The stigma against missile defense in the Democratic party has stuck. I’m afraid it is a permanent stain.

What a shame, and an outrage.

Edward Teller wrote a book using the slogan “Better a Shield Than a Sword.” How could the Democratic party I knew — McGovern’s party — reject that? But they did, and they still are, and . . .

Well, anyway, I’m repeating myself.

‐Delighted to see that Condi Rice has shown some cojones. Our old friend Mohamed ElBaradei, head of the International Atomic Energy Agency, said that it was too late to force Iran to stand down from enrichment. Rice said, “The IAEA is not an agency that is in negotiation with the Iranians.” She also said, “We are firm about the need to suspend, we are firm about the need to continue to increase the pressure, and we’re firm that, should Iran make a different choice, we are prepared to go that way as well.”

Rice is traveling in Europe, and an AP report had this to say: “She will not see ElBaradei on this trip, although she will be at his headquarters in Vienna.”

Sounds good to me, Condi. Nice going.

WASHINGTON (AP) — Four Vietnamese-American activists urged President Bush on Tuesday to press Vietnam to respect human rights and said the United States should openly support democratic forces working to bring change to Hanoi.

The White House meeting was meant to send a message of disapproval to Vietnam on its increasingly harsh treatment of anti-government activists.

Human-rights violations in Vietnam are widely ignored in the West because a) the war ended 30 years ago, b) everyone is eager to hail Vietnamese progress (which is genuine), and c) the country is Communist after all (and anti-anti-Communism, if not pro-Communism, runs strong).

If President Bush is paying attention, and cares — and he does — good for him.

(Incidentally, the complete story, excerpted above, is here.)

‐Can I say good for Musharraf’s ruling party?

ISLAMABAD, Pakistan (AP) — Pakistan’s tourism minister withdrew her resignation after government leaders reassured her of their support in the face of condemnation from radical Islamic clerics for hugging a foreign man . . .

The court at Islamabad’s Lal Masjid, or Red Mosque, said last month that Nilofar Bakhtiar engaged in un-Islamic behavior after a newspaper published a photograph of her embracing her parachute instructor in France after making a charity jump.

Bakhtiar offered to quit the Cabinet during the three-month standoff between authorities and clerics at the mosque. She said that President Gen. Pervez Musharraf’s government, which critics accuse of appeasing religious extremists, gave her too little public support.

However, a spokesman for the ruling Pakistan Muslim League-Quaid party confirmed reports that Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz and party chairman Chaudhry Shujaat Hussain had talked her into staying.

To be the leader of Pakistan is an incredibly sensitive and dangerous business — more than most Westerners know, I’m afraid. (How many assassination attempts has Musharraf dodged?) It means something, I promise you, that this lady — this Pakistani parachutist — is still in her job.

(The complete story is here.)

‐You may have seen this story about the Canadian high-schooler who was forced to watch the Al Gore documentary four times — in one year: in his world-history class, his econ. class, his “world issues” class, and his environment class. (Environment class!) Poor SOB. They are really propagandizing hard, aren’t they, the greenies? They have their clutches into the kids, majorly.

And if the film is true — why do they have to show it over and over, until the kids are head-nodding, glassy-eyed zombies? Afraid it won’t “take”?

As I may have told you Impromptusites before, I had to read two Richard Wright books — Black Boy and Native Son — about eight times, K through graduate school. But at least they’re good books . . .

‐The State of Virginia has done something wonderful. They’ve dedicated a “Wall of Honor” to Virginians who have fallen in the Global War on Terror. To see a press release on this memorial, go here.

‐For several years now, many people have said that what we need, in this War on Terror, is some humor — some ridiculing of the Islamists, just as the Nazis were ridiculed, and Tojo’s Japan. So I was delighted to see this spoof on YouTube. It is a soap-opera parody, called Sands of Passion.

In one storyline (if that’s the word), a young man is due to commit a suicide bombing. His parents rush in with joy, first thing in the morning. The father shouts out the window, “My son is blowing himself up today!” But the young man is sick in bed — suffering from a fever (or so he says). Groaning, he attempts to get up, saying, “I have an obligation. I’m going to bomb the embassy!”

His mother admonishes, in best maternal fashion, “That embassy is not going anywhere, young man, and neither are you!”

Priceless. Check it out.

‐Are you ready for some spelling? The National Spelling Bee is upon us, and all eyes are on Samir Patel, the little boy who captured hearts in 2003, when he was nine years old. He was a real charmer, fascinating to watch, and, astonishingly, he finished third. (I say “astonishingly,” because the kid was nine years old.) When he misspelled a word — knocking himself out of the competition — he ran to his mother, burying his teary, adorable face in her sari.

Priceless.

Anyway, Samir is now 13, super-seasoned, practically an orthographical bruiser, and we’ll see how he does . . .

(For an AP story, go here.)

‐By the way, have you seen the greatest movie in world history, Spellbound, a documentary about the bee?

‐This is a picture of Jack Nicklaus, giving a press conference at his Memorial Tournament: here. My question: Does he look fantastic, or am I just an idolater?

The answer (dual answer): Yes and yes.

Jack played in the pro-am, prior to the tournament proper, and this is what he had to say, beforehand:

“There will be a lot of people here that have been friends of mine for a long time, and they’ll see my half a swing that I’ve got left, and that will be about it. They’ll watch me for about two shots and say, ‘Geez, wasn’t it nice to see Jack out here?’ and then they’ll go watch somebody play golf.”

At last year’s Memorial Tournament, the bunkers were controversial — the preparation of them — and Jack changed them for this year. He hit six shots, to test them. “One was a long bunker shot, and other five I hit within a foot. I said, ‘Well, if I can do that, I think it’s going to be pretty easy for those guys [the PGA players].’”

Five shots within a foot — of course.

‐The AP heads a story out of the Far East “Thai Court Clears Democrat Party.” Democrat Party! I love it. Who’s writing these things, Bob Dole?

‐Let’s do a little more language. A very cool friend of mine paid me a high compliment the other day. She said, in a note, “I am seriously sweating your column!” I wrote back, “‘Sweating’?” Here is her reply:

Ha! I thought you may not’ve heard that one. A few years back, East Coasters (although probably not Manhattanites) were saying, “I sweat” to signify “I like.” If Andy had a crush on Jana, Andy was “sweating Jana hardcore.”

Marvelous.

‐A reader wrote in, “Jay, I know you have a thing for amusing news headlines. Although this is in the category of sports, I thought you’d like it: here.”

Grody to the max, as we said in Ann Arbor, once upon a time.

‐Let me share one more letter with you, before leaving. In the first part of my Dead Sea Journal — here — I mentioned Lionel Richie’s performance, under the royal tent. A reader contributed the following:

Hey, Jay:

Way back in the ’80s when I was in college (sounds funny), I worked as a bouncer at the Omni and other venues around Atlanta. For four years or so, I saw all the famous acts, from Bruce Springsteen to Madonna to Rod Stewart, huge talents all.

But one of the things I enjoyed most was the chance to see some of the “has beens.” Let me tell you, Barry Manilow and Neil Diamond were absolutely brilliant onstage — and so was Lionel Richie. By the time I saw Lionel, he was semi-on his way out, but he had the audience around his finger. And, from what you say, he hasn’t lost it.

On a similar note, kind of a bummer how the passage of time denies every generation the opportunity to see the great performers of the generation before. Of all the shows I saw during the four years I mentioned, Conway Twitty was the absolute best, for reasons that I know not. The audience was putty in his hands.

Makes me wish all Impromptusites could go back in time, just for a spell.

Hell, I wish I could hear Kay Starr!

Have a great one, guys — see you.

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