Politics & Policy

Sensing history, &c.

Friends, I hope you’re plowing through your new NR, which is loaded with excellent stuff. (I know that’s not for me to say — I’m the managing editor. But a little boasting is not unheard of on the Net, as in life, right?) I hate to single out a few pieces, because to do so is to neglect others. But I think of the cover story, by Byron York, on the “Fairness Doctrine” (about which there ain’t much fair). And Theodore Dalrymple on the subject of terrorist doctors. And John O’Sullivan summing up Tony Blair. And much, much more.

(That “much, much more” includes wise and entertaining columns by Mark Steyn, Florence King, Rob Long, and Rick Brookhiser — a veritable murderers’ row.)

In last Thursday’s Impromptus, I wrote about the experience of seeing Michael Moore’s new movie, Sicko. And in the current issue, I have a piece rebutting Moore’s claims about Cuban health care. Those claims are outrageous, of course. One of the worst things about them is that some of the bravest and most persecuted people on the island are doctors: doctors who have rebelled against the Castro regime and its lies — lies that Michael Moore and his ilk perpetuate.

The myth of Cuban health care is an old one, of course, but it calls for our attention every now and then. There are essentially three systems in Cuba: one for foreigners, who pay in hard currency — and that system is excellent. One for Cuban elites, such as party officials, military brass, and state-approved artists — and that system is very good, too. Then there’s the system for everybody else: for ordinary Cubans. And that one is a nightmare, as I discuss in the NR piece.

In any case — read in good health (so to speak).

‐One of the people I quote in the above-mentioned piece is Jaime Suchliki, director of the Institute for Cuban and Cuban-American Studies at the University of Miami. He himself is a Cuban American — strange name for one, huh? Not Jaime González, but Jaime Suchliki. How’d he get that way? His father was a refugee from Soviet Communism. And he had to flee again — from Cuban Communism. Twice a refugee.

This reminded me of Otto Reich’s dad. (Otto is the erstwhile government official, now in the private sector.) Strange name for a Cuban American, huh? “Otto Juan Reich.” Otto’s dad, Walter, was a refugee from Nazism. And he was a refugee again — from Castro’s brand of totalitarianism.

Of course none of this has stopped some “liberals” from branding Otto a Nazi — never mind that much of his family perished in the Holocaust. That’s the way our lovely Left always functions, sad to say.

Otto Reich and Jaime Suchliki are two men who have dedicated much of their lives to opposing totalitarianism, in whatever guise — and to exposing the lies that such regimes need to tell.

‐Jotting the above, I was reminded of something that Richard Pipes wrote, in his memoirs, Vixi. (Pipes is the great historian of Russia and all-around intellectual. He and his parents fled Nazi-occupied Poland when Pipes was 16.)

The main effect of the Holocaust on my psyche was to make me delight in every day of life that has been granted to me, for I was saved from certain death. I felt and feel to this day that I have been spared not to waste my life on self-indulgence or self-aggrandizement but to spread a moral message by showing, using examples from history, how evil ideas lead to evil consequences. Since scholars have written enough on the Holocaust, I thought it my mission to demonstrate this truth using the example of communism. Furthermore, I felt and feel that to defy Hitler, I have a duty to lead a full and happy life . . .

Pipes had this to add: “I admit to having little patience with the psychological problems of free people, especially if they involve a ‘search for identity’ or some other form of self-seeking.”

Amen, amen, and amen again.

‐Ladies and gentlemen, you have probably heard of the Compean/Ramos case — the case of Jose Compean and Ignacio Ramos. They are the Border Patrol agents convicted of mishandling — grossly mishandling — a drug smuggler named Osvaldo Aldrete-Davila. In some quarters, they are regarded as heroes, martyred for doing a thankless job. I think this view is badly misguided.

Rather than rehash the details of the case here and now, I refer you back to two excellent articles written by Andy McCarthy, and published on this website. They are here and here. They give you not only chapter and verse, but also the perspective necessary, I believe.

The prosecutor in the case was Johnny Sutton, U.S. attorney for West Texas. From all I know about him, he is a true-blue conservative, and legal straight arrow — just the sort of person we want in U.S.-attorney jobs. In a recent exchange with me, he said the following:

“This case is not about immigration, it is about the rule of law. My district led the nation in the number of drug cases prosecuted last year. We are second in the number of illegal-immigration cases (the Southern District of Texas does a little more). The point is, we slam dopers like Aldrete-Davila every day. . . .

“Border Patrol agents are our friends and co-workers. 99.9 percent of them are American heroes. But when BP agents commit crimes, prosecutors cannot look the other way. No prosecutor wants to prosecute a cop. But this is one of the reasons that America is so great: No one is above the law, including politicians, rich people, actors, athletes, and even cops.”

Folks, we conservatives have a number of causes célèbres. I don’t think we need another one — that is, we don’t need one that should not be a cause at all.

‐May I make an obvious point? If Barack Obama is the Democratic nominee, there will be huge pressure on the electorate to “do the right thing” and elect our nation’s first black president. So too, if Hillary is the nominee, there will be pressure to elect a woman — though less than in the former case, I believe.

In her current Newsweek column, Anna Quindlen implores Hillary to make Obama her VP. (I doubt Obama is ready to declare himself the loser in the race for the top slot, however!) She writes, “. . . with the most recent poll results, you must have a sense of yourself as the front runner. [Quindlen is addressing Hillary directly.] Now it’s time to show that you have a sense of history, a sense that this election is bigger than just one woman’s ambitions. Make it your business to persuade Barack Obama to be your running mate.”

Exactly: That’s what the message of the major media will be, in ’08: Show that you have a sense of history. And if you happen to favor the Republican nominee — well, you have no sense of history, at a minimum.

Impromptus readers have heard me say the following a million times, I’m afraid: When Doug Wilder was the Democratic nominee for governor of Virginia, there was great pressure on the Virginia electorate to vote for Wilder, making him the first black governor since Reconstruction. If they failed to do that — they would wear a scarlet R, for Racist.

But in my home state of Michigan, there was an earlier black nominee for governor — Bill Lucas. He, not Wilder, would have been the first black governor since Reconstruction. But there was no suggestion anywhere that Michigan voters should “make history,” or else hang their heads in shame.

What was the difference? Well, Lucas was a Republican; and Wilder . . . not.

One more quick point — or rather, a story. I have a friend who serves on the faculty of a northeastern university. In the lunchroom (or wherever) recently, they were sitting around, talking about whom to support in 2008. It was simply assumed that the choice was: Hillary or Obama. Not even other Democrats were considered. And it never occurred to anyone that someone in the group might consider a Republican.

A woman said, “You know, I really think we should have a black president — that would be so great. It’s so important. But, as a woman, I have to think about Hillary, too.” I suggested to my friend that he should have said, “Why not go for Condi Rice, and have it both ways?” My friend said that, had he uttered such a quip, there would have been astonished silence — then, possibly, a lynching.

‐Listen, if you will, to Hossein Sheikholeslam, a major Iranian official: “[The Americans], using their creation, al Qaeda, carried out the events of 9/11.” (You will find the wisdom of this man at MEMRI TV, here.) These words did not surprise me, because I have long known the Iranian position: George W. Bush committed 9/11, yes. But also, the U.S. put together al Qaeda.

At the 2005 Davos forum, I listened to Kamal Kharrazi, then Iran’s foreign minister. He said that the U.S. had created al Qaeda for the purpose of destroying the Iranian government. I wrote, “If that’s the case, then they’ve done a poor job of it.”

The other Iranian, Sheikholeslam, went on to say something very, very interesting — chillingly interesting:

Since the victory of the Islamic revolution [in Iran, 1979], the pressure exerted on Israel is so great that Israel, which was growing bigger and bigger in the past, is now growing smaller and smaller. It has withdrawn from Lebanon — from Beirut and from the occupied strip in South Lebanon, the security zone — and it has withdrawn from Gaza. Now it is building a wall, which, by the way, we oppose. What does this mean? It means that [Israel] plans to move behind this wall. All their theories of Arab and Zionist coexistence have collapsed. If the pressure continues — and Allah willing, it will — Israel will cease to exist. They will have to return to where they came from.

To where they came from. I see. Auschwitz?

‐Was reminded of something the other day: Bill Clinton and his people invented the “permanent campaign.” They never stopped campaigning, even after they were elected (twice). They rejoiced in this phrase, and concept: “the permanent campaign.” The idea was to wage political war all the time. There was no real difference between governing and campaigning. You simply stayed on Republican throats, the entire time.

This is something that, for better or worse, George W. Bush and his people do not do — they do not permanently campaign. They campaigned in 2000 and again in 2004. After elections, they largely go about the business of government, including war-making. (Damn hard, too.) And they are getting killed, politically.

Just sayin’ . . .

‐Noticed something rather interesting in an AP report — about our government’s use of drones in the Iraq War. The story is here. And the reporter said, “The arrival of these outsized U.S. ‘hunter-killer’ drones, in aviation history’s first robot attack squadron, will be a watershed moment even in an Iraq that has seen too many innovative ways to hunt and kill.”

Too many innovative ways to hunt and kill. Now, that may be true, and I don’t propose to argue about it here. But it’s an interesting thing to say in a wire-service report, rather than an opinion column, don’t you think?

‐Did you catch Elizabeth Edwards’s interview in Salon? One of the questions asked why her husband supports civil unions, rather than full-blown gay marriage. Ms. Edwards answered, “Well, I think it’s a struggle for him, having grown up in a Southern Baptist church where it was pounded into him. . . .”

And that rang a bell. Did it ring one with you? It reminded me of the apology Dick Gephardt offered, when explaining to pro-choicers why he had once opposed abortion. I’ll let the New York Times tell the story (here). The time is January 2003:

“As some of you know, I was raised in a working-class family of Baptist faith, and I went to college on a church scholarship where early teachings were reinforced,” Mr. Gephardt said. “Abortion was wrong, I was taught. There was a moral reason it was illegal.”

He noted, to a few soft boos, that he had sponsored an amendment to ban abortion. “At that time, at the beginning of my journey in public service, I didn’t yet realize the full consequences of my positions and beliefs,” he continued to the hushed audience.

And so on. Makes me sick, I have to tell you.

‐The Iraq War suffered a bit of a blow two days ago, when it lost the support of Ed Koch. New York’s ex-mayor began his column, “I’m bailing out.” (That column is here.) Koch has always been a staunch supporter of the War on Terror, including its Iraq component, and he has always been a staunch supporter of President Bush. (His line is that he doesn’t agree with Bush on domestic policy but values him as commander-in-chief.)

I respect Koch a great deal, but I believe he’s terribly wrong about the wisdom of a pullout. (Still, he’s far more realistic than most who favor such an action.) I quote John F. Burns, the New York Times war correspondent, who appeared on Charlie Rose Tuesday: “. . . there’s no doubt that the price of staying is very, very high, in American blood, to begin with, and American treasure, too. But it seems to me incontrovertible that the most likely outcome of an American withdrawal anytime soon would be cataclysmic violence.”

President Mugabe of Zimbabwe has become the first international figure to be stripped of an honorary degree by a British university.

The Edinburgh University Senate decided at a special meeting yesterday to withdraw the degree it awarded to Mr Mugabe in 1984 for services to education in Africa. A letter will be written to him, asking that the degree be returned.

The rest of that article is here. It’s bad news that Mugabe is terrorizing and immiserating Zimbabwe. It’s good news that someone is awake to that fact.

‐Lay a little music on you? The Kirov Opera of the Mariinsky Theater is now performing Wagner’s Ring at the Metropolitan Opera House. (The conductor is Valery Gergiev.) For reviews of the first two installments of that cycle — The Rhine Gold and The Valkyrie — go here.

How about some recordings? Reviewed in this piece are duos for violin and cello, performed by David Chan and Rafael Figueroa; and sonatas for violin and piano by Brahms, performed by Nikolaj Znaider and Yefim Bronfman. And reviewed in this piece are Sabine Meyer and Julian Bliss (who are clarinetists); Ian Bostridge (a tenor); and Osvaldo Golijov (a composer).

All of the above comes from the New York Sun.

‐Guys, am miles and miles behind on my mail. Sorry about this sorry state of affairs.

‐Finally, you think Tiger will do it in the British Open? You shouldn’t bet the ranch. But you shouldn’t bet the ranch against, either. In the last four majors, Tiger has gone 1, 1, tied for second, tied for second. I’m so unreasonable, I’m flummoxed every time Tiger doesn’t win. But he has conditioned such “unreasonableness.”


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