Politics & Policy

Cohen of Memphis, &c.

The congressman from Memphis is Steve Cohen, a good Democrat. And Memphis is a good Democratic city. But a lot of people there want to get rid of Cohen. Why?

Well, listen to the Rev. Robert Poindexter, who said, “He’s not black, and he can’t represent me. That’s the bottom line.”

I appreciate it when people are blunt, and, for that reason, Reverend Poindexter has my thanks. Seldom do you hear that view expressed so forthrightly — no beatin’ around the bush.

You will find a story about Congressman Cohen and his headaches within his party here.

But mark the words of another Memphis rev, O. C. Collins Jr., quoted in that same article. He said, “If we’re saying that” — if we’re saying that people can’t be represented by someone of a different race — “then what we’re saying is that Barack Obama’s candidacy is illegitimate” — because he’s running for president, and a distinct minority of all Americans is black.

Maybe there’s hope for the country yet — if sense like Reverend Collins’s can prevail.

All my life, I’ve heard that black children can’t be taught by white teachers, because they need “role models.” I’ve always responded, “Oh. And you’re saying that white children can’t have a black teacher as a role model?”

That usually humbles them, for a second or two . . .

‐About a month ago, I spotted a news item that made me laugh and wince at the same time. Perhaps you do that too, when surveying the daily pageant.

What happened in this case was, presidential candidate Biden was going after presidential candidate Edwards, for not being pro-union enough when he was a senator from North Carolina. North Carolina is a state with some respect for the right to work. Said Biden, in his inimitable style, “The question is, Did you walk when it cost? Did you walk when you were from a state that is not a labor state?”

And here I will quote the AP: “To make its point, the Biden campaign distributed a list of news stories from 1998, when Edwards ran for the Senate, showing that he supported a North Carolina law that prevented workers from being forced to join a union — an anti-union position.”

Yup, an anti-union position. If you believe that workers should not be forced to join a union: why, you espouse an anti-union position.

I just loved that (and you know in what sense I mean “loved”).

There was a time when unions were necessary and noble organizations. I’m afraid that, in the United States, that was some time ago.

‐John Warner is retiring, after 100 years in the Senate. Sorry, no: Make that 30 years. I think of one story to tell about the Virginia statesman — actually, it’s a story I heard from George Mitchell. Actually, the story is more about Mitchell than it is about Warner.

Anyway: I heard Mitchell tell this story on C-SPAN, many years ago. He was new in the Senate (a Democrat from Maine). And the Senate was pulling one of those all-nighters. Some filibuster or something. Mitchell’s tale went something like this:

“Here I had been a federal judge, and accustomed to a certain style. Now I was in the Senate, and having to rough it, in a way. All these senators were sleeping on cots. It was 3 in the morning or something. And I was feeling kind of sorry for myself. Then I saw John Warner, sleeping on one of those cots. And I thought, ‘Well, he could be home with Elizabeth Taylor’ [whom Senator Warner was married to at the time]. And then I didn’t feel so sorry for myself anymore. I felt sorrier for him.”

Anyway, I thought it was a nice story.

‐As regular readers know, I find it disgusting that the Rose Parade is allowing a float from the PRC to participate in it. Something about the upcoming Olympics. A reader said to me,

“Wouldn’t it be great to see on TV coverage of the Rose Parade a single Chinese-American student in the middle of the street staring down the PRC float?”

Yes, it would. By the way, if you wish to see a column by the great civil libertarian Nat Hentoff on this subject, go here.

‐Care for a language note? How about a few language notes? When I was in college, there was a professor, a native of Italy. He spoke perfect, accentless English — or nearly accentless English. There was one thing he couldn’t say: “law” (and related words: like “awe”). “Law” came out sort of like “low.” This frustrated the man greatly. In fact, he was the one who drew it to our attention.

I hadn’t thought of this in years: until the other day, when I heard an Italian — who speaks flawless and basically unaccented English — fumble “law.” Such an odd linguistic phenomenon. Perhaps Noam Chomsky could explain it to me? Or is he too busy celebrating the Khmer Rouge?

‐In a public forum, I heard a man say “onsault.” I thought that was charming: a combination of “assault” and “onslaught.” Perhaps a word was born?

‐A reader wrote to say that, in his house, they use the word “hectivity.” “My three daughters cause too much hectivity in our house.”

‐In a recent column, I noted that, in Alaska, I kept hearing the word “spendy” — meaning pricey or expensive. A reader wrote, “We have that in Minnesota and the Dakotas, too. When I moved to this area, I used the word mockingly for a while. Then, to my increasing horror, it slipped into my vocabulary like a Democratic earmark: unseen, undebated, and unnoticed until it was too late. Alas.”

I loved that.

‐Another reader — and happenin’ NR cruiser — wrote,

“I grew up and went to high school in Miami. At Miami Palmetto Senior High in the 1980s, I had many friends who were the children of mixed marriages — the parents belonged to the two dominant ethnic groups in our neighborhood, Cubans and Jews. It made for some great names (Maria Weinstein, etc.) and they called themselves “Jewbans”! I thought you would get a kick out of that.”

Do I ever!

‐Heard something hilarious the other day — just fantastic. Was at a store counter, and a clerk, a young man, asked a fellow clerk for something — the fellow clerk was a sassy young lady. She answered, “Call on Jesus.”

Was the funniest thing I’d heard in ages.

‐A letter:

Dear Jay,

After reading your article on the Salzburg Festival in the latest National Review, I have to admit to being a bit embarrassed. I grew up in Rochester, N.Y., and have never heard of Renée Fleming. I always thought the best singer to come out of Rochester was Cab Calloway. Learn something new every day.

And I have learned that Cab C. came from Rochester. (Although, according to Wikipedia, he grew up primarily in Baltimore.)

‐I mentioned Alaska a little earlier, and I wanted to share this letter, too:


I had the privilege of visiting Alaska as part of a BSA high-adventure outing. I’ve traveled most of the U.S. and found Alaska to be unique with regard to attitude. I can’t very well describe it. It’s a type of independence that seems born of self-sufficiency, and can bear most any hardship. There is also a sense of happiness or self-satisfaction possibly related to this self-sufficiency/independence.

Anyway, I’ve not run into that attitude anywhere else.

I sense that is true. But will Alaska be Vermontized, which is to say, will environmentalist left-wingers do to our 49th state what they did to Vermont (wiping out the traditions of Calvin Coolidge and all those Yankees)? Would be a pity . . .

‐In Tuesday’s column, I did a little musing about the People’s Food Co-op, in my dear hometown of Ann Arbor. You may wonder: Are there regular stores there too, where you can get Brussels sprouts without Bolshevism? Oh, sure: Every People’s Food Co-op needs a Great Satan (or running-dog capitalist or what have you) — and they’ve got Kroger.

‐Speaking of eating, in a way: Also in Tuesday’s column, I had a note or two about restaurants that combine different ethnicities. In their names, particularly. For example, I mentioned an establishment called Patelini’s — as I understand it, an Indian family had taken over a pizzeria.

A reader wrote, “I hope there is still a place in Shorewood, Wis. — suburb of Milwaukee — called Friedmanelli Numero Uno.” Me too. And another reader had this to say:

Last September, I had to drive my car back home — just north of Huntsville, Texas — from Seattle, because the registration was due to expire at the end of the month. As I exited off of Interstate 45, I spotted the sign of a restaurant that, alas, was no more; the sign stood in front of a vacant lot. But the sign itself made me smile: “Floyd’s Ristorante Italiano.” Yeah, I was home.

Mr. Nordlinger:

I was in Nairobi recently, and while I was driving through the city with some local businesspeople, they asked me my opinion of Obama’s chances. I gave them an honest, dispassionate answer. After my analysis, a fellow American spoke up with great passion. “Well, anything’s better than what we have now!” Etc., etc., for several minutes.

Following this diatribe, everyone but the driver and me got out of the van to exchange dollars for shillings. The driver (African), who had been silent throughout, turned to me and said, “Bush is good for me.” He went on to talk about Saddam’s atrocities and how he, for one, thought we did the right thing in toppling that regime.

Just a lonely voice, but interesting.

I’ll say.

‐Want to close with something from Peter Kirsanow, a frequent contributor to NRO. But first I have to take you back a bit. In one of these columns, I was talking about Richard Pipes, the esteemed historian of Russia (and teenage refugee from Poland). In his memoirs, Vixi, Pipes wrote,

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 added, “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.”

My comment (of course) was, “Amen, amen, and amen again.”

And Peter sent the following note:

Loved the Pipes quote. I suspect it reflects a sentiment shared by most who’ve fled a totalitarian regime. When I was a kid, I sometimes complained about some task or spot of misfortune, as we all do. And my father — who survived being buried alive in a Nazi prison camp and twice escaped NKVD detention (the second time permanently) — would simply say, “Beautiful day.” Put me in my place right quick. Like Pipes, he had “little patience with the psychological problems of free people.” He was just terminally giddy about being in America.


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