Politics & Policy

A frightful theory, &c.

Some months ago, I floated a view propounded by a friend of mine. It goes something like this: “The Democrats have to win. They have to win the presidency, as well as Congress. Unless they are in charge, they won’t support the War on Terror. Not wholeheartedly. They’ll always try to trip it up, thwart it, pick at it. For years, they have liked to speak of ‘Bush’s war.’ In order for them to be really and truly onboard — they have to be in charge. Then it will be a ‘good’ war, or at least not a bad one.”

This is a tough pill to swallow — maybe too tough. But we have to consider the question. And I thought about it when reading about the Democratic presidential candidates the other day.

In the Senate, Hillary Clinton voted for a resolution declaring Iran’s Revolutionary Guards a terrorist group. And John Edwards, for one, condemned her. What he said was, “We cannot give [Bush] an inch. Not an inch.”

Yes, maybe they do have to be in charge. And what a sad, disgusting development.

‐So, Bush met with the Dalai Lama, as planned. Good for him — for Bush. Yet, as a colleague of mine pointed out, wouldn’t it be grand if the president took the Dalai Lama with him to the Beijing Olympics? And why is the American president going to those Olympics? Why are these world games being held in a police state, where the people aren’t even free to leave, if they wish?

That is maybe the first right: to leave a place, even if only with the clothes on your back.

In recent weeks, the Chinese government arrested several Tibetan boys, for scrawling graffiti in favor of the Dalai Lama. They have not killed the boys. Instead, they have tortured them with electric prods. We might ask: With whom will free people stand? The Tibetans or the ones with the electric prods?

‐Reporters Without Borders has issued a new list of the world’s worst offenders against press freedom. (For an article, go here.) No. 1 is Eritrea. No. 2 is North Korea (where the New York Philharmonic may soon play — yippee!). No. 3 is Turkmenistan. No. 4 is our friend Iran. And No. 5 is our even dearer friend Cuba. (Nos. 6 and 7 are Burma and China.)

I’m a little worried about Castro’s No. 5 ranking. I fear he’s slipping — letting his kingdom become too liberal, too loose. Will it take Raúl to tighten up? To get Cuba’s ranking up to at least No. 3, ahead of Turkmenistan and Iran?

‐Sometimes, when you read the news, it’s like reading Mark Steyn, only less enjoyable. This observation is occasioned by this article — in which we learn that a Bedouin in Israel, Shahadeh Abu Arrar, has fathered 67 children by eight wives. We also learn that the average Israeli family has 2.3 children. Remember, too, that a fifth of Israel’s population is Arab.

So the Jewish-Israeli birthrate is . . .

Anyway, demographics aren’t boring, they’re earthshaking.

‐The endorsement by Bob Jones III of Mitt Romney reminded me of something. When I visited his school — Bob Jones University — in 2000, he talked about the three main raps on the school: that it was anti-black, anti-Catholic, and anti-intermarriage. And who was the campus’s favorite speaker and presidential candidate? Alan Keyes: black, Catholic, and interracially married.

Liberals often say that things aren’t as simple as they’re made out to be. Sometimes they forget their own message.

‐Anita Snow of the AP has filed another of her reports from Havana. And in this one, we learn that Castro appeared on the radio with Hugo Chávez, “sounding lucid and in good humor.” Isn’t it nice when Castro sounds lucid and in good humor? That was nice about Stalin, too. Remember the words of Joseph Davies, our idiot ambassador: Stalin was “a man upon whose knee a child would like to sit.” No doubt.

Anyway, Ms. Snow tells us that, in a meeting shortly before the radio appearance, Chávez “sang revolutionary hymns to Castro.” He also called him “father of all revolutionaries.” In addition, he called him, “Our father, who is in the water, earth, and air.” Do you think Chávez likes Castro?

Most strikingly, Ms. Snow tells us that Chávez gave Castro a painting “he said he made while imprisoned in the early 1990s after leading a failed coup. The dark-colored painting showed the bars of his cell and a night scene beyond, with a full red moon and a guard tower in the distance.”

That is really cool. I wonder whether Anita Snow could ever consider meeting and writing about Castro’s many, many political prisoners. Perhaps one or two of them even have artistic talent.

‐This seems like a long time ago, but George W. Bush used to be thought of as a fiend for the death penalty — sort of drunk on execution. This was a steady charge during, oh, 1999, 2000, 2001. Right before the Left had bigger fish to fry, when Bush had America respond at last to the Islamofascists. You may remember, too, in those gay pre-9/11 days, that the Left charged Bush with “putting the arsenic back in the water.”

That one ring a bell?

Anyway, in light of the early view of Bush as an electric-chair junkie, I’ve been sort of amused by this row over Texas and its right to execute José Ernesto Medellín. I won’t get into the details of the case here — you can read about it following this link. But Bush, leading the executive branch of the federal government, is saying, “You can’t fry the guy.” And Texas is saying: “Get off it, yes we can.”

Kind of interesting.

‐I want to follow-up, a little bit, on my Impromptus of Monday. One section concerned the Nobel Peace Prize (and other Nobels). Some readers wrote, “How could you have forgotten the award to Kofi Annan?” Oh, I didn’t — nor the award to Mohamed ElBaradei. I consider myself both an Annan-ologist and an ElBaradei-ologist. It’s just that there were so many “ignoble Nobels” to cover . . .

I’d also wanted to share this thought (but forgot): It concerns the Nobel prize for literature, mainly. The Nobel people have given it to Communists and anti-Communists. And the Communists tend to be in free, democratic countries; and the anti-Communists tend to be in Communist countries — natch.

‐Also, a follow-up on Clarence Thomas: I meant to say — I was really rooting for Bush to elevate him to chief. Wouldn’t that have been splendid, in every way? John Roberts is A-1. But Thomas . . . that would have been dizzyingly inspired.

‐A further word about Rush, and the attack of Senate Democrats on him — an attack that, to my knowledge, is unprecedented. Wouldn’t it have been nice if the Republican presidential candidates had spoken up in his favor? It would have been even nicer if the Democratic presidential candidates had spoken up — but let’s not smoke crack here. Why couldn’t the Republicans have muttered something? What about my boy Mitt? Doesn’t he have the gumption to say, “This is outrageous”? What’s he afraid of? That he’d lose the support of the New York Times, the Boston Globe, and NPR?

I’ve got news . . .

CORRECTION: I have since learned that Fred Thompson spoke up for Rush, and against the attack by Senate Democrats. Sorry about my oversight, Fred — and nice going.

‐Also in Monday’s Impromptus, I wrote about some recent sightings: of Che shirts (of course), of Mao shirts, of CCCP shirts, of hammer-and-sickle shirts. One reader wrote to say that there is a big Soviet flag in the office of a Stanford law professor. My response: “Just one office of one professor? I would have thought that Soviet flags were mandatory at Stanford.”

I also got this letter:

Jay,

This just-concluded summer, I was an intern reporter at a major newspaper. At a going-away party for another intern, I spotted a third intern wearing a hammer-and-sickle CCCP shirt. I said, “So, you’re a big fan of the Gulag, eh? You love those terror-famines, show trials, Joe Stalin . . .” He said — and I quote — “It’s not for Stalin. It’s for Mao.”

If that wasn’t perfect, I don’t know what is.

I don’t know either. And, by the way: I think that third intern will do just fine in mainstream journalism.

‐Most days, I read David Letterman’s Top Ten list, from the night before. This used to be one of my real reading pleasures in life. A few years ago, however, Letterman seemed to take a turn: He got nastier, more partisan, less funny — adhering to the Bush-stupid line, etc. He started sounding like Jon Stewart. Anyway, I still read his lists.

And have found a couple of his recent remarks puzzling. The subject of one list was, “Top Ten Signs There’s a Ghost in the White House.” And the No. 10 sign was, “White House staffers have sensed a cold presence that’s not Condoleezza.”

I thought that was strange. Rice is one of the warmest and most gracious people I have ever been around. (Let’s not talk about Iran policy for the moment.) She’s been gone a long time, but she’s a southern lady. Now, it’s true she’s poised and composed. She is not a slobberer or an emoter. But cold? Where’d they get that?

And this one was even more bizarre. The topic was, “Top Ten Messages on Al Gore’s Answering Machine.” And No. 4 was, “Ann Coulter here. Any way we can blame global warming on the Jews?”

Why Ann Coulter? There are a million Americans who blame everything on the Jews — Americans from both the Left and the Right. (I have them in my e-mail inbox regularly.) Mel Gibson is merely the most famous such person (probably). But Ann Coulter? Since when has she ever manifested such a personality?

Or do Letterman and his writers think that Jew-blaming is a right-wing phenomenon? If so, they haven’t paid a lot of attention to the world lately.

Though the hour is late for him, Letterman should learn that you don’t have to be slanderous to be funny.

‐Let’s have a little music criticism, from the New York Sun. For a review of Dame Kiri Te Kanawa’s farewell recital at Carnegie Hall — that is, her farewell to New York on her farewell tour — go here. For a review of Simone Dinnerstein, piano, and Zuill Bailey, cello, playing the Beethoven piano-and-cello sonatas, go here. And for a review of the New York Philharmonic, under Lorin Maazel, with the cellist Johannes Moser, guest soloist, go here.

‐Finally, a farewell to The Western Standard — a sort of farewell. This Canadian magazine has been one of my favorite reads, ever since it was launched in 2004. It gave so much. It lent diversity to Canada’s left-dominated media. (The Western Standard was conservative.) It lent color to a political culture that had been monochromatic. It was smart, provocative, fun — stylish. Can style emerge from Canada? In these hands, it did.

And, as Impromptus-ites know, I’ve regarded the magazine’s obits section as just about the best in the world.

Unfortunately, it is frightfully expensive to produce a top-grade weekly magazine. And the Standard could not cope with the costs. But they are remaining in existence, in some online form. I’m awfully glad of that. And I’ll keep reading.

Speaking of reading: Thank you for reading this, and I’ll see you later.

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