Politics & Policy

Rules of the game, &c.

So, Barack Obama says he hopes to be “an instrument of God.” Great. So should we all. But if a conservative Republican had this said . . . oh, boy, would it have hit the fan. Theocracy! Constitution! Fascism!

You remember the rules: Jesse Jackson can say, before the Democratic convention, “God is not finished with me yet.” He can also compare Dan Quayle to Herod. Bill Clinton can wave his big, fat Bible at the cameras, as he enters and exits the Foundry United Methodist Church, the Rev. J. Philip Wogaman, presiding.

But a conservative Republican . . . had better keep his mouth shut. There is separation of church and state in this country, you know.

‐A word — only a word — about the Nobel Peace Prize. It was debased a long time ago. They gave it to Le Duc Tho. They gave it to Arafat. They gave it to Joseph Rotblat, a classic fellow-traveler. They gave it to a lady who plants trees and believes that the U.S. government invented AIDS in order to decimate black people.

And, during the time of George W. Bush, they have given it to Jimmy Carter and Al Gore. What, they’re snubbing Michael Moore and the Daily Kos guy?

The Nobel peace committee is not so much a peace committee as a standard left-wing pressure group — sending these Mickey Mouse “messages.” They’re like the board of the MacArthur Foundation, or the English department of Brown University or something — there is no connection between what they do and quality. It’s just straight politics, or, more accurately, ideology.

Someone called the award to Gore “a sick joke” — and that’s about right. The problem is, they turn around and give it to someone worthy, once in a blue moon.

Same with the literature prize. Usually, it goes to your standard-issue red, or pinko: that Austrian lady; Dario Fo; Pinter; Lessing. But every now and then they slip up and give it to Naipaul.

How the hell did that happen, incidentally? Was it because he was Indian, “of color,” from the Caribbean? It couldn’t have been because of literary merit, could it have?

As I say about these prizes, you can’t write them off altogether, because occasionally a prize goes to someone deserving. But with each award to a Gore or a Jelinek (that’s the Austrian lady — just remembered her name): The prizes die a little.

By the way, what does Gore’s Kyoto crusade have to do with peace? Not much — it’s just the new religion, this anti-warming fever. And the Nobel people have signed up, big-time. They have jumped on the bandwagon.

Years ago, National Review quipped that, every year, the Peace Prize should go to the U.S. Department of Defense — the biggest guarantor of peace on the planet.

True ’nough.

And a final comment, before leaving this topic: In ’73, the Nobel peace people gave the award jointly to Le Duc Tho and Henry Kissinger. And our Left objected — to the inclusion of Kissinger.

Tells you a lot.

‐Awfully ranty Impromptus so far, isn’t it? I’m afraid I’m just warming up. (Like the planet.)

‐Several years ago, a book called Reagan in His Own Hand appeared. It showed Reagan the writer, Reagan the thinker. Obviously he had an exceptionally keen mind. And lots of people said, “Gee, we never knew. He wasn’t such a dummy after all.” One friend of mine in particular said, “We had no idea.” I answered (something like), “Whaddya mean ‘we,’ Kemosabe?”

I thought of this when looking at some of the reaction to the new Clarence Thomas book. “Gee,” people say. “He’s a thinker, he’s a feeler, he’s a human being. He’s not just a self-hating puppet on Antonin Scalia’s hand.”

Yeah, yeah.

And what will they say 20 years from now (give or take) about George W. Bush? But we have plenty of time to talk about that . . .

‐You have noticed that it is impossible for the Giuliani campaign, and some others, to talk about 9/11. By and large, 9/11 is off-limits, verboten. Any mention of it amounts to “exploitation,” and the mainstream media pounce. (To say nothing of the Democratic party.)

It was an accident that, on that day, a Republican held the office of president and a Republican held the office of New York mayor (and New York governor, come to that). Say the shoe were on the other foot: Say these jobs had been occupied by Democrats.

Would any mention of 9/11 be verboten? Or would the events of that day be milked absolutely dry?

‐A word about Rush Limbaugh: What Majority Leader Harry Reid and those other senators did to him was extraordinary. Is there precedent for a Senate attack on a private citizen — even a very prominent one? It is, of course, a kind of honor for Rush. Years ago, National Review had him on our cover with the words, “Leader of the Opposition.” And I guess he still is. Reid et al. prove it.

But what a silly avenue to take, if you want to defame Rush. Rush as an opponent of the U.S. military? Rush as an enemy of soldiers? No one can buy it — no sane person.

In the current National Review, we editorialize that this Limbaugh matter — this “phony soldier” business — is a “phony scandal.” And it is, in a sense. But not in another: The scandal, I believe, is the misrepresentation of what Limbaugh said and meant, and the high-level governmental attack on him.

But once more: To use an old cliché, Rush should wear all this as a “badge of honor.” And I bet he does.

What a great, graceful, decent, informed, talented man this is. We in the Reaganite camp are lucky to have Rush — and so is the country at large. I hope he talks into that microphone unto eternity. As he says, he is the alternative.

And there are some people who are simply monopolists at heart. They have to be guarded against, and opposed, at every turn.

‐Putin’s latest attacks on U.S. missile defense remind me of something: Do Democratic presidential candidates agree with those attacks? Sympathize with them? And, if one of them is elected president, are our efforts to defend ourselves, and our allies, against missiles off — dead, suspended until the next Republican president?

Will someone ask Hillary & Co. about this?

‐It’s good that President Bush is meeting with the Dalai Lama. Almost makes up for his forthcoming visit to the Beijing Olympics. President Ford famously — infamously — kept Solzhenitsyn out of the White House. At least GWB isn’t stooping to that.

And isn’t it amazing that it should be controversial that the president of the United States will meet with an eminent religious leader? Must the Communist government in Beijing control the entire world, even the actions of the leader of what is supposed to be the world’s most powerful country?

There are plenty of people who think that Rule No. 1 is: Never anger or even irritate the Chinese Communists. You will find this rule explained, and rebuked, in James Mann’s book, The China Fantasy.

If you are reading NR — and I know you are, dear Impromptus-ites! — you have read my review of it. An extremely clear, useful, and true book. Very short, too.

‐Miami’s magnificent congresswoman, Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, has urged President Bush to confer the Presidential Medal of Freedom on Dr. Oscar Biscet, one of Cuba’s greatest political prisoners. (For the website dedicated to him, go here.) What a brilliant idea. If Bush did that — it would give a joyful jolt to Cubans, and to all well-wishers of freedom. And if any president were to do it — it would be this one.

‐I don’t know if you know this, but the New York Philharmonic is seriously considering going to North Korea to perform. (To read a story about this, go here.). I’m hoping that they’ll drop by Sudan and Burma, too. Maybe Iran, Syria — Cuba. Too bad the Khmer Rouge isn’t still in power — Phnom Penh would be a lovely place for a concert.

And the sounds of the orchestra would drown out the cries of the tortured and murdered.

‐Speaking of Burma, I saw this headline (over this story): “Myanmar Dissident Dies Under Questioning.” Yeah, that has a way of happening, doesn’t it?

‐Many readers have written me to say, “Will you have a comment on the stories concerning the 40th anniversary of Che Guevara’s death? They have fawned all over the guy” — of course they have. There is not the slightest concern for those who have suffered and died in the gulag he set up on Cuba. There never is. Besides, aren’t those Guevara cheekbones pretty, gracing all those shirts?

I see the shirts every week — not every day, but every week. I see other shirts, too. About two weeks ago, on the Upper West Side of Manhattan, I saw a lady in a Mao shirt. There he was, smack dab on her shirt. She was a standard-issue white lady about 65. For how many deaths was Mao responsible? Sixty million? Seventy? But who’s counting, right? Gotta break those eggs to make those glorious socialist omelets.

And get this: In Carnegie Hall, I saw a guy wearing a “CCCP” shirt — a bright red and orange CCCP shirt under kind of a cool-cat jacket. In Carnegie Hall. I also saw, on Fifth Avenue, I believe, last week, a young man wearing a hammer-and-sickle shirt.

Haven’t seen any swastikas, though. You have to draw the line somewhere.

‐Lemme lighten up. Care for some language? I loved this, on Amtrak, the other day: Guy behind the food counter looks out at his friend, who’s having lunch in the adjoining car, and says, “What you eatin’ on, Howard?”

Adored it. Immediately incorporated it into my vocabulary.

‐Care for some music? Some reviews published in the New York Sun? For a review of Efe Baltacigil, the young Turkish cellist, go here. For a review of the Boston Symphony Orchestra, conducted by James Levine, with the pianist Jean-Yves Thibaudet, guest soloist, go here. For a review of the Mahler Chamber Orchestra, conducted by Pierre-Laurent Aimard — with Aimard acting as piano soloist, too — go here. For a review of the Lucerne Festival Orchestra, conducted by David Robertson, with the pianist Murray Perahia, go here. And for a review of Mozart’s Marriage of Figaro at the Metropolitan Opera, go here.

That’s enough, right? No? Want some recordings? For a review of the British soprano Kate Royal, go here. And for reviews of Simone Dinnerstein, pianist, and Emanuel Ax, another pianist — working (believe it or not) with the actor Patrick Stewart — go here.

That enough? Good!

‐Finally, a word on youth — an observation. Someone said to me, “A young person and I were talking about tennis, and I mentioned Jimmy Connors. And he said, ‘Oh, he’s Andy Roddick’s coach, right?’”

Um, right — and he played a little tennis, too! Back when the American colonists were complaining about the Stamp Act.

This reminded me of one of my favorite Mark Steyn comments. This is not an exact analogy — but it is related.

Few years ago, George Clooney’s father, Nick, was running for Congress — in Kentucky. And everyone kept saying (as I just have), “George Clooney’s father, George Clooney’s father.”

And Mark said, “George Clooney’s father? For heaven’s sake, he’s Rosemary Clooney’s brother!

There’s a guy with his head in the right place. And I’ll see you soon, readers — thanks.


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