Politics & Policy

The vicious problem, &c.

Lovely news out of Afghanistan: According to this report, “Taliban militants tortured five abducted policemen in southern Afghanistan and then hung their mutilated bodies from trees in a warning to villagers against working with the government . . .” Yup. That’s what Islamofascists do — in Afghanistan, in Iraq, wherever they can. Same stories, different datelines. Will we all have to learn, eventually, that this is basically one war?

“Come home, America!” cried George McGovern at the 1972 Democratic convention. And Democrats still cry this, and a lot of conservatives, too. But if we come home — will they follow us? Is there any walling America off against the vicious problem of Islamofascism?

To be continued (obviously) . . .

‐About those anti-Mormon phone calls made against Mitt Romney: He called them “un-American,” and that is exactly the word. That is, they do violence to American ideals. Of course, this kind of activity is perfectly American in practice — an abhorrent reality.

Look for more of these attacks — many more of this sort — if Romney has success once the balloting begins . . .

‐Good news for President Bush: Hollywood has reaffirmed that it hates his guts. I will let this report tell the story:

He’s not exactly a movie star. He doesn’t even play one on TV. But President Bush nonetheless has been named the coldest person in Hollywood.

The online magazine Film Threat placed Bush at the top of its “Frigid 50,” an annual ranking of the “least-powerful, least-inspiring and least-intriguing people in Hollywood” in contrast to the “hot” lists that celebrity magazines often compile.

Film Threat’s editors point out that Bush has been parodied in movies like “Transformers” and “American Dreamz” and scrutinized in documentaries such as “Sicko” and “No End in Sight.”

“With all due respect to Hollywood,” they wrote, “the mighty W is as much a cinema celebrity as the next despotic tyrant.”

. . . as much a cinema celebrity as the next despotic tyrant. For once, words fail me, sort of. “Teach your children well,” went the old hippie song (and it was used in a Mondale-Ferraro campaign commercial). They have. And they have taught them all the wrong and worst things, in a widespread ruination of mind.

And did you catch that “scrutinized in documentaries such as ‘Sicko’”? Yeah. It was Sicko that actually needed the scrutinizing.

‐A little language: We all have words that are not words but that we think ought to be words. I once had a friend who said “scrutinous.” As in, “My supervisor had no cause to be so scrutinous of my expense reports.”

‐Check that: In fact, the big dictionaries do contain that word. Go, Laura.

‐You may remember that, in honoring Oscar Biscet and others with Medals of Freedom, President Bush also honored Benjamin Hooks, the former head of the NAACP. And I was saying that he spent the Reagan years denouncing that president as a racist, a hater, a bum. I saw him do this on television day after day, night after night. And it’s one of the things — the 8,000 things — that turned me against the NAACP, the Democratic party, and the broad (but not broadminded) Left.

A reader wrote to say that she was pleased by what Hooks said on the White House driveway, after he received his medal. I quite agree. And I quote this report:

He took the opportunity to do a little preaching. He said he is disturbed that after all the victories of the Civil Rights Movement, young people aren’t taking proper advantage.

“We bought the books; they won’t read them. We open the libraries; they won’t use them,” he said.

“I’m trying now to do something with my foundation to teach young people how to speak. You ask them their names and it’s ‘eb-eb-eb-eb.’ I want them to speak up. Be heard. Take advantage of what God has allowed us to achieve. Take advantage of what Dr. King died for . . .

“When I get on that subject I do get fairly emotional because I remember how hard we fought to use the library,” said Hooks . . . “Now it’s open and so many young people don’t go.”

Another message from his White House driveway sermon: “I want young women to recognize their bodies are temples of God and respect them, respect them, respect them.”

Fantastic stuff. If President Bush’s honoring of Hooks did nothing else, it allowed us — allowed me — to hear those words.

‐And now a commercial. National Review has come out with Here, There & Everywhere: Collected Writings of Jay Nordlinger. The book contains just short of 100 pieces, on a multiplicity of subjects. It is over 500 pages long, and costs $24.95 — $21.95 in our current “NRO special.” An inscription is free — though a buyer is not forced to have one! To order, please go here.

‐Several Impromptus readers have said, “Jay, did you title your book after the Beatles song?” I happen to address this issue in my preface: The answer is no. I have to confess that I had not heard of the Beatles song, until I’d titled this book. I was thinking of the English expression; and that, of course, is where the Beatles got their title. Not long after I made the discovery about the Beatles song, I was sitting on an airplane, next to someone reading a book on the Fab Four: Here, There and Everywhere.

Gee, thanks!

‐In a recent column, I mentioned that a reader had taken me to task for identifying Meredith Willson as “the composer of The Music Man.” “Gee,” she cried, “are we really that dumbed down?” (or something like that). Over the weekend, I heard from a writer friend — a screenwriter, a writer of many things. He said, “Willson was not only the composer, but the librettist, too. Give us word guys a break!”

Quite right.

‐You know who else was a “word guy” and a “music guy,” too? Wagner? Right.

‐I recently spotted what must be one of the greatest Tom Sowell headlines ever. Indeed, it was a paradigmatic Sowell headline. It was “Stop ‘Making a Difference’” (and the column is here). If someone told you merely the title — wouldn’t you guess that it belonged to a Tom Sowell column?

What Sowell is doing, under that title, is inveighing against the phrase “making a difference” (and its concept). He’s also giving it to “giving back.” His opening sentence: “Among the many mindless mantras of our time, ‘making a difference’ and ‘giving back’ irritate me like chalk screeching across a blackboard.”

If Sowell ever stops writing, will there by anybody — anybody (now I sound like Ben Stein, I know) — who thinks, writes, and speaks similarly?

‐A little language (or rather, a little further language — after scrutinous): A Hillary adviser complained that Tim Russert, who’d moderated a debate, “ganged up” on the candidate. Can one man, all by himself, “gang up”? He can participate in a ganging up, true . . .

‐Rick Rhoden, the former major-league pitcher, is doing amazing things in senior golf. (For an article, go here.) Quick, name another athlete from another sport who excelled in golf? John Brodie, the quarterback? Right. How about a boxer? Esteban Toledo? Very good.

Forgive me for what may be condescension, but I’m not sure the general public realizes just how good these athletes are. I mean, it’s mind-boggling. I wonder if Deion Sanders, or Bo Jackson, can play a little golf . . .

‐I received an intriguing letter:


You say the candidates should be asked about Iran, but I think there’s a more important question: “If Russia moves troops into Estonia under the guise of protecting ethnic Russians, what will you do?”

File this away. It will happen.


‐A letter from Seattle:

On my way to work today I saw the following bumper sticker: “So Many Right-wing Christians, So Few Lions.” I have lived most of my life in this area, but I’m still sometimes surprised at how supposedly tolerant liberals here have no hesitation in saying the most hateful things.

One never quite gets used to it, does one?

‐In a column a couple weeks ago, I talked about seeing a big-old Cadillac DeVille in a Stamford, Conn., parking lot. This beautiful behemoth must have been late ’60s. I remarked that the car “was about half the length of a football field” and must have weighed “as much as an elementary school.”

“Have to tell you, I practically wept for what cars once were — so secure and safe, for one thing! — and what America once was. Nostalgia: a stupid vice. But there you go.”

These remarks provoked an inordinate amount of mail — sorry, incidentally, about being so behind on my mail — and I want to share two things with you. First, a reader says, “I could dent my plastic Honda with my fist — but I would never mess with that Cadillac you saw.” And another reader writes,


Your Connecticut Caddy sighting brought to mind fond thoughts of my college wheels: 1970 Cadillac Hearse — all 22.5 feet and 6,000 pounds of her — with a “Right to Life” bumper sticker in the window. Really.

Absolutely amazing.


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