Politics & Policy

The green-eyed monster, &c.

I don’t intend to comment much about presidential politics in today’s column, but let me say this: I find the ganging up on Romney a little unseemly. I mean, not the fact of it, because this is politics, and we’re all grownups (allegedly). I’m talking about the manner and tone. There seems to be some envy about — to go with some other ugly qualities.

I know that a lot of people — anti-Romneyites — are fired up by that line of Huckabee’s: “People are looking for a presidential candidate who reminds them more of the guy they work with rather than the guy that laid them off.” Apparently, he was alluding to Romney. And I find Huckabee’s one of the most depressing lines I have heard in ages — depressing from every point of view.

First, grammatical: They say Bush can’t talk? I thought Huckabee was supposed to be silver-tongued.

Second, philosophical, or political, if you like: Huckabee expressed low populism, or “sheer demagoguery,” as Ronald Reagan used to say. Huckabee’s line could have come out of the mouth of John Edwards, or John Sweeney, or David Bonior. Is this what we want in the Republican party now? Why not have just one big Democratic party?

And third — oh, call it moral: It seems we’re now campaigning on the basis of what the other guy looks like. What do we say about how Huckabee looks? Frankly, I think I would have liked him better when he was fat — he might have been humbler.

If I were a Romney spokesman, I might have responded roughly as follows: “To me, Mitt looks like a guy who can create jobs, create businesses, and create wealth — who can make the economy go, so that people like Mike Huckabee can spend their lives preachin’, gettin’ votes, and taxing people.”

It seems that there is a fair amount of resentment of Romney — for his wealth, success, etc. For the whole package he represents. And is there a worse human trait than resentment or envy? I also might note that I hear a fair amount of denigration of Romney’s business background — I mean, from Republicans. Which is terribly odd and dispiriting.

Romney has his faults, heaven knows — for one thing, his shifts in position are disquieting, smacking of opportunism as they do. (Of course, he also might have just changed his mind about some things.) But Republicans should welcome Romney at the highest levels of our politics. Are we so petty and crabbed and hidebound that we can’t make room for someone like him?

Years ago, Thomas Sowell wrote a column that I have never forgotten. He said that liberals field their A team, while conservatives field their B team. What did he mean by that? He meant that the “best and the brightest” of the liberals slaver to enter politics, or journalism, in order to control other people’s lives. But our best and brightest — the Right’s elite — are in the economy, inventing things, establishing businesses, and making the country grow.

Well, here is Romney, a clear member of our A team, who segued from business into politics, and succeeded. He is a mixture of private-sector accomplishment and political accomplishment. So boo, hiss, right? Wouldn’t we rather have our old, familiar pols, who have been in politics for about 8,000 years? When did John McCain start running for president? 1928?

I was reading an AP story yesterday — here — and saw something quite surprising: “millionaire Mitt Romney.” Here is the full sentence: “Among those listening to the affable Arkansas governor were evangelical Christians, who on Thursday night helped propel Huckabee past millionaire Mitt Romney to win the race’s first test of strength, the Iowa caucuses.”

So that’s how he’s to be described now? “Millionaire Romney,” as though he were merely some rich boy, running on his trust fund — to hell with the Olympics, to hell with Bain Capital, to hell with the governorship of Massachusetts? Was the 2004 Democratic nominee ever described as “millionaire John Kerry”? How about the other candidates this time? How much does Fred Thompson have? Will we ever read “millionaire Fred Thompson”?

One more word about politics, while I’m fulminating: In early days, when Huckabee was a fringe candidate, he was kind of entertaining and endearing — a charming goober, adorning the campaign. Now that he is a major candidate, he is positively unnerving — with his incredibly naïve views about foreign policy. Views not so different from Barack Obama’s.

And we’re in the middle of a war, both the shooting kind and the “cold” kind (if you consider the war against Islamofascism another long, twilight struggle, as I do).

If the two major-party nominees are Obama and Huckabee: What differences will they stress? Their skin color?

And speaking of race, allow me one more word — a truly final word this time! — about Campaign ’08: Couple days ago, I read this news item, from Time. It is about Mark Penn chiefly, and he is the head of Hillary Clinton’s campaign. What made my blood run cold was this: “Hillary’s advisers and Bill’s have never gotten along — and she has been particularly suspicious of his team. ‘Who they both trust — that’s a very small group,’ says one former Clinton aide. ‘She is going to be very, very resistant to all of the white boys coming back.’”

That phrase “white boys” depressed me entirely — because it reminded me of the Clinton days in general, which were so terribly racialized. I wrote about 8,000 pieces on that subject during those years. (One of them is in my new anthology — sell, sell, sell!) Is that racialization to return? Is “white boys” again to become a near-daily refrain? Mark Penn, by the way, is male and Caucasian.

What a screwed up country, in some respects.

Anyway . . .

For someone who said he wasn’t going to comment much on politics today, I sure did, didn’t I?!

‐I used the word “unnerving” before — and here is unnerving news out of Britain: A bishop has proclaimed that some parts of the country have become “no-go zones” for non-Muslims — that is, areas in which it is unsafe for non-Muslims to be. (To read a news article, go here.)

This seems to me to be something new, the crossing of some terrible threshold. Weakness in the Scandinavian countries, we can understand, and I think a lot of people have written Holland and Belgium off: as headed down Sharia Avenue. Then we have the banlieus of Paris — ho-hum.

But no-go zones in Britain? Geez. Will the continent at large become a no-go zone — including the isles to its west? I say again: Geez.

(Let it not be said that strong language is not used in this column.)

‐Did you read about the Italian soccer team that has adopted the Hezbollah logo, in order to boost its “fighting spirit”? (As usual, MEMRI has the goods: here.) We can analyze this, and fret over it, till the cows come home, but my colleague Richard Brookhiser had the best response: This is a new Che T-shirt.

‐Couple of years ago, I moderated a panel at Sharm El Sheik on the exciting new Arab media. People were particularly jazzed about the coming of Arab bloggers, and all this would mean. There was worry, of course — and disagreement — about how far certain governments would let the bloggers go.

And we have our answer from one government: Saudi Arabia arrested a blogger named Fouad al-Farhan. His blog declares a purpose: “Searching for freedom, dignity, justice, equality, shoura, and all the rest of the lost Islamic values.” (This article explains that shoura “is Arabic for public consultation.”) Farhan feared, or predicted, arrest, because he was writing about the country’s political prisoners.

The government had wanted him to sign a letter of apology — a hallmark of a totalitarian state, actually. Anyway, Farhan said, “Nuts to that.” (I paraphrase.)

Fouad al-Farhan: well worth keeping an eye on.

‐In Syria, they have tossed a democrat — Faiq al-Mir — in jail. His offense? “Insulting the regime,” to begin with. The headline over this AP report was “Syrian Activist Gets Jailtime.” That struck me as a little flip — how about you? I mean, someone who cooked the books at a company “gets jailtime.” This man, Mir, is a political prisoner.

‐Hugo Chávez is changing tactics, paying attention to the little things in Venezuela, putting off a full-blown Orwellian state for a bit. “I’m forced to reduce the speed of the march,” he said. (Read more here.) And he has proclaimed a new slogan, in that charming communist style: “This will be the year of the three R’s: revision, rectification, and relaunching.”

How about a fourth R, namely the good British term “rubbish” (or “rot”)?

Speaking of rubbish, and rot: The husky strongman said, “In a socialist country the streets cannot be filled with trash.” That brought a big smile to my face, because when I was growing up — and things have not changed a great deal — one way you could tell a socialist country was precisely by the trash in the streets.

Certainly in Latin America . . .


‐Care for a little music? For a review of the New York Philharmonic, under Lorin Maazel, with the violinist Viviane Hagner and the hornist Philip Myers, soloists, go here. The review comes from the New York Sun.

‐Finally, you may know that this column has been publishing letters lately, on a particular subject: Parents have been writing in to talk about what advice they give to their college-age kids. Any old advice? No, advice concerning whether to buck heavily biased left-wing professors, or whether to accede to them. Try another letter:


You’re right. The letter from your reader whose son stood up for his beliefs and got a B [considered a bad grade nowadays] was stirring. I’ve got the converse of that story to tell.

Just before the holidays, my college-sophomore daughter had one more paper to write to finish up the semester. In essence, the assignment was to analyze press coverage of the “nuclear Iran” story: power generation vs. less benign purposes. Her professor was — natch — hard left, and had made her disdain for any other point of view clear throughout the semester.

My daughter was on the fence academically and really needed a decent grade. She asked me how to handle the assignment. I prefaced my advice by saying, “This may be the most cynical thing I’ve ever said in my life” — and then told her she should go for the grade. I said that she should conclude that the press coverage has been right down the middle, “especially the New York Times.”

I also advised that she should quote NR and NRO, making it clear that she was doing this merely for the sake of balance, and thought the writers of such articles nitwits.

She got an A on the paper — and, to paraphrase James Bond, the whole thing left me saddened, not stirred.

One of the things that turned me against the Left, many years ago, was the behavior of the professors: They were using their academic lecterns as political podiums; and they were ideologically censorious and intimidating. This was the contrary of true liberal education.

And, no matter what we think of compromises such as the one described above, there is one, nagging question: Are people on the left ever embarrassed that students have to make such compromises, or believe they do?

I would be embarrassed — mightily — if the shoe were on the other foot; if liberal students were persecuted by biased conservative professors. Indeed, it would mean loss of sleep.

Have a nice day, New Hampshire.


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