Politics & Policy

State by state, &c.

Wanna start with some presidential politics? I’ll do just a little, then get off it, quickly — because I know you’ve been saturated. Yesterday, I was confronted with the question, “What should Romney do, to come back?” And I was pretty stumped. My thought was this:

Be yourself — and be yourself better than you have ever been it before. Say what you believe, and what you would do, if elected president. Point out your differences with the other candidates. Cite your record, in the private and public sectors. Make your best possible case. Then let the electoral chips fall where they may.

Of course, that advice could be proffered to any of the candidates (except that many of them have no private-sector record). And Mitt Romney has been doing exactly what I’ve suggested, for months on end. You can’t tell a guy: “Keep on doing what you have been doing, even though you’ve lost the first two states.”

Ah, but there may be friendlier — more receptive — electorates. Woo them, and let yourself grow on the country as a whole. It’s a big country. And a relative few shouldn’t be allowed to decide the whole thing for all of us. Right?

‐A little more presidential politics. In a column earlier this week, I went off on Huckabee’s much-celebrated line — the one he uttered on The Tonight Show: “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.” Ugh. That line is so disgusting, I get sick every time I have to hear or type it.

Well, Huckabee likes it so much, he has gone and put it in a television ad — a very clever and, no doubt, effective ad. (As of last night, at least, you could see the ad on the candidate’s website, here.) And I think it’s a crying shame that this ad should be effective. I stated my objection to Huckabee’s Bartlett’s bid in my previous column, and I won’t go into detail now.

But I had a memory yesterday — a memory of why I turned against the Democratic party, long ago. As regular readers know, I was born with a Democratic spoon in my mouth. (I’ve borrowed this line from Bill Buckley — who once said, “I was born with a balanced-budget spoon in my mouth.”) But, when I grew up, I spat it out. And one of the things that revolted me was the Democrats’ constant, shallow class warfare. Its class-based demagoguery. Its anti-richie bulloney. It seemed to me that the very air of the Democratic party was grievance and envy. And I didn’t want that — didn’t like breathing it at all.

And here it is in my own party, blown in by this charlatan from Arkansas. What a pity. What a crying shame.

Huckabee’s campaign chief, Ed Rollins, used to be a Reagan man. And, in my opinion, Reagan would have no use for this class-baiting, envy-stoking schmo. Reagan liked to win, yes; but he also liked principle. In my opinion, Rollins ought to be a little bit — a little bit — ashamed. Even if he loses, Huckabee will have poisoned the party.

If you don’t like what Romney stands for, fine — but to make an ad, to base your campaign, on what the other guy looks like . . . Disgraceful. And, of course, Huckabee is the “Christian candidate.” Great. Just great.

‐Often people ask, “What is our war aim in Iraq?” I thought of this when reading the first sentence of this news article yesterday: “The top U.S. commander in northern Iraq said Wednesday a nationwide operation launched against insurgents was meeting less resistance than expected, but that troops would pursue the militants until they were dead or pushed out of the country.” Until they are dead or pushed out of the country. One could work with that.

Reporters asked our Gen. Mark Hertling about the timing of the operation. “Why now?” he said in reply. “Because we can.” I was struck by that. He went on to say, “Baghdad is more secure. Anbar is more secure.” But, Because we can — both a simple and an extraordinary response.

‐Yesterday, I was reminded forcefully of something that David Pryce-Jones has long taught: Middle Eastern governments accuse Western governments of doing what they themselves would do. DP-J can cite you chapter and verse. I thought of his teaching when reading, “Iran accused the United States on Wednesday of fabricating video and audio released by the Pentagon showing Iranian boats confronting U.S. warships in the Persian Gulf.” (The article is here.) Yes — that is exactly the type of thing in which Middle Eastern governments have long specialized.

DP-J, you are spot-on again. (I’m using the Britishism “spot-on” because I’m addressing a Britisher.)

(For the full article, go here.)

Yes, what profiles in courage. Sweden and Norway won’t send their engineering unit — engineering unit! — to Darfur because the beasts in Khartoum have resisted.

Well, at least the Swedes and Norwegians gave us Strindberg and Grieg. Was Strindberg any good? I don’t know. (Grieg, I can vouch for — think Lyric Pieces.)

‐It is very, very hard to read about Liberia and Sierra Leone, as it is to read about so much of Africa (Sudan included). This article tells about the war-crimes trial of Charles Taylor — the chopping off of hands and feet, the raping, and other forms of evil. Read it if you have the stomach. And remind yourself that the source of every ill in Africa is long-ago European imperialism, as I was taught, and as I wager you were taught, too.

This article tells you about a North Korean film — yes, a North Korean film — recently shown in France. (How much support of Pyongyang do you suppose there is on Parisian university faculties?) My eye was drawn to one line in particular: “Screenwriters reportedly got help drafting the script from North Korea’s reclusive and autocratic leader Kim Jong Il, who wields absolute power, tolerates no dissent and demands unquestioning allegiance from his people.”

Does that phrase “his people” jar you, as it does me? I was reminded, of course — I would be reminded — of Colin Powell’s infamous statement about Castro: “He’s done some good things for his people.” It was hard to decide which was worse: the “good things” or the “his people.”

North Koreans and Cubans, of course, do not belong to Kim and Castro — those monsters only think they do.

And speaking of North Korea and Cuba, have another passage from the above-cited article: “Last month’s French premiere of ‘The Schoolgirl’s Diary’ marked the first time a North Korean movie had ever hit movie theaters outside those in a few friendly communist countries, such as China and Cuba …”

Sure.

#JAYBOOK#

‐Speaking of the above-advertised book: A nice man from Wisconsin wrote in to ask for an inscription. And he told me that, when Harry Truman published his first volume of memoirs, he vowed to inscribe a book for anyone who wanted such treatment. “His hand got very tired,” said my correspondent. “How about yours?”

My hand is untiring, I like to think! And, frankly, I believe my handwriting is improving. In recent years, I have written by hand only when making out Christmas cards.

‐When you read about the Chilean president, Michelle Bachelet, do you think about the excellent French mélodie “Chère nuit”? Yeah, me too. This staple of the French song literature was written by Alfred Bachelet (1864-1944). I wonder if there’s any relation . . .

‐Speaking of music: For a review of Wagner’s Walküre at the Metropolitan Opera, go here. This review was published in the New York Sun. And, couple of days ago, NRO published an excerpt from Here, There & Everywhere: a piece from the chapter on music, called “The Comeback Kid.” It’s not about Bill Clinton, and it’s not about Hillary Clinton. It’s about Leon Fleisher, the legendary pianist. (To read it, go here.)

‐Philip Agee is dead. The less said about him, the better. As you know, he was the CIA agent who turned traitor and revealed the names of those with whom he used to work. He did a lot of harm. Agee wound up under Castro’s protection in Cuba, and he died there. Castro’s paper said he was “a loyal friend of Cuba and fervent defender of the peoples’ fight for a better world.” He certainly did not fight for a better world — he fought for a world that would look like Cuba. And he was not a loyal friend of Cuba — he was a loyal friend of the regime that has suffocated and tormented Cuba for almost 50 years now.

But, as I said — the less said, the better. The man has passed on, and who knows? Maybe he’s learning something.

‐Listen, did you read about the Boy Scout who saved the life of the president of the Maldives? The boy — 15-year-old Mohamed Jaisham Ibrahim — grabbed the knife wielded by a would-be assassin. A wonderful story, here.

Go Boy Scouts.

‐An Impromptus-ite sent me a note reading, “Well, at least the football team is still mostly respectable.” And he sent me this link: to the University of Michigan’s course catalogue, which includes English 317, Section 002: “How to be Gay: Male Homosexuality and Initiation.”

Um, when it comes to “how to be gay,” I don’t think America’s having much trouble — I mean, in my observation of the country, over the last many years. You gotta have a class in this?

(I’m being cheeky, I know.) (“Cheeky”?)

‐Let’s end on a reader letter — another one:

Jay,

My wife and I left the cold of New York for the warmth of Mexico over the Christmas holidays. Among our activities was a day touring Chichen Itza: once the essential capital of the Mayan civilization, and now one of the “Seven Wonders of the World,” thanks to a recent worldwide vote.

Our tour guide was quite good, describing in detail the site itself, as well as the good and the bad of the Mayan empire.

In one story, he described how the poor would travel great distances to look for work and sustenance in the big city. Before they could enter, they would be bathed and given new clothes in exchange for which they would be expected to work to repay the state for its kindnesses. Once their debt was satisfied, they could enter. Not a bad immigration policy, eh?

Later in the tour, he described, with a dramatic voice, how residents were expected to work for SIX MONTHS for free (wages going to the state) before they could keep the money they earned. “Can you imagine?” he asked the crowd. Before I could respond, an Indian gentleman in our group said, “That’s what we do today in the United States.” He took the words right out of my mouth. Others in the group from the “Upper 48” proceeded to throw in their 2 cents (1 cent after taxes).

The tour guide had no choice but to concede the point, and led us to the next part of the tour.

Thought you would enjoy.

I do, very much! See you soon, coolnesses.

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