Politics & Policy

That ad in N.C., &c.

Friends, I’m writing this on Friday, so if I’m OBE — “overtaken by events” — please forgive me. Wanted to say something about that ad in North Carolina. (I almost said “down in North Carolina,” but plenty of people live south of N.C.) They’re using the Rev. Jeremiah Wright to criticize Democrats. And the big story has been: McCain has denounced the ad, but this has not led to the ad’s pulling, etc.

What has been too little discussed is, “What’s wrong with the ad? Is Reverend Wright to be off-limits? And is McCain to be eternally bossy about how other people choose to campaign? Who died and made him the moral arbiter of our politics?”

#ad#You can understand McCain’s desire for a high-minded campaign. But, in my view, he sometimes looks like a guy who doesn’t want any scrutiny himself. And, if you’re wondering what Jeremiah Wright, Billy Ayers, and Tony Rezko have to do with Barack Obama’s fitness for the presidency: try this column by Charles Krauthammer, dead on.

‐Of course, the awful issue of race always lurks in the background, if it is not in the foreground. And a thought experiment comes naturally: Say that a white conservative had attended and funded a church for 20 years — a church whose pastor spews racial hate and general kookery from the pulpit. Would that affiliation be off-limits, politically? On the contrary, that affiliation would be disqualifying.

‐The Reverend Wright was awfully smart to go to Bill Moyers for an interview — because no interviewer in America could have been easier for him. Wouldn’t it be satisfying to see Wright before a real interviewer — one who would ask, for example, about the government’s invention of the AIDS virus?

‐I am not an experienced McCainiac. In fact, I’m probably not an inexperienced McCainiac. But I’ll repeat what I’ve been telling audiences lately: A general election sparks a rallying around; and, by the time that Tuesday in November rolls around — by the time we’ve listened to the Democratic nominee talk and talk — most non-McCainiacs in the GOP will crawl over broken glass to pull the lever for the good senior senator from Arizona.

‐Like everyone else, I read the divine Peggy Noonan’s latest column — you can find it here. In it, she says that she has given speeches around the country and found no supporters of President Bush, at all. I have had a quite different experience. Last week, I gave several speeches to Republican audiences in California (SoCal). I talked mainly about the ’08 race. But I began with a defense of Bush, particularly on the war: both the War on Terror and the particular war in Iraq.

And I could barely get the initial words out of my mouth for the robust applause. As I continued, there were frequent head-nods, murmurs of affirmation, and so on. There was even a fist-pump or two. Now, these were not radicals or weirdos; in fact, some of them were the proverbial little old ladies in tennis shoes. After the speeches, many people expressed particular appreciation for a defense of Bush.

Anyway, I offer it for what it’s worth. All God’s chillun got testimonies. And I believe that “history” — whatever that is — will judge Bush more favorably than much of the world does now. Yes, he has made mistakes, many of them. But, on balance, he has done a manful and honest job in the face of brutal difficulties.

I could go on . . . but you didn’t come here for a speech!

‐For some years now, I have been on the tail of Mohamed ElBaradei, the former Egyptian diplomat who now heads the International Atomic Energy Agency — and on whom, in 2005, the good folks in Oslo bestowed the Nobel Peace Prize. A few days ago, he criticized the United States and Israel for actions associated with September 6: the day the Israelis took care of the Syrian-North Korean nuclear project next door.

One sentence from the Associated Press report stood out: “ElBaradei did not criticize North Korea or Syria in his statement.”

Just so: For that they give you the Nobel Peace Prize.


NRO-niks, I hope you’ve been enjoying your current National Review. It delivers goods on Barack Obama, the saint from Illinois who is very much a Chicago pol. The more you learn about him, the less attractive he becomes, I believe — no matter what your politics. And the more beatable he seems — not by Hillary, maybe, but by McCain in the general.

Midst the pages of the current NR is a piece by me on a highly interesting and admirable party: the Reform Party of Syria, or RPS. This is a party based in Washington and composed of exiles in both the United States and Europe — along with persons inside Syria itself. But those persons have to be quiet about their affiliation. Syria is one of the most oppressive states on earth.

#ad#If you have a second, and the interest, take a look at RPS’s website, here. These are exactly the kind of people who ought to rise in the Middle East, and everywhere else: They are liberal democrats. They want human rights, an open economy — in short, freedom.

As you know, there are people — Westerners — who want never to hear a word from an Arab liberal democrat again. The experience of Iraq has been terribly souring, for a great many. But in my NR piece (as elsewhere) I suggest that democrats deserve the support of democrats. And RPS has a lot to offer.

I like something that Michael Ledeen, the veteran analyst and NRO contributing editor, said. We were talking about Arab democracy and the like. I will paraphrase. Ledeen said, You never know — you never know whether democrats will make it in a particular country. No one ever thought the Soviet dissidents would amount to anything, but they did. People had written off Solidarity several times — yet, in the end, they won. So it all depends. And one of the things it depends on is Western policy, and Western support — or the lack of it.

When people say (this is still Ledeen), “How can you possibly believe that democratic revolution can take place in Syria or Iran?” you can answer, “Look: If someone had come to you three months before the revolution in Ukraine and said, ‘There’s going to be a revolution there,’ you would have laughed. And yet it happened.”

We have an expression in golf (and, as you might guess, this is me, Jay): Never up, never in. If you don’t take a decent stab at it, you have no chance at all. And Arabs aren’t congenitally or divinely doomed to oppression.

‐In Friday’s column I mentioned a ship that China had sent to Robert Mugabe — a ship loaded with weapons. As China arms and funds Sudan, it arms and funds Zimbabwe. China has all its tyrannical bases in Africa covered. Anyway, this particular ship has had to turn back to China — because Zimbabwe’s neighbors refused to allow the ship to dock at their ports. And Mugabe’s domain is landlocked.

Isn’t it nice when something good — even a small something good — happens?

‐Care for a little music? Ned Rorem has made an opera out of Our Town. And that opera was recently performed at the Juilliard Opera Center. For a review in the New York Sun, go here.

And NRO-niks might remember that, years ago, I did a long interview with Rorem: here.

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