Michelle Obama is an amazing piece of work, as chronicled by Mark Steyn in the current issue of National Review. She seems the perfect product of a soft-Marxist education (the same education I received — only I am not a perfect product, obviously).
Couple of points on her most recent remarks. She told an audience, “Folks are struggling like never before.” I realize hyperbole is common on the campaign trail, as in ordinary conversation, but come on: the Great Depression (for one, obvious period)?
In addition, Mrs. O. said, “. . . when people talk about this elitist stuff, I say, ‘You couldn’t possibly know anything about me.’ So let me give you a better sense of who me and Barack are and why we’re doing this.”
Maybe she’s proving her non-elitism with bad grammar . . .
‐Barack Obama is a very flexible politician — and flexibility, of course, is an important political ingredient. The flag lapel pin is on, the flag lapel pin is off — and then it’s on again. Kind of like Hillary’s name: The “Rodham” is in, the “Rodham” is out, the “Rodham” is in the middle — etc.
Yes: I agree.
‐Let me return to something I’ve harped on before. During his presidency, Bill Clinton told that little fib about “misspeaking” because it was late at night, and he was tired. Remember what he said? “My mama always told me never to speak after 7 o’clock.” Only he had “misspoken” at, say, noon.
Well, Hillary told the same fib after her Bosnia-sniper business. Then it was established that she had done her “misspeaking” in broad daylight. And then — just when the issue seemed settled — Bill Clinton came along and revived the fib!
“. . . there was a lot of fulminating because Hillary, one time late at night when she was exhausted, misstated — and immediately apologized for it — what happened to her in Bosnia in 1995.”
“And you woulda thought, you know, that she’d robbed a bank, the way they carried on about this. And some of them, when they’re 60, they’ll forget something when they’re tired at 11 at night, too.”
He just can’t help himself, can he? I mean, it seems reflexive — something for a psychologist to study. But I must say I liked that line about robbing a bank. Very nice. The line is also redolent of an era. Do people rob banks anymore? When I was growing up, I read bank-robbery stories all the time. Now I don’t. Maybe I am merely missing them. Or maybe this kind of crime is accomplished electronically . . .
‐Speaking of reading newspapers: All of my life, I have read stories about school-prayer controversies and school-prayer rulings. I bet you have too. And we’ll go on reading them, forever. The latest one has to do with a New Jersey football team: “A New Jersey school board was within its rights to tell a football coach he cannot kneel and bow his head as members of his team have a student-led pre-game prayer, a federal appeals court ruled Tuesday.”
Yeah, sure. And then the ACLU, or ACLU-ish, guy comes in and says, “Extreme care needs to be given to any involvement by school personnel even with student-led religious activities because it’s very easy to cross the line and find yourself over the constitutional cliff.”
Yeah, sure. You know, I wish people would just come out and say they don’t want school prayer, or team prayer, or any other kind of prayer, as it relates to schools — instead of pretending that it has anything whatever to do with the Constitution. If you told the authors of the Constitution that the First Amendment was being interpreted as prohibiting school prayer — especially voluntary prayer — they would say, “You must have smoked something, and you must have inhaled.”
Hang on, that expression was popular in the early 1990s, when Billy J. was big on the scene. Talk about “redolent of an era”!
‐One thing I liked about the above-cited school-prayer article: One of the appeals judges is named Maryanne Trump Barry. (The article misspells Her Honor’s first name.) Very close to “Marion Barry.” And you got the “Trump” thrown in!
‐Hang on, let me go back to Obama again — to Mrs. Obama, actually. Forgot something. She said, “I want people to know when they look at me, to be clear that they see what an investment in public education can look like.”
I spoke earlier of a soft-Marxist education. Think she had a little self-esteem education, too?
‐Some people have said, “Jay, you have to comment on Jimmy Carter and Hamas!” I can’t, I can’t. I have said all about Carter I can. He is simply too Groundhog Day-y. I have said that he has a twisted fondness for the enemies, not only of his own country, but of civilization at large. I have noted how tight he was with Arafat — that murderer of many, including an American diplomat (Cleo Noel). Carter will keep doing this until he can’t anymore. And that’ll be that.
(For my “Carterpalooza” of 2002, go here.)
‐The latest from Bill Richardson, New Mexico’s governor? He was explaining why he endorsed Obama, rather than Hillary. And he was refuting the idea that he owes his career to Bill Clinton, whose cabinet he served in. “Look, I was a successful congressman rescuing hostages before I was appointed.”
All class, Bill Richardson is, all class. Amazing that such a man has gone so far — even if his presidential campaign did flop.
‐Moammar Qaddafi is a piece of work, you will admit — a piece of work, as well as a murderous dictator. The most remarkable things come out of his mouth. Listen to what he said at the recent Arab summit in Damascus. I got it from MEMRI (here). Let me just let the tape run a little, so to speak:
People here talked about the pre-1967 borders. To tell you the truth, this is astonishing. Whatever happened to the [Palestinian] cause we had before 1967? Were we lying to ourselves or to the world? . . . Does Palestine consist of only the West Bank and the Gaza Strip? If so, it means that the Israelis did not occupy it in 1948. They left it to you for 20 years, so why didn’t you establish a Palestinian state? Wasn’t the Gaza Strip part of Egypt and the West Bank part of Jordan? The Jews left them to you for 20 years — from 1948 to 1967. If that is Palestine, why didn’t you establish a state there? . . . This is strange. It is illogical. It doesn’t make sense. What is this? There is no God but Allah. By Allah, this is unacceptable. . . .
Arafat was in captivity for several years, and we sat on the sidelines, and even convened a summit without him. Why didn’t we refuse to convene the summit unless Arafat was released? Eventually, they killed him by poison. Why didn’t we turn to the Security Council and demand that they investigate the killing of Arafat? . . .
We [Arabs] are the enemies of one another, I’m sad to say. We all hate one another, we deceive one another, we gloat at the misfortune of one another, and we conspire against one another. Our intelligence agencies conspire against one another, instead of defending us against the enemy. We are the enemies of one another, and an Arab’s enemy is another Arab’s friend. If only we used such ferocity against the enemy.
And that, dear readers, concludes today’s Fun (Sort of) with Qaddafi.
‐As you may have read, Croatia and Albania have been invited to join NATO next year. What does the addition of these humble countries mean? In fact, what does NATO mean these days? I went to Peter Rodman for a refresher, and he reminded me of some basics. (Rodman, as you know, is a veteran foreign-policy sage, and he is now at the Brookings Institution — which does credit to Brookings, which a conservative like me is bound to think needs it.)
NATO is the vehicle for the American defense commitment in Europe. That commitment is highly important: important to the balance of power in Europe. To peace and freedom. NATO helps bind Europe and America together, to mutual benefit. Yes, the Soviet Union is no more — the alliance was once a bulwark against Soviet-led Communism. But you never know about Russia, a longstanding wild card. Bismarck said, “Russia is never as strong or as weak as it appears.”
As for Croatia and Albania, NATO membership may help bring them into the West, and mature as societies, after decades of Communism. The Communism that Albania suffered was probably the most brutal on earth, along with the North Korean. With the expansion of NATO could come the expansion of a zone of stability: the right kind of stability, where societies have a chance to flourish, free of bullying and dictatorship.
President Bush is pushing boldly for Ukraine and Georgia: for the entry of those states into NATO. That is a different ballgame, given raging Russian hostility. Bush is right, of course. But “Old Europeans” France and Germany are balking. And Ukraine and Georgia are a bridge to cross later . . .
‐The headline was arresting: “Brigitte Bardot on trial for Muslim slur.” She had incited “racial hatred.” Oh my goodness, how? What did she say? I prepared for the worst. BB had said, “I am fed up with being under the thumb of this population, which is destroying us, destroying our country, and imposing its acts.” That’s it: For that, on trial as a criminal.
(For a news article, go here.)
Ladies and gentlemen, when I hear about Brigitte Bardot, or Mark Steyn and Ezra Levant in Canada, I am grateful to live in a free country. For all my complaining about America, I am grateful. And I know you are, too.
‐Things are looking up in Cuba. Cubans are allowed to have cellphones, for the first time. The AP story said, “Getting through the day without a cell phone is unthinkable now in most developed countries, but Cuba’s government limited access to mobile phones and other so-called luxuries in an attempt to preserve the relative economic equality that is a hallmark of life on the communist-run island.”
Uh-huh. Do you think that’s the reason? I think it’s that cellphones were facilitative of independence, and therefore of dissent.
‐I have spent many years decrying opera productions: particularly of the political, ideological kind; particularly of the hard-Left, anti-American kind. (There are no conservative political opera productions, so far as I’m aware. The very notion is comical.) But Erfurt, Germany, takes the cake. As the Daily Telegraph tells us, they are putting on a Ballo in maschera (Verdi) set at Ground Zero. There are naked old people in Mickey Mouse masks, other people dressed as Uncle Sam or Elvis, people giving the Nazi salute. I could go on. But I won’t.
Are these the end times? You could be forgiven for thinking so . . .
‐Good news (though not from Germany)! They’ve given Michael Ramirez the Pulitzer Prize. No, really: They have. He is a political cartoonist, and he’s one of the best. But he has a handicap: He is a conservative. This has not stopped him, however, as he has sailed through life, garnering prize after prize. Hurray for the Pulitzer committee. And hurray for Mike, who must continue to delight and instruct us forever.
‐Care for some music — some reviews from the New York Sun? For Puccini’s Edgar, performed by the Opera Orchestra of New York, go here. For Hilary Hahn, the violinist, and Josh Ritter, a singer-songwriter, in a joint recital, go here. For Philip Glass’s Satyagraha at the Metropolitan Opera, go here. For the Academy of St. Martin in the Fields, conducted by Sir Neville Marriner, with Marc-André Hamelin, piano soloist, go here. And for the New York Philharmonic, under Leonard Slatkin, with Lang Lang, piano soloist, go here.
Enough already, huh?
‐Let me make the briefest remarks on Tiger Woods. 1) He stinks up the joint — by his standards — and finishes second. That’s Tiger. 2) He has a pouting/sulking problem, to be sure. Although it’s hard to quarrel with his record. 3) Do not forget the tremendous pressure on him — I’m not talking about pressure from other PGA Tour players; I’m talking about pressure from history, and from himself. Yes, the greats withstand pressure, and even thrive on it. So does Tiger. (Again, check the record.) But still: I think one can forget, when thinking about Tiger, the pressure he’s under (from Jones, Hogan, Nicklaus, etc.).
‐Friends, I am way, way behind on my mail, so please forgive me. Also, these columns have been a little infrequent — and I think they’ll get more so, what with travel and deadlines. But I’ll keep an eye on things, and will be back at you ere long. Enjoy your NRs (in addition to your NRO)!