Last week, went to the grand opening — or reopening — of the USGA Museum. That’s in Far Hills, N.J. (very horsey country). What’s the USGA, you ask? Oh, sorry: the United States Golf Association. The museum was closed for three years. And now it’s new and spiffy.
The USGA Museum — we used to call it “Golf House” — is golf’s equivalent of the Smithsonian. It has the game’s treasured artifacts. For example, you’ll see Bobby Jones’s putter, Calamity Jane (but you can no more putt with it than you can fly the Spirit of St. Louis).
Anyway, I’ve written about this day — the grand reopening — for the next National Review. Is your subscription up to date? I certainly hope so. But I wanted to say just a couple of words here.
Many readers have written to ask what I make of President Bush’s decision not to play golf. (This will relate to the museum, I swear.) A few weeks ago, he revealed that he has not played golf since 2003 — that was a dog not barking. His reason? He believes it would be unseemly for the commander-in-chief to be seen playing golf while we are at war.
I understand the president’s motivations; they are utterly honorable. And one has to be concerned with image and PR. Bush’s father took some grief in the Gulf War for zipping around in his cigarette boat. (I first learned the term “cigarette boat” during 41’s presidency. I don’t think I’ve heard it since.) Nonetheless, I believe 43 is deeply misguided.
For as long as anyone can remember, our boys at war have played golf — when they can. It is part and parcel of the American tradition. They have usually played in a makeshift way — I mean, this is not teeing it up at Olympia Fields.
And I was reminded of all this when looking at the USGA Museum’s World War II exhibit. There were many striking items — and I was especially interested in some golf balls. They were homemade, fashioned by American POWs.
Golf is wrongly stigmatized as some privileged affair, and I’m afraid that President Bush has bowed to the stigmatization. And it’s not as though he denies himself recreation. I mean, he bikes around in those dorky tight-fitting shorts.
I wish the president would tee it up unabashedly. But I know what he means. Let me say, too, that I bet desert golf is played with abandon by our troops in Iraq. That’ll be a good piece to write someday. I might even do it my own bad self.
‐One more word about that day in Far Hills. Arnold Palmer was the big draw (as he almost always is). But it was a treat to hear some remarks by Carol Semple Thompson, and to speak with her later. CST is the greatest woman golfer of our time — greatest woman amateur golfer. She has won seven USGA championships. Take my word for it, please: That is amazing.
She had just returned from captaining the U.S. team to victory in the Curtis Cup. That match was held on the Old Course in St. Andrews. The Curtis Cup pits American female amateurs against British and Irish ones.
And she said several interesting things in her public remarks. First, she described herself as “the ultimate USGA brat.” Both her parents were longtime USGA officials. Indeed, her father, Bud, was USGA president.
Her parents had a rule for their children: All five of them had to play golf until they could break 90. Then, they could quit.
Later, I asked CST about this. Did they all break 90? Oh, yes. And did any of them quit? Yes, in fact four of them quit — all but Carol. She just took to it. Really took to it.
I thought of Bill Buckley, who was one of ten children. All of them had to learn certain pursuits: golf, horse riding, sailing, etc. Bill dropped pretty much all of them: except sailing. That, he took to — really took to.
‐Did you know, until she dropped out, that Hillary Clinton was running as a woman candidate — as a female pioneer? I didn’t. I didn’t hear a word about this during the campaign. Did you?
But there was Barack Obama, saying, “I honor her today for the valiant and historic campaign she has run. She shattered barriers on behalf of my daughters and women everywhere, who now know that there are no limits to their dreams.”
Ugh, gross. Were you aware that women didn’t know that their dreams were limitless until this year? (And aren’t all dreams limited, in a sense?)
And here was HRC herself: “Although we weren’t able to shatter that highest, hardest glass ceiling this time, thanks to you, it has about 18 million cracks in it and the light is shining through like never before.”
Oh, come on. She is Hillary, hear her roar. I will say again what I’ve said for years: I’ve never thought of Hillary Clinton as a woman. (No offense.) I think of her as Hillary Clinton.
‐I know that rhetoric and slogans can be silly, especially in a political campaign. But I find some of Obama’s words particularly silly, and even unnerving. “Change We Can Believe In,” blah, blah, blah. What kind of change? Change for change’s sake? What quality of change? A change to McGovernization?
Consider this, too: “Let’s Unite for Our Common Purpose.” What common purpose? We don’t have a common purpose. I, personally, am not part of Obama’s purpose. For example, he wants to withdraw from Iraq. I say this would be disastrous. He’s for abortion on demand — even partial-birth abortion. I am not. Etc.
I hate to reach for the O-word — Orwellian — but I am tempted, when I listen to Obama talk, and read his campaign lit . . .
‐Now and then in this column, I comment on bumper stickers, and how bad they are. There is one in particular that is especially offensive. In fact, I think it may take the cake. I have written about it before. But I was reminded of it when a reader wrote in, couple of days ago.
I saw a uniquely infuriating bumper sticker today. The car in front of me on my way home from work had a sticker saying, “My Boss Is an Austrian Painter.” It took me a few moments to realize that this was a takeoff on the Christian sticker “My Boss Is a Jewish Carpenter.”
Oh, yes: Here is a bumper sticker that mocks Christians and calls them Nazis. That is, indeed, cake-taking. An apotheosis, you might say. A perfect distillation of liberal hate and madness.
And, by the way, have you ever seen an anti-Muslim bumper sticker? Say that our “Austrian Painter” guy had a sticker on his car mocking the Prophet Muhammad. How long would he stay alive? A day? An hour?
UPDATE: There are some who say that the “Austrian Painter” sticker is sported by neo-Nazis — or just plain Nazis. I would bet, however, that most bearers of the sticker are stickin’ it to the Christers — like the people who have the fish with the “Darwin feet.”
‐Had several e-mails about the recent RFK commemoration: It was 40 years ago that Bobby Kennedy was assassinated. The e-mails all said the same thing: Why no talk about Kennedy’s killer, who he was and why he killed?
My correspondents have a point, of course. The killer was a Palestinian Arab who hated RFK for his support of Israel. Play a game: Suppose that the killer had been a right-wing racist who hated Kennedy for his support of civil rights. Wouldn’t that fact be pretty well aired?
After John Kennedy was killed, some liberals said their grief could be “pure.” I will never forget reading this. And why could their grief be pure? Because the president had been killed by a Communist (trained in the Soviet Union, no less). He had not been killed by a right-winger (as initial reports had it).
This may be crazy stuff, but it’s obviously human.
‐Do you care for an item from the La Jolla Light (“Enlightening La Jolla Since 1913”)? A reader sent it to me. A prominent local woman was being interviewed. She was asked, “If you hosted a dinner party for eight, who (living or deceased) would you invite?” Her answer:
Barack Obama; Jon Stewart; Keith Olbermann; Bono; Steve Jobs; Bill Maher; Maya Angelou. Alain Ducasse would be in charge of the food and wine (no Blue Nuns invited!), Dave Brubeck would play during the cocktail hour, Alice Walker would be there to write about it, Annie Leibovitz would photograph the event, and W would park the cars (if sober). I’d resurrect Freud to analyze the guests and their interaction, and Michael Moore would ultimately make a documentary about it.
She has described a liberal dream, and a conservative nightmare. A chacun son goût. And I could certainly go along with Ducasse and Brubeck — also with some of the others. But what about that shot at W.? Couldn’t she just say whom she admired, without injecting a dose of hate? No, of course not.
And I’ll say just two more things: I have a feeling W. is a lot more sober than she is. And his conquest of drink is one of the best things about him.
‐In December 2005, I wrote the following in one of these here Impromptus: “As usual, Thomas Sowell has spoken for me: ‘A nightmare for the 2008 presidential election: Hillary Clinton versus John McCain. I wouldn’t know whether to vote Libertarian or move to Australia.’”
I thought of this when reading these recent lines from Sowell: “Even if you think our presidential choices this election year are between disgust and disaster, anyone who has ever been through a real disaster can tell you that this difference is not small. It is big enough to go vote on Election Day.”
Hear, hear. I was with Sowell in December ’05, and I’m with him now.
‐And since I’m on a Sowell train, may I offer an additional recent passage from him? “In the real world, a sense of grievance or entitlement, as a result of the mistreatment of your ancestors, is not likely to get you very far with people who are too busy dealing with current economic realities to spend much time thinking about their own ancestors, much less other people’s ancestors.”
A national treasure, he is.
‐I don’t think I’ve ever thrown a ballet note at you, have I? Well, there’s a first time for everything. Nina Ananiashvili is not only one of the greatest dancers of our time; she is one of the greatest artists. I could extol this Georgian ballerina for the next hour or so. But let me make just one point here.
She is now 45 years old. That fact hit me as I was watching her the other night. Forty-five years old, in ballerina terms, is like 108. And what she can do with her body is almost unfathomable. I have it on good authority that she has not lost a step, that she has made no technical compromises whatsoever. She remains true to the high, high standard of her early days.
And, as you don’t need to be told, this is a mental feat as much as a physical one. In fact, it could probably be put in the spiritual realm.
Sam Snead, Michelangelo, Verdi — I have just named people who produced and performed way after they were “supposed” to. Ananiashvili is one for the list.
‐Seeing as we’re on the arts — couple of music pieces? For a review of Lorin Maazel conducting the New York Phil. in Mahler’s Ninth, go here. And for a recordings roundup, go here. Under consideration are Xuefei Yang, a Chinese guitarist (yes); Daniel Barenboim (as pianist); and Renaud Capuçon, a French violinist.
Both pieces were published in the New York Sun.
I think that’s enough from me, cool ones, and I’ll see you soon.