Politics & Policy

Almost epochal, &c.

As regular readers know, I am not a fan of Al Sharpton. In fact, I am a great non-fan. I don’t even like the new, improved, cuddlier, non-murder-inciting Sharpton. But earlier this week, something important, almost epochal, happened. He demonstrated against the Cuban government — particularly over its treatment of black political prisoners.

(We can talk about non-race-based human-rights advocacy later. One step at a time.)

I cannot overemphasize how unusual and amazing this is. This represents a major break in an ugly historical pattern. For 50 years, American black leaders have been among the biggest supporters of the Communist dictatorship. There are reasons for this — bad ones, but reasons. I explored the subject in a 2000 piece, called “In Castro’s Corner: A story of black and red.” (Go here.)

Jesse Jackson, Charlie Rangel, and Randall Robinson — to name only three — have all been great friends of Castro. I do not mean that they have merely failed to condemn him. I do not mean that they have ignored Castro, or let him off lightly. I mean that they have been great friends, boosters, and apologists.

For many years, some of us have asked, “Why do black leaders persist in being on the side of people who kick in the teeth of black heroes, such as Biscet and Antúnez?” Well, Sharpton has come out on the other side. He has broken ranks.

Does this have anything to do with the fact that the beloved Fidel has stepped aside? (Raúl is less beloved.) Even so . . .

To see a report on the Sharpton matter, consult the Directorio Democrático Cubano, here. And give thanks.

‐Many people have remarked that John McCain has come in for less-than-glowing media treatment, where he was once a great media pet. Why is this? Well, the main answer seems clear: Back then, he was in the way of George W. Bush. Now, he is in the way of Barack Obama.

Same thing happened to Hillary Clinton, as a matter of fact.

‐P.S. If McCain had become the nominee in 2000 — the media would quickly have found fault, with Al Gore to elect.

‐P.P.S. Does that sound paranoid, even fringy? To me, it just sounds wearily experienced.

‐Quite possibly, Michael Ramirez, the brilliant and right-leaning cartoonist, has had the quip of the season so far. In one of his cartoons, he had Obama, speaking in Berlin, say, “Ich bin ein Beginner.”

Nice going, Mike!

‐More in my long-running saga of America’s stupid race-and-gender consciousness. In an article about Patti Solis Doyle, a politico who has gone to work for Obama, we learn that she describes herself as a “two-fer”: both Hispanic and female. (For the article, go here.)

Are there people who really think of themselves that way? Who think of themselves as races, ethnicities, and sexes, instead of people? Yes, Virginia, there really are.

It is, in my opinion, not just an American trait, but an American sickness.

‐I recently learned something from my friend Scott Johnson, one of the sages at Power Line. Actually, I learned a couple of things. First, I learned about Leo Thorsness, a Medal of Honor recipient. He is stumping for McCain. For the Thorsness citation, go here. And I learned about Cuba’s role in Vietnam — something of which I had been unaware (or about which I had forgotten).

From that Medal of Honor citation:

Thorsness was in captivity when a Cuban team came in 1968 and stayed for a year. They taught the North Vietnamese how to extract information.

Thorsness was not among the eight tortured by the Cubans, but they systematically tortured another in the camp, Earl Cobeil, to death. Cobeil was struck along the brow with a hose and didn’t blink. And they took a rusty nail and carved a bloody X across his back.

Etc., etc. And this is the regime that caused a million faculty hearts to flutter.

‐On a similar subject: I have read many articles about McCain and his Vietnam bravery. One of the most clear and affecting ones was recently penned by James H. (Jim) Warner, who was imprisoned with him. If you’re interested, go here.

‐I saw a headline, but did not read further: “18-year-old kills girlfriend after watching ‘Natural Born Killers.’”

I remembered a common conservative point from many years ago. We were forbidden to say that our culture had any influence on young people whatsoever. We were forbidden to say that foul movies had a bad influence, that foul rap had a bad influence, that dirty television shows had a bad influence, etc. If you thought so, you were a right-wing boob and censor.

But all liberals said that the sight of “Joe Camel” made tots everywhere want to go out and smoke for life . . .

Truth is, all these things have an influence (as every parent, certainly, knows).

‐Let me talk for a second about golf. Now, I’m known as a conservative and a traditionalist — a law-and-order guy. I don’t care. Sometimes the law is an ass, and tradition, too.

I had this thought — for the millionth time, where golf is concerned — when reading the latest about Michelle Wie. She was disqualified from a tournament for failing to sign her scorecard before leaving the “scoring area.”

Oh, come on — that has nothing to do with golf, or with competition. It has nothing to do with pars, birdies, and bogeys. With swings, chips, and putts. Come on. Get real. Go after the cheaters.

Remember when Stads — Craig Stadler — laid a towel on the ground before hitting a shot from his knees, so as not to get his pants dirty? A viewer called in and accused him of “building a stance.” Yeah, right.

Sometimes the law is an ass. And golf has made itself ridiculous.

As a friend of mine (ex-pro golfer) wrote me earlier in the week, “Usually what happens when you forget to sign something is, someone brings it to your attention and makes you sign it. They don’t tear up the document and disqualify you.”

I love golf as much as anybody, I guess, and I love its history and traditions as much as anybody. But, really: Some traditions, I have to let others defend . . .

‐People in San Francisco are trying to give a sewage plant the name “George W. Bush.” A proposal is on the November ballot. (For a news story, go here.) A reader writes, “I think Republicans should embrace this effort and vote for it. After all, what do conservatives do but clean up the messes made by liberals?”

Me, I think this says a lot about the maturity of San Francisco liberals . . .

‐A few Impromptuses ago, I quoted something from the Northwest Ordinance (incorporated into the Michigan constitution). It was, “Religion, morality, and knowledge being necessary to good government and the happiness of mankind, schools and the means of education shall forever be encouraged.”

Many, many readers wrote in to say that the language — the very syntax — bore striking resemblance to the Second Amendment: “A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.”

The implications are several . . .

‐A little time with bumper stickers? A reader writes,

Mr. Nordlinger,

When I read about the bumper sticker that says “Faith . . . Hope . . . Obama,” I thought of a simple response: “Pick one.”

Another note?

Dear Jay,

One of my pet peeves is nasty election bumper stickers. In my opinion, the worst from the last election cycle was, “Practice Abstinence: No Bush, No Dick.” Lovely, isn’t it? I saw absolutely nothing to compare from the right (thank heaven). This year’s frontrunner is a map of the U.S., with the left coast and part of the right coast colored blue, and the words “Better Dead Than Red.”

Lovely. (Wish they had felt that way about the Communists!)

A T-shirt (non-Che)?

Hi, Jay,

We live in Colorado and visit beautiful, but ostentatiously liberal, Boulder occasionally. We recently saw a young man proudly wearing a T-shirt that bore the Christian cross, the Islamic crescent, and the Jewish Star of David. Underneath were the words “Axis of Evil.”

Yes — very unsurprising. I have noticed that the only way to criticize radical, violent Islam — in any fashion — is to declare a pox on all houses, so to speak.

Back to bumper stickers:


I saw your reader’s comment about the miracle of a Prius without an Obama sticker on it. Last Sunday, in Ann Arbor, I saw a Prius (parked) with a McCain sticker on it! I almost fell out of my seat! I kept watching, because I wanted to see who owned this car, but we finished our lunch and left before the driver returned.

As an Ann Arbor resident, I am hesitant to put a McCain sticker on my two-month-old car for fear that the car will be vandalized.

Now, no one’d ever do that, would they?

(Note to itchy fingers: I know that “he” goes with “no one.” I’m being colloquial.)


Dear Mr Nordlinger,

Your note about the Prius without the Obama sticker reminded me of the time I saw a car with two bumper stickers: one for Chicago’s Old Town School of Folk Music (which is in my neighborhood, BTW) and the other for Bush-Cheney 2004.

I don’t often see a car cross ideo-cultural barriers like that. And when I do, the driver is always conservative. Funny how that works.

Funny, indeed.

‐Want to give you a note about Florence King. Yesterday, I was looking up a saying that David Pryce-Jones has used with regard to Israel: “Cet animal est méchant. Quand on l’attaque il se défend.” In other words, “That animal is wicked. When attacked, it defends itself.”

Apparently, the saying comes from an old French song, “La Ménagerie.”

Anyway, I found a site that has quotations regarding animals, here. The quotes are from the Bible, Milton, Churchill — and Florence (among others). I thought, “That’s immortality!”

(By the way, the FK quote is, “Animal-rights activism gives disillusioned feminists an excuse to go back to being women protecting wee creatures without compromising their radical credentials.” Beautiful, unexpected, and discerning.)

‐A reader writes,

Wow, Jay:

You wrote, “. . . and they don’t have any idea who Bill Buckley was.” That “was” really struck me.

Yeah, it pained me to write it. And, frankly, I don’t really believe it.

‐I adored this note — sparked by my quoting of Ian Poulter, the British golfer:

Jay –

You’ve reminded me of a guest column that Spiro Agnew (he was a very funny and bright guy) wrote for Sports Illustrated before he so ignominiously departed the vice-presidency. The article was about his love of golf, and his woeful attempts to improve his game. He closed with the comment, “I know I can do better; it’s just that I never have.”

I know I can do better; it’s just that I never have. That statement can apply to many departments of life. In fact, it has sort of haunted me since I heard it.

‐You know how liberals assume you’re liberal because of what you do, or the way you are or something — like if you read, bathe, or don’t have horns and a tail? A reader of mine recently visited his cousin in Oregon. The cousin is an artist and psychologist. And he lives in a neighborhood filled with Obama signs. My reader asked how he was holding up. And the cousin answered, “Well, they assume I’m a socialist too because I paint, I suppose. So I just let them.”

I loved that.

‐Care for a music review, published in the New York Sun? It has to do with Henry Purcell, the English Baroque genius. Go here.

‐Finally, I’d like to close with a letter — another one. It is one of the most beautiful and affecting I can remember receiving. The letter responded to my Impromptus of Tuesday. In that column, I talked about a piece I have in the current NR. It’s called, “Right Song, Wrong Place: ‘Lift Ev’ry Voice and Sing’ makes the news.”

“Lift Ev’ry Voice” is a beautiful, glorious song, and it is sometimes known as the “black national anthem.” And it indeed made the news — this was in early July. A singer in Denver was supposed to sing “The Star-Spangled Banner” at an official event. Instead, she substituted “Lift Ev’ry Voice” (words only, strangely enough — she kept the music of the national anthem).

Anyway — to the letter. A few words may make some readers wince, soaked as we all are in PC. But there can be no doubt about the pure humanity of the correspondent:


I haven’t received my print NR yet, so I haven’t read your article. But your column today made me teary. My parents, as I may have told you, were members of the Communist party. We were white, and living in a Philadelphia neighborhood that was rapidly becoming black. My mother became head of the local NAACP chapter and also the president of the local school’s Home and School Association. She continued these activities even after she and my father were kicked out of the Party.

The school was almost entirely black. And, one time, my mother arranged a little trick for an association meeting. The (white male) principal was there and announced the national anthem. The piano player launched into “Lift Ev’ry Voice,” and the membership sang it. My mother was mightily proud of this.

At the time, being maybe eight, I thought she was very clever. (I knew all the words to the song then; now I’ve forgotten them.) Now I see what a Communist-style antic that was. Always picking at everything American, always promoting alienation and division.

But it was your description of black culture that got to me. The blacks we knew were middle-class, hard-working, patriotic, American. I went to a ballet school run by a black woman named Marion Cuyjet. Really she was barely beige, but that’s how it was in those days. This was a terrific school that produced Judith Jamison, among others. All of the students were black except me. And you didn’t have to have Michelle Obama’s income to send your kid there.

Black people wanted ballet and opera and culture. They wanted to be part of America. They named their children Alice and Alan and John and Barbara. Their black culture was in addition to, not instead of, their American culture. Thomas Sowell is (of course) particularly eloquent on this. One of his books described Dunbar High School, the great school for blacks that produced so many famous people, and how it had to be closed in the name of equality.

All of this is so sad I can hardly bear to think of what has been thrown away.

A great deal has been thrown away — but it exists, to be picked off the rubbish heap, and shined up. Forces of degeneration can be challenged. Alienation and division can be opposed. Those who are serious about culture can be encouraged.

Am I about to say we can overcome?

Anyway, thanks for joining me, and I’ll see you later.


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