Politics & Policy

Obama’s campaign chorus, &c.

There was an article, in Politico, about how Democrats are nervous, about the presidential campaign. I was especially interested in a remark by “a former top strategist for past Democratic presidential campaigns, who spoke on the condition of anonymity.” He said, “Obama is struggling with working-class whites just like John Kerry, Al Gore, Bill Clinton, Michael Dukakis did, and Walter Mondale. He’s struggling with voters in the border-state South.”

That’s not what I’m interested in. And then comes, “And he’s struggling with an enormous wind at his back, a hatred for George Bush and a mainstream media that is little short of a chorus for his campaign.”

#ad#Didn’t you love that admission, by this top Democrat, about the press? If only they’d generally admit so! You could almost live with the media bias, if it were merely acknowledged, as a fact of life.

You know?

‐Politicos always say dumb things, but sometimes they say especially dumb things. Here’s Michelle Obama’s chief of staff, a woman named Stephanie Cutter: “The more we learn about her [Palin], the more these facts don’t add up. We now learn that she’s the queen of pork in Alaska.”

By the standards of Alaska, certainly, she’s more like the queen of anti-pork. You see how easy it is to slip into demagogic rhetoric? “The queen of pork.” That bears no relation to reality, although it bears relation to a kind of campaign reality, which is in fact unreal (if you follow me). Plus, does the Obama campaign really want to get into the senator’s earmark efforts for Illinois? Do they want to play on that field?

If the press lets them, they can.

Finally: You may say it’s a kind of victory, for us Reaganites, if the Democrats are campaigning against wasteful federal spending — if they use it even as a device. Not so long ago, they equated federal spending with human compassion (unless it was on the military, natch). That’s how I grew up.

This was a somewhat disquieting story: “A performer with the famed American Alvin Ailey dance troupe on Tuesday said he was twice forced to perform steps for Israeli airport security officers to prove his identity before he was permitted to enter the country.”

But it reminded me of one of my favorite jokes — I’ve used it in music criticism before. A soprano traveling in the Far Pacific islands is taken captive by cannibals. They are about to boil her and eat her. She says, “You can’t do this to me: I’m a prima donna.” And they say, “Oh, yeah? Prove it. Sing something.” And she says, “Sing? Without my hairdresser? Without my gown? Without my fee?”

And, believing she’s a soprano, they let her go.

‐In my Impromptus of Wednesday, I wrote about “uppity,” and how a congressman had gotten into trouble for using that word about the Obamas. He later swore he had no idea it had any racial connotation. I said I found this hard to believe — but, every day, you discover that people don’t know things you expect them to.

And many, many readers wrote in to say that they themselves had never known of any racial connotation regarding “uppity.” They said things like, “I’m 42 years old, I’m not stupid, I’ve been around the block — know a thing or two. And I never knew that ‘uppity’ was a word off limits for blacks.”

It just goes to show you, you never know — and we shouldn’t be quick to judge, especially when that judgment is condemnation.

‐Was talking to someone who’s not especially political, but not especially apolitical either. She said that, after Sarah’s speech, she happened to switch on MSNBC. And the people were shocking — shockingly down, shockingly glum. My friend said, “They weren’t even able to fake it, at any level.” Andrea Mitchell, in particular, “looked like someone had drowned her puppy.”

Funny, that was exactly my reaction, when I saw AM. The MSNBC crew at large was traumatized — traumatized by what Palin had done. And they could not hide it, even if they had been so disposed.

That was an especially revealing moment. And it made me more impatient than ever with scoffs at Fox for not being a “real network.” Compared with MSNBC, Fox is Edward R. Murrow at his most idealized (and we know that the Murrow myth, of course, is just that). (Advised Stevenson behind the scenes, didn’t he?) (And you remember how Bradlee was with his friend JFK, on Election Night 1960? That’s “a whole ’nother” story.)

‐More intelligence from the same source — my friend (who’s not so political, but sharp): “Joe Biden criticized Palin for not mentioning the words ‘middle class.’ But why did she have to? When you represent it, you don’t have to talk about it! I mean, it was just laughable, what Biden said. Only when you seem far removed do you actually have to say ‘middle class.’”

True, don’t you think?

‐Got a letter from a man who’s been doing some research into Biden. He said that, in his diaries, Reagan mentioned him only once — on June 15, 1987: “Some talk about Senator Biden — now candidate for President. I saw him on CNN last night speaking to the John F. Kennedy School at Harvard U. He’s smooth but pure demagogue — out to save America from the Reagan Doctrine.”



‐Did you hear the wisdom of Sean “P. Diddy” Combs on our energy problems? I quote an article from the Telegraph:

“Gas prices are too motherf******g high,” he ranted to fans in a recent YouTube video, which was shot by a member of his entourage as he wandered through an airport terminal. [Yes, the Telegraph used one too many asterisks. Someone needs to be counting.]

“As you know, I do have my own jet, but I’ve been having to fly back and forth to LA pursuing my acting career. Now, if I’m flying back and forth twice a month, that’s like $200,000, $250,00 round trip. I’m back on American Airlines.”

While Combs’ own particular dilemma is likely to be confined to the hiphop aristocracy and its considerable entourage of hangers-on, his point about soaring oil prices will resonate well outside the “hood”.

‐This is not so funny. MEMRI, here, tells us of a Lebanese music-video director who semi-admits he’s gay. That’s interesting — novel. (Not the gayness, the semi-admission, in that part of the world.) But he makes up for it, so to speak, by saying that he supports the attacks of 9/11 — is glad of them.

MEMRI — the Middle East Media Research Institute — is “invaluable,” as we’ve been saying for many years. Lots of us depend on it sorely. But it is also in dire need of funds — dire. And I hope it gets them, else we’re all up a creek, or at least much worse off than we have been. MEMRI is a light on the Middle East. Without them, the region gets much darker.

‐Couple of months ago, I wrote about President Bush and his refusal to play golf during war. (I’m against — but I respect the president’s motives and integrity.) Well, earlier this week, my colleague Fred Schwarz forwarded me this article — on how the Korean president, Lee Myung-bak, has forbidden officials to play golf, because the economy is rocky. My favorite part of the article? The description of Lee as “a keen tennis player.”

You bet your a**.

‐I was a bit startled when I saw the headline over this article: “Group dangles $50K for Jews who move to Ala. town.” I originally read it, “move from Ala. town.” And I was thinking, “Geez, the Jews have moved up in the world: Used to be, they didn’t pay them to leave. They just, sort of — commanded it. Or worse.”

Anyway, this is a fairly charming story about the Alabama town of Dothan. And I was reminded of a chapter in a book Zev Chafets once wrote about American Jewry: “The Dixie Diaspora.”

‐Received this letter from a woman two days ago — you’ll love it:

I work in a top law firm, very liberal. I recently became acquainted with a lovely gentleman and we have been friendly and courteous. He came by the other day at the tail end of a political conversation. I turned to him and said, “I’ve enjoyed getting to know you, but I have something to tell you, and I expect that you will never speak to me again.” He looked at me curiously, and I said, “I am a Republican.” His mouth opened, his brow furrowed, and he said, “Really.” I responded in the affirmative, and he said, “Well, so am I.”

We were both stunned to have found each other in this law firm. I can think of only one more in all eight floors.


‐A little language? This woman, above, said that the man had said, “Really” — no question mark. I was reminded of something that Paul Johnson said in his 8/6 Spectator column:

I used to say that there were 16 different ways of pronouncing the word ‘really’, each of which meant something quite different. The sense was conveyed not only by verbal tone and emphasis but by stress, volume, facial expression (eyebrows, formation of lips and nose-quivers, etc) and a good deal of minimalist body-language. But that was half a century ago. Today, the word is less used in its important emphatic condemnatory and interrogative senses, even in the upper ranks. As the class barriers crumble to dust and the demotic takes over, English talk becomes less interesting, both to deliver and to listen to. (But perhaps I am wrong, and readers can inform me of new and interesting subtleties which have emerged in the Age of the Entertainment Society.)

I must tell you that reading Johnson’s weekly column is one of the joys of my life. I’ll have more to say about this later . . .

‐A little music? For a review of Joshua Bell’s new recording of Vivaldi’s Four Seasons, published in the New York Sun, go here.

‐You want to read a column that is perfectly, obviously true? Read Mona Charen, here. This column is about Trig Palin and America. I remember something that my teacher David Herbert Donald once said. (Donald was a, or is a, famous historian of the U.S.) He said, “The most important things in history aren’t provable.” What Mona Charen says is not provable — but it is glaringly true nonetheless.

‐I loved this letter — you will, too:


Your fellow [a reader-correspondent] who hocked his gold in order to contribute to McCain-Palin brought to mind the 2004 election. Bruce Springsteen was making noise about holding a concert in Jersey to raise money for Kerry. I was a big Boss fan back in the day, but had outgrown him, so it was with little remorse and much pleasure that I sold my collection of Springsteen CDs (as well as Jackson Browne and U2) to a secondhand store and donated the cash to W.’s campaign.

And there is a P.S.: “If I want any of their music in the future, you can be sure I’ll steal it off the Internet.”

‐Finally, have a look at this unusual letter — the bit from Dolly Parton at the end touched me:

Dear Mr. Nordlinger,

It’s almost over. If Sarah Palin does fine in her interviews (and I don’t have a doubt about it) and doesn’t do anything out of the ordinary (for her), she will be home free. This is because people’s image of her will be solidified, and it will be a good image, for most people. Once her persona — intelligent, funny, warm, caring, full of integrity, and tough, tough, tough — is firm in people’s minds, any small gaffes or errors in the future will just bounce off. After all, once you know a person, slip-ups are discounted.

Can I give you a small story to illustrate this? In the ’70s, I was reading one of my mother’s women’s mags (Ladies’ Home Journal, I believe), and there was a question posed to a few celebrities: “What if your best friend were throwing a party and you weren’t invited?” Many answers were fine and sensitive, but one really struck me, and I’ve repeated it many times since.

Dolly Parton said, “If she was really my best friend, I’d just assume the invitation had gotten lost and go anyway.”

I mean, once you’ve got someone sussed out, do you really have to keep questioning him?

True, true. Wise, wise. See you.

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