Sometime last winter, I did a series on “safe zones,” or the lack of them. I was decrying the intrusion of politics into what should be non-political spheres. I guess the fullest expression of the safe-zone theme came in this column.
Okay, I know a pair of newlyweds who just spent a couple days in New York. They were telling me about their tour guides on the Gray Line. (They took two such tours, I believe.) Both fine guys, both fine guides. But get a load of this:
Passing Grant’s tomb, a guide said, “Yeah, there were a few good Republicans — Grant, Lincoln, and Teddy Roosevelt.” Well, at least he gives us that.
Passing an Army recruiting office, a guide said, with unseemly satisfaction, “No one goes there.” (The husband in my pair of friends thought to himself, “There goes your tip, buddy.” My friend is the son of two career military people.)
Finally, on Sixth Avenue, one of the guides said, “Behold Fox News, the Voice of Evil.”
My friends are thinking, “Why do these guys think they can alienate the people who may be Republican or conservative on the bus?” Because ideology trumps everything, basically, including simple manners — maybe even especially them.
‐Let me repeat a point that others have made (because what am I good for, if not repetition?). President Obama has gone a long way in courting Arab regimes and alienating, and frightening, the Israeli government and the Israeli people. And what is the payoff? To what end?
Says the Associated Press, “Jordan on Monday mirrored Saudi Arabia in publicly rejecting U.S. appeals to improve relations with Israel to help restart Middle East peace talks, throwing a damper on the Obama administration’s push for Arab support behind new negotiations.”
Yes, and Jordan is just about the easiest, best Arab state. Hell, King Abdullah sounds like a policy analyst at the American Enterprise Institute, when you talk to him. Still . . .
Nice going, Barack, Hillary — all you guys. Really nice.
‐In the old days, PLO and other Arab leaders played a double game: They would say one thing to the West, in English, and quite a different thing to the home crowd, in Arabic. But for some years, that game has been less easy to play. The reason? MEMRI, the Middle East Media Research Institute. They give us translations of Arab newspapers, TV programs, and so on.
When PLO men visit international conferences, such as Davos, they are sweetness and light, most of the time. But what about at home? Here, via MEMRI, is Tawfiq Tirawi, security adviser to Palestinian Authority president Mahmoud Abbas:
But let me tell you, Jerusalem needs thousands of martyrs. If we live to see the day, and you become the leaders of the future, mark my words: It is impossible for Jerusalem to be restored to us without thousands of martyrs. Anyone who thinks that America will restore Jerusalem to us is mistaken. It will never restore Jerusalem to us. And if it does not give us Jerusalem, how can it possibly give us the Right of Return?
And so on. How would we know such things, without MEMRI? It would be impossible. And, like many other institutions, MEMRI is starved for funds, having a hard time continuing. We need this outfit. If you are so disposed, donate (here).
Incidentally, I wrote a piece about MEMRI way back in 2002 — here. They were invaluable then — we joked that “invaluable” was part of their name: The Invaluable Middle East Media Research Institute — and they are invaluable now.)
‐Spare a thought for Mohannad al-Hussani, a Syrian human-rights lawyer. As reported here, Hussani, “who has been handling high profile political cases, was summoned Tuesday to State Security, one of a multitude of intelligence agencies in the Arab country, which has been ruled by the Baath Party since it took power in a 1963 coup. Hussani has not been heard from since . . .”
This is the exact moment at which our American administration is cozying up to the Assad dictatorship. Swell.
I look forward to seeing what the payoff is — but I won’t wait up nights, and I don’t recommend that you do either.
‐There is a kind of “multiculturalism” I like, and a kind that is poisonous, possibly fatal. May I tell you about a story I saw (here)? The headline read, “Sikh soldiers guard Queen Elizabeth II,” and I thought, “Uh-oh, watch out, Betty — remember what happened to Mrs. Gandhi.” But then I read the article.
Queen Elizabeth II has switched bearskin hats for turbans outside Buckingham Palace, where Sikh soldiers have begun guarding the monarch and her treasures, Britain’s defense ministry said Friday.
Signaler Simranjit Singh and Lance Cpl. Sarvjit Singh are the first Sikhs to take part in patrols outside the queen’s residence and to stand watch over the Crown jewels at the Tower of London across town.
Guard duties are usually carried out by the Guards of Household Division, famed for their bearskin hats and crimson coats that attract picture-taking tourists in their thousands. The ministry said the Sikh soldiers instead wore turbans and blue uniforms. . . .
Sarvjit Singh, who was born in India and is a member of 3 Regiment Army Air Corps, said he was thrilled to have had the opportunity to guard the queen.
“My experience being a Sikh on the queen’s guard is beyond words,” said the 28-year-old. “It is a once in a lifetime opportunity. I feel privileged to have this honor.”
“Being in London and parading in front of hundreds of people has been brilliant. Being Sikh hasn’t made any difference,” said Simranjit Singh, 26, from Coventry in central England, who is attached to the 21 Signal Regiment (Air Support).
You know what I mean? That is assimilation, that is ethnic flavoring, that is harmony — that is civilization. Unlike . . . lots of other stuff. (Remember the blind Briton who refused to budge from the bus, when a Muslim woman was screaming about his seeing-eye dog, complaining that such animals are unclean? He is a hero for our times.)
‐I thought this was kind of interesting, from the AP — see what you think: “Tens of thousands of unsafe or decaying bridges carrying 100 million drivers a day must wait for repairs because states are spending stimulus money on spans that are already in good shape or on easier projects like repaving roads, an Associated Press analysis shows.”
Someday, there is a book to be written about this Obama “stimulus” — and it cannot be pretty. (For that full AP article, go here.)
‐“Dear Mr. N.,” writes a reader.
Several days ago, I was at the intersection of Amsterdam Ave. and 125th St., just about a block from where I live. [This is New York City.] On the corner I was passing through stood a small table and display devoted to hawking the Communist party (whether it was the CPUSA or a variant, I’m not sure). A genial, sixtyish black man with a sheaf of newspapers offered me one. I kept walking and said, “No, thanks — I gave up on Marx a long time ago.” Still genial, the man said, “Then you’ve given up on humanity!”
I just laughed and unfortunately was almost a block away before I thought of what I should have said: “No, just the gulags.” Or something . . .
I have to remember these lines, both for New York and for return visits to Ann Arbor . . .
‐In Monday’s Impromptus, and also in the Corner, I did some scribbling about race, that old devil. Many, many people wrote in — and I thought you’d get a kick out of a note from a Bush-administration friend of mine:
An office director in a cabinet office received a call from the Office of Equal Employment Opportunity informing her that one of the staffers had filed a suit against her. The EEO officer talked about political appointees who might have racial or ethnic bias toward the civil servants and wanted to make sure that race was not a problem in that office.
The office director invited the EEO officer to discuss the matter in person. She called me to tell me, “Watch, watch — here he comes!” I watched from the hall and nearly wet myself.
She is black.
Needless to say, the EEO officer tried to play it cool.
It was good to see stereotypes of Republicans get a kick in the . . .
Love it — flat love it.
‐A little more on race? This will not be so much fun:
My daughter will be attending [Such-and-such] University starting next month. . . . A straight-A honors student throughout high school, ranked 15th in a class of 600, and with excellent SAT scores, she applied to a number of so-called top schools, including UPenn and Northwestern. She was not accepted at the former and waitlisted at the latter . . . What upset her beyond the blow to her ego was that she knew classmates who were accepted at both schools who had inferior grades but who happened to be black or Hispanic. While sympathetic to her complaints, I told her, “That’s just the way it is,” and, “Life isn’t fair, so deal with it.” And deal with it she has.
But there is a disturbing postscript that got me to thinking how the whole issue of race is increasingly becoming a sham. My wife today met a friend of my daughter’s who is a rising high-school senior, and she asked how her college search was going. My daughter’s friend said she has her heart set on either Brown or Tufts. Then, without prompting, she added that she was optimistic about her chances because, aside from her good grades, her mother is Hispanic.
Now, it is one thing when college admissions offices give racial preferences based on the notion that students of color are at a disadvantage to white students, but hasn’t the whole notion of affirmative action been turned on its head when minority students themselves begin to see their race as a competitive advantage?
Oh, well. I guess I have to take my own advice and just deal with it.
‐Okay, on to something more pleasant: names. Reader writes, “Here’s one more to add to your files. She was a client of mine, many years ago — a Hawaiian nurse: Lolita Macadangdang. So lyrical.”
‐Yesterday, on the Corner, I spoke of the man named Tom Judy, who married a woman named Judy — who became Judy Judy. My colleague Kevin Williamson chimed in, “I’ll see your Judy Judy and raise you Sue Sue, a friend’s mother who, sadly, is not a lawyer.”
Beautiful. (She should be extra-litigious, a frequent plaintiff!)
And the Daily Mail had a nice story: Kelly Hildebrand, a lady, will marry Kelly Hildebrandt (note the “t”), a man. They met via Facebook. And the paper quotes the lady as saying, “No, we’re definitely not going to name our kids Kelly.” Would be interesting, though — Ripley’s-esque.
P.S. We are having debates about “same-sex marriage.” Same-name marriage?
‐Saw this headline, from the golf world: “Lamely Wins Nationwide Tour Event.” Well, that’s kind of pathetic, isn’t it? (Let me not be cheeky/stupid: A man named Derek Lamely won the Nationwide Children’s Hospital Invitational. We are to congratulate him.) (Still: Thought the headline was kind of amusing.)
‐In those Impromptus on Monday, I said something complimentary about President Obama — said that I found a remark he made at a town-hall event charming. What he said was, “I’m just going to call on people as they raise their hand. I’ll go girl, boy, girl, boy so that people don’t think I’m biased.” I also thought that his order was interesting, unexpected: The usual phrase is “boy, girl, boy, girl.”
In any event, reader writes,
To me, the most telling thing about Obama’s “girl, boy” statement is that he is apparently exempt from the general rules of political correctness that govern the rest of us and is thus allowed to say “girl” as opposed to “woman” or, more ideally, “female.” Some years ago, I made the horrific mistake of describing a female employee to another colleague as “the girl who works in [such-and-such department].” The employee found out about it. She immediately informed me that “referring to a woman as a ‘girl’ is no better than referring to an African American as a ‘n*****.’” [Oh, give me a frickin’ break.]
I’m pleased to see that, its usage having now been authorized by The One, the G-word can once again be spoken in polite company.
Well, yet another cheer for Obama!
‐Shall I keep going? I meant to comment on Obama’s African speech, some weeks back. It was thrilling — in parts, it was absolutely thrilling. Here was an American president saying, in essence, “Stop blaming whites, the West, and colonialism for your problems. You have been held back by these attitudes for too long. Accept responsibility for yourselves and your continent and get with it.”
He did not put it exactly like that, of course — but that was his message. A powerful, truth-telling message. Hell, almost makes, oh — “cash for clunkers” worth swallowing. (I said almost.)
‐Friends, I believe this column will go on hiatus for a while. Going to be working in Salzburg, at the festival. Care to drop by the (public) interviews of the Salzburg Festival Society? Would be a pleasure to see you. Meanwhile, I have a piece on Judge Michael Mukasey — GWB’s third and final attorney general — in National Review. I sat down with him some weeks ago. I intend to “blow out” that interview in Impromptus — which is to say, give you much more of it. Fascinating, brainy, vital guy, Mukasey.
In the issue to come, I will have a review of George Gilder’s new book, The Israel Test. What a bracing, even exciting read, that book. I did not think I could read something new, or newish, about Israel and the Middle East. But lo . . .
I will have more to say about that, too, in Impromptus.
In any case — Happy August, dear ones, and I look forward to “seeing” you later.