Politics & Policy

Who can wave the Bible? &c.

President Obama is not shy about using religious language and religious imagery. He has said that he hopes to be “an instrument of God.” (Shouldn’t we all.) And, the other day, I saw a photo of him next to a neon cross (pretty garish). I also read what he said about critics of his health-care plans: They were “bearing false witness.” And I thought, “Oh, if George W. Bush had used such language, and if he had been photographed next to crosses . . .”

I also thought of Bill Clinton. He talked about Jesus a lot — a lot — and, during the Lewinsky scandal, he went to the Foundry United Methodist Church (in D.C.), waving a big fat Bible at the cameras.

Oh, if George W. Bush had done that — they’d have called him a dangerous theocrat. Oh, wait, they did anyway . . . Remember when certain commentators delighted in calling Bush vs. al-Qaeda a clash of “fundamentalisms”? Remember what they said about the attorney general, John Ashcroft?

Kind of a funny country we’re living in. A beauty-pageant contestant says that she is opposed to gay marriage, believing that marriage is between a man and a woman — and she is pilloried as some kind of modern-day witch. But when Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton, Joe Biden, John Kerry, Bill Clinton — pretty much all major Democrats — express the same opinion: Everyone’s cool.

I know the standard answer: The Left (broadly speaking) realizes those Democrats don’t mean it; and they’re pretty sure that Miss California does. So, can we say the same thing about religion? But to question the sincerity of anyone else’s convictions, professions, or displays is to engage in a kind of McCarthyism. Can’t have that. (And it’s true: You can’t. Although some honest curiosity, or wondering, is legit.)

‐Remember when Jesse Jackson likened Vice President Quayle to Herod, before a roaring Democratic convention? America can stoop pretty low, as we all know.

‐Hugo Chávez is doing his best to turn Venezuela into a Castroite prison. He has a way to go yet; but he is making great progress. This might seem a side issue — given all that Chávez is doing to Venezuela — but he has now turned his ire and power on golf. He has closed some of the country’s courses and denounced the sport in general. He called it “bourgeois,” of course — that butt-dumb slur of the Marxists. And he said, “I respect all sports. But there are sports and there are sports. Do you mean to tell me this is a people’s sport? It is not.”

The temptation is to list all the poor people who have risen in golf. Because I am a student of the game, I could give a pretty long list: backwoodsmen like Sam Snead; barrio kids like Chi Chi Rodriguez; blah, blah, blah. And we could talk about all the poor or modestly-off people who have been made quite happy by golf. I have known hundreds (having worked at public golf courses). But we should resist these temptations: because we’re talking about a freedom issue, above all. And, every day, freedom is being diminished — choked — in Venezuela, by these thugs.

It’s so easy to make light of this issue: a dictator and golf. Ha ha ha! At Foggy Bottom, our spokesman P. J. Crowley joked, “As the Department of State’s self-appointed ambassador-at-large for golf, I wish to protest the unwarranted attack by Venezuelan president Hugo Chávez on the game of golf.” Chávez was “out of bounds,” you see. Ha ha ha! But there is really nothing funny about the daily cementing of authoritarian — totalitarian? — rule.

A man who changes the date of Valentine’s Day, I have written in the past — Chávez did this — can do just about anything. So can a man who anathematizes and outlaws golf. Count on it, chillen.

‐I looked at the State Department bio of the aforementioned spokesman, Crowley. And I read this: “Prior to joining the Center for American Progress, he served as vice president of the Insur­ance Information Institute, focusing on strategic industry issues that included the impact of terrorism on commercial insurance in the aftermath of the World Trade Center tragedy.”

Did Crowley write his own bio? I assume so. In any event, someone did. And anyone capable of calling 9/11 a “tragedy” is not fit to serve in the State Department. If 9/11 was a tragedy — what was the Titanic’s encounter with an iceberg? Was the Khmer Rouge’s work a “tragedy” too? If you can’t call 9/11 what it was — a series of atrocities, an hour of mass-murder, a gross attack of war — you are not equipped to cope with the modern world.

I wonder how yellow-ribbon America — our Oprahfied America — would have coped with Nazi Germany and Imperial Japan. I fear they would have made mincemeat of us. I may be wrong.

‐Back to Chávez: who visited Castro the other day. I mean, the main Castro, the older brother. He said, “Fidel is fine, he’s in his prime.” He also gave Castro “Venezuelan products including chocolate and sardines, and two charcoal drawings” (in the words of one report). Isn’t that nice? Our president, Barack Obama, bantering with Chávez earlier this year, called him his friend: “mi amigo.” No democrat, of course, could be a friend of Chávez, who is a dedicated opponent of our way of life: a decent way of life.

I wonder what Obama thinks of Chávez’s close friend and mentor, Fidel Castro. I mean, I wonder what he really thinks. I know what I was taught about Castro, when I had roughly the same kind of education as Obama. (Bringer of literacy, medicine, and civil rights to Cuba, and shining foe of American imperialism.) I later learned it was a lie. Did our president, ever?

‐Concerning the release of the Lockerbie terrorist, just three observations. (That formulation sounds familiar, doesn’t it?)

1) He was wearing a Nike hat. That swoosh looked incredible on him, didn’t it? I wonder how the boys at Nike felt about that. Better to have Tiger wearing it.

2) At the airport (in Tripoli or wherever it was), “some wore T-shirts with [Megrahi’s] picture and waved Libyan and miniature blue-and-white Scottish flags.” (So said a report.) While the “cartoon controversy” raged, we wondered where the Arabs in those forlorn states got all those Danish flags (to burn), and so quickly. How did the Libyans get a hold of the Scottish flags? I don’t even know what the Scottish flag looks like, and I am part Scot.

3) Megrahi was accompanied, of course, by Saif al-Islam al-Gaddafi, son of you-know-who. We have met him before — I mean, in this column. I encountered him in Davos, at a “coffee” for journalists, and wrote about him in my journal: here. As I re-read it, I found the whole write-up rather interesting (if I say so myself — and I should not). But I’d like to share one portion in particular — the concluding one:

At the end of our session, Gaddafi is asked about the Holocaust — about the general Arab denial of same. Gaddafi begins his answer very hesitantly: “I’m not a historian, I don’t know all the facts.” Uh-oh — this is creepily familiar. Then he goes into the equally familiar spiel (I have heard it all my life) that Arabs can’t be anti-Semites, because Arabs themselves are Semitic, and Jews are cousins, blah, blah, blah.

Then he senses — he appears to sense — that this isn’t flying in this particular room; that he ought not to deny — even seem to deny — the Holocaust before an international group of reporters. So he says, “It is incorrect to deny the Holocaust.” And why? Because it was the Russians who liberated Auschwitz. We learned about these horrors from the Russians — “not from the Zionists, not from the New York Times,” but from the Red Army. “So, if Arabs deny this, it is incorrect.”

The World Economic Forum official who is with us says, “On that conciliatory note, we must adjourn.”

Amazing: that an admission that the Holocaust occurred — because the Red Army has said so — should be “conciliatory.” But, in our bizarre world, it is. 

‐Care for some language? The other day, I was reading a Christopher Hitchens column, about the Henry Louis Gates affair, and raised my eyebrows at this sentence: “It is monstrous in the extreme that he should in that home be handcuffed, and then taken downtown, after it had been plainly established that he was indeed the householder.” Hitchens is very careful with language, in addition to being notably good with it: but “monstrous in the extreme”? If that handcuffing, etc., was monstrous in the extreme — what is left over for that which is monstrous in the extreme? What is left over for, say, I don’t know: a typical day in Syria or Cuba or Burma or something?

‐A reader sent me an e-mail with the Subject line, “You’re going to love this” — I get many such e-mails. This one, I really and truly loved. The reader knew that one of my bêtes noires is Che Guevara. And he knew that another — of an infinitely more benign kind — is Jimmy Carter. He also knew — I must have written this — that I attended Pattengill Elementary School, in dear old Ann Arbortown. And he sent me an article announcing Pattengill’s new principal: Che Carter.

Now, why would his parents have named him that . . .? (Perhaps there is an innocent explanation — we can always hope.)

See ya!

#JAYBOOK#

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