Politics & Policy

Obama’s men in white coats, &c.

Did you read this story about how Obama and his folks passed out white coats for doctors to wear, as they listened to him speak about health care at the White House? Now, I’m all for a little Deaverism — or at least I don’t get all wee-weed up about it. It’s part of politics, part of governance. But this was awfully brazen, awfully showbiz, don’t you think? And what if George W. Bush had done it? Would he have been scored for fakery?

Also, what would you do, if you were a doctor? And if you are, in fact, a doctor — same question: What would you do? Or, What would you have done, if you had been at the White House? Would you have put on the coat, so that Obama could have his costumed audience, ripe for the cameras? Or would you have said, “No, thanks, that’s what I wear when I’m working, not when I’m at the White House to listen to the president”?

This is not a big issue, no. But sometimes the little issues are interesting and worthwhile, too.

‐There was an Associated Press story that began, “President Barack Obama plans to address the nation’s largest gay rights group this weekend in an effort to mollify an uneasy Democratic constituency frustrated with the White House’s slow pace.” I guess we’re left to guess, or infer, what the “pace” is “slow” about. The president of the Human Rights Campaign said, “It is fitting that [Obama] will speak to our community on the night that we pay tribute to his friend and mentor Sen. Edward Kennedy . . .”

Two questions: The president was a “mentee” of Ted Kennedy? Ted was his mentor? Who knew? I didn’t. I thought the Reverend Wright was Obama’s mentor, until he wasn’t. Ted versus Wright as presidential mentor: Pick your poison.

Also: “Human Rights Campaign”? Gay marriage?

‐I thought this story was interesting — an insight into how Congress works:

Sen. Thomas Carper (D.-Del.), a member of the Senate Finance Committee, told CNSNews.com that he does not “expect” to read the actual legislative language of the committee’s health care bill because it is “confusing” and that anyone who claims they are going to read it and understand it is fooling people.

“I don’t expect to actually read the legislative language because reading the legislative language is among the more confusing things I’ve ever read in my life,” Carper told CNSNews.com.

And how about this?

Last week, the Finance Committee considered an amendment offered by Sen. Jim Bunning (R-Ky.) that would have required the committee to post the full actual language of the proposed legislation online for at least 72 hours before holding a final committee vote on it. The committee defeated the amendment 13-10.

Can you imagine voting to defeat that amendment? I don’t know about you, but I would be queasy — open government and all.

Most of the Republicans I know are glad that Jim Bunning is retiring, and one can understand that: Bunning would be vulnerable for reelection, and this way someone else — another Republican — has a chance. Regardless, I’m glad he offered that amendment.

‐I know I’m late on Olympic commentary, but I wanted to make a couple of points: I thought Obama handled the thing terribly. It was embarrassing for the United States to see the president, and his wife, and their entourage, go and sort of plead for the Olympics. That is what little countries do — countries that crave the Olympics, countries for whom the Olympics would be a great plum. America should be above that, in a way. The Olympic people want to stage the Games in America? Fine. They don’t? Fine. What do we care? We are the world’s sole superpower; we have bigger fish to fry. For the president to go over there and kind of plead — that was embarrassing, humiliating, diminishing. America looked like any other contestant.

Really, really disgraceful was the effort of the Obama people to spin Chicago’s loss as a damning judgment on George W. Bush. “The world” wouldn’t give us the Games because “the world” doesn’t like us, on account of George Bush. What rubbish. You want to know what “the world” thinks of America? Look to the people who are dying — in some cases literally — to come here, permanently.

I quote from an interview some of us had with President Bush last December. He said, “We are respected, our values are cherished, and the lines are long to come to America.”

You bet your . . . backside. (For the piece in which that comment is quoted, go here.)

One more thing: Mrs. O. commented on what a “sacrifice” it was to travel to Europe and pitch for the Olympics. Think of the comfort in which she travels. Think of the privilege of representing the United States abroad — at that level! I don’t know what it is about the Obamas . . .

I do know it’s flabbergasting.

‐A wise friend of mine had a darned interesting comment: You know how just about the first thing Obama did as president was have the bust of Churchill in the Oval Office shipped back to England? Maybe Obama’s next Republican challenger should pledge to restore it. That would be a symbolism immediately apparent to most.

‐In yesterday’s Impromptus, I talked about Arizona: its political culture and whatnot. And I quoted a man named Tom Patterson. He is a Phoenix physician and former politician: once the Republican leader in the state senate. He was talking about immigration, including illegal immigration. And, in the course of his remarks, he said (roughly) this: “I’ve always heard that Hispanics are ‘natural conservatives.’ They’re family-minded, hard-working, enterprising, church-going. They are ripe for the GOP: for the conservative message. Now, that may be so. But reality hasn’t borne that out — at all.” Hispanics, certainly in the Southwest, suffer from such problems as high out-of-wedlock birthrates, a neglect of education, and dependence on government.

What Patterson said really struck a chord with me: I, too, have long heard that Hispanics are “natural conservatives.” I once took that line myself. Over time, I became unsure. And here is a big, general (and obvious) point: Sometimes you have to change your mind based on “the reality on the ground,” as I believe military people like to say. “Facts are stubborn things,” as everyone likes to quote.

(Before moving on, I should say what I said yesterday: “Hispanics” is a ridiculously broad term, referring to the alien just arrived in L.A. and maybe also to the entrenched businessman in Miami. But ridiculously broad terms go with the territory of writing, and talking. Otherwise, you could scarcely get anything out of your mouth.)

I am reminded of something — having to do with black Americans. Do you remember this line? You may hear it still: “Black Americans are actually very conservative. Polls show that they’re anti-abortion, for traditional education, and so on. The black leadership, on the other hand, is very liberal — indeed, radical-Left. There is a huge gulf between ordinary black Americans and those claiming to represent them.” In fact, we used to talk all the time about “so-called black leaders,” such as Jesse Jackson and Ben Hooks.

I spoke this line, and I believed in it strongly — I may still believe in it, a bit. But there came a time when I was worn down. Because, in election after election, black voters went 80 percent Democratic, 85 percent, 90 percent, 95 percent . . . I think a turning point might have been the presidential election of 2000. Governor Bush worked very, very hard to win the votes of black Americans. Really hard. Outreach City (as the first Bush might say). In the end, I think he got 9 percent. (Of course, the NAACP campaigned very dirty, running an ad virtually accusing Bush of lynching. But still . . .)

I think I made an announcement in Impromptus: “I’m not going to spout that line anymore.” There comes a time when you have to take people at their word, or vote. Rank-and-file black Americans vote just as Jesse Jackson does. And it becomes condescending, in a way, to claim that people don’t really know what they’re doing.

Not that the GOP, or the Democrats, should give up on anyone’s vote. Oh, no. (Well, the Republicans might as well give up on Barbra Streisand’s, and the Democrats can give up on — well, mine.) But I have become far humbler about saying that this or that group is naturally conservative, or naturally anything. The proof, sometimes, is in the pudding, or the ballot box.

‐Want to go to the roller derby with me? I went in Phoenix. All I had known about roller derby, basically, was a Raquel Welch movie, seen long ago. This was quite an experience, in Phoenix: a visit to a subculture unknown by most. In the audience, and on the “track,” there were lots of tattoos. And not just little hearts and anchors and pirate faces: feet of tattooing, on individual bodies. There were piercings, too. And spiky hair — mohawk-like jobs, on both men and women. And makeup of the startling variety: fake stitches and so on.

There was an air of sexiness, or alleged sexiness: Girls, semi-official, walked around with “Fresh Meat” on the backs of their jackets. The skaters, or “derby dames,” were supposed to be sexy, too. The program booklet for the evening referred to them repeatedly as “hot chicks.” “Hot” is in the eye of the beholder, of course. An announcer promised shorter skirts for next season.

The two teams featured that night were the Brutal Beauties and the Runaway Brides. The latter team had a mascot, a bride, who was an attractive young woman, but hard. She chewed gum determinedly. The mascot groom was a heavy person who I believe was a woman. The skaters have noms de derby, many of them “sexy,” such as “Heidi Salami.” Other names have to do with what Theodore Dalrymple and others call “the underclass”: “Dee Tox,” for example. The refs have noms de derby, too: “Oliver Klozov,” “Howie Feltersnatch,” and so on.

Among the patrons is a big lesbian contingent. At least one ad in the program duly reflects this: “’n touch news magazine, your LGBT news authority!”

As rock music blares, the dames go around the track, pausing often to fight. And the fighting is very much encouraged. “What the refs don’t see doesn’t count,” boasts the program. The audience applauds and cheers when a fight breaks out. And, when they don’t applaud or cheer loud enough, the announcers admonish them: “The louder you are, the naughtier these girls get!” And the announcers scold the refs when they break up a fight.

Throughout the night, at every turn, the announcers demand that the audience “get loud”: “Get loud, Phoenix! I don’t want any of you to be able to talk tomorrow morning.” Amazingly, the audience obliges. They seem not to mind being ordered to yell.

Many in the crowd take this event very seriously — taking photographs, rooting on their favorites. There are pages left blank in the program for autographs.

To me, the evening as a whole was sort of sad: a lot of damaged people walking around, many with mutilated bodies. The forced “sexiness” was creepy, I thought. The music and the announcing and the rest were assaultive. People had brought their kids. The atmosphere was some blend of The Rocky Horror Picture Show and Gladiator. I thought some sort of civilizational gear had been slipped.

Other people might say, and do say, “Oh, lighten up. It’s all for fun, basically. It’s maybe not clean fun, but it’s fun — not so bad. Besides, if these people are ‘damaged,’ they have found one another, and something to enjoy, thereby lessening the damage.”

That’s a nice way of looking at it.

‐I’ll tell you what was really cool: America’s Taco Shop, on N. 7th St. America is not a nation, in this case: It’s a woman, America Corrales. You get a bean-and-cheese burrito for like nothing. And it looks like nothing: like an item from a junior-high cafeteria. But you bite into it: and angels start to sing in your mouth. Try the carne asada, too. Fabulous food for pennies. If this place were in New York, you would have to wait in line for an hour and a half — and the bean burrito would be $14.95. And the cashiers would be surly.

‐End with a language note? Saw a sign in Phoenix that touched my heart: “Dos Amigo’s” (another food place). In America, the apostrophe can pluralize, as well as make possessive. Walk through many a neighborhood and you’ll see signs on houses: “The Brown’s”; “The Murray’s.” I think you pronounce “Dos Amigo’s” differently, too, with that apostrophe. “Dos Amigos,” you’d pronounce Spanishly: with a soft “s” on the end. With the apostrophe, it’s more like a “z”: “Dos Amigoze.” You know?

It’s a wonderful world, this world of language — and a wonderful world period.

And on that Disneyesque note — I’ll say, Catch you later.

Oh, hang on, before I go: Meant to tell you that, on October 20, I’ll be speaking at a luncheon in Midland, Texas. (Home of Susan Graham, the mezzo-soprano. Home of others too, I understand.) This is a fundraising event for the Texas Public Policy Foundation, a crack and necessary outfit. You will find info here.

And, on October 27 — speaking of Phoenix — I will be at the annual dinner of the Goldwater Institute. Also present will be Mark Steyn, Jonah Goldberg, and starry others. This is another fundraising event — for another crack, necessary outfit. Info here.

And I’ll see you!

#JAYBOOK#

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