Politics & Policy

Limbaugh’s Boswell, &c.

Have you read Zev Chafets’s biography of Rush Limbaugh — An Army of One? (Actually, the complete and proper title is “Rush Limbaugh: An Army of One.”) It’s a highly interesting book about a highly interesting man. And Chafets is a total pro: as a writer and a journalist. (Extremely versatile fellow, too. Just look at his list of books.)

Here is something that Rush said on his radio program:

I talked to Zev via e-mail the other day, and he’s been blackballed from a lot of conservative television shows and networks. He has not been invited. He’s gotten some invitations on liberal programs, but no conservative programs are taking him to interview him. . . . I said, “Zev, that should not surprise you, it shouldn’t surprise you at all.”

Well, it surprises me. I think it’s downright weird. Chafets is A-1 interview material. Here is a guy who is basically a liberal — not a lefty, but a good Cold War liberal, I think — and, as I said in a review of his book, he completely “gets” Limbaugh: “gets” him and his audience (and Conservative America). All liberals should be so understanding, or even a fraction as understanding.

My review of Chafets’s bio? It appeared in the June 7 issue of National Review, and you may find it here. The review is just a shorty. I plan to say more about the book, and Rush, in this here column sometime later . . .

‐Interesting about Chafets’s name: It can be done many ways. There is a Utah congressman, a Republican, named Chaffetz. And there was, of course, Heifetz — Jascha Heifetz.

Want to know a little more? Congressman Chaffetz’s father was once married to Kitty Dukakis. Kitty Dukakis’s father was Harry Ellis Dickson, who was a conductor of the Boston Pops, and also a violinist — like Heifetz. (Well, nobody was a violinist quite like Heifetz.)

Chafets’s first name can be done a couple of different ways, too: On the cover of some of his books, he is “Ze’ev”; on others, “Zev.”

You can count on me for the really fundamental stuff, I know . . .

‐The other day, I was looking at some attacks on Republican candidates, and where did they come from? Something called the Patriot Majority. This is a left-wing PAC: the Patriot Majority. Can you imagine if a conservative outfit called itself the “Patriot Majority”? Armageddon!

And you may remember a bumper sticker from long ago: “The Moral Majority Is Neither.” That was a popular one in my hometown of Ann Arbor (as you can imagine).

Earlier this week, I had occasion to write about the Patriot Act. And I was reminded of a truth, long ago articulated: The worst thing about the Patriot Act is its name. If it were called something else, people wouldn’t get the McCarthy heebie-jeebies about it — or would get fewer of them. Don’t you think?

And, as Impromptus readers have heard me say a hundred times, I never liked “Homeland Security” — that word “homeland.” It’s just not very American. It has connotations of Vaterland and Volk.

But you can get used to anything. And “JNap” and “Homeland Security” just roll off my tongue. (Word to the wise: “JNap” is a shorthand for the director of homeland security, Janet Napolitano.) (Wonder where her ancestors came from.) (That was a joke: Naples, of course. In Italian, “Napolitano” means “Neapolitan,” as you know . . .)

‐A poll showed that 11 percent of Americans approve of Congress. As Bob Kasten, the former senator, quipped to me, “You gotta wonder who that one guy is — the one in ten, approximately.” True! National Review has a quip about that 11 percent in our forthcoming issue: Who knew there were so many trial lawyers?

A sparkling remark (which I can say, because it was not mine, I’m sorry to report).

‐I’ve mentioned this before — I think on the Corner. I think it’s weird that Vice President Biden refers to President Obama as “Barack” in public. He has done it again: “Barack and I are realists,” he said. When I brought this up with some colleagues the other day, Rick Brookhiser said, “Can you imagine Nixon referring to Eisenhower as ‘Dwight’?” Or “Ike”! I believe that Cheney, in private, called W. “sir.” And, in public, it was always “the president,” or “President Bush,” of course.

Is Biden’s use of “Barack” a little — condescending? Patronizing? Is he merely trying to show intimacy? Is he just kind of clownish, or “out there”?

Let’s scroll through history a little. Can you imagine GHWB referring to Reagan as “Ronnie”? How about Garner, Wallace, and Truman? Would they have referred to the president as “Franklin” — or “Frank”? The mind reels!

‐I like it when politicians, and other public figures, talk about themselves with complete candor. Not long ago, Ruth Bader Ginsburg said she was a “flaming feminist.” Why, sure. I liked it when Governor Dukakis said proudly, “I am a card-carrying member of the ACLU.” (Ginsburg worked for the ACLU, as you know.)

Hey, this column is kind of Dukakis-heavy, isn’t it? That’s strange, for 2010.

‐I rather like what Cory Booker is doing over in Newark — I say “over in Newark,” because I write from New York. Booker is the mayor of that city — Democrat, of course. And he is having to do some serious economizing, in these straitened times. Let me quote from a news article:

The city budget shortfall is $70 million and Booker plans to meet the revenue shortfall with budget cuts instead of property tax increases.

“Taxes cannot be the answer,” Booker said.

Booker says property taxes in Newark have gone up 76 percent in the last decade and 19 percent in the past five years.

Booker also said this: “Call me Mr. Scrooge if you want, but there’ll be no Christmas decorations around the city.” You know, citizens — people — should put up Christmas decorations themselves. They can certainly do it around their own homes. How about in the city at large? Could maybe a civic group provide the decorations? But then, individuals, or a group, would need municipal permission, I’m sure.

Modern America can be such a headache, in its bureaucracy, not least.

‐I get about 300 pounds of press releases a day, and I habitually delete them without a second thought. Without a first one, really. But, as I was deleting one of them a few days ago, something caught my eye. It seemed that this particular press release was slamming MADD, Mothers Against Drunk Driving. Could it be true? It was. Well, who was slamming MADD?

Why, the “American Beverage Institute,” of course! I got a chuckle out of that name: the “American Beverage Institute.” And I thought immediately of Chris Buckley’s superbly comic, socially astute Thank You for Smoking. Three characters, three lobbyists, form the MOD Squad — “MOD” standing for “Merchants of Death.”

I liked the movie too, much. Nice when that happens: when a good movie comes from a good book.

‐Needing some information on the Tiananmen Square massacre — death toll, etc. — I turned to the Encyclopedia Britannica (trusty source). I found the entry under “Tiananmen Square incident.” And “incident” seemed to me . . . a little weak. In fact, outrageous. I’m all for neutrality, in certain venues and under certain circumstances. But “Tiananmen Square incident”? Come on. Let’s not be so squeamish.

‐Time for a little language. During the British Open — played at St. Andrews this year — I saw a notice on the Internet: “Play suspended due to high wind.” I had a memory: Years ago, when I was working at a golf course, I put up a sign (written by me): “Course Closed Due to Wetness.” (It wasn’t raining — in fact, the sun was shining — but it had rained, long and hard, and the course was too wet to be playable. Would-be players needed to know that.)

An older man, a retired teacher, said, “You know, when I was growing up, you couldn’t say that — that ‘due to’ was wrong. You said ‘owing to,’ or ‘thanks to,’ or ‘because of.’” Yes, “due to” is one of those bugaboos, for some. But you and I aren’t bugged, I know . . . 

‐A little music? For a piece in City Arts, go here. It deals with Lisa Batiashvili, the Georgian violinist (I ain’t talkin’ Marietta); Alan Gilbert, the American conductor; Magnus Lindberg, the Finnish composer (despite the Swedish name); and a few other things. The italics don’t come through online, I’m afraid. But maybe you can read some italics in!

‐I’ve been bouncing around the country a bit lately, and stopped by my dear old hometown of Ann Arbor. I saw a sign that brought sort of a smile to my face. It reminded me that Ann Arbor has a sister city in Nicaragua, Juigalpa. Ann Arbor made Juigalpa a sister city in 1986. Why 1986? You know. If you know the political coloration of Ann Arbor, you just know.

In 1986, Nicaragua was ruled by a Marxist-Leninist dictatorship, the Sandinistas. (The Sandinistas retook power recently under electoral machinations, and have rigged the system to lengthen their stay. We’ll see how long Nicaragua remains even nominally democratic.) The Reagan administration was supporting the Nicaraguan “contras,” whom some called the Nicaraguan “resistance,” which drove the Left crazy. It was very important for a little leftist citadel like Ann Arbor to express solidarity with Sandinista Nicaragua — and to shake its fist at the villainous Reagan administration. Hence, sister-cityhood with Juigalpa. Forever, I guess!

I think two Ann Arbor mentions in one column is enough . . .

‐Oh, I’ve got a million more things to say to you — high, low, and medium — but I should wrap it up. Let me leave you with something American — really American. In fact, I think I saw this on the Fourth of July. I was at a little fair. And there was this food truck whose specialty was hot dogs. On the truck was written “Banquet in a Bun.” And with that, you could get a “Bucket o’ Fries.” A banquet in a bun and a bucket o’ fries — when you eat them, you can almost hear a Sousa march.

Thanks, guys, and see you.



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